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Is Eritrea Safe?

Eritrea's safety is a concern due to political tensions, civil unrest, and terrorism risks. Petty crime is relatively low, but violent incidents involving foreigners have occurred. Health risks include inadequate medical facilities and insect-borne diseases like malaria. Natural disasters are minimal, but transportation can be challenging with poor road conditions. Respecting cultural norms, especially regarding dress and photography, is essential to avoid conflicts.

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Safety & Security

Eritrea is generally considered a safe destination for travelers, but there are some risks to be aware of. The country has a low crime rate, with petty crimes like pickpocketing and bag snatching being the most common issues in urban areas. However, violent crime against foreigners is rare. Travelers should still exercise caution, especially at night and in crowded areas.

  • Political Tensions: Eritrea has a tense political situation, with an authoritarian government and a history of border disputes with neighboring countries. Avoid demonstrations and large gatherings, as they can turn violent.

  • Terrorism: While the risk of terrorism is low, attacks cannot be ruled out. Extremist groups operate in the region, and the government has been involved in regional conflicts.

  • Scams: Be wary of scams, especially around tourist areas. Common scams include overcharging, fake tour guides, and taxi scams.

  • Civil Unrest: Sporadic civil unrest and protests can occur, often related to political or economic issues. Monitor local news and follow advice from authorities.

  • Disputes: Avoid getting involved in disputes or confrontations, as they can escalate quickly. Remain polite and cooperative if approached by authorities.

Overall, Eritrea is generally safe for travelers who exercise caution and stay vigilant. Consult travel advisories and register with your embassy for the latest updates.

Health & Medical

Travelers to Eritrea should be aware of potential health risks and take necessary precautions. While the country has made progress in improving healthcare, medical facilities are still limited, especially outside major cities.

  • Vaccinations: Ensure routine vaccinations are up-to-date, and consider additional vaccines like hepatitis A, typhoid, and yellow fever, depending on your travel plans.
  • Malaria: Malaria is a risk in many parts of Eritrea. Consult a healthcare provider about antimalarial medication and preventive measures.
  • Water and Food Safety: Drink only bottled or purified water and avoid undercooked or raw foods to prevent waterborne and foodborne illnesses.
  • Air Pollution: Air pollution levels can be high in urban areas, posing a risk for respiratory issues, especially for those with pre-existing conditions.
  • Medical Facilities: Quality medical care may be difficult to access, particularly in rural areas. Travelers should consider purchasing comprehensive travel health insurance.

Natural Disasters

Eritrea is located in the Horn of Africa, a region prone to natural disasters such as droughts, floods, and earthquakes. While the country has experienced these events in the past, the risk for travelers is generally low.

  • Droughts are a recurring phenomenon in Eritrea, particularly in the arid coastal regions. However, these events are typically slow-onset and do not pose an immediate threat to travelers.

  • Floods can occur during the rainy season (July to September) in some areas, especially in the highlands. Flash floods may disrupt transportation and cause property damage, but they are usually localized and short-lived.

  • Earthquakes are a potential risk due to Eritrea's location along the East African Rift Valley. While the country experiences occasional tremors, major earthquakes are relatively infrequent. Travelers should familiarize themselves with safety procedures in case of an earthquake.

  • Volcanic Activity is not a significant concern in Eritrea, as there are no active volcanoes within the country's borders.

It is advisable for travelers to monitor weather forecasts, follow local advisories, and exercise caution during the rainy season or in areas prone to flooding. Overall, with proper precautions and awareness, the risk of natural disasters should not deter travelers from visiting Eritrea.


Transportation in Eritrea can be challenging for travelers. While public transportation options like buses and shared taxis are available, their safety and reliability are often questionable. Roads, especially in rural areas, are frequently in poor condition, posing risks for both drivers and passengers.

  • Road Safety: Eritrea has a high rate of road accidents due to factors like reckless driving, poorly maintained vehicles, and lack of proper road infrastructure. Travelers should exercise extreme caution when driving or riding in vehicles.

  • Public Transportation: Buses and shared taxis are the primary modes of public transportation. However, these vehicles are often overcrowded, poorly maintained, and driven recklessly, increasing the risk of accidents.

  • Rental Cars: Renting a car can provide more control over transportation, but it's essential to ensure the vehicle is in good condition and to familiarize oneself with local driving laws and customs. Driving at night should be avoided due to poor road conditions and limited lighting.

