How to get to Socotra
Updated November 2020, How to get to Socotra was originally written in May 2019
Likely, the most asked question I receive from readers or people on social media is, “how do I get to Socotra?” In March 2019 and February 2020 I traveled back to Socotra for my second and third trips to the ecological gem in the Arabian Sea. I first visited in 2014 with ease just before the war took hold in the mainland of Yemen and have been dying to get back there. Since 2015 getting to Socotra has been extremely difficult and nearly impossible. In late 2018 it was announced that Yemenia Airlines flights would resume to Socotra from Cairo. Along with the help of the guys over at Inertia Network, we managed to secure flights and take a group there in March. In 2020 and 2021 I will be co-leading a few more trips to the mysterious island. Departures will be in October 2020, and February 2021. Click here to see all upcoming Socotra departures.
Know that getting to Socotra is still not the walk in the park it was when I first visited in 2014, there are still a lot of hoops to jump through, but it is nonetheless possible. I will walk you through the steps in this post.
Please note that as of March 2020 Yemen had stopped issuing tourist visas and regular flights to Socotra have halted due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Planes were sent to Socotra to evacuate the remaining foreign tourists already there (though some irresponsibly chose to stay on the island despite being urged to evacuate, but that is a whole other story). It is unknown when visa issuance for Yemen will resume, or when the flights from Cairo will restart, so please only use this post for planning future trips after travel restrictions ease.
With a lot of efforts and arrangements, I’m excited to be offering two small group trips to Socotra Island in March 2021 with Inertia Network.
The first departure will include visits to the highlights of Socotra plus a camel trekking trip through the Haggier Mountains. The second departure will take us to explore the outlying islands of the Socotra Archipelago of Abd al Kuri, Samha, and Darsa, as well as a trek across the Haggiers and Noged Plateau back on the main island of Socotra. The second departure offers an option 5 day Mainland Yemen Expedition add-on.
The Most Reliable Way To Visit Socotra Is By The Once Per Week Yemenia Flight From Cairo
On Wednesdays, a flight connects Cairo, Egypt with Socotra Island, Yemen. This is the most reliable and safest way to visit Socotra. There is also a cement ship that departs from Salalah, Oman that I will discuss later in this post. Traveling to Socotra by cement ship isn’t the best or a comfortable option.
Booking the Yemenia flight is a bit of a challenge but it is possible.
Price Of The Yemenia Flight
The Yemenia flight to Socotra from Cairo is not cheap. Yemenia currently has a monopoly on the route and that definitely reflects in the cost.
As of January 2020 the current price for an economy class roundtrip ticket from Cairo to Socotra is $1,300 USD.
How To Book The Yemenia Flight
Booking the flight is quite a process but can be done. Here is what you need to know:
- You cannot book the flight online
- You must book the ticket with the Yemenia office in Cairo. You can do this yourself or you can hire an agency that knows how to handle this transaction to do so on your behalf
- Tickets can only be purchased in cash
- You must hold a Yemeni visa in order to book the flight
- A copy of your Yemeni visa and invitation letter (provided by the tour operator), along with a copy of your passport must be provided to Yemenia at the time of booking. Once the ticket is booked Yemenia will issue the ticket in your name and you’ll be given an e-ticket number that you will use when checking in at Cairo International Airport
I know this list seems pretty straightforward, but there are a few things that make ticking all these boxes off a little tricky.
Why Booking The Yemenia Ticket Can Be Difficult
- The flight has a tendency to book out well in advance, as it’s the only international flight connecting Socotra directly to the outside world.
- You must present a copy of your Yemeni visa at booking. Yemen will not issue your visa more than 30 days before your planned arrival in Socotra.
If you want to make visiting Socotra as easy as possible I highly recommend arranging your trip with Inertia Network to facilitate the flight booking and visa process.
