Qatar & Oman – Real Arabia! – 2019

NOV 25-DEC 4, 2019

“Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh”

NOV 25-DEC 4, 2019  

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. – Mark Twain

Oman solo travel

Seeking an exotic adventure?  This is a Holy Grail expedition two trending Dessert Kingdoms that will provide thrills beyond all expeditions!  It’s scenery so dreamy, the natural wonders and timeless villages will cast a spell on you. See astonishing landscapes of sugar sand beaches, coconut palms, bluer than topaz waterholes and majestic mountains spilling into the sea.  Here is a safe patch in the Middle East that’s a world apart from the glitzy artifice of Dubai. Oman is a revelation. 

We begin with touring Doha in sparkling Qatar, land of dates, doorways, golden sunsets and endless smiles.  Doha isn’t just an airline stopover anymore.  She is filled with historic and architectural delights.  On to Oman-  Elegant Muscat oozes hospitality to visitors.  You’ll love our paradise in an oasis – Shangri La Resort & Spa which lies on a dramatic peninsula with endless activates.

The serene Sultanate of Oman is an epicenter of ancient culture.  Here is a land of frankincense, myrrh, pomegranates groves and roses.  It’s rich in Biblical history.  (I believe the Three Wise Men journeyed from here to Bethlehem – Parthian empire east of Persia & Judea.) Europeans are flocking here in decadent numbers.  NOW is the time for us to go!  Global tour operators state this emirate is topping traveler’s dream lists and resort prices are expected to double January 2020.  By securing hotels a year out, we locked in a great price with such a creative itinerary. 

Seeking fun?  Enjoy dune bashing over sands of the famous Wahiba desert.  Spend 2 unforgettable Arabian Nights “glamping” in a Bedouin tent with delicious meals under twinkling stars.  Explore a playground of wadis, waterfalls and swim in the iridescent Bihmah Sinkhole. Shop lively bazaars.  Ride camels along the beach.  Savor succulent Omani cuisines.  Visit Prince Faisal’s royal horse stables and watch a camel race.  Photograph grand palaces and villages a thousand years old.  There are opportunities for dhow cruises, Dolphin Watching, scuba and snorkeling with rays, sharks, moray eels and sea turtles. 

December is a great time to visit with perfect weather and it’s festive mood.  Our group air is so easy and affordable. This trip isn’t a cruise stop for tourists.  This is for Travelers who long to be nomads in the quiet desert winds.  Insha’Allah, authentic Arabia could be your best vacation ever! –  Forever Oman! 

 

Here’s Why You Need to Visit Oman Right Now

by  Ismael David
Updated: 28 May 2018
Blessed with one of the region’s most advantageous locations, the Sultanate of Oman’s extensive territory stretches over much of the east coast of the Arabian Peninsula – its variety, which includes verdant mountains and desert, is almost unmatched. From the Straights of Hormuz in the north to evergreen Dhofar in the south, Oman has no shortage of adventure, history, and diverse landscapes. Here’s why you should visit.  Read more…


Click to Read More…

Our Glorious AFS Itinerary

Our Glorious Itinerary

Download printable PDF itinerary

NOV 25 –Depart USA to Doha.  Not enough wanted group air so we cannot provide a transfer to hotel as explained in Trip Tips.  Take taxi to hotel and check-in Mercure Grand Hotel City Center, Doha   Address: Musherib Street, Doha, Qatar Phone: +974 4446 2222

NOV 26 – Welcome to Doha!   D

Not enough wanted group air, so we cannot offer an airport transfer.

Doha, capital of the peninsular Persian Gulf country Qatar, is a modern city on Doha Bay. Ringing its downtown waterfront are numerous parks and the Corniche Promenade.   This 7-mile green pedestrian-free zone offers amazing views of dramatic high-rise towers and filled with outdoor sports venues, cafes and shops.  Ancient wooden dhows line the bay for rides to evoke Qatar’s seafaring past.

Check-in at the hotel. Get to know your fellow travelers tonight at Welcome Dinner at hotel.

Overnight: Mercure Grand Hotel City Center, Doha   Address: Musherib Street, Doha, Qatar Phone: +974 4446 2222

NOV  27- Discover Doha Tour –  Gold Souq and Camel Races   B

Discover the highlights of Doha, capital of Qatar a city where the old and the modern architecture blend. Starts with a photo stop at Museum of Islamic Art on the Doha Dhow water front. The building was designed by the award-winning architect Mr. I. M. Pei and it houses world’s greatest collection of Islamic arts, including metal work, ceramics, jewelry, wood work, textiles, coins and glass.

