When I started researching how I could travel to Yemen, I must admit that I assumed it would not be possible at all. Given the strongly worded government travel warnings about this country, coupled with the fact that any positive news about Yemen seems to be in great shortage, I just figured that things such as obtaining a tourist visa and even finding good, safe accommodation options would be impossible, paving the way for only the craziest of the craziest travelers to dare venture here.
And while I’m open to doing some crazy things, I’m not sure if ‘craziest of the craziest’ was a category I wanted to be a part of.
But surprised was I when I started to learn that a few travelers are making their way to Yemen and that traveling in these parts is not nearly as difficult, or dangerous, as I had once thought.
Surrounded by Soldiers
And then, a few weeks later I was in the back of an old Toyota 4×4 with a local driver and guide, heading out of Sana’a into the Yemeni countryside. The road wound through some rocky hills, passing along the edges of valleys and eventually cruising across a massive 2000 meter high plateau. En route to our destination for the night, we stopped at the impressively situated rocktop Palace of the Imam (Dar Al-Hajar) and we wandered through the streets of Thula, an ancient, and very well-preserved, village with structures dating back some 3000 years.
After a couple of more short stops, it was time to head towards the town of Shibam.
Before entering Shibam, somewhere on the outskirts of town, our driver had to stop at a military checkpoint where he handed over a copy of the travel permits that all foreigners wanting to enter this region of Yemen must obtain. The soldier glanced at the paperwork for a moment, asked our driver a couple of questions and then, with a flick of his hand, allowed us to pass.
A few minutes later, we entered Shibam, where we had a great lunch, wandered through the friendly town and made a quick visit to the village of Kawkaban, clinging to the edge of a mountain nearby. Upon returning to our hotel in the afternoon, just in time to chew some qat of course, I realized that, not for one moment, had I felt unsafe, at all.
As I began to nibble away on some qat leaves, I asked our driver and guide about the military checkpoints, but they both brushed them off as nothing to be worried about and told me that the areas we would visit were perfectly safe. It all seemed reasonable to me…
…until the next morning when I was eating breakfast with the driver and guide in the small restaurant of the hotel.
The guide started to explain that, during the night, sometime around 11:00pm, a group of six armed government soldiers had shown up at the hotel.
“Why?” I asked.
“To protect you,” he said.
“What? I thought it was safe.”
“It is safe. But whenever there is a US citizen visiting, the government sends soldiers just in case,” he stated with a big smile on his face.
And for the rest of the day, our jeep was followed by a pickup truck with six armed soldiers sitting in the back. Not only that, whenever we got out of the jeep to visit a place such as the Al-Zakati Fort or the rocky cliffs near Bokur or to walk around the town of Mahweet, the soldiers got out of their truck as well and followed us around, never wandering too far away.
Even more surprising was the fact that this was quite a well-coordinated effort. As we were driving along a lonesome mountain road at one point, the soldier-filled truck behind us suddenly stopped. But sure enough, another truck, with another group of six soldiers was waiting for us right around the corner. This happened three times, with each group ‘handing us over’ once we reached the edge of their territory.
Now, before you let this whole soldier-following-you-around thing worry you, consider this. The Yemeni government, in an attempt to remain good friends of the USA, really does provide this soldier-escort service only to US citizens. Apparently, no other nationality receives this service. So, this does make me believe that such an escort is not really needed at all and is just for show. If these parts were so dangerous, the government would either provide the escort for everyone or they would add the area to the list of regions that foreigners are not allowed to travel to.
And whenever we got out of the vehicle, with our soldiers in tow, nobody in any town treated us any differently. It was as if the soldiers weren’t there and the soldiers certainly didn’t investigate anything, except for one town where they seemed to become a little more serious about their protective duties for a few minutes.
So, Is Yemen Safe?
Yemen is the kind of country you wouldn’t visit at all if you listened to all of the travel warnings. But it’s the kind of country you would probably be ready to visit if you listened to any traveler who has recently spent time there.
The thing is, Yemen has its fair share of issues. With a branch of Al-Qaeda operating in certain corners of the country, a south that wants to separate from the north and some tensions among tribal groups, it might seem as if any trip to this country would be doomed from the start.
However, if you travel wisely, which doesn’t really take too much effort, the chances of anything negative happening to you are extremely slim. Yemen, for smart travelers, is as safe as most places. Anil from Foxnomad.com wrote more about the safety situation in Yemen: Is It Safe To Travel To Yemen?
I personally didn’t feel as if I was in danger at any time, nor did I ever have a moment when I thought “Uh-oh, this could be trouble.” The parts of Yemen that I visited, and keep in mind that the Government of Yemen will not allow foreigners to travel to parts of the country that they deem unsafe, left me with nothing but a positive impression.
But again, I didn’t wander into the areas of Sana’a where the staff at our trusty hotel suggested we didn’t wander. I didn’t try to sneak into regions of the countryside where foreigners are not allowed to go. And I did my very best to respect and adhere to local customs wherever I went.
All of the people I met were extremely hospitable and welcoming (and many wouldn’t let us leave without taking their photos, something you can see from Anil’s “Faces of Yemen” post) in every single town in the country. I heard not one negative reaction when I said I was from the USA, only extended hands and smiles. The number of invitations I received for meals, or even to spend the night at a local’s home, from people I only met thirty seconds before, were too many to count. Again, friendliness, not danger, was what I felt the most during my stay.
