Yemen is one of the most internally contradicting countries I have ever visited, which is why I’m not surprised it’s the place I get the most varied questions about regularly. For some, the uncertainty immediately discounts Yemen as a travel destination, though I suspect if you’re asking, the confusion is what’s peaking your interest.
Why Would I Want To Go To Yemen?
For starters, Yemen is a large country that includes the Socotra archipelago, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which you can visit without having to stop in the mainland first. (There are direct flights from the United Arab Emirates.) Socotra has more than 700 species of wildlife and plant not found anywhere else on the planet, with hardly any tourists visiting its beautiful beaches outlining what many consider Earth’s most alien landscape. I traveled to Yemen with my friend and fellow blogger Wandering Earl, who shows you why you should travel to Socotra below.
- Travelers Interested In The Mainland – These are some of the reasons to visit Yemen I’ve written about previously.
What Is A Reputable Tour Company, Do I Need One?
Travelers to the mainland not leaving the capitol Sana’a don’t need a guide but the government requires foreigners to obtain permits before visiting other non-restricted parts of the country. Only a registered travel agency in Yemen can get those permits for you and not using a guide makes the country extremely difficult to navigate. I used and would highly recommend local company Eternal Yemen. (When making arrangements, ask for driver Ali, who’s one of the nicest people to chew khat with.)
How Dangerous Is Yemen?
There is no simple answer and I’ve written in detail whether is it safe to travel to Yemen or not. Access to most of the country’s volatile regions is restricted by the government and if you use a reputable agency like Eternal Yemen, you won’t go anywhere near them. Eternal Yemen also arranges quality guides and drivers; the second point being an important one, as Yemen’s roads are some of the world’s deadliest.
While Traveling In Yemen, Did I See Anything That Concerned Me?
A lot at first! What I mean is that in the mainland (not Socotra) there are security checkpoints with armored guards frequently in Sana’a and along the roads throughout cities. It looks less safe than it is, particularly inside of Sana’a where the amount of heavily armed checkpoints immediately draws your attention. Outside of the capitol, the towns are remote, have low populations, and I can describe as laid back.
How Welcoming Are Yemenis To Foreigners, Americans, Or Other Westerners?
Very. I traveled with height-advantaged Bostonian Wandering Earl and everyone was very friendly. I never once felt unsafe or anything negative from the Yemenis I met. In the old market in Sana’a, everyone will want to talk to you, practice English, and are curious in a good way. That’s common around the country. (And if you are a Turkish man, everyone will call you Murat, I can’t count how many times I discussed Kurtlar Vadisi with locals.)
What Is It Like For Women Traveling In Yemen?
Should I Buy Travel Insurance For Yemen?
Generally speaking, it’s never a good idea to travel without insurance. Many of the reasons you need travel insurance were covered in my recent live chat with Katrina Greeves and in Yemen you might want to consider ransom insurance as well. Although the odds of kidnapping happening to you are overwhelmingly low (1-2 foreigners kidnapped monthly out of the 500,000 in Yemen) companies like Clements have plans that pay ransoms. A good precaution to take as the average kidnapping in Yemen lasts less than 48 hours – for a price.
I Enjoy Yemeni Culture, But Am Also Interested In Socotra Island. Is It worth Going For The Cultural Aspect?
There aren’t a lot of people to interact with, simply because Socotra’s so sparsely populated. You’ll likely have a guide(s) with you who will be Socotri (completely different language, distinct culture that’s a blend of east African-SE Asian) who can help you connect with other locals. I recommend you visit, I don’t think there is any place quite like it. So few people go, it’s hardly been touched by tourism, I found the people fascinating and they were just as interested in me.
Can I Go Out At Night In Yemen?
Depends on where you are in the country – there is a lot of regional variation. Outside of Sana’a you probably wouldn’t have many options or reasons to go out. I felt it was safe in general but it’s important to take the advice of your guide/hotel manager/etc. You’ll have to read between the lines a bit as they don’t overtly tell you to avoid specific places but hint at it strongly. Go with their advice and all should be well.
What Should I Wear?
