Yemen travel guide
If it were an authentic taste of Arabia that you're craving, Yemen was long the answer. An antidote to Arabian Gulf bling, this was long the peninsula's most fascinating destination.
The largest city in Yemen, Sana'a is where most visits start. The Old City is UNESCO listed, its multi-storey tower houses and ancient Souk Al Milh lending an overwhelming medieval atmosphere. Being woken pre-dawn by competing muezzins from the city's fortyish mosques is a truly remarkable, unforgettable experience.
Outside the capital, explore fortified cliff-top villages overseeing cultivated plains or hike the foothills of the Haraz Mountains. To the east, walk the shady streets of Shibam, Freya Stark's 'Manhattan of the Desert', where nine-floor mud towers stand testament to Yemeni building skills. On the coast, visit the bustling fishing ports of Al Mukalla or Al Huydaydah. Most remote is Yemen's 'Arabian Galapagos', the Socotra archipelago. Cast adrift at the mouth of the Gulf of Aden, Socotra is two hours by air from Sana'a; 37% of plant species, 90% of reptiles and an estimated 90% of invertebrates here are found nowhere else on earth.
Once characterised as Arabia Felix (Fortunate Arabia) by the Romans and known as the land of milk and honey by Noah's sons, these days an uncertain security profile deters all but the hardiest travellers from visiting Yemen. In 2011, Arab Spring protests led to a revolution aimed at improving economic conditions and ending corruption. Unfortunately, the aftermath of the protests has been ever-increasing violence between different rebel factions and jihadists.
When Yemen eventually recovers from this civil war, tourists will surely be drawn back to the land that the Queen of Sheba called home, and where Gilgamesh came in search of the key to eternal life. A country with such a rich history and culture, Yemen certainly deserves more than the present-day tragedy inflicted upon it.
527,968 sq km (203,850 sq miles).
27,477,600 (UN estimate 2016).
50.6 per sq km.
President of the Supreme Political Council Mahdi al-Mashat since 2018.
Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik since 2018.
Coronavirus travel health
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Yemen on the TravelHealthPro website
See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are limited commercial flights entering or leaving Yemen. The majority of land sea and air ports are closed until further notice. Check with your travel company for the latest information.
The British government can’t provide consular support or any form of assisted departure to British nationals in Yemen. If you need urgent consular assistance, call the FCDO in London on +44 (0)20 7008 5000.
Entry and borders
See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Yemen.
Returning to the UK
When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.
You are responsible for organising your own COVID-19 test, in line with UK government testing requirements.
Be prepared for your plans to change
No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.
Plan ahead and make sure you:
- can access money
- understand what your insurance will cover
- can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned
Travel in Yemen
Authorities across Yemen have introduced a range of measures. These include curfews, movement restrictions, closures of businesses and limitations on public and private gatherings. Implementation may vary and restrictions can change at short notice.
Some areas have designated quarantine camps. These can vary in both quality and access to medical provision.
Healthcare in Yemen
Medical facilities, particularly away from the main towns, are poor. There are four testing facilities in Mukalla, Sana’a, Aden and Taiz.
COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Yemen
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is the UK authority responsible for assessing the safety, quality and efficacy of vaccines. It has authorised the Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines for temporary supply and use in the UK. Find out more about MHRA approval for these vaccines.
British nationals living overseas should seek medical advice from their local healthcare provider in the country where they reside. Information about vaccines used in other national programmes, including regulatory status, should be available from the local authorities. This list of Stringent Regulatory Authorities recognised by the World Health Organisation may also be a useful source of additional information. Find out more about COVID-19 vaccines on the World Health Organisation COVID-19 vaccines page.
For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.
If you have any questions about travel restrictions to Yemen, you should contact the nearest Yemeni Embassy.
The British government can’t provide any form of assisted departure to British nationals in Yemen. There are no evacuation procedures in place, in line with the FCDO’s longstanding policy on assistance in Yemen. The FCDO has been consistently advising against all travel to Yemen and for UK nationals to leave Yemen since March 2011.
The FCDO can’t offer advice on the safety of travelling to any potential departure point. You should therefore consider carefully whether you want to pursue any options that become available. You should use your own judgement to move towards a departure point only if and when you judge it is safe to do so.
