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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet

Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Yemen

Yemen - Consular Information Sheet
August 20, 2001

WARNING: The Department of State continues to warn United States citizens to defer travel to Yemen in light of recent events, including the terrorist attack on a U.S. Navy vessel in port at Aden, Yemen, in October 2000.

The Department believes the level of risk to U.S. citizens and interests in Yemen remains high. On June 9, 2001, the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa temporarily suspended public services, and the Department of State authorized the departure of Embassy personnel in non-emergency positions as the result of information indicating an increased terrorist threat to U.S. citizens and interests in Yemen. The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa resumed full public services on July 13, and the Department of State on August 3 terminated the authorized departure of Embassy personnel in non-emergency positions. The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa will continue to review its security posture and, if necessary to ensure adequate security, may again temporarily close or suspend public services.

On October 12, 2000, 17 American servicemen and women were killed and many more were injured in a terrorist attack on a U.S. Navy ship in port in Aden, Yemen. On December 23, 1998, six extremists were arrested by Yemeni authorities and accused of planning to bomb Western targets in Yemen. Also in December 1998, an anti-Western terrorist group abducted 16 Western tourists in Southern Yemen; four of the tourists were killed during a subsequent clash between the terrorists and Yemeni government forces. In October 1999, following the execution of the leader of the terrorist group responsible for the abduction of these 16 tourists, persons claiming to speak on behalf of the terrorist group warned Westerners they would be attacked if they did not leave Yemen. This threat has not been carried out. Again, as these incidents indicate, the level of risk for foreigners in Yemen remains high.

More than 100 kidnappings have occurred throughout Yemen since 1991. In addition to the one noted above, American citizens were the victims of kidnappings in late October 1999 and January 2000. These kidnappings are mainly conducted by armed tribesmen with grievances against the Yemeni government. They are normally resolved peacefully within a few days, although in rare cases tribesmen have held some foreigners for extended periods. Some kidnappings or attempted kidnappings are initiated by carjacking.

U.S. citizens are urged to maintain a high level of vigilance, take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness and to reduce their vulnerability. Americans should maintain a low profile, vary routes and times for all required travel, and treat mail and packages from unfamiliar sources with suspicion. In addition, American citizens are urged to avoid contact with any suspicious, unfamiliar objects, and to report the presence of the objects to local authorities. Vehicles should not be left unattended, if at all possible, and should be kept locked at all times. U.S. Government personnel overseas have been advised to take the same precautions.

Americans in Yemen also should ensure they are registered with the American Embassy in Sanaa, and remain in contact with the Embassy for up to date security information.

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Republic of Yemen was established in 1990 following unification of the former Yemen Arab Republic (North) and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (South). A President, prime minister and cabinet, and an elected parliament govern the country. Islamic and traditional ideals, beliefs and practices provide the foundation of the country's customs and laws. Yemen is a developing country, and modern tourist facilities, except in the major cities, are not widely available. The capital city is Sanaa.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Passports and visas are required. American citizens may obtain tourist visas upon arrival at the international airport in Sanaa but may not be able to do so at other international airports or the ports of entry in Aden. Yellow fever and cholera vaccinations are recommended. For further information on entry requirements, contact the Embassy of the Republic of Yemen, Suite 705, 2600 Virginia Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20037, telephone (202) 965-4760; or the Yemen Mission to the U.N., 866 United Nations Plaza, Room 435, New York, N.Y. 10017, telephone (212) 355-1730. The Embassy of Yemen in Washington maintains a home page at http://www.yemenembassy.org.

