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Somalia

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Summary

  • Do not to travel to any part of Somalia because of armed conflict, the ongoing very high threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping, and dangerous levels of violent crime.
  • If you are in Somalia, leave if it is safe to do so.
  • Terrorist attacks could happen anywhere and at any time in Somalia. Attacks frequently target – and kill – westerners and those working for western and international organisations. See Safety and security.

  • Terror group Al Shabaab has attacked multiple government and public targets throughout Somalia, especially since federal elections in early 2017. See Safety and security.

  • Mogadishu International Airport is a key target for extremists. On 2 January 2017, Mogadishu's international airport closed following twin terror attacks in the capital. See Safety and security.

  • There is a very high threat of kidnapping in all parts of Somalia, including Somaliland and Puntland. Several foreigners (including aid workers, journalists and religious representatives) have been kidnapped in Somalia in recent years. See Safety and security.

  • There is no effective police force in Somalia; lawlessness, violent crime, clan violence, banditry and looting are common. See Safety and security.

  • Civil unrest and political tension can prompt demonstrations that may quickly turn violent. Avoid protests, rallies, demonstrations and other public gatherings. See Safety and security.

  • Attacks by pirates in and around Somalia's waters, the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden are common. Do not travel in any type of boat in Somali waters or surrounds. See Local travel.

  • The security environment means the Australian Government can provide only extremely limited consular assistance to Australians in Somalia. Where possible, consular services are provided by the Australian Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. See Where to get help

  • If you're an Australian-Somali dual national you will be regarded by Somali officials as Somali in the first instance. You may be prevented from contacting the Australian Government if you are arrested or detained. See Laws.

  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

Do not travel to Somalia. If you're in Somalia, depart immediately if safe to do so.

Visas

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact a Consulate-General of Somalia for up-to-date information.

Consulate-Generals and other diplomatic missions of Somalia are affiliated with the central government of Somalia. The authority of the central government isn't established throughout all of Somalia. The validity or effectiveness of a visa could be questioned in areas where the central government's authority is challenged. More information: Permanent Representative of the Somali Republic to the United Nations, 425 East 61st Street, Suite 702, New York, United States, NY10021, telephone (212) 688-9410/5046; fax (212) 759-0651.

Other formalities

You may need a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate to enter Somalia. Yellow fever is a serious and potentially fatal disease that is preventable by vaccination. Read Yellow fever (Department of Health) for information on re-entry to Australia following exposure to yellow fever.

More information: Yellow fever risk and certification requirements (by country, WHO)

Passport

If you travel to Somalia despite our advice, 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.

Be aware of attempts to get access to your passport by deception. If you are forced to hand over your passport, contact an Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Money

The local currency is the Somali shilling (SOS). Currency transfer and exchange is subject to government regulation. Australian currency, credit cards and travellers cheques are not accepted in Somalia. ATMs are not generally available in Somalia. US dollars are widely accepted.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terror attacks occur frequently in Somalia. Further terror attacks could take place anywhere at any time. Somali militants have publicly threatened, and have the capability, to carry out attacks in all areas of Somalia, including Mogadishu, Puntland and Somaliland.

Mogadishu International Airport, where there is a large presence of Westerners, is a high priority target for extremists. Terrorists have targeted aircraft and airports.

In recent years, there has been a large number of significant terrorist attacks against the government and in public areas throughout Somalia, including Mogadishu. Terrorist attacks are expected to continue. Many recent attacks have targeted Somali Government officials, foreigners and UN workers. Significant recent attacks include:

  • on 23 February 2018, a suicide car-bombing near the Presidential Palace killed at least 32 people
  • on 14 December 2017, a suicide bomber killed at least 18 police officers at a training centre in Mogadishu
  • on 28 October 2017, Al Shabaab attacked the Nasa-Hablod Hotel near the Presidential Palace in Mogadishu, killing at least 27 people
  • on 14 October 2017, two vehicle bombs exploded in central Mogadishu, killing 358 people and injuring many more
  • on 29 September 2017, Al Shabaab attacked a military base outside of Mogadishu, killing a number of soldiers
  • on 28 September 2017, a car bomb exploded in Mogadishu killing seven people
  • on 11 September 2017, Al Shabaab exploded a suicide car bomb before storming a Somali military base killing an unknown number of Somali soldiers
  • on 3 September 2017, Al Shabaab attacked a military base in Kismayo claiming to have killed 26 Somali soldiers in the process
  • on 1 August 2017, a car bomb exploded in Kismayo killing between 10 to 20 civilians
  • on 30 July 2017, Al Shabaab ambushed a troop convoy claiming to have killed up to 39 African Union troops
  • on 30 July 2017, a bomb was detonated in central Modadishu killing up to seven people.

