I was born and raised up in the wonderful Arabian capital of Muscat in Oman, obviously not out of choice but this city gave me every reason to stay back for twenty years from then. Unlike its more popular and happening neighbor Dubai, Muscat is more of a laid-back city. This naturally makes the cost of living in Muscat fall into the somewhat ‘affordable’ category. I mentioned somewhat because one cannot compare the cost of living in the Middle East to that in South East Asia. The Middle East is just expensive and we all know about it.
Though Muscat can be really expensive for tourists due to no concept of hostels or hitchhiking in the city, for an expat looking to spend a month or more, things in Muscat are pretty much affordable.
Below is the complete breakdown of all the major costs to stay in Muscat.
Accommodation Costs in Muscat, Oman
Muscat has both flats and villa accommodation. Villas are big houses with two or more than two bedrooms, along with a small garden and most probably a car parking area too. I live in flat accommodation that costs around $850 a month all inclusive of electricity, internet, and water. It also includes all sorts of maintenance and repair work, though it may be as small as changing a LED bulb. Moreover, the residents in the building get free access to the gym and the swimming pool in the building.
This price might look expensive for most of the people; however, the maintenance of the houses and buildings on rent in Muscat is very high. The government has maintained strict monitor and control on the maintenance of the accommodations and the landlords are obliged to ensure that the houses are in good shape. Furthermore, health and safety measures are also installed in every house that is being rented out, so the high cost of the accommodation is completely justified in Muscat.
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The best way to get around Muscat is by renting out your own car. Despite being a metropolitan city, transportation can still become a pain in Muscat. Car rentals will cost around $600 depending on the car make, model and fuel consumption. It does include the insurance of the car with the passenger and co-passenger too. Not a bad bet, right? All the cars in Muscat run of petrol, which is absolutely not expensive at all due to obvious reasons which you must be knowing already!
If not renting out a car, the best alternative is to use the Mwasalat Bus Service, which is a public bus service. The bus in Muscat runs in three different zones, and the ticket price differs from zone to zone. However, the maximum goes to $2 for a single-ride ticket. Just like every other lavish thing in Muscat, even the public buses are state of the art buses with special seating area for women and children! And there’s Wi-Fi too on the buses!
The bus route pretty much covers all the major stops in the city, but continuing the journey from the bus stop to the final destination is not a pleasing one. Walking in Muscat is not an advisable option as the weather remains extremely hot and humid for most of the year! The other alternative is the orange cab, which recently got metered. The meter starts at $7 and adds approximately $1 for each kilometer. However, the drivers will still try everything to charge extra from a non-Omani passenger.
Food Prices in Muscat, Oman
The food is Muscat is relatively cheaper as compared to the accommodation and transportation. For dining out, there are plenty of Indian and Turkish restaurants which serve delicious and cheap food. In an average Indian or Turkish restaurant, a meal for two won’t cost more than $25. Moreover, in Muscat, there are all international fast food joints, which just like everywhere in the world serves pretty cheap and delicious food. However, the best bet when in the Middle East is to grab a Shawarma, which can be found literally everywhere. Muscat also has tons of Shawarma sellers who can be found after every two miles! A chicken or beef Shawarma costs only $0.8.
Occasional fine dining is also not a bad idea where on average a meal for two can cost anything between $35 to $50. Fresh juices and ice creams can be found easily at any roadside cafeteria labeled as ‘Coffee Shop’. Don’t expect to find alcohol that easily in Muscat. Oman is a Muslim country, so alcohol is only served at a few licensed places like hotels or super expensive and fancy restaurants. Moreover, due to the less availability, alcohol is quite expensive in Muscat.
Food from the supermarkets or hypermarkets like they call it here in Muscat is relatively cheap. There are many local supermarkets in Muscat along with international names like Carrefour and Spinneys. Lulu is a very famous Indian supermarket store in the Middle East with more than seven branches in Muscat alone! It is one of the cheapest places to get the grocery from. A loaf of bread will cost around $0.5, milk $1, and other food essentials also being very reasonably priced.
