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Have you visited Yemen in recent months- Jan, Feb, Mar '14?

Berlin, Germany
posts: 4
reviews: 16
Have you visited Yemen in recent months- Jan, Feb, Mar '14?

Hi, I'm considering traveling to Yemen in the following months and therefore looking to hear from travelers who've visited the country recently. Traveling to Yemen requires one to look beyond the strong-worded travel advisories (and I'm already taking them in with some discretion), but I'd like to hear about real experiences.

Disclaimer: I understand the safety situation keeps changing and I don't intend to go there without an experienced guide/ tour operator.

How has it been the in last couple of months? What were your experiences/ incidents to share? Which regions are particularly sensitive? And how is it for women who travel on their own?

I look forward to your responses. Thanks much!

21 replies to this topic
Redondo Beach...
posts: 6
1. Re: Have you visited Yemen in recent months- Jan, Feb, Mar '14?

Dress like a Yemeni, i.e., full balto, hijab and lithma, all in black, and pretend to be mute if accosted by strangers on the street (maybe you could learn basic Ameslan), and you will probably be reasonably safe. If you look African or Indian, you would also probably be OK. Looking Arab is good only if you speak Arabic well. I do not think uncovered white or East Asian faces are safe anywhere in Yemen right now, other than in airports, the souqs of the old city, or a major hotel compound, basically places full of people where vehicular movement is impossible.

We left Yemen last year (not for security reasons) after 15 years, including the entire "Arab Spring". If we had not, we would have evacuated in October as security got worse than it has ever been in Sana'a. A friend who stayed, with reasonably good Arabic, disappeared last month after he left work. His home is only 600m away.

Go somewhere else. Check back with Yemen in 2018. The trip of a lifetime is not worth your life.

Bratislava, Slovakia
posts: 13
2. Re: Have you visited Yemen in recent months- Jan, Feb, Mar '14?

Hey,

I am woman and I spent more than two months in Yemen since december 2013 until march 2014.

If you are coming for a tour, it is not problem at all - all the time you are with a tour guide.

For travelling is safe Old City Sanaa, closest heritage to Sanaa (Shibam, Kawkaban, Thula, Hababah etc), Manakha - Haraz Mountains, west coast - Zabid, and tourists visit with tour guide Taiz, Ibb, Jibla.

And of course - Socotra is not a problem at all for safety.

As a foreigner - you cannot travel without tour guide, so you don´t need to be covered - depends how long you are going to stay.

Bratislava, Slovakia
posts: 13
3. Re: Have you visited Yemen in recent months- Jan, Feb, Mar '14?

About incidents - no incidents with tourists.

And my advise for travel - those places I mentioned and Bora - protected area, and if you will have time and money - Socotra! all places beautiful - many of them in UNESCO World Heritage.

Berlin, Germany
posts: 4
reviews: 16
4. Re: Have you visited Yemen in recent months- Jan, Feb, Mar '14?

Terribly sorry to hear about your friend! And thank you very much for a very honest answer.

This visit wouldn't be/ have been a holiday, but isn't unavoidable either. It's disheartening to think such a beautiful place is pretty much off-limit and I'll have to defer it to later, but hey, there is a lot of the world I haven't seen yet.

Thank you again. Precisely the ground-reality experiences I was looking to hear about.

Berlin, Germany
posts: 4
reviews: 16
5. Re: Have you visited Yemen in recent months- Jan, Feb, Mar '14?

luskacik, I was looking to do the lesser trodden path. Not that I'm trying to be overly intrepid, but this trip would make more sense if I could experience the local culture closely, and not just enjoy the scenic beauty. Do you think I'll be able to pull that off (with a guide of course)- interact extensively with the locals, while staying safe?

Redondo Beach...
posts: 6
6. Re: Have you visited Yemen in recent months- Jan, Feb, Mar '14?

Hi again. We love Yemen - spent 1/3 or our lives (so far) there; wish we could go back. I still advise investors / large employers there - we want Yemen to prosper.

As Luscacik notes, Socotra is completely safe because it is an island. She suggests several good places to go - Shibam/Kawkaban / Tawila / Mahweet and Manakha are all "safe" destinations, as is Sana'a's Old City. However, the statement that tourists are not at risk is inaccurate. We know a couple that were kidnapped last summer while visiting Taiz - grabbed in front of a hotel. The guy is still being held; negotiations stopped after the kidnappers threatened the negotiator. A visible white face could be kidnapped as a "target of opportunity" in any major town, or at a tribal checkpoint while traveling in the country by road.

We know a visibly pregnant woman traveling with two small children and a tour guide/driver that was kidnapped a few years ago at a tribal checkpoint; we know a woman with her elderly parents who was overtaken, forced of the road and kidnapped. The bad guys are indiscriminate, have no shame, and have become paranoid and incompetent lately. Kidnapping in Yemen is no longer funny. You need to be invisible to be safe.

Yemen's largest tourism investor is a friend and client. In the past three years, he has closed three hotels (another still operates), halted another project, and started a security company to diversify, because he sees Yemen's tourism future for now as bleak.

Saint Paul...
posts: 27
reviews: 31
7. Re: Have you visited Yemen in recent months- Jan, Feb, Mar '14?

Admittedly, I am brown but I visited at the end of January without any problems. The most dramatic thing that happened to me was being detained at a checkpoint because the authorities thought I was faking not being Yemeni. I got the impression that kidnapping was more of a problem if you were there for a while and had an established routine...

Kyiv
Destination Expert
for Kiev, Ukraine
posts: 20,401
reviews: 296
8. Re: Have you visited Yemen in recent months- Jan, Feb, Mar '14?

>>> I got the impression that kidnapping was more of a problem if you were there for a while and had an established routine...

So did I during my trip (and pre-travel research) last year.

Redondo Beach...
posts: 6
9. Re: Have you visited Yemen in recent months- Jan, Feb, Mar '14?

The vast majority who travel to Yemen will have no problems.

Unfortunately the number of Westerners in country is now dramatically smaller than it was three years ago (those who remain know Yemen well, keep a low profile, and are plugged-in to what's going on), while the number of incidents involving foreigners has risen dramatically (one a month, sometimes more). If your chance of trouble is 1 in 100, will you go? What about 1 in 50? Being kidnapped used to be a week long tribal adventure. Now it lasts months more often than not, includes death threats, and a few never come back. Do you want to subject yourself, your family and friends to life-altering trauma?

You should also realize that the media reports half of what happens. The Government and embassies try to keep stuff out of the media, to keep ransoms low, and cut down on treasure-seekers claiming false leads. Tour businesses minimize the threat because they do not want to be unemployed and starving. Part of the reason the Arab World has blown up is that authorities try to paper over problems rather than dealing with them.

Chances are you will be fine. But how many people would bungee jump, skydive, or climb rocks if their chance of death was 1 in 100? If you expect to be alive five years from now, why not visit Yemen later after things settle down? There are lots of other places to go this year…

One other thought: If you believe research from afar can tell you what is really going on, you should ask why do rich, powerful countries with lots of resources regularly make foreign policy blunders. Hint: they listen to "experts" at home ahead of voices on the ground who have no agenda.

Peace to all of you.

Redondo Beach...
posts: 6
10. Re: Have you visited Yemen in recent months- Jan, Feb, Mar '14?

If people thought you were Yemeni, unless you were in a very posh car, your only risk would be harassment.

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