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Oman 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Near East > Oman; Near East > Oman > Muscat

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The Embassy does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED MUSCAT AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

The rating was changed from “low” to “medium” in the fall of 2014 based on data gathered by the Regional Security Office that shows that, while violent crime remains a rarity, property (non-violent) crime rates throughout Oman exceed the rate for similar crimes occurring in U.S. metropolitan areas.

Please review OSAC’s Oman-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Oman is lauded as a popular tourist destination, which draws a significant presence of Western tourists.

Crime Threats

Crime is limited to crimes of opportunity and petty theft. High value items that can be easily transported (small electronics, cash, jewelry) remain the most common items stolen. The global decline in oil prices could result in unemployment and displacement of third country national workers, potentially causing an increase in opportunistic financially-motivated crime in 2017. Vehicle theft is another crime that is prevalent, especially when drivers leave their keys in the car when they run into a store to purchase items.

Traditionally, residential break-ins throughout Muscat have generally been isolated in the Medinat Qaboos (MQ) area, which is populated primarily by the expatriate community. Between late 2010 and 2013, seven U.S. Embassy residences were burglarized in the MQ area. Break-ins have also occurred near U.S. Embassy residences including an apartment building occupied by several U.S. Embassy employees and a non-violent break-in to a single family home adjacent to an Embassy residence.

Violent crimes including assaults, rapes, and murder are rare, but a few incidents did occur in 2016 involving non-U.S. citizens. 

Individuals should be cognizant of protecting their passport and keeping it in a safe and secure location. If a passport is lost or stolen, the government of Oman requires the victim to advertise in local newspapers the loss of a passport before it will issue a replacement visa.

Cyber

Cybercrime remains limited to common scams requesting money upfront for promised services or chances to obtain more money with a down payment. There have been reports of ATM/credit card fraud.

Other Areas of Concern

Numerous allegations of suspicious activities occurring in the Medinat Qaboos area have been reported.

U.S. citizens should avoid Oman’s border areas with Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Road conditions, lighting, and traffic safety in cities and on major highways in populated areas are good. The condition of rural roads varies from good to poor. Travel between cities, especially at night, may be dangerous because of poor or no lighting, weather conditions (rains can wash out roadways), wandering livestock, pedestrians crossing highways, slow-moving cargo vehicles, and speeding drivers.

Traffic laws are generally enforced, and the consequences for violating them may be severe by U.S. standards. For example, running a red light results in a mandatory, non-bailable detention period of 48 hours, followed by confiscation of one's driver's license, vehicle registration, and car registration plate until the Omani judicial process is concluded, which may take several months. Other common traffic violations that carry strict penalties, up to and including jail sentences, fines, and/or deportation, include: driving without a license, driving under the influence of alcohol, failure to wear a seat belt, talking on cellular telephones (other than using hands-free technology) while driving, speeding excessively, passing a vehicle on the right lane vs. the left lane, screeching a car's tires, or failing to keep one's car clean. In 2016, the Royal Oman Police (ROP) significantly increased the fines and penalties for traffic offenses. Roadways are well monitored with traffic light and speed-detection cameras.

Those considering self-driving can familiarize themselves with the Royal Oman Police’s (ROP) procedures for handling road and traffic accidents (RTA) to reduce traffic jams, available on the ROP web site under “Minor Road Traffic Accidents.” (Minor RTAs are accidents causing minor damage to one or more vehicles that do not result in injuries, deaths, or material damage to public/private property.) For all traffic-related emergencies, call the Royal Oman Police at 9999. Parties involved in such accidents should immediately move their vehicles to the side of the road. Those involved in accidents outside the Muscat area are advised not to move their vehicles from the accident location until the ROP gives them permission; moving a vehicle may be interpreted as an admission of guilt. In the event of a traffic violation and fine, drivers should cooperate with police, remaining respectful, and should not attempt to pay or negotiate payment.

