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Summary

  • Reconsider travel to Eritrea due to the unpredictable security situation and restrictions imposed by local authorities on travel within Eritrea.

  • Avoid all demonstrations and protests as they may turn violent. See Safety and security.

  • Closely monitor media for information on events and developments that may affect your safety. See Safety and security.

  • Do not travel to border regions due to ongoing conflict and instability between Eritrea and the neighbouring countries of Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti due to the dangerous security environment. See Safety and security.

  • Do not travel to the towns of Teseney, Barentu and Assab due to the dangerous security environment. See Safety and security.

  • All foreign nationals, including Australian consular officials, must obtain permits to travel outside of the capital, Asmara. If you travel outside of Asmara and encounter difficulties, the Australian Government may not be able to provide consular services, including emergency assistance. See Safety and security.

  • Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Eritrea. The Australian Embassy in Cairo provides consular assistance to Australians in Eritrea. See Where to get help.

  • The Australian Government may not be able to provide comprehensive or timely consular assistance to Australians detained in Eritrea. Eritrean authorities have recently refused consular access to detained foreign nationals and consular officials routinely face lengthy delays in securing visas to enter Eritrea. See Where to get help.

  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers. 

Entry and exit

Visas

You need a visa to enter Eritrea. 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 up-to-date information.

Other formalities

If you arrive in Eritrea from an area where yellow fever is present, you'll need a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate. You'll also need this certificate when you leave Eritrea as most other countries, including South Africa and Egypt, require travellers and transit passengers arriving from Eritrea (and other yellow fever risk countries) to show proof of yellow fever vaccination.

You need an exit permit to leave Eritrea. Obtaining these permits can be time consuming and permits can 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.

All electronic items (laptops, mobile phones, cameras etc) should be declared upon arrival. Failure to do so may result in their confiscation by Eritrean customs officials when you depart.

More information:

  • Smartraveller advice for South Africa
  • Smartraveller advice for Egypt
  • Yellow Fever (Department of Health – includes Australia's re-entry requirements)

Passport

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

By law, you must, as soon as possible:

Money

The local currency is the Eritrean Nafka (ERN). Currency controls are in place. You must declare all foreign currency you bring into the country. There is no limit to the amount of foreign currency you can bring in, but on departure you must prove that any foreign currency used in Eritrea was exchanged or used legally. If you fail to comply with this requirement, you could be prosecuted.

Eritrea is a cash-based society and there are no ATMs. Credit cards aren't accepted, except in a limited number of hotels. Using credit cards incurs significant additional charges.  

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

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. Closely monitor media for information on events and developments that may affect your security and safety.

There is a risk of kidnapping in and around Eritrea. 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.

More information: Kidnapping

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 border is closed.

In mid-2016, there were significant border clashes, including the use of artillery, between the Eritrean and Ethiopian militaries. The border is heavily militarised and mined. Political tensions remain high and both sides are on heightened alert. Hostilities could escalate at any time. Sporadic violence, bomb attacks, and kidnapping add to the dangers of travelling there. 

More information: Smartraveller advice for Ethiopia

Border with Sudan

Do not to 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 are closed.

More information: Smartraveller advice for Sudan

Border with Djibouti

Do not to 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.

Crime

Street crime is rare but does happen 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, along the coast north of Massawa and on some rural roads. Some victims of bandits have been killed.

Terrorism

Terrorist incidents have occurred along the border with Ethiopia.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world.

More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Local travel

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.

Travel permits

If you plan to travel outside Asmara, you need to get a travel permit from the Department of Protocol in Asmara.  If you are living or working outside of Asmara and wish to travel outside your normal area of work or residence, you need to get a travel permit from your local Zonal Administration Office. Processing of travel permit applications can be delayed.

If you 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. Australian consular officials routinely face lengthy delays in securing visas to enter Eritrea and, once in the country, Australian officials must apply for a permit to travel outside of Asmara.

Road travel

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. Narrow winding roads with crumbling edges often do not have safety barriers. You are almost five times more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in Eritrea than in Australia. Drive carefully.

More information: Road travel

Driver's licence

If you want to drive in Eritrea, you must obtain an International Driving Permit before arrival. Otherwise, contact local authorities to obtain a local licence.

Motorcycles

Avoid using motorcycles, particularly in rural areas where standards of driving and road maintenance are lower. Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when riding a motorcycle. Wear, and ensure your passenger wears, a correctly fastened and approved helmet.

Taxis

Use only licenced taxis or reputable limousine services, preferably those arranged through your hotel.

Public transport

Standards of maintenance on buses may be lower than in Australia. There have been reports of tourists not being permitted to use public transport to travel outside of Asmara, and being required to rent a limousine or use a private taxi.

Sea travel

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

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. 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.

More information:

Air travel

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Eritrea.

More information: Air travel

Laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

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.

There have been recent incidents where Eritrean authorities have refused consular access to detained foreign nationals. The Australian government may not be able to provide timely or comprehensive consular assistance to Australians detained in Eritrea.  

Drug laws

Penalties for drug offences are severe and include long prison sentences.

More information: Drugs

Other laws

Serious crimes may attract the death penalty and/or corporal punishment.

The following activities are also illegal in Eritrea:

  • homosexual acts - See LGBTI travellers  
  • taking photographs of government buildings and military installations
  • exchanging money anywhere other than at a branch of the state foreign currency exchange, Himbol.
  • using hard foreign currency in Eritrea, except in a limited number of hotels.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

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. If you are an Eritrean/Australian dual national, seek advice from the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Eritrea before you travel.

More information: Dual nationals

Local customs

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

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation.

Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

It's important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Take prescription medicine with you so you remain in good health. Always carry on your person a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

Before you leave Australia check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Altitude

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, seek medical advice prior to travel.

Mosquito-borne illnesses

Malaria occurs widely and throughout the year in Eritrea. Other insect-borne diseases (including dengue fever, yellow fever and filariasis) are also risks to travellers. While there are no current reports of Zika virus outbreak in Eritrea, there have been previous outbreaks in Africa.

Protect yourself against mosquito-borne illnesses:

  • ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including using always using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • get vaccinated against yellow fever before you travel
  • take prophylaxis against malaria.

HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS is a risk for travellers. Exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.

Polio

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

Other diseases and health issues

Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including 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.
  • Avoid uncooked and undercooked food.

Seek urgent medical attention if you suspect poisoning, if you have a fever or suffer from diarrhoea.

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.

If you become seriously ill or injured, you would need to be evacuated to a destination with appropriate facilities. Medical evacuation could be very expensive.

 

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, travel agent, travel insurance provider, employer, or airline. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergencies

Emergency services and the telephone network in Eritrea are unreliable but they exist

  • Firefighting and rescue services: 116
  • Medical emergencies: 114
  • Criminal issues, contact police: 113

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

The Australian government may not be able to provide consular assistance if you are detained in Eritrea. Eritrean authorities have not always informed the relevant embassy when foreign nationals have needed consular assistance.

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Eritrea. The Australian Embassy in Cairo provides consular services to Australians in Eritrea. Australian consular officials routinely face lengthy delays in securing visas to enter Eritrea and in securing offical permission to travel outside of Asmara.  These delays severely limit the nature and timeliness of consular assistance that can be provided to Australians in Eritrea, particularly outside of Asmara.

If you need consular assistance, contact 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

Check the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

In a consular emergency, if you are unable to contact the Embassy, 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