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Djibouti

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Summary

  • Exercise a high degree of caution in Djibouti because of the threat of terrorist attack and volatile regional security environment.
  • Do not travel within ten kilometres of the border with Eritrea because of the ongoing border tensions.
  • Do not travel within ten kilometres of the border with Somalia (Somaliland) due to the threat of kidnapping.
  • Pay close attention to your personal security at all times. Monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks. See Safety and security.
  • A terror attack could happen anywhere and at any time. Somali terror group Al-Shabaab is threatening to attack Djibouti and other neighbouring countries. See Safety and security.
  • Avoid protests, demonstrations and public gatherings as they can turn violent. In December 2015, up to 19 people died in a confrontation with police at a religious gathering near Balbala Djibouti city. See Safety and security.
  • Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Djibouti. The Australian Embassy in Addis Ababa provides consular and passport assistance to Australians in Djibouti.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

You'll need a visa to visit Djibouti. See the official e-visa portal for information.

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

Other formalities

You'll need a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate to enter Djibouti if you're arriving from a country where yellow fever is endemic. More information: Yellow fever risk and certification requirements (by country, WHO)

Passport

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months after 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 Djibouti Franc (DJF). Travellers cheques can be exchanged at major banks.

Djibouti's economy is cash-based. Credit cards are not widely accepted. There are a limited number of ATMs in Djibouti, which are frequently out of service. Contact your bank to make sure your cards will work.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat in Djibouti. An attack could happen anywhere and at any time. Foreigners could be targeted.

The militant group Al-Shabaab has stated its intention to conduct attacks in Djibouti in response to Djibouti's participation in the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia. Attacks could be targeted at Djiboutian or western interests.

Methods could include suicide bombings, kidnappings, and roadside improvised explosive device (IED) attacks. The threat of kidnapping is particularly high within 10 kilometres of Djibouti's border with Somalia (Somaliland).

Possible targets include areas frequented by foreigners such as hotels, clubs, restaurants, bars, schools, markets and shopping areas, places of worship, embassies, outdoor recreation events, tourist areas and historic sites. Foreign military bases, airports, aircraft and Djibouti military interests could also be targeted.

  • Exercise a high degree of caution throughout Djibouti.
  • In planning your activities, consider the kind of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided.
  • Be alert to possible threats, especially in crowded areas and other public places.
  • Report any suspicious activity or items to police.
  • Monitor the media for any new or emerging threats.
  • Take official warnings seriously.
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities.
  • Do not travel within ten kilometres of the border with Somalia (Somaliland).

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

Civil unrest and political tension

There were military clashes between Djibouti and Eritrea in June 2008. Tensions remain. Further conflict is possible. Civil unrest or armed conflict in neighbouring countries (Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea) could also affect the security situation.

Protests, demonstrations and other public gatherings can become violent. In December 2015, up to 19 people were killed in a confrontation with police at a religious gathering in the Bouldougo area, near Balbala, west of Djibouti city.

  • Exercise a high degree of caution throughout Djibouti.
  • Avoid public gatherings, protests and demonstrations – they could turn violent.
  • Monitor the media for reports of planned or possible unrest. Avoid affected areas.
  • Follow instructions from local authorities.
  • Do not travel within ten kilometres of the border with Eritrea.

Crime

Pickpocketing and other petty crime occurs in Djibouti. There have been reports of banditry outside the capital. The risk of crime increases at night and in isolated locations including Dorale and Khor Ambado beaches. 

Kidnapping is a threat, especially within ten kilometres of Djibouti's border with Somalia.

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

  • Exercise a high degree of caution throughout Djibouti.
  • Carry only what you need. Leave other valuables, including your passport, in a secure location.
  • Don't tempt thieves – avoid displaying expensive watches, jewellery, phones and cameras.
  • Avoid carrying bags that are easy to snatch.
  • Keep vehicles doors locked, windows up and valuables out of sight at all times, including when moving.
  • Secure your accommodation against intruders, including when you're in it.
  • Don't walk alone after dark.
  • Avoid visiting Dorale and Khor Ambado beaches late in the afternoon or at night.
  • Do not travel within 10km of the border with Somalia (Somaliland).

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

Local travel

Landmines

Djibouti has been declared a 'mine-safe' country, meaning landmines have been identified and marked, but have not been removed. Remain on paved roads, especially in the northern districts of Tadjoura and Obock and the southern district of Ali Sabieh.

Remote areas

The presence of security forces is limited in remote areas of Djibouti, including regions bordering Ethiopia and Somalia.

If you travel to the northern region of Djibouti (above the 12 degree north latitude line which passes through Obock) you'll need permission from the Government of Djibouti before you go.

  • Do not travel within 10km of the border with Somalia (Somaliland).
  • Avoid travel to other remote areas, including the region bordering Ethiopia.

Essential services

Djibouti is experiencing severe drought after four years of below average rainfall. Local services and the availability of water and basic food may be affected in certain areas.

Road travel

Some roads in Djibouti are narrow, poorly lit and badly maintained. Roaming livestock are an additional hazard, especially at night. The standard of driving and vehicle maintenance is generally poor.

Police set up wire coils as roadblocks on some of the major roads, which can be difficult to see at night.

If there is an accident, drivers of affected vehicles are required to wait at the scene until police arrive.

Banditry is a threat outside the capital. See Safety and security.

  • Check you have adequate insurance cover before driving.
  • Familiarise yourself with local traffic laws and practices before driving.
  • Get up-to-date local advice on road conditions, including security risks, before travel.
  • Plan all travel outside the capital to fall well within daylight hours and in convoy.
  • Be alert to possible hazards, especially at night.
  • If you're involved in a road accident as a driver, wait at the scene until police arrive.
  • Don't drink and drive.