Deadly attacks against Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) targets, including government buildings, are common. Attacks are also directed at westerners, those working for western and international organisations, and Africa Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeepers.

Many attacks involve multiple, consecutive explosions, with car bombs and armed gunmen.

Possible targets for future attacks include:

  • hotels, clubs, restaurants, bars and other commercial and public areas foreigners go
  • government buildings
  • foreign interests such as embassies
  • schools, markets, shopping areas, tourist areas, historic sites and other public spaces
  • places of worship
  • transport and transport infrastructure, including airports and aircraft
  • foreign oil companies
  • oil infrastructure and oil fields
  • residential areas
  • outdoor recreation events.

In the past, days of national significance and religious festivals such as Ramadan have seen more attacks than usual.

There is no effective police force in Somalia. Somalia is not safe.

If, despite our advice, you're in Somalia:

  • seek professional security advice
  • adopt effective personal security measures
  • make contingency plans, including keeping ample stocks of water, food, toiletries, fuel and any prescription medications
  • limit your movements as much as possible, especially around days of national significance and religious festivals
  • be vigilant at all times
  • avoid possible targets for terror attack
  • wherever you go, have a clear exit plan for if there is a security incident
  • if there is an attack, leave the affected area immediately, if it is safe to do so 
  • avoid the affected area in the aftermath of an attack because of the risk of secondary attacks
  • monitor media for any new or emerging threats
  • leave Somalia as soon as possible.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Kidnapping

There is a very high threat of kidnapping in all parts of Somalia, including in Puntland and Somaliland. Kidnappers may be motivated by crime or terrorism. A large number of foreigners, including those of Somali descent, have been kidnapped in Somalia in recent years.

Westerners kidnapped from Kenya have been held by armed groups in Somalia.

The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers.

If, despite our advice, you're in Somalia:

  • maintain a low profile
  • vary your routines so patterns in your behaviour and movements don't become apparent to observers
  • leave Somalia as soon as possible.

More information: Kidnapping

Civil unrest and political tension

Somalia was without an effective central government after the overthrow of the Said Barre government in 1991. Somalia concluded its transitional governance period and installed a new federal government in September 2012.

Somali security forces, with the assistance of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), have liberated Mogadishu and other cities in southern and central Somalia from the control of the terrorist group, Al-Shabaab. However, the security situation remains volatile across much of the country and the threat of conflict or attacks by armed groups remains high.

Armed conflict is ongoing across south-central Somalia. Residential areas and markets have been subject to shootings and grenade attacks.

If, despite our advice, you're in Somalia:

  • Avoid areas where conflict is ongoing or political tensions are highest.
  • Avoid all protests, rallies, demonstrations and other public gatherings as they may turn violent.

Crime

Lawlessness, violent crime, clan violence, banditry and looting are common. There is no effective police force in Somalia.

Anti-Western attitudes are strong in some parts of Somalia, which can result in violent harassment of foreigners, including foreigners of Somali descent.

Drought conditions and delayed rainfall in southern and central Somalia and areas bordering Ethiopia and Kenya have contributed to the unstable security environment. Food shortages are common and, along with military operations, have resulted in the displacement of thousands of people. This has led to an increase in disease and an increased risk of crime.

If, despite our advice, you're in Somalia:

  • travel with your vehicle's doors locked and windows up at all times
  • carry only what you need - leave other valuables in a secure location
  • secure your accommodation against intruders
  • be alert to your surroundings at all times
  • due to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, if you're a victim of violent crime, including rape, seek immediate medical assistance.

Local travel

Landmines

Landmines are a danger throughout Somalia.

Road travel

Road travel in Somalia is very dangerous. Hazards include poor road conditions, landmines and criminal activity. Illegal roadblocks are common. See Safety and security.

If you need to travel by road, first:

  • seek local advice on possible routes
  • seek professional security advice
  • adopt effective personal security measures
  • make contingency plans.

More information: Road travel

Piracy

Attacks by pirates in and around Somalia's waters, the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden are a serious threat, including at large distances from the Somali coast. Pirates are often heavily armed. All forms of shipping are attractive targets for Somali pirates, including commercial vessels, pleasure craft and luxury cruise liners. The International Maritime Bureau publishes piracy reports.

If you need to travel by boat in Somali waters or surrounds:

  • stay more than 1000 nautical miles (1850km) from the coast of the Horn of Africa, although even this distance may not be safe
  • travel in convoy
  • maintain good communications between convoy members at all times
  • adopt appropriate security measures.

More information:

Air travel

Mogadishu International Airport, where there is a large presence of Westerners, is a high priority target for extremists. Other airports and aircraft are also possible targets for terror attack.