Proceed to the Gold Souq, passing by corniche and Dhow harbor. Head to Souq Waqif, a market selling traditional garments, spices, handicraft, souvenir for over 100 years. It was renovated in 2006 to conserve its traditional architectural style. Head to Pearl Qatar, an extraordinary artificial man-made island created in a shape of an oyster, which has set the standard for luxury with all brands internationally.

Our next stop at Sheikh Faisal, Camel Race Track & Equestrian Club. The club showcases 15,000 historical pieces among which traditional Qatari artifacts, old-timers from all over the world as well as paintings & international art. Watch the camel training at the camel race track. Thousands of camels can be seen there. During the races little robot jockeys are used. Continue with the Equestrian Club which is the royal stable of Qatar, where we will visit the priceless royal and international horses and watch their training.   There’s so much to do here.  Please see www.visitqatar.qa

Overnight: Mercure Grand Hotel City Center, Doha

NOV 28 –  Fly to Muscat Oman / Wahiba   (Group air 7:20AM – 10:10AM).      B/L/D 

After breakfast we transfer to Doha airport for our flight to Muscat.   We are met by our guide upon arrival and board our motorcoach.  Welcome to the land of gold, frankincense and myrrh – a valuable commodity along the Silk Road and ancient trade routes.  The finest perfume oils come from the resins of Oman’s frankincense.

Muscat is a warm, welcoming city surrounded by rugged, mountainous peaks and the beautiful beaches of the Arabian Sea. To look at, much of Muscat is very modern. However, underneath this modern facade is the city’s past remaining in the form of the port district of Muttrah and Muscat’s Old Quarter. Here you will find old Portuguese forts, colorful mosques and traditional Arabian buildings. Great tolerance is shown towards Western customs, however, Omani’s retain strict morals concerning their own. The men wear traditional floor-length dishdashis with the women wearing open-faced scarves. Visiting Muscat is an essential start or finish to a vacation to Oman and offers a greater understanding to this fascinating country.

We drive 3 hours to famous Wahiba Desert, enroute stopping for lunch at la local restaurant for Omani cuisine with dates and Arabic coffees.   Late afternoon check-in at camp for 2 nights of fun out of “One Thousand Arabian Nights.” Total comfort in your goat-hair tents with bathroom and fun activities.

Evening enjoy a traditional barbeque dinner under the stars.

Overnight: Arabian Oryx desert camp, Wahiba.

NOV 29 –  Wadi Bani Khalid & Wahiba Sand Dunes Experience!     B/L/D

Today we visit Wadi Bani Khalid with its deep blue pools of water fringed by the date palms which is an ideal spot to relax or enjoy a warm water refreshing swim.

After lunch, we’ll be Dune Bashing and Camel Riding at Wahiba sands.  Dune Bashing – Experience drivers race you over dunes as high as they are wide for thrills of a lifetime.

The Wahiba Sands extend for some for hundreds of miles in every direction and provides a real taste of the Arabian desert.  The dunes rise up to 800 feet high and scattered encampments of the Bedouin people who still manage to eke out a living here, wandering from waterhole to waterhole with their animals.

There is the opportunity to explore the dunes on camel back and have fun interacting with a Bedouin family. You can also try sandboard dune surfing and ATV rides if feeling adventurous.   Overnight: Arabian Oryx desert camp, Wahiba

NOV 30 – Wahiba – Muscat Sightseeing           B/L

After breakfast, we head back to Muscat in our fun 4 x 4 jeeps and proceed for a photo-stop to magnificent Al Alam Palace, the most important of the six royal residences of the ruling monarch, Sultan Qaboos, which are dotted around Muscat, Salalah and Sohar.   We also visit the Royal Opera House, Oman’s premier venue for musical arts and culture.

Later, I can’t wait to tour the famousAmouage Perfume Factory with its intoxicating fragrances!  For over 30 years the name ‘Amouage’ has been known as a luxury brand famous for its decadence and sophistication. (It’s a globally lusted after brand retailing in 65 countries with 14 stand-alone stores including Muscat, Rome and London. Aside from the main stores, the perfume is found in included the world’s top department stores from Harrods to Selfridges and Bloomingdales.). Perfumes are something for Omani’s to be proud of. From the outside alone, you can see the beauty and workmanship that went into designing and building a location to reflect the luxury brand.

