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Socotra Packing List & Prep Guide
Updated April 2020, The Socotra Paking List & Prep Guide was originally written in July 2019
So you’re thinking about visiting Socotra? Socotra will undoubtedly be one of your most memorable travels with ecological diversity and unusual plant life, friendly Socotris inviting you into their homes, epic trekking, some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, and remoteness that rivals few other places in the world. For these reasons you’ll need to plan ahead as to what you will pack for Socotra and how you should go about prepping for your upcoming expedition. Very little infrastructure exists in Socotra.
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.
Getting To Socotra
Getting to Socotra is not the most straightforward experience, in fact, it may be one of the more challenging places to visit in all your travels. You will need to book a tour with a local operator or with a company that partners with a local operator (I recommend Socotra Eco Tours & Inertia Network for this respectively).
In order to get to Socotra, you will almost certainly need to go to Cairo, Egypt from where you will take a Yemenia Airways flight from Cairo to Socotra with a brief stop in Seiyun in mainland Yemen’s Hadramaut Region. Booking this flight is not the easiest task and requires it to be paid for and booked in Cairo in cash.
I have an entire article dedicated to getting to Socotra. Learn more about planning your transportation to Socotra in my post ‘How To Get To Socotra In 2020‘.
Start planning here: The Socotra Travel Guide
Getting Around Socotra
Getting around Socotra will most likely be done in 4×4 Landcruisers or similar vehicles. Only a couple paved roads exist on the island. Some roads are dirt and others are totally non-existent. This is a beauty and a curse to Socotra– very little infrastructure exists from transportation.
Some trips can be arranged using camels to trek deep into the Haggier Mountains and some beaches will be visited by use of dhow boats.
So just to clarify because I get at least an email per week asking: independent travel in Socotra isn’t really a thing. No, you can’t turn up and rent a car/motorbike/whatever other method of transport you can possibly think of and traipse around on your own because you don’t want to pay for a tour or think you’re too superior of a traveler to need the assistance of a local guide who has a lifetime of experience in Socotra.
You will need to arrive to Socotra with all your money in cash (preferably in USD) to pay for your trip, tips, souvenirs and anything else you could possibly need to pay for in Socotra. As of April 2020, exchange rates were around 600 Yemeni Rial to $1 USD (the currency is very unstable thanks to the ongoing war in mainland Yemen). You can plan to pay for your tour and any larger purchases in USD, and it is possible to exchange for Rial in Hadiboh for small purchases.
There are no ATMs in Socotra and credit cards are not accepted anywhere. There is a Western Union & Moneygram in Hadiboh if worst comes to worst (note a $2000 monthly withdraw limit).
Camping, Hotels & Hygiene
Most trips to Socotra will involve camping in tents for the duration of your trip. These camps can vary from all out wild camping with zero facilities to camping at locally run family camps. Almost none of the family run camps have showers anymore after the 2015 cyclones wreaked havoc on Socotra. I suggest bringing biodegradable wipes.
Some camps will have squat toilets to use, but many nights you’ll be going in the great outdoors. Always dig a 10cm deep hole at least 50m from water and camp for human excrement and don’t forget to bury it. I recommend bringing tissue packets as toilet paper is not commonly used in Socotra. Many times you’ll not have any access to a sink either, so bring plenty of hand sanitizing gel.
There are two hotels in Hadiboh where you can rent rooms, though do not expect anything remotely fancy. My only reason for not recommending staying in them is that traveling between destinations on the island is long and you’ll miss out on most the highlights if you need to travel to and from Hadiboh each day.
Food & Water
Typical foods eaten in Socotra are flatbread, shai (sweet tea), rice, beans, fish, chicken, goat, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, pasta and honey. If you have allergies and eating restrictions make sure to discuss this with your guide long before your arrival.
Most meals are eaten in a communal fashion with everyone sharing plates (handwashing is important here). Socotris don’t traditionally use utensils and eat with their right hand, but you will more than likely be supplied with forks and spoons because they are aware western tourists aren’t accustomed to this.
Make sure you stay hydrated as Socotra is hot. Hadiboh, as well as other villages on the island, have a severe plastic and garbage problem, so if you want to avoid contributing to the mass amounts of garbage I’d recommend bringing your own reusable water bottle and a purification kit.
Traveler’s diarrhea and foodborne illnesses are not uncommon ailments of travelers in Socotra. Make sure and pack Imodium and a broad spectrum antibiotic.
Socotris are used to seeing tourists (though not so much in the last few years), so you won’t need to worry about dressing as conservatively as you would in the mainland of Yemen. That said, respectful dress is appreciated, so make sure to pack for Socotra accordingly.
