Yemen

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Wednesday, 11 February 2015.   The security and political situation in Yemen continues to deteriorate. Both the US and UK governments have withdrawn all diplomatic staff and temporarily suspended the operations of their Embassies in Yemen. Australians in Yemen should depart immediately. The Australian Government is not able to assist you to depart, or evacuate you if you remain in Yemen (see Safety and security). The level of this advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians not to travel to Yemen.

Yemen overall

Summary

  • We strongly advise you not to travel to Yemen because of the very high threat of kidnapping, terrorist attack, and ongoing political instability. The political and security situation in Yemen continues to deteriorate.
  • Australians in Yemen should depart immediately. The Australian Government is not able to assist you to depart, or evacuate you if you remain in Yemen.
  • Be aware that consular assistance is severely limited. Australia does not have an embassy in Yemen, and due to security concerns Australian officials have been instructed not to travel to Yemen until further notice.
  • Both the US and UK governments have withdrawn all diplomatic staff and temporarily suspended the operations of their embassies in Yemen.
  • The international airports in Sana’a and Aden may close, or flights could be cancelled at short notice. Road access to airports could be blocked at any time.
  • If, despite our strong advice, you choose to travel to or stay in Yemen, you should exercise extreme caution. You should ensure that you have appropriate personal security measures in place and maintain an up-to-date contingency plan, including access to money and supplies of food, water, medicine, fuel and other essentials.
  • In mid-January, violence escalated in Sana’a. The security and political situation in the capital and throughout the country is highly unstable. Further violence is likely in Sana’a and other cities.
  • There is a very high threat of kidnapping of foreigners, including Australians, throughout Yemen. In recent years, foreigners have been kidnapped and subsequently killed in Sana’a and Ta’iz. There has been an increase in such attacks since April 2014.
  • Yemeni Government interests are routinely targeted for attack by terrorists. Australians in Yemen should exercise extreme caution near facilities and installations belonging to the Yemeni authorities, including deployments of security forces and ministries.
  • There is a very high threat of terrorist attack against foreigners and any identifiable Western interest. Targets could include hotels, businesses, embassies or vehicles. Further terrorist attacks are very likely and could occur at any time throughout Yemen.
  • Demonstrations can break out at any time. You should avoid protests and demonstrations throughout Yemen as they can become violent.
  • Piracy occurs against all forms of shipping in and around Yemen's waters and the Gulf of Aden. We strongly advise Australians to exercise extreme caution when anywhere near these waters. See our Piracy bulletin.
  • If you decide to travel to Yemen, we strongly recommend that you:
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Entry and exit

We advise against all travel to Yemen.

Emirates and Saudi Airlines have cancelled all flights into and out of Yemen until further notice due to the security situation. Airlines that continue flights into Yemen assess security risk on a daily basis, and determine flight schedules accordingly. Recent violent events have led to flight cancellations and the closure of Sana’s International Airport at very short notice. Aden International Airport has also been subject to closures at short notice. Access to airports could be blocked at any time and road blocks have been reported.

There are reports of increased inspections at airports to enforce Yemen’s strict regulations on the import, export and possession of items such as alcohol, pornography and antiquities.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia.

Women in Yemen can be subjected to strict family controls and may be prevented from leaving the country. A Yemeni husband may legally prevent his wife from leaving the country, regardless of her nationality.

Children under 18 years must have their father's permission to leave the country, regardless of the status of their parents' marriage and who has been granted custody.

If you are arriving from a country infected with yellow fever, you will be required to present a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate to be granted entry into Yemen.

If a traveller's passport contains evidence of entry to Israel, or another country's border crossing points with Israel, entry to Yemen will be denied.

Safety and security

We strongly advise you not to travel to Yemen because of the very high threat of kidnapping, terrorist attack, and ongoing political instability. The political and security situation in Yemen continues to deteriorate. Attacks are highly likely against Yemeni Government interests as well as Western interests.

