Luggage and bags:
Travelling light would be my advice for any trip, but the more so in a country that's hot in most places most of the year.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Clothes of natural fibres obviously. Sturdy shoes (local replacement of them would prove to be sub-standard). Sweater (in the Highlands anytime outside summer, in the low-lying areas only in winter). Otherwise, everything is available locally at low prices and at a low but acceptable standard. This includes women's clothing and underwear. (Someone suggested that women's apparel might be a problem to obtain as nearly 100% of women wear the black cloak called abaya. Of course they are not naked underneath and judging from what's on display in shop windows there's no limit to what Yemeni women can wear.)
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Mosquito repellent might be a good idea, even though in most places most of the year you won't encounter many. Malaria profylaxis (and/or long sleeves, net and repellent) might also be a good idea it travelling extensively in the Tihama and some other coastal areas. Lip balm (hot and dry air air). Stuff like aspirin is readily available under various names but with the same ingredients. (When in doubt, go for the brand name you know - it may be more expensive, but still cheap.) Toiletries (L'Oreal, Dove, Nivea etc.) are readily available in super markets and are surprisingly cheap (compared to their countries of origin). Stomach relief (or whatever it's called) only if you are very prone to upset stomach (in Yemen I hear very seldom anout people getting sick, unlike some other countries like in South-Asia).
Photo Equipment: Don't have your films developed in Yemen.
Miscellaneous: Your own pillow case may be a comforting thought for some, although 'bed bugs' don't seem to be a real problem.
- some warm clothing (even in the desert it can get very cold)
- real walking shoes (no trainers) if you go hiking are a must!
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: - sunscreen; the sun is extremely intense in the mountains and the deserts
- toilet paper (if you stay in a "funduk")
Miscellaneous: - there are virtually no book shops in Yemen, so bring enough reading stuff
Miscellaneous: Credit Cards - with few exceptions - are not accepted. Traveller Cheques are unknown or uncommon either. So basically your only option is to change your currency into Yemeni Rial and to rely exclusively on paper money. As violent crime, theft or robbery are practically unknown, you should not be overly concerned.
Photo Equipment: You should probably take about 3 times the amount of film that you would usually take on a regular trip because A. film is not available everywhere in Yemen and B. if it is available it is expensive. C. It is not accessible in remote areas. You can easily pick up most regular forms of film in Sana'a but if you are going on adventures ie Shaharah and beyond you must expect the unexpected.
Luggage and bags: Most cheap hostels or funduqs in Yemen do not change their bedding often so a sleeping bag of some sort would be wise to avoid any potential problems ie beg bites etc. It is a common sense item but always overlooked and a great way to avoid the minor hassles of bites during your trip.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Great shoes are a must in yemen as most places are either cobblestone or dirt making this place not the ideal area to bring cheap flip flop sandals and despite how easy the locals make travelling around in shower sandals look I wouldnt recommend it as my feet were damaged after just two days (learned the hard way and converted to my hikers). Also, bring earplugs as Sana'a and other places have countless and I mean countless mosques making this country one of the loudest places in Arabia but if you want a good nights sleep I advise you bring quality plugs.
Miscellaneous: Money belts may be the way to go in Yemen because of the size of Yemeni bills. They are very bulky and take up alot of space making a moneybelt extra handy in this part of the world and if you carry a wallet leave it in the hotel or you may end up like the George Castanza character on Seinfeld carrying around a huge wallet until you get a sore back.
Luggage and bags:
yes, bring some.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Ladies, bring something that covers your head- including your hair- such as a scarf and pick up a veil as soon as you can. It will make the differnce in you being stared at and glared at.
SLEEVES ON EVERY THING.
Modesty is EVERYTHING.
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Baby wipes. Baby wipes. Baby wipes.
your own tampons.
little packets of tissue.
a whole first aid-kit- including instant ice packs for bruises- there are few freezers in the deserts.
Photo Equipment: sand WILL get into everything. protect your equitment accordingly.
proper adaptors for Middle Eastern power plugs
batteries- yes, you can get them there; no , they're not that good- especially for digital.
The more you cover up your body the better especially women. Short sleeves are OK on male visitors but I would have preferred I took more long sleeves with me. A light jacket was also very handy because the evenings were often cool. I'd also recommend umbrella and/or raincoat plus a spare pair of shoes. Streets are often flooded after the rain.
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: I needed antibiotics. Hygiene is often lacking in restaurants and getting some form of infection is common. Lip balm is also important for people like me who are not used to the dry mountain air.
