Organized Travel vs. Independent Travelling
Usually my wife and I are independent travellers; our trips are usually self-drive & self-organized. In Yemen we relied on Arabic-speaking German and French friends who were hosts, drivers, guides and translators as well. Part of our tour was semi-organized, meaning a local tour operator customized our Hadramaut excursion according to our whishes.
Some general tips:
1. I do not recommend exploring Yemen the self-drive way. You probably do not speak fluent arabic; good Yemen maps are rare; the traffic is chaotic and can be dangerous; if there is an accident or if your car has a breakdown, there will be problems; the orientation is difficult due to the lack of bilingual street signs (or any signs at all); once you leave Sanaa, you need a "tachrier" (permit) to travel to the different regions of Yemen, otherwise you will be turned back at the checkpoint; the road conditions outside Sanaa are sometimes appalling.
2. If you book an organized tour, these problems will be taken care of by your travel agency. Either you book a pre-organized tour, or you ask a local tour operator to customize a tour according to your wishes. The tour operator will then organize necessary inland flights, rent a local driver + car, book hotels etc. This leaves you a maximum of flexibility. Insist on an English-speaking driver (meaning he knows more than "Welcome" and "How are you"). This is possible even for small groups and pretty cheap (us four travellers paid for a 5-day Hadramaut-trip with two inland flights, 4 overnight stays in good hotels, driver + car roughly 350,- € pp total). The tour company will also take care of the necessary travel permits.
Our tour company was the Yemeni "Cameleers Tours", which is pretty reliable and efficient from what I experienced.Related to:
- Road Trip
Sana'a - taxis around the capital
A taxi to and from the airport should be about 1000YR ($5 / UK2.50) but I think I was lucky and most seem to be paying about 1500YR. Expect to pay more again after dark. A (private - not shared) taxi across the city will be around 400YR ($2 / UK1.00). There are two types of taxi, both yellow but easy to distinguish. The modern Roha company taxis are metered and less negotiable but perhaps more reliable. The beat up yellow taxis owned by everyone else may possibly be a little cheaper but need to be haggled down.Related to:
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Yemen is obviously lacking in tourism infrastructure so getting around requires forward thinking so most people usually select some form of a tour but I always encourage independant travel. Getting around Yemen usually requires getting a driver with a SUV and paying him around 40 or 50$ a day (tour agencies double that) and it is worth if you are going far. Buses ( mini buses and older buses still run occasionally from Sana'a) but I havent met a traveller yet that really used them extensively because of the road permits required to travel around Yemen. You will have check point after check point in most areas and unless you are fluent in Arabic that wouldnt be an easy process to say the least. My advice is to go to a hostel/hotel in your guide book and ask them about setting yourself up with a driver because travel agencies double the price in most cases in Yemen. I got a driver from my hotel to go to Shaharah and despite paying around 50$ a day, it was sooo worth it. Good Luck :)
I am a firm believer in taking local transportation but this is one I would pass on. Sitting in the back of a Toyota pickup with 10-12 other people and a QAT stoned 14 yr old driver is not my idea of fun. If you read the local papers you will read about trucks such as this taking a blind corner a little too fast and killing all inside/outside. Seeing these trucks pass us going up the hills at 40 mph was an experience I will not soon forgetRelated to:
Yemenia (the local airline)
Yemenia is the local yemeni airline and is probably the cheapest option to get to the Yemen. For inland flights, it is the only option. As most travellers want to travel both to Sanaa and to the Hadramaut region, an inland flight is recommended to avoid the troublesome province of Marib, where kidnappings have happened. It is also quicker than to travel by car, so you save time. From expats in Yemen I know that delays or cancelled flights are not uncommon with Yemenia, so always confirm your flight 24 - 48 hours before and plan the inland flight so that you have a sufficient time buffer to get a connection flight back home. I experienced this myself as our flight we had confirmed the other day was rescheduled to an earlier time, so that we lost 6 hours waiting in Mukalla. Mukalla airport is notorious for mistakes like that.
Yemeni traffic is chaotic. Yemeni drivers disregard any traffic rule ever invented, and even though, somehow the traffic flows. It is common to disregard lanes, it is absolutely necessary to use the horn, and even when it gets dark don`t count on a Yemeni driver to turn on the lights. Crossroads are most chaotic of all, as traffic rules are only valid if a policeman stands in the middle. Orientation is difficult as only few street signs are bilingual, if there are street signs at all. Believe me: You would not want to drive a car in Yemen. So if you are not going with an organized tour, hire a local driver + car (which is pretty cheap) for longer trips or share a taxi for short distances. Forget about self-driving.Related to:
- Road Trip
Yemen is a dry country meaning you can not legally buy alcohol in the country although you will see fake Becks beer everywhere. Only the 5 star hotels offer booze but if you are desperate for a drink then you can enter Yemen with 2 liters of spirits. Most people figure that you can not do this but I confirmed this tip/info with authorities in the UAE and Yemen and they both said it is not a problem. I didnt personally do it but it is possible.