The British government’s ability to facilitate onward travel from countries in the region is limited and you’ll be expected to cover the cost of visas, accommodation, insurance and onward travel yourself. Any travel options you pursue are taken at your own risk.
Authorities across Yemen have introduced curfews and movement restrictions in order to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Implementation may vary and restrictions can change at short notice. See Coronavirus
If you intend to travel within Yemen, you should regularly reassess your security arrangements and carefully plan your movements. Avoid routine, vary your travel routes, and keep a low profile at all times. You should take health and security advice from the host government, local authorities and/or competent security experts before any travel within the country. You should check your routes in advance of travelling. Don’t advertise your travel or other plans through social media.
You can drive in Yemen using an International Driving Permit. Access routes in and out of major cities may be closed or blocked. Check that the road is open before starting your journey. Driving standards are poor and mountain roads hazardous. There is a severe shortage of fuel in Yemen. You should avoid all road travel outside the main cities at night. Take care, there are minefields left over from civil wars and landmines used in the current conflict. Travelling off well-used tracks without an experienced guide could be extremely dangerous.
Yemeni air space is currently controlled by Saudi-led coalition forces. The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen have declared that starting from 15 August 2016, Sana’a International Airport will be opened for United Nations and other international humanitarian organisations’ flights. Humanitarian organisations must send a notice to the coalition in advance of each flight, and permission will be issued based on the status of military operations.
There’s an ongoing threat against foreigners and you are strongly advised to avoid places frequented by foreign nationals and to avoid travelling in an insecure and visible way.
Given the current political, security and health situation, there’s limited government control over parts of the country with Houthi or Al-Qaeda dominance in some areas.
The political situation is uncertain and the threat of a further escalation of violence and disorder remains.
The instability throughout Yemen has led to those in the south who support secession to call for southern independence and to draw attention to southern grievances.
Weapons are readily available. Incidents may not be solely criminal in nature, and may be linked to terrorism or other insecurity. Tribal disputes over land are common, including in major cities, and may involve the use of weapons. The Houthis and other militias involved in the conflict are running extra-judicial detention centres. Take care at all times.
The conflict also extends to Yemeni territorial waters off the Red Sea and the Bab-Al-Mandeb strait. Houthi forces continue to present a credible threat to Saudi-led Coalition vessels (including to merchant vessels flagged to Coalition states) operating off the western coast of Yemen. There is an enduring risk to neutral shipping in the Southern Red Sea due to the potential for misidentification and miscalculation by Houthi forces.
British flagged commercial shipping is updated on International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code Security Levels from the Department for Transport.
Piracy in the Gulf of Aden continues to be suppressed but there remains a threat. For more information and advice, see our Piracy and armed robbery at sea page.
President Hadi escaped Houthi-imposed house arrest on 20 February 2015 and has now established a government-in-exile in Riyadh. On 25 March 2015 a coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, began air strikes in Yemen following the request for support from President Hadi to deter continued Houthi aggression. The UN is facilitating peace talks between the Yemeni parties to the conflict.
Air strikes and ground fighting continue throughout the country to the present day. Much of the fighting is concentrated around established front lines but these do change at short notice and there is a high risk of violent clashes in all parts of Yemen.
Further reports of arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances raise concerns, as Houthis have carried out a wave of arrests of their opponents, and the list of abductees includes politicians, journalists, academics and activists. The political and security situation remains uncertain and volatile.
Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Yemen. The threat is heightened where AQAP have strong tribal connections and in more isolated governorates like Hadramawt and Shabwah.
Western and Houthi interests in Yemen remain a feature in AQAP propaganda, and are viewed by AQAP as legitimate targets for attacks. Future attacks could be indiscriminate, including - but not limited to - places visited by foreigners like hotels and supermarkets, transport, oil and gas infrastructure, government buildings and Houthi gatherings. Since October 2014, there have been a number of large-scale attacks against the Houthis. Maritime and aviation terrorism also can’t be ruled out.
Attacks targeting or affecting British nationals of Yemeni origin also can’t be ruled out. Attacks against Yemeni security forces and Houthis throughout the country continue to rise and are expected to continue as a result of their ongoing Yemeni operations against AQAP.