Light, breathable fabrics will be your best friend here. Temperatures in Socotra will range from 24°C-32°C during the day and at night you can expect temperatures down around 22°C in most lower lying areas but in the mountains can get cold enough to warrant a light jacket at down to 16°C.
Light pants and t-shirts are fine for trekking around, but when visiting Hadiboh, Qalansiya and some villages I’d recommend for women to make sure legs are fully covered (skirt or pants are fine), upper arms covered and nothing too low cut or crop tops. Headscarves aren’t a must. Men in this situation are fine in pants that at least cover the knees and a t-shirt.
If you want to blend in you men easily buy a fouta at the main bazaar in Hadiboh for $10-20 and where it wrapped like a skirt (similar to the Longyi in Myanmar) and paired with a t-shirt. Abayas are for sale for any women that may want one for about $15. Foutas can also make a good sarong for the ladies.
You can plan to not have access to electricity the vast majority of the time you are in Socotra. Some family run camps might (and that’s a big might) have a generator and power sockets. It would be smart to bring a 2-pin Euro and 3-pin British adapter.
I recommend coming prepared with a solar charger, external battery banks and every cord or adapter you may need for all your devices. Also, bring a USB cigarette adapter to charge electronics while you’re traveling in the car.
Bring extra camera batteries as finding electricity and time to charge them can be difficult.
Bring more SD or CF cards (or film) than you think you could ever possibly go through for the duration of your trip.
Travel in Socotra will see your electronics encounter a lot of dust and water. A dust protector for cameras is a smart purchase to make prior to leaving home, as well as a good dry bag to protect gear on days you’re traveling by boat.
If you shoot photos or videos underwater, do bring an underwater housing that fits your camera.
Aerial camera drones can help you capture the island in a wonderful way, but it’s worth mentioning that they are illegal to bring into Egypt (which you’ll undoubtedly be stopping over in to get to Socotra). You could potentially get it confiscated by Egyptian authorities (or be held for hours of questioning, including accusations of being a terrorist and many calls to embassies in the case of one of our travelers in March), or you may make it through Cairo without a problem.
Internet & Mobile
If you were planning on being connected during your time in Socotra you may want to consider a different destination (honestly why would you even care about the internet when you’re in a place like this?). Mobile coverage and data is mainly only available in Hadiboh and Qalansiya.
I don’t know of anyone who has bought a SIM card in Socotra, but you may be able to have your guide help you with that (but again, why?!).
I took my Garmin Inreach out to Socotra on my March 2019 trip mostly in case of emergency and so that any of the travelers with us could contact family and let them know we arrived safely.
Socotra Packing List
- 2-3 T-shirts (quick dry recommended)
- Long sleeve shirt (quick dry recommended)
- Light jacket or fleece
- Trekking or activewear pants
- Sarong (for beach coverage)
- 3+ Pairs thin hiking socks (depending on your itinerary you may want more or less)
- 1 Pair underwear per day of your trip duration
- 2+ Sports bras
- Walking shoes or trekking sandals (Keen, Merrell, Teva, Chacos are good options)
- Flip-flops or water sandals (Don’t laugh, I wear Crocs flats)
- Wide-brimmed hat
- Light scarf
- Eyeglasses (if you wear them)
- Reef friendly sunscreen of at least 30 SPF
- Moisturizing lotion
- Environmentally friendly soap and shampoo
- Toothbrush, toothpaste & dental floss
- Biodegradable cleansing wipes
- Bug repellant
- Hand sanitizer
- Feminine hygiene products (I recommend the Diva Cup)
- Lip balm
- Hair ties/hairpins
- Cotton swabs
- Packets of tissues
- Toilet paper
- Contact lenses and cleaning solutions (if needed)
- Any prescription or over the counter medications you take or may need
- Broad-spectrum antibiotic
- Neosporin/Bacitracin & bandages
- Personal first aid kit
- Rehydrating tablets
- Camera(s) and lens(es)
- Extra camera battery packs
- Solar charger
- External battery bank
- Charging cables for all electronics
- Tripod (you’ll need this for shooting stars, bioluminescence, and inside caves)
- Cleaning wipes
- Dust protectors
- Dry bag
- Bradt’s Socotra Guidebook (I actually contributed to this book, packed full of useful info and colorful photos!)
- Hydration pack
- Water filter/purification system
- Microfiber towel
- Lightweight sleeping bag (most companies will supply blankets, but do check first)
- Sleeping pad (same as above)
- Travel pillow (same as above)
Have Any Questions About This Socotra Packing List?
Ask your Socotra packing and prepping questions in the comments below!
Need Travel Insurance for Socotra?
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