On 2 February 2016, authorities confirmed an explosion on a commercial flight to Djibouti from Mogadishu was caused by an explosive device brought on to the plane.

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

  • Do not travel through Somali airspace on aircraft without robust security measures.

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.

Somalia is not a signatory to the Vienna Conventions on diplomatic and consular relations. This means that if you're arrested or detained, you may not be able to notify the Australian Government or access consular services.

Drug laws

Penalties for drug offences are severe and may include imprisonment and heavy fines.

More information: Carrying or using drugs

Other laws

Courts operate with a combination of Somali customary and Sharia law. Strict Sharia law, including corporal and capital punishment, is in force in those areas under Al-Shabaab control.

Seek professional advice if you might engage in activities that involved local legal matters, particularly with regard to family law (divorce, child custody and child support). Be aware of your rights and responsibilities.

The enforcement of criminal laws is haphazard, and due process is not always applied.

Activities that are illegal in Somalia include:

  • homosexual acts – in areas where Sharia law applies, possible punishments include flogging or the death penalty – more information: LGBTI travellers
  • preaching religion other than Islam in Puntland or Somaliland.

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
  • providing any support related to military activities to any armed group in Somalia, without authorisation from the Australian Government – this includes engaging in fighting, funding, training or recruiting someone to fight, and supplying or funding weapons or military equipment.

More information:

Dual nationals

If you are an Australian-Somali dual national, you'll be regarded by Somali officials as Somali in the first instance. You may be prevented from contacting the Australian Government if you are arrested or detained. Our ability to provide consular assistance may be limited.

More information: Dual nationals

Local customs

Standards of dress and behaviour in Somalia are very conservative. Take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to occur between early May and early June 2019. During Ramadan, take extra care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. Avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public and in the presence of people who are fasting.

More information: Ramadan

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. Make sure your policy includes adequate coverage for any pre-existing conditions.

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 your 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

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 be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel.

Take enough legal prescription medicine with you to last for the duration of your stay so you remain in good health. Carry copies of your prescription and a dated letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Insect-borne diseases

Malaria occurs throughout the year in all parts of Somalia. Chloroquine-resistant strains of malaria are reported. Other insect-borne diseases (including dengue fever, yellow fever, filariasis and leishmaniasis) also occur.

Protect yourself against mosquito-borne diseases:

  • get vaccinated against yellow fever before you travel
  • consider taking malaria prevention medication
  • ensure your accommodation is insect proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • seek medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.

More information:

Polio

Outbreaks of polio occur regularly in Somalia.

In May 2014 the WHO declared the international spread of wild poliovirus a 'public health emergency of international concern' and issued temporary recommendations that may affect travel to Somalia.

  • Make sure you're up-to-date with vaccinations against polio, including a booster dose if required. Speak to your doctor if you're unsure whether you're fully vaccinated for polio.
  • Carry evidence that you have received a dose of polio vaccine within 12 months prior to departure from Somalia.

More information:

HIV/AIDS

The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Somalia is high. Exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection. If you're a victim of violent crime, including rape, seek immediate medical assistance.

Other infectious diseases

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including cholera, hepatitis, meningococcal, measles and tuberculosis) are prevalent. Outbreaks of other diseases (including meningitis, Rift Valley fever and typhoid) occur regularly.

  • Boil all drinking water or drink bottled water.
  • Avoid ice cubes.
  • Avoid raw and undercooked food.
  • Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to water borne diseases.
  • Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering diarrhoea.

More information: Infectious diseases

Medical facilities

Medical facilities in Somalia are extremely limited.

If you become seriously ill or injured, you'll need to be evacuated to a destination with appropriate facilities. Medical evacuation is very difficult to organise and costs are very high.

Natural disasters

Somalia experiences severe weather and is vulnerable to tsunamis.

If a natural disaster occurs:

Severe weather and climate

Somalia experiences strong variations in climatic conditions, including regular droughts and floods. As a result, many areas of Somalia suffer from food shortages and thousands of people are displaced. This has led to an increase in disease, an increased risk of crime and higher security threats to foreigners.

The temperature in Somalia is often extremely high. The average maximum temperature can exceed 45˚C during the hottest months.

The monsoon season extends from May to October in the southwest and from December to February in the northeast.

Where to get help

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

Due to the security situation, the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular services to Australians in Somalia is extremely limited.

Australia does not have a diplomatic mission in Somalia. Contact the Australian High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya, for consular assistance.

Australian High Commission, Nairobi

Riverside Drive (400 metres off Chiromo Road)
Nairobi, KENYA
Phone: +254 20 427 7100
Fax: +254 20 427 7139
Website: kenya.highcommission.gov.au
Facebook: Australia in East Africa
Twitter: @AusHCKenya

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

If you're unable to contact the High Commission in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information