And this was the case whether I was in the once-touristy town of Manakh or having lunch at a restaurant in some dusty crossroads community where everyone around us seemed as if they had never seen a foreigner before. It was the same when I was high up in the mountains, stumbling upon tiny villages only accessible by foot, and when I was walking through the nearly hidden back lanes of the main market in the historic Old City of Sana’a.
Of course, for some travelers, the sight of soldiers and tanks, dozens upon dozens of checkpoints (there are at least ten checkpoints between the Sana’a Airport and the center of the city) and the odd kaleshnikov-carrying man walking down the street might scare you away. And while those are all present for a reason, the chance of a traveler encountering anything but a smile or nod of the head from the soldiers or any gun-carrying individual, is not very high at all in my opinion.
Is Yemen Safe for Female Travelers?
Indeed it is. Speaking with my guide on the Yemeni mainland, it seemed as if he had just as many stories about female travelers he had recently shown around the country than about male travelers. And many of the females came either on their own or in a group of a few women. Of course, I am not a female but, based on the conversations I had throughout my stay, I learned that a foreign female would have no problems traveling throughout this country. For more specific information about traveling here as a female, be sure to read: Solo Female Travel to Yemen – Your Questions Answered
Yemenis do understand that foreigners have a different way of life and as a result, they welcome foreign females to join in any of the activities that males would partake in, even if it is something that a local woman is not allowed to, or doesn’t normally, do. You will be treated as a traveler, and as a result, those you meet will want to show you the best of their country.
And, as a female, you would have a chance to do something that a male traveler has little chance of doing. You could speak with and interact with females, giving you a much different perspective on life in Yemen and an entirely different set of rewarding experiences. During my stay, I must admit that I only spoke with three local females the entire time. One was a schoolgirl who wanted her photo taken, one was a 20-year old divorcee in a small village and one was a 17-year old trying to sell me some jewelry. That was it unfortunately.
Also, I did meet two foreign female travelers in Yemen during my stay and they were both having an incredible time. I heard not one complaint of trouble, harassment or any other difficulty and instead, they each told me that Yemen was one of the most welcoming countries they had been to and much easier to travel around, as a foreign female, than they had ever imagined.
I have something different planned for my upcoming post on incredible Socotra Island, the Yemeni island located in the Indian Ocean that I also visited on this trip. But for now, in terms of safety, I can tell you that the island is completely safe. They basically have a zero crime rate simply because it’s an isolated island. If you commit a crime, there’s absolutely nowhere to run to and everyone on the island knows each other. You can’t really find a safer destination to visit!
In conclusion, the risk of encountering any major problems in Yemen as a traveler is quite small if you travel wisely. This means staying away from spontaneous demonstrations (none of which we came across during our trip), learning which parts of the capital city to avoid, dressing appropriately, getting the necessary travel permits and most importantly perhaps, traveling with a licensed driver and guide through a reputable local company.
Traveling on your own in Yemen is not easy these days and you will find it to be quite a hassle to move around the country on public transportation and to pass through the dozens of checkpoints on every road. According to some reports, travelers are often turned away at checkpoints if they don’t have a local driver with them and just communicating with the soldiers in general (no English spoken) would be difficult. A local driver will also provide a bridge between you and the local communities, making it much easier for you to have rewarding travel experiences.
And besides, trying to organize the travel permits on your own would probably take up half your trip and conducting research in order to find reliable information on how to travel from one destination to another, where to get off the bus to visit a particular sight, how to reach the sights that are only accessible by 4×4 jeep along a non-existent road, which hotels are still in operation (many are closed now due to the lack of tourists), etc. would take up the other half.
Using a tour company to organize the visa, permits, driver and guide will ensure that you are able to see far more than you could ever see on your own, while enjoying a personally-tailored itinerary, for a price that suits your budget. And again, I’m going to recommend the tour company I used, Eternal Yemen, because they are as reliable as it gets and their team of kind, dedicated staff is what helped make my trip so memorable. (If you do use Eternal Yemen, make sure you request to have “Ali” as your driver…you won’t be disappointed!)
*Keep in mind that the above is simply my opinion and before traveling to Yemen, you should conduct additional research in order to decide if it’s the right destination for you to visit.
How does Yemen sound to you in terms of safety? Do you have any questions? Just let me know below!
Your post is old but its still very active and helpful.
I am planning to visit Adan and surrounding areas. Adan is considered to be safest than other parts.
What would you advise ?
Do you have any current information about Adan? I am planning for a week trip or less.
The important thing is, I am not American and Muslim (not Arabic) so I think I am in safe category then 😀
Also, what is the visa procedure?
I am an American woman who is married to a Yemeni-American man. I know your post is from years ago, but what do you think about traveling to Yemen now, in 2019? My husband is yearning to visit his home country and see his relatives. He has heard from friends and relatives who have gone to and from Yemen. They tell him it’s not easy, but it is not impossible. There are no more flights to Sanaa so one would have to travel to Aden first, then find transportation to the capital. There are many checkpoints along the way. My guess is if you look foreign (meaning, not Arab) they will treat you as a tourist and hopefully it’ll be smooth. However, my husband is an Arab and I worry they will demand bribes at each checkpoint or give him a hard time in some other way. (I myself have no plans on visiting Yemen)
Hey Lynn – I don’t think it would be a good idea for anyone to travel there at the moment. There’s just too much uncertainty and if there are issues, it can go way beyond simply paying bribes. I wouldn’t want to risk kidnapping. Americans are prime targets for kidnapping, much more so than any other nationality.
