The cruise port of Salalah – the second largest city of Oman after the capital, Muscat, is in an industrial area, without a specific administration building to accommodate cruise passengers. It is not allowed to walk within the port, so normally a shuttle bus organised from your cruise ship will take you near the port exit, where you can catch a taxi to central Salalah. The distance is 19km, about 20 min, driving through a desert. The taxis in Oman don’t have a meter, but there is a list of taxi prices near the port exit, which you can use as a guide to negotiate your fare. Bear in mind that the taxis are often shared with other passengers, as well as the cost but if you don’t want to share a taxi, you have to tell the driver you need him “engaged”. There aren’t any public buses. The distance to the airport is 22km, about 25 min driving distance.
The local currency is Omani Rial (OMR)and money exchange is easy and straight-forward. The best rates would be at exchange bureaus, located around the markets and shopping malls. You can also use ATMs to withdraw cash from, but make sure you have contacted your bank to let them know you would be abroad and are aware of any fees your bank may charge you for getting money in a different currency. Major credit cards are accepted in the hotels, malls and larger shops. More and more traders now accept credit cards, but normally you need cash for markets, transportation and street food.
The opening hours in Salalah vary, but in general most outlets open at 10 am, close at 1 pm and open again at 4.30 – 5 pm to work until 10pm. Some shops are only open in the afternoon. Friday morning normally everything would be shut. Post offices, banks and government offices would be open 7.30 am to 2.30 pm Sunday – Thursday.
Tipping in Salalah is in general not expected. Locals tend to tip their waiter at a nice restaurant about 5% of the bill. Bell hops and maids at hotels – no more than 1-2 OMR. No need to tip taxi drivers and only tip tour guides if you are very happy with their service – anything from 3 to 10 OMR for the group.
The local language is Arabic, and English is widely understood, especially by the people working in tourist services. English is often taught at schools as a second language and most signs are in both Arabic and English.
The local time is GMT + 4 and the international dialling code is 00 968.
Things To Do
Salalah is known as the Arabia’s Perfume Capital, thanks to the frankincense trees that are the world’s finest. More about the role of these amazing trees in the history of the city you can find out at the Museum of the Frankincense Land. Situated at the ancient ruins of Al Baleed – a 12th century trading port and the Dhofar’s region primary settlement. The Museum chronicles the local people’s lives since 2000 BC with an emphasis on trade with India and China. The Museum is separated into two halls - the Maritime Hall and the History Hall.
Another major landmark of the city is the Sultan Qaboos Mosque. Its two minarets tower over the city centre since it was completed in 2009. Inside a crystal chandelier and a handwoven green carpet welcome the thousands of worshippers. Non-Muslims can take a look inside (providing they are modestly dressed and women have covered their hair) Saturday to Thursday from 8 to 11 am.
Don’t miss Mughsayl beach and its blowholes. Although not many would sunbathe or swim here, thanks to the strict dressing code, the beach offers beautiful views with its clear water, white sand and surrounding mountains. A unique feature are the holes in the ground, known to be sea caves with water rising and splashing from them in high tide. Al Marneef Cave is the perfect escape for nature lovers who are not afraid of heights!
Taqah Castle is one of the most important landmarks in the region of Dhofar. Relatively new (built in the 19th century), it has been renovated and opened as a museum in 1994. It was the private residence of a tribal leader – Sheikh Ali bin Taman Al Ma’shani – the great-grandfather of the current sultan of Oman – Sultan Qaboos. Its fascinating to see the everyday lives of Omanis back then, with their everyday items on display. There are also ancient weapons, handcrafts, video displays and a gift shop.
Salalah also offers travellers excellent diving and snorkelling in the crystal-clear waters (best to do that from one of the beach hotels), shopping for some unique local souvenirs at one of the markets (called souqs), such as the frankincense essence, gold and silver Bedouin jewellery, Omani daggers (first check whether you can carry that in your luggage), sweet bananas, dates and honey. In the summer months July to September, you can go for a picnic in one of the parks of Salalah, or the valleys around it, to enjoy the lush greenery, waterfalls and foggy peaks.
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