Miscellaneous: Torch, lighter, matches, candles because the electricity in Yemen goes out every day for a few hours. These may be at night and just before you reach your front door.
Luggage and bags:
Bring what you need....although bear in mind that suitcases are impractical for carrying...the roads just aren't suitable for pulling a suitcase on wheels!! A rucksack is easier to carry, as well as transport in taxis/buses.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: You would expect Yemen to always be hot, but because of the mountains, it gets surprisingly cold, even during summer. On the coast, it is hot and humid nearly all year round, yet Yemen is not the sort of place where you can wear beach clothes. Don't bring shorts, then you won't be tempted to wear them. No Yemenis wear shorts, and on foreigners, they are thought to be wearing their underpants!!! Of course, on the beach, things are more relaxed, although women should still cover up (Yemeni women swim fully clothed). Because of the heat, bring thin clothes like shirts and cotton trousers, which will allow you to dress modestly without getting too hot. Women should bring a headscarf...although there are no rules which say women have to cover their heads, almost 100% of Yemeni women do, so you might feel more comfortable to copy...and if not, they are useful protection against the sun and dust. Many Yemeni men wear headscarves too...against sun and dust, and this is one item of local clothing a foreigner would not be ridiculed for wearing. Although I have worn Yemeni clothes (jellabiyya, jambiyya, jacket and headscarf) on a couple of occasions (for attending weddings), it attracted a lot of attention, and I felt very self-conscious. However, the sarong-like futas worn by men are cooler than wearing trousers, especially in the Tihama region, and you won't stand out too much. If you do decide to wear a futa, use a belt to make sure it doesn't fall down unexpectedly, and watch closely how locals sit down to avoid flashing your underwear to everyone!!!
You can buy clothes fairly cheaply in Sana'a, so if you forget anything, it is not a disaster (although for women, the choice might be limited to black cloaks).
Shoes...many Yemenis wear flip-flops/thongs, or shoes which can be slipped on and off easily - when entering homes and mosques, you have to take shoes off, so it is easier to follow their trend! Often flip-flops are provided for bathrooms in hotels and private homes...make sure you don't come out wearing them, as toilets are considered dirty places and the women of the family will have to scrub the whole floor again. You'll need a pair of 'toilet shoes' (cheap flip-flops) for hotels which don't provide them. Heavy shoes are a pain for entering houses, but useful for trekking.
If you plan to go trekking, bring some warm clothing as the weather in the mountains gets quite cold at night, especially in winter. You might also want to bring wet-weather gear for trekking during the rainy season.
Sunglasses should also be mentioned...while they are undoubtedly useful for sunny days, Yemenis don't tend to wear them. It might sound silly, but a Yemeni is more likely to approach someone without sunglasses...eyes blocked out by black lenses make the wearer seem unapproachable! If you wear contact lenses, get used to wearing glasses again...with so much dust around, contact lenses are impractical, and anyway, you won't find any lens solution in the shops.
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Malaria tablets are recommended for certain parts of the country, especially the coast. In the mountains, it is not much of a problem (I wasn't bitten once!). Bring enough for the duration fo your stay...you won't find any here!
Bring your own syringes too...if you need any injections during your stay (if you need to extend your visa, you have to have an AIDS test in Yemen) then it is reassuring to have your own needle...also, when you leave, you can donate the unused ones to a local hospital, as there are often shortages. The same with basic first-aid kits...while most things are available at pharmacies, for locals basic items are relatively expensive, so if you make any friends, this sort of thing makes a good gift.
Most toiletries are available, although if you want Western brands, expect to pay more. One thing that isn't available is contact-lens solution...they haven't arrived in Yemen yet, and anyway they are impractical because of the dust.
And another thing...toilet paper isn't usually provided. The local method is left hand and a bucket of water, which may not be to all tastes so bring your own, and deposit it in a bin (if provided) or put it in a bag to be disposed of later...sorry to lower the tone, but it is always better to be warned about this beforehand!!!! You won't find toilet rolls for sale, but tissues are available at every corner shop, are very cheap, and do much the same job.
Photo Equipment: It is probably best to bring all film with you....there are some good modern photo shops in Sana'a, but outside the capital it will be difficult to find.
Developing pictures in Yemen is pot luck...and if you have to get any passport photos taken in Yemen, you'll understand why I am saying this....again, go to the modern shops, or your photos stand a good chance of being ruined...either over/under-developed, negatives lost, photos cut wrongly, developed as black adn white when the film was colour, etc...probably best to wait until you get back.