Travel safety ratings are often inconsistent although Yemen is consistently rated very dangerous. It may be more so if you are an American unfortunately as the United States has earned a not very good rep in many of these areas yet if you are one there is hope if you read in the following paragraph.The US bombed several countries in the Middle East and fueled wars in some so its understandable they aren’t pleased
Most people in Yemen do not dislike INDIVIDUAL Americans even if they are anti the countrys system and will actually protect them although anti-Americanism is a problem there in certain areas of the country, it seems like some rural areas that is more likely to be a problem, although the decent Yemen citizens will protect Americans they know are for the most part all right. Just beware one or two groups of people. Al Qaeda does reside a lot there
Safe? Provably not. It home to the worlds largest humanitarian crisis. Any sense of safety you had was an illusion.
Ethical? No. There is a good chance a visit to Yemen indirectly funds all kinds of horrible unspeakable crimes.
Hey Rachel – If you read the date on the post, this was from before the current situation. Also, there’s barely a single government out there that doesn’t fund, in some way, some pretty horrendous crimes/activities.
I am really Glad That you did enjoy your time Here in Yemen,and Thank you for all the nice/ positive things you pointed out about my country! I actually was searching information about it ( trying to view it as an outsider) and your article was one of the few positive things I could find and I was happy to find it and glad that it was written within a decent “recent”time. Being a Yemeni Person/Woman who also lives in Yemen I do agree with lots of the things you mentioned,I love the good scenery here,the rich History ,the nice weather and the genuine hospitality, in fact and speaking of hospitality,I am certain that although Yemeni people try to be all ” tough” in the outside or whatever, deep down inside we do appreciate and love having foreigners in our country and for some reason we just get so Hyped up about it xD actually I have so many memories of tourist come to our house for a meal or spending a night or just to hangout, I personally have been blessed to have a father who is multi lingual and culture/travel lover, and I have definitely got a lot from him, and I also remember seeing so many visitors around the old city of Sana’a ” my city” However and sadly enough this has changed a lot in the last few years especially after the war, closing the airports and the other horrible things that happened/ keep happening. Anyways thanks again and I actually still have many questions to ask you if you don’t mind so i wonder if there is a more stable way to contact you ?
I hope everything becomes better than we can all go there it’s really a beautiful country and amazing
Cool, I was about to go Yemen once but there was a suicide attack and a girl from my own town died.. Of course, that scared me and I ended up going to Mali, which is pretty dangerous now. (so, Im glad I went that time) Anyway.. Yemen is definitely on my bucket list.
I am Yemeni, and I feel that I am not safe in my country, I saw many people died with no reason. Yemen have amazing places that you will not see in any other country, but also have many of ignorant people that will cut your head with big smile. I’m sorry but Yemen unfortunately not safe.
Hey Mohamed, can I know ways to approach you. Any email ID you can provide. I need to know more about YEMEN. Thank you
I don’t think so that he is Yemeni and explain about his country like this words. Even though there is a war in Yemen and all the people around the world know that but not in same way that he explained. Hope the war will stop soon and Yemen will be much better and safe for all foreigner to travel and visit Yemen.
How was your visa process?
Did you obtain a visa overseas in a neighboring country of did you go to the embassy in Washington
Hey Mark – I used an agency in Sanaa to help facilitate the process. I applied to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with their assistance and once I was approved, I received a confirmation letter that I simply brought to the airport in Sanaa and upon arrival, handed it over at the visa desk and received my visa.
Earl, Everytime I look at those photos I just ache to get out there and see them for myself! And it is an ache because it’s unlikely I’ll travel to yemen anytime soon.
I have good friends here in California who are from Yemen. She has been here over 40 years and her sons have grown up American. Of course all the brides come from Yemen and the weddings take place there, not here. She tells me ALL THE TIME now that she will not be going back. It’s too “lawless”. This from a woman who returned home on a regular basis for decades. If she is afraid in her own country – where she has more relatives than the Pope has prelates, how can the rest of us feel safe?
I have not given up on seeing this phenomenal land. But I’m not holding my breath either.
If you think Yemen is safe, you’re nuts! Most people can probably travel there and come home alive…just because the odds are in their favor. But traveling to countries that include the presence of Al Qaeda (in Yemen it’s AQAP, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula), is beyond crazy. If you get kidnapped, a definite possibility, you’re as good as dead. Most of the security people there are corrupt and are looking for bribes. I spent 35 years traveling the world and I consider Yemen right at the top of the list for dangerous Countries. If you think it’s a great adventure to go there: Have fun, and good luck. I hope we don’t see a video of you being beheaded.
