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Summary

  • Do not travel to border regions due to ongoing conflict between Eritrea and the neighbouring countries of Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti. Do not travel to the towns of Teseney, Barentu and Assab due to the dangerous security environment.
  • Reconsider your need to travel to Eritrea due to the unpredictable security situation and the restrictions imposed by local authorities on travel within Eritrea.
  • If you do decide to travel to Eritrea, exercise extreme caution. Avoid all demonstrations and protests as they may turn violent. Closely monitor the media for information on events and developments that may affect your security and safety.
  • All foreign nationals, including Australian consular officials, must obtain permits to travel outside the capital, Asmara. If you do travel outside Asmara and encounter difficulties, the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular services, including emergency assistance, may be limited.
  • Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Eritrea. The Australian Embassy in Cairo provides consular assistance to Australians in Eritrea. There have been recent incidents where the Eritrean authorities have refused consular access to detained foreign nationals. Travellers should be aware that the Australian government may not be able to provide comprehensive or timely consular assistance to Australians detained in Eritrea. Consular officials routinely experience lengthy delays in obtaining visas to enter Eritrea.
  • Given the dangerous security situation in Eritrea, register your travel and contact details, so we can contact you in an emergency.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest Embassy of Eritrea for the most up-to-date information.

Exit permits are required to leave Eritrea. Obtaining these permits can be time consuming and permits may be denied. The Australian Government cannot influence the Eritrean Immigration Department to issue exit permits.

Foreign nationals must pay a departure tax unless they hold a valid Eritrean resident permit. Payment is required in US dollars. Seek advice from local authorities about the cost of the departure tax as the amount may change.

A valid yellow fever vaccination certificate is required if arriving in Eritrea from an area where yellow fever is present. South African and Egyptian authorities require travellers from yellow fever risk countries, including Eritrea, to show proof of yellow fever vaccination. Failure to produce a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate may result in being placed in quarantine or refused entry.

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia.

Safety and Security

Civil unrest and political tension

There is an ongoing risk of sudden instability and violence in Eritrea.

Avoid all demonstrations and protests as they may turn violent and closely monitor media for information on events and developments that may affect your security and safety.

Border with Ethiopia: Do not travel to the disputed border area between Eritrea and Ethiopia, including the town of Barentu, because of the extremely dangerous security situation, the risk of violence and bomb attacks, the presence of landmines and the risk of kidnapping.

On 12 and 13 June 2016, there were significant border clashes, including the use of artillery, between the Eritrean and Ethiopian militaries. These clashes were in the area of the Tsorona Central Front militarised border area (directly south of Asmara). Heavy fighting was reported in the areas of Humera, Tsorona, Zalambessa and Badme. These clashes resulted in significant casualties on both sides. Eritrea and Ethiopia have each accused the other of instigating the clashes. These events demonstrate the continued instability and danger of the border regions between the two countries.

Ethiopian military forces have previously conducted operations inside Eritrea.

A peace agreement signed between Eritrea and Ethiopia in 2000 is yet to be fully implemented and in many places the border is neither marked nor easy to identify. The border is heavily militarised and mined. Political tensions remain high and both sides are on heightened alert. Hostilities could escalate at any time. There are no direct flights between the two countries and the border remains closed. See also our travel advice for Ethiopia.

Border with Sudan: Do not travel to the regions bordering Sudan, including the town of Teseney, because of the dangerous security situation. There is a high threat of banditry and insurgent activity, including bomb attacks. Do not attempt to cross the disputed border with Sudan. All checkpoints into Sudan remain closed. See also our travel advice for Sudan.

Border with Djibouti: Do not travel to the border with Djibouti, including the port of Assab. There were military clashes between Eritrea and Djibouti in June 2008 and the situation remains unresolved. Monitor local information sources for current security information.

The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers that paying a ransom increases the risk of further kidnappings, including of other Australians. If you decide to travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping, seek professional security advice and have effective personal security measures in place. For more information about kidnapping, see our Kidnapping threat travel bulletin.

