Yemen Driving Guide
Yemen is a unique beautiful country. Explore all of it by driving when you get your International Driving Permit
How Can This Guide Help You?
Have you ever considered driving in Yemen (Rep.)? If you want to explore the country, let this guide help you kick-start your driving in Yemen itinerary. Here, you will find some background information about the country and its culture, some of the most frequently asked questions about the required driving license in Yemen, most essential road rules, driving culture, sites to see, things to do, as well as driving directions on how to get to the different destinations.
Yemen has always been famous for its engagement in the trade of frankincense, myrrh, crude oil, and coffee. However, these aren’t the only profound features of the country. Here are some other fast facts about the country to help you decide where and how you want to start your adventure.
The Republic of Yemen is a Middle Eastern country located on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bounded by Saudi Arabia in the north, Oman in the northeast, the Gulf of Aden in the south, and the Red Sea in the west. Its nearest neighboring African countries are Eritrea and Djibouti.
Due to its geographic location, Yemen exhibits a subtropical, dry, desert climate, with very low annual rainfalls. Temperatures in the country can go beyond 40oC during the Summer days and 15oC during Autumn nights. Summer in Yemen occurs between June to September; Spring between March to August; Autumn between November and December; and Winter between December and February. Most of the rainfall occurs during the winter months coupled with thunderstorms but is still relatively low compared to other non-desert climates.
When you travel to Yemen, make sure to wear lightweight clothes, especially during the summer. Likewise, if you have face cloths or masks, bring them along during the spring to summer months (the Shamal, a hot, dust-filled wind frequently blows throughout the country during this period). Lastly, before you embark on your driving in Yemen itinerary, make sure to pack up lots of water.
The national language of Yemen is Arabic. It is the language that’s predominantly used in the capital city of Sana’a, and the variety used is of modern standard. As you go farther away from the capital, some remote districts still use old South Arabian languages like Mahri. The Arabic language is the medium of instruction in many academic institutions in the country. It is also used in formal gatherings, government documents, and in the media. The other Arabic language varieties spoken in Yemen are Sanaani, Ta’lzzi-Adeni, Hadrami, Gulf, and Judeo-Yemeni.
Although some people within the previous People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) understand the English language, it might be better if you learn a bit of Arabic before you travel to the country.
Yemen covers an area of about 527,968km2. In the world rankings, Yemen is between Thailand and France, and it is among the top 50 biggest countries in the world. Yemen is also divided into 21 governorates (provinces), with the biggest one being Hadramawt (163,680km2) and the smallest one being Adan (760km2). The governorates of Hadramaut and Al-Mahrah take up the entire eastern land area of the country, while all the other governorates share the western part. With this, when you go driving in Yemen, distances between popular tourist destinations can be quite far, so make sure to rent the right car.
Yemen is dominated by inland desert plateaus, rugged mountainous regions, and narrow coastal plains in terms of topography. The plateaus can reach heights of about 3,000 meters, with the highest point, Jabal Hadhur, towering at 3,760 meters.
Since it is a dry country, most of the rivers are seasonal. This means that they only fill-up with water during the rainy season and remain dry for the rest of the year. You might wonder where the people get water for their survival? The western highlands have a wet microclimate, which is where people source their water for domestic and commercial use. Water in the area is sufficient because people can grow fruits, grains, coffee, and other agricultural products.
Yemen’s roots can be traced back as far as the 1st century B.C. During that period, it was ruled by the Mineans, Sabaeans, and Himyarites, who were all engaged in the booming incense and spice trade. It was during that time that land routes to other middle-eastern countries were slowly established. The Sabaeans were the first people to engage in agriculture in the country, and they were quite advanced during their time. For example, during the 8th century, they built a dam that provided irrigation to the farmlands.
Yemen’s Islamic history also began during the 7th century, starting from Mecca and Medina, towards other regions as brought by the soldiers. The Kingdoms thereafter were ruled by Muslim caliphs. Fast-forward to the 19th century, Yemen found itself further divided and conquered by different foreign rules. This included the Ottomans, the Portuguese, and the British. Civil unrest dominated the country up to the 20th century.. It was only during 1990 that North Yemen and South Yemen united to become the Republic of Yemen.
Yemen follows a representative democratic type of government wherein the representatives of its people rule the country. The Head of State is the President, while the Head of Government is the Prime Minister. The Legislative Body is divided into the Shura Council and the House of Representatives with members who the people duly elect.
The people also elect the President, and he/she appoints the Prime Minister, the Vice-President, the Cabinet members, and the Shura Council members (legislative). The executive members of the government, including the Cabinet, serve seven (7) – year terms, while members of the House of Representatives serve a six (6) – year term.
Within the governorates, each governorate is headed by a Governor who is appointed by the President. Each Governor then has a council with members who the people of their governorate elect.
Yemen has four (4) World Heritage Sites, plenty of ancient architectural wonders, natural parks, and jaw-dropping landscapes. From the inner desert regions, to the fertile western slopes, down to the coastal plains fronting the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf, you’ll indeed find a unique adventure in this subtropical country.
