Cybercrime in Oman remains limited to common scams requesting money upfront for promised services or chances to obtain more money with a down payment.
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
Crime Rating: Medium
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 exceed the rate for similar crimes occurring in U.S. metropolitan areas.
Generally speaking, crime is limited to crimes of opportunity and petty theft. High-value items that can be easily transported (small electronics, cash, and jewelry) remain the most common items stolen. Vehicle theft is also prevalent, especially when drivers leave their keys in the car when they run into a store to purchase items. Violent crimes (assaults, rapes, and murder) are extremely rare.
Residential break-ins in Muscat declined slightly in 2013 (the most recent data available). Since late 2010, seven U.S. Embassy residences have been burglarized in the Medinat Qaboos area, but none occurred in 2014. Break-ins have occurred near U.S. Embassy residences, including an apartment building occupied by several U.S. Embassy employees.
Cybercrime remains limited to common scams requesting money upfront for promised services or chances to obtain more money with a down payment.
Areas of Concern
Residential break-ins have generally been isolated in the Medinat Qaboos area, populated primarily by the expatriate community. Numerous allegations of suspicious activities occurring in that area have been reported.
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. U.S. citizens should avoid Oman’s border areas with Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Road conditions, lighting, and traffic safety in cities and on major highways 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, wandering livestock, pedestrians crossing highways, and speeding drivers. The use of European-style traffic circles is prevalent. However, unlike European traffic practice, the driver on the inside lane always has priority. A driver flashing his/her high beams is generally asking for a chance to pass.
Those considering self-driving are advised to familiarize themselves with the Royal Oman Police’s (ROP) procedures for handling road and traffic accidents (RTA) to reduce traffic jams that are available on the ROP web site (http://www.rop.gov.om/english/index.asp) under “Minor Road Traffic Accidents (RTA),” defined as accidents causing minor damage to one or more vehicles that do not result in injuries, deaths, or material damage to public/private property. Parties involved in Minor RTAs should move their vehicles to the side of the road immediately. Conversely, 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.
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.
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 of 48 hours, followed by confiscation of the driver’s license, vehicle registration, and car registration plate until the 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 hands-free technology) while driving, speeding excessively, passing a vehicle from the right lane, screeching car tires or failing to keep one’s car clean. Turning right on a red traffic signal is prohibited. In the event of a traffic violation and fine, drivers should cooperate with police officers, remaining respectful, and should not attempt to pay or negotiate payment at the time of the traffic stop.
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 the side of the road to pick up passengers and with little regard for other vehicles.
All airports in Oman adhere to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) guidelines on safety and security.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
Political Violence Rating: Low
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/facilities 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.
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. U.S. citizens are continuously urged to maintain a high level of security awareness. The State Department suggests that all U.S. citizens in Oman maintain an unpredictable schedule and vary travel routes and times whenever possible. U.S. citizens are also urged to treat mail or packages from unfamiliar sources with suspicion. Unusual mail or packages should be left unopened and reported to local authorities.
Terrorism Rating: Medium
In general, instances of anti-American or anti-Western sentiment are rare.
A Security 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 message highlighted the need to remain vigilant and practice sound personal security habits.
Spontaneous and/or planned public demonstrations can take place throughout the country in response to world events or local developments. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful have the potential to escalate into violence. Remain attuned to English- and/or Arabic-language media outlets and avoid public demonstrations. There were no large protests or demonstrations in 2014.
Severe weather conditions (cyclones and flash floods) average one or two occurrences per year. Infrequent inclement weather (rain and sand storms) can cause traffic delays and accidents.
Oman’s approximately 1,300 kilometer eastern coastline borders the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. 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 Concerns
Omani critical infrastructure is fairly well developed. All telecommunications can be shut down should the government deem it necessary for national security.
Economic Espionage/Intellectual Property Thefts
Large scale economic espionage or intellectual property thefts have not been reported. Visitors and residents should be aware of privacy concerns if transmitting business confidential or intellectual property information via telecommunications.
Oman security agencies maintain a robust ability to control and remotely monitor mobile phones and the Internet. Several websites (Skype, Facetime, pornographic sites, and others) that the government views as inappropriate are actively blocked by Omani telecommunications agencies. While many individuals have chosen to utilize Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to circumvent restrictions, these have sometimes encountered interference. Additionally, items subject to confiscation at the airport because the content is considered culturally inappropriate include, but are not limited to, compact discs, digital video discs, 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 run the risk of being confiscated. In all cases, the items were eventually released to their owners.
Separately, individuals should be cognizant of protecting their passport and keeping it in a safe and secure location at all times. If a passport is lost or stolen, the government requires the victim to advertise in local newspapers the loss of a passport before it will issue a replacement visa.
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.
Drugs are illegal. 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 illegal drugs are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
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, and it does not generally act with the sense of urgency that many may be accustomed to in the U.S.
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. U.S. Embassy’s American Citizen Services contact information is located at the bottom of this report. Anyone arrested may have limited opportunities to contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance; it should not be considered an “automatic” process.
Crime Victim Assistance
Please see our “Information on Victims of Crime” report (http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/emergencies/emergencies_1748.html), including possible victim compensation programs 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.
Call 9999 if you need ambulance transport. Ambulances are modern, staffed by trained paramedics, equipped with life-saving equipment, and will transport you to the hospital you request.
Due to the lack of street addresses and construction, directions need to be given to your location based upon prominent landmarks (prepare directions to your home and keep them by the telephone). Do not end an emergency telephone call until you are certain that the directions are clearly understood. If the residence is difficult to find, advise the 9999 operator that you will meet the ambulance at a nearby landmark, if possible. Heavy traffic may also impede the ability of emergency medical services to respond in a timely manner. Consider using your personally owned vehicle for transport to a hospital and familiarize yourself with the quickest routes to emergency facilities throughout the city.
Contact Information for Recommended Hospitals/Clinics
The four main medical facilities are Khoula Hospital, Royal Hospital, Starcare Hospital, and Muscat Private Hospital. For treatment of major life-threatening emergencies (heart attack, stroke, 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 available. 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 a true emergency arises.
The most updated information regarding medical care can be found here: http://oman.usembassy.gov/medical_resources.html.
Recommended Air Ambulance Services
American Jets, Inc Phone Work: +1-772-380-4167
Euro-Flite Finland, Phone Work: +358-20510-1900
International SOS, Phone Work: +971-4-601-8777
Medical Rescue International, Phone Work: +44 0 1962 735955
Tyrol Air Ambulance, Phone Work: +43 512 224 22 100
Recommended Insurance Posture
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.
CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
For additional information on vaccines and health guidance, please visit the CDC at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/oman.
Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim
Situational Awareness Best Practices
There is no specific information regarding targeting of American interests or personnel.
Be alert, and immediately report any suspicious person or activity by dialing 9999 on any phone. Make yourself a hard target by avoiding routines. This is one of the most effective deterrents to criminals and terrorists because they often conduct surveillance on an intended target for a long time before acting. Unpredictability is one of your best defenses.
Identify safe havens in areas where you frequently travel (police stations, hospitals, friendly embassies, etc). When in your vehicle, if threatened or an attack is attempted, take control and keep moving – do not stop. Leave the area immediately and try to reach one of your chosen safe havens. Remember to lock your vehicle doors and keep the windows rolled up anytime you leave your car unattended.
Although Oman is a relatively safe environment, it is advised that women not travel alone during hours of darkness.