Road Conditions and Safety: Stay on main roads. Rural roads and off-road driving can be dangerous. Traveling by road is also hazardous due to slow motorized carts, pedestrians, bicycles, livestock, fog, and poor lighting. There are minefields in certain areas of the country. The roads between Asmara, Massawa, Mendefera, Dekemhare, Barentu, and Keren are paved but roads to small villages are not. Mountain roads, which are narrow and winding with crumbling edges, generally do not have guardrails or signs, and sometimes have poor visibility of oncoming traffic around hairpin turns. Road debris is common during the rainy seasons, which differ depending on which part of the country you are in. The Filfil Road from Asmara to Massawa has a large amount of mountain debris and has washed away in parts. Wild baboons may be sighted on mountain roads. They are not safe to approach; keep vehicle windows closed and doors closed.
Traffic Laws: If you wish to drive in Eritrea, you must obtain an Eritrea driver?s license. You may not use your U.S. or international driver?s license. The police may stop drivers randomly to inspect driver?s licenses.
Accidents: If you are involved in an automobile accident, you should contact the local police immediately. Leave your car in place until the local police arrive to take a report. If a crowd forms and becomes hostile, contact the U.S. Embassy.
Public Transportation: Buses and taxis, both of which run on pre-established routes, are inexpensive.
- Buses: Extreme over-crowding makes them unsafe and pickpocketing is common.
- Taxis: Requests for any deviation from the route can result in significantly higher fares. You may ask a driver in advance not to take other passengers if you pay a higher fare.
See our Road Safety page for more information.
Aviation Safety and Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Eritrea, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Eritrea?s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA?s safety assessment page.
Maritime Travel: Mariners planning travel to Eritrea should also check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts at www.marad.dot.gov/msci. Information may also be posted to the U.S. Coast Guard homeport website and the NGA broadcast warnings website (select ?broadcast warnings?).
Consult the CDC website for Eritrea prior to travel.
Medical facilities and physicians are limited. Medicines are in short supply. Carry prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor?s prescription. Bring preventative and over-the counter medicines with you.
You are responsible for all medical costs. U.S. Medicare does not cover you overseas.
U.S. citizens who entered Eritrea on an Eritrean visa (those that do not hold an Eritrean national ID) must pay for medical services in U.S. dollars. Payment is usually required before treatment.
Medical Insurance: If your health insurance plan does not provide coverage overseas, we strongly recommend supplemental medical insurance and medical evacuation plans.
The following diseases are prevalent:
Vaccinations: See the CDC website for recommended vaccinations.
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. Furthermore, some laws are also prosecutable in the U.S., regardless of local law. For examples, see our website on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice website.
U.S.-Eritrean Dual Nationals: Eritrea does not recognize dual nationality. Dual U.S. – Eritrean citizens are considered Eritrean nationals by the Eritrean authorities. This severely limits our ability to provide consular services.
You may be subject to certain obligations, including taxes and conscription into national service. You need proof of payment of the 2 percent income tax to obtain any civil documents (e.g. birth certificates, educational transcripts, property ownership records, court records). Inquire at an Eritrean embassy or consulate regarding your status before you travel.
Military Service for Dual U.S. ? Eritrean citizens: The National Service Proclamation of October 1995 states that any national between the age of 18 and 50 must participate in National Service.
Photography: Exercise caution when taking photographs in Eritrea. Individuals taking photos of military or government installations can face a warning, harassment, confiscation of the phone/camera, arrest, detention, or interrogation. Do not take photos of Eritreans without their permission.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. Eritrean law enforcement officials routinely block access to foreign nationals in detention. The U.S. Embassy may not receive notification or be allowed access to you if you are detained. You may ask your family members to contact the Embassy on your behalf. See our webpage for further information.
Phone Service: Cellular phones are common, but landlines are available in most homes and are more reliable than cellular service. Public phones are also available. It is very difficult for a tourist to obtain a SIM card for cellular service. There is no data service or roaming available.
Currency: The Eritrean Nakfa (ERN) is the official currency. The economy is cash-based and there are no ATMs. Credit cards are not accepted anywhere. It is illegal to use foreign currency to make purchases except at a few official hotels where foreigners are required to pay in U.S. dollars or Euros. For businesses that will accept U.S. bills, they require bills printed from 2003 or later.
If you are transiting from Addis Ababa, be aware there is a limit of $3000 (or foreign currency equivalent) that may be carried out of the country. See the U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa message for more information.
It is illegal to exchange money anywhere other than at a state foreign currency exchange Himbol branch. You must declare all foreign currency brought into Eritrea in excess of $10,000 (or the equivalent) and on departure you must prove that any missing foreign currency was exchanged at a branch of the Himbol or provide receipts for the items you purchased.
The Eritrean government prohibits travelers from taking more than 1,000 Nakfa out of Eritrea. Violators may have the money confiscated and/or be detained.
