What?! Socotra is Open Again
Yes, you read that right, Socotra is once again accessible for visitors, and we’ll show you how to get there. Want more information? Feel free to reach out.
Welcome to Socotra, one of the world’s most remote and difficult to access inhabited islands. Located between the Arabian Peninsula and Somalia in a region plagued with conflict, little Socotra stands on its own. Peaceful, traditional Socotri fishing villages dot the coast line, dragons’ blood trees populate the rugged mountain sides, and bright beaches and coral reefs hug the shorelines.
Socotra is also one of the most ecologically distinct islands on the planet, with thirty percent of its flora and fauna endemic to the island; there’s little wonder why it’s sometimes referred to as the Galapagos of Arabia.
After Yemen fell into war in 2015, Socotra was essentially cut off from tourism, as the Saudi and UAE governments took control over Yemen’s airspace. While Socotra has not been involved in any of the war or conflict plaguing the mainland, access to the Island, along with the rest of Yemen has been near impossible. However, Socotra is once again open to visitors, and we’ll explain how to get there.
First off, several travel groups have tried various methods to get onto the island in the meantime, most unsuccessful. Tourists have tried chartering private flights, just to find themselves grounded in places like Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Salalah. Others have opted to try and take an irregular cement boat from Salalah, Oman to Socotra across the pirate-ridden Arabian Sea, with little access to safety or information. A few intrepid travellers managed to get there by using their own sail boats. However, most have failed, as getting the military clearance along with the Yemeni visas and permits has been too big a problem to surmount.
However, starting in late 2018, Socotra has once again become accessible with a recently launched weekly flight from Cairo to Socotra, with a stop in the Hadhramaut Valley city of Seiyun in mainland Yemen. Getting a ticket is not exactly straightforward and takes a bit of grunt work and planning, but it’s entirely doable. You will need to get your ticket from the Yemenia office in Cairo, Egypt. They do not take credit cards, so you will either need to arrange your flight with a travel provider or get in touch with the office yourself and send them a bank wire transfer.
Looking to get to Socotra? We can help you design a custom trip just right for your interests and service level, and will help you get your flight tickets and Yemeni visa in order.
In order to get onto the flight manifest, you will need to show Yemenia proof of your Yemeni visa confirmation. This document is only issued once you have successfully applied for a Yemeni visa, which your host in Socotra can arrange in about 3-5 business days for $150 plus a processing fee.
The problem is, the document is only valid for 30 days, meaning you must enter Yemen within 30 days of the issuance of the document. But the weekly flight is crowded and tickets may become difficult to get, not to mention the tick price goes up the longer you wait to book. You can expect to pay between $1,000 and $1,300 for a round trip Cairo to Socotra ticket.
The work-around to the visa problem is to communicate with the Yemenia office in Cairo and let them know that you will have to send them your visa confirmation document later (within 30 days of the flight departure date) and instead give them a copy of the information page of your passport so they may issue your ticket first. You will have to purchase the ticket in full when you reserve. Currently, there is a cancellation fee of $200 per ticket and a no-show fee of $300 (72-hours before flight departure time).
The scheduled flight details are below. Looking at the recent actual arrival and departure times, you can expect usual delays of between 4-6 hours, mostly at Seiyun or Socotra airports. It is highly recommended to leave a significant amount of buffer time between your flights if you are connecting through Cairo.
WEDNESDAYS Cairo to Socotra YEMENIA IY 607
02:00 Depart Cairo (CAI) for Seiyun (GFX)
06:30 Arrive Seiyun (GXF)
07:45 Depart Seiyun (GXF) for Socotra (SCT)
08:45 Arrive Socotra (SCT)
WEDNESDAYS Socotra to Cairo YEMENIA IY 606
09:45 Depart Socotra (SCT) for Seiyun (GFX)
10:45 Arrive Seiyun (GXF)
11:45 Depart Seiyun (GXF) for Cairo (CAI)
14:45 Arrive Cairo (CAI)
Note that tourism is still not technically authorized in Yemen— as the Yemeni authorities cannot issue tourist visas for the time being. This being said, a visit visa arranged through a local licenced and registered host company may be issued relatively easily, and this visa may be used for organized tourism purposes in Socotra. The immigration office can issue these visas only with the support of a local company. Interested in learning more? We can help, just reach out.