Due to security concerns Australian officials have been instructed not to travel to Yemen until further notice. Australian consular assistance is severely limited, if not impossible, in Yemen.

Australians in Yemen should depart immediately. The Australian Government is not able to assist you to depart, or evacuate you if you remain in Yemen. Both the US and UK governments have withdrawn all diplomatic staff and temporarily suspended the operations of their Embassies in Yemen.

The international airports in Sana’a and Aden may close, or flights could be cancelled at short notice. Road access to airports could be blocked at any time.

If, despite our strong advice, you choose to travel to or stay in Yemen, you should exercise extreme caution. You should ensure you have appropriate personal security measures in place and maintain an up-to-date contingency plan, including access to money and supplies of food, water, medicines, fuel and other essentials. In addition, you should have enough money to fund your departure from Yemen.

Terrorism

High threat of kidnapping: There is a very high threat of kidnapping throughout Yemen, including in Sana’a. In recent years, a number of foreigners have been kidnapped, including within Sana’a and areas surrounding the city, and in other cities including Ta’iz. In December 2014, a US citizen and a South African citizen were killed during a rescue attempt.

In addition to the kidnapping threat from the Yemen-based ‘Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula’ (AQAP), tribal and criminal groups also kidnap foreigners in Yemen and can sell them to AQAP.

Foreigners, including Australians, have been kidnapped by terrorists and by tribesmen with grievances against the Yemeni Government. Kidnappers have reportedly demanded large ransom payments to release their captives.

Examples of kidnapping of foreigners include:

  • In April 2014, two US nationals were subject to an attempted kidnapping in Sana’a.
  • In January and February 2014, several foreigners were kidnapped in separate incidents in Sana’a.
  • In September and October 2013, a foreigner working with the UN and a foreign journalist were kidnapped in Sana’a.

The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers that paying a ransom increases the risk of further kidnappings, including of other Australians. If you do decide to travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping, you should ensure you have personal security measures in place and seek professional security advice. See our Kidnapping threat travel bulletin.

High threat of terrorism: There is a very high threat of terrorism throughout Yemen. This includes attacks which seek to inflict mass civilian casualties and the targeting of Westerners. Terrorists can launch attacks in all parts of Yemen. AQAP has also claimed responsibility for a number of terrorist plots outside of Yemen.

Further terrorist attacks are highly likely and could occur at any time anywhere in Yemen with little or no warning. Any identifiable Western interest could be targeted for attack. Attacks against foreigners occur in both urban and provincial areas..

If despite our strong advice, you choose to travel or stay in Yemen you should seek professional security advice. Australians should adopt strict security procedures and carefully consider the necessity of all travel. Australians of all backgrounds should consider themselves to be a potential target for attack, regardless of location or length of stay in Yemen, occupation or ethnic or religious background. You should remain vigilant at all times. Ensure that you maintain a low profile and vary your routines to ensure patterns in behaviour and movement do not become apparent to observers.

Previous examples of attacks on foreigners, including Westerners, and Western interests include:

  • On 3 December 2014, the Iranian Ambassador’s residence in Sana’a was the target of a bomb attack.
  • On 27 September 2014, there was a rocket attack on the US embassy where several Yemeni guards were injured.
  • In May 2014, two French nationals were shot in Sana’a, one killed and one injured.
  • In April 2014, a German national was shot and injured in Sana’a.

Possible terrorist targets: Yemeni Government interests are routinely targeted for attack by terrorists. Australians in Yemen should exercise extreme caution near facilities and installations belonging to the Yemeni authorities, including deployments of security forces and ministries. Houthi interests could also be targeted.

On 7 January 2015, an attack against the Police Academy of Sana’a killed at least 37 people, wounding a further 66 people.
On 16 December 2014, two car bombs killed at least 31 people, including 20 children, in the central Yemen city of Radaa.
On 5 December 2013, AQAP carried out a series of bomb and gun attacks, killing at least 56 people and wounding a further 162 at the Yemeni Defense Ministry in Sana’a.
On 17 July 2013, a police academy in Sana’ a was bombed, killing at least 26 people.

