How to get to Socotra
Updated August 2021, 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 Tuesdays, a flight connects Cairo, Egypt to Seiyun, Yemen, and continues on to Socotra Island on Wednesdays. This flight has been relatively reliable for the last couple of years, but in early 2021 it has become less so.
I have been updated that starting the week of March 29, 2021, this Yemenia flight will move to Mondays, but know that this schedule is subject to frequent changes.
There is also the new 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. 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 March 2021, the current price for an economy class roundtrip ticket from Cairo to Socotra is typically around $1,300 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 March 2021, the current price for an economy class roundtrip ticket from Abu Dhabi to Socotra is 3,000 AED ($816 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
- 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 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:
- Your international flights to and from the UAE must be to/from DUBAI. This is because you will need to be simply transferring in Abu Dhabi. DO NOT book roundtrip international flights to/from Abu Dhabi or else you will be required to quarantine there!
- In order to arrive at Dubai Airport, you will need to have a negative PCR Covid test that was administered no more than 72 hours prior to your arrival in Dubai.
- You will need to take another PCR test on arrival in Dubai, you will need to wait no more than 12 hours for the test to process. This negative test administered here will ensure that you can cross the border from the Dubai Emirate to the Abu Dhabi Emirate. You will also need to download the Alhosn UAE app, so do this before leaving home. This app is where you’ll receive your PCR result.
- Air Arabia will facilitate your transfer from Dubai to Abu Dhabi.
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:
10:00 am: Depart Abu Dhabi for Socotra
11:30 am: 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:
1:00 pm: Depart Socotra for Abu Dhabi
4:00 pm: Arrive Abu Dhabi
Info About Returning To Abu Dhabi
Given that travel is still a bit difficult due to the ongoing pandemic, here is the info you need to know about your return to Abu Dhabi:
PCR tests that meet the UAE’s requirements are not administered in Socotra, so you will be given one free-of-charge on arrival in Abu Dhabi. This will allow you to transfer back to the Dubai Emirate without having to quarantine in Abu Dhabi as you will be seen as transferring at the Abu Dhabi Airport, not arriving at it.
Once you have your results you will be allowed to transfer back into the Emirate of Dubai. Transfers can only be provided by Etihad Chauffeur, Etihad Express Coach, or by an official by airport taxi.
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 to the airport at least 3 hours in advance of departure.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, you will need to present evidence of a negative PCR Covid test result on arrival in Cairo that was administered no more than 72 hours prior to your arrival. Yemen’s covid requirements for entry are also proof of a negative PCR Covid test administered no more than 72 hours prior to your arrival.
If your total travel time between the time of your Covid test and arrival in Yemen is greater than 72 hours, you should plan to stopover in Cairo and allow time to take a test and get the results. Labs and hospitals that are recommended in Cairo with a turn around time of less than 24 hours are:
- 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
*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 stop in Seiyun (GFX) in mainland Yemen, then continues on to Socotra (SCT). As of 2021 this route requires an overnight stay in Seiyun. This was not the case previously and it is uncertain if the schedule will return back to the older option with only an hour layover in Seiyun.
Both the current and old schedules are found below in the event it does switch back.
Here is the current Yemenia flight schedule:
10:30 am: Depart Cairo for Seiyun
3:00 pm: Arrive Seiyun
9:00 am: Depart Seiyun for Socotra
10:15 am: Arrive Socotra
2:00 am: Depart Cairo for Seiyun
6:30 am: Arrive Seiyun
7:30 am: Depart Seiyun for Socotra
8:45 am: Arrive Socotra
Info About The Yemenia Stopover In Seiyun
This flight used to make a brief stopover in Seiyun before the flight continued on to Socotra. Now, as of 2021 the flight lands in Seiyun in the late afternoon, with the Socotra flight not departing until the following morning. So an overnight in Seiyun is required, but your operator will make arrangements for you as for a secure accommodation for the night.
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 From Cairo/Seiyun
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 an overnight stop in Seiyun before continuing on to Cairo.
Due to the Covid pandemic and Egypt’s rules for arrivals, you will need to present a negative Covid PCR test in order to enter Egypt. Here are your options for getting a Covid test :
- There are (should be) Covid tests available in the town of Hadiboh on Socotra at a cost of $65 USD. Enquire with your local operator on this as they will have the most up-to-date information.
- Since the flight back requires a stay overnight in Seiyun on your way back to Cairo, there is also the option to have a Covid test administered in Seiyun on arrival, in order for you to have a result back in time to return to Egypt the following day. The cost as of my last update from my friend on the mainland was $65. Your local operator will help handle this.
Here is the current flight schedule:
9:45 am: Depart Socotra for Seiyun
11:00 am: Arrive Seiyun
4:00 pm: Depart Seiyun for Cairo
6:30 pm: Arrive Cairo
The old 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, there is a tendency 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 2021
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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