How to get to Socotra
Updated September 2022, 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?“. Since 2019, I have been taking groups to explore Socotra alongside a local operator. 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 to get to. In late 2018 it was announced that Yemenia Airlines flights would resume to Socotra from Cairo.
In early 2021 it was announced that Felix Airways would again start operating their direct Dubai-Socotra route, only to be shut down in mid-February. Weeks later in March 2021 it was announced that Air Arabia would start flying a route between Abu Dhabi and Socotra. In this post, you will find info on both flight routes.
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.
The Once Per Week Yemenia Flight From Cairo
On Sunday night, a flight connects Cairo, Egypt to Aden, Yemen, and continues on to Socotra Island on Monday morning. One thing to note is that this routing requires a permit from the Yemeni Ministry of Interior and isn’t the easiest thing to acquire, your local operator you book your trip through should be able to secure this for you a few weeks in advance of your trip.
Know that this schedule is subject to frequent changes.
The Air Arabia Flight From Abu Dhabi
In March 2021 it was announced that Air Arabia would begin flying an Abu Dhabi-Socotra route on
Mondays (as of June 2022, the flight is on Tuesdays). Of course, this is now following the short-lived Felix Airways Dubai-Seiyun-Socotra route that was shut down as of February 16, 2021. I’ll give more details about this route as well as the Yemenia flight later in this post
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 June 2022, the current price for an economy class roundtrip ticket from Cairo to Socotra is typically around $1,160 USD.
Price Of The Air Arabia Flight
The Air Arabia flight from Abu Dhabi is a bit less in cost and does not require stopping over in Seiyun.
As of June 2022, the current price for an economy class roundtrip ticket from Abu Dhabi to Socotra is $950 USD.
How To Book The Air Arabia Flight
- You cannot book the flight online
- It easiest to have your Socotri tour operator book your ticket from the Air Arabia office in Hadiboh for you. Alternatively, you can make these arrangements directly from an Air Arabia office in the UAE
- 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 Air Arabia at the time of booking. If booking a ticket yourself you can pay for the ticket by wire transfer. Once the ticket is booked Air Arabia will issue the ticket in your name and you’ll be give a copy
How To Book The Yemenia Flight
- 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 or via bank wire
- You must hold a Yemeni visa in order to book the flight
- You need a permit from the Yemeni Ministry of Interior in order to use this flight as it routes through Aden
- 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 the lists for both airlines seems pretty straightforward, but there are a few things that make ticking all these boxes off a little tricky.
Why Booking A Ticket To Socotra Can Be Difficult
- Either flight has a tendency to book out well in advance, as they are the only international flights 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 Socotra Eco Tours 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). Here’s a few bits of info 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
HOW TO GET TO SOCOTRA FROM ABU DHABI
Abu Dhabi Airport Information
The Air Arabia flight to Socotra departs from the Abu Dhabi Airport, but this comes with a few caveats that I will list below:
- The UAE is once again open to tourists and there is no more quarantine requirement for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi for fully vaccinated travellers. If you are vaccinated you’ll need to register your vaccine information with ICA Smart Services.
- In order to enter the UAE (most likely through Abu Dhabi or Dubai), you may need to present a negative PCR test taken no longer than 72 hours prior to arrival (up to 96 hours in some cases) depending on your nationality.
- Air Arabia can facilitate your transfer from Dubai to Abu Dhabi if you are flying in/out of Dubai if you’d like.
To check in for the Air Arabia flight you will need:
- A printed copy of your Air Arabia e-ticket
- Your valid passport
- A printed copy of your Yemeni visa approval
Getting To Socotra: Air Arabia Flight 476 Abu Dhabi to Socotra
This flight departs Abu Dhabi and goes directly to Socotra once per week on Mondays. This new Air Arabia route is the easiest and most direct.
Current Air Arabia departing flight schedule:
11:55 am: Depart Abu Dhabi for Socotra
1:10 pm: Arrive in Socotra
Returning From Socotra: Air Arabia Flight 477 Socotra To Abu Dhabi
This flight also departs Socotra once per week on Mondays.