If you’re planning on traveling to and driving in Yemen (Rep.), you’ll need to secure a visa from the Yemen Embassy nearest you. As of this writing, Yemen is not issuing tourist visas but allows tourists to enter under a different type of visa like business and journalism. The requirements to get a visiting visa in Yemen are as follows:
- Letter of Request (with reasons for visit and address of residence in Yemen)
- Invitation Letter from your sponsor/host
- Valid passport
- Passport-size photos
- Medical Certificate
- Proof of pre-booked travel arrangements
- Duly accomplished application form
- Money Order
- List of Electronic Equipment brought to the country (if specifically requested by the Embassy)
When you secure a visa in Yemen, we recommend that you hire third-party visa assistance before going directly to the embassy. With the changing foreign affairs systems in the country, the requirements and guidelines might also change faster than you think.
When you visit Yemen, it is highly recommended that you go on a private road trip aboard a privately rented vehicle. In order to do this legally, you’ll have to secure an International Driving Permit. An International Driving Permit is basically just a translation of your native driving license into 12 of the most spoken languages in the world, including Arabic. It is not a standalone document, and you should use it together with your valid native driver’s license.
Do I Need an IDP in Yemen?
An International Driver’s Permit is mandatory in Yemen. This perhaps may be due to the fact that the country is a non-English speaking country. If police ask you to present your driving license, you cannot show a permit that they cannot understand. As such, this is where your IDP is most useful. Furthermore, an IDP doesn’t just allow you to drive in a foreign country. It also has other benefits that can make your one-time payment worthwhile. These are:
- Being able to use it in other countries apart from Yemen (as long as it hasn’t expired)
- Being able to rent a car
- Being able to use it as an additional form of identification in establishments
Applying for an IDP is not that bothersome compared to applying for a driving license. This is because it is just a translation. Do note, though, that you cannot just let anyone translate your driving license because accredited agencies and organizations only issue IDPs. You can apply for an IDP from your government or apply through us. We offer a very convenient way of securing an IDP, and you can do it anytime, anywhere! All you need to do is prepare your documents/requirements and navigate back to our homepage to start your application.
The requirements to obtain an International Driver’s Permit are:
- clear scanned copy of your valid native driver’s license
- clear scanned copy of your passport
- clear scanned copies of passport-size photos
- credit card or PayPal account for payment of the processing fee
Is My Driving License Valid in Yemen?
You can go driving in Yemen (Rep.) with your native driving license. However, it has to be paired with an International Driver’s Permit. If you get caught driving without a license in Yemen, you will be in violation of its traffic rules and liable for corresponding fines. Even if your native driving license is already printed in Arabic, you should still get an IDP as a supporting document.
Some IDP-issuing agencies have physical offices that you’ll need to visit in order to submit your application. If you apply for an IDP with us, you just need an internet connection, and you can apply for it anywhere. Plus, if you apply with us, you will be eligible for a free IDP replacement service should you lose your IDP after its delivery you will only pay for shipping costs. Lastly, if you’re into traveling light, you can just apply for a digital IDP that you can store on your mobile phone. A digital IDP has all the same benefits as a physical IDP.
How Long Does It Take to Get an IDP?
The duration of getting an IDP depends on the agency. If you apply with us, the application time will only take about 10 minutes or less, considering that you have prepared your requirements. The stages of the application process are as follows:
- Choosing your IDP Package.
- Filling-up the application form.
- Choosing your mode of shipment and entering your shipment details.
- Paying for your IDP application.
- Verifying your identity.
- Waiting for confirmation.
If you chose the regular shipping package, you would be able to receive your digital IDP within two (2) hours and your printed IDP within 3-30 days (depending on your shipping location). On the other hand, if you chose the express shipping option, you will be able to receive your digital IDP within 20 minutes and your printed IDP in less than 3-30 days.
Supposing you chose to have a printed IDP, you can have it shipped to a different address, including Yemen. This is very useful for people who are constantly traveling. Just make sure that during your application for an IDP (to be used for driving in Yemen), specify the zip code or postal code in your shipping address.
Renting a Car in Yemen
Yemen is a relatively large country. It is also characterized by a topography and climate that is not that trek-friendly, except in the cooler western highlands. Everyone is encouraged to travel with shade, such as through a vehicle. Considering you already obtained your International Driving Permit, you can go ahead and rent a car wherever it is most convenient for you in the country.
Car Rental Companies
When you’re looking for a car to rent, we recommend that you start in the capital of Sana’a or in the port city of Aden. There are both internationally-renowned car rental companies and local car rental companies in the country. If you prefer, you can start driving in Yemen from the airport. All you need to do is ask your car company to deliver the car to you there.