People have a bad tendency to say “It was safe, I felt safe.”. Feeling safe doesn’t mean it is, having nothing bad happen to you doesn’t mean it is safe. I’m not trying to be paranoid. I’ve traveled through places where it isn’t recommended (all through Palestine, the Kurdish region of Turkey). I can appreciate wanting to travel somewhere, assessing any risk involved, and then deciding you’re down to go. This post and people’s comments ignore real danger, though. I love reading people’s travel experiences, and you can say you felt safe, but to say it is safe is dishonest. In reality, most people travel and come home fine, but there is a much larger chance you will be kidnapped or murdered in Yemen than in many other countries. If you feel comfortable with that risk, and the country sounds good to you, then go, travel as safely as you can, and have an amazing trip. I just don’t think shrugging off signs that a place is unstable is honest, there are soldiers everywhere because it is more dangerous than many other places.
Thanks for sharing your information. I’m traveling on a motorcycle and thinking about finding a boat from djbouti to yemen. Do you think it would be possible & is it safe for a female solo rider?!! Would appreciate any info.
Anybody thinking of traveling in yemen in jan-feb 2015?
Masha – given the situation with al qaeda, kidnappings, hostages being executed, and so on, it would be unwise to travel in Yemen.
the question is not, if it is safe or not – you will not get a visa ! and for travelling around yemen you need travel permits which you can get from the tourist police in sanaa. well, actually these days the travel agencys get it for you as you can not travel independend. and only trough a local travel agency you can get a visa. as they are fully responsible for your safety, they will not allow you to go somewhere alone. i might be in yemen around mid jannuary for a few weeks …. so if you make it to sanaa, would love to meet you.
Yemen is undergoing a very difficult transition with the Houthi takeover of Sana’a and large parts of the rest of the country. At least one European citizen has been killed at a Houthi check point and kidnapping of foreigners is increasing. The US Embassy is on “Ordered Departure” which means most of the personnel have been evacuated due to security concerns. Please research the kidnapping issue in Yemen and the nationalities involved — it does not seem to matter whether a person is a US citizen or European. With the price of release of a kidnapped foreigner in the multiple millions of dollars, there is a great incentive for bad things to happen.
Yemen is now definitely on my travel list. Thank you!
I enjoyed your comments and observations on travel in Yemen. Yemen is safe if you get help from the locals, professionals in tourism and hotels. Ali’s comments has to do with politics between the south/north regarding the Unification of Yemen. Aden, sanaa, Ibb and Taiz are very safe for international travelers. I am an Arab American and I love Yemen.
My son said DO NOT TRAVEL TO YEMEN NOW!!! He’s a 29 year old U.S. Marine that’s stationed in Yemen right now. If he tells me that it’s not safe for travelers to visit Yemen right now, I’m going to take his word for it. (He told me this yesterday)
He will tell you the same one year later. Yemen is still the same. Tourists are still coming.
But your son is not on any safe place for sure. So wherever is he I would not go there. I Just wish him luck and good health.
I was never scared in Yemen. I went there twice. In summer 2013 and in the end of 2013 for another two months. Everything was okay for me. I am European citizen.
Yes I was in Yemen during this time. From December 2012-feb2015 it was indeed dangerous BC the looming govt take over. Your son had knowledge of the situation and if he said don’t go I wouldn’t go.
Awesome! glad you were able to enjoy your time there!! I too travel, not nearly as much but have been able to scratch my itch by 31 countries so far…some for personal, some for military. I now work at CENTCOM in Tampa. So, I preface this with knowing my background and indoctrination into a core belief system that comes a bit different than most.
Travel to Yemen, while it may have been safe for you, you are an experienced traveler to know how to handle cultural differences. Most basic travelers don’t, and therefore our warnings need to make sure we cover our citizens for obvious reasons.
To add, not every country gets 6 armed guards, because not every country has to endure the threats we get. And they are real, and do carry out attacks. I read the reports almost weekly on various attacks. While most people are friendly, the simplest most non-intently offensive thing can upset the populace, and for that reason, we caution travel. The same can be said of Ankara, which “appears” to be much safer, yet, can easily turn into some ignorant fool debating Christianity while shopping in a carpet store blaspheming Allah.
Regardless of how safe you felt, I assure you, your presence there is a threat, and can be a target, no matter how safe you think you acted. Still, I do agree the threat causes people to go elsewhere causing them to miss out on a wonderful experience.
The same was said to me when I visited Cartagena, Medellin, and Bogota…safe travels!
I was writing about tourism challenge in Yemen and came across your website. I have been to the U.S and experience the generousity and welcome of Americans. I am really surprising when was your last visit to Yemen and are you willing to visit this country again?
Hey Mohammed – I visited Yemen in 2013 and I don’t think I’ll be visiting again for a while unfortunately.
I meant if security situation get fine.
I was Invited to go to a wedding in Yemen with a friend but didn’t bcuz of all the bad publicity. I so regret it.
I have traveled extensively, alone.
Older female has advantages
If you’d like a partner sometime let me know
Photos you took ate fantastic
Hey Laura – I shall let you know!
I too am older female and have traveled extensively.
Your post is 4 years old.
Have you been able to get to Yemen and Socotra.
I would be interested having a partner who is very interested in this area to finally visit this beautiful country.
I found your account to be quite inspiring. I must admit that I have been leery of solidifying my plans to Yemen but after reading your story have decided to take the plunge!
