If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t fancy mainstream travelling locations, then maybe Eritrea has spurred your interest. It’s not quite the ordinary country. It has so much variety, that even architects and historians decided to visit. It’s also a great place for hikers, cyclists and scuba divers.
The country is not a bad choice when it comes to attractions. It has not only natural attractions, but historical ones as well. The cities’ architecture is stunning, just as the wildlife in Eritrea’s mountains. Additionally, Eritreans are very nice people, who can please you with their presence.
Although it’s an amazing option when it comes to attractions, you’re probably wondering “is Eritrea safe to visit?”. You’re about to find out in this Eritrea safety guide.
Highest Risks You Expose Yourself to When Visiting Eritrea
Overall Risks in Eritrea: MEDIUM
Although the authorities make sure to keep you safe, you should be wary at all times. You never know what could happen, as crime is possible anywhere in the world.
Terrorist events haven’t been taking place recently, but you can’t exclude any possibility. It’s better to be vigilant at all times, mostly in crowded areas.
It’s highly advised not to travel within 25 kilometres of the border areas with Ethiopia, Sudan and Dijbouti. Other areas advised against are west and north of Ak’ordat, Nakh’fa and Barentu. The reason is the ongoing tensions between these countries and Eritrea. Moreover, these areas are at risk of armed banditry, landmines and violence.
Civil Unrest Risk in Eritrea: LOW
While low, the risk of protests is still there. As a tourist, you may be perplexed when something of this sort takes place. It could quickly turn violent, so it’s better to avoid being near protesters.
On 31 October 2017, protests were taking place on the streets of Asmara. Apparently, there were also reports of gunfire from local security forces. This was an attempt to disperse the crowd and make them panic.
Whereas incidents like this don’t take place often, tourists are strongly advised to avoid any demonstration. Even though they can be peaceful, things can quickly turn violent, just like in Asmara. Also, there may be people with bad intentions who would actually be trying to turn things violent.
Ensure you monitor international and local media, and review personal security plans. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings and stay safe during your vacation.
Landmine Risk in Eritrea: MEDIUM to HIGH
There are a lot of minefields in this country. They are mostly in border areas, and tend to cause death or injury when not marked.
Some of them are not marked in remote or rural areas. Therefore, it’s very dangerous to walk off well-used paths and public roads.
Make sure you don’t go on any unknown path or rural area, as you went abroad to have fun, not to be blown up by landmines.
Piracy Risk in Eritrea: MEDIUM to HIGH
Recently, there have been reports about piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia. Mariners risk being hijacked and held hostages.
So, mariners need to be vigilant and seek entry visas and permissions before landing in Eritrea. The threat of armed robbery and piracy attacks is high, so it’s better not to take any risks. It is advised that all sailing yachts under their own passage should definitely keep their distance from the risk area.
Pickpocketing and Theft Risks in Eritrea: MEDIUM
If you’re wondering how safe is Eritrea for tourists when it comes to theft, it’s probably just like you expected.
Theft and pickpocketing could happen, especially if you’re a foreigner. You probably look different than the usual Eritrean individual. Consequently, you draw unwanted attention to yourself, and some thieves may be tempted to act.
Armed banditry is also possible. Usually, it happens on rural roads, near the border with Dijbouti, and along the coast north of Massawa.
- How to avoid pickpocketing and theft in Eritrea?
Here are a few Eritrea safety travel tips to avoid theft and pickpocketing.
First of all, it’s important not to draw too much attention to yourself. Make sure you dress as normal as possible. Moreover, thieves are obviously tempted to pickpocket people who look rich. Therefore, don’t wear any jewellery that may make everyone on the street stare at you. As much as you want to wear that huge dollar medallion, you won’t be able to enjoy it too much.
Another tip would be to avoid walking at night, especially in isolated and quiet areas. This is essential when you’re alone, as you could become an easy target to thieves.
Don’t lose your luggage out of sight when you arrive at the destination. If you have a handbag, keep it in front of you, so it’s not easy to steal. Keep all of your valuables like passport, money or mobile phone somewhere safe.
Scam Risk in Eritrea: LOW
There are no reports of scams being carried out through Eritrea. However, keep in minds that reports usually mention large-scale or dangerous scams, so you might encounter the usual ones instead. For example, locals might try to sell you certain items for higher prices than usual, they may offer you their help only to charge you after, and so on.
When it comes to scams overall, remember that people will try their best to take advantage of foreigners/ tourists, even if they get as little as one dollar from scamming you. It is better if you are aware of your surroundings at all times and be cautious around locals or strangers that approach you for weird reasons, so to speak.
- How to avoid getting scammed in Eritrea?
As mentioned above, given that there are no substantial reports in terms of scams in Eritrea, you will be just fine if you take at least some basic safety measures. You should refuse the help of any strangers/ locals, as well as limit the contact you have with them. Also, you should be extra careful when buying items from street merchants, as they may be either overpriced or of poor quality.
Depending on the location you are in, you should always ask for the menu before ordering something from a bar, restaurant, and so on - or at least ask the bartender/ waiter for the price of what you are about to order. It is well known that owners usually instruct their staff to overprice the items ordered by foreigners/ tourists.
