My middle east travel game plan has been set and done and I look forward to visiting all the countries in this region of the world. One country that really caught my eye and would love to thoroughly explore is Yemen because of Socotra island. I also want to take my time to visit Syria because this country is rich in history and culture.
Before continuing, make sure to read the Oceania article first to see my criteria for visiting every single country in the world.
VIDEO – Middle East Travel Game Plan
My game plan To visit all 193 UN recognized countries series:
Countries I have not visited in the Middle East
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates
Middle East travel game plan
My highest priority in the middle east is dangerous countries. For Afghanistan, my plan is to enter from Tajikistan which seems to be the safest way to enter this country. Acquiring a visa to Afghanistan is easiest obtained at the mountain town of Khorog in Tajikistan. From there, I would head over to the border town of Ishkashim in Tajikistan and cross over to Sultan Eshkashim to Afghanistan. I’ll probably stay a night or two on this side of the Afghan town before heading back to Tajikistan. According to VisaHQ, the cost of a tourist visa for Canadians to Afghanistan is $95 USD. But I don’t really know the cost until I try and get the Afghan visa in Tajikistan.
Lebanon and Syria
I plan on visiting both countries on the same trip. First, I will fly into Lebanon using my Aeroplan points. From there, I will cross over to Syria. The best way to get a visa to Syria is by joining a tour. I’ve already found a company to take me there and have the tour booked. For four individuals, the tour costs $430 USD per person. The tour would take us to Damascus, Krak Des Chevaliers, Maaloula, and Palmyra. Although, when the pandemic ends, I’d like to add Aleppo to this itinerary as well so the price may go up a bit.
As for Lebanon, the price quoted to us was $450 USD for the entire car for a 5 day trip of the country including airport pickup and drop off. Our driver will take us to Anjar Baalbak Ksara, Sidon, Tyre, and Jaita Grotto Byblos. I might re-negotiate the price for this trip because of the current currency drop in Lebanon making me assume it’s cheaper to travel there right now.
Up until recently, going to Saudi Arabia is tough for tourists. There are rumors that their oil supply keeping the country rich is not going to last for long. At last, Saudi Arabia has opened to tourism. They’ve introduced an e-visa making travel to Saudi Arabia easier than ever before. You pay 440 SAR which is about $142 CAD to get the e-visa. The main attraction I want to see in Saudi Arabia is Hegra which is an archeological site that resembles Petra in Jordan.
I’d love to go to Mecca but you need to be a Muslim to be allowed in.
To fly to Saudi Arabia, I will use my Aeroplan points which is an easy redemption to visit this country. I’ll probably go here when I take the time to visit the other gulf middle east countries.
Despite the fact that Iraq is a dangerous country to visit, they do have an autonomous Kurdish city called Erbil that is safe for tourists to visit. Canadians can apparently get a Visa on arrival which makes travelling there a simple process. I don’t know how much the visa cost but there are reports saying that it might actually be free which is sweet.
I don’t have anything in particular that I want to see in Erbil. What I really want to see in Iraq is the ancient city of Babylon. However, going there is not exactly safe. Not to mention, that the place is mostly in ruins so I’m not sure if it’s worth checking out at this point.
I really want to visit Iran because I have tons of Iranian friends. To enter Iran, I can’t use my Canadian passport so I’ll have to use my second passport. With my second passport, I can get a visa on arrival.
I don’t know yet if I want to travel to Iran independently or hire a guide. And, there’s nothing, in particular, I want to see in the country but I definitely want to experience it. I’d love to spend a week exploring this country that is home to many of my friends. You could say that my trip to Iran will be more to befriend locals than to see any specific sites.
Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates
Visiting these gulf countries is very easy. I can fly to them using my Aeroplan or British Airways Avios. There’s nothing in particular that I want to see in these countries so I don’t have them high in my list of priorities to visit at this point. Therefore, I don’t mind putting off my trip to these countries until much later since they are easy to access.
I do have a friend that lives in Oman who I met when I was backpacking in Hungary. If he remembers me, I’d love to visit him and catch up.
Hands down, the most difficult country to visit in this region will be Yemen. The country is in a state of war and the only safe place to visit is the island of Socotra. This is fine because Socotra is hands down the number one place I want to visit in the middle east. I love landscapes, wildlife, and anything that looks unique and different. Socotra definitely checks all those boxes.
Getting to Yemen
Flying to Yemen used to be only possible through a Yemenia flight going from Cairo to Seiyun to Socotra. The cost for this round-trip flight is a staggering $1,300 USD for foreigners. Thankfully, a new flight to this country is now available through Air Arabia from Abu Dhabi and the cost is $816 USD.
You can only buy these tickets through the travel company you booked with from Hadiboh in Socotra. The method of payment would be wire transfer. The exception to this is booking the flight at the Air Arabia office in the UAE. Flying from UAE is advisable because they don’t allow drones in Egypt. However, even if your flight flies from Abu Dhabi, you need to enter UAE from Dubai (weird pandemic rule).
Another requirement to be able to book a flight to Socotra is to get a Yemeni Visa and a letter of invitation.
Socotra tour companies cost
Visas apparently cost $100 USD. And joining one of the tour companies will cost the following:
- Socotra-trek will cost $1400 USD
- WelcometoScotora – quoted me $1,600 USD for a 7 days tour
- Socotra Eco-Tours – the website has no prices but I heard it’s about $1000-$1500 USD for a one week tour
- New Horizons Socotra tour – they’re only showing their 2017 prices which seems cheaper than the other companies if it’s still accurate today
They also recommend putting aside $20 USD per day to tip the driver and guide.
After writing this article, I have concluded that I’d like to make a trip to Yemen, Syria, and Afghanistan a top priority moving forward. Trips to Yemen are possible right now which has been difficult in the past years. I want to be able to take advantage of this while it’s available because things can change quickly at any given moment.