The types of foreign interests targeted for attack include foreign officials, business travellers, tourists, and foreign residents. It also includes embassies, diplomatic vehicles, international businesses and hotels. Terrorists may also be planning attacks on oil infrastructure in Yemen. Several attacks against oil interests and kidnappings of foreign oil workers have occurred in recent years. Further such incidents could occur in any part of Yemen.

In planning your activities, no location in Yemen should be considered immune from violence.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin for more information.

Civil unrest/political tension

The political and security situation in Yemen is extremely volatile. In mid-January, violence escalated in Sana’a as Houthi militias expanded their influence. Attacks occurred against the Presidential palace. The President and Prime Minister resigned on 22 January and have not been replaced. On 6 February, the Houthis announced the immediate dissolution of Parliament. Further violence is likely in Sana’a and other cities.

Protestors continue to launch large scale demonstrations in Sana’a. These have turned lethal given both protestors and rebel groups are armed. On 9 October 2014, 47 Houthi protestors demonstrating in Sana’a were killed and a further 75 were wounded from a suicide bomber attack.

In the past, dozens of people have been killed and hundreds injured in stampedes at political rallies in Yemen. Lives have also been lost in election-related shootings.

Significant dates and political anniversaries can act as a catalyst for violence and civil unrest. Events associated with the reunification of North and South Yemen (such as the period surrounding Unity Day on 22 May) have in the past seen significant civil unrest and clashes should be avoided as further violence could occur.

International events may trigger demonstrations. Demonstrations took place in front of the US Embassy in Sana’a on 13 September 2012 following the release of the film ‘Innocence of Muslims’. Further demonstrations may occur.

Avoid all demonstrations and protests: If you are in Yemen despite our strong advice, you should avoid all political rallies, large crowds, protests and demonstrations as they often turn violent. Take particular care in the period surrounding Friday prayers. Try to remain indoors in such circumstances. Monitor the media for any new safety and security risks, including significant political events that may inflame existing tensions.

Protests and demonstrations may also affect your ability to travel by road.

Crime

Despite government efforts to disarm the population, weapons are still readily available within Yemen and the tribes are often heavily armed.

Armed carjacking has occurred in many parts of the country. Drive with your vehicle's doors locked and windows up at all times.

Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and bag snatching, is rare but does occur. Credit card fraud, such as skimming, also occurs.

Unaccompanied women can be vulnerable to harassment. Women should take care when travelling alone, particularly at night.

Money and valuables

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Review the general advice to Australian travellers for further information on being safe and prepared abroad.

Local Travel

Routes in and out of Sana’a and the other major cities may be blocked and airports closed or inaccessible with little notice. The international airport in Sana’a and Aden may close without notice.

Unexploded munitions, including anti-personnel landmines, are a danger in the central highlands and in the southern and eastern regions, particularly around Aden, and in Sa’ada province.

You should seek the advice of the Yemeni authorities before entering Yemeni waters or ports. Many areas are sensitive from a security or territorial point of view.

Piracy: There is a high threat of piracy in the coastal areas of Yemen. There have been attacks by pirates against all forms of shipping in and around Yemen’s waters and the Gulf of Aden. Pirates have been using motherships to attack shipping further than 1,000 nautical miles (1,850km) from the coast of Somalia.

All forms of shipping are attractive targets for Somali pirates, including commercial vessels, pleasure craft (yachts etc) and luxury cruise liners. We strongly advise Australians to exercise extreme caution when anywhere near these waters.

For more information about piracy, see our Piracy bulletin. The International Maritime Bureau issues piracy reports on its website.

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Yemen.

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

You are subject to the local laws of Yemen, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you’re arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

Australians who might engage in activities that involve local legal matters, particularly with regard to family law (divorce, child custody and child support), are strongly advised to seek professional advice and ensure they are aware of their rights and responsibilities. See also Information for Dual Nationals below.