  • Taxis: In urban areas, taxis are a relatively safer option, but travelers should exercise caution and negotiate fares beforehand to avoid potential scams or disputes.

  • Road Conditions: Many roads, especially in rural areas, are unpaved, poorly maintained, and lack proper signage or lighting, making driving hazardous, particularly during the rainy season.

Cultural Norms

Eritrea is a culturally diverse nation with a rich heritage. Respecting local customs and traditions is essential for travelers to ensure a smooth and enriching experience. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Dress Code: Modest clothing that covers the shoulders and knees is recommended, especially when visiting religious sites or rural areas. Avoid revealing attire.

  • Religious Observances: Eritrea has a significant Christian and Muslim population. Be respectful during religious holidays and ceremonies, and seek permission before photographing religious sites or individuals.

  • Social Etiquette: Greetings are important in Eritrean culture. It's polite to greet elders and those in authority with a handshake or a slight bow. Avoid public displays of affection.

  • Language: While English is widely spoken in urban areas, learning a few basic phrases in Tigrinya or Arabic can go a long way in showing respect and appreciation for the local culture.

  • Hospitality: Eritreans are known for their warm hospitality. Accepting offers of food or drinks is considered polite, even if you cannot finish them.

  • Photography: Always ask for permission before taking photographs of individuals, especially in rural areas or religious settings.

  • Gestures: Be mindful of gestures, as some may be considered offensive or disrespectful. For example, avoid pointing with your finger or showing the soles of your feet.

By respecting local customs and traditions, travelers can foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of Eritrea's rich cultural heritage.

Emergency Services

Emergency services in Eritrea are limited and may not meet the standards expected by many international travelers. The availability and reliability of emergency services can vary significantly depending on the location within the country.

  • Medical Facilities: Eritrea has a shortage of well-equipped medical facilities, especially outside the capital city of Asmara. Many hospitals and clinics lack adequate supplies, trained staff, and modern equipment.

  • Ambulance Services: Ambulance services are generally unreliable and may not be available in some areas. Response times can be slow, and ambulances may not be properly equipped.

  • Fire and Rescue Services: Fire and rescue services are limited, particularly in rural areas. Response times can be lengthy, and equipment may be outdated or inadequate.

  • Police and Security: The police force in Eritrea is relatively small and may not have the resources or training to handle emergencies effectively. Response times can be slow, and language barriers may hinder communication.

It is advisable for travelers to exercise caution and take necessary precautions to minimize the need for emergency services. Obtaining comprehensive travel insurance and carrying a well-stocked first-aid kit can be beneficial.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Is Eritrea safe for tourists?

Eritrea is generally safe for tourists, but caution is advised due to potential civil unrest and border conflicts. Avoid demonstrations, remote areas near borders, and travel with a guide. Petty crime occurs in cities, so remain vigilant.

Is Eritrea safe for solo female travelers?

Solo female travelers should exercise caution in Eritrea. Dress modestly, avoid isolated areas, and arrange trusted guides. Sexual harassment and gender-based violence are risks, especially at night. Familiarize yourself with local laws and customs.

Is Eritrea safe for families?

Eritrea can be challenging for families with children due to limited amenities and healthcare facilities. Ensure updated vaccinations, carry medical supplies, and exercise caution with food and water. Avoid remote areas and travel with a reputable tour company.

Is Eritrea LGBTQ+ friendly?

LGBTQ+ individuals face legal challenges and social stigma in Eritrea. Same-sex sexual activity is illegal, and LGBTQ+ rights are not recognized. Public displays of affection may lead to harassment or arrest. Exercise discretion and caution.

Do you need a visa to go to Eritrea?

Most visitors require a visa to enter Eritrea. Tourist visas are typically valid for one month and must be obtained in advance. Some nationalities may obtain a visa on arrival, but requirements vary. Check with the Eritrean embassy for your specific situation.

Can you drink tap water in Eritrea?

Tap water is not safe to drink in Eritrea. Contamination and poor sanitation pose health risks. Drink only bottled or purified water, and avoid ice cubes. Boil water if bottled water is unavailable.

What is the currency in Eritrea?

The Eritrean nakfa (ERN) is the official currency in Eritrea. US dollars and euros are also widely accepted, but change may be given in nakfa. Credit cards have limited acceptance, so carry cash.

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