Drive by the Grand Mosque with its sparkling gold dome.  Visit the Muttrah Souq, one of the oldest marketplaces in the Arab world.  It is also one of the few markets in the world where it is possible to buy gold, frankincense and myrrh all under one roof. The main thoroughfare of the market carries mainly household goods. Further inside, experience the mixed smells of frankincense, perfume oils and fresh spices. There are also a number of small shops on the side streets and marvelous alleyways leading up to the main market that are worth taking a look at, full of Omani silver and embroidered kumbhas. Explore the maze of this bazaar to soak up the vitality here!

We then proceed to check in at our luxury resort, oh boy!

Overnight: Hotel Shangri La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa, Muscat

Please google this to view its 6 swimming pools, 5 restaurants, Heritage Village, water sport center, Lazy River floating and spa all on a private beach.

DEC 1 – Full Day excursion to Wadis and Bimah Sinkhole       B, L

After breakfast, we begin our full day tour driving by past famous Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque.   All non-Muslims welcome.   Visit interior if time permits.  Among the highlights is the mosque’s beautiful prayer carpet, which was hand-crafted in Iran. Woven over a four-year period, this vast rug fills the entire prayer hall and is the second largest carpet in the world.

Then we head to the incredible Bimah Sinkhole and Wadis and enjoy an Arabian lunch. In Wadi Abrayeenwe’ll see deep gorges cut in the mountains and running to the sea. Have your cameras ready for shots of the pools of emerald waters, old villages and lush plantations.    On to the Bimah Sinkhole, a spectacular limestone crater with blue-green iridescent water to the bottom.  Swim in the warm mineral-rich water that almost looks surreal.

On clear sunny days while driving along the coast we may even see sharks in the deep blue water or fleet footed Gazelle sprint across the landscape.   Drive back to hotel at Muscat .

Overnight at Hotel Shangrila Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa

DEC 2 –  FREE DAY!   AFSers love leisure time to scatter as they like.             B

Explore more of Muscat or enjoy the resort amenities. Diving, snorkeling, sea kayaks, yoga, paragliding, banana boat and doughnut rides and camel rides on the beach for great Christmas photos. Available Water Sports at Hotel Scuba Diving Trips, Introductory SCUBA Diving lessons in the pools.

AFS optional Dolphin Watching Sail  – $76 details later in Trip Tips.
“Make a dream come true; step aboard to explore the hidden treasures of Oman’s magic coastline. This 2-hour cruise will give you a fascinating experience and its rare to miss the swimming dolphins. Chances of seeing dolphins (usually common, spinner, bottlenose or Indo-Pacific species) are high at any time of the year. A dolphin in flight is a wonderful sight that thrills onlookers”.

Overnight at Hotel Shangri La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa , Muscat

 

DEC 3 – FLY TO USA

Morning free to enjoy our resort.  The Chi Spa offers many unique treatments to choose from. Later we drive to airport for our flight home.

I’m so happy to lead this group and it will sell out fast since many of my AFS friends requested Oman recently.  This is an AFS once in a lifetime journey.– Suzy 

LAND PRICE:  $2398 pp twin share (we’ll find match)

A $500 deposit secures your reservation.  Small group limited to 32 participants.

INCLUDES :

  • – First class accommodation
  • – Buffet Breakfast at all hotels
    – Welcome Dinner at Doha.
    – Barbeque dinner at Wahiba (3 lunches, 4 dinners)
    – Arabic Set Up Lunch at Wadi Arbayeen – Camel ride at Wahiba
  • – Bottled water during the tour in the vehicle.
    – All transfers, sightseeing’s and excursions by air-conditioned coach. – Assistance on arrival/departure by airport representative for group air.  – Guided City Tour on private basis in Doha & Muscat.
    – Accompanied Tour director in entire tour.
    – English speaking guides in Doha & Muscat. AFS trip leader
    – Entrance fees to monuments as per the given program. – All taxes and services charges

Group Air –  N/A      We suggest flying award-winning Qatar Air from JFK to Doha, Oman, Muscat and home

  •  All prices are per person twin share.  Single rooms limited per group and a single supplement applies.  Cost set by hotel/cruiseline and vary considerably.  AFS will find you a roommate match. All hotel rooms are “run of house.”  
  • Please review AFS Terms and Conditions as well as Heading Abroad with AFS.  
  • Land – Price based on a minimum number of trip participants, as well as local currency exchange rates which can fluctuate.
  • We write our itineraries over a year in advance. Though unlikely, we always reserve the right to modify schedules, tours and hotels if necessary. 
  • Group air – Airlines may add surcharges to offset fuel inflation or taxes. The total ticket cost is not final until we receive your final payment and the group is ticketed. If doing own air, airport transfer may or may not be included depending on your air schedule. Do not buy air until the group air is set or we advise – though unlikely, airlines, times and dates can change!