Taking photos....don't just snap away madly at people, as this is extremely rude. If you ask, most men won't mind having their photo taken, and some will sprint towards you in order to be captured in the lens...children also like to pose too, but with women it is a different story. As a man, it is difficult to take photos of women...even if a woman agreed to have her picture taken, her male relatives would not, and the situation could easily turn quite nasty. Women have more chance of being allowed to take photos of Yemeni women, but always ask first.
Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: Not really an ideal place to go camping...and if you did pitch a tent, you'd most likely find yourself invited to stay in someone's house, unless there were no villages nearby. It might be possible to camp on the beach, but because it is so humid, I doubt if it would be a very pleasant experience! Likewise, Yemeni is not a beach destination, although it has the potential to become a great diving/snorkelling place...Al-Khowkha would be the place to find equipment if any, but when I went, this equipment consisted of two sets of basic snorkelling gear...this might change soon, but if you intend to dive, bring your own gear.
For trekking, maps won't be available...either take a local guide, or be prepared to ask directions (knowledge of Arabic would be helpful!). Again, bring any specialist equipment for the outdoors...you won't find any outdoor shops here.
Miscellaneous: Torches are useful, as often streets are badly lit outside the main towns (and even in the main towns sometimes...parts of Sana'a old town are eerily dark, and I could have always done with a torch to locate the keyhole on my front door at night!) Bring batteries too...you can buy batteries in Yemen, but mostly these run out after a few minutes, and it is difficult to find longer-lasting ones. Books in any foreign language are few and far between...mostly limited to language study guides, computer and medical books. You can find a few locally produced books about Yemen in other languages, but if you are an avid reader, then bring enough to keep you satisfied...remember, there is not much to do at night, especially for women, and guidebooks quickly become tedious! You could donate your unwanted books to foreigners living in Yemen, or to a language school for their library.
Money...bring US dollars. Cash is better, although travellers' cheques are not impossible to change in Sana'a. The main cities have plenty of exchange booths, and don't forget to bargain.
Passport and visa...you need a valid passport, with a valid entry visa BEFORE you arrive (the laws have been changed recently, and now no visas will be granted to foreigners arriving at the airport without one). In November 2001, Yemeni Embassies stopped issuing entry visas because of security concerns and to stop any potential terrorists from entering. This was only supposed to be for three months, but it might well be extended for another three. If you do get an entry visa, then you'll also need a travel permit to be able to leave the capital Sana'a (or Aden or Ta'izz, if for some reason you arrive there). In December, these were not being issued either, so I was limited to Sana'a and Wadi Dhahr...hopefully this will change soon. When they are being issued, you can get them from the tourist police by presenting them with a letter listing all the places you want to visit and the exact dates for the start and finish. If they decide that one of the places is too dangerous, then you won't get a permit at all, so try to find out beforehand where the dangerous locations are (currently anywhere in the governorates of Ma'rib, Al-Jowf and Abyan, and periodically including Dhamar, Sa'ada, Hajja and Al-Mahra). This letter needs to be typed in Arabic...a travel agent or a sponsor (i.e. place of work or language school in Yemen) can sort this out for you. Make photocopies of this and your passport...in a week, I got through ten copies of the permit and three copies of my passport, as often the soldiers at the checkpoints 'forget' to give them back. It might be a good idea to sort out a safe place to leave your passport in Sana'a, and just take photocopies with you. In theory, you can travel by air without any need for a permit...if you decide to test this theory, you can get to Ta'izz, Aden, Al-Mukalla, Sey'un and Socotra by plane, but don't expect to be allowed to leave those towns once you're there.
Be prepared for all temperatures!
The coastel area called Tihama is very hot (up to 50 degrees centigrade in the summer!) and humid. The warm winds from Africa pick up water vapor over the Red Sea. This hot, humid air then is confronted with a wall of 2000 to 2500 meters high, and cools of. This means a lot of rainfall during the rainy season in the coastal mountains. The mountains that reach an altitude of over 3700 meters are much cooler. When I was there we had a temperature of 4 degrees! This is the most populated area, with the capitol Sana'a and the second largest city Taizz. More to the east the land is gradualy less high, and becomes more and more desert-like untill you reach the Rub-al-Khaly, the 'Empty Quarter', a desert from the text-book.
Photo Equipment: As always in this kind of countries, you can't have to much film with you!
Al Roya Publishing
(J Eriksen and H Eriksen)
Common Birds in Oman
1st Edition november 2004
do pack long sleeve things, long trousers, just clothes, that don't show too much of your skin - remember, it is an Islamic country!
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