Safety Tips in Eritrea

  • Traveling out of Asmara
    Traveling out of Asmara
    by georeiser
  • Near the government buildings
    Near the government buildings
    by georeiser
  • Eritrean youth in Asmara downtown
    Eritrean youth in Asmara downtown
    by georeiser

Most Viewed Warnings and Dangers in Eritrea

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    General security warning

    by georeiser Updated May 12, 2009

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    It's said that the poverty is increasing in Eritrea and the country has a food security problem in case of poor rainfall, etc. There is no starvation in Eritrea today, but some poor people have only one meal a day (February 2009).

    Border with Ethiopia: It's not advised to travel to the disputed border area between Eritrea and Ethiopia, including the town of Barentu, because of the dangerous security situation. A peace agreement signed between Eritrea and Ethiopia in 2000 is yet to be fully implemented and the border is heavily militarised and remains closed. Political tensions remain high and both sides are on heightened alert. There are no direct flights between the two countries.

    Border with Sudan: It's not advised for foreigners to travel to the regions bordering Sudan, including the town of Teseney, because of the security situation. There is a risk of banditry and insurgent activity. Foreigners will never get a permit from the Eritrean authorities to enter this area. There are check points on the road. (Eritrean refugees has the possibility to meet family members or friends at the Sudanese border because they can not enter Eritrea).

    Border with Djibouti: It's advised not to travel to the Djibouti border following military clashes between Eritrea and Djibouti in June 2008.

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    Don't talk about politics in Eritrea

    by georeiser Updated Feb 18, 2009

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    Eritrea is not a democracy, and there are no privately-owned news media in the country. It is not legal to speak bad about the government.
    Even if you see things can be different, or if you just want to give a kind-hearted advice. Eritreans are afraid of, or doesn't like to hear criticism from foreigners, so don't get into politics.

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    Money: look after your paperwork!

    by scotsgirl Written Jan 6, 2009

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    Money - You can't take Nakfa into the country, and there are no ATMs, so the
    only way of getting more money once in Eritrea is by Western Union transfer. So take as much as you need! You
    have to declare ALL currency and travellers' cheques on arrival at the airport.
    This is written on a piece of paper and stamped. Every time you change money,
    you must produce this piece of paper, which is again stamped and your remaining sum of money recorded, at the approved
    Himbol exchange agents. At the end of your stay, before you go through customs
    at the airport, you have to show the paper at an airport kiosk (there are no signs to tell you this - I was sent back after clearing customs) and have it sanctioned. If
    there is disparity between the money you declared, the money you changed, and
    the money you now have, this can cause problems. Though not as much as losing the piece of paper. There are rumours of people who
    lose the piece of paper getting into trouble and missing their flights.

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  • Being a Journalist = Crime

    by Insomnia07 Written Dec 6, 2007

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    I have reported all over Africa and I have to be totally honest, freedom of speech is hardly considered a basic human right. However, I have never encountered such harsh and offensive oppression of journalistic freedom than in Eritrea. A friend of mine is based in China, another highly censored state, we compared our experiences in the 2 countries and China comes out way on top in regards to freedom of the press. It's a shame that the press and free speech in general is so oppressed in Eritrea, because I found it to be one of the more interesting and less brutal African lands - though the border areas with Ethiopia and Sudan are far from safe.

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    Currency Declaration

    by Traveller_GT Written Feb 26, 2006

    When you enter Asmara by airplane, you will be required to fill out a currency declaration. I did not see anyone checking if the declaration was correct or not. When you leave, you must also fill out a declaration. I personally did not have a problem, but I heard from a friend that wrote incorrect information on the declaration ended up having to stay in Asmara. They missed their flight and had to correct their currency somehow.

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    The border conflict with Ethiopia (part 2 of 2)

    by Saagar Written Aug 17, 2005

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    Cont'd....

    Ethiopia is loosing face at home over the ruling of the UN border commission, and turning it into a hopeless situation where Ethiopia now again is rumbling with her weapons and putting claims on getting Badame back despite the UN's view. It is plain irritation over loss of face on both parties, because Badame is nothing but a deserted village and broken stones and scattered shrubs now. Behind the Ethiopian president is a vocal Oromo and Amharic opposition to his regime, claiming access to the sea. Behind the Eritrean president are 30 years of independence war and resultant national pride. Now they quarrel with manners and in a language like bad brothers - in fact, the presidents are cousins! Both presidents de facto hold their populations hostage to the crisis.
    If you are to believe Ethiopian propaganda there is going to be a new war over personalities with the pricking pin being and excuse being Badame again. Unfortunately, Eritreans are so unrealistic about the situation of their country that they are not good at negotiating a settlement that goes anywhere in a sensible direction. Thus, they help very much putting themselves into an increasing risk of war. For travellers, it is very important not to get into a situation too near the border - they are all very trigger happy there. And travellers should take care not to offend their temporary hosts and put locals into a difficult position later.
    Past experience has show that the two countries try to immobilize air transport, and thus try to bomb each others' forward airports. This means Asmara airport in the case of Eritrea, and pre-war break-out there may be an evacuation order. So stay in touch with the embassy or consulate if you travel in Eritrea. Ethiopia is simpler as you can escape back from the front in Tigray.