You can dress in typical Western clothes, though shorts would stand out and isn’t generally seen there. Also, bring warm clothes, in mainland Yemen nights are chilly, especially up in the mountains.
Let Me Know If You’re Ready To Go Or Want More To Know
Hopefully I’ve been able to clear up some aspects of traveling in Yemen for you although there’s a good chance all I’ve done is confused you further. If it’s the former and you’re considering going, here’s a bit more on how to travel to Yemen and Socotra. For everyone else, feel free to ask anything I may not have covered above in the comments below.
The words travel and insurance put together sound reasonable but it’s not always clear when you might need to consider it and if you do, what to look for. My live chat guest today can clear up the somewhat hazy subject of travel insurance so you can ultimately be more secure in your travels.
As the Global Product Marketing Manager for World Nomads, Katrina Greeves keeps their travel insurance program relevant, competitive and accessible to English speaking travelers from over 140 countries. A traditionally trained marketer with a tourism background, Katrina translates insurance speak into language travelers understand. She also listens and connects with travelers to develop travel services to support their passions, envisaging new ways to sell online and coding just enough HTML to make the web developers sweat.
The chat is now closed, thank you everyone for joining!
Katrina will be online later tonight from the future, in Sydney, Australia (where World Nomads is based) to answers all of your questions about what travel insurance covers, the costs, and when you may not need it. What’s been confusing you about travel insurance shouldn’t be for much longer – ask away in the comments below.
That question, whether or not Sarajevo is safe enough to visit, is one I’m surprised to be writing; nearly as surprising as it was to hear from many curious travelers. Although safety and security are valid concerns worth brushing up on before you visit anywhere, it seems in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capital, extraordinary worries of war remain but the real concerns are more mundane.
Your Self Is Safe
Sarajevo was the center of the 1992-1995 Bosnian War and endured the longest siege of a capital city since World War II. An important part of their history you should learn about during your visit; I highly recommend a day HYH City Tour which will give you an excellent overview. However, the violence of the Bosnian War is long gone, so much so that according to the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) violent crime in Sarajevo is not something to be concerned about. The Canadian embassy in Bosnia says the same, which makes sense since both countries have about the same violent crime rate. [United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report; Excel]
Less Dangerous Than Belgium But Watch Your Pockets
On the whole, although Bosnia and Herzegovina is safer than Belgium and 73% of all other countries in the world, theft and property crime rates in Sarajevo are high. There are no foreign troops (NATO left in 2005) or snipers in the hills but the effects of a lost generation with 40% unemployment fuels the main threat to travelers in Sarajevo – petty crime such as pickpocketing and purse-snatching.
Those of you driving into Sarajevo should be especially careful as the roads are most likely to get you killed while being mindful not to leave anything in your car. Vehicles with foreign plates are especially tempting targets as are the compartments of day packs tourists like to walk around with. The less interaction you have with the police – advice that goes for anywhere in the world – the better. Corruption among government institutions is rampant as any Bosnian will frustratingly tell you.
The UNODC says if you’re paying a bribe in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it’s probably to either a cop or doctor. Keep in mind that 40% of Bosnians refuse to pay up to crooked authorities and you should too – but the key is realizing it’s happening first.
Remnants Of War Underfoot
There are an estimated 200,000 landmines scattered across 2.5% Bosnia and Herzegovina, sadly killing 600 locals since the end of the Bosnian War. However, as a tourist the chance of you encountering one is non-existent within the city of Sarajevo and negligent in the surrounding countryside – provided you stick to established trails and heed warning signs.
I hiked up to Sarajevo’s Zuta Tabija (Yellow Fortress) to unexpectedly discover the filming of a Bosnian comedy movie, sticking to the well marked trails. I also visited the site of the discarded 1984 Olympic bobsled tube, again, not wandering off the main paths. As I explored the hills by foot, many locals reminded me to follow that basic advice. If you do too, you’ll have nothing to worry about.
To Answer Your Question: Yes
Crime statistics rarely sound comforting, even if somewhere is 95% crime-free, our minds tend to remember that 5% is not. But like most safe cities in the world, you don’t need more than the usual dose of common sense before visiting Sarajevo. Anecdotally, this city of 297,000 felt much safer than its larger European counterparts, just one more good reason Sarajevo was voted the best to visit in 2012.
