Eritrea Basics

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The Basics


Time: Local time is GMT +3.

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

Money: The currency of Eritrea is the Nafka (NFA). It is divided into 100 cents. Eritrea has a cash economy and there are no ATMs in the country. Major hotels may accept credit cards, but will usually charge a hefty commission. The best currency to carry is US dollars.

Note: These rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.

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

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

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

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

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

Entry requirements for South Africans: 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.

Entry requirements for New Zealanders: 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.

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

Passport/Visa Note: 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 that they have been requested by a local sponsor at the Eritrean Immigration Authority, 48 hours before the passenger's arrival. 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. Yellow fever vaccination certificates are required to enter Eritrea, if the visitor is arriving within six days of leaving or transiting through an infected area. 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.

Travel 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. Don't eat fruit and vegetables unless they have been cooked or peeled, and 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.

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.

Safety Information: 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 border.s 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 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 to show the soles of your feet or shoes, and to touch or move objects with your feet. Visitors should avoid using their left hand when greeting others, or when eating, as it is considered 'haram' (impure). Also note that homosexuality is illegal in Eritrea, and is punishable by imprisonment.

Business: Eritrea's economy was promising post-independence but 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. That said, 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.

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 tempremental. The international dialling code for Eritrea is 291 and city codes are not in use.

Duty Free: Visitors to Eritrea may import the following goods: 200 cigarettes/50 cigars/250g of tobacco, and one litre of alcohol.