Road Conditions and Safety: Although main roads in Djibouti City are well maintained, others are unpaved or in poor repair and subject to unexpected flooding. Highways are prone to frequent rock slides. Many roads wind through steep ravines and lack guardrails.
Police occasionally set up random roadblock stops on major roads to conduct inspections of vehicle registration and insurance.
Outside of Djibouti City, hazards include narrow roads, insufficient lighting, poor vehicle maintenance (missing headlights) and wayward pedestrians and livestock. Police set up roadblocks on major roads which are not clearly visible at night. Other risks include excessive speeding and erratic driving habits. The widespread use of the narcotic khat by drivers contributes to speeding and unsafe driving habits.
When driving outside Djibouti City, avoid all travel after dark and use convoys of two vehicles in case one car becomes disabled. Carry additional fuel and provisions (water, satellite phone, first aid kit). Gas stations are located at a considerable distance from one another and sell only diesel fuel in rural areas. There are few professional roadside assistance services.
Landmines: Stay on paved roads. Unmarked land mines exist in the border region with Eritrea, though most landmines have been marked or cleared from border regions.
Traffic Laws: A U.S. driver?s license or International Driving Permit is required to drive in Djibouti. The use of cell phones while driving is prohibited. Exercise caution at intersections; drivers often run red lights and do not stop at intersections. Third-party liability insurance is required and you must display the insurance sticker.
Accidents: Remain inside the vehicle and wait for the traffic police or gendarmes. If a hostile mob forms or you feel you are in danger, leave the scene in your vehicle if possible and proceed directly to the nearest police station to report the incident. If you are injured, drive to the nearest hospital or clinic.
Public Transportation: Avoid all travel by public transportation, and hire private transport from a reliable source. Public transportation is unregulated, unreliable, and generally unsafe. Hotel and airport shuttle services are a safe alternative. Taxis are available but are considered unsafe. U.S. Embassy personnel are prohibited from riding in buses or taxis.
The capital city and the towns of Obock and Tadjoura have intercity bus and ferry services. An electric limited rail, replacing the century old Ethio-Djibouti railway, began operation in October 2016 with freight service.
Hiring a vehicle: Reputable car rental firms can include the services of a driver. Be particularly vigilant at airports where criminals use luggage tag information to present themselves as pre-arranged drivers. Do not use your passport as a security deposit. If you allow your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.
See our Road Safety page for more information.
Sea Travel: The threat of piracy remains significant. Pirates have held foreigners hostage for ransom. Reports of attacks on local fishing boats in Djiboutian coastal waters continue. Djiboutian military ships are clearly marked, and may turn away small craft or divert vessels to verify citizenship of passengers.
- Use established sea lanes, and pilot vessels in groups to reduce the risk of being hijacked.
- See the Live Piracy Report published by the International Maritime Bureau.
- In case of emergency, contact the Djiboutian Coast Guard or Djiboutian Navy on UHF marine channel 16, or the Yemeni Coast Guard on channel 16 or at 967 1-562-402.
Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Djibouti, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Djibouti?s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. See the FAA?s safety assessment page. Due to security concerns, U.S. embassy personnel are prohibited from taking commercial flights originating in Somalia that stop in Djibouti as part of a multi-leg flight.
Consult the CDC website for Djibouti prior to travel.
Medical facilities in the capital of Djibouti are limited, and facilities are nonexistent in many outlying areas. Trauma care is only intended to stabilize a patient prior to medical evacuation. Medicines are expensive and often in short supply. Carry medication in its original packaging with your doctor?s prescription.
You are responsible for all medical costs. U.S. Medicare does not cover you overseas. Most care providers expect payment in U.S. dollars or Djiboutian francs before treatment is provided.
Medical Insurance: If your health insurance plan does not provide coverage overseas, we strongly recommend supplemental medical insurance and medical evacuation plans. Dual U.S.-Djiboutian citizens with disabilities may qualify for education and health services through the Ministry of National Solidarity and the Ministry for the Promotion of Women and Family Planning.
Malaria is endemic. Use CDC recommended mosquito repellents including DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR-3535. Sleep under insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets. Chemoprophylaxis is strongly recommended for all travelers.
Given Djibouti?s proximity to the Arabian peninsula, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is also a risk.
The following diseases are prevalent:
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Further health information:
Local laws and Special Circumstances
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Convictions for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs result in long prison sentences and heavy fines. Although the narcotic khat is legal in Djibouti, it is illegal in many countries, including the United States. Some laws are also prosecutable in the United States, regardless of local law. For examples, see our website on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice website.
Photography: It is illegal to take pictures of government buildings, military installations or personnel, and other infrastructure such as air and sea ports, bridges, and public buildings, as well as of religious sites, such as mosques. You could be fined, have your photographic equipment confiscated, and risk detention and/or expulsion. Do not take photos of Djiboutians without their permission.
Children: Dual Somali or Djiboutian-U.S. citizens should be aware that moving children to Djibouti or Somalia (including Somaliland) from the United States for the purpose of having Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) performed can be prosecuted in both countries. FGM/C is illegal under both Djiboutian and U.S. law.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information. Djiboutian law enforcement officials occasionally prevent foreigners from contacting anyone while in detention. Because of this, the U.S. Embassy may not receive notification of an arrest or may not be allowed access to you if you are detained.
Phone Service: Although land lines do exist in parts of Djibouti, cellular phones are the norm. You may purchase a SIM card locally for use in an unlocked GSM cell phone. The national cellular phone provider is Djibouti Telecom. Telecommunications systems outside of Djibouti City are unreliable or non-existent.