Some of the companies that you can check out are:
- Hertz Car Rental
- Port Car Rental
- Arhab for Rental Car
- Golden car Yemen
The right car rental company is always subjective. However, it should always be paired with an objective perspective. Here are some factors that you should consider when renting a car in Yemen:
- The condition of your rental car
- The places you’ll go to
- The legal status of the car rental company (are they legitimate?)
- Customer reviews about the car rental company
- The car rental terms
- The price and payment terms
- Car insurance
- Pick-up and return location
The requirements to rent a car in Yemen are more or less the same as what is required by car rental companies in other countries. These include:
- Full driver’s license held for a minimum of two (2) years
- International Driving Permit
- Valid I.D. (like passport)
- Personal credit card (for security deposit)
- Booking Voucher (if you booked in advance online)
The most important thing is that, whatever car you rent, make sure that you really get the value of what you are paying for, car-condition-wise and company-services-wise.
There is a plethora of car types that you can rent in Yemen. If you have the budget, you can go for the luxury cars; If you are more of the thrifty kind of traveler, there are also great economical cars to choose from. An important thing to consider when choosing a car before you go driving in Yemen is distance.
One of the most frequently rented cars in Yemen is the Hyundai Accent, or an economy car that is similar in shape, price, capacity, and condition. With regards to transmission types, you can choose between manual and automatic. Oftentimes, manual transmission cars have the cheaper rates. In addition, if you’re planning on going on an off-road adventure, manual transmission cars may be more practical.
Car Rental Cost
According to Kayak, car rentals in the country costs an average of $78/day. Car rental costs can change regularly, depending on the month or the season. You may even notice weekly changes in the costs. The rates are often the highest during tourist peak season, which runs from October to April. If you really need to go driving in Yemen (Rep.) during these months though, there are still some ways to save on rental costs. These include:
- Booking in advance (like months before your trip)
- Renting economy cars
- Not falling into upgrade offers
- Comparing many car rental companies as much as you can
Similar to other countries, you’ll need to be at least 25 years old to drive without additional fees. If you are between 21 and 24 years old (young driver), you may be still be allowed to rent but with a surcharge. Likewise, young drivers are usually not allowed to rent premium cars, SUVs, luxury vehicles, and other more expensive vehicles.
This is because a lot of road accidents around the world involve young drivers who are more likely inexperienced. With this, the risk of damages is higher; Hence, the additional charge. Note also that the surcharge is different from insurance. You’ll still have to pay insurance on top of the surcharge if you are a young driver.
Car Insurance Cost
Car insurance companies offer different rates. In general, car insurance costs will depend on your vehicle, coverage, age, number of years you have been driving, and your driving history. Prior to renting, your rental car is actually already insured because it is a requirement for all car owners to get insurance for their car prior to using it on the road. However, car owners would only most likely get the minimum required insurance policy. As such, they will require you (the renter) to purchase additional insurance to cover your rental period.
Rental car insurance costs that are payable by the client (you) will be charged on a per-day basis. Here are some examples of car rental insurance costs in Yemen as posted by Rental Cover:
- Super Collision Damage Waiver: USD30.00/day – USD45.00/day
- Roadside Assistance Cover: USD10.00/day – USD15.00/day
- Personal Accident Insurance: USD10.00/day – USD 15.00/day
Car Insurance Policy
The minimum car insurance policy is usually third-party car insurance. This policy covers your liabilities to any loss, damage, or injury done to another person or property while you were using the rental car. This is very beneficial, especially when the person or property you accidentally inflicted harm upon is uninsured.
In addition, when you rent, the car rental company would most likely require you to get additional insurance coverage. Don’t worry, you do not need to scour for car insurance companies yourself. You’d only have to pay for the insurance at your car rental company. Suppose the company would only require you to get a collision damage waiver. In that case, we recommend that you also get a personal accident insurance and roadside assistance policy (especially when you’re planning to travel off-roads).
If you listen to the news, Yemen may come off as not an ideal place to travel in. But protocols for visitors are in place to assist tourists and ensure their safety. If you just follow the rules, you’ll not regret spending your resources in Yemen. If you want to stay safer, it will be better for you to drive your own car and tag an escort along to guide you.
Is It Better To Rent a Car in Yemen Than Ride Public Transit?
Public transportation services in Yemen are mostly low-capacity buses and taxis. The majority of buses are seven(7)-seater buses, followed by 12-seater minibusses, and finally, 24-seater buses. Low-capacity public transit is discouraged in areas with limited space because they contribute to traffic not just within their respective routes.
In addition, bus drivers and the commuting public don’t really follow bus stops. To ride and alight a bus, people just hail them over wherever it is most convenient for them, and bus drivers accommodate them. So just imagine when you need to travel during peak hours, you may have to expect getting stressed out just to catch these buses. With this, renting a car is more recommended. Besides, metaphorically, the experience of driving in Yemen today is already better than driving in Yemen yesterday.
The Road Rules in Yemen
With the growing population, urban expansions, and migration of more and more people to the city, Yemen roads have seen challenging development in its traffic situation. Because of this, the Yemen government has unceasingly reviewed and enhanced its policies, including their strict implementation.
