Easy to explore
Sana'a is great to explored on foot. The streets and lanes in the Old City can be disorientated but it's not too complicated once you get your bearing around.
Mini-bus, taxi and motor bike are the main means of travel in Sana'a. All you need to do, is to stand still by the road and wait, within 30 seconds you can get a taxi, and within 1-3 minutes you can see a mini bus slowing down by you. You can then tell the driver your destination, and he will tell you if the mini bus is going that direction. YR20 per head per ride, normally you pay when you get off.
To read about the etiqutte on taking a mini bus with women sitting in it, see my tip in Custom.
Taxi is also great and easy to find. Note that they do not use meter so it's better you agree a price with the driver before you get on. Also, always make sure the driver knows where the place you want is! Like any taxi drivers in the world, they will try to get you on board first then figure out how to get to where you need. They are friendly but it might waste time.
2 types - yellow and white/yellow
yellow is easy - have meter and very cheap, 1h in Sana'a will cost 1500r, which is about not even 8usd (200r=1usd)
without meter - never know as they say ridiculous price and cant guess if its good price or not.
ASK hotel to call you yellow taxi, it will take time until they come but always better.
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Taxi at Sana'a airport
From Sana'a airport to the old town, taxi will charge YR2,000 (about US$10, May 2008). The rate is fixed by all taxi for foreigners and it is hard to bargain for this. When I arrived San'a airport nthe 2nd time from Seiyun, I luckily saw a minivan which I bargain for YR800. It was raining and I was with another traveller, so we shared YR400 each, without much bargaining.
If you want to save money, once you leave the airport terminal building, you turn to your right side and walk for about 3 mins to leave the car park area, where you will see the main road. From there you can catch some local transport, taxi, minivan, then you can bargain for chaeper rate. I think YR600 is reasonable. (May 2008).
When I went back to San'a airport from old town on day of departure, I got a taxi on the road and paid YR600 (May 2008).
From Singapore to Sana via Dubai
I flew Emriate from Singapore to Sana'a via Dubai. It was the quickest way to get there. Emriates flies once dailt flight from Dubai, leaving 7am in the morning and arrive at Sana'a about 8:50am, a 2 hour flight. Just enjoy your flight on the plane as it should be the best meal before arriving Yemen.
The airport at Sana'a is basic, nad the queue is very long at the immigration.
Arriving at the airport
The only way to enter Yemen safely is by air. Most people arrive at the Sana'a International airport and there is limited transport to the city. Most travellers take a taxi to the city and there are two choices for this option. There is a yellow taxi that sits out front that will charge you three or four times higher than the older looking taxis across the main road. The cheapest way to get to the old city are these taxis but the drivers dont speak English. Tell them 'medina qadeema' (old city) and they will know what you mean. The drive should cost less than $5 US and the price depends on the level of your Arabic. I believe I paid 200 rials.
TAXI (UN SHARED)
I hate Taxis and Taxi drivers. Thieves worldwide. Yemen has them too, but you can usually come to arrangements with a lot less hassle than most countries. Let’s start at the Airport. They want 3000 Yemeni Riyals (about $15). No way. Argue a lot and for a long time. You will pay 1000. Locals pay 500. You will never pay what locals pay unless you stay here for a long time and/or speak Arabic. Be aggressive at the Airport. They are the worst ones in the city.
Around town all journeys in and around the Old City cost 100 for locals. That is 50 cents in American money. You will be asked for 300 and can pay 200. If they say 400 or above walk away, there are 20 other taxis within 100 meters of you. They are like flies (in more ways than one) in this city. Do not be surprised if a local in a car decides to play taxi. It was the only time I did pay 100. Why not? There is no crime here, so haggle and than use the taxi if you need it. Shared taxis cost less, but have set routes. Argue quick and confidently and you can get somewhere quickly and cheaply. The great thing is that Yemeni Taxi drivers are mostly polite
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You can get a Lnadcruiser for $70-80 per day with a driver for day trips. If you are lucky enough to be able to split it with 3 others its a very good deal. This is a bit more expensive/less adventerous than huffing it around in cabs but if you are pressed for time it's the way to go.