Americans who are considering studying in Yemen should make this fact clear to a Yemeni consular official in the U.S. and apply for the appropriate visa. Some Americans studying in Yemen without official permission have been deported.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of the relationship between the child and an accompanying adult and, when the child's parent(s) or legal guardian is not traveling with the child, permission from that adult for the child's travel. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

DUAL NATIONALITY: The Government of Yemen may not recognize the U.S. citizenship of persons who are citizens of both Yemen and the United States. This may hinder the ability of U.S. consular officials to assist persons who do not enter Yemen on a U.S. passport. Dual nationals may also be subject to national obligations, such as taxes or military service. Travelers can contact an embassy or consulate of Yemen for further information on Yemeni policy on dual nationality. For additional information, please see the Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov and click on Citizenship and Nationality.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: All American citizens are urged to give close attention to the warning cited in the first section of this Consular Information Sheet. U.S. citizens in Yemen are urged to maintain a high level of vigilance, take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness and to reduce their vulnerability. Americans should maintain a low profile, vary routes and times for all required travel, and treat mail and packages from unfamiliar sources with suspicion. In addition, American citizens are urged to avoid contact with any suspicious, unfamiliar objects, and to report the presence of the objects to local authorities. Vehicles should not be left unattended, if at all possible, and should be kept locked at all times. U.S. Government personnel overseas have been advised to take the same precautions. In addition, U.S. Government facilities may temporarily close or suspend public services from time to time as necessary to review their security posture and ensure its adequacy. Americans in Yemen are urged to register with the American Embassy in Sanaa, and remain in contact with the Embassy for updated security information at (967) (1) 238-844 through 238-852.

TRIBAL KIDNAPPINGS: As described in the WARNING section of this Consular Information Sheet, well-armed and independent tribesmen with grievances against the Yemeni government have a well-established history of kidnapping foreigners. More than 100 such kidnappings since 1991 have occurred throughout Yemen, in both major cities and rural areas. These kidnappings normally are resolved within a few days, but in rare cases tribesmen have held foreigners, including Americans, for extended periods. In late October 1999, three U.S. citizens were kidnapped, held by tribesmen for 36 hours and then released unharmed. In January 2000, an American oil worker was kidnapped from his compound. Tribal kidnappings of foreigners have been on the decline since 1998, partly as the result of tough penalties enacted by the Yemeni government as a deterrent.

RELIGIOUS EXTREMISTS: Yemeni government security organizations have arrested and expelled foreign Muslims, including Americans, who have associated with local Muslim organizations considered extremist by security organs of the Yemeni government. The events mentioned in the WARNING section of this Consular Information Sheet have served to make Yemeni authorities, if anything, more suspicious of some foreign Muslims. Any American in Yemen who is considering associating with any political or fundamentalist Islamist group should discuss those intentions with a Yemeni consular official in the U.S. before traveling to Yemen. Americans risk arrest if they engage in either political or other activities that violate the terms of their admission to Yemen.

AREAS OF INSTABILITY: Travel on roads between cities throughout Yemen can be dangerous. Yemeni security officials advise against casual travel to rural areas. Kidnappings of foreigners, including the late October 1999 kidnapping of a group of Americans, have occurred on the Sanaa-Dhamar-Aden road, Yemen's most heavily traveled highway. Travel is particularly dangerous in the tribal areas north and east of Sanaa and close to the undemarcated border with Saudi Arabia, in Shabwa and Abyan provinces, or sailing near Socotra and adjacent islands in the Gulf of Aden. If travel through these areas is necessary, the risk to personal security may be reduced if such travel is undertaken by air or with an armed escort provided by a local tour company. Armed carjackings, especially of four-wheel drive vehicles, occur in many parts of the country, including the capital.

In June 1998, increases in the price of diesel fuel and other commodities have resulted in civil disturbances in urban areas. Any area where demonstrations are taking place should be avoided.

Other potential hazards to travelers include land mines and unexploded ordnance dating from the 1994 civil war. This is of particular concern in areas where fighting took place in the six southern provinces, particularly around Aden.

CRIME INFORMATION: The most serious problems affecting travelers to Yemen are kidnapping and carjackings (See WARNING and AREAS OF INSTABILITY sections above.) Travelers have rarely been victims of petty street crime. The loss or theft of a U.S. passport abroad should be reported immediately to local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Useful information on safeguarding valuables, personal security, and other matters while traveling abroad is provided in the Department of State pamphlets, A Safe Trip Abroad, and Tips for Travelers to the Middle East and North Africa. They are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, .