Road regulations have been put in place to cater to the growing number of road users and ensure the safety, peace, and order within public roads. Should anyone be caught disregarding or violating these regulations, corresponding penalties will be imposed depending on the type and degree of violation.
Since Yemen is a predominantly Islamic country, alcohol is prohibited. Although some Muslim countries allow a few regulated alcoholic beverages for leisure consumption, Yemen is not one of those. This is why there is zero-tolerance for drinking and driving in the country. Apart from alcohol being discouraged by religious laws and banned in the national policy, it is a dangerous tonic. It reduces a person’s focus and reflexes. If the police subjects you to a breathalyzer test or blood test, your blood alcohol concentration should not go over 0.00%.
Since alcohol intoxication is among the common causes of fatal road accidents, one might be relieved to know that there will be no drunk-drivers to look out for in the country. Unfortunately, some drivers still drive intoxicated. Not with alcohol, but with Qat, a schedule 1 narcotic in the United States (similar to Heroin, Ecstacy, and Cannabis). Yemenis take Qat as a favorite afternoon pass time, so you should watch out for Qat-intoxicated drivers.
As of this writing, Yemen hasn’t yet established its seatbelt laws. However, even if seatbelts are not mandatory in the country, everyone should still wear a seatbelt at all times. This applies to the driver and all passengers. Yemen is among the countries that have yet to enculturate safe driving, which is why there are many reports about adverse road incidents. If you come from a country that has seatbelt policies, you may apply those when you are driving in Yemen (Rep.).
The enforcement of parking laws in Yemen has not been put in place either. People just park wherever they can, and all you need to watch out for are people who aggressively claim that the parking spot/area is theirs without any legal basis. If you come across someone like this, you should just give it to them and look for another area. Yemen has one of the highest number of armed civilians in the world, so be careful about who you meet and cross.
If you are staying at a hotel, they will definitely provide you with a parking space. Nevertheless, if you need to park somewhere else, make sure that you ask locals where you can park or let your guide find a parking spot for you.
Thirty-one years after the Republic’s declaration, the country’s driving standards are still relatively poor. Traffic laws exist, but there is still an enormous urgency to create effective enforcement initiatives. To combat the hazards of civil unrest and war for the visitors, everyone is required to get in touch with the police, especially when they need to travel outside the capital city. Likewise, no vehicle is allowed to enter and exit the country not unless for military and government purposes.
Yemen has quite a high maximum vehicle speed limit at 100km/hour. This applies to the entire country, including roads within built-up areas. Technically, if you are in an area with heavy traffic, you’ll not be able to reach this level of speed because if you do, you’ll not be able to achieve a safe stopping distance. Moreover, if you are driving off-road, driving at this speed on unpaved, rugged roads is very dangerous not unless you are driving a 4WD vehicle with huge tires.
If you are within the city, maintain a safe driving speed. Some drivers do not follow the road rules, so if you are also driving aggressively, you might not be able to avoid the other drivers who are not driving safely.
A majority of traffic signs in Yemen are directional. Directional traffic signs inform you of your current location and give you an idea if you are on the correct route. These are mostly seen within main roads and highways and along borders between governorates. However, directional signs are only supplementary. If you go driving in Yemen today, you have to ensure that you know already where you are going in case the police ask you.
With this, you have to bring a road map along at all times. We recommend that you bring a physical map or a digital offline map to the country because communication signals for the internet can be very weak.
Traffic Road Signs
Traffic road signs in Yemen exist but are not as many as what you may see in other countries. The road signs are mostly written in Arabic characters, but you don’t have to worry if you don’t understand Arabic because these are often paired with universal traffic symbols. If you still don’t understand the symbol, just remember the following:
- Warning signs come in triangles
- Directional signs come in rectangles
- Regulatory signs come in circles
Hence, if you come across a warning sign, reduce your speed and exercise more caution; and if you come across a regulatory sign, you can ask someone what that means or search for it online because if you don’t follow a regulatory sign, you will be at risk of its corresponding penalties.
Right of Way
Right of Way rules inform you when you have the right to proceed first on the road or when you should give way to other drivers. This is most helpful, especially when you are on a road section with no traffic signs or traffic police. Some road corners or sections may have a yield sign, but some vehicles have the right of way at any given time wherever they are. These include:
- Vehicles on the main road
- Larger vehicles (like buses and trucks)
- Vehicles that are at the intersection
- Vehicles that have executed a turning maneuver in junctions
- Emergency Response Vehicles
In addition, if the vehicles in front of you have already given the right of way to an oncoming vehicle out of courtesy, you should also give them the right of way and not try to overtake.
Legal Driving Age
To go driving in Yemen (Rep.) legally, you need to be at least 18 years old. This is also the minimum age to secure an International Driving Permit. Remember that you cannot drive in the country without an IDP. So if you are below 18 years old but have a valid driving license from your home country, you will not be able to secure an IDP, and you will not be able to drive in Yemen.