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
- Hajj Fact Sheet for Travelers
- Best Practices for Volunteering Abroad
LGBTI Travelers: Consensual same-sex sexual activity is punishable by ten days to three years incarceration. Antidiscrimination laws relating to LGBTI persons do not exist. There are no known LGBTI organizations in the country. Hotels do not allow two females or two males to share one room unless it has separate beds.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: Persons with disabilities face limited access to transportation, public buildings, hotels, and communication accommodations. Within Asmara, sidewalks are plentiful, although most are in bad condition and do not have cutouts. Few buildings have elevators. Due to frequent power outages, these elevators may not be functioning.
Women Travelers: Domestic violence, punishable as assault and battery, is commonplace but rarely reported and perpetrators are not prosecuted. No information is available on the prevalence of rape.
See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
Safety and Security
Eritrea experiences frequent water shortages and not all hotels have running water. Fuel shortages occur as well.
Travel Permits: All foreign nationals, including U.S. Embassy officials, are required to obtain permits for travel more than 25 km outside of Asmara. Applications for travel permits are available at the two Ministry of Tourism offices located on Harnet Avenue and Airport Road. If you encounter difficulties while outside of the Asmara area, the Embassy?s ability to provide consular services may be limited.
Use caution when traveling near the Eritrea-Ethiopian border area. Remain on major roads in the border region due to unmarked minefields. Foreign nationals (other than Ethiopian and Eritrean citizens) may be prevented from crossing the border, as there are not yet fully functioning border crossing checkpoints. Paperwork requirements for Ethiopian and Eritrean citizens to cross the land borders have been in flux and may be subject to further changes at any time. Borders may also close without notice.
Foreign nationals generally are not permitted to approach or cross the Djibouti-Eritrea land border.
There are landmines, particularly in Nakfa, AdiKeih, Arezza, the 25 mile-wide region (40 km) between the Setit and Mereb Rivers, and in areas north and west of Keren, areas near Massawa, Ghinda, Agordat, Barentu, Dekemhare, and south of Tessenae.
Certain remote Eritrean islands have military facilities and are not accessible to tourists.
- Avoid demonstrations and public gatherings.
- Monitor local and international news from reliable sources and consular messages.
Crime: Crime in Eritrea is increasing. While most reported criminal incidents in Asmara involve crimes of opportunity, car and home burglaries and sexual assaults are on the rise.
- Avoid walking alone, especially at night.
- Do not display cash and valuable personal property.
- Dress conservatively; avoid shorts and tank tops
Victims of Crime: U.S. citizen victims of crime should contact the U.S. Embassy as soon as possible. Report crimes to the local police at + (291)-1-127-799 and contact the U.S. Embassy at + (291) 1-120-004.
In Asmara and throughout Eritrea, in an emergency, dial
- + (291) 1-127-799 for the police
- + (291) 1-202-099 for the fire department
- + (291) 1-202-914 / 201-917 / 201-606 for medical emergencies
Local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crime.
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 repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in case of destitution
- help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
- replace a lost or stolen passport
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance.
Tourism: No formal tourism industry infrastructure is in place. Tourists are considered to be participating in activities at their own risk. Emergency response and subsequent appropriate medical treatment is not available in-country. 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: valid for 6 months, 2 blank pages
- Visa: Obtain your visa before traveling. Visit the Embassy of Eritrea website for the most current visa information. Overseas inquiries should be made at the nearest Eritrean Embassy or Consulate.
- Vaccination certificate: For travelers 9 months and older coming from countries with risk of Yellow Fever.
Electronic items: Strict restrictions are in place for the type and quantity of electronics allowed into the country. Check with the Eritrean Ministry of Finance on the most current regulations. All electronic items (e.g. laptops, mobile phones, cameras) must be declared upon arrival. Customs officials may confiscate previously undeclared items when you depart. Non-residents may need to show that they are leaving Eritrea with the declared electronics in their possession.
Receipts: Visitors must save all receipts for purchases and foreign exchanges and present these upon departure. Failure to report foreign currency or electronics, or meet customs requirements can result in confiscation of possessions, fines, and imprisonment.
Exit Visas: U.S.-Eritrean dual nationals who enter the country on an Eritrean passport or national ID card must obtain an exit visa prior to departure. All long-term residents must also obtain an exit visa.
- The exit visa application process can significantly delay travel plans.
- Exit visas, for any traveler, may be denied.
- U.S.-Eritrean dual nationals who left the country after 1993 may not be allowed to depart Eritrea after visiting.
- The Eritrean government may impose entry and/or exit restrictions on dual-nationals resident outside Eritrea who do not comply with tax regulations on overseas earnings.
The Eritrean-Ethiopian Border
Eritrea and Ethiopia opened several land border crossing points in late 2018 and early 2019. Procedures for entry, however, are not standardized and crossing points can be closed without advance notice. Bearers of U.S. passports are advised against land travel between the two countries until clear processes are in place.
HIV/AIDS restrictions: The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Eritrea.
See our Fact Sheet on Eritrea for additional information on U.S.-Eritrea relations.