Group Air:  N/A

Mercure Grand Hotel Doha City Centre

On the Arabian Gulf, the Mercure Grand Hotel sits in the heart of the bustling business district of Doha near Souq Waqif, the Arab marketplace and the Musheireb Downtown Project with the Future Metro Station. Our four meeting rooms for up to 200 people will meet your every business needs, while our restaurants and bars will take care of your appetite as you dine on international cuisine at La Brasserie, Mediterranean flavours at La Villa, and fine steaks at The Old Manor Steakhouse and Bar.

Mid-scale hotel for business or leisure

Step outside the contemporary Mercure Grand Hotel Doha City Centre and a short walk will take you to the timeless and marvelous Souq Waqif, where clothes, spices, handicrafts, and souvenirs are sold. The souq is also a hot spot for art galleries, workshops and concerts. A stroll on the Corniche seaside promenade will lead you to many attractions, including The Museum of Islamic Art, the Doha Port, and the Fish Market. The New Airport is 30 minutes away.

 

In the heart of the golden sands of Sharqiyah Desert nestled among stunning and ever-changing patterns of dunes, Arabian Oryx Camp offering a luxurious Bedouin-style accommodation that confines of the private Bathroom, a myriad of free high-end Toiletries are at the guests’ disposal. The sitting of the camp in the wilderness of the desert emphasizes the beauty of the virgin golden sand dunes surrounding it. You will be welcomed with warmth and kindness of Omani Hospitality. The delicious Arabic Cuisine splendor & attentive service along with live entertainment and Camp Fire under the roof of starry skies you will have ever charming experience once in a lifetime.


An oasis of rich experiences  along the sparkling bay

The deep turquoise blue water of the Sea of Oman is hypnotic, contrasting vividly with the majestic mountains that rise behind the resort. This is the fascination of Oman.

The experience is elevated at Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa, Sultanate of Oman. Two hotels await your arrival. Approaching Al Waha, your excitement heightens as a man-made tunnel through the mountain leads you to a sanctuary facing the Gulf of Oman. As a family-focused hotel, Al Waha lives up to its name, with several swimming pools merging to form a serene oasis. Date palms and traditional Dhofari architecture remind you that you are in Arabia.

Lunchtime closes in as you head for the resort’s focal point, Al Bandar Hotel. Like its name suggests, this hotel is akin to a town with a mélange of restaurants. After you savour the exquisite Arabian flavours of tender roasted meats at Al Tanoor restaurant, you decide to take home a piece of Oman with the intricately-designed crafts, jewellery and artwork from the gift shop and art gallery.

It’s hard to pull yourself away from it all, but Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa is just 20 minutes away from Muscat. You leave knowing that you can always return to Shangri-La within the Sultanate of Oman, for a fun-filled vacation in a relaxed and casual setting.

  •  All prices are per person twin share.  Single rooms limited per group and a single supplement applies.  Cost set by hotel/cruiseline and vary considerably.  AFS will find you a roommate match. All hotel rooms are “run of house.”  
  • Please review AFS Terms and Conditions as well as Heading Abroad with AFS.  
  • Land – Price based on a minimum number of trip participants, as well as local currency exchange rates which can fluctuate.
  • We write our itineraries over a year in advance. Though unlikely, we always reserve the right to modify schedules, tours and hotels if necessary. 
  • Group air – Airlines may add surcharges to offset fuel inflation or taxes. The total ticket cost is not final until we receive your final payment and the group is ticketed. If doing own air, airport transfer may or may not be included depending on your air schedule. Do not buy air until the group air is set or we advise – though unlikely, airlines, times and dates can change!

UPDATE-

I HAD TO SHARE THIS  LINK TO ALL IN THE QATAR GROUP! IT’S EXCELLENT!!!

https://www.iloveqatar.net/guide

Suzy

Group air was dropped because not enough wanted it. See Air Details below.

Thank you for booking with us. Anticipation is half the fun.  Follow this link to view our AFS Trip Tips designed to answer all trip questions.  Please be sure to bookmark this page to find your way back because updates will be posted there.

