Is it safe to travel to Socotra, Yemen I hear you ask! This post is dedicated to all questions related to safety around travel in Socotra. And describes from our perspective, how the island has been impacted by the war in mainland Yemen and the effect this has on tourism.
I’ll throw in my thoughts from our recent travel to Socotra, things to pack to keep safe and how to prepare for your visit. I include my recommendation for a good travel insurance package to get before you go.
This post is part of a series of posts I have written. As full-time travellers we had always wanted to visit Socotra Island but finding the information about how to visit was few and far between. We wanted to be sure that the trip we took, and the money that we spent on our tour went into the right hands. There is a lot of information online about how to visit Socotra, but finding quality information around our travel values on ethical and responsible travel was more difficult to source.
Knowing this, I have written as many posts as possible to provide transparency about what to expect when visiting Socotra. Basically we’ve done the homework for you. We’ve asked the difficult questions and we speak openly here. That way we help you decide whether a visit to Socotra is right for you or not.
Happy reading and give me a shout if you need further clarification.
*This post may have affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through links I provide (at no extra cost to you).
Responsible and ethical travel perspective in Socotra
Often the first reaction we get from people when we say we have travelled to Socotra Yemen is… you guessed it… “is it safe?” Naturally this is a perfectly legitimate response given the strife on the mainland currently facing many Yemenis.
It has been an extremely difficult and devastating time for Yemenis since the war began in 2014. I cannot explain in great detail as I’m no expert. However, what I can share is that the UAE and Saudi have been fighting a war against the rebels in Yemen. And as a result this has had a huge toll on civilian lives. To read more on the war in Yemen see this article – Yemen the Forgotten War.
With all of this happening so near to the island of Socotra, it certainly begs the question – is it safe to travel to Socotra?
Safety in Socotra
We had the same question as we decided to leave our children at home for this expedition. So we thought we should investigate to be sure that we weren’t heading off into the middle of a war zone like completely irresponsible parents.
But in reality, the biggest danger you’ll face is probably the risk of porcupine fish spikes in your foot as you walk the beach. Yep, that happens. And in all honesty, sounds way worse than it actually is. When you unsuspectingly put your foot into a washed up skeleton of a porcupine fish, all you need to do is pluck them out like a prickle. No major.
So is Socotra safe, it most absolutely is. The war on the mainland feels very removed and disconnected from the laid back island life style of Socotra, but more on that below…
Keeping Yourself Protected When Travelling to Socotra
Grab yourself some good travel insurance with Safety Wing, throw in a first aid kit and pack for prevention. We recommend the following –
- Well kitted out first aid kit
- Fucidin – we used this when Mike gave himself a decent scrape to the toe while snorkeling
- Imodium – for obvious reasons (we didn’t use ours but good to have in case)
- General antibiotic if you can get one easily enough
- Hand sanitizer
- Mosquito repellent
- Sunblock and loads of it… the sun packs a punch
- Lifestraw water purification system – we always travel with ours to filter water and avoid plastic bottles
For more information on what to pack, see our post on Travel to Socotra which dives in deeper on what you’ll need for your trip.
But now more on the bigger picture and your question about whether or not it is safe to travel to Socotra…
The Situation in Yemen
I was very keen to find out more about life in Socotra given that mainland Yemen is at war only 350km away.
I wanted to know more for two reasons. Firstly, out of concern for the wellbeing of the people of Socotra and Yemen. Secondly, from the perspective of responsible travel. I want to be sure that the island is not being exploited in the face of the situation in Yemen.
Here I share my thoughts on travel to Socotra based on conversations had with locals, tour guides and local expats in the area. I ask many questions, from all types of people I meet along my travels. I also read many articles and based on these make an informed conclusion as best I can. Anna Everywhere also writes openly and candidly on this.
Please note that I am not by any means an expert in all things Yemen. I am simply a traveler concerned with making responsible travel choices that won’t impact or exploit a country or culture. That said, let me share my interpretations from my travels in Socotra.
Saudi and the UAE
Jumping straight in the deep end! Saudi and the United Arab Emirates appear to have provided a great deal of relief aid to Socotra over the last few years. Many village homes and communities adorn the UAE or Saudi flag. And when asked why, we were told that housing had been funded in these areas to improve standard of living.
There is a UAE funded hospital – Sheikh Khalifa Hospital – in Hadibo the capital city of Socotra. And many schools are also built with donations from Saudi and the UAE. Also one Friday as we sat in a village we watched as community members came to collect dates, oil and a big bag of rice. This was apparently gifted by the UAE, I believe probably because it was Ramadan at the time of our visit.
So, it certainly seems that Saudi and the UAE currently support communities a great deal in the way of donations and funding. No-one I asked seemed cautious or reluctant about receiving this help. Given that everything must be shipped into the island, including fruit and vegetables, then life in Socotra is expensive. Therefore, it seemed to me there was a genuine feeling of gratitude for the relief these donations brought the island.
Saudi and UAE Control of Tourism
My priority was to find out if Saudi and the UAE currently benefit from or perhaps intend on gaining control over tourism and travel to Socotra, as has been portrayed across articles I have read online.
And of course, this question is not so straight forward. My interpretations are relevant to our visit to Socotra. But as for the foreseeable, it is difficult to gauge what will happen next.
Current Observations of the Tourism Process in Socotra
In terms of our visit I can confidently say that our visas were sourced from outside the UAE and provided by the local Socotri tour provider. To be more specific, the Socotra owner of the local tour company sponsored our visit to the island.
This was organized by the Canadian based tour/expedition organizer Inertia Network, with whom we booked our travel, had no connection or association with the UAE. In fact, as per my understanding the only profit gained by the UAE in booking our tour was made with Air Arabia – two return tickets from Abu Dhabi.
At this point, as a side note, I add that return flights can also be purchased through local Yemenia Airways. And so flights from Egypt, via Yemen mainland depart once a week with no connection to the UAE.
Final Thoughts on Saudi & UAE
So, as of now I do not see how the UAE or Saudi might control tourism and visas in Socotra. But for the long run it’s impossible to know. If donations continue to pour into the communities in Socotra then like any small island, there is the possibility that they will be susceptible to a control of sorts by these bigger powers. But I certainly hope this is not the case and that the motive of goodwill from the UAE and Saudi are from a place of generosity.
I also hope, that the Socotri people continue their current sustainable methods of tourism around Socotra. And that the construction of grand hotels never reach the island. As I believe this will dramatically impact the island’s already threatened ecosystem.
See my post here for more information on how visas are arranged in Socotra and more on sustainable tourism on the island.
More From This Series on Socotra
This concludes my post on your questions relating to safe travel to Socotra in 2022/23. And I hope it has helped you understand the current travel situation in 2022 and 2023. If you have any further questions feel free to get in touch if I haven’t covered you questions here.
Pin this post for later and don’t forget to check out the other posts in this series on how to visit Socotra.
- Travel to Socotra – Everything You Ought to Know
- A Socotra Tour Review & Guide to Tourism on the Island
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