Just keep an eye out for anything suspicious and don't let your guard down and you should be able to successfully avoid any scam!
Kidnapping Risk in Eritrea: LOW
Once again, there are no reports when it comes to kidnapping in Eritrea. Overall, the main issues in this country seem to be petty theft and corruption and bribery. All the other types of crimes come with a low to moderate level and don't seem to usually target foreigners/ tourists.
Even though you should not be worried about getting kidnapped, you should still be cautious and avoid doing some of the things that may get you in such situations.
- How to avoid getting kidnapped in Eritrea?
If you want to avoid being kidnapped while visiting Eritrea, you'll have to do just the things you do back home in order to avoid all type of crime. For example, avoid walking alone during the night, stay away from shady alleys or neighborhoods with a bad reputations among locals/ tourists, and don't explore remote areas - including the city outskirts.
You can always rely on your accommodation or tour guide to give you information about the places you should stay away from. The front desk of your hotel can also tell you which taxi companies or public transportation services to use, as well as the city areas that you should stick to in order to avoid crime, such as pickpocketing and theft.
Still, it is very unlikely that you'll get kidnapped, especially if you keep in mind what we've just mentioned.
Terrorism Risk in Eritrea: MEDIUM
No incidents have been reported lately in Eritrea. Still, you can’t ignore the fact that a terrorist attack is possible.
“Is Eritrea safe to visit?” you may think before deciding to visit. Well, even though the threat is not so big compared to other countries, you need to be vigilant. Pay attention at all times, and never let your guard down. In case you’re from UK, you should be especially wary of the risks. There is a threat of attacks against British nationals and UK interests. The thread comes from individuals or groups motivated by the Syria and Iraq conflicts.
- How to avoid terrorism in Eritrea?
Pay attention to everyone who surrounds you. You should mostly be careful in public areas like restaurants, bars, transport hubs and hotels. Also, be vigilant when there are gatherings like religious events and sport events. Apparently, there have been terrorist attacks in places where people were viewing football matches.
Risks for Women Traveling Alone in Eritrea: LOW
Although you may wonder “Is Eritrea safe for solo women travelers?” considering that your loved ones are worried, you’ll be surprised. Despite being in Africa and thinking terrorism is everywhere, Eritrea is actually a very safe country to visit.
People are very nice and welcoming in this country, and seem to really enjoy each other’s company. The threat is probably not completely absent, but it’s almost non-existent in comparison to other countries.
Solo women travelers can safely visit this country without anything bad happening. There have been a number of women visiting by themselves, and no incident took place.
Still, this doesn’t mean you should let your guard down. It’s still essential to pay attention to your surroundings, as you never know what could happen. You’re away from home, so it’s harder to deal with unexpected situations.
- How to avoid crime as a solo woman traveler in Eritrea?
As the risks for solo women travelers are low, you can get by with just some basic safety measures. It is recommended that you explore the city or the touristic attractions during the day only, especially if you are alone. Keep in mind that you are in a foreign country - therefore, you should not be walking alone during the night.
Also, make sure who you interact with. As mentioned above, you should avoid locals/ strangers that approach you, especially if they seem to try too hard to get your attention or make you chat with them. If someone asks for directions or such, they'll keep it short and on point, not wasting any time - if someone stays around you for too long, then you'll know something is not entirely right, so to speak.
Other than that, keep an eye out on your surroundings and don't do something that might put you in danger- such as exploring remote areas alone or being all by yourself in a pub/ bar during the night.
Rape Risk in Eritrea: LOW
There are no recent reports of sexual violence in Eritrea. Moreover, there are little to no statistics concerning rape/ sexual assault in the recent years - it is safe to say that foreigners/ tourists aren't targeted. As mentioned above, Eritrea is a quite peaceful country, without any serious crime occurrence - other than piracy and the usual petty theft.
However, as always, you should still take some precautionary measures to make sure that nothing will ever happen to you while visiting this country - or any other foreign country.
- How to avoid getting raped in Eritrea?
If you want to avoid getting raped or getting into dangerous situations, it is recommended that you know where and when to travel, so to speak. Avoid traveling through remote areas alone, as we as through bad-reputed parts of the city, shady alleys, the city slums or the outskirts. Obviously, you don't want to be walking alone during the night - you are in a foreign country and you don't know what you can expect from your surroundings.
The best way to keep yourself safe from any sort of crime is by taking some basic safety measures and sticking to the areas recommended and usually traveled by tourists.
Risks for People Traveling with Children in Eritrea: MEDIUM
The country has some facilities specially designed to help travelers that come with children. The requirement of traveling in private transport means that moving between destinations won’t be a hard task.
However, the few main streets are the only ones who are paved. Aside from them, most of the streets don’t have any pavement, so there can be a lot of mud. If you have toddlers, it would be better to carry them in your arms.
Even though health care has improved considerably in the recent years, you need to know about the risks you expose your family to. There is the risk of contacting yellow fever for example, in case your child is not vaccinated against it.