Facebook Group Page ->  Email us if you are booked and want to get in this group.

These tips are designed to answer all trip questions. Please be sure to bookmark this page to find your way back because updates and addendums will be posted here. They will also be emailed as the updates occur.

Prepare to be thrilled on an expedition to two Desert Kingdoms, rich in adventure and history. This is the real Arabia and AFSer’s can’t get enough of the mystical ruins, lively souks, endless smiles and royal treatment we experience while exploring these ancient kingdoms. This is a place of desert camps, camels, gold frankincense and myrrh! Stunning desert sunsets and star-filled skies await as we find our own oasis. Wander the markets of both the peasants and the sultans. Relax and explore the sugar sand beaches and azure seas of the Gulf of Oman. This is a trip that combines the exotic with some of the most storied ancient cultures on earth. Bedouins and AFS nomads come together for a spectacular adventure!

GTL Your fearless GTL (gracious trip leader, not a guide but liaison between our guides and group to ensure things run smoothly) is Suzy Davis and Terry Pawelko.

SuzySuzy says, “I’ve always been drawn to the Middle East and thrilled to lead this, it was my first choice.  I’ve been to Muscat and Doha, but never properly toured all the treasures this these countries hold.  From sea to sea, we’ll have a blast!”

As a former flight attendant of 14 years with free travel, Suzy has logged over 100 different countries in her 6 tattered passports.  She founded AFS in 1989 to share these places with others.  For the first 10 years, she led ALL solo travel tours but now leads four or five each year. Her favorite group leads are to places outside the boundaries of normal comfort zones where one wouldn’t travel alone because she loves all the challenges. As a cultural ambassador, Suzy is fearless and loves to connect her groups with locals. Her enthusiasm, travel wisdom and patience are extraordinary.

Terry - The StaffTerry is a partner, business manager, techie-guru, cabana boy and chief bottle washer – Staff  (someone needs to do it.)  He handles the day to day business operations behind the scenes at AFS.  (FYI:  He’s also married to the boss who he met on an AFS safari in 2003 and together since, they make a great team.)

Terry & Suzy

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Trip Prep-

Read the revised Heading Abroad with AFS , especially if you are new to AFS!

Ensure your passport is valid 6 months after return date with two blank pages.  We recommend renewing your passport well ahead of any planned international travel. Take a photo of your passport to store in the cloud or bring a copy. If you don’t have Global Entry, download the Mobile Passport app to speed through US Customs.  Look in your App Store for details.

Remember, a second $500 deposit is due June 15 and final balance is due by check by Aug 1.  Make check to Adventures For Solo Travelers, 1907 Daniel Green Ct., Smyrna GA 30080.  (Credit card Final Payments incur a processing fee – do not pay this when paying by check.) You can look at your balance due at any time on your profile after login.   Reminder emails will always be sent.

Visa: Qatar requires a visa.

t’s now time to get your online visa for all mine in three easy steps.
  1. Go tohttps://evisa.rop.gov.om fill out application for Tourist Visa
  2. You’ll need to follow directions to upload your passport and a recent photo. You can take a photo of yourself against a blank wall. It can’t be too large. (An easy hack to resize a photo is emailing it to yourself from your phone. My iPhone gives me three choices small medium and large. The medium size will work. If it’s too small or too large it will be rejected. The medium is usually the Goldilocks size that’s just right.)
  3. Upload these two photos complete the form and pay the fee.
If all this seems too difficult you may contact Marc Gilland at Passport Visa Advisors info@passportvisaadvisors.com and he will do it for a fee.

Fitness level – 2   (No trouble walking.) Nothing strenuous on this trip, unless you have trouble climbing on a camel.

Group Air –    We had a great group air flight and schedule, but only 6 wanted it.  Unfortunately, this is not enough people for group air.    This was dropped.  Everyone will need to get their own air to USA-Oman-Muscat-USA.

Note the internal leg.  Air  USA to Qatar, then to Oman, then back home via Qatar to USA.

NOV 28  DOH – Muscat 7:20AM – 10:10AM  

This leg is most important for everyone to get.  There are only 3 flights daily Doha to Muscat 1:30am. 7:20am and 7:30pm.  It’s vital that you get on this flight because you’ll miss the day’s tour.  

Airport group transfer will be based on the flight schedule below.

