If you should ever visit Yemen you will use the rial while you are there. This is their official currency and you can find out more about it and the country itself below.
What coins and notes are available for this currency?
Each rial is divided into 100 fils, making this a decimal currency. However this is in practice only as the fils is not used in common circulation now. Instead all the coins and banknotes in circulation are in rials. The coins used are the 1, 5, 10 and 20 rials, while there are an additional six banknotes in use. These are the 50, 100, 200, 250, 500 and 1,000 rial notes.
From past to present – the history of the Yemeni rial
Yemen has not always been in existence as we recognise it today. Before 1990 it was essentially split into two halves. The northern half was known as the Yemen Arab Republic and the southern half was known as the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen. The North Yemeni rial was used in the Yemen Arab Republic but the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen used the South Yemeni dinar.
In 1990 the two separate parts of Yemen were united as one. To begin with they both carried on using the currency they had become familiar with thus far. However six years later the dinar was withdrawn from circulation and the North Yemeni rial became known simply as the Yemeni rial. This is the same rial we know today.
Inflation has been a problem in Yemen for some time and it shows no signs of changing, unfortunately. This is not good news for those living there although it does mean you should get quite a few rials to one unit of your own currency if you are planning on paying a visit.
How to get hold of the Yemeni rial
Since Yemen is not usually on the lists of the top places in the world for tourists to visit, you can imagine that finding your rials is not the easiest of tasks. You’d be right too, since you cannot order any from a bureau de change prior to arriving in the country.
The easiest way to get hold of the cash you need is to exchange your own currency for the rial once you get to Yemen. The best currencies to go with are typically either US dollars or euros. Others are accepted but you’re safer taking one or other of these as you know there shouldn’t be any problems in getting them accepted. As an extra note of caution, make sure the banknotes you do take are in as good a condition as they can possibly be. Some Yemeni people do not like to take banknotes that are old or ripped (a situation in common with many other parts of the world, incidentally).
While it might seem like a good idea to try traveller’s cheques it is usually best not to bother. You might be lucky and find a bank that will happily take them, but you might be just as likely to come across one after another that will refuse, leaving you stuck with no money.
Really the best way to pay for things here is with cash, so make sure you are prepared for taking in a reasonable amount of money with you to exchange. While you might be able to find the odd cash machine that will accept a Visa card so you can make a withdrawal, again this cannot be relied upon.
How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Yemeni rial
The simplest way to do this is to use a standard currency converter which can be found online. You can find your own currency and then search for the Yemeni rial which is represented by its ISO code YER. This is by far the speediest way to search for it since it is unlikely to be listed anywhere near the top. If you can’t find it, swap to another converter with more currencies listed on it; some only have the most commonly-used ones.
If you would like to learn more about Yemen you can do so by visiting the UK government’s website at the appropriate section, which is at https://www.gov.uk/government/world/yemen.
Travelling safely with the Yemeni rial
If you have kept up with the news to any degree you may already be aware that travel of any kind in or to Yemen is not advised at the moment. The entire country should be avoided according to the British government, and in fact they advise anyone who is there at present to leave the country as quickly as possible.
The country is in severe danger from terrorist threats and even a few days before writing this it was reported that a bomb had gone off in Tahrir Square. Clearly this is not a country you should visit for the time being, and in reality no one knows when this situation will end and things will settle down.
Clearly the last thing you need to be worrying about if you are there is how safe your cash is. The most important thing is to keep yourself safe, which is why all travel to the country is currently strongly advised against by those in the UK government.
Where to spend your rials in Yemen – and what to spend them on
Depending on how good your geography is, you may know that Yemen is situated in the south-western part of Asia. There is a portion of land here known as the Arabian Peninsula, and it is on this piece of land that you will find Yemen if you look on a map. It only shares its border with two other countries, which are Oman to the east and Saudi Arabia to the north. The country is basically rectangular in shape, and while these two countries meet it to the north and east, the southern and western edges of the country meet with water. On the western side Yemen faces the Red Sea, while the southern border runs along the Gulf of Aden.
Clearly this is not a country you would plan a holiday to, not for the foreseeable future anyway. However with that said there are some impressive sights here that hopefully one day more foreigners will get to see. Let’s take a look at some of them here.
The capital of the country is a city called Sana’a, and this is quite a fascinating city because of its architecture. It is immensely detailed and even a long-shot of the cityscape reveals the detail and care and attention that has gone into these buildings. One of the reasons why this is so is because of the history the city has. There are few other cities in the entire world that have been lived in by people for as many years as Sana’a has. As is the case with many older cities, Sana’a has an old section that has been properly recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Hopefully this status will help to protect and preserve it for generations to come, despite the uncertain situation in the country at present.
The old city is easy to spot for those who travel there, since it is surrounded by clay walls. Unbelievably these are at least nine metres in height and sometimes much more than that. One of the highlights of Yemen is the National Museum of Yemen, which is in the capital city. Since this is a city with a plentiful history it is no big surprise to learn there are many ancient artefacts here.
Elsewhere in Yemen you can see another historic site, this time the cisterns of Tawila, which are in Aden. It is uncertain as to how old these tanks are, which were designed to capture rainfall as well as to protect Aden from the prospect of flooding. The size and scope of the tanks is quite impressive, particularly as the tanks you can see today are but a few of the many that were originally built. It is just a shame we don’t know how many centuries they have been there for.
Another watery sight that is worth a look is the Marib Dam. This is situated in the Balaq Hills and is not the first to have been built in the area. The original dam is believed to date from the 8th century and the ruins of it stand near to where today’s dam is situated.
It is a shame that Yemen remains a country that is unsafe to visit. Perhaps we can dream that in the future this will no longer be the case, particularly as Yemen has such a rich history. Many signs of this history are still present today and provide us with strong reasons to take a closer look at some of the sights around the country.
However for the time being we can but hope that the situation in the country will improve at some point in the near future. We shall have to wait and see.