Having backpacked for 6 years, it was a no-brainer for me to continue Couchsurfing Oman & the UAE. Here are my experiences and some tips to couch surf safely in Oman as a solo traveler!
Couchsurfing is a widely used form of accommodation for budget backpackers. After starting in 2004, the platform currently has over 14 million users across 200,000 cities. Like other parts of the world, Couchsurfing Oman, and the Middle East in general, is not uncommon. Even Saudi Arabia, a country that just began welcoming international tourism, has had an active Couchsurfing community for years.
The Middle East is known for its hospitality and generosity, and this is especially the case for Oman. Despite the relatively newer existence of the app in both countries, the culture in this region has always been that of welcoming guests into their homes.
Take a look at the Couchsurfing website and you will find nearly 70,000 hosts in Oman and 66,000 hosts in the United Arab Emirates ready to welcome guests from around the world.
But how safe is Couchsurfing in Oman and the UAE? Below, I will dive into my experiences and give you tips on how to best go about staying with strangers in a foreign country!
If you are still wondering whether Oman should be your next destination, these these 10 reasons may inspire you!
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Why Did I Couchsurf Oman & the UAE?
I began Couchsurfing with my friend in 2015. We were both students, in debt, and wanted to explore Europe for all its glory. After she went back to Canada, I continued diving into the Couchsurfing scene while crossing Europe into Turkey. From then on, I’ve met, connected with, and still stay in touch with countless people through this website.
You can say that I’m a bit of a Couchsurfing enthusiast.
I love Couchsurfing for three things: people, experiences and budget.
As a solo traveler, Couchsurfing has always given me a chance to connect with others and experience their way of living. I’ve heard so many incredible stories and learned so much about the local culture and customs that I wouldn’t have otherwise from staying at a hotel.
My experience with Couchsurfing has transcended 4 continents, dozens of countries, and hundreds of families. After 6 years, it was almost a no-brainer for me to continue Couchsurfing in Oman & the UAE.
My Experience Couchsurfing in Oman & the UAE
While it’s easy to find a Couchsurfing host in Oman and the UAE, like any other destination, it may be difficult to find a great host. Despite a large number of hosts, the concept of welcoming strangers (through an app) into one’s home is still relatively foreign. As a result, the number of active, experienced hosts may be few and far between, especially in Omani villages and towns
In Oman, I was hosted by 5 families and met a few more through Couchsurfing’s ‘Hangout’ function.
Most of my experiences were amazing. On my first day in Muscat, my host picked me up from the bus station and spared me an apartment that he usually saves for friends. The next morning, he took me around the city and showed me some traditional Omani cuisine and Muscat tourist attractions. He was very enthusiastic about showing his country to foreigners and without a doubt, wanted to portray Oman in the most beautiful light.
This was common throughout my trip. Every Omani I met was incredibly vocal about their love for the country. They were always inquiring about my wellbeing and genuinely wanted me to leave Oman with a great impression.
Nonetheless, as a solo female traveler, I also faced a few issues that other women should be aware of. There were two incidents that were quite awkward, as both involved insistent one-sided talks of marriage (as an indirect front for sex).
Does this happen in other parts of the world? Yes!
But, this issue is especially prominent for women traveling alone in Asia. The biggest problem is that women in Asia, especially in the Middle East, don’t usually travel or live alone. Fueled with western movies and TV shows that portray Western women in a specific way, the misconception of foreign women that are willing to stay in the homes of unknown men can be quite harmful.
Nonetheless, I never felt physically unsafe during these situations. It was just exhausting.
So, Should You Couchsurf in Oman & the UAE?
Despite the ups and downs of my trip, my experience with Couchsurfing in Oman has led to some incredible friendships. Although the necessity of having to navigate these gender-dynamics may sound a bit off-putting, most people in Oman are incredibly respectful and caring.
However, for those who are visiting Oman for the first time or lack experience with the culture in the region, Couchsurfing may not be the most optimal choice of accommodation. The Middle Eastern culture is different from that of the west and some misunderstandings may arise as a result.
If you are familiar with the culture etiquettes, I think Oman is a great country to Couchsurf! With both Oman and the UAE, as long as you practice ‘safe Couchsurfing’, you will be perfectly fine!
Couchsurfing Tips for Oman & the UAE
If you’d like to give Couchsurfing a go in Oman and the UAE, do take some precautionary measures. As a solo female traveler, I often stress the necessity of going the extra mile just in case.
1. Double Check your Host’s Profile
Look for a detailed profile that has clear photos of the host. You can filter the privacy by choosing a “private room” while searching for hosts on the platform. Double-check your hosts’ references. For a newer profile, I’d sometimes check their references’ reference just in case 😊
2. Interact with the Host Before Meeting them
Find out more about the host and their neighborhood through the Couchsurfing messenger platform. If I feel comfortable with the interaction, I’d move the discussion to Whatsapp. Of course, it’s an immediate block if the conversation gets uncomfortable or weird!
3. Stay with a Family or a Female Host
Staying with a family, or a host who is staying with their family is a great way to stay safe while backpacking alone in the Middle East. Families are usually very welcoming in Oman and you can get a taste of the real local culture! If you happen to find a female host, that’s a great option too. However, it’s quite rare for women to live alone in Oman, especially in the smaller villages.
4. Dress Code
For backpackers, it’s often easy for us to dress in what’s comfortable. Although this isn’t an issue with guys, us ladies should be more cautious with what we wear. I rarely wear anything too revealing when I travel. Oman and is a traditional country and during my time there, I often wore long dresses that covered both my arms and legs.
Alternatives to Couchsurfing in Oman & the UAE
In general, Oman is a safe country to travel in. However, it’s understandable that Couchsurfing is not everyone’s cup of tea. Fear not, there are a number of hotels that are great for your trip across Oman and the UAE!
In Dubai, Rove Healthcare City and Novotel Dubai Al Barsha are great budget picks!
Below are a few extra resources that can help make your Muscat trip smoother:
Find affordable flights on Kiwi, a booking site that mixes and matches flights from different airlines to find the best/most economic route (Kiwi offers a money-back guarantee if you miss a connection).
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