How To Get A Yemeni Visa
The only way of securing a Yemeni visa is by contacting and booking a tour with a local operator (I’ve always traveled with Socotra Eco Tours). You can also do so by arranging the trip with a specialized travel company like Inertia Network who will take care of this for you. Here’s a few bits of into you need to know:
- Most all nationalities need a visa to enter Yemen, including Socotra
- Visas will not be issued by an embassy or consulate
- You must arrange a visa with a Yemeni operator (as mentioned previously) who will secure your visa in Yemen and send you a paper copy of your visa that you will print (2 copies) and carry with you
- Visas cost $150 USD and are valid for 30 days from the date of entry
- Visas will not be issued more than 30 days prior to your anticipated arrival
- Visas are only valid for entry 30 days from the date of issue
- Those with evidence of travel to Israel (even if Israel didn’t stamp your passport, but you have an exit/entrance stamp from a neighboring country’s land border with Israel) will be denied entry to Yemen and put on the next flight out at their own expense
- Please do not email me demanding to know how to get a visa without booking with a Socotri operator because you do not want to be guided/pay for it/etc. I do not make the rules and unfortunately, Socotra is not a cheap destination at present. If you want to visit so badly I suggest you start saving toward it or visit elsewhere as there are hundreds, if not thousands more easily accessed, less remote, and cheaper to visit islands on Earth. I cannot make Yemenia lower the price of the flights and I cannot get operators to drop their prices.
Click here to read up on all the info you need to get a Yemeni visa
Cairo Airport Information
The Yemenia flight to Socotra departs from Cairo International Airport Terminal 1. There is a lot of security at this terminal in particular, and the check-in line is slow-moving as most of the passengers on this flight are Yemeni residents who are bringing a lot of luggage and goods with them. I recommend arriving to the airport at least 3 hours in advance (11:00 pm).
To check in for the Yemenia flight at Cairo Airport you must bring the following:
- Your e-ticket number issued by Yemenia at the time of booking
- Your valid passport
- 2 copies of you Yemeni visa paper
*Please note that drones are completely illegal in Egypt. Expect to have difficulties on arrival if bringing one for Socotra and for you to be expected to leave it at the airport for the duration of your stay in Cairo until your departure. Plan to arrive several hours early prior to departure to pick it up on your way out as well.
Getting To Socotra: Yemenia Flight IY 607/432 Cairo to Socotra
This flight departs Cairo (CAI) once per week on Wednesdays, makes a brief stop in Seiyun (GFX) in mainland Yemen, then continues on to Socotra (SCT).
Here is the current flight schedule:
2:00 am: Depart Cairo for Seiyun
6:30 am: Arrive Seiyun
7:30 am: Depart Seiyun for Socotra
8:45 am: Arrive Socotra
Please note that this flight has a tendency to leave 2-3 hours late from Cairo, and sometimes the stop in Seiyun can take longer than the scheduled 1 hour 15 minutes. We arrived in Socotra closer to 11:00 am when I visited Socotra in March, so plan for an arrival window time of 11 am-noon.
Info About The Stopover In Seiyun
You will make a brief stopover in Seiyun before the flight continues on to Socotra. Here is the process of what you will do in Seiyun based on my experience:
The flight from Cairo will land at around 7:00-9:00 am (though it is scheduled to land at 6:30 am). All passengers will need to collect carry on luggage and get off the plane. You will walk off the stairs of the plane, across the runway and into a waiting hall on the right-hand side of the Seiyun Airport. There are seats and toilets in the waiting hall. After a short period of time, while your passports are being checked, you will be invited to move to the departure gate.
In the departure hall, you will be asked to hand over your passport and be taken to another room to be inspected for any evidence of travel to Israel (anyone with this will be denied entry to Yemen and put on the next flight out of Yemen at their own expense).
Another short while later you will be given your passport back and will soon be called to board the flight to Socotra. It will be the same plane that you arrived from Cairo.
You will NOT clear immigration and customs in Seiyun, this will happen on arrival in Socotra. You will be confined to the waiting and departure halls in Seiyun Airport. There is a small cafe in the departure hall selling tea, drinks, and snacks.
In all, I spent about 2 hours at Seiyun Airport.
Regarding Safety In Seiyun
Because I know some of you will ask…
Seiyun is located in the Hadhramaut Valley in Central Yemen. For about the last decade the Hadhramaut has been a hotbed for militants, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and so on. The situation in the Hadhramaut has improved in the last year, though the area isn’t exactly considered safe. With all that said, the Seiyun Aiport is relatively secure (in terms of Yemen) as it is guarded by the Yemeni and UAE militaries.