Terrorism

There is a low threat of terrorism in Eritrea; however, some terrorist incidents have been reported along the border with Ethiopia.

In planning your activities, consider the kind of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided. Possible targets include government and military interests, clubs, restaurants, bars, schools, places of worship, outdoor recreation events, markets, public transport and tourist areas. Airports and aircraft are also possible targets.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Worldwide bulletin.

Crime

Street crime is rare but does occur in cities and towns, including the capital, Asmara. Take sensible precautions with your personal safety. Don't walk around alone late at night and keep valuables out of sight.

Banditry is common near the Djibouti border and along the coast north of Massawa and on some rural roads. In October 2009, a local employee and two local contractors working for an Australian mining company were killed when their vehicle was attacked north of Keren.

Money and Valuables

The economy in Eritrea is cash-based and there are no ATMs. Credit cards are not accepted, except in a limited number of hotels. Using credit cards will incur significant additional service charges.

Declare all foreign currency brought into Eritrea. There is no limit to the amount of foreign currency able to be brought into the country, but on departure, you must prove that any foreign currency exchanges were conducted at a branch of the state foreign currency exchange, Himbol. Failure to comply can result in prosecution.

It is illegal to exchange money anywhere other than at a Himbol branch. Some officially recognised hotels may accept foreign currency but otherwise it is illegal to use hard foreign currency in Eritrea. Check with your hotel before travelling to determine the best way to pay.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Local travel

Travel permits: All foreign nationals are required to obtain permits to travel out of Asmara. Foreign nationals residing or working outside of Asmara also need a travel permit to go outside their normal area of work or residence. Applications are processed by the Department of Protocol in Asmara and Zonal Administration Offices (for foreign nationals living or working outside of Asmara). Australians should take these requirements into consideration when making travel plans as there may be delays in the issue of permits. Australian consular officials, once in the country, must apply for a permit to travel outside of Asmara.

If you do receive permission to travel outside of Asmara and encounter difficulties, the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular services, including emergency assistance, may be severely limited. There have been recent incidents where the Eritrean authorities have refused consular access to detained foreign nationals.

Driving on main roads outside of border areas is generally safe, but rural roads and off-road driving can be dangerous. Avoid travel after dark in rural areas. There are paved roads between the cities of Asmara, Massawa, Mendefera, Dekemhare, Baretun and Keren. Roads leading to smaller villages are unsealed. Roads in mountainous regions and through the escarpment may not be well maintained.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), you are almost five times more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in Eritrea than in Australia.

Narrow winding roads with crumbling edges often do not have safety barriers. For further advice, see our Road travel page.

There are extensive unmarked minefields in Eritrea, particularly near the border with Ethiopia. Walking and hiking in rural areas can be dangerous.

Landline, mobile telephone and internet services are unreliable. Local SIM cards are not available to non-residents. There are no agreements between Eritrean mobile telephone providers and international providers. International roaming may not be available. Contact your telecommunication provider to check about international roaming.

Piracy: There is a high threat of piracy in the coastal areas of Eritrea. There have been attacks by pirates against all forms of shipping in and around Eritrea's waters and the Gulf of Aden. Pirates have been using mother ships to attack shipping further than 1,000 nautical miles (1,850km) from the coast of Somalia. All forms of shipping are attractive targets for Somali pirates, including commercial vessels, yachts and luxury cruise liners. Maintain a high level of vigilance and exercise extreme caution when anywhere near these waters.

For more information about piracy, see our piracy page. The International Maritime Bureau also issues piracy reports.

Mariners must seek permission and obtain entry visas before attempting to make landfall in Eritrea. Commercial vessels without explicit agreements with Eritrean authorities are advised to avoid Eritrean territorial waters. The Eritrean government has previously seized ships which did not hold such an agreement, which have resulted in lengthy detention for international crew members.

Air Safety

See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation incidents in Eritrea.

