Getting there & away
Although cargo boats sometimes connect Yemen (the ports of Aden, Al-Mukalla and Al-Hudayda principally) to ports on the Peninsula, as well as to Egypt, Eritrea and Sudan, there are currently no regular services or timetables, and finding a vessel willing to take a foreigner can prove very difficult.
One option is to try and persuade a sambuq owner to take you aboard, but again your fate will largely be decided by the will and whim of the captain. Note also that sambuqs do not have the best health and safety records! Speaking Arabic will considerably increase your chances. Be aware that voyages are generally hot, humid, uncomfortable and time-consuming. There are frequent sambuqs between Al-Makha and Djibouti, but many of these are involved in smuggling and recently a number of boats carrying Somali refugees have been attacked by the Yemeni navy, which has resulted in heavy loss of life. For the time being, this is not a safe way of arriving in or leaving Yemen.
Though the border with Saudi Arabia is open to anyone with a visa, it’s presently not possible for foreigners to cross the border. This is because of major security problems north of Sa’da leading to the whole area being closed to foreign tourists.
There are two standard border crossings for Oman, both of which are open to foreigners and neither of which present any major problems. Transport from Sayun tends to use the inland crossing at Makinat Shihan, while the coastal route uses the Hawf crossing. Whichever route you choose, the roads are brand new and in excellent condition and visas are available for most on the border.
See also information on visas and travel permits and additional information on border crossings.
For Oman, buses travel direct from Sayun to Salalah or from Al-Ghayda direct to Salalah. Though it’s possible to make the same journey in a series of shorter hops using shared taxis and buses, it will take much longer, cost more and, with very little to see en route, serve little purpose. Two buses a week leave Sayun (YR5000, 16 hours) and two a week leave from Al-Ghayda (YR4000, nine hours).
The usual documentation is required for border crossings and must be valid for all countries you intend to visit. Crossing borders can be time-consuming (procedures can take between one and two hours). A ‘road tax’ of around US$55 is usually charged when crossing the Yemeni–Oman border in your own vehicle. Petrol stations are plentiful around the borders, and spare parts can normally be found. Note that unleaded petrol is unavailable in Yemen.
Immigration is an uncomplicated procedure, but slow. If arriving by land, you’ll be required to do all paperwork at the border crossing. Proceedings can take hours, particularly if you’re with your own vehicle.
Most international traffic arrives and departs from San’a airport. A few airlines, particularly from Middle Eastern countries, also use Aden. Work is currently under way on a new airport for San’a, which is scheduled to be completed by 2009.
Ta’izz Airport (05-218191)
Yemen’s national carrier, Yemenia (01-232380; www.yemenia.com.ye; Hadda St, San’a), flies to dozens of destinations across the Middle East, Europe (including London, Paris and Rome), Africa and Asia. Yemenia has a reasonable safety record, though flights sometimes experience delays or cancellations (particularly during Ramadan and the haj pilgrimage), so reconfirmation is essential.