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are range from imprisonment and/or fine to death.

Homosexuality is illegal. Penalties for acts of sodomy range from imprisonment to death. See our LGBTI travellers page.

The death penalty can also be imposed for murder and some terrorism-related offences.

Some offences, including consuming alcohol in public, slander and adultery, are punishable with corporal punishment (lashing).

It is illegal to photograph government buildings, military personnel and installations, including airports and equipment, and other sensitive infrastructure. Military sites are not always clearly marked or defined.

Preaching religion other than Islam in public (except in churches) and attempting to convert Muslims is illegal.

There are restrictions on the sale of alcohol and pork. Customs authorities at border entry points will confiscate these products and in some cases travellers have been detained at borders because of the smell of alcohol on their breath.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Local customs

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to begin in mid-June 2015. During Ramadan, Australians travelling to countries with significant Muslim communities should take care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. In particular, people who are not fasting are advised to avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public and in the presence of people who are fasting. For more information see our Ramadan travel bulletin.

There are strict Islamic codes of dress and behaviour in Yemen. Any disrespect for Islam will cause great offence. You should be modest in both your dress and behaviour. You should take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.

Women are advised to wear a headscarf and cover their arms and legs, while men should avoid wearing shorts or unbuttoned shirts.

Non-Muslims may not enter mosques in Yemen.

Public displays of affection may cause offence.

It is generally unacceptable for unmarried couples to live together. Hotels may refuse accommodation to couples unable to provide proof of marriage.

Dual nationality

Yemen does not recognise dual nationality. This may limit our ability to provide consular assistance to Australian/Yemeni dual nationals who are arrested or detained.

Australian/Yemeni dual nationals may be required to complete national service obligations if they visit Yemen. For further information, contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Yemen before you travel.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

Reports indicate it can take up to five days to arrange for air ambulances to land in Sana’a for those requiring a medical evacuation. Due to the deteriorating security situation this timeline may now be considerably longer. Medical evacuation providers may not continue to operate in Yemen in the future.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The standard of medical facilities in Yemen is limited and very basic, particularly outside the major cities of Sana'a and Aden. Private health care facilities generally require payment at the time of treatment. In the event of a serious illness or accident or for complex procedures, medical evacuation to a destination with appropriate facilities could be necessary. Medical evacuation costs are considerable.

Cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) have been reported in a number of countries in the Middle East, including Yemen. Other countries outside the Middle East have also reported imported cases from returned travellers. See our MERS-CoV travel bulletin.

Malaria occurs throughout Yemen, except in areas above 2,000 metres. Chloroquine-resistant strains of malaria have been reported. Other insect-borne diseases (including dengue, filariasis and leishmaniasis) are common. We encourage you to consider taking prophylaxis against malaria where necessary and to take measures to avoid insect bites, including using an insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including typhoid, hepatitis, tuberculosis, measles, schistosomiasis, polio and rabies) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

The altitude in the Sana’a region can cause problems for travellers, particularly those who suffer from lung, heart or chest problems.

Where to get help

Be aware that consular assistance is severely limited. Australia does not have an embassy or consulate in Yemen, and due to security concerns Australian officials have been instructed not to travel to Yemen until further notice.

Both the US and UK governments have withdrawn all diplomatic staff and temporarily suspended operations of their embassies in Yemen.

You can contact the Australian Embassy in Saudi Arabia at:

Australian Embassy, Riyadh

Abdullah Bin Hozafa Al-Shami Avenue
Diplomatic Quarter
Riyadh
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Telephone: (966 11) 2500 900
Facsimile: (966 11) 2500 902
Website: www.saudiarabia.embassy.gov.au

The working week is Sunday to Thursday, in accordance with local practice.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

If you are travelling to Yemen, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we strongly recommend you register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

The monsoon season is from June to September, sometimes resulting in flooding. Sandstorms and dust storms also occur. Yemen is subject to earthquakes and volcanic activity.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.