How to visit Socotra

Do you wish to visit Socotra Island? An island with few tourists, basic infrastructure, but with astounding beauty and unique biodiversity. We decided to visit Socotra in 2019, and if “off the beaten path” places are your thing, then you should put Socotra Island on your bucket list. Since there is a new flight option to visit Socotra now, we have updated our blog post to help you plan your trip to Socotra. 

This post has been updated on the 9th of September 2021.

 
 

How to visit Socotra Island – Everything you need to know:

Where is Socotra Island?

Socotra is located between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula where the Indian Ocean meets the Arabian Sea. Politically speaking, it belongs to Yemen. But geographically speaking, it belongs to the African continent.

In 2008 Socotra archipelago was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In order to visit Socotra, there are only two options.

Socotra Airport
How to visit Socotra Island – Landing at Socotra Airport

How to visit Socotra – Which airlines fly to Socotra?

A visit to Socotra has not been easy for a few years. In 2019 and 2020 the only airline flying to Socotra was Yemenia Airlines on their once-weekly flight from Cairo. Our visit to Socotra was in 2019 and we flew with Yemenia Airlines.

In 2021, a new charter flight has launched from Abu Dhabi to Socotra following the short-lived route from UAE by Felix Airways. This charter flight is operated by Khalifa Foundation and connects Abu Dhabi and Socotra on Mondays. The perfect time to visit Socotra is right now.

In this blog post, you will find information on how to visit Socotra on the flight from Abu Dhabi to Socotra by charter flight (Khalifa Foundation). Yemenia Airlines are still flying between Cairo and Socotra, but as they have a layover in Seiyun on the mainland it makes it impossible for foreigners to use this route due to visas. 

How to get to Socotra on Yemenia Airways
How to visit Socotra – Our Yemenia Airways Flight was the only flight to Socotra in 2020. Now you can fly on a direct flight from Abu Dhabi!

How to visit Socotra right now – The weekly flight from Abu Dhabi! 

The new flight route from Abu Dhabi makes a visit to Socotra a lot easier than in the past. There are a few options on how to connect to the flight from Abu Dhabi to Socotra:

Fly into Dubai in the UAE:

Once you land at Dubai airport you will get tested. After the test (which can take up to 12 hours), you are free to go. In order to cross the land border into the emirate of Abu Dhabi and get to Abu Dhabi International Airport you must present a negative test result, you can use the one mentioned above (maximum validity 72 hours). Please make sure to have downloaded and activated the ALHOSN UAE application on your smart device in order to receive your test results ahead of departure from Abu Dhabi International Airport. 

Fly to Abu Dhabi in the UAE:

No more quarantine on arrival in Abu Dhabi. From September 5th, you can travel quarantine-free to Abu Dhabi if you’ve been fully vaccinated. You must register via the ICA Smart Travel Service. You can stay in Abu Dhabi for a few days or simply connect to your flight to Socotra.

Here is the current flight schedule from Abu Dhabi AUH to visit Socotra SCT:

ABU DHABI – SOCOTRA Non-stop direct flights on Monday.
FLIGHT NO 476 Abu Dhabi (AUH) 10:00 departure > Socotra (SCT) 11.30 arrival 
FLIGHT NO 477 Socotra (SCT) 13:00 departure > Abu Dhabi (AUH) 16:00 arrival
 
You will be returning back on the same plane that lands in Socotra and you should expect delays. If you asked me how to visit Socotra right now, I would suggest flying into Dubai for a few days and then transfer to Abu Dhabi before your flight to Socotra on Monday. On the way back, I would stay an extra night in Abu Dhabi to connect the flight home the following day. This means you won’t stress about missing your connecting flight. 
 
Socotra
How to visit Socotra – Detwah Lagoon and beach in Socotra

How to book the flight to Socotra 

You might’ve already searched for the flight online through Expedia or with CheapOair with no luck. This is due to the fact that this flight can not be booked online. And yes, this is the only flight you can currently book to visit Socotra as a foreigner.