I am planning my trip in January. You mentioned that it is best to go with an organization. Were you on a formal guided tour? If so, can you recommend a specific company? I’m really in “the blue” here. Very little is written about travel to Yemen so I would be most appreciative of your advice. Again, thank you for sharing your story!
Hey Joey – You don’t have to go on a formal guided tour (as in with a group) but you need to use a local agency to organize your visa, transportation (you need a car and driver because foreigners are not allowed to use buses and other local transportation) and accommodation (apart from Sanaa, it’s hard to organize accommodation on your own). The company I used is Eternal Yemen and they were excellent every step of the way. I’ve sent many people to them since I’ve been and everyone has been quite happy with their services as well.
Quote: “Now, before you let this whole soldier-following-you-around thing worry you, consider this. The Yemeni government, in an attempt to remain good friends of the USA, really does provide this soldier-escort service only to US citizens. Apparently, no other nationality receives this service” Did you feel somehow special or privileged about this? I personally think is terrible and having soldiers around you makes you a sitting duck and definitely more conspicuous than you were with your guide only.. Soldier following around is something that should definitely worry potential travelers! Happy to have an Italian passport
Hey Pat – No, I didn’t feel special. It’s just something that is done as a gesture as all foreigners, regardless of nationality, are only allowed to go to certain areas that are considered safe and secure. With that said, I’d say you’d be a much easier target for kidnapping if you didn’t have any soldiers with you as it would take about two seconds for someone to drive up, push you in the car and take off. Having the soldiers would be a deterrent for the average tribesmen who do the kidnapping as they would want it to be as simple as possible.
Im a USC and I lived in Yemen now for 18 months. The life here is good the only bad is that as a women I have to stay inside the house all day. I literally dont go outside for weeks at a time and it is really smothering. My husband says he has to keep me on the safe side because not only is there a battle with Al Qaeda but also with the local mafia and Al Houwthi. They dont like foreginers because they feel as if we are infringing and influencing their culture in a negative way. But ne way, dont let that scare you. Just like earl said, do more research and come with an open mind and vigilence.
Brilliant round up. I recently looked on my government website (UK) to plan a trip and the entire country is covered in red as a serious no-go zone. I’m certainly up for the challenge and not believing the official hype after reading this, although of course to travel cautiously and be aware of any changes out there. What a great adventure – which I may have to pick your brains further on!
I recently went solo for two days in and around Sana’a. Dual US/Irish citizen. I went through the tour company Eternal Yemen. They planned a personally itinerary with a day outside the city to Manakah, as well as a shorter trip to the Rock Palace. Also did a walking tour of the Old City. Felt safe at all times, but the common sense “don’t discuss politics or religion” rules apply. The people were extraordinarily friendly and appreciative of the fact that any tourists were there due to the image portrayed by the media.
I live/work in a large city in the Northeast of the US. I felt no less safe walking around Sana’a.
I came back from Aden/Mukalla a month ago and I would not recommend anyone to visit Yemen in this moment of time. You can’t visit places without being questioned. I’m a Yemeni British Citizen and the fact that I am Yemeni, it really doesn’t matter who you are, they just don’t care. Military checkpoints just puts you into fear. I’m sure you don’t want people with Ak47s staring at you because you have nice clothes on. All these guys want is power, if you don’t give it to them, they will shoot you down. Salam.
[…] travel bloggers who are used to visiting locations like North Korea or Yemen or Afghanistan, Israel might not seem like a big deal. But to me, the idea of packing my bags and […]
Hey steve I have also been searching how yemen is. I am hispanic but born in california and my husband is yemeny we are both going for vacations. I want to know how much do you waste on food. And do womans just stay home. And is it dangerous for woman to go out during diffrent times of hour. Everyone tells me men are crazy and when they see a woman especially american they will try to kidnap her or rape. Im still going and hope to god nothibg bad happens but people always talk and exagerate everyone tells me your not scared. And I say no why would I be scared I will cover like everyone else. I just want to know how much will I spend if im there for 2 months. Thanks a lot and yemen Looks so calm and beautiful I want to get a house there inshallah.
I am going to Yemen, I would like to know is that you applied the visa through Eternal Yemen? And you was joining their tour or just hire a driver from them? How much did it cost if just hire a driver but not joining their tour? Since we couldn’t find any Travel Agency let us hire a driver and apply visa & travel permit only!! All Agencies saying that we should join their tour all days!
Thanks for your sharing! It is very useful!
all of you are welcome to my country .and Have nice trip
From Dubai, there are direct flights from Sharjah Airport to Socotra – no need to go through Sana’a if you don’t want to. You touch down on the mainland for about an hour to meet the plane from Sana’a and change plane. I flew via Sana’a to Socotra and then back to Dubai via Sharjah on my way home. The light is incredible and your guide on Socotra will probably be up at sunrise for morning prayer anyway 🙂 I had no problems wandering off early.
If you want to go to Sana’a in one of the directions, then it is possible to fly directly between Dubai and Sana’a.
Hope this helps.
Hi Earl 🙂
I was interested in your post. I’m a white female and would love to go to Yemen. I live in Dubai. I was slightly put off by the embassy advice, thinking it wasn’t possible. I’m a photographer so want to walk around, at early light. Also how do you get to Socotra?
could I go there and study arabic
Absolutely stunning pictures. What a spectacular looking place. Seems like the kind of place i would love to visit one day. Thanks for the honest and interesting post.
