Travel Consideration: Eritrea

Contributed By RealAdventures

Eritrea is a poor but developing east African country. Formerly a province of Ethiopia, Eritrea became an independent country on May 24, 1993, following a 30-year struggle that culminated in an overwhelming referendum vote for independence. Tourism facilities are very limited.

A passport and visa, which must be obtained in advance, are required. There is an airport departure tax, and residents of Eritrea generally must obtain an exit visa from Eritrean Immigration in advance of their departure. Entry information (and information on the departure tax) may be obtained from the Embassy of Eritrea, 1708 New Hampshire Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20009; telephone (202) 319-1991; fax (202) 319-1304. Overseas, inquiries may be made at the nearest Eritrean embassy or consulate.

Tensions between Eritrea and Ethiopia related to a border dispute escalated in May 1998, resulting in armed conflict the following month, then again in February 1999. The border between Eritrea and Sudan is also tense, and there have been occasional reports of Sudanese aircraft making bombing runs in border areas. In addition, there is a risk of encountering banditry or Eritrean Islamic Salvation (EIS), formally called the Eritrean Islamic Jihad, terrorist activity near the Eritrean-Sudanese border in areas north and west of the road between Keren and Barentu, and along the coastline north of Massawa. There are reports that EIS insurgents have laid new landmines and EIS attacks have occurred in these areas. Travelers may encounter banditry unrelated to the EIS along the coastline south of Massawa. In December 1996, five foreigners were killed in an ambush near Fil-Fil, an area 30 km. north of Asmara, the capital. The United States recommends travelers use extreme caution when traveling in these areas, and that they avoid them if at all possible. If such travel is essential, travelers should consult both local government and U.S. Embassy officials.

Medical facilities in Eritrea are extremely limited. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars or more. Travelers must bring their own supplies of prescription drugs and preventative medicines.

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions which differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Eritrea is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Most roads in Eritrea are in fair condition and many are unpaved. Landmines and unexploded ordnance litter the countryside in many areas and continue to cause injuries and deaths. Although a demining effort is underway, it is wise to consider all areas that are not well traveled as potentially dangerous due to live mines. Areas north and west of Keren are known to be heavily mined. Check with local government and local village officials before undertaking such travel.

Avoid walking alone and hiking in riverbeds or areas that local government officials do not certify as safe.

Exercise caution when traveling to remote areas or off primary roads, avoiding secondary roads when possible. Ensure that other traffic has passed over unimproved roads before traveling on them, which may mean delaying an early morning departure from remote areas or waiting until traffic resumes after a lull due to bad weather or other factors.

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Eritrean laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs in Eritrea are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Eritrea and Sudan have recently re-established diplomatic relations, but overland travel between these two countries is dangerous and strongly discouraged. Commercial transportation to and from Asmara has been suspended at times due to the border conflict. In November 1998, Djibouti severed diplomatic relations with Eritrea resulting in border tensions and the discontinuation of air service by Djiboutian air carriers.

U.S. citizens are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Asmara and to obtain updated information on travel and security in Eritrea. The U.S. Embassy address is: Franklin Roosevelt Street, P.O. Box 211 Asmara, telephone (291-1)12-00-04; fax (291-1)12-75-84.

As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, or economic authority to operate such service, between the U.S. and Eritrea, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Eritrea’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Eritrea’s air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet home page at The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at 618-229-4801.

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