Most drivers involved in road accidents worldwide are young drivers who have little driving experience and who have a relatively immature sense of responsibility on the road. With this, it is assumed that 18-year-olds have already started to develop this sense of responsibility.
Laws on Overtaking
Considering the driving side, you can only overtake on another vehicle’s left side. If the vehicle you are planning to overtake is beside a lane separator, you’ll have to make sure that there are no oncoming vehicles and that the road ahead is perfectly free of any obstruction. Likewise, you should only overtake in straight road sections (not in blind curves, intersections, or junctions) and in road sections that are not marked with a double solid line.
When you start to overtake, do not forget to signal to both the vehicle behind you and the vehicle in front of you. You can signal to the vehicle in front of you by honking your car horn. When you are out of your lane, overtake fast because there maybe oncoming vehicles. When the vehicle in front of you senses your signal, it should reduce its speed to allow you to reenter the lane. This is also what you should do if another vehicle wants to overtake you.
Yemenis drive on the right-hand side of the road. However, this is one of the many issues challenging the government in the country. Despite the law on the driving side, some drivers still drive on the left-hand side of the road, completely disregarding the law and putting other road users in danger. Due to a lack of traffic enforcement, these vehicles are seldom reproached and penalized.
This makes it more tricky for visitors who are not used to driving on the right-hand side of the road. Even if this situation occurs among local drivers, do not try to follow them because you’ll run the risk of being deported. Driving on the correct side may take some getting used to depending on the driver, but surely, if you just practice and concentrate, you’ll be cruising through the roads like you’ve been living there for a long time.
Other Road Rules
If you’ve traveled to other Muslim countries or other conservative countries (like in Africa), you know that taking random pictures of the locals is discouraged. Some cultures believe that cameras take away the soul of whoever is pictured, while some cultures just prefer privacy.
Ask Permission Before Taking Pictures
In Yemen, you must exercise caution when taking pictures. It is illegal to take pictures of the airport, government buildings, military sites, and other delicate infrastructure. If you want to take a photograph of any of these, or a photograph of a local Yemeni, you should ask permission from the concerned parties and not force your way if they don’t approve. If you get approval, though, it would be helpful for other travelers if you can create one of those driving-in-Yemen videos.
The Driving Etiquette in Yemen
If you read personal blogs about driving and traveling around Yemen, you might notice that Yemenis have been recognized as people who still have a long stretch of learning to do with regard to road etiquette. This could be a result of the weak law enforcement and the lack of sustainable road safety information-education campaigns. Nevertheless, some natives do practice respectful road driving. In order to support the aspiration for safe roads in the country, you too should practice proper road manners wherever you go.
When you choose your car rental company, don’t forget to ask about car repair tools, towing services, and road assistance. If you applied for roadside assistance insurance, your car insurance company would immediately send help in case your car breaks down. But if you opted not to get this insurance, make sure that you have the basic car tools with you, like jacks and wrenches (especially when you are planning to drive out of the urban centers).
If your car breaks down within the city, you should have an easier time looking for help. But before doing that, try to see if you can move your car to the curbside and switch on your emergency lights. This is to avoid blocking traffic. If you have emergency triangles with you, don’t forget to take them out and place them strategically about 2-3 meters from your back wheel.
If you couldn’t find help nearby (like a car repair shop), call your car rental company and see if they know of somebody who can help. Expect that you’ll have to pay them upfront for their services if you don’t have car insurance. Lastly, if you need emergency assistance like police, medical, or fire assistance, you can contact the emergency hotline of Yemen, which is 199.
The sector of the domestic police force that takes care of road law enforcement is the traffic police. While the country has been experiencing civil unrest for years, the domestic police force has been perceived as dysfunctional by the local public. Nevertheless, you’ll still find traffic police manning the streets and roads, especially in busy sections and intersections.
In situations where you’ll get waved over by police, do not try to evade them. Instead, bring your car to the curb where you’ll not disturb the traffic low drastically. You don’t need to get out of your car to speak to the traffic police because they will come to you. Once you’ve come to a full stop, make sure to lock all your car doors and just roll your driver’s window down.
Courteously greet the police officer and ask for your violation. You can say that you were unaware, but everyone knows that this is not an excuse because you have a civil responsibility to be aware of the rules. Nonetheless, if you communicate with the police officer calmly and politely, he might let you pass through with a warning, especially that you are only a visitor.
Locals within urban areas may understand a bit of English, but when you go driving in Yemen rural communities, the chances of meeting someone who can communicate in English lesson. Since you will be traveling with a local guide or escort, talking to the locals may not be a problem. However, in case you’ll need to ask for directions yourself, you can use the following phrases:
- “Hello” - “Marhabaan”
- “I just need to ask for directions” - “’Ana faqat bihajat ‘iilaa alsuwal ean alaitijahat”
- “Can you help me?” - “Hal bi’iimkanik musaeadati?”