Methods of attack have included complex attacks by militants, firearm assassinations, kidnappings, car bombs, and improvised explosive devices (IEDS) left in locations like buildings and roadways.
Daesh’s official branch in Yemen, (Daesh-Yemen), launched its terrorist campaign in March 2015, carrying out co-ordinated suicide attacks against Shia mosques and targets in the cities of Sadah and Sana’a. Since March 2015, the group has conducted dozens of terrorist attacks across the country as part of their campaign. Attacks have taken place in locations including Aden, Sana’a, Ibb, Hodeida and al-Bayda. Methods of attack have included car bombings and suicide bomb attacks. The group have so far focused on Houthi, security forces and Yemeni government targets, but western interests are highly likely to be regarded as a legitimate target too.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
There is a very high and constant threat of kidnap across Yemen. Hundreds of people have been kidnapped in Yemen in the last 15 years. In 2014, a number of foreign nationals were kidnapped. In February 2014, 2 British nationals were kidnapped in Yemen. One was released in July 2014, the other in August 2015. An American national was murdered by his hostage takers during a failed rescue attempt in December 2014.
If you choose to travel to Yemen against FCDO advice, you should pay careful attention to your safety and security. Security precautions do not remove the threat and our advice remains against all travel to the country.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) propaganda has called for continued kidnapping of westerners. However, armed tribes and criminal groups have also carried out kidnaps in the past. There is a high risk that such groups would sell any hostages on to AQAP, who have murdered a number of hostages.
Kidnaps have occurred at various times of day and in a wide variety of locations, including public places in the capital, cars while travelling, and the victims’ accommodation. Kidnapping attempts often involve the use of force and have ended in the death of several victims.
Any international presence (including UN, NGOs, oil and gas workers, journalists, teachers, students, tourists, long-term residents, and westerners of Yemeni origin) are viewed as legitimate targets if an opportunity arises. If you’re kidnapped, the reason for your presence is unlikely to serve as a protection or secure your safe release.
The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to terrorist hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms builds the capability of terrorist groups and finances their activities. This can, in turn, increase the risk of further hostage-taking. The Terrorism Act (2000) makes payments to terrorists illegal.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)
Entry to Yemen
The Yemeni authorities have announced entry restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19. The majority of land, sea and air ports are closed until further notice, with only very limited international flights taking place. Exemptions are in place for humanitarian relief and essential goods.
All travellers arriving into Yemen are required to enter quarantine facilities for 14 days.
Regular entry requirements
You will need a visa to enter Yemen. You must get a visa from the Yemeni Embassy in London. If you’re staying for more than 14 days you’ll need to register your passport after arrival in country with the Yemen immigration authorities.
Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is required.
Local laws reflect the fact that Yemen is an Islamic country. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend other cultures or religious beliefs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas. See guidance on Travelling during Ramadan.
Don’t drink alcohol in public. You should dress modestly. Take care when using cameras anywhere near military or religious sites. Don’t take pictures of people without their consent.
You must get permission from the General Authority for Antiquities before exporting or removing antiques from Yemen. Illegal movement or sale of Yemeni antiques is a serious offence under local law which can carry a custodial sentence.
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Yemen on the TravelHealthPro website
See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Yemen.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
Medical facilities, particularly away from the main towns, are poor. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
The emergency medical assistance telephone number in Yemen is 191. The speed and effectiveness of the emergency services due to the ongoing security situation is unclear. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
ATMs are very scarce outside Sana’a. US dollars in cash is the most easily convertible currency.
Due to the security situation in Yemen the UK government is currently unable to process some State Pension payments through the Yemeni banking system. If you’re affected you should contact the International Pension Centre.
The operations of the British Embassy in Sana’a have been suspended since February 2015 and diplomatic staff have been withdrawn. Consular support is not available from the British government from within Yemen. If you need to speak to a consular officer in the UK, call the FCDO in London on +44 (0) 20 7008 5000.
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
There is a range of financial support from the government that you can access while you are unable to return due to coronavirus restrictions.
For further UK government guidance on support you can access whilst abroad, visit our waiting to return guidance. This includes guidance on finance, health, and staying connected.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCDO travel advice
If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice team a request.
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.