Currency: The Djiboutian Franc (DJF) is the official currency. It is a cash economy; credit cards are accepted at major hotels and supermarkets only. Most vendors and banks will only take bills printed after 2006 due to counterfeiting. Exchange currency only at reputable banks. ATMs are limited and may not recognize U.S. issued credit cards, including MasterCard, though Visa generally works.
Firearms: Strict regulations may be enforced on the temporary import and export of firearms. Contact the Embassy of Djibouti in Washington, D.C. or the Djibouti National Police for specific information regarding customs and registration requirements prior to travel. Hunting without a permit is illegal.
Faith-Based Travelers: See our following webpages for details:
- Faith-Based Travel Information
- International Religious Freedom Report? see country reports
- Human Rights Report? see country reports
- Best Practices for Volunteering Abroad
LGBTI Travelers: While there are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI events, societal norms do not allow for the public discussion of homosexuality and there are no known LGBTI organizations. Authorities may prosecute public display of same-sex sexual conduct under laws prohibiting attacks on ?good morals.? No antidiscrimination law exists to protect LGBTI individuals.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: Persons with disabilities face limited access to transportation, communication, accommodations, and public buildings. There are few sidewalks and no curb-cuts, and most buildings lack functioning elevators.
Women Travelers: The law prohibits female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), but the practice remains prevalent with rates estimated at 78 percent nationally. Reliable rape statistics are not available, and laws for sentencing perpetrators are not enforced effectively. Domestic violence is common but underreported. Rather than the courts, families and the informal clan-based justice system generally handle cases of domestic abuse or violence. Police rarely intervene in domestic violence incidents, The National Union of Djiboutian Women operates a walk-in counseling center (Cellule d?Ecoute) in Djibouti City that provides services and referrals for women and men.
See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
Safety and Security
Regional terrorist groups continue to threaten Western interests and can easily cross borders to conduct attacks in public places where Westerners congregate. Civil unrest or armed conflict in the neighboring countries of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Yemen, and Somalia affect the security situation in Djibouti. A large number of refugees and asylum seekers from across the region, including Somali refugees and asylum seekers from Ethiopia, have settled in the Ali Addeh Camp near Ali Sabieh, and refugees from Yemen continue to settle in the Markazi refugee camp near Obock.
Tensions along the Djibouti-Eritrea border exist from an ongoing border dispute, necessitating approval from the Djibouti government before travel north of Obock. Border skirmishes have occurred in the past.
Many border areas between Djibouti and both Ethiopia and Somalia lack visible demarcation and may still contain landmines.
- Avoid demonstrations and use vigilance during your movements around the country. Even events intended to be peaceful can become violent. Security forces have at times relied on force to disperse protesters.
- Maintain caution at large gatherings and in areas frequented by foreigners.
- Monitor news and consular messages.
Crime: Crimes of opportunity are most common and include pickpocketing, purse snatching, theft from or of vehicles, and identity theft (by stealing credit card information).
- Avoid walking alone, especially after dark, and displaying cash and valuable personal property.
- Dress conservatively.
- Drive with doors locked and windows closed.
- Travel with a copy of your U.S. passport and Djibouti visa to prevent the originals from being taken. Keep original documents in a secure location.
- Keep your credit card in your sight at all times while it is being processed. Consider using prepaid credit cards with limited funds when traveling.
Victims of Crime: Legal response or recourse for victims of crime is extremely limited. Report crimes to the local police by dialing 18 throughout Djibouti (French/Arabic) and contact the U.S. Embassy at +(253) 77-877-229. Local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes. U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault should first contact the U.S. Embassy.
See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
- help you find appropriate medical care
- assist you in reporting a crime to the police
- contact relatives or friends with your written consent
- explain the local criminal justice process in general terms
- provide a list of local attorneys
- provide information on victim?s compensation programs in the U.S.
- provide an emergency loan for travel back to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution
- help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
- replace a stolen or lost passport
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence should contact the Embassy for assistance.
Tourism: The tourism industry is unevenly regulated, and safety inspections for equipment and facilities do not commonly occur. Hazardous areas/activities are not always identified with appropriate signage, and staff may not be trained or certified either by the host government or by recognized authorities in the field. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is typically available only in/near major cities. First responders are generally unable to access areas outside of major cities and to provide urgent medical treatment. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
Entry exit Requirementsh
Requirements for Entry:
- Passport (with at least six months validity)
- Obtain your visa prior to travel.
- Visitors can apply for visas online at Djibouti eVisa.
- Visas applications can also be submitted directly to the Embassy of the Republic of Djibouti in Washington, D.C.
- Overseas inquiries should be made at the nearest Djiboutian embassy or consulate. Contact the French embassy in countries where there is no Djiboutian consular presence.
- Thirty-day visas may be issued on arrival at the discretion of immigration authorities but cannot be guaranteed.
- World Health Organization (WHO) card with yellow fever vaccination, if you have arrived from a yellow-fever prone country.
If you are traveling to Djibouti in support of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) activities, follow directions per the Foreign Clearance Guide.
Journalists require a letter of accreditation approved in advance by the Ministry of Communication and Culture. U.S. journalists and other journalists working for U.S.-based media institutions should contact the U.S. Embassy?s Public Affairs section at least two weeks prior to travel to facilitate this accreditation process. Journalists who fail to receive an accreditation letter risk arrest, seizure of equipment, and/or expulsion.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to, or foreign residents of, Djibouti.
See the Department of State?s Fact Sheets on Djibouti for information on U.S. – Djibouti relations.