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical facilities approaching Western standards for quality are present only in the cities of Sanaa and Aden. There is no adequate emergency ambulance service anywhere in Yemen. Not all prescription drugs are available in Yemen, and visitors requiring prescription medications are urged to bring with them a supply of their medications adequate for their visit. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars or more, and adequate health insurance that provides overseas and medevac coverage is essential. Doctors and hospitals often expect cash payment for health services.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Malaria is a serious problem in locations outside Sanaa, at altitudes below 4,800 feet, and especially along the coasts. Cholera, yellow fever, hepatitis and other exotic and contagious diseases are also present. The altitude of Sanaa (7200 feet) may cause problems for visitors who have respiratory or cardiac diseases.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

Should visitors require medical attention while in Yemen, they are encouraged to contact the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa (967-1-303-155), which maintains a listing of many of the physicians, surgeons, dentists and hospitals in the country.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Yemen, U.S. citizens will encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Yemen is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: None

In addition to the security considerations noted above, travel by roads in Yemen should be considered risky. Within cities, minivans and small buses ply somewhat regular routes, picking up and dropping off passengers with little notice or regard for other vehicles. Despite the presence of traffic lights and traffic policemen, each intersection requires an act of negotiation. Yemen has no traffic laws governing turns on red lights, maintaining lanes, merging or right-of-way. Drivers commonly drive on the wrong side of the road. A large number of underage drivers are present on the roads. Many vehicles are in poor repair and frequently lack functional turn signals, headlights, taillights, and brake lights. Pedestrians, especially children, and animals on the roads constitute hazards in both rural and urban areas. The major inter-city roads are paved and maintained in fair condition, but rural roads generally require four-wheel drive vehicles or vehicles with high clearance. Accurate statistics on the number of traffic accidents and related deaths are not kept, but the American Embassy estimates that the number of each is high.

Right-hand driving is specified by law in Yemen, but no laws mandate use of seat belts or child car seats. The maximum legal speed for private cars is 100 km (62.5 miles) per hour, but speed limits are not posted and rarely enforced.

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and reckless driving which causes an accident resulting in injury, carry penalties of a fine and/or prison sentence. If a traffic accident results in death, the driver responsible for causing the death is subject to a maximum three-year prison sentence or a fine. Under traditional practice, the family of a traffic accident victim negotiates a monetary compensation from the responsible driver. The amount of payment generally is proportionate to the extent of injuries and is highest in the case of a fatality.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, nor economic authority to operate such service between the U.S. and Yemen, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Yemen's civil aviation authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the
FAA Internet web site
at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at 1-618-229-4801.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Yemeni law prohibits the removal of antiquities from the country. Yemeni authorities define antiquities loosely as anything man-made that is more than 50 years old. Persons attempting to depart with antiquities are subject to arrest, imprisonment or fines.

Yemeni customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Yemen of items such as firearms, pornography, and antiquities. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Yemen in Washington for specific information regarding customs requirements.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines. The use of the mild stimulant "qat" is legal and common in Yemen, but it is considered an illegal substance in many other countries, including the United States.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Photography of military installations, including airports, equipment, or troops is forbidden. In the past, such photography has led to the arrest of U.S. citizens. Military sites are not always obvious. If in doubt, it is wise to ask specific permission from Yemeni authorities.

Travelers should be aware that automatic teller machines (ATM) are not available in Yemen. Credit cards are not widely accepted.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living in or visiting Yemen are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa and obtain updated information on travel and security conditions within Yemen. The U.S. Embassy normally is open for American citizen services between 8:30 and 10:30 a.m., Saturday through Tuesday, but is closed for public services at this time. The Embassy is located at Dhahr Himyar Zone, Sheraton Hotel District, P.O. Box 22347. The telephone number of the Consular Section is (967) (1) 303-155 extension 118, 265 or 266. The fax number is (967) (1) 303-175.

* * * * *

This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated July 24, 2001, to update information in the Warning section and to provide new material on the absence of ATM machines, the general non-acceptance of credit cards, and the law prohibiting removal of antiquities from the country.



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