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Yemen

Getting around

Car & motorcycle

Hire

Most car-hire companies are based in San’a. Drivers must be over 21 (sometimes 25 years old), and have a valid driving licence from their own country. There’s a US$200 deposit payable on all cars as a guarantee. Nowhere in Yemen rents motorbikes.

There are real advantages to hiring a car with a driver. It’s safer, cheaper, more comfortable and more convenient. Additionally, a driver acts as navigator, mechanic, interpreter and sometimes guide.

Insurance

Third-party insurance is mandatory and is usually included in car-hire prices – but always check. Rented vehicles cannot be taken out of the country.

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Bus & tram

Bus

Buses travel to almost all the larger towns (sometimes several a day), and services are pretty punctual and safe.

The longest-established bus company is Yemitco(Yemen International Transport Company; 01-275088; 5am-8pm, in the south 9am-1pm & 3-8pm Sat-Thu, 4-8pm Fri), which offers comfortable seats in air-conditioned buses. In the last couple of years it seems to be losing out to a multitude of newer companies and now generally only runs a reliable service in the most-populated central areas. The biggest of the rival companies isGeneral Land Transport (01-281318), which also has smooth, comfortable buses that are often a little cheaper than Yemitco.

Yemitco has just one class, but some of the other private companies (such as General Land Transport) offer 1st- and 2nd-class on some services (though the difference in price is usually marginal). Yemitco services work out to be YR3 to YR3.50 per kilometre. Examples of fares include San’a to Aden (YR1400, six hours) and San’a to Al-Hudayda (YR1100, five hours).

You can usually buy tickets in advance, and on Friday and other public holidays this is highly recommended, particularly for longer journeys (when three days in advance is not too soon).

Bus

Minibuses (which run from 6am to around midnight) ply the streets of all the major towns. They’re cheap (YR10 to YR30 for a hop), but unless you know exactly where they’re heading, taxis are an easier, faster and certainly more comfortable option.

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Local transport

Taxi

In a shared taxi, short hops around town cost YR30 and for a cross-town contract taxi you’ll need to negotiate, but Yemeni taxi drivers are generally more honest than most of the world’s cabbies! A journey across San’a, for example, would rarely cost more than YR400.

Shared taxi

Connecting all the main towns and villages, and operating very much like buses, are the shared taxis (known as bijou). Although rarely more comfortable than buses, they tend to be faster, and leave at more convenient times and more frequently. However, they only leave when full, so you can be in for a long wait. When travelling to more remote places, try and catch the first departure.

Fares are fixed (and generally cost about the same as the buses), and payment is made before the journey. Passengers on long-distance trips are often required to write their names and nationalities on a passenger list (English is OK). Foreigners must show their travel permit at each checkpoint.

Some travellers (particularly women) prefer to pay for the two front seats; you’ll be a lot more comfortable if you do.

Contract taxi

Taxis can also be contracted between cities and towns. The word ‘special’ is commonly used by drivers to describe contracted taxis. To contract your own taxi, you’ll need to pay for all the seats (usually six or 10), so to calculate the fare, multiply the prices quoted for shared taxis.

Motorcycle taxi

If you want to beat the traffic in the larger towns, you can always hop on the back of a motorbike taxi (YR100 to YR250 depending on the length of the ‘hop’).

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Air

The only airline offering domestic flights is the national carrier, Yemenia (01-232380; www.yemenia.com; usually 8am-1.30pm & 4-7pm Sat-Thu). It boasts a pretty extensive network.

Note that it’s considerably cheaper to buy Yemenia tickets in Yemen through a Yemenia office rather than through a travel agency. For the cheapest fares, book flights well in advance. Yemenia offices can be found in all of Yemen’s main towns, and accept Yemeni riyals, US dollars, euros and usually Amex, MasterCard and Visa credit cards.

Yemenia flights are prone to both delays and cancellations. Always reconfirm flights.

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Bicycle

As longs as cyclists are reasonably fit (for mountainous terrain), self-sufficient (with lots of spare parts) and able to carry plenty of water, there’s no reason not to bring a bike. Punctures are quite common, however, and you’ll need to ride extremely defensively. Yemeni drivers aren’t used to cyclists, and tend to ‘bully’ smaller traffic anyway. Make sure that your bike is registered in your passport upon arrival to avoid problems with customs on exiting the country.

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