More information: Road travel

Driver's licence

You can drive in Djibouti with a valid Australian driver's licence and an International Driving Permit (IDP). You must obtain your IDP before departing Australia.

Motorcycles

Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when using a motorcycle, quad bike or similar vehicle. Your policy may not cover you for accidents that occur while using these vehicles. Wear, and ensure your passenger wears, a correctly fastened and approved helmet.

Taxis

Use only registered taxis and limousines, preferably those arranged through your hotel.

Public transport

Intercity travel is limited to bus and ferry services between the capital city and the towns of Tadjoura and Obock. Don't travel at night. A railway between Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and Djibouti provides freight and passenger services.

Sea travel

Use a reputable transport provider and wear a lifejacket at all times, even if others don't.

There is a high risk of piracy in the coastal areas of Djibouti. There have been attacks by pirates in and around Djibouti's waters and the Gulf of Aden. Somali pirates have been using motherships to attack vessels more than 1,000 nautical miles (1,800km) from the coast of Somalia. All forms of shipping are attractive targets for Somali pirates, including commercial vessels, pleasure craft and luxury cruise liners. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) issues piracy reports on its website.

If you decide to travel by boat in Djibouti waters:

  • first check the IMB's piracy reports
  • exercise extreme caution
  • take appropriate security precautions
  • be alert to threats.

More information: Piracy

Air travel

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 Djibouti. More information: Air travel

Laws

You're subject to 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.

Drug laws

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs in Djibouti are severe, and include long jail sentences and heavy fines. The narcotic khat is legal in Djibouti, but is illegal in many other countries. More information: Drugs

Other laws

Activities that are illegal in Djibouti include:

  • hunting
  • being drunk in public
  • photographing infrastructure, such as public buildings, ports, airports, bridges and military facilities
  • photographing military personnel.

If you take photos near prohibited places, your equipment may be confiscated and you may be arrested. If in doubt, seek advice from authorities.

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

Read Dual nationals.

Local customs

More than ninety percent of Djiboutians are Muslim. There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour. Homosexuality is not illegal but local communities are intolerant of homosexuality and same sex relationships.

  • Respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs.
  • Take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan occurs between early-May and early-June 2019. During Ramadan, take 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: 

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 widely throughout the year in Djibouti. Other insect-borne diseases (including dengue fever and filariasis) are also a risk to travellers.

Protect yourself against insect-borne diseases:

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

Polio

There have been ongoing outbreaks of polio in countries across the Horn of Africa.

  • Complete 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.

HIV/AIDS

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

Other infectious diseases

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including cholera, hepatitis, schistosomiasis, meningococcal disease and tuberculosis) occur, with more serious outbreaks from time-to-time.

  • Use good hygiene practices including frequent handwashing.
  • Boil all drinking water or drink bottled water in rural areas.
  • Avoid ice cubes in rural areas.
  • Avoid raw and undercooked food.
  • Don't swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases.
  • Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering diarrhoea.

Dehydration and sunstroke

High summer temperatures can lead to dehydration and sunstroke.  Take sensible precautions.

Medical facilities

The standard of health facilities in the capital is limited and very basic to non-existent in outlying regions. Medicines are sometimes unavailable in rural areas and can be expensive.

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

Natural disasters

Djibouti experiences severe weather conditions and is in an active seismic zone, making it susceptible to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis.

If a natural disaster occurs:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag).
  • closely monitor local media and other sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts.

Severe weather and climate

The climate is very hot and dry from May to October, with strong dust storms occurring in June. Daytime temperatures can be over 50 degrees. Djibouti is experiencing severe drought after four years of below average rainfall. Local services and the availability of water and basic food may be affected in certain areas.

Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions

Djibouti experiences earthquakes and has one active volcano, Ardoukoba, which last erupted in 1978.

•        Familiarise yourself with earthquake safety measures for each place you stay.

Falling ash following a volcanic eruption can be distributed over a wide area. Exposure to ash can harm your health, particularly your breathing. The ash, dust and toxic fumes emitted following an eruption are a significant health risk, especially to those with existing respiratory problems.

If there is a volcanic eruption:

  • stay inside with the windows and doors shut and place damp towels at door thresholds and other draft sources, if ash is falling in your area
  • when ash has ceased to fall or you need to go outside, wear a disposable face-mask if available and change it frequently
  • wear long-sleeved clothing and long pants to protect your skin, and goggles to protect your eyes
  • avoid unnecessary contact with ash
  • follow the advice for all natural disasters above.

Tsunamis

Djibouti is susceptible to tsunamis.

To receive tsunami alerts, register with the Global Disaster Alert and Co-ordination System.

Move immediately to high ground if advised by local or regional authorities or if you experience any of the following:

  • feel a strong earthquake that makes it hard to stand up, or a weak rolling earthquake that lasts a minute or more
  • see a sudden rise or fall in sea level
  • hear loud and unusual noises from the sea.

Do not wait for official warnings. Once on high ground, monitor local media.

Where to get help

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

Emergency phone numbers

  • Fire: phone 18
  • Medical emergency: phone 18 or go to the nearest hospital
  • Police: phone 18 or visit the nearest police station

Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

Tourism products and services

To complain about tourism services, contact the service provider directly.

Australian Government

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

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Djibouti. For consular assistance, contact the Australian Embassy, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Australian Embassy

Australian Embassy
Turkish compound (off Cape Verde street)
Bole Subcity, Woreda 3
PO Box 3715
Addis Ababa, ETHIOPIA
Telephone: +251 11 667 2678
Facsimile: +251 11 667 2868
Email: adba.consular@dfat.gov.au
Website: ethiopia.embassy.gov.au

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

If you are unable to contact the Australian Embassy in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Additional resources