- “Can you tell me where this place is?” - “Hal ymkn ‘an tukhbirani ‘ayn hdha almakan?”
- “Thank you very much” - “Shukraan jazilaan lak”
Asking for directions in Yemen is quite inevitable, especially that there are hardly any directional traffic signs. When you need to ask for directions, bring a map or a picture, and try to ask the men first as a bonus tip. Muslim women are highly conservative and traditionally are not that allowed to talk to strangers in public.
Over the years, the need for security in Yemen has increased as a result of the military and civil unrest, common in some other Middle Eastern nations. When you go driving in different Yemen zip codes, you’ll notice that police checkpoints are just about everywhere. Police presence is most heightened in and around land borders so expect to see them when you travel between governorates.
If you come across a checkpoint, just prepare your driving and travel documents because the police will most likely request for them. This includes your native driving license, your International Driving Permit, official company I.D., passport, police travel permit, car rental documents, and other identification documents. The police travel permit will be expounded in the “Things To Do” section of this driving guide.
Driving Conditions in Yemen
The climate and weather in Yemen can be very intense. Flooding can occur during the rainy season due to the lack of natural drainage systems, while dust storms can happen during the spring and summer seasons, even within the capital. The natural environment and socio-economic situation in the country affect driving conditions a lot. So before you take off for your road trip, here are some fast facts about what you can expect in Yemen roads.
In 2013, Yemen observed 23.7 deaths per 100,000 individuals. With the lack of more information relevant to create a targeted traffic management system after 2013, a hospital-based study on the pattern of road traffic injuries in Yemen was conducted in 2018.
According to the study, all surveyed victims did not wear a seatbelt or helmet, and around 85% met the accident because of poor driving skills. This behavioral factor has contributed to Yemen’s low road safety index, only next to the roads’ poor physical conditions.
Moreover, in the study, the highest percentage of victims were between the ages 20-30 years old, followed by teens between 10-20 years old, then children between 0-10 years old. Almost 38% of the victims were also passengers, followed by pedestrians (31.2%), then drivers (30.1%). Drivers may have been the less affected because, as a reflex, people shield themselves first from harm; and since drivers control the steering wheel, most likely their initial reaction would be to steer the car in a manner that will save his side of the car.
Despite the armed and economic conflict in Yemen, the new car market is flourishing. In 2018, new car sales in Yemen increased by 31.4%, and in 2019, up to 59%. The Toyota brand is the most popular in the country, followed by Land Rover, Nissan, Hyundai, and Lexus in no particular order. Over the years, the best-selling car units in the country include the Toyota Land Cruiser, the Land Cruiser Pickup, the Hilux, the Prado, the Fortuner, the Rav4, and the Range Rover.
If you notice, the best-selling vehicles in the country are sports utility vehicles. This is because it best serves the rugged terrain throughout the country, and it gives the people utmost comfort amidst the grueling climate. You can find these SUVs used for both driving in Yemen city areas and driving in Yemen rural areas.
There are over 71,000 km of roads in the country, and there are a few toll road sections like R574 en route to Seyoun. When you go driving in Yemen (Rep.), make sure to prepare some change in case you’ll need to pass through a toll road. The currency used in Yemen is the Yemeni Rial. You can have your dollars changed in the airport, or you can find other money exchange centers within Sana’a.
The majority of roads in the country have a single carriageway. The only roads that feature a double carriageway are Ring Road in Sana’a and the causeway road from Sheikh Othman to Aden Port. In addition, conditions-wise, only around 10% of the total road length in the country is well-paved. This leaves more than 63,000 km of roads with very rough surfaces. With this, if you search and watch “driving in Yemen” videos, you’ll notice that people often use an SUV or a 4WD vehicle. Nevertheless, driving in Yemen today is an arguably better experience than driving in Yemen yesterday.
With regard to civil safety, Yemen hasn’t really been out of the woods yet. It has a very high Fragile State Index, which means that the country has become very vulnerable and unstable, mainly due to the threats of conflict, crimes, and decreased police effectiveness. No matter, all civilians who wish to travel outside the capital are encouraged to hire a trusted escort, guide, and security.
In the early years of the Republic, women have been discouraged from driving in Yemen due to harassment by other motorists and passersby. However, this had slowly changed after 2011, when the uprising began. Currently, you’ll already see plenty of women driving in Yemen now, and this should be something to be hopeful for. Hopeful because despite the traditionally conservative culture of Muslims, male Yemeni drivers can be quite aggressive on the road.
With the lack of road rules and traffic law enforcement, plenty of local drivers tend to disregard the rules and drive carelessly. With more women driving on Yemeni city roads, hopefully, there will be less aggression.
Things To Do in Yemen
Yemen holds a very rich history. Stone-built ancient villages, palaces, and mosques are just some of the cultural wonders that you can explore and learn about. In addition, the country’s topography provides some of the best scenic landscapes in the middle-east. If you want to spend a lot of time in the country, here are some undertakings that you can do to get to know Yemen more.