Before operating a vehicle, drivers should familiarize themselves with Omani traffic laws. Visitors should not drive without a valid license. Short-term visitors in possession of a valid U.S. driver's license may drive rental vehicles, but residents must have an Omani driver's license. Residents may insure their vehicles outside the Sultanate; however, third party liability insurance must be purchased locally. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices

The use of European-style traffic circles is prevalent. However, unlike European traffic practice, the driver on the inside lane generally has priority. A driver flashing his/her high beams is generally asking for a chance to pass. Turning right on a red traffic signal is prohibited.

Public Transportation Conditions

The safety of public transportation is generally good. Many women avoid public shared vans. Taxis, mini vans, and small buses may swerve suddenly without signaling to pick up passengers with little regard for other vehicles. Many people who use taxis negotiate rates for transportation prior to embarking to avoid disagreements for payment. 

Aviation/Airport Conditions

All airports in Oman adhere to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) guidelines on safety and security.

Items subject to confiscation at the airport because the content is considered culturally inappropriate include, but are not limited to, CDs, DVDs, and mobile phones. Any items that may be construed as intelligence gathering equipment, military gear, or electronics that are not off-the-shelf commercial items risk being confiscated. The items were typically released to their owners.

Terrorism Threat

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED MUSCAT AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

Oman is an important regional counterterrorism partner and works actively to prevent terrorists from conducting attacks within Oman and from using the country for safe haven or transport of weapons and materiel. There are no indigenous terrorist groups known to be operating in Oman.

There have been no instances in which U.S. citizens or facilities in Oman have been subject to terrorist attacks. However, in August 2013, Embassy Muscat, along with over 20 other Embassies and Consulates throughout the Middle East and North Africa, suspended operations for 10 days because of concerns of a large terrorist attack emanating from al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), based in Yemen. In December 2013, the Embassy published consular messages advising U.S. citizens that non-essential travel by Embassy personnel to the Dhofar region, near the border with Yemen, was temporarily suspended until January 1, 2014, because of threat reporting. This was followed by a message on February 20, 2014, advising U.S. citizens to consider deferring non-essential travel to the Dhofar region in Oman because of continuing instability and terrorist activity in neighboring Yemen. The most recent message for U.S. citizens regarding the potential for acts of terrorism in Oman was published on October 30, 2014, and informed the American community of an anonymous posting on an extremist website that encouraged attacks against American and other Western teachers in the Middle East.

The Department of State remains concerned about the possibility of terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the region by known terrorist groups or “lone wolf” attacks by individuals sympathetic to terrorist causes.

Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment

Instances of anti-American or anti-Western sentiment in Oman are rare.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED MUSCAT AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Civil Unrest

There were no large protests or demonstrations in 2016. However, spontaneous and/or planned public demonstrations can take place in response to world events or local developments. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful have the potential to escalate into violence. People in Oman should remain attuned to readily available English and/or Arabic-language media outlets and avoid public demonstrations.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Severe weather conditions (cyclones, flash floods) average one or two occurrences per year. In 2015, Tropical Cyclones Ashobaa (June) and Chapala (October) impacted Oman. Infrequent inclement weather (rain/sand storms) can cause traffic delays and accidents.

Tidal currents between the calmer Sea of Oman and the larger, more turbulent Arabian Sea cause strong rip tides, and undertows make swimming in open water dangerous. Public beaches in naturally occurring alcoves along Oman’s coast tend to offer safer swimming conditions than areas with direct exposure to the Arabian Sea. Oman does not post lifeguards nor does it post signs warning of dangerous sea conditions. 

Critical Infrastructure

Omani critical infrastructure is fairly well developed. All telecommunications can be shut down should the government of Oman deem it necessary for national security.

Omani security agencies maintain a robust ability to control and remotely monitor mobile phones and the Internet. Several websites (Skype, Facetime, pornographic sites) that the government views as inappropriate are actively blocked by Omani telecommunications agencies. While many individuals chose to utilize Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to circumvent restrictions, these too occasionally encounter interference.

Economic Concerns

Large-scale economic espionage or intellectual property theft has not been reported.