Please also refer to our air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

You are subject to the local laws of Eritrea, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

There have been recent incidents were the Eritrean authorities have refused consular access to detained foreign nationals. Travellers should be aware that the Australian government may not be able to provide timely or comprehensive consular assistance to Australians detained in Eritrea.

Penalties for drug offences are severe and include long prison sentences. See our Drugs page.

Homosexual acts are illegal. See our LGBTI travellers page.

Serious crimes may attract the death penalty. Serious crimes may also attract corporal punishment.

Taking photographs of government buildings and military installations is not allowed.

It is illegal to exchange money anywhere other than at a branch of the state foreign currency, Himbol. It is also illegal to use hard foreign currency in Eritrea, except in a limited number of hotels.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Local customs

There are strict standards of dress and behaviour in Eritrea. Take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.

Information for dual nationals

Eritrea does not recognise dual nationality. This may limit the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular assistance to Australian/Eritrean dual nationals who are arrested or detained.

Australian males who hold Eritrean citizenship may be required to undertake military service upon their return to Eritrea. Dual nationals entering Eritrea on an Eritrean identity card rather than an Eritrean passport will require an exit visa from the Immigration Office in Asmara to leave the country. Prior to travel, Eritrean/Australian dual nationals should seek advice from the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Eritrea.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

Health

Take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, before you depart. Confirm your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. Get vaccinated before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health pages also provide useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

A Yellow Fever vaccination is required for all travellers arriving from countries with risk of Yellow Fever transmission. While there are no current reports of Zika virus outbreak in Eritrea, there have been previous outbreaks in Africa. Avoid mosquito infested areas and use appropriate mosquito repellent at all times.

Medical facilities

Medical facilities in Eritrea are extremely limited, particularly outside Asmara. Medicines are often unavailable and can be extremely expensive. Carry a comprehensive medical pack if you travel away from large towns. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation (at considerable expense) to a destination with appropriate facilities would be necessary.

Health risks

It may take some time to adjust to the high altitude and low oxygen levels of Asmara and surrounds. If you suffer from heart ailments or high blood pressure, it is recommended you seek medical advice prior to travelling to this area.

Malaria occurs widely and throughout the year in Eritrea. Other insect-borne diseases (including dengue fever and filariasis) are also a risk to travellers. Take prophylaxis against malaria and take measures to avoid insect bites including using insect repellent at all times, wearing long, light-coloured clothing and ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, cholera, hepatitis, schistosomiasis, meningococcal disease and tuberculosis) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. Boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

There have been ongoing outbreaks of polio in countries across the Horn of Africa. Travellers should ensure they have completed a primary course of polio vaccination and receive a booster dose prior to travel. Check with your doctor or travel clinic at least eight weeks before you depart If you are unsure of your polio vaccination status.

Where to get help

Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the police in Eritrea on 12 77 99. (Travellers should be aware that emergency services and the telephone network in Eritrea are unreliable.)

To contact the Australian Government for consular assistance in accordance with the Consular Services Charter, see contact details below:

Eritrean authorities have not always informed the relevant Embassy when foreign nationals need consular assistance. Consider this before travelling. Travellers should be aware that the Australian government may not be able to provide consular assistance to Australians detained in Eritrea.

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Eritrea. You can obtain consular assistance from the Australian Embassy in Cairo.

Australian Embassy, Cairo

11th floor, World Trade Centre
1191 Corniche el Nil
Boulac, Cairo
EGYPT
Telephone: +20 2 2770 6600
Facsimile: +20 2 2770 6650
Website: egypt.embassy.gov.au

See the Embassy website for information about opening hours.

In a consular emergency, if you are unable to contact the above mission, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Natural Disasters, Severe Weather and Climate

Eritrea is in an active volcanic and earthquake zone. A major volcanic eruption in June 2011 led to the closure of Eritrean airspace for an extended period. Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

The rainy season runs from June to September. Unpaved roads in the western lowlands may become impassable.

Additional Resources