Oman is a country in the south east of the Arabian Peninsula that is growing ever popular with tourists, for it’s warm year round climate in northern hemisphere winters especially. But just how widely spoken is English there? Can holidaymakers expect to get by just speaking English when going there?
Arabic is the main language of Oman, but plenty of English is spoken, especially in tourist resorts and regions. You will find English speakers in the centre of the capital Muscat for sure, and any complex you stay in will also have people who can converse in English. Elsewhere, spoken English will be a little more patchy, but you will always find someone in the main areas tourists visit.
It is true that English is still taught in schools in Oman from an early age, so there will be plenty of people who can speak at least some, if only a few basic words. It basically acts as an unofficial second language in the country so tourists by and large do not have anything to worry about. It is also used widely in business for those looking to work there.
Oman actually came out as one of the worst countries in the English Proficiency Index of 2018, ranking as having very low levels of spoken English skills, but this does not match the experience of those visiting the country as tourists.
One possible reason for this is a biased sample, and also that the English speakers that do exist are concentrated exactly where they are needed most – for dealing with holidaymakers.
Another factor which works in favor of tourists visiting Oman is the high percentage of foreign/expat workers in the country, especially in the service sector (restaurants, petrol stations, supermarkets etc). There are a lot of foreign workers from India and other places who will speak English, as will any locals who are tour guides or otherwise dealing with tourists.
With the growth in tourism – Oman receives more tourists from the UK than anywhere else except India, and plenty from the USA as well – many signs and instructions are also now available in English.
The warm year round climate makes it a great place for Brits especially to escape cold winters, and so the main tourist spots grow ever more accommodating to English speakers as tourism in the country continues to develop.
Learning Some Basic Arabic
Whilst English will get you by fine in Oman in all tourist and built up areas, if you do really plan on heading off the beaten track or staying longer term, then it can help to learn some basic Arabic to integrate a little more. See the video and table for the very basics to get you started. Short term tourists won’t strictly need it but can of course use some phrases if they want.
English ——– Pronounced in Arabic as:
How are you?—Kaif halik?
I’m Fine/good —- Ana Zain
Please ——– Min-fad-lak
Thank you —— shook-run
Yes ——- Na-am
No ——– La
Goodbye —– Ma-a salama
- Essential stats on Oman:
- Population: 4.5 million
- Time zone: EST +9 hours; GMT +4 hours
- Currency: Omani rial (OMR) ($1 = 0.38 OMR; £1= 0.45 OMR at time of writing)
- International calling code: +968 (see here for getting a working local SIM card/number when abroad)
- Drives on the right
- Luggage allowances – see here for an excellent guide on luggage allowances (checked and cabin) for all major airlines worldwide.