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Eritrea

If you’re travelling to Eritrea, our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information.

Get travel and medical insurance

Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.

Overview

Security status

We advise against non-essential travel to Eritrea.

Particular caution should be taken in the border areas with Sudan, Djibouti and Ethiopia where the risk to safety is extremely high.

We advise against all travel within 50km of the Ethiopian and Sudanese borders. The border with Ethiopia is completely closed to both international and local travellers and you should avoid all travel within 50km of the Ethiopian and Sudanese borders with the exception of the main road between Adigrat and Axum.

Before you decide to travel to Eritrea, be aware that the authorities there haven’t always informed the relevant embassy when foreign nationals need consular assistance.

Emergency assistance

Because there is no Irish Embassy or Consulate in the Eritrea, we’re limited in the help we can offer you in an emergency. However, if you need assistance, please contact our Consular Assistance Unit at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Dublin on +353 1 408 2000.

Other EU Embassies  

You can also contact the Embassies or Consulates of other EU countries for emergency consular assistance, advice and support.

Our tips for safe travels

  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities
  • Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App.
  • Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly in an emergency, such as a natural disaster or a family emergency
  • Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates
  • Read our Topical ‘Know Before You Go’ guide

Safety and security

Unrest

The security situation in Eritrea has the potential to deteriorate with little warning and there are ongoing tensions with the neighbouring countries of Sudan, Djibouti and Ethiopia due to unresolved border conflicts. 

In January 2013, there were reports of military movement in the capital city, Asmara and state TV was off the air for several hours. We advise you to exercise caution and monitor available local and international media for information, as well as to check this website for further updates.

Human Rights

The UN Human Rights Council, during its inquiry into human rights in Eritrea, claimed in June 2014 that the Government has engaged in widespread human rights abuses and that about six percent of the population had fled the country. Eritrea rejected the claims as unfounded and refused to cooperate with the inquiry. 

Border regions

We advise against all tourist and other non-essential travel to Eritrea, particularly to its border areas where the risk to safety is extremely high.

Avoid all travel within 50km of the Ethiopian and Sudanese borders with the exception of the main road between Adigrat and Axum.

The Ethiopian military attacked targets across the Eritrean border in 2012 and reports suggest that a number of people were killed in the attacks. There is a risk that foreign nationals could be caught up in further violence in the Ethiopia-Eritrea border area. Military presence is high in the area, and the border is completely closed to both international and local travellers.

Landmines

There are extensive unmarked minefields in Eritrea, particularly near the border with Ethiopia. The risk from unexploded landmines and ordnance throughout the country is high.

Don’t stray off main routes, particularly in rural areas, and always check with your local contact before travelling to affected regions.

Crime

Street crime is rare but does occur in cities and towns, including Asmara so you should take sensible precautions:

  • Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place.
  • Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home.
  • Avoid showing large sums of money in public and don’t use ATMs after dark, especially if you’re alone. Check no one has followed you after conducting your business.
  • Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, and arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible.
  • Keep a close eye on your personal belongings and hold on to them in public places such as internet cafés, train and bus stations. 

Banditry

Banditry is known to take place in border areas, and on some rural roads. Driving on main roads outside of border areas is generally safe but driving on non-metalled roads, off-road driving, walking and hiking in rural areas can be dangerous and we advise against doing so near border areas.

Reporting crime

If you’re a victim of a crime while in Eritrea, report it to the local police immediately. And you can contact us at the Irish Embassy in Dar es Salaam if you need help.

Driving

If you’re planning to drive in Eritrea, you should be extremely careful. Watch out for heavy pedestrian and bicycle traffic, as well as livestock on roads near urban centres, which can pose hazards. Travelling after dark in rural areas is dangerous, due to lack of road signs, barriers and lighting and many parts of the country are impassable during the rainy season.

If you want to drive:

  • Bring your full Irish driver’s licence and your international driving permit and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law and you risk being detained, fined or banned from driving if caught
  • Keep your vehicle doors locked and your bags kept out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag-snatching if you’re stopped at traffic lights

Hiring a vehicle

If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.

Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).

Local laws and customs

Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or may even be illegal. 

Illegal drugs

Illegal drug use (no matter what the drug) carries stiff penalties, including fines and long prison terms.

Law enforcement

Be aware that serious crimes committed in Eritrea may attract corporal punishment and the death penalty.

LGBT

Homosexual acts are illegal and we advise caution and discretion at all times.

Money

The economy in Eritrea is cash-based and there are no ATMs. You must declare all foreign currency brought into Eritrea on arrival. On departure, you must prove that any missing foreign currency was exchanged at a branch of the state foreign currency exchange, Himbol.

It’s illegal to exchange money anywhere other than at a Himbol branch. It’s also illegal to try to use hard foreign currency in Eritrea. If you don’t comply with these regulations, you can be prosecuted.

Photography

Taking photographs of government buildings and military installations is not allowed.

Health

Get travel and medical insurance

Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.

Vaccinations

Check what vaccinations you may need for your trip at least eight weeks before you travel. We can’t advise you on vaccinations, but you can get information about vaccinations from your local GP or an International Health and Travel Centre.

Evidence of vaccination (in the form of a certificate) can be a requirement for entry to some countries.

Medication

Make sure you bring enough medication for your entire trip and for any unexpected delays. You may wish to also bring copies of your prescription in case you lose your medication.

Additional information

Passports

It’s advisable to take a number of photocopies of your passport with you when travelling to Eritrea and you should carry a photocopy of your passport at all times during your stay.

If your passport is lost or stolen while you’re abroad, we can help.

What we can do:

  • Issue you a replacement passport that will let you finish your trip, or;
  • Issue you with an emergency travel document to get you home.

We’ll do our best to help you as quickly as possible but this can take some time. Your location and circumstances may limit the help we can give you. As Ireland does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Eritrea there may be additional complications in processing and application for a new passport.

You should contact the Irish Embassy in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to find out what you need to do to apply for a passport. They will also be able to advise you on the fees which apply.

Climate

The Eritrean climate is varied and ranges from pleasant with little rainfall in the capital, Asmara, to cooler with more rainfall in the highlands and east.

Earthquake

Eritrea is in an active earthquake and volcanic zone. If you’re travelling to or living in Eritrea, make sure you know what to do in the event of an earthquake or volcano

More advice

Ireland doesn’t have an Embassy or Consulate in Eritrea so we can’t verify detailed travel advice to ensure that it’s accurate, appropriate and up to date. However, we encourage you to conduct your own research and to read these links to travel advice from other foreign ministries: