Yemen

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Thursday, 11 September 2014.   This advice contains new information in the Summary, under Entry and Exit (Saudi Airlines has cancelled all flights into and out of Yemen until further notice due to the security situation) and under Safety and security: Civil unrest/Political tension (ongoing political unrest, including large scale protests in Sana'a). We continue to advise Australians against all travel to Yemen due to the very high threat of kidnapping and terrorist attack, and urge Australians in Yemen to depart without delay, by commercial means.

Yemen overall

Summary

  • We advise against all travel to Yemen due to the very high threat of kidnapping, terrorist attack, and ongoing political unrest, including large scale protests in Sana'a. The security situation in Yemen is currently highly volatile.
  • We continue to strongly urge all Australians in Yemen to depart without delay, by commercial means. Saudi Airlines has cancelled all flights into and out of Yemen until further notice due to the security situation. Other airlines may also decide to cancel flights at short notice.
  • If you choose to remain in Yemen you must understand that our ability to provide consular assistance in Yemen is severely limited. Ensure that you have appropriate personal security measures in place, seek professional security advice, have contingency plans and take out kidnapping insurance.
  • There is a very high threat of kidnapping of foreigners, including Australians, throughout Yemen, including in the capital Sana’a. Foreigners have been kidnapped in Sana’a and Ta’iz in recent years. In the past, hostages have been killed. There has been an increase in attacks and kidnapping attempts on foreign nationals in Sana’a since April 2014. This has resulted in the death of a foreigner.
  • 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.
  • Australians choosing to remain in Yemen should be aware that foreigners, and any identifiable Western interest, could be targeted for attack. Targets could include hotels, embassies or vehicles. Further terrorist attacks are very likely and could occur at any time throughout Yemen.
  • Political and economic developments in Yemen and the region may prompt large demonstrations. Demonstrations in Sana'a are currently widespread and could turn increasingly violent without warning . You should avoid protests and demonstrations throughout Yemen as they may become violent.
  • 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 may close without notice or access could be blocked at any time by protestors or rebel forces.
  • Piracy occurs against all forms of shipping in and around Yemen's waters and the Gulf of Aden. We strongly advise Australians to maintain a high level of vigilance and to exercise extreme caution when anywhere near these waters. For more information about piracy, see our Piracy bulletin.
  • Australia does not have an embassy in Yemen. Due to security concerns Australian officials have been instructed not to travel to Yemen until further notice.
  • The scaling back of services in some embassies in Sana’a due to security concerns further diminishes our capacity to provide even limited indirect consular assistance to Australians remaining in Yemen.
  • If you decide to travel to Yemen, we strongly recommend that you:
    • organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy
    • subscribe to this travel advice to receive free email updates each time it's reissued.
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Entry and exit

We advise against all travel to Yemen. Visas are no longer granted on arrival in Yemen, and visa conditions can change without notice. Contact the nearest Embassy of Yemen for the most up-to-date information.

Saudi Airlines has cancelled all flights into and out of Yemen until further notice due to the security situation. Other airlines may also decide to cancel flights at short notice. Protestors or rebel forces could block access to airports at any time.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

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.

Local customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning the import or export of items such as alcohol, firearms, pornography and antiquities.

Safety and security

Terrorism

We advise you not to travel to Yemen because of the very high threat of kidnapping and terrorist attack. The security situation in Yemen is currently highly volatile, particularly around Yemeni Government interests. Western interests, including in Sana’a, have also been targeted.

We continue to strongly urge all Australians in Yemen to depart without delay, by commercial means. If you choose to remain in Yemen you must understand that our ability to provide consular assistance is severely limited.

Australia does not have an embassy in Yemen. The temporary closure of embassies on short notice further diminishes our capacity to provide even limited indirect consular assistance to Australians remaining in Yemen. Due to security concerns Australian officials have been instructed not to travel to Yemen until further notice.

If you do decide to travel to Yemen, you should exercise extreme caution, avoid, where possible, all locations known to be frequented by foreigners and maintain a low profile at all times. You should seek advice from professional security consultants on your safety and security arrangements.

High threat of kidnapping in Yemen: There is a very high threat of kidnapping throughout Yemen, including in the capital Sana’a.

In addition to the kidnapping threat from Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), tribal and criminal groups also kidnap foreigners in Yemen and any kidnapped foreigner is in danger of being sold 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.

In recent years, a number of foreigners have been kidnapped in Yemen, including within Sana’a and areas surrounding the city, and in other cities including Ta’iz. Recent examples include:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In July 2013, an Iranian diplomat was kidnapped in Sana’a.
  • In June 2013, two Dutch nationals were reported missing and presumed kidnapped in Sana'a.
  • In May 2013, two South African citizens were kidnapped in Ta’iz.
  • In May 2013, in two separate incidents a total of five members of the International Committee of the Red Cross, including three foreign nationals, were kidnapped in Abyan Governorate. Two foreigners were released and one Yemeni escaped.
  • In December 2012, one Austrian national and two Finnish nationals were kidnapped in Sana'a.
  • In July 2012, an Italian citizen was kidnapped in Sana’a and released after 6 days.
  • In May 2012, gunmen attempted to kidnap a Bulgarian embassy worker in Sana’a.
  • In March 2012, a Saudi Arabian diplomat was kidnapped in Aden.
  • In March 2012, a Swiss citizen was kidnapped in Hodeida, and was released in February 2013.

Other kidnap incidents have ended tragically. For example, nine foreigners were kidnapped in Sa’ada in June 2009. The bodies of three foreigners were found several days later. Two children kidnapped at this time were released only in May 2010. The identity of those responsible is not known.

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, seek professional security advice and take out kidnapping insurance.

For more information about kidnapping, see our Kidnapping threat travel bulletin.

Australians intending to travel to Yemen should be aware that violent anti-Western terrorists are based in many parts of the country and have demonstrated a capacity to launch attacks in all parts of Yemen. These groups have also demonstrated their continuing intent to cause mass civilian casualties, particularly among Westerners. Yemen-based terrorist group AQAP has claimed responsibility for a number of terrorist plots outside of Yemen in which their sole objective was to inflict civilian casualties. The presence of these groups in Yemen poses a very high threat to the safety and security of Australians.

Australians in Yemen should be aware that any identifiable Western interest could be targeted for attack. Further terrorist attacks are highly likely and could occur at any time anywhere in Yemen with little or no warning. In this highly dangerous and unpredictable environment, Australians should adopt strict security procedures and carefully consider the necessity of all travel against the very high threat of terrorist attack. 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 and ensure that you vary your routines to ensure patterns in behaviour and movement do not become apparent to observers.

Recent terrorist attacks involving Western interests: A number of attacks against Westerners and Western interests have occurred in Yemen in recent years. Foreigners are particularly vulnerable to terrorism in Yemen. Attacks against foreigners occur in both urban and provincial areas against tourists, diplomats, business interests and foreign residents.

Previous examples of attacks on Westerners and Western interests include:

  • On 6 October 2013, a German national working as a security officer at the German Embassy in the Hadda district of Sana’a was shot dead.
  • In August 2013, several embassies in Sana’a closed temporarily due to the threat of terrorist attacks.
  • Local media reported the murder of two US citizens in Ta’iz and Aden in 2013.
  • On 11 October 2012, a Yemeni employee of the US Embassy in Sana’a was shot dead while off duty.
  • On 20 June 2012, Yemeni authorities announced the disruption of a plot to attack foreign embassies in Sana’a.
  • On 20 May 2012, a US citizen was shot and injured while travelling through Hodeida.
  • On 1 May 2012, militants attacked a vehicle carrying a foreign oil worker in Hadramaut province.
  • On 18 March 2012, a US citizen was attacked and killed in Ta’iz.

Possible terrorist targets: Terrorists may be planning attacks against Yemeni and foreign interests, including foreign officials, embassies, diplomatic premises and vehicles, 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, consider the kind of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided. Targets include areas known to be frequented by foreigners such as hotels, clubs, bars, restaurants, cafes, fast food and retail franchises, schools, places of worship, embassies and diplomatic interests, foreign residential compounds, international organisations, outdoor recreation events, public and private transport, including convoys; and Yemeni Government interests, security, police and military infrastructure and personnel, oil industry facilities, tourist areas and attractions, markets and shopping centres. No location in Yemen should be considered immune from violence.

Yemeni Government interests: 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. On 17 July 2013, a police academy in Sana’a was bombed, killing at least 26 people. On 21 May 2012, a suicide attack against Yemeni government security forces in Sana’a reportedly killed around 100 people.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

Civil unrest/political tension

The situation in Yemen remains volatile. Protestors have launched large scale demonstrations in Sana’a, and are camping outside a number of government buildings and facilities. Clashes are being reported as government forces attempt to disperse crowds. On 8 July 2014, Houthi rebels reportedly seized control of the northern city of Amran, located around 50 kilometres from Sana’a.

There remains a very strong possibility of further violence in Sana'a and other major cities. Protestors and rebel groups have access to arms.

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, despite our strong advice that you depart, you decide to remain in Yemen, you should avoid all political rallies, large crowds, protests and demonstrations as they may turn violent. Remain indoors wherever possible. Monitor the media for information about possible new safety and security risks, including significant political events that may inflame existing tensions.

You should take particular care in the period surrounding Friday prayers, due to the risk of further violence and unrest in all parts of Yemen.

Stay in touch with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra or the Australian Embassy in Riyadh (see Where to Get Help for details). You should continue to avoid locations known to be frequented by foreigners.

Australians who remain in Yemen should ensure they have appropriate personal security measures in place. Australians in Yemen should prepare a contingency plan to enable self-funded departure from Yemen in the event of a sudden further deterioration in the security environment. Protests and demonstrations may also affect your ability to travel by road. As a precautionary measure, you should ensure you have adequate supplies of water, food, fuel, cash and medications and that your documentation remains up to date. You are responsible for ensuring that your contingency plan is regularly reviewed and is appropriate for your personal circumstances.

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

If you decide to travel to Yemen, organise a variety of ways to access your money, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work in Yemen. Yemen does not have an extensive ATM network. Credit cards and travellers' cheques are not widely accepted.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

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.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local Travel

Unclear and unheeded traffic laws, excessive speed, roaming animals and pedestrians are the cause of many road accidents in Yemen. For further advice, see our road travel page.

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.

Foreigners wanting to undertake independent travel outside Sana’a are required to apply for permission from the Ministry of Tourism.

Avoid travelling after dark. Do not leave your vehicle unattended due to the risk of explosive devices being left in, on or near it.

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 may close without notice.

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 maintain a high level of vigilance and 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

Please refer to our air travel page for information about aviation safety and security.

Laws

If you choose to remain in Yemen, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

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.

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

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Yemen. Our ability to provide consular assistance is severely limited. The temporary closure of Embassies further diminishes our capacity to provide consular assistance in Yemen. You can obtain consular assistance from the Australian Embassy in Saudi Arabia:

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.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

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.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with children page.



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.