Electricity

Electrical outlets in Eritrea usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts. European two-pin plugs with round pins are standard.

Language

Eritrea has no official language but Tigrinya and Arabic are the most widely spoken languages, and English and Italian are also widely understood.

Money

The currency of Eritrea is the Nafka (ERN). It is divided into 100 cents. Eritrea has a cash economy and there are no ATMs in the country. Most hotels require travellers to settle their bills in US Dollars.

Tipping

Tipping is appreciated but not generally expected in Eritrea. The standard 10 percent tip is acceptable in restaurants and small amounts are appreciated by hotel staff and taxi drivers.

Health

Malaria prophylaxis is recommended for all areas of Eritrea except Asmara and altitudes above 7,218 ft (2,200 metres). A yellow fever vaccination is required for all travellers arriving from yellow fever areas, and is recommended for travellers visiting the states of Anseba, Debub, Gash Barka, Maekel and Semenawi Keih Bahri. Vaccinations are also recommended for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid. Those who may be at risk of animal bites, or who will be in contact with bats, should consider a rabies vaccination. Travellers are generally advised to be up to date on vaccinations for MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), tetanus-diphtheria and polio.

Travellers should not drink tap water in Eritrea unless it has been boiled, filtered or chemically disinfected, and should avoid ice in beverages. It's also wise to avoid fruit and vegetables unless they have been cooked or peeled, and to eat all cooked meals while still hot.

Medical facilities in Eritrea are extremely limited and visitors should ensure that they have comprehensive travel and health insurance. As the availability of medicine is limited, visitors should take along any medication they may need, in its original packaging and accompanied by a signed and dated letter from a doctor detailing what the medicine is and why it is needed.

Safety

Despite the signing of formal peace accords between Eritrea and its neighbour Ethiopia in 2018, it is too early to say what the future holds in terms of the country's peace and stability. Many national authorities, including The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office advise against all travel near Eritrea's land borders.

The Eritrean government maintains tight control of foreigners and all foreign nationals must apply for a travel permit to leave Asmara. These applications are frequently denied. Landmines and unexploded munitions are a threat outside of the capital city and travellers should be wary of straying off the main roads.

Crime levels are comparatively low in Eritrea, but seem to be increasing, especially in Asmara. Travellers should take all the normal precautions to ensure their personal safety. Valuables, including passports, should be kept out of sight.

Local customs

In Eritrea, local customs and social etiquette are heavily influenced by the religious convictions of the population. Whether they're Orthodox Christians or followers of Islam, Eritreans value respect of their elders, conservative dress and behaviour (although casual dress is accepted), and strict observance of fasting periods. It is also considered rude for anyone to show the soles of their feet or shoes, and to touch or move objects with their feet. Visitors should avoid using their left hand when greeting others, or when eating, as it is considered 'haram' (impure). Also, homosexuality is illegal in Eritrea, though the penalties for breaking the anti-homosexual laws are unclear.

Doing business

Eritrea's economy was promising post-independence but it has taken a huge hit from war and drought. Since the signing of formal peace accords in 2018, the economic outlook for Eritrea is becoming a little more positive, though it is not an easy country to do business in. Meetings often don't start punctually, but foreigners should be sure to arrive on time or offense might be taken. Suits are appropriate attire for business meetings for both men and women, but women should ensure that skirts are knee-length or longer. Office hours are generally 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday, and 8am to 11am on Saturdays.

Duty free

Visitors to Eritrea may import the following goods: 400 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco, and two litres of alcohol.

Communications

Statistics on communications infrastructure in Eritrea are not widely available, but landline use, mobile telephone use and internet use are all limited. Travellers should be able to find an internet cafe in Asmara, but outside of the capital and other big cities even finding phones may be difficult. Major hotels will have WiFi but speeds are incredibly slow and connections are temperamental. The international dialling code for Eritrea is 291.

Passport & Visa

Foreign passengers to Eritrea are recommended to carry a passport valid for at least six months beyond their arrival in the country. All visitors should hold return or onward tickets, and the necessary travel documentation for their next destination. Tourist visas should be arranged in advance when possible, but can sometimes be obtained on arrival in Eritrea, provided they have been requested by a local sponsor at the Eritrean Immigration Authority 48 hours before the passenger's arrival.

Travellers should note that boarding should not take place until confirmation of this request has been received. One passport-sized photo is required to issue the on-arrival visa and a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter Eritrea. There are differing accounts as to whether a visa can be obtained upon arrival in Eritrea, and what the criteria are for issuing visas on arrival; therefore, it is highly recommended that visas are arranged prior to travel to Eritrea. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Entry requirements

US citizens must have a passport valid for at least one month beyond period of intended stay in Eritrea, and a visa is required.

British citizens must have a passport valid for at least one month beyond period of intended stay in Eritrea, and a visa is required.

Canadian citizens must have a passport valid for at least one month beyond period of intended stay in Eritrea, and a visa is required.

Australian citizens must have a passport valid for at least one month beyond period of intended stay in Eritrea, and a visa is required.

South African citizens must have a passport valid for at least one month beyond period of intended stay in Eritrea, and a visa is required.

Irish citizens must have a passport valid for at least one month beyond period of intended stay in Eritrea, and a visa is required.

New Zealand citizens must have a passport valid for at least one month beyond period of intended stay in Eritrea, and a visa is required.

Useful contacts

Eritrean Tourism Information Office, Asmara: +29 112 4871

You can reach the police at +291 1 127 799

Embassies / consulates in other countries

Embassy of Eritrea in Washington D.C., United States of America: +1 202 319 1991

Embassy of Eritrea in London, England: +44 20 7713 0096

The Consulate General of the State of Eritrea in Toronto, Canadian: +1 416 306 2865

Consulate of Eritrea in Maribyrnong, Australia (also responsible for New Zealand): +61 3 9318 3300

Eritrean Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 333 1302

The Embassy of Ireland in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (also responsible for Eritrea): +255 22 221 3800.

Embassies / consulates in Eritrea

U.S. Embassy in Asmara, Eritrea: +291 112 0004

British Embassy in Asmara, Eritrea: +44 1908 516666 or asmara.enquiries@fco.gov.uk

Canadian Embassy in Asmara, Eritrea: +291 118 6490

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