Cost of Entertainment in Muscat
When it comes to entertainment, Muscat will not disappoint you! Most public places and entertainment spots in the city are completely free of charge to enter. All the public beaches and parks in Muscat are totally free, which is a huge plus for the people traveling with young kids. Moreover, the major monuments of the city such as the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and the Royal Opera House are also completely free to enter. However, the opera shows at the Royal Opera House are paid, the cost depending on the show, but to enter the complex and explore the white marble structure of Opera house is a free activity to do.
Other entertainment activities such as museums are also very cheap to enter. The National Museum of Muscat cost $13 for a tourist and free for children. The National Museum is the only museum in the city with a relatively higher entrance fee. Other museums such as the Children museum have a fee of $0.2 per child and $0.5 for adults. The Bait Al Zubair Museum and Al-Alam palace are free to enter.
The recently renovated Muttrah Fort which is a 16th-century fort built by the Portuguese in Muscat is also currently free to enter. People in Muscat also loves watching movies in cinemas or go for arcade games and bowling. The movie tickets cost around $10 and arcade games cost between $5 to $10 per game.
There are not much of other major expenses in Muscat apart from the ones already mentioned. Other items such as toiletries and clothes are all cheap in Muscat. Though there are no street markets or flea markets in the city, however, these items are quite reasonably priced in the malls.
So, Is the Cost of Living in Muscat Affordable?
All in all, the total living expense in Muscat can be relatively higher if being compared to other Asian cities. However, considering that it is in the Middle East and for some reason, this part of the world is more towards the expensive side, Muscat, in my opinion, is still affordable enough to live for a month. For anyone looking to save up more or on a tight budget in Muscat should definitely consider doing a lot of daily chores such as cleaning, gardening, and laundry by themselves.
If labor is hired to carry out these services then the total cost of living would definitely go up with a high margin. Hiring a maid in Muscat is also not a very simple process as it requires obtaining many permits and the process goes through a lot of checks and monitoring, so to avoid all of that hassle, the best option is to do your work by yourself only.
All in all, Muscat is an extremely beautiful, calm, and clean city to live in. it was rated among the top ten cleanest cities in the world in 2017. This implies that Muscat offers a great lifestyle that includes a nice spacious place to live, fresh and healthy food to eat and all the basic entertainment activities including beaches and parks which an average person strive for.
Most importantly, Muscat is an extremely safe city with the crime rate being almost zero. It offers a perfect excellent quality of life, which isn’t a bad bet even if comes at a little higher price than anywhere else in Asia.
This post is by Rahma Khan, the blogger behind ‘The Sane Adventurer‘, a blog aimed at safe travels and adventures in off the beaten tracks around the world. Born, grown-up and currently living in Muscat, Oman, Rahma is a Pakistani expat who calls herself Omani by heart. An engineer by profession and a traveler by passion, Rahma is currently just ten countries old. However, her love for traveling across all the continents is slowly but passionately taking her to new places.
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Great article, I loved reading about Muscat! Its true that the cost of living in Oman is higher than a lot of Asian cities, but it is definitely not the most expensive city in Asia 🙂
Thank you for having me to write about my city Muscat on your blog. I am happy to answer any questions regarding visiting Oman 🙂
Hey A job is been offered to me in oman with a salary of 475 rial, would you suggest it’ll be ok for a bachelor to shift there with this much salary? And what would be the living cost over there acc to you for s month?
what are the best areas to rent an apartment in Muscat, an apartment building with good finishing and atleast equipped with a gym, somewhere it is central to grocery stores, salons, laundry, malls and walkable distance or close by to most places? Not an isolated area where one has to take taxi to go grocery etc. But not a very commercial area either. Do they have organic food shops there? Is it possible to live in 400 Omani riyals with paying all the bills, grocery etc. Thanks