I Recently got the job Opportunity in Yemen as QC Inspector. But i feel little bit unsucure about the country. After read your entire story i feel better.
But still i have some confusion about the security and the lifestyle .
And Earl, cheers man. Love reading your posts always. You have just helped me made up my mind on whether to go to Yemen or not!
I am 26, female and Socotra is my dream destination. I am moving to Abu Dhabi later this month and hoping to spend atleast a fortnight in Socotra – solo. I have been reading up about the island and been talking torecent female solo travelers to this paradise. Maybe I could write to you sometime and know more about your experience? Will be very happy if it’s a yes and no problem if it’s a no! You could write to me at [email protected]
Hey Emmjay – You can always write to me and I’d be more than happy to answer any questions you may have about Socotra.
Thanks for your article, it has been a dream for a while to visit Yemen (and particularly the New York of the desert, Shibam) but I thought now it was quite impossible. So it’s good to know that it is possible. I had a friend who went a couple of years ago while one still could but they didn’t make it to Shibam, because of troubles in that area. But your article is a good hope! It’s just a pity I didn’t see any photo of Shibam! 😉 Take care
Hey Mario – Actually, there are several “Shibam” towns in Yemen and the one I think you are referring to is Shibam Hadramout which has the tall mud buildings everywhere. I did not visit that Shibam as it is quite far from Sanaa and definitely located in a region that travelers are not recommended to travel to.
Hey Earl, I am an Indian & plan to travel to Sana’a in a couple of months time. Mine is a short trip of 3 days and I plan to stay in the old city. I am planning my trip through a tour company. If you could tell me the places to avoid in Sana’a.
Hey Subhadip – The best thing to do from what I was told is to stay in Old Sanaa.
Hi Allie – modest dress on mainland Yemen – long sleeves, long trousers / skirt and a headscarf. You do not need to cover your face. On Socotra they are much more used to western travelers and on the beaches pretty much anything goes (except nudity obviously) but up in the mountains it pays to be more covered rather than less. You don’t need a head scarf at all here though. I found that the locals are friendly regardless, but that they generally appreciate it when you make the effort and the women are more likely to want to talk to you as well 🙂
The Middle East is a beautiful region and the people are some of the friendliest, most welcoming and helpful people I have met while traveling. Sorry Earl for hijacking your question – just thought the experience of a solo, white, female traveler who has been here recently might be helpful 🙂
Hey Earl I have a question:
I’m a single white female who is planning on travelling and my friends and family were terrified the moment I expressed a desire to see the middle east (We live in the bible belt, so i don’t really blame them) and Yemen is at the top of my list. I’ve looked at several sites to find out basic ways to not to draw attention to myself. It helps that I have Dark Irish and Cherokee coloring (I’ve actually been mistaken for Middle Eastern before, as the only member of my terrified tour group in DC to wave back at the nice women wearing hijabs and initiated a small conversation with them. They helped me a bit with my broken God awful Arabic and assumed I was a second or third generation in the country. My friends looked as if I had spouted three heads)
Anyway, my big question for Yemen is what amount of covering will I need for walking down the street, having dinner with a local friend’s family, and visiting mosques? I intend to travel alone or with a female friend of mine and neither of us want to cause a huge fuss by mistake.
Hey Allie – Regardless of what you look like, you will definitely stand out as a foreigner in Yemen. Also, almost 100% of local women are wearing full, face-covering burqas in Yemen so if you’re not wearing one of those, which isn’t required but is definitely the norm, everyone will know you’re a foreigner for the most part. But, the foreign women I know there wear full length abayas (long robes that cover everything below the neck). As for mosques, foreigners are not allowed to enter many mosques and for the couple that you may be allowed to enter, you would need to have your hair covered as well.
Oh my goodness, I am SO jealous. I have been trying to travel to Yemen for the past 2 years to teach English, and my trip was canceled both times because of the travel warnings. Now I’m teaching English in Korea, and it is still my dream to teach in Yemen someday. Hopefully one of these days I’ll at least make it there for a visit!
[…] Treatment For US Citizens – As I found out traveling with Wandering Earl, who describes if Yemen is safe for travelers, US citizens get army escorts in parts of the country. Turkish citizens like myself and other […]
[…] bookings in some places by 60%. Before bothering to research how to go to Yemen or navigating the security situation there, you’re probably wondering why you should even consider a […]
This is such a cool story mate! If only they gave military escorts for those from the UK too! did you talk to the soldiers at all? or where they more so hanging back & not invading your space?
Definately adding Yemen to the travel plan after this!
A million years ago on the television show “Friends”, Chandler tried to avoid breaking up with his annoying girlfriend by lying and telling her he was moving to Yemen. I had never even heard of Yemen. I Googled and saw pictures. It looked like a movie set to me. I never thought I would ever be there.
Now flash forward to me being in a place in my life where I am overdoing the “I AM INDEPENDENT WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR” thing, I know that things I used to think were not possible to do, are actually completely possible if you just do them. Yemen is pretty high up on my “to-do” list . I have a few other things I need to cross off the list first and then Yemen, here I come.