Qatar Airways

  • NOV 25  JFK-DOH 9PM-5:40PM  (NOV 26)
  • NOV 28    QR 1128.  DOH – Muscat 7:40 AM –    10:20AM
  • DEC 3  Muscat – DOH 10:10PM -10:55PM
  • DEC 4  DOH – JFL 1:30AM-7:40AM (same day!)

Call Raj.  Here was holding our group reservation.  He is able to book you from your hometown as well.  He will need your Passport Name and details, birthdate, gender and exact travel dates.  While risking being redundant, be sure you get this leg NOV 28 QR 1128  DOH – Muscat  7:40AM – 10:20AM  

A variation on any of the other flights it’s not a huge deal as long as your December 3 flight leaves in the evening.

If you need help getting your own air, call our friend Atik (Ah-tEEk) who’s an air expert.

Contact info:

Atik Mehta
Atikm@downtowntravel.com
3 West 35th Street, 8th Floor, New York NY 10001
Direct 646 -520 3827
Toll-Free – 855 855 0210 – ext 227 or 279   Give him your exact airdates, destination, passport name and details with birthdate. Again, while risking being redundant, be sure you get this leg NOV 28 QR 1128  DOH – Muscat  7:40AM – 10:20AM  

Meet Up with Group – On Day 1 (Nov 26), a time will be set to meet the group in the hotel for a briefing.  More on this later so keep checking back

Baggage – Always think light to ease your burden.  You’ll be surprised at just how little you truly need. You change hotel properties several times.  1 carry-on & 1 medium suitcase not to exceed 45lbs, weigh on bath scale. The new hard cases are hard to fit in coach storage.  Be sure to attach ID to both bags.  Leave space for great souvenirs because we’ll be exploring some wonderful markets.

Packing – This is a region that is warm year-round. Temperatures should be in the mid to upper 80s with lows in the mid-70s. Google weather in Oman a week prior departure to get a clearer idea. as to what to expect

These are conservative countries, please no tank tops or shorts. Women should wear clothes that cover their knees. A good rule is to cover elbows to knees.  Bring a scarf you can use to cover your head if visiting a mosque. Men, long pants, please. Pack summer clothing with a light jacket for nights and long flights.  Umbrella, daypack, wide-brim hat, sunscreen, comfy sneakers, and swim gear.

Electric –Don’t forget chargers, cords, gadgets, batteries etc.  Cell phones, computers and tablets do not need a converter, you only need an adapter plug.  AFSers often leave charger cords in room, be sure to double-check before check out.  All properties have hairdryers.

Oman and Qatar use a squared three-pronged plug. Most converters these days offer numerous options on the same device

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Money Matters – You need some cash for personal tipping, meals and shopping. $350 should suffice. Don’t try to get money beforehand. You’ll pay a silly rate for conversion. Change on arrival at airport, bank, hotels. or draw from an ATM (even with bank fees, it’s a better rate). Note that independent ATMs are risky due to skimmer scams.  Safest ATMs are at airport and banks.  Always shield your pin number when entering.

Two countries – two currency rates

  • 1 Omani Rial = $2.60
  • 1 Qatari Rial = $0.27

Follow link below to create a conversion cheat sheet

https://www.oanda.com/currency/travel-exchange-rates

Bring two major credit cards. Inform your bank you’ll be overseas during the trip so they don’t shut down your cards.

Gratuities – (Prepaid) Its protocol to tip our local guides, assistants, porters, drivers and ground staff. Guidelines have increased globally, but around $10 to $15 per day should cover all for the trip.  A $90total will be added to your invoice. Please understand this is only the suggested minimum.  For ease of distribution, your GTL will tip the different ground services for the entire group each day.

Tipping on own– If service is stellar, feel free to give more directly.  All we tourists leave behind is our reputation.   I carry a personal stash of US ones in an envelope to draw from as needed.  Bellstaff/porters – AFSers roll bags to the room.  If you use a porter, please tip $2.   Restaurants 10%.  For Group lunches or dinners, please leave a dollar or two for wait staff. These tips are NOT included in our group gratuities.

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Communication – The Internet is readily available in hotels. (out in the desert – not so much) Cell/smartphone be sure to check with your provider for rates and coverage before departure. Roaming rates (used by Facebook and other apps) are expensive. To reach home – Texting, iMessage, WhatsApp and Facebook messaging when using WIFI is best!  I don’t know anyone who makes calls home nowadays.

Want affordable data in many countries abroad?  We’ve been using Skyroam.  All the data you want Bluetooth to your devices for just $10 a day.  See https://www.skyroam.com for details.

