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January 27, 2023
The Gulf has a reputation for being a very expensive place to live and visit. And while the cost of living in Oman may be a bit more affordable than its neighbours, if you want to live a 'western lifestyle' you will find it more expensive than in your home countries. However, the higher wages of skilled expatriate workers offset the higher cost of living and there is no income tax in Oman, which makes a big difference in saving!
My husband and I have beenliving in Moschatofor a few years, so here is a breakdown of the main cost of living in Oman.
Almost all expats in Muscat rent an apartment or villa and the living space is generally spacious. The most popular areas for expats to live include:
- dolphin village
- Madinat to Sultan Qaboos.
There are various resort-style developments in Muscat, offering different types of accommodation, usually with communal pools, social clubs and gyms included in the quoted rental price. Most of the villas or detached houses will have their own private garden and some have their own swimming pool.
It's worth checking with your employer about relocation packages as part of your contract negotiations. some employers offer accommodation as part of expatriate staff remuneration.
If your employment contract does not cover rent, expect to pay OMR 500-800 (£1,100-1,800) per month for a two-bedroom apartment with access to communal gardens and pool, or OMR 1,000-1,500 (£2,200). -£3,400) per month for a three-bedroom villa with private garden.
One of the biggest surprises for expats moving to Muscat is that accommodation fees are usually paid as a lump sum, either quarterly, semi-annually or annually, rather than monthly as you might expect. This means you may have to pay a large bill up front. , when you first arrive, be sure to keep this in mind. Utilities such as water, gas and electricity are often included in the quoted rental price.
Accommodation is almost always unfurnished and there is a thriving second-hand market (although the opening of the first IKEA in Oman this summer was a very exciting development for Muscat residents!). Used cars and furniture in excellent condition are readily available for purchase, and there is a thriving trade in children's clothing and toys. There are plenty of Facebook groups to help you buy and sell, and the more expat-oriented supermarkets (Al Fair and Spinney's) have notice boards offering everything from cars, sofas and TVs for sale, to domestic staff looking for new posts.
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the fine print
Life in Oman can be difficult for expats who are new to all the red tape, so it's worth using a real estate agent likeSavills Omanregister all tenancies with the municipality and the Ministry of Housing if your accommodation is not included in your employment contract. For a relatively small fee, they'll make sure all your paperwork is correct and save you time (and probably your sanity!) from spending too much time queuing at ministries.
Food and beverage
Supermarkets in Muscat are generally good, but the supply chain can be unpredictable, meaning food costs fluctuate. My weekly shopping is usually around OMR 70 (£150) for the two of us. Since almost everything has to be imported, especially in the summer months, especially fruits and vegetables can be very expensive.
Staples such as rice, pasta, root vegetables, peppers and green beans are fairly cheap all year round, as are local products such as spices. But anything with a shorter lifespan is expensive. For example, I've never paid less than 3 OMR (£6) for a small pot of tomatoes, and I stopped converting the price of a bag of salad leaves to UK currency a long time ago (usually around £6-8). ...).
What's more frustrating, given the long distances and heat involved in transport, the fresh produce isn't always in the best condition, making the high prices a little harder to accept. Strawberries are a real treat in Muscat when they cost around 4 OMR (£8) for a small basket... and even more so when you get home and find that half the pack is mouldy.
Pork is forbidden in the Islamic faith, but there are a few supermarkets (Spinney's) in Muscat that sell pork products to non-Muslims (from specially locked rooms hidden at the back of a supermarket). However, unless you particularly fancy spam (£20 a tin...) or a pepperoni pizza of the Ristorante variety (£30 for a single pizza), the options are very limited and extremely expensive.
Buying alcohol in Oman is one of the highest costs of living in Oman. Non-Muslims can apply for permission to drink alcohol at home. However, the few shops that are allowed to sell alcohol are very expensive: a clearly normal bottle of wine will cost around £30.
If your goal is to eat only products that you are used to at home and cannot do without alcohol, your cost of living in Oman will skyrocket compared to others.
A car is absolutely necessary for life in Muscat - there's simply no reliable public transport and pavements are a rare luxury, so walking just isn't an option in much of the city (or much of the year when the temperature is usually hot!) exceeds 50°!).