Drive As A Tourist
What’s a better way to get to know a place and its people than exploring it on your own two feet (metaphorically). Tour packages are available in Yemen, but you would see a whole lot more if you also allocate time to explore it by yourself — at your own pace and in your own time. Besides, the requirements to drive as a tourist are just your native driving license and your International Driving Permit.
If you want to go driving in Yemen now, though, outside Sana’a, you must ask permission and approval from the Yemen Tourist Police. If your trip is approved, a travel permit will be given to you, which you should keep in case you need to present it at police checkpoints.
Work As A Driver
You can find plenty of driving jobs in Yemen online. Driving jobs can include delivery jobs, company service jobs, public transportation jobs, personal driving jobs, and government driving jobs, to name a few. According to Salary Explorer, truck drivers in Yemen usually earn around YER132,000 or about USD527. If you can get a better, more established employer, you may be able to earn more than this.
To work as a driver, you’ll have to get hired first by a Yemeni company, then apply for your work permit. The licenses for driving jobs in Yemen will depend on the type of vehicle you are going to drive. For example, if your driving license is only for standard vehicles, you will not be allowed to drive buses, and so on. Once you have your work permit, you’ll need to obtain a local driving license in Yemen once you arrive before you can start your work as a driver.
Work As A Travel Guide
If you have an affinity for travel, meeting new people, exploring new places, and learning new cultures, you might want to consider working as a travel guide in Yemen. You can connect with travel agencies in the country for this, and you can right away apply for a work permit once you get hired.
Working as a travel guide in Yemen can be challenging and thrilling at the same time. You’ll have to learn the Arabic language in order for you to be able to communicate with the locals, and you’ll have to learn about the very long history of the country. But on top of that, it will be like experiencing the places like a tourist yourself because you wouldn’t really be staying in one place!
Apply for Residency
The application for residency in Yemen is guided by the 1991 Law on the Entry and Residence of Aliens. To reside in Yemen, there are three (3) types of residence permit that you can apply for:
- Special Residence Permit – for aliens who have legally entered and resided in the country for 20 consecutive years; scholars, businessmen, artists, writers, and industrialists who have rendered impeccable service to Yemen.
- Ordinary Residence Permit – for aliens who have legally entered and resided in the country for 15 years
- Temporary Residence Permit – for aliens who have legally entered and resided in the country for less than 15 years
Upon entry into the country, you’ll have to present yourself to the Alien Registration Office (ARO) or the nearest police station in the area where you’ll reside. There, you will have to make a declaration about your personal status and your purpose of travel. Should you need to transfer to another residence, you’ll have to inform the ARO or police stations where you initially registered.
Top Destinations in Yemen
There are 21 governorates in Yemen, not including the capital city of Sana’a. You can literally find something interesting in each governorate, and it will already take you more than a day to explore one territory. If you’ve decided on driving in Yemen, here are some destinations that you might want to consider exploring.
Situated at an altitude of 2,200 meters above sea level, Sana’a is sprawling with both modern and ancient architecture. The must-visit area is the old city of Sana’a, Yemen’s oldest city and one of the world’s oldest, still inhabited cities. It has been around even before the 3rd century, and its first residents were the Yemenites.
Later on, it became the center of the Islamic Mission in the region and the central market of the inland trade route. At present, over a hundred mosques, thousands of houses, and more than a dozen baths (Hammam) built before the 11th century still stand erect for visitors to see and journey to.
Sana’a is located in a valley on the western highlands. Whatever country you go to, it is always advisable to start your trip to the capital city. Within Yemen, the nearest international airport to the capital is the Sana’a International Airport. You can start driving in Yemen from the airport; and if you’re heading straight to the old city area, it would only take you about 25 minutes to drive since it is only about 14.5 km.
From the Sana’a International Airport:
- Drive south via Airport Road.
- Continue onto A1.
- Turn left onto Cairo St./Ring Road.
- Make right towards Sailah Road North.
- After about 1.55 km, turn left.
Things to Do
The Old City of Sana’a was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. In the old city alone you’ll find plenty of interesting sites. If you cover the entire Sana’a, you’ll mostly need to spend days to see all the sites.
- See the Bathing Houses
You might have heard other versions of baths in Europe and in Turkey. Locally known as “Hammam” in Yemen, bathing houses are very popular during the ancient civilizations. It is a place where people gather and mingle, and it was a huge part of ancient social life. There are about 14 bathing houses within the old city, and a trip to some of them will give you a glimpse of what life was like back in the old, old days.
- Visit the Ancient Tombs
The original inhabitants used stones and bricks piled on top of each other to build tombs. Similar to the ancient Egyptians, early Yemenis followed a mummification process to bury their dead. This was done by removing the organs, filling the cavity, embalming oil, and wrapping the body with shrouds of silk or leather. When you visit the tombs, you’ll rarely see any mummies anymore, but you’ll still see the original tomb structures.