Health care may not be like what you’re used to at home, so you may not always be lucky in case something happens.
- How to avoid unwanted scenarios?
When traveling with children, there are two things that you should be worried about - their health and their location, so to speak. Obviously, you'll want to have a first-aid kit prepared specially for them with you so that you can promptly provide them with the pills, supplements, or band-aids they may need.
In terms of location, we all know that they can get lost quite easily, especially when they are in a new place and feel like exploring it. This is why, as always, we recommend you to have someone to keep an eye on them at all times - if you cannot do so. Keeping them close to you and telling them not to venture too far away from your group is paramount when it comes to their safety overall.
Natural Disaster Risks in Eritrea: MEDIUM
The most frequent natural disasters in Eritrea are drought, flood, and storm. Surprisingly, the disaster responsible for the most economic losses and deaths is storm. Given this, we strongly recommend you to stay within your accommodation whenever there's a storm on the way. Make sure to check the local news and weather reports every time you consider leaving your accommodation.
You can easily prepare a drought kit by packing up more bottles of water than usual, but when it comes to a storm, there's little you can do to actually avoid it, especially if you are out in the open.
Our main recommendation to stay safe in case of natural disasters is to prepare for them long before they happen - as mentioned, you can do so by constantly checking the country's weather reports.
Transportation Risks in Eritrea: MEDIUM to HIGH
First of all, it is worth mentioning that, if you plan on driving a car while in Eritrea, you should stay away from any border areas due to the presence of extensive mine fields. Just stick to the country's main roads and avoid going off the beaten path, so to speak.
You are also advised to avoid traveling within 25km of the border with Ethiopia and the border crossings at Serha-Zalambessa, Debay Sima -Burre, and Rama - Adi Kuala. Don't drive on non-metaled roads and hiking/ walking in the countryside. You should also avoid the border area with Djibouti and Sudan.
In terms of road travel, stay away from rural areas and the secondary roads associated with them after dark. There are little to no road barriers or signage in these areas and they also come with steep drops. If you are driving here during the rainy season, keep in mind that most country roads become impassable or difficult - check the weather report before your departure.
Night-Clubs, Pubs, and Bar Risks in Eritrea: LOW
It seems that the country's entertainment facilities, so to call them, are quite safe for travelers/ tourists, as no significant incidents have taken place within or around them in recent years. This is probably due to Eritrea's civilian militia program - most of the population has access to firearms, action allowed by the country's government.
Even though it isn't known whether the presence of these weapons increases or decreases the threat of violent crime, it is safe to say that most people and locals would not pick fights or engage in criminal acts knowing that virtually anyone around them could carry a weapon. In this respect, we could also say that any tourist can feel safe while traveling through this country.
However, keep in mind that, when it comes to night-clubs, pubs, and bars, things can quickly escalate, especially if you don't keep an eye out on your surroundings. Any drunkard or suspicious person should make you leave the premises, call for a taxi, and get back to your accommodation. Still, the risk of something happening is quite low - with just the basic safety measures and a bit of common sense, you can ensure your safety. Of course, remember to drink moderately!
Health Risks in Eritrea
Asmara comes with three public hospitals - these are also the few properly equipped hospitals in the country. Public hospitals can be found in most Eritrean cities, but they are usually poorly equipped and unable to provide you with medical assistance, especially when it comes to serious injuries. Obviously, remote or poor areas and villages far away from any major cities come with even more limited medical facilities.
We strongly recommend you to carry a comprehensive medical kit with you at all times. Make sure that you have the medication that you may need - in case of headache, stomach ache, and so on. If you are taking any prescription medicines, make sure that you have enough for your stay in Eritrea - it is likely that you won't find most medicine here.
As usual, travel only with proper travel health insurance and with enough funds to cover the costs of any medicine or treatment that you may be subject to in case you are injured. Also, make sure that the funds you have on you can cover emergency transfers to other countries and such.
List of Vaccines You Need in Eritrea
How safe is Eritrea for tourists when it comes to malaria and other dangerous medical condition? You were probably already asking yourself about this.
Well, many countries are at risk when it comes to contacting certain medical issues. Before leaving, it’s essential that you visit your doctor, so he can advise you in case you need any vaccine.
To offer you some information, here is a list of vaccines you may need when visiting Eritrea:
- Yellow Fever
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
Most Dangerous Areas in Eritrea
- 25km of the country's land borders
- The border with Sudan and Djibouti
- Hanish Islands
- Coast of Somalia and Gulf of Aden
Concluding Remarks: Is Eritrea safe to visit?
There you have it: Eritrea safety travel tips that can help you decide whether a trip to this country is a good idea or not.
Eritrea is a wonderful country in its own way. If you know how to take full advantage of it, then it will offer you unforgettable memories. Although generally safe, it has its own risks. Landmines pose a danger in rural and remote areas, but they won’t be a problem if you are careful where you’re walking.
Keep in mind that the country is friendly and the people are very welcoming. Even though it’s a very poor country, it’s very different compared to other African countries. This Eritrea safety guide was hopefully helpful enough in providing you with information about the benefits and dangers of this country.