Entry formalities at the airport
Upon arrival you need to change some money into local currency in order to pay the visa which is the counter just next to it.
In January 2006 all EU countries could get visa upon arrival (costing 10500YR). I was told that officials ask the agency you have made your travel arrangements (generally independent travelling is not encouraged). I think they were busy enough not to ask me so. A piece of advice: HURRY up and line up quickly. Especially flights from Dubai tend to be full of foreigners and it can be a time consuming process to get your visa (it took me 1 hour). Your visa is then stamped and then you get your luggage (if not left behind like mine!!)
Outside the airport there is taxi stand (ride to Sana'a centre around 2000YR) in old fashioned taxi cars !! Surprisingly though the airport road is wide and depending on traffic it takes about half an hour to get downtown.
Travelling around Yemen
If you haven't booked through an agency, alternative options traveling around are:
1. 4 wheel land cruiser (usually Toyota) with driver most people book through travel agencies
2. Shared taxis (though I haven't tried them to know conditions, cost and if permits are requested) In Wadi Hadramout it is easier to rent a taxi (contract) as in Between Shibam-Seiyun-Tarim there aren't any police check points
3. Buses. It is the only budget option. I noticed several bus companies, specially Yemitco and I can ensure you that their buses seemed rather comfortable. I was told that they can carry foreigners in long distance routes as to Wadi Hadramout, Aden or Al Moukalla, but in order to ensure that there won't be any trouble with the police it is always advisable to contact both the company AND the tourist police in advance.
4. Air: Yemenia flies to Taizz, Al Hodeidah, Aden, Al Mukalla (Ar-Riyan), Socotra, but in January 2006 the airport in Seiyun was under construction!
5. I think no travel permits are needed for flights but as soon as you land to your destination you need to get one for your scheduled trip. Definitely not a budget option, but think!: it saves up time and maximizes your safety as you don't need to cross risky areas!!
Because of the frequent police check points, it is almost impossible to travel anywhere outside Sana'a without travel permits.
If you book your trip through a travel agency then they'll arrange everything for you. In our case the Arabia Felix Hotel arranged it for us. In any other case you need to get them from a police station but I am not sure if this procedure is easy, depending on the language barrier or the occasional safety regulations for each area.
If traveling independent remember to make dozens of photocopies of your permission.
I was amazed to notice that for a 9 days trip we needed around 60 photocopies (!!) of our permission, which were given by our driver to the policemen at the check points. He was also stating our nationality.
I also noticed that in any case we reached our destinations no later than 5pm, so probably traveling at night is not possible
Sana'a airport is small so it is advisable not to spend too much time there (specially when departing). Generally it is an aging structure in desperate need of renovation.
I'd read that security & army personnel looks rather sulky, grim and aggressive, nevertheless I found them just fine and I was even welcomed to Yemen (much better than in my own country)
When departing don't expect anything interesting as the Duty Free is very limited and the departure gates are not well preserved (toilets very smelly and some chairs in the sitting area damaged). Beware before check in!! After your luggage is monitored through the x-rays some porters pick them up in order to carry them just a few meters in front of the check in counters?.for a tip of course!!
Also remember to confirm your return ticket at least 1-2 days prior to departure!!
Getting to Yemen
Yemen is served apart from its national carrier Yemenia (flies from Frankfurt/Paris/Rome) mainly from Middle East airlines (Emirates, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, Syrian, Saudi Arabian) and Egypt air.
From Greece the best price was offered by Qatar airways but unfortunately overnight accommodation was requested for both inbound and outbound flights. Therefore the best option is by Egypt air. Alas though, it arrives in Sana?a at 4am and departs Sana?a at 5 am!!
So unless you take direct flights by pricey Yemenia or Lufthansa be prepared for stopover. A good option is to stopover for 1-2 days in any of the cities in the Gulf (ie Dubai) and taste a bit more of the Gulf area.
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AFFITTO JEEP/BISOGNO DI UN AUTISTA?
AFFITTO JEEP: é l' ideale : l'autista si occupa delle formalità, nessuna perdita di tempo, sicurezza, libertà d'azione (partenze, arrivi, fermate, cambiamenti d'itinerari…) Se l'autista è cooperativo (è spesso cosi) e astuto, vi farà fare delle scoperte che non avrete mai fatto da soli.
PREZZO: circa 120 $/di tutto incluso (benzina, vitto e allogio dell'autista) per un 4X4 per 4 p +l'autista. La traversata del deserto Rub Al-Khali è da pagare direttamente ai beduini (circa 700 $jeep), si può prendere la nuova strada asfaltata , ma per nulla interessante in paragone alla traversata del deserto accompagnati dai beduini…
Con un buon autista la guida diventa superflua, perché è in grado di farvi scoprire anche le cose che da soli non avrete mai potuto fare.