    Sheltering from Eritrean shelling at Zalambessa
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    The border conflict with Ethiopia (Part 1 of 2)

    by Saagar Written Aug 17, 2005

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    This conflict is the world's most stupid. Basically, Ethiopia is dissatisfied with Eritrea's arrogance, and the blocking of Ethiopia's access to the sea (Assab). Eritrea is taking nothing from Ethiopia, and claims the moral high ground, posing a very arrogant stance. While the liberation of both Ethiopia from the Dergue regime and Eritrea from Ethiopia coincided in time and action, the few years of honeymoon that ensued were not to last. The two presidents started personifying the critical attitudes of each others' peoples as political expediency - both had promises they couldn't fulfill, such as democratic reforms, multiparty rule, prosperity etc... A stupid currency issue (Eritrea introducing Nakfa, banning Birr, and Ethiopia demanding hard currency payments for all vital exports), lead to souring of relations, erupting in a terrible propaganda war, one-sided expulsions of Eritreans from Ethiopia, an incredible arms race in light of extreme poverty and hunger and eventually a bloody war over mutually conflicting claims over the joint border. In '98 Eritrea managed to hold off Ethiopia more or less, but in a renewed conflict focussed on the Badame village and semi-desert area, Eritrea was soundly beaten back into her own territory in 2000. 80.000 killed... Few in Eritrea seem to know or acknowledge this fact. In a subsequent border demarcation by the UN-led border commission Ethiopia lost most of Badame to Eritrea despite having "won" the war.

    Ex-soviet, ex-Ethiopian, ex-tank near Barentu
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    Censorship and political oppression

    by Saagar Updated Aug 17, 2005

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    After the liberation from Ethiopia there was such an opening up in Eritrea, such a happy nation. After two subsequent border wars with Ethiopia and tightening up of belts and mouths, the mood has changed 180 degrees. Now people are reluctant to speak their minds and in groups of more than five, there is a feeling there is bound to be a government spy. There is active oppression of opposition to the president Isaias Afeswerki, and again droves of people leave the country. Academic institutions, media and other institutions are subject to heavy sensorship. In short, it takes some effort to find out what is going on in Eritrea when you are there. For the sake of your aquaintances and those you meet along your trail, be a good listener and do not provoke or discuss politics and the situation unduly and in public.

    Internally displaced by war
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    Safety

    by hunwagner Written Mar 27, 2005

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    As for the chances of being robbed or pickpocketed on the streets, there is no need to worry - Eritrea is probably the safest country in Africa in terms of crime!
    However, a few areas of the country (mostly to the West) suffer from political instabilty and could be unsafe to visit. Nevertheless, you won't have the chance to stray into such trouble-spots anyway, simply because you won't be issued travel permits to go there.

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    Your captain's destroying live coral on the reefs

    by Saagar Updated Mar 11, 2005

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    Make sure the captain doesn't throw the anchor straight on live coral when out on a sea excursion off the Eritrean coast. The captain will do so if you don't tell him not to...
    The boat crew obviously want to please and so take you to the nicest coral patches, and off the anchor goes without any consideration for the coral below. Find a sandy or rocky place for the anchor, not live coral. You have a voice here and can do something about it!!!

    Dahlak patch reef
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    Strong currents between the Dahlak Islands

    by Saagar Written Mar 11, 2005

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    There are very strong currents in some of the best snorkelling spots around the Dahlak islands- several knots - so be careful, and perhaps trail a rope with a safety bouy to hold on to after the boat when snorkelling.

    Nice, but rushing by....
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    Sales of endangered species

    by Saagar Updated Mar 1, 2004

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    I noticed that a couple of souvenir shops on the main street in Asmara (in 2000) had sea turtle shells and leopard skins for sale. Both items are illegal sales objects according to the CITES treaty. Two of the skins that I saw were of very young, small leopards.
    Point 1) As they are endangered species, do not buy them, and object to their sales when you see such things.
    Point 2) Trying to bring them across borders may land you in trouble for smuggling illegal goods - also in your home country.

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    Beaches north of Massawa

    by Saagar Written Mar 1, 2004

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    North of Massawa are some nice beaches and good swimming. Extremely hot, it can be, but that's why you want to cool off in the sea, no?
    This area has seen some fighting in the past (Ethiopia-Eritrea in the '80es), and I was advised there were still landmines and unexploded ordinance in the sand further inland from the road. So stay on the beach, and do not stray inlands beyond the vicinity of the hotels/restaurants and the road.

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  • Eritrea is a malaria effected...

    by Dave_A Updated Aug 25, 2002

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    Eritrea is a malaria effected area. Anywhere below 2000 meters ASL has a potential for malaria infection. Asmara is at an elevation of 2300 meters ASL. Eritrea and Ethiopia have been at war for several years, and the residual of the conflict is many unexploded ordnance items and landmines. This contamination is mostly localized to several areas, and the border region.

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