Back in January 2017 I attempted to visit Socotra Island off the coast of Yemen, but that didn't end successfully. Now two years on, it's my second shot at reaching Yemen via land border. Here's some key points for anyone wishing to attempt the same: -
How do I get to Yemen?
Your starting point will be arriving in Oman's Salalah Airport, which will be your meeting point with the Yemeni fixer. The journey time is approx 2.5 to 3 hours via road to reach the Sarfait border, and a similar timescale to return to Salalah.
Once you exit the Oman border, the Yemen border control is 100 meters in front of you.
There are multiple flights a day, so it's very easy to plan a day trip. If you've never been to Salalah, that's worth a visit also.
Where in Yemen do I go?
Once you enter Yemen via the border, you'll head to Hawf, which is a sleep border town on a coast. This is around a 20 minute drive past the border. This is the only town in Yemen that I've found any fixer prepared to take tourists to.
What visa do I need?
Getting into Yemen is not guaranteed and depends on multiple factors, but one huge plus point is obtaining an Oman multi-visa. This makes the whole process much more smooth when it comes to any unnecessary obstacles when it comes to re-entering Oman at the road border.
The 36B multi-entry one year visa is the one that I used and the official e-visa site is www.rop.gov.om
Will I definitely get into Yemen?
I would label this particular route into Yemen as a 'border loophole' as it's evident that the $100 fee at the Yemen border is by no means official. There's been a huge surge of country counters take advantage of this border crossing, which means numbers in and out of the border have drastically increased within a short period of time.
My own opinion is that I doubt this border crossing will be viable for too much longer, so I would encourage anyone considering the trip to act fast. It might be worth seeing if you can negotiate a partial fee refund with your fixer if things don't go to plan.
What food do I eat?
There's hardly an abundance of food outlets, so pack some snacks for the full day journey upon leaving Salalah Airport.
There are local fish markets, but obviously the fish is raw. We stopped at a small local restaurant for chicken, but this option may not suit all dietary requirements.
On a whole, I would regard the trip as expensive based on the minimal time you actually get in Yemen itself.
The two fixed costs are 50 OMR ($130 USD) for the Oman e-visa and $100 USD 'cash only' fee at the Yemen border.
Other variables are of course flight cost and the fee to your fixer, which differs based on group size.
Gifts for locals?
Some travellers like to bring gifts for locals of a country they're visiting, and I'm one of them, especially when visiting countries of poverty. It's no secret that there's a huge humanitarian crisis in Yemen right now!
I provided gifts such as clothing and toothbrush & paste sets, which were greatly received. However, the one thing that most of the locals actually wanted was fresh water.
When entering the Yemen, the border officials seem very insistent on recommending only a 3 hour stay in Yemen, although you can push this to 4. Considering parts of the country are still at war, albeit many miles away from this sleepy border town, the border officials still seem a little hesitant when granting entry.
My guess is that the 3-4 hour timescale is on the basis that they are still going to be working their shift on your return, so will avoid any potential issues.
What do I see?
Albeit a sleepy border town, there's still plenty to keep you occupied during your short stay.
There's plenty of Yemeni architecture to satisfy the architecture geeks, as well as multiple mosques. The coastline is full of wooden fishing boats, and there's also the 'must photo' Yemen flag sitting atop of the hill. The highlight for me was definitely the beautiful coast line with the multiple panoramic view points that it offers. Locals freely roam the streets and shoreline.
I never felt unsafe at any stage of the day trip. Considering tourists are rare, the locals were very friendly when interacting, and the only military presence I saw was at the border.
Although as any seasoned traveller will tell you, please be respectful at all times to the locals and surroundings.
Which Yemen fixer do I choose?
I spent so much time conversing with many different fixers when planning my trip, but in my opinion the best two are Azam (+968 9333 8424) and Wafie (+968 9981 9722). Both speak good English, have a reliable vehicle, and are very responsive via Whatsapp messaging. I chose to go with Wafie, but I think the fee if you're a solo traveller is slightly better using Azam.