Try and get an older more experience driver like Mohamed Dabas such as I did. Tell him where you want to go and he'll get you there and might even surprise you along the way. Don't waste your time with a map since most can read them anyway. I set mine up through Universal Tours and had no problems. Most of the hotels have drivers they can recommend.
I suggest getting an older driver since there are around 360 turns on the road between Sanaa and Al-Hajjarah with few guard rails along the way..these are interesting roads and factor in Toyota pickups packed to the gills with people flying up these roads while their drivers are stoned on gat and you might appreciate a cautious driver.
Transport by cab is cheap in Yemen. he Hi ace buses that fly around with the doors open are even cheaper. It helps to know the arabic name of the place you are headed to since most of the cab drivers can read or write and english is not spoken here for the most part.
A cab ride from the airport to the old city will cost you around 8-10 bucks which is on the expensive side for the locals but it was cheap for me. If you walk a short distance out to the street from the airport you can get a ride for at least half that.
If you decide to take a van..pay attention since the will pack them in and dont fall out of you get stuck next to the door. The Yemeni's make Italians look like safe drivers.
Taxis... there are two types of taxis in Sanaa... very old and falling apart taxis, with no meter (ask for the price before you get in) and new taxis (with meter). There's also a third unofficial cathegory... the improvised taxi: normal cars and drivers which decide to double as a taxi - I guess for tourists only. After all, it's another extra income.
In all cases, however, there's no guarantee that the driver knows where you want to go... so make sure he knows the address, or else hail another one... Sometimes having the address written in Arabic might help, but as a general rule it's better to have a "landmark": a mosque, a major road, a ministry building, a well-known shop... something to help the dirver get you where you want to go.
for cheap-ish flights, try air arabia
Whereas flights to Yemen from Europe tend to be on the expesive side, we found that it becomes a bit cheaper to fly into the UAE, and from there to use the local low-cost carrier into Sanaa. Air Arabia is the name, and flies in from Sharjah Airport (UAE) on Tuesday and Saturday. Our experience with Air Arabia has been very positive: no delays, free water, friendly staff... and don't forget the recorded prayer to Allah before taking off.
Keep this advice in mind, though: check in starts 3 hours before the flight is scheduled, and you should get to the airport as soon as you can, possibly before the other travellers. Check-in tends to be slow, as most locals seem to be wanting to check-in at least four/five pieces of luggage each - but a man we met had 20 (no kidding).
We flew here from Sharja with air arabia.
Booked all the trip online and had no problems at all, Sharja is just half hour far from dubai and it seems to be the Dubai local cost companies airport.
The peculiar thing of air arabia trip is the beginning as, as soon as the doors closed a recorded voice spreads around the aircraft saying an islamic prayer, I can't say more as i could not understand the content.
Other nice service is that seats have numbers....useful service just when people read them anyway, thing that often does not happen here.
You can get Yemeni visa on arrival at airport and its cost is 30 us dollars(at least for europeans as I read in the forum someone paid 60).
We paid about 200 euro for a round trip.
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Sanaa is really full of old cars going around and it's not difficult to find official or unofficial taxis.
Problem is to let them understand where you want to go, you really risk to go around for a hour before the driver finds someone that tells him where is the place you are directed to.
Yellow modern taxis have taximeter and use it and they are supposed to be cheaper but.....if they do not really know where to go, as it happened to us, you will pay more than using an old taxi where you usually bargain the price before starting the ride.
A tip: ask hotel reception or whoever to write in arabic the place you are directed to, this helps.
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A quality driver
Travelling around Yemen usually involves getting a driver and your papers sorted out. The Taj Talha put me in touch with a man named Ahmed Abdul Malik Ali and he was very professional and enthusiatic. He was almost like a friendly grandfather figure and I enjoyed my time with him. He was great. Be warned though that he only speaks Arabic and knows about 10 English words such as stop, go and the time. I can speak some Arabic so chatting with him for two days was sooo much fun and great practice :)
Taxis abound. Most are delapidated Japanese cars (Toyota Cressida, Mazda 929 etc.) extending their life indefinitely. No meters. Better are the yellow Raha taxis: brand new Hyundai vehicles with a/c and meter. In principle 25% more expensive, but at least you know what you're supposed to pay. From the airport to the city with Raha it's 1800-2000 rials (up to 8 euros), which is cheap given the distance.
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