Retail Therapy – We didn’t call this trip gold, frankincense and myrrh for nothing. The souks and markets offer a plethora of opportunities to savor aromatic incenses and the world’s finest perfumes!  Enjoy spices, dates, honey and such. Be amazed at the handcrafted baskets, rugs, clothing, and textiles. There will be intricate jewelry made of 18 or 24 kt gold, all priced by the weight and not the quality of work that goes into it. In Qatar, you’ll also find pearls and wooden items with inlaid pearls (many types of frankincense and clay burners to buy in souks.)

Photography – The deserts offer so many opportunities where changing light can alter the landscape time within minutes. Before taking pictures of locals, know it is polite to ask. So many colors and so many opportunities!

Your AFS private Facebook group page, Shutterfly.com or another online service to share your best shots with each other.  AFS loves photos with group participants (not typical churches, monuments, etc.) for our website.  The best photos are ones that include a group member with a local, children, animals or iconic sites in the same frame!

Websites of Interest

Precautions – Tap water is safe in both Oman and Qatar, but because of the dry climate, you’ll need to be sure to stay hydrated. You may want to consider bringing a sports water bottle. The food is amazing, but again, err on the side of caution and eat clean food and avoid street vendors.  Pickpockets are everywhere now, especially at night.  Never carry your passport outside the room.  Do not drink alcohol in public places.  Resorts, hotels and restaurants fine.

Cuisines – I just love this food! So many dishes are a meal in and of themselves. In Qatar, Machbus is the national dish – rice, meat and vegetables all combined in one delicious meal. Dishes featuring honey, dates and nuts. Kousa Mahshi is scrumptious zucchini stuffed with lamb and garlic.  Sweet and savory balaleet. And for dessert – mahalabiya and its countless topping possibilities.

Accommodations –   Please see the itinerary Hotel tab for details. You’ll love our properties!

Doha – Mecure Grand https://www.accorhotels.com/gb/hotel-0546-mercure-grand-hotel-doha-city-centre/index.shtml

Wahiba – Arabian Oryx Desert Camp – http://www.oryx-camp.com

Muscat – Hotel Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa – http://www.shangri-la.com/muscat/barraljissahresort  6 pools, 3 pristine beaches, Chi Spa, Lazy River, Heritage Village and more.

Roomies

Single supplements have significantly increased – if available at all.  Save money and buy yourself an awesome local gift. We all live alone, but save money when traveling by rooming together. Suzy spends a lot of time on roommate matching.  99% of our clients are wonderful and you’re only in your room to sleep at night.   Note, kindness begets kindness.

If you know you snore, please buy a mouthguard ($25 to $50).  Below is the best example of a product that works well. Walgreens, Amazon, CVS have different types.  https://snoredoc.com/product/snore-doc-anti-snore-mouthpiece/

Recommended Options –  

AFS Dolphin Watching Tour – We board thrilling Speedboats to explore Oman stunning coastline. On this two hour cruise, we should spot dolphins (Spinner, Bottlenose, Peales) as well as tuna, sharks, blue whales, dugongs and sea turtles.  At Shangri-La Resort there is yoga, glass-bottom kayaks, inflatables and dive opportunities.  We will get a headcount by email.

If you want to go into Doha early, it is known for its hop-on-hop-off buses which can help you get a lay of the land. Explore the Corniche and hang with the locals by the sea. This is a city known for its arts. Take in the Katara cultural village which offers everything from galleries to music.

Leisure Time –For your free time, it’s best to arrive and ask our local expert guides for suggestions.  We notice many newer clients pre-planning many activities on the AFS trip well before they arrive, often with disappointing results.  Our daily itineraries are pretty full. Expert travelers revel in the element of surprise in a new destination and allow the wind to blow them where it will. Use Google Maps on your phone to find everything nearby.  For free days we like to use Viator.com

Amending tour pre or post-trip or arranging private tours on free time – We also see others on Facebook urging others to join them to countries around our trip.  Stopovers are great to add, but understand AFS has nothing to do with this. AFS is not responsible for these trips which may not be up to AFS standards.

Emergency Contact: Phone 770-432-8225 or email us at info@afstravelers.com

Cancellation Penalty:

At booking, we sent you our terms and conditions. Open this link to review our terms again.  https://www.afstravelers.com/terms-and-conditions/

Optional Travel Insurance – If you want travel insurance and have a pre-existing condition (elderly parent, medical, etc), you must purchase insurance within 21 days for deposit to be covered.