- Shop at Souq Al-Milh
Souq Al-Milh is the oldest market in the city. It is still located within the Old City of Sana’a and it is where you’ll find thousands of authentic middle-eastern ingredients. Not only that; apart from food products, the market is also home to thousands of clothing, handicrafts, and jewelry retailers. Due to the vibrance and the energy of the market, this isn’t just a shopper’s paradise but also a haven for street photographers.
The Port City of Aden is an ancient city that has been mentioned in the Old Testament Book of Ezekiel. It was part of an important trading stop of the spice road before the 3rd century AD. Fast-forward to the mid-19th century, Aden was colonized by the British and became the storage location for coals that were used for steam-driven boats. After British occupation, Aden became part of Southern Yemen until the unification in 1990.
Aden is over 350 km away from the capital city of Sana’a. Aden has an international airport, but if you need to drive from Sana’a, it will take you about 8.5 hours to reach Aden. Do not forget to bring your IDP wherever you go driving in Yemen (Rep.).
From the Sana’a International Airport:
- Drive south along Airport Road
- Continue onto A1.
- Keep left and continue onto 70 Meters Road.
- Turn left onto Johar St.
- Make a left onto 50 St.
- Turn right onto A18.
- At the roundabout, take the 4th exit onto 30 Meters St.
- Turn right onto 48 St.
- Take a right turn onto Taiz Road.
- Continue along N1, then turn left onto M45.
- Keep continuing onto R215.
- R215 will terminate on N1.
- Keep left to stay on N1 until you reach Aden.
Things to Do
When you visit the Port City of Aden, there are three (3) districts that you’ll need to remember: the old commercial area (Crater), the present-day business area (Al-Tawahi), and the native harbor area (Ma’allah). The city is one of the more liberal areas in the country, and the sites to see are a mix of European and Middle-Eastern Influences.
- Explore the Sira Castle
Built more than a millennium years ago, the fortress once stood as a defense from foreign invaders. The Sira Castle is perched on a cliff and gives its visitors sweeping views of the gulf and the entire city. You can visit the castle from Monday to Sunday, between 6:00 am – 6:00 pm.
- See the Tawila Tanks
Do not mistake the name for military tanks. Also locally known as the Cisterns of Tawils, these tanks have stored drinking water for the ancient Yemenis as far back as two (2) millennia ago. The 53 tanks were carved directly from the volcanic rocks, and it was also used to mitigate flooding in the area. At present, only 18 tanks have been successfully rehabilitated.
- Take A Picture of Little Ben
The Little Ben is a smaller version of the Big Ben tower clock in London. It was built in 1894, just a little after the British seized the city. It is made up of cement and block stones, and the clock diameter is about one (1) meter. Little Ben stopped operating during the 1960s and was only successfully restored to its fully-functioning capacity in 2017.
Socotra Island is actually located within the Socotra archipelago, consisting of four (4) islands and two (2) islets. The Socotra archipelago is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the very rich biodiversity in the area. It also supports hundreds of bird species, including some endangered ones and those that migrate around the world. Offshore, Socotra also hosts more than 250 species of scleractinian (reef-building) corals, almost a thousand species of nektonic fish, and over 300 species of crustaceans alone.
To get to Socotra, you’ll have to ride a plane. There is only one flight per week to and from Socotra so you’ll have to spend at least seven (7) days there. Moreover, Yemen Airways is the only airline operating in Socotra, and you’ll have to take a flight from Seyoun Airport. When you’re planning on traveling to Socotra, you’ll still need to bring your IDP. Again, an IDP is a requirement to go driving in Yemen (Rep.), including its islands.
From the Sana’a International Airport, it would take about 8.5 hours to reach Seyoun Airport, and this is how you drive to Seyoun:
- From the airport, make your way to Mareb Road and drive north.
- Continue onto N5.
- Continue onto Airport Road.
- At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto R574.
- Make a sharp left onto N5.
- Stay on N5 until you reach Seyoun Airport.
Things to Do
Socotra has been dubbed one of the most alien-like places in the world because of its very distinct biodiversity. Don’t worry; Socotra is not a remote place. In fact, it is a separate governorate in itself and is a bustling center full of tourist accommodations and local markets. When you visit Socotra, here are a few things that you surely shouldn’t miss:
- Swim at Qalansiyah Beach
Qalansiyah Beach is a white sand beach surrounded by turquoise waters and limestone mountains. The waters are perfectly safe to swim in, and if you snorkel, you will be able to see the vibrant marine life underneath the surface.
- See the Bottle Trees
Also called the cucumber tree, Dendrosicyos socotranus is endemic to Socotra Island. The trees take a fascinating shape with trunks that are huge and canopies that are relatively small. These trees thrive within limestone rocks, and you’ll need to hike a little to see them.
- Spot Camels in the Wild
The Socotra sand dunes are some of the most breathtaking dunes in the world. At ample lighting, the sand may take the color of pure white, making it seem like the cleanest place on earth. While on the dunes, try if you can spot camels running down the sandy hills.
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