Although a small city car is fine in Muscat, get out and exploreamazing scenery of Omanyou will want 4x4.OLXis the leading site for finding used cars for sale, with prices that vary widely by model and age. Before you decide, consider how common the car you see is in Oman. Given the heat, dust and salty sea air in Muscat, parts need to be replaced quite often and the fewer there are, the more expensive the job will be.
However, the cost of using a car is surprisingly one of our cheapest expenses! Petrol in the Gulf is much cheaper than almost anywhere else in the world - it only costs about £35 to fill up my huge SUV. The prices are regulated, so all stations have the same price per liter.
Bonus expenses for most expats
Expats must use the private health system, except in emergencies, when they can be transferred to a public hospital. Employers are not required to provide health insurance, but the vast majority in Oman do. So negotiate coverage as part of your employment contract, otherwise you'll need to budget for comprehensive medical coverage.
It is not uncommon to have domestic staff in Oman, and many expatriates employ full-time maids and nannies. The average monthly salary is around OMR 170 (£380), although many expats choose to pay more. In addition to salary, you must provide accommodation, health insurance and at least one return flight to the staff member's home country every two years. You are also the legal visa sponsor for your staff member and various permits are required. Most larger companies have teams that can advise staff on how to do this and the costs involved.
Consider the cost of a good VPN if you're thinking of living in Muscat, both for TV broadcasts in your home country and for basic expat services like FaceTime and WhatsApp video calls, which are blocked in Oman (although WhatsApp chat doesn't just work as messaging capability, it's how almost all work gets done!).
Internet and phone bills are comparable to those in the UK.
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Let's eat out
Prices for eating out vary greatly depending on the cuisine you are looking for. Prices are higher in expensive "western-style" hotels, and you'll pay much more on your food bill at any restaurant where beer or wine is allowed. For example, main meals in an international hotel usually cost around OMR 16 (£35) and a light meal in a cafe will cost around OMR 6 (£13).
But if you like to eat more 'local' like cuisine from the Middle East or the Indian subcontinent, you will find many excellent and reasonably priced places in Muscat to eat out. Given the huge population of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi workers in Muscat, there are some incredibly good and tasty places to dine - expect to pay around OMR10 (£20) for an Indian meal for two.
Coffee in most mid-range cafes will set you back around OMR4 (£9), while the ubiquitous local karaoke tea (cardamom-flavored tea made with condensed milk) rarely costs more than OMR1 (£2).
you can see mineMoscato Food Guideif you want to find my favorite places to eat in the city, both on a budget and for a special treat!
The main attraction of life in Oman, its natural landscapes, can be enjoyed completely free of charge, while camping equipment can be purchased cheaply at the major supermarkets or at the new Decathlon in the Oman Mall. You can also find used camping gear for a good price on Facebook expat groups.
Accordingtime of year in Oman, there are endless outdoor adventures to be had.
The pace of life is definitely more relaxed in Muscat, so time away from work is often spent eating with friends or going to one of the city's beaches. Although there are manythings to do in muscatAfter living here for a while, chances are you've already visited these places more than a few times.
If concerts, exhibitions and plays are your thing, I'm afraid Muscat will be very expensive... and quite limited. The Opera House is the only real venue, with tickets starting at OMR 35 (£80). Many expats head to other cities like Abu Dhabi or Dubai for a weekend when they want to see a concert or show.
Therefore, many expatriates choose to join one of the member clubs in Muscat, usually the major international hotels, or when they open membership beyond staff, PDO (Petroleum Development Oman), one of the largest oil producers and natural gas in Muscat, and a large expatriate employers' club) in Ras al Hamra.
Most memberships include access to a pool, tennis courts and gym, and many also have discounts on restaurants and in-house activity programs.
We are W Hotel members, and although it seemed very expensive at first (about OMR 1475 (£3300) per couple, per year), it was a great decision! In the summer months it's almost impossible to get much exercise when it's so hot outside and weekend camping is less viable, the gym is something of a lifesaver. We also enjoyed the included massages at the lovely spa and probably already got our money back from the dining discount!
Navigating the cost of living in Oman
While living in Muscat can be more expensive than other countries I've visited, compared to its Gulf neighbors, it's much more affordable. Here, your salary will likely offset the increase in the prices of rents, goods and services. If you decide to move to Oman, you will enjoy a quality lifestyle with easy access to the world's best nature. For us, these benefits have far outweighed the costs.
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Cait is a serial expat, language lover, cat owner in love and always looking for her next adventure.