December 12, 2013 by Anil Polat
Yemen is one of the most internally contradicting countries I have ever visited, which is why I’m not surprised it’s the place I get the most varied questions about regularly. For some, the uncertainty immediately discountsYemen as a travel destination, though I suspect if you’re asking, the confusion is what’s peaking your interest.
Why Would I Want To Go To Yemen?
For starters, Yemen is a large country that includes the Socotra archipelago, a UNESCO World Heritage Sitewhich you can visit without having to stop in the mainland first. (There are direct flights from the United Arab Emirates.) Socotra has more than 700 species of wildlife and plant not found anywhere else on the planet, with hardly any tourists visiting its beautiful beaches outlining what many consider Earth’s most alien landscape. I traveled to Yemen with my friend and fellow blogger Wandering Earl, who shows you why you should travel to Socotra below.
What Is A Reputable Tour Company, Do I Need One?
Travelers to the mainland not leaving the capitol Sana’a don’t need a guide but the government requires foreigners to obtain permits before visiting other non-restricted parts of the country. Only a registered travel agency in Yemen can get those permits for you and not using a guide makes the country extremely difficult to navigate. I used and would highly recommend local company Eternal Yemen. (When making arrangements, ask for driver Ali, who’s one of the nicest people to chew khat with.)
How Dangerous Is Yemen?
There is no simple answer and I’ve written in detail whether is it safe to travel to Yemen or not. Access to most of the country’s volatile regions is restricted by the government and if you use a reputable agency like Eternal Yemen, you won’t go anywhere near them. Eternal Yemen also arranges quality guides and drivers; the second point being an important one, as Yemen’s roads are some of the world’s deadliest.
While Traveling In Yemen, Did I See Anything That Concerned Me?
A lot at first! What I mean is that in the mainland (not Socotra) there are security checkpoints with armored guards frequently in Sana’a and along the roads throughout cities. It looks less safe than it is, particularly inside of Sana’a where the amount of heavily armed checkpoints immediately draws your attention. Outside of the capitol, the towns are remote, have low populations, and I can describe as laid back.
How Welcoming Are Yemenis To Foreigners, Americans, Or Other Westerners?
Very. I traveled with height-advantaged Bostonian Wandering Earland everyone was very friendly. I never once felt unsafe or anything negative from the Yemenis I met. In the old market in Sana’a, everyone will want to talk to you, practice English, and are curious in a good way. That’s common around the country. (And if you are a Turkish man, everyone will call you Murat, I can’t count how many times I discussed Kurtlar Vadisi with locals.)
What Is It Like For Women Traveling In Yemen?
Should I Buy Travel Insurance For Yemen?
Generally speaking, it’s never a good idea to travel without insurance. Many of the reasons you need travel insurance were covered in my recent live chat with Katrina Greeves and in Yemen you might want to consider ransom insurance as well. Although the odds of kidnapping happening to you are overwhelmingly low (1-2 foreigners kidnapped monthly out of the 500,000 in Yemen) companies like Clements have plans that pay ransoms. A good precaution to take as the average kidnapping in Yemen lasts less than 48 hours – for a price.
I Enjoy Yemeni Culture, But Am Also Interested In Socotra Island. Is It worth Going For The Cultural Aspect?
There aren’t a lot of people to interact with, simply because Socotra’s so sparsely populated. You’ll likely have a guide(s) with you who will be Socotri (completely different language, distinct culture that’s a blend of east African-SE Asian) who can help you connect with other locals. I recommend you visit, I don’t think there is any place quite like it. So few people go, it’s hardly been touched by tourism, I found the people fascinating and they were just as interested in me.
Can I Go Out At Night In Yemen?
Depends on where you are in the country – there is a lot of regional variation. Outside of Sana’a you probably wouldn’t have many options or reasons to go out. I felt it was safe in general but it’s important to take the advice of your guide/hotel manager/etc. You’ll have to read between the lines a bit as they don’t overtly tell you to avoid specific places but hint at it strongly. Go with their advice and all should be well.
What Should I Wear?
You can dress in typical Western clothes, though shorts would stand out and isn’t generally seen there. Also, bring warm clothes, in mainland Yemen nights are chilly, especially up in the mountains.