Thank you for your post. I get so excited when people post about Yemen, it doesn’t happen all that often! I have bookmarked your page into my Yemen folder.
Great post – but now you have me wanting to travel in Yemen and my list of places to get to is already too long! It’s always sounded fascinating, but the warnings are pretty scary. I’m glad to know what it’s really like.
Like Katie, we discovered that Americans are required to have an armed guards when traveling in parts of Eygpt, in our case traveling overland to the Red Sea and in the Sinai. (This was in 2007, when things were calm.) I kind of liked having the guards, none of the locals seemed to think anything of them and sometimes I could get them to talk about their lives. And I never worried about getting lost or left behind (I was with a group) when I wanted to wander off somewhere, as they made sure they always knew were we were.
The stuff with the armed soldiers joining you because you’re American reminds me of when I was in Egypt several years ago. I was doing a day trip with a guide to Tell al Amarna and Beni Hassan in middle Egypt and just before we got to a checkpoint, my guide said he wanted to tell them I was Spanish. I laughed and asked why and he said if they knew I was American, they would require an armed guard join us for the rest of the trip to protect me. We ended up saying I was Canadian to avoid the armed escort.
[…] Is Yemen Safe For Travelers? – I traveled to Yemen with my friend and fellow blogger Wandering Earl, who writes in detail about the security situation there. […]
That’s pretty interesting to hear about the soldier escort. I guess because we give them so much money and help to fight AQAP, that’s one way to help return the favor. It’s also bad press if someone gets kidnapped and beheaded.
On a lighter note, the pictures of the villages are pretty incredible. They look like the backdrop to an Indiana Jones movie.
Thank you for such a great post. Yemen has been on my must-see list for so long and it’s wonderful to read about your experience. Reading your story and seeing your photos has pushed it to the “get-on-it”! list. I really appreciate your comments on female travellers, though as a Canadian, it sounds like we don’t get the armed escort. Too bad. It sounds like it gives those guys a chance to have a little tour of their own country…
Hey Colleen – You don’t need the armed escort to travel around the countryside. You just need a driver and guide who can arrange the permits, so you can definitely explore some more of the country 🙂
It’s not just Yemen but most of Middle East countries and in general muslim women will not allowed anyone taking pictures to them. Even me as a woman most of the time, women ask me not taking pictures….. It happens in Jordan, Syria and even some more conservatives areas in Algeria.
Great post Earl. Goes to show that first-hand experience goes a long way.
Your photos look like you went back in time (as mentioned above). I like the picture to Socotra Island as well.
I think the presence of 6 soldiers following me around, although kind of strange, would ensure that there is safety for U.S. travelers. I am sure it not really needed out in the countryside, but I am sure they don’t want any incidents to occur to Americans. I am sold on the merits of traveling to Yemen.
Yemen sounds and looks beautiful. Reading this, I’m going to have to put it on my list of must-see destinations. The Middle East is fascinating, isn’t it? But I have one question to ask: Were you not allowed to photograph the female locals? I’ve heard somewhere that even female visitors aren’t allowed to do so.
Hey Jacqueline – It is not allowed to simply take photos of females without asking. But even if you ask, most females will say no. But I imagine it might be different for a female traveler who would actually be able to spend more time interacting with local females.
Yemen looks like such a beautiful country! I just love the geography of the country, with all the cliffs and mountains. When I grow up, I hope to travel like you! And Yemen will certainly be on my list of places to visit! Although, maybe I could convince my family to let us go to Yemen…
Excellent article on Yemen, and beautiful pictures! Thank you for including the part about women travelers.
Excellent article Earl. I did much the same trip as you in February but without the soldiers. Not necessary, it would seem, for the British. Your photographs are better than mine. It is very good to see another positive article about Yemen. The country needs visitors. It is a special place.
Just want to say you continue to inspire us all to travel the world, and your stories and photographs re: Yemen are fantastic. Was there anything that you did not like about Yemen? I have heard poor things about the treatment of women and animals there and am curious about that. Keep up the great work.
Earl this is amazing. How many travelers can say they have been to Yeman! Not many I am sure.
I LOVE Yemani food but have not been to the country or really considered it just yet. I did however have some great friends who lived there for a few years working for the UN.
Hey Forest – I’m glad someone likes Yemeni food…the stuff we ate was okay at best 🙂
I often meet Yemenis here in Saudi. They’ve all been super nice. I had a Yemeni cab driver recently. He was calling friends just to tell them that he had an American in the car. It made his day.
Awesome post on Yemen. Exactly the info I would want for planning a trip over. It definitely made me feel a little more at ease with going. Although having some soldiers follow me around would feel kind of weird lol
Hey Diana – It’s still not a destination for everyone but if you do a little more research you can determine if it is a good place for you to visit.
Between this post and Julie’s earlier comment, I’m itching to make it to Yemen now. Damn. It really does sound like a country where an organized tour would be advisable- it seems like you got to see so much of the country during your stay. Honestly, it sounds like a safer experience than some of the other “safe” countries I’ve traveled to.
Hey Megan – Having that driver and guide is essential in my opinion when traveling here. And as for safety, these were definitely my experiences but of course, I always recommend seeking the opinions of others before making any decision to travel to a place like Yemen.
