Money & costs
Although tipping is not expected in local restaurants, the upmarket tourist establishments often add a 10% to 15% service charge. Service charges and government taxes (totalling 22% or more) are often included at top-end hotels and restaurants, too. Porters and waiters in these establishments will also expect tips (YR100 to YR200). For drivers and guides, travel agencies recommend US$5 to US$10 per day per group. If there are only one or two of you, this can add substantially to the cost of your tour, and drivers can become difficult if they don’t feel they have received a sufficient tip. For adults who play tour guides or offer other services, a tip of YR300 to YR500 (YR100 to YR150 for children) is fair.
Yemen is one of the Arab world’s poorest countries, though the economy grew at a rate of 3.5% between 2000 and 2006. Oil is Yemen’s economic mainstay and accounts for around 70% of government revenue. Nevertheless, compared to other peninsula countries, Yemen’s oil wealth is modest, though revenues increased in 2006 in line with the worldwide rise in oil prices. Yemen struggles to control corruption and excessive spending and relies greatly on foreign aid.
In November 2006 the country secured US$4.7 billion in development aid from Western and Arab donors.
The unit of currency is the Yemeni riyal (YR), divided into 100 fils. Banknotes come in denominations of YR10 (rare), YR20, YR50, YR100, YR200, YR500 and YR1000. Each note is translated into English on one side. Only YR5 and YR10 coins remain, and though both sides of these coins are in Arabic only, they are of different sizes (the YR10 coin is the larger). Many people won’t accept ripped or damaged banknotes.
Some midrange hotels, all top-end hotels and most travel agencies quote in US dollars or, increasingly, in euros. Where appropriate prices are listed in these currencies, but payment is always acceptable in the Yemeni riyals equivalent.
Cash is by far the simplest form of carrying your money, and as there is little petty theft, carrying around big bundles of money is not a huge worry. US dollars and euros are the currencies of choice.
Banks offer slightly lower rates for cash than foreign-exchange offices, but are more likely to change travellers cheques. There is no black market, so there’s no advantage to changing money on the street.
CountryUnit Yemeni riyal
Euro zone €1=YR254.44
New Zealand NZ$1=YR133.67
Saudi Arabia SR1=YR52.17
Numerous (and well-signposted) foreign-exchange offices are found in the cities and larger towns. They offer shorter queues than the banks, faster service, longer opening hours (usually 9am to 9pm, except Friday) and almost always offer a better rate of exchange (at least for cash). Check with a couple first, as rates can vary slightly between offices. Commission is seldom charged, but check in advance.
Travellers cheques can be difficult to change outside the largest towns. Also, changing them generally incurs a 3% to 5% commission or more. If you must use cheques, Crédit Agricole Indosuez is the best bank to change with.