Click to follow this link to purchase travel insurance online

https://www.travelsafe.com/?welcome=ADVGA02

Phone them at 888-885-7233 and give code “ADVGA02”

Read Travel Insurance 101 for details.  http://travelinsurance101.tumblr.com* Click to follow this link to purchase travel insurance on-line  https://www.adventuresforsinglesinc.com/need-travel-insurance* Phone them at 888-885-7233 and give code “ADVGA02”* If all else fails, upon your request I will email the form to you.

Travel Psychology 101

Prepare for your departure joyfully with no contempt before investigation on arrival. Things may not go exactly as planned.  If changes occur, embrace them with serendipity.  Who knows, the unexpected may prove to be a better experience.  Adapt and go with the flow with a laid-back attitude.  Be spontaneous.  Be tolerant of foreign cultures in respecting their centuries of traditions. Embrace the differences. Be curious, not shy.  Smile – locals will sense your energy of kindness and kindness always begets kindness.  The best spirit of an Explorer requires the openness of a child – Suzy

Please understand that whenever you travel, things are not like at home and changes can occur. Great trips work best for those with an open mind, flexible attitude and adventuresome spirit. Be polite to the locals knowing that kindness begets kindness. (This goes for your roommate too. We all live on our own, but share when traveling together.)  Our common goal is to experience different cultures, make new friends, get great photos, have large fun and return home safely with memories worthy of recollection.

“When traveling, remember that a foreign country isn’t designed to make you comfortable.  It’s designed to make its own people comfortable.” – Clinton Fadiman

Added Insight

I love camels and deserts and I love the sights, sounds and scents of the markets. Here are a few insights as to what awaits.

https://www.travelwithpedro.com/taking-dip-in-bimah-sinkhole-oman/

Taking A Dip in the Bimah Sinkhole

There was I, staring down at the emerald waters in this massive hollow on the limestone. The water was as green as I had seen on pictures the week before, and the surprise stop at this small park by the road, just made that moment more remarkable. We had stopped at Bimah Sinkhole, located at the small Hawiyat Najm Park, by the dual carriageway from Muscat to Sur, and only 600m from the beach. Locally it is also known as Bait al-Afreet and is a 40m wide and 20m from the surface.

A week earlier, when I saw pictures of it in a magazine at my Muscat hotel, I regretted the fact I wouldn’t have the chance to visit this natural wonder. When my Omani friends made this unexpected stop, I was not only happy but also amazed by this beauty. I looked down and saw some young locals halfway up the walls, ready to jump, their voices echoing loudly. If only I could join them!

Soon we started climbing down the staircase to the natural pool. At roughly 9am, and only a few minutes out of the air-conditioned car, the summer heat was making me sweat and burned my skin. The water was so inviting that, even though I’m not a good swimmer, I was determined to go for a dip. When we arrived at the bottom of the stairs, my friend explained to me that “a piece of the moon fell, creating such a hole, and the water from the sea came from underneath”.

My friends refused to go swimming, so I stripped to my shorts, tested the water temperature with the tip of my toes, then jumped went into the cool emerald water. After a few seconds, I noticed some tiny fish were biting my feet. It was quite ticklish, and I realised they were the same “pedicure” fish used in some Oriental spas. Great, not only was I having a refreshing swim at an idyllic sinkhole pool created by a piece of the moon, but I was also having fish eat the dead skin off my feet. Sweet!

When we returned to the car, I couldn’t stop thinking about my friend’s explanation for the sinkhole. That is based on old local belief, but the truth is, it was caused by erosion, like any sinkholes in the world. To me this makes it even more special – being a commoner who managed to stand out of the crowd, to be one of the most beautiful sinkholes on the planet!

Also – CNN’s travel experts list 9 reasons why you should want to visit Oman

http://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/9-reasons-to-visit-oman/index.html

(CNN) — If you’ve heard anything about Oman, chances are it was about Muscat. With good reason.

This desert haven wrapped by mountains is a peaceful and uncrowded spot with five-star hotels, white sand beaches and warm waters.

As well as some of the best diving in the world, it has a souk to rival Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, only without all the jostling. But that’s not even the half of it.

Oman is opening to tourism, and some of its greatest treasures are found only a day or so away from the capital. Here’s a pick of highlights when touring one of the top destinations for 2015:

Thanks,

Adventures For Solo Travelers

770-432-8225

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