Great pictures! Too bad you have to talk about how safe it is, it looks like you had travelled back in time.
Hey Brian – That’s exactly what we were thinking…it is like traveling back in time, more so than just about anywhere else I’ve ever been.
Safety and Risk are relative terms. If you’re going to limit yourself because “all it takes is one time”, then you might as well stay at home, even though their is risk in that too.
I like it that you’re doing a series of posts on this one country. I remember doing a similar detailed log of my 10 days in Russia, driving my VW camper van to Moscow back in 1988 when it was still hardcore communist. There were many military checkpoints there too.
You didn’t say if you had any personal interactions with the “Gun totting soldiers”. As I was once one, (although a long time ago), my guess is that they were pretty jazzed to have such a cushy assignment. Follow an American around? Party time!!
Hey Steve – With the soldiers, they were actually more interested in taking photos of themselves at the various sites we visited because, after all, they had never visited these sites before themselves. And they were all quite quiet. But they did answer our few questions and were always very polite.
Thank you Earl. I am planning a world Tour for 2014-15 and Yemen was one of my target. I used to travel in Middle East, have been in Palestine for 3 months. Also I travelled in Algeria last February and I had a security escort (2 jeeps) in the Sahara with me all the time. No big deal! Your pics are amazing 🙂
Another great post about Yemen. I hardly new anything about the country until you visited but reading these posts has given a great insight in to the country and their customs. Can’t wait for the next post!
Wow! What a great trip! How much did it cost to travel Yemen?
Hey Scott – The prices there are all over the place but in general, you could expect to pay about $50 – $75 USD per day for a driver, accommodation and food. And flights to Socotra Island are about $250 USD RT at their cheapest, from Sanaa.
It looks fabulous; I’m thinking visiting with a 10 and 6 year old may be pushing it though!
Hey Melanie – Yeah, that would be tough to pull off.
I am a solo, white, female traveler and I was in Yemen in March. I never felt under threat at any time, though I was only in Sana’a for 1 day and with a local guide – testing how security on the mainland felt, before heading to Socotra for 18 days. I did of course get the odd stare, but living in the Middle East I am used to that… I used a different travel company (one based on Socotra) and had no issues. The Visa is currently 50 USD and in my case was paid to the travel agency. I would like to return to the mainland and travel further outside Sana’a and am planning to do this while I am still based nearby. The people were very open and friendly and seemed genuinely curious about who I was and thankful that I had chosen to holiday in Yemen.
Also a side note – almost anywhere you go in the Middle East you are likely to encounter armed police or military, but never once have I felt threatened by their presence. Their normal weapons are automatic firearms a lot of the time. Even the guards on the entrance to my work are armed, but I live in one of the most open Middle Eastern countries. If you are even vaguely interested in this region come on over 🙂
Hey Julie – Thanks for sharing your experiences!
What a story. I’m blown away by the photos. I hope to make it to Yemen someday.
WOW – armed soldier escorts?! That’s quite an experience.
It looks like a very interesting place, though I don’t think we’re ready to venture there with a 1 year old. Perhaps in a few years.
Hey Cam – I’d definitely hold off on this destination for now with a kid 🙂
Hey Earl! I’ve been reading your posts on Yemen.. now I really want to go! Ancient Arab society and architecture has always interested me. I’m a very inexperienced international traveler, so I’d like to cut me teeth in Europe and SE Asia first, but it’s good to know when I go to the Middle East there are some great places and ways to get arund them safely. My question for you is what other seemingly dangerous places in the Arab world have you heard are fairly safe for US travelers?
Hey Matthew – A few years ago I would have said Syria but obviously going there right now is not a good idea. Iraqi Kurdistan is a very safe region, something I discovered two years ago when I went. You can read about that here: https://www.wanderingearl.com/category/countries/iraq/
Great post! I love the photos. Though I’ve never been to Yemen, I’ve traveled to a few countries with travel warnings. Like you mentioned, I think if you’re smart about your travels you should be ok. In all my travels in the region I’ve always found the people to be very welcoming and friendly – often more so than back home!
Hey Thomas – That sounds about right. In some places, there are definitely risks involved with visiting but traveling wisely can certainly keep those risks low.
Awesome post, Earl. I think you just talked me into going to Yemen. I’ve thought about Socotra before, but it’s your photo of Thula that makes me want to go even more.
How difficult was the visa process?
Hey Ryan – It’s best to have a local tour operator handle the visa as this will save you time and potentially being rejected if you apply at the Embassy. Our visas cost $45 USD and I just had to forward a copy of my passport to the tour operator and they took care of everything in about a week.
brilliant photos! especially the view from Bokur. its absolutely wonderful to know that Yemen is safe for female travellers as well! i was definitely not expecting that one!
Gorgeous photos man.
I met some college students from Yemen yesterday (living in Turkey) and told them I “knew” someone who recently visited Yemen! They were impressed, to say the least.
Excellent post Earl! Love the way you say it’s safe and those photos are exceptional. How much was the visa? (didn’t see the price mentioned, unless I missed it). I’m heading to the Middle East in a few months and tempted to add this place into my itinerary. Safe travels, Jonny
Hey Jonny – My visa was $45 USD and that was organized through the tour company. Using their services is the easiest and fastest way to get the visa and won’t cost you extra.