Privacy Concerns

Visitors and residents should be aware of privacy concerns if transmitting business confidential or intellectual property information via telecommunications in Oman.

American companies may find it difficult to vet or otherwise verify personnel backgrounds for purposes of employment because of strict privacy laws and lengthy bureaucratic processes.

Drug-related Crimes

Drugs are illegal, but drug use and crimes continue to be an issue. To better combat illegal narcotics, the ROP upgraded their counter-narcotics section from a Directorate to a General Directorate, which makes more resources available to ROP counter-narcotics enforcement. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.

Police Response

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested, that might not always be the case in Oman. To ensure that the U.S. is aware of your circumstances, request that Omani police and prison officials notify the U.S. Embassy as soon as you are arrested or detained. For Consular assistance in Oman please contact +968 2464-3400 or ConsularMuscat@state.gov

Crime Victim Assistance

Please see the U.S. Department of State’s Help for U.S. Citizen Victims of Crime Overseas, including possible victim compensation programs in the U.S.

Police/Security Agencies

The ROP is a capable, well-equipped police force. Due to the generally safe environment, the ROP is more reactive than proactive in its law enforcement activities. It generally does not act with the sense of urgency that many may be accustomed to in the U.S. The ROP rarely provides the U.S. Embassy specific details regarding local criminal or investigative matters unless it is directly related to the U.S. Embassy.

Medical Emergencies

Ambulance service is generally adequate with varying response times and operates throughout most of the country. It is recommended that you go to the nearest hospital or clinic yourself, when possible.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

The four main medical facilities in Oman are Khoula Hospital, Royal Hospital, Starcare Hospital, and Muscat Private Hospital. For treatment of major life-threatening emergencies or critical pediatric issues, patients should be sent to Royal Hospital. Patients with major trauma (road accidents), serious bleeding, or burns should go to The Khoula Hospital and Trauma Center (located on Al Sultan Qaboos Street, the main highway through Muscat). All motor vehicle accident victims are to be taken to Khoula Hospital. For pediatric and OB/GYN non-traumatic medical emergencies, go to Muscat Private Hospital located in Ghubra.

For non-life threatening emergencies or routine consultations, there are several private medical centers and medical providers. It is strongly advised that all personnel identify and select a primary care physician and a pediatrician if required. Making this selection will enable you to establish a comfortable working relationship with a doctor before an emergency arises.

The most updated information regarding medical care in Oman can be found here.

Available Air Ambulance Services

American Jets, Inc., Tel: +1-772-380-4167
Europ Assistance, Tel: +1-240-330-1523
Euro-Flite Finland, Tel: +358-20510-1900
International SOS, Tel: +971-4-601-8777
Medical Rescue International, Tel: +44 0 1962 735955
Tyrol Air Ambulance, Tel: +43 512 224 22 100

Insurance Guidance

All travelers should carry international travel insurance, including medevac. Many hospitals may not accept international travel insurance and will require payment up front. Most major hospitals accept common credit cards.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Oman.

OSAC Country Council Information

The U.S. Embassy has a Muscat OSAC Country Council. To request more information regarding the Muscat OSAC Country Council, please contact by e-mail. Please contact OSAC’s Middle East and North Africa team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Embassy Muscat

Jamiat A'Duwal Al Arabiya Street
Al Khuwair Area (Shatti Al-Qurum), Muscat

Mailing address: PO Box 202, Medinat Al Sultan Qaboos 115, Sultanate of Oman

Hours of Operation: Sun-Thurs 0800-1700 Routine American Citizens Services are available by appointment every Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. The U.S. Embassy is closed on Omani and U.S. holidays.

Embassy Contact Numbers

Switchboard: (968) 2464-3400
A duty officer is available 24 hours a day.
Facsimile: (968) 2464-3535
Consular e-mail address is ConsularMuscat@state.gov
http://oman.usembassy.gov/

Embassy Guidance

If you are going to live in or visit Oman, please take the time to tell our Embassy about your trip. If you enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency.