Safety and security

Crime

Crime levels are low but take sensible precautions with your personal safety. Don’t walk around late at night alone. Keep valuables, particularly cameras and passports, out of sight. Keep a photocopy of the personal details page of your passport in a safe place, or with friends or family in the UK.

A large proportion of the population has access to arms under the government of Eritrea’s civilian militia programme. We have no evidence that these weapons have increased the threat of violent crime.

Local travel

There are extensive mine fields in Eritrea, especially in border areas. Driving on main roads away from border areas is generally safe. Avoid driving on non-metalled roads and walking or hiking in the countryside. In September 2011, a landmine exploded on the road between Senafe and Afoma, to the east of Senafe, killing 5 people.

The FCO advise against all travel within 25km of Eritrea’s border with Ethiopia with the exception of the town of Senafe. Though relations with Ethopia have improved the border remains closed, and in most places is neither marked nor obvious.

The FCO advise against all travel within 25 km of Eritrea’s border with Djibouti. In 2008 there was fighting between Djibouti and Eritrea after an incursion of Eritrean forces into the disputed Djibouti border region. The situation remains unresolved.

The FCO advise against all travel to Eritrea’s border with Sudan, with the exception of the road to, and main town of Tessenei. There are ongoing reports of armed groups operating in and around the border area.

Avoid travelling after dark in rural areas. Road signage and barriers are scarce, and steep drops are common. In many parts of the country roads are difficult or impassable during the rainy season.

Due to the proximity of the Hanish islands in the Red Sea to the ongoing conflict in Yemen, it’s highly unlikely permission would be granted to visit the south western Hanish islands that belong to Eritrea.

Mobile telephones

Telephone networks are often unreliable and may only work for limited periods each day outside Asmara and larger towns. There are no agreements between Eritrean mobile telephone providers and international providers. You will not be able to receive or send calls or SMS text messages from any overseas mobile phone network on arrival in Eritrea. Local SIM cards can’t be purchased without a resident’s permit. There have been unconfirmed reports that phone calls made on the local mobile phone network are recorded.

Electronic items

All electronic items (laptops, mobile phones, cameras etc) should be declared upon arrival. Failure to do so may result in their confiscation by Eritrean customs officials when you depart.

Travel permits

All foreign nationals must apply in advance for a travel permit to leave Asmara and the surrounding province of zoba Maekel. There are checkpoints outside of Asmara where your travel permit will be checked. Those working outside Asmara also need a travel permit to leave their area of residence or work. Applications in Asmara are handled by the relevant Ministry. For business travellers, applications are dealt with by the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Applications outside Asmara are handled by the local Zoba (Region) Administration Offices. Permission may take several days to be granted and is sometimes refused or delayed.

Tourists wishing to travel outside Asmara should apply for a travel permit at the Ministry of Tourism located on Harnet Avenue in Asmara. Processing usually takes around 24 hours. When applying for permission to travel outside of Asmara, you should supply details of the car you’ll be travelling in. There have been reports of tourists not being permitted to use public transport to travel outside of Asmara and having to rent a car or use a private taxi.

Restrictions on travel by foreign nationals apply equally to foreign diplomats. Staff from the British Embassy therefore can’t provide consular assistance to British nationals outside Asmara.

Sea travel

Mariners must seek permissions and entry visas before attempting to land in Eritrea.

Recent piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden, highlight that the threat of piracy related activity and armed robbery in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean remains significant.

Reports of attacks on local fishing dhows in the area around the Gulf of Aden and Horn of Africa continue.

The combined threat assessment of the international Naval Counter Piracy Forces remains that all sailing yachts under their own passage should remain out of the designated High Risk Area or face the risk of being hijacked and held hostage for ransom. For more information and advice, see our Piracy and armed robbery at sea page.

Consular assistance

There are serious constraints on what the British Embassy can do to help British nationals in Eritrea. It can take up to seven days for foreign diplomats in Asmara to receive permission to travel outside Asmara. This means that the Embassy is unable to offer consular assistance to British nationals outside Asmara.

There are obstacles to the provision of consular assistance even in Asmara. The Eritrean authorities may not inform the relevant Embassy if a foreign national is in need of help and there have been recent instances where the Eritrean authorities have refused consular access to detained foreign nationals.