È possibile affittare una macchina senza autista ma è da sconsigliare salvo se uno padroneggia bene l'arabo e ha una buona conoscenza del paese (cartelli stradali quasi inesistenti).
Siccome ora per alcune regioni è necessario avere una scorta militare il meglio è di includere nel prezzo giornaliero della jeep alcuni dollari alfine l'autista gestisca il pagamento della scorta che cambia sempre levandovi lo spiacevole mercanteggiare con i militari. La scorta dovrebbe essere gratuita ma siccome i militari sono mal pagati approffitano cosi di arrotondare le fine mese
BISOGNO DI UN AUTISTA? Noi ci siamo trovati bene con Ali, oltre a parlare l'italiano fu un compagno meraviglioso sensibile, ospitale e gentilissimo. Alì per 100 $/g/jeep vi farà scoprire il paese della regina di Saba che percorre da oltre 15 anni.
CONTATTO PER L'AUTISTA: http://site.voila.fr/yementours
TEL: 00 967 6 552 884 (arabo, italiano, se rispondono i figli e Alì non arriva, riprovare) FAX: stesso numero ma funziona solo di sera dopo le 22.00
MANCIA: secondo i servizi ricevuti e certo non obbligatoria…Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
LOCATION JEEP/BESOIN D'UN CHAUFFEUR?
LOCATION JEEP: meilleure solution: le chauffeur s'occupera des formalités, pas de perte de temps, sécurité, liberté d'action (départs, arrivées, arrêts, changements d'itineraires…) en plus si le chauffeur se montre coopératif, (c'est souvent le cas), et futé il vous fera faire des découvertes impossible à faire seul.
PRIX environ 120USD/jour tout compris (essence et chauffeur) pour une jeep pour 4 p en + du chauffeur. La taxe pour la traversée du Rub Al Khali est a payer directement aux Bédouins: environ 700 USD/véhicule; on peut désormais empruntée la route goudronée et gratuite mais sans aucun charme en comparaison d'une traversée du désert en compagnie des Bédouins…
Avec un bon chauffeur un guide devient superflu, car un bon chauffeur est capable de vous faire découvrir tout ce que seul vous ne pouvez faire ou imaginer.
La location d'un véhicule sans chauffeur est fortement déconseillé sauf si vous parler l'arabe et connaissez très bien le pays (panneaux indicateurs quasi inexistants).
A LA RECHERCHE D'UN CHAUFFEUR? Nous vous recommandons Ali, âme sensible et génereuse, excellent compagnon de voyage, chauffeur et guide. 100$/jour/jeep vous découvrirez le yemen qu'Ali parcourt depuis plus de 15 ans.
CONTACT POUR LE CHAUFFEUR: http://site.voila.fr/yementours
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (anglais)
POURBOIRE: en fonction de votre satisfaction et certes pas obligatoire…
Savoir qu'actuellement pour pouvoir circuler dans le pays il faut être en possession d'une autorisation delivrée par l'office du tourisme de Sana'a. Pour des raisons de sécurité, les autorités ne la délivrent pas aux touristes individuels, qui devront donc passer par une agence; votre chauffeur sera considéré comme agence, et en sa compagnie il vous suffira d'aller à l'office du tourisme, donner votre itineraire et vous ressortirez quelques minutes plus tard avec l'autorisation de circuler.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
RENT A JEEP/NEED A DRIVER?...
RENT A JEEP: it's the best solution, your driver will do all the formalities, no wasted time security, sure to do what you want and when you want (departure, arrival, change of route…) and if your driver is really good he can show you different things that alone you will never discover.
PRICE: around 120$/day all including (petrol and driver9 for a jeep for 4 persons plus the driver. . To across the Rub al Khali desert just see with the Bedouin tribe (around 700$ per vehicle) now it's possible to take the free high way on the desert but nothing worth to across the desert with the Bedouin. With a good driver a guide is not necessary as a good driver can show you all you want to see.
LOOKING FOR A GOOD DRIVER? We can recommend you ALI, nice and sensitive person with him your trip will be magic. For 100$/day/jep all including you will discover the land of Queen Sheba.
CONTACT FOR THE DRIVER: http://site.voila.fr/yementours
Email: email@example.com (English)
TIPS: according your satisfaction and of course you aren't obliged…
You must know that now to visit the county you need a special permit who is delivered by tourism office in Sana'a. Generally this special permit is not delivered to individual tourist, so they have to ask to an travel agency. Your driver will be considered as travel agency and with him you will go to the tourism office with the itinerary you chosen and few minutes later you will have all the permits you needed.
MILITARY ESCORT: because of the last international events some areas need to have a military escort. Militaries are really nice and friendly and the service is free but they will ask you some tips. So the best is to agree with your driver and so he will pay them , instead of asking a discount included on the price of the rental the military escort.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
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