Safety, and comfort in it, often comes in numbers. For those of you who’ve been to Sarajevo, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the city, misconceptions you had before going, and what you’d tell someone who might be a little afraid to visit; in the comments below.
The United States Federal Government has been closed since October 1st, indefinitely, until America’s Congress can pass a budget to allocate funds for over 1,300 agencies. Since government shutdowns like the one in Washington DC are exceedingly rare in the developed world, the procedures and cutbacks pertaining to services, travel or otherwise, can be unclear.
Many are ad-hoc to an extent; based in part on how long the
showshutdown will last. For those of you planning a trip to, from, or within of the United States, here’s what you need to know.
A Brief Breakdown – What Is A Shutdown?
- Why The Shutdown Happened – 32 members of Congress did not approve of the Affordable Care Act, insisting changes be made to the health care legislation before they would vote to pass a budget. With insufficient votes, Congress could not approve a budget. No money, no funny, no government.
- Well, Mostly – Approximately 800,000 federal government workers have been furloughed (temporary unpaid leave) until a budget is passed. Only those employees deemed “essential” are still on the job. For example, only 3% of NASA employees are at work right now.
The biggest question at the moment is: when will this shutdown end? There are no definite answers but many believe it will be before October 17th, when the U.S. must raise its debt ceiling; otherwise defaulting on its loan payments. But until the federal government starts working again, this is the current status of services and sites pertaining to travelers.
Travel Visas To The U.S. – No Change (Theoretically)
The State Department remains operational so services such as visa applications that are funded through fees should continue to be processed at relatively normal time frames. However, during the last shutdown in 1996, nearly 30,000 applications went unprocessed per day.
Travel Visas From The U.S. – No Change
Since visas applications for other countries are handled by the consular services of those governments, your tourist visas won’t be delayed or disrupted due to the U.S. shutdown.
Passport Services For U.S. Citizens – It Depends
Although the State Department is processing new passports, renewals, and page additions as normal, several of their passport offices are located within government buildings currently closed due to the shutdown. If your passport is in one of them, it won’t be processed until the shutdown ends.
U.S. National Parks – All Closed
Including the Grand Canyon, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Joshua Tree, Yosemite, and Virgin Islands National Park in the Caribbean. Here’s a Wikipedia page with the full list of now-closed national parks. I’d link to the government pages but they’re all down as well.
Smithsonian Museums And National Zoo – Closed
In Washington DC, 17 Smithsonian Museums, plus the National Zoo, are closed during the shutdown as well as the American Indian Museum Heye Center and National Design Museums in New York City. A shame, because the National Air and Space Museum remains my favorite in the world.
U.S. National Forests – Partially Closed
It’s not practically possible to close all National Forests, which total 769,000 square kilometers (297,000 square miles) so rather, all campgrounds and offices must remain empty. National park rangers and security will still be working though, in case you’re worried about serial killers on your next hike.
Monuments, Capitol, White House Tours – Closed And Canceled Until Further Notice
Pretty much everything on this list of US National Monuments, including the Statue Of Liberty and Washington Monument are closed. Tours of the US Capitol Building, one of 5 popular tourist destinations that won’t disappoint you, are also on hiatus during the shutdown. State monuments and government buildings like the Texas Capitol Building in Austin are open however.
Will The Airlines Refund Me If My Travel Plans Are Ruined?
Having just called a number of major airlines, many will issue vouchers for future travel, if you can prove your trip was to a destination (e.g. National Park) directly affected by the shutdown. (U.S.-based carriers seemed more sympathetic to such concerns; if you’re a furloughed employee, be sure to mention that as well.) In case you can’t cancel your plans, you may want to load up on a few airplane meals since America’s Food and Drug Administration isn’t inspecting food imports during the shutdown. I don’t know how preventing e-coli isn’t essential but look on the bright side, it may just help you overcome traveler’s constipation.
Finally, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (the folks who can inspect your digital assets) and the Transportation Security Administration are both working at near normal capacity. Which means you can expect the delays, long lines, and pat-downs of suspicious children to continue as normal.