Cost of Living in Oman

Expats will find the cost of living in Oman more reasonable than that of many of the neighbouring Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, and income is generally tax-free. Prices are highest in Muscat, but although costs can be lower outside of the city, choice is also more limited. According to the 2017 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, Muscat ranks 117th out of 209 cities.

Expat packages in Oman for highly skilled Western workers still seem to be generous and tend to offer good salaries, accommodation, a car, bonuses, flights home and medical insurance. However, as comprehensive as these contracts seem, there are always unforeseen costs. Watch out for the added cost of work visas and related health checks – for a family of four this can be fairly high. School fees are also a big add-on cost. But the real financial issue in Oman is the relative job insecurity, rather than the pay package or the cost of living.

Contrary to many of its nearby oil-rich counterparts, Oman does not draw on expats from abroad to comprise its primary workforce. Instead, it looks to locals to occupy most middle management positions, some senior management positions and even many low-paying jobs: fishermen, taxi drivers, shopkeepers, bank clerks. Expats tend to work in senior positions as directors or in sectors where there are skill shortages, such as in the healthcare and education fields.  

Even then, though, most contracts are for three years, and if an Omani can fill a post, the contract can be terminated. Expats also tend to encounter considerable uncertainty towards the end of a contract. The government’s pointed Omanisation programme, which aims to educate and train local people for the senior positions that are traditionally held by expats, has put the authorities under increased pressure to speed up the process of filling the posts with Omanis. Thus, contract renewal is not a given, and a major cost of living in Oman is the fact that an expat might be out of a job in a short amount of time.

There are also a number of low-income, low-productivity expat jobs – maids, gardeners, builders – typically filled by Asian labourers.


Cost of accommodation in Oman

The market has eased considerably since its peak, and now accommodation prices are coming down – like elsewhere in the Middle East. There are a lot of new homes being built, and expats will be able to find a place that fits their budget, mood and style.  

Costs vary according to size, facilities and area. Utilities, such as water, gas and electricity, are generally excluded in the quoted rental price. Accommodation is normally unfurnished.

Rent in Oman is paid annually in advance, rather than monthly. This is a huge lump sum; although, expats can normally get a loan from their employer. Do note, if one leaves before the year is out, the money is not refundable.


Cost of transport in Oman

Cars

The cost of using a car in Oman is much cheaper than in Europe. As a result, virtually every expat drives and few use public transportation. It’s also possible to hire a car with a driver in Oman.  

Taxis 

Taxis are also good value; unfortunately, though, they rarely have a meter. Drivers sometimes quote close to the real price, but more often the prices can be incredibly far-fetched.

Buses

For those who want to make every penny count, those who don’t have a car or those who want to experience local atmosphere, there are ‘baisa’ buses operating throughout Muscat. This mode of transit is largely used by the lowest paid workers.

Similarly, coaches can be a good way of travelling long distance, such as journeys to Sohar, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. 


Cost of food and drink in Oman

European expats will find the cost of food and drink in Oman cheaper, while Americans may find it more expensive. Regardless, though, if one is willing to consume local products, it will be possible to save money.

Alcohol

Buying alcohol in Oman can be complicated and costly. As it’s a Muslim country, licences are required to buy booze from an off-licence shop, and the price of this piece of paperwork is set according to how much one intends to buy each month. Furthermore, one's employer has to provide permission, and the quantity of alcohol one is allowed to purchase is related to a person's salary. 

Entertainment

Eating out can be costly, and if wanting a drink, one is forced to frequent expensive Western-style hotels. Luckily, there are a number of discount arrangements which means expats rarely pay full price. If a person doesn't mind foregoing the booze, there is a wide range of independent ‘dry’ establishments, where the food is excellent and reasonably priced. 

Sadly, tourist activities are highly overpriced. On the flip side, though, beach activities cost next to nothing. There is snorkelling, sunset cruises or dolphin sightings available to expats. The boats are usually well maintained and the crew knowledgeable.

Other entertainment is not costly. Cinema tickets are relatively cheap. Beaches and parks are free. The Royal Opera House is a must-see, and the price and performances are internationally competitive.


Cost of healthcare in Oman

Most companies offer health insurance to the family as part of the employment package. However, there are often exclusions, such as mental health and dentistry, and some insurance policies do not provide coverage for the health centres expats prefer, such as Muscat Private Hospital and Medident. This means most people end up paying some health costs irrespective of insurance. These can add up quickly.  


Cost of schooling in Oman

The cost of schooling is a huge expense if the company does not pay – especially if an expat has several children. There is no free education for expats in Oman, and most schools demand that fees are paid prior to the first day of the term. Some institutions require expats pay a refundable deposit. 


Cost of living in Oman chart

(Note that prices may vary depending on location and service provider and the table below is based on average prices for Muscat in October 2018)

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Unfurnished two-bedroom villa

OMR 800

Unfurnished two-bedroom apartment

OMR 550

Groceries

Milk (1 litre)

OMR 0.65

Dozen eggs

OMR 1.00

Loaf of white bread

OMR 0.45

Rice (1kg)

OMR 0.75

Pack of chicken breasts (1kg)

OMR 2.30

Pack of cigarettes

OMR 1.20

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

OMR 2.50

Cappuccino

OMR 1.85

Three-course meal for two at mid-range restaurant

OMR 20

Utilities

Mobile call rate (minute-to-minute)

OMR 0.10

Internet (uncapped - average per month)

OMR 29

Utilities (gas, electricity, water - average per month)

OMR 22

Transport

City centre bus fare

OMR 0.30

Taxi (rate per km)

OMR 0.20

Petrol (per litre)

OMR 0.20

Expat Health Insurance Partners

Aetna International

Aetna is an award-winning insurance business that provides health benefits to more than 650,000 members worldwide. Their high quality health insurance plans are tailored to meet the individual needs of expats living and working abroad.

Get a quote from Aetna International

Cigna_logo_300.png

Cigna Global

With 86 million customer relationships in over 200 countries, Cigna Global has unrivalled experience in dealing with varied and unique medical situations and delivering high standards of service wherever you live in the world.

Get a quote from Cigna Global