In order to book the flight, you must have your Yemeni visa first (more details about that below) and you can only book the flight via a travel agent in Abu Dhabi.

The agent can hold your seats (reservation) for a few weeks while your visas are being processed and then once payment is made, the e-tickets will be issued.

You will need to have a printout of your visa and ticket to check in at Abu Dhabi airport to visit Socotra. 

As there is currently only one flight between Abu Dhabi and Yemen and it does sell out. Not because of tourists, as there are only a few on each flight. But many Yemeni citizens fly for medical procedures.

The easiest way to book the flight is to have your tour company take care of that. We decided to visit Socotra with Welcome to Socotra and they organised the flight for us. It was booked via their travel agent in Abu Dhabi and you could pay via bank transfer.

How to visit Socotra

How to visit Socotra – Dragon Blood Trees are endemic to the island

NOTE: We use Transferwise to exchange currencies worldwide or to pay International invoices. You won’t find better rates or lower transaction fees anywhere. Try Transferwise and receive a fee-free transfer of up to GBP 500 by using our invite code. We used Transferwise to pay for our trip to visit Socotra Island in 2019.

The cost of the flight to Socotra:

The cost of the return flight from Abu Dhabi to Socotra is currently $850 per person. As there are limited options for Socotra, the charter flight is the only way to visit Socotra. They have a monopoly and can pretty much charge anything they wish, but it is more affordable than the flight with Yemenia Airlines. We paid $1200 per person for our flight to Socotra.

Our Visa Yemen
How to visit Socotra – You will need a visa. Our Visa for Yemen

How to get a visa for Yemen?

The only way of securing a Yemeni visa for your visit to Socotra is by booking a tour with a local tour company. Embassies are currently not issuing tourists visas. And as you can imagine there aren’t many Yemeni embassies in the world and there is only a small amount of adventure travellers who wish to visit Socotra.

We have travelled with Welcome to Socotra and they have arranged a visa for us. You can also obtain your visa if you know someone in Socotra who can facilitate this, especially if your visit to Socotra is not your first time there.

The cost of the Yemeni visa is $150 and you will receive it via email about 2-3 weeks before your arrival in Socotra. Once you arrive in Socotra, your visa will be issued at the airport. The visa is valid for 30 days and you must not have any stamps from Israel.

To book a tour to visit Socotra, check the website of Welcome to Socotra for dates of tours for this season (October- December). Alternatively, you can also book a tour with our friend Alvaro who runs its own Wander Expeditions and has a scheduled departure for the 15th of November 2021. 

If you need visas for other countries – see our helpful Visa Page here

How to get to Socotra
How to visit Socotra – Camping on the beach at Socotra, Yemen

How to get to Socotra on a ship from Oman

There is an alternative option on how to get to Socotra – a cement ship from Salalah, Oman leaves technically every week and takes 2-3 days to reach Socotra.

There is no food or water or shelter on board so you will have to be prepared for a rough ride. Please note that piracy is a problem in the region and should you consider this option – do your research and speak to travellers who have done it.

You will, of course, need to organise your Yemen visa beforehand through contact in Socotra. The cost to hop on the ship is around $100.

Update: Please note due to the pandemic, this is no longer a good option to visit Socotra. Consider the flight. :)

How to visit Socotra - fisherman

How to visit Socotra – Fisherman at the local market in Socotra

Why you should visit Socotra?

There are so many good reasons to visit Socotra Island. The untouched nature. Dragon Blood Trees. Friendly locals. Amazing hikes. Camping under the stars and fresh fish for dinner every day. Most importantly a visit to Socotra is a trip like no other. Surreal landscapes. Truly off the beaten part destination that has been explored by only a few. A visit to Socotra is a must for any adventurous traveller.

If you enjoyed reading about how to visit Socotra, you might also enjoy our blog post: What it’s really like to visit Socotra

Socotra is a truly unique place to visit. It might not be the easiest place on the earth to reach, but it is worth it. If you have any questions about Socotra or need more information on how to visit Socotra, ask us in the comments below.

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