Current Air Arabia return flight schedule:
2:40 pm: Depart Socotra for Abu Dhabi
5:55 pm: Arrive Abu Dhabi
Info About Returning To Abu Dhabi
Prior to departure (usually the day before) from Socotra you will take a rapid antigen Covid test at Khalifa Hospital in Hadiboh, this will be enough to board the flight back to Abu Dhabi. On arrival in Abu Dhabi, you will be given a PCR by the medical authority free of charge. This will allow you to enter the UAE once again.
HOW TO GET TO SOCOTRA FROM CAIRO
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 at the airport at least 3 hours in advance of departure.
It is now possible to enter Egypt without a PCR test for most vaccinated travelers (as of March 2022), though I would recommend watching this carefully as your trip nears as these pandemic entry restrictions can change with little to no notice. Depending on where you may transit en route and where you’ll be arriving from, you may need to present a negative PCR test. If you do need to take a PCR to enter Egypt, it will need to be administered no more than 72 hours prior to arrival. PCR tests as well as vaccination certificates should a QR code
If you need to get a covid test in Cairo before/after Socotra, here are some labs that provide PCR:
- Prime Speed Medical (2,400 EGP)
- VFS Global Sites (3,000 EGP)
- Al Mokhtabar labs (3,000 EGP)
- Ain-Shams University Labs (3,000 EGP for foreigners, 1,500 EGP for Egyptians)
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 approval paper
- A couple copies of your permit from the Ministry of Interior
- A couple of copies of your Yemeni national security clearance paper (both this and your permit from the Ministry of Interior will be given to to by your operator)
*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 611/420 Cairo to Socotra
This flight departs Cairo (CAI) once per week on Sunday night, makes a stop in Aden (ADE) in mainland Yemen, then continues on to Socotra (SCT). As of 2022, this route requires a few hours in the Aden airport (1 am to 8 am).
On arrival in Aden, you will clear Yemeni immigration where you’ll need to hand over your passport, copy of visa, national security clearance, and Ministry of Interior permit. You will also need to pay a $15 USD ”stamp fee” too (no idea it this is official or not but this was my experience in March 2022).
On Monday morning you will board IY611 bound for Socotra with a brief stop at Riyan Airport in Mukalla (you will stay on board during the stopover).
Here is the current Yemenia flight schedule:
Sunday night – Monday morning:
8:30 pm (Sunday): Depart Cairo for Aden
1:00 am (Monday): Arrive in Aden
8:00 am (Monday): Depart Aden
11:00 am (Monday): Arrive in Socotra
Info About The Yemenia Stopover In Aden
This flight used to make a brief stopover in Seiyun before the flight continued on to Socotra, but now, as of 2022 the flight lands in Aden in the early hours of Monday morning, with the Socotra flight not departing until the following morning. You will stay on the airport grounds during the stopover.
You will need to collect your checked luggage in Aden. You will then take it and exit the arrivals hall. There is seating outside where you can wait if you’d like to hang around outside before entering the departure hall. There are also a couple small kiosks selling shai (tea) and snacks outside near the seating area.
Regarding Safety In Aden
Because I know some of you will ask…
Most travelers are hesitant to have to make a stopover in mainland Yemen, due to the long and still ongoing war in the country. The Aden Airport is pretty secure, surrounded by military. Note that you will not be leaving the Aden Airport when stopping over here.
Arrival In Socotra From Cairo/Aden
Flying time from Aden to Socotra takes about 3 hours. On arrival in Socotra, you will walk off the stairs of the plane, across the runway, and enter into the Socotra arrival hall. .
Returning From Socotra: Yemenia Flight IY 421/612 Socotra To Cairo
This flight also departs once per week on Mondays. Same as the flight to Socotra, it will stop over in Aden but there is no overnight layover (unless your flight is late or you prefer to have one as there is a flight to Cairo the following day. The stopover time is approximately two hours if you are going to do it in one day.
Here is the current flight schedule:
12:00 pm: Depart Socotra for Aden
3:00 pm: Arrive in Aden
5:00 pm: Depart Aden for Cairo
7:30 pm: Arrive Cairo
Please note that much like the flight to Socotra, it’s not unusual for the flight to leave 2-3 hours late from Socotra.
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 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 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 2022
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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