Arrival In Socotra
Flying time from Seiyun to Socotra is about 1 hour. On arrival in Socotra, you will walk off the stairs of the plane, across the runway and enter into the Socotra arrival hall. Here you will clear immigration and customs. Simply walk up to the counter and hand over your visa slip and passport. You will be asked if you would like your passport stamped or not and you will be given back a receipt of your visa paper with your entrance stamp on it. You must keep this slip of paper with you as you will need to turn it over when you depart from Yemen.
Returning From Socotra: Yemenia Flight IY 606/433 Socotra To Cairo
This flight also departs once per week on Wednesdays. Same as the flight to Socotra, there will be a brief stop on Seiyun before continuing on to Cairo.
Here is the current flight schedule:
9:45 am: Depart Socotra for Seiyun
11:00 am: Arrive Seiyun
12:00 pm: Depart Seiyun for Cairo
14:45 pm: Arrive Cairo
Please note that much like the flight to Socotra is has a tendency to leave 2-3 hours late from Socotra. The stop in Seiyun tends to be quicker going back to Cairo. Sometimes they will ask that through passengers remain on the plane, other times they will ask you to go inside the airport, check passports and then have you re-board. Plan to arrive back in Cairo sometime around 5:00-6:00 pm.
Start planning for Socotra: The Socotra Travel Guide
Taking The Cement Ship From Salalah, Oman to Socotra
From the port in Salalah, there is a cement ship that
departs is supposed to depart for Socotra once per week. The boat isn’t exactly reliable as it could depart several days late, get canceled and moved to the following week, etc. I did meet one Japanese tourist in Socotra in March 2019 that had arrived by the cement ship. She said she waited two weeks in Salalah before it finally departed. The ship can take 2-4 days to make the crossing. There is no food or water on board so you will need to come prepared. Anyone I’ve spoken to that have done it said that there are rats and cockroaches on board as well. Reports come in that the cost of hopping on the ship is $100 USD per person. You will need to have arranged your Yemeni visa with a local operator in Socotra prior to getting on the ship. Note that this route does come with serious risks as piracy has kicked back up in the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden in the last few years.
If you are not put off with dangers, risks, annoyances, and inconveniences of taking the cement ship and are still determined to travel this route please email me and I will put you in contact with my friend Faisal who can help facilitate this process.
Traveling Overland From Oman To Seiyun & Flying To Socotra
Yes. it’s possible, but know that this still comes with risks. Same as all other methods you will need to have a Yemeni visa pre-arranged prior to your arrival at the border. As for getting the flight from Seiyun to Socotra, it is possible to book with the help of an agent. This method comes with serious risks as the mainland of Yemen is technically a war zone. Some areas, of course, are in a better situation than others at the moment (I did see one idiotic man on Instagram who posted photos of him as a tourist in Yemen proclaiming “see Yemen is safe, everyone should visit, who wants to join me?!”, which is a pretty misguided, idiotic and factually incorrect statement). This journey is best done with a highly skilled and knowledgeable fixer at this point who knows the security situations of the Hadhramaut and Al Mahrah regions. If you’d like to travel in mainland Yemen, I do arrange expeditions, so please contact me at adventuresoflilnicki @ gmail.com or travel @ inertianetwork.com for more details as we do not post this information online publicly.
Issues Caused By The Yemeni Visa
Some issues may arise with having a Yemeni visa in your passport. I won’t lie, the first time I visited Yemen (2014) I was detained on arrival back to the USA because of it. A friend of mine who has been living and working in the US for many years on a green card got her green card flagged for her 2019 visit to Yemen, meaning she’s still permitted to enter the USA, but now on will go through extensive questioning. Since the US travel ban began, it’s worth noting that travel to Yemen after March 1, 2011, will make you no longer for the ESTA visa waiver program in the USA (if you’re from an eligible country). That also means travel in Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, and Syria will void it as well.
So That Is The Step By Step Process Of How To Get To Socotra In 2020
Without a doubt, Socotra is one of my most favorite places in the world and I hope the best for it and its people’s future. If you have any questions on how to get to Socotra please ask in the comments below!
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