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Country Guides for Africa


Eritrea Eritrea was awarded to Ethiopia in 1952 as part of a federation. Ethiopia's annexation of Eritrea as a province 10 years later sparked a 30-year struggle for independence that ended in 1991 with Eritrean rebels defeating governmental forces; independence was overwhelmingly approved in a 1993 referendum. A two-and-a-half-year border war with Ethiopia that erupted in 1998 ended under UN auspices on 12 December 2000. Eritrea currently hosts a UN peacekeeping operation that is monitoring the border region. An international commission, organized to resolve the border dispute, posted its findings in 2002 but final demarcation is on hold due to Ethiopian objections.

Source: CIA World Factbook

Food and waterborne diseases are the number one cause of illness in travelers. Travelers’ diarrhea can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, which are found throughout the region and can contaminate food or water. Infections may cause diarrhea and vomiting (E. coli, Salmonella, cholera, and parasites), fever (Typhoid fever and toxoplasmosis), or liver damage (hepatitis). Make sure your food and drinking water are safe.

Malaria is a serious, but preventable infection that can be fatal. Your risk of malaria may be high in these countries, including cities. Prevent this deadly disease by seeing your health care provider for a prescription antimalarial drug and by protecting yourself against mosquito bites. Most travelers to East Africa, including infants, children, and former residents of East Africa, are at risk for malaria. All travelers at risk for malaria should take one of the following drugs (listed alphabetically): atovaquone/proguanil, doxycycline, mefloquine, or primaquine (in special circumstances).

A certificate of yellow fever vaccine may be required for entry into certain of these countries. For detailed information, see Comprehensive Yellow Fever Vaccination Requirements. Also, find the nearest authorized U.S. yellow fever vaccine center.

Dengue, filariasis, leishmaniasis, onchocerciasis, trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), and Rift Valley fever are diseases carried by insects that also occur in this region. Protecting yourself against insect bites will help to prevent these diseases.

Schistosomiasis, a parasitic infection, is found in fresh water in the region, including Lake Malawi. Do not swim in fresh water (except in well-chlorinated swimming pools) in these countries.

Because motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury among travelers, walk and drive defensively. Avoid nighttime travel if possible and always use seat belts.

CDC recommends the following vaccines (as appropriate for age):

See your doctor at least 4–6 weeks before your trip to allow time for shots to take effect.

  • Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG).
  • Hepatitis B, if you might be exposed to blood (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, stay longer than 6 months, or be exposed through medical treatment.
  • Meningococcal (meningitis) vaccine, if you plan to visit the western half of Ethiopia from December through June.
  • Rabies, if you might be exposed to wild or domestic animals through your work or recreation.
  • Typhoid, particularly if you are visiting developing countries in this region.
  • Yellow fever, if you travel anywhere outside urban areas.
  • As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria, measles, and a one-time dose of polio vaccine for adults. Hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11–12 years who did not receive the series as infants.

To stay healthy, do...

  • Wash hands often with soap and water.
  • Drink only bottled or boiled water, or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles. Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes. If this is not possible, make water safer by BOTH filtering through an “absolute 1-micron or less” filter AND adding iodine tablets to the filtered water. “Absolute 1-micron filter” are found in camping/outdoor supply stores.
  • Eat only thoroughly cooked food or fruits and vegetables you have peeled yourself. Remember: boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it.
  • If you travel to an area where there is risk for malaria, take your malaria prevention medication before, during, and after travel, as directed. (See your doctor for a prescription.)
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites:
    • Pay special attention to mosquito protection between dusk and dawn. This is when the type of mosquito whose bite transmits malaria is active.
    • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats.
    • Use insect repellents that contain DEET (diethylmethyltoluamide).
    • Read and follow the directions and precautions on the product label.
    • Apply insect repellent to exposed skin.
    • Do not put repellent on wounds or broken skin.
    • Do not breathe in, swallow, or get into the eyes (DEET is toxic if swallowed). If using a spray product, apply DEET to your face by spraying your hands and rubbing the product carefully over the face, avoiding eyes and mouth.
    • Unless you are staying in air-conditioned or well-screened housing, purchase a bed net impregnated with the insecticide permethrin or deltamethrin. Or, spray the bed net with one of these insecticides if you are unable to find a pretreated bed net.
    • DEET may be used on adults, children, and infants older than 2 months of age. Protect infants by using a carrier draped with mosquito netting with an elastic edge for a tight fit.
    • Children under 10 years old should not apply insect repellent themselves. Do not apply to young children’s hands or around eyes and mouth.
  • To prevent fungal and parasitic infections, keep feet clean and dry, and do not go barefoot.
  • Always use latex condoms to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

  • Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    Download Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by CountryDownload Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by Country

SAFETY AND SECURITY: Tensions between Eritrea and Ethiopia related to a border dispute escalated in May 1998, resulting in armed conflict. Hostilities erupted again in February 1999 and May 2000. Eritrea and Ethiopia reached a cease-fire agreement in June 2000 and signed a peace agreement on December 12, 2000. A United Nations (UN) peacekeeping force has been deployed along the Eritrean-Ethiopian border since January 2001 and monitors a 15 mile-wide Temporary Security Zone. As part of the peace agreement, Eritrea and Ethiopia agreed to settle the border issue via international arbitration through the Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission. The Commission announced its boundary decision on April 13, 2002. Demarcation of the border is expected to continue through 2003. Currently, all border crossings into Ethiopia from Eritrea remain closed. U.S. citizens should inquire at the American Embassy in Asmara and with local officials before traveling near the border until the demarcation process is complete.

Landmines and unexploded ordnance are a problem and there are continuing reports of accidents. In December 2000 and January 2001, five separate mine incidents, which appear to have involved freshly laid mines, occurred near the towns of Barentu, Guluj, and Antore, killing at least four people and wounding several others. In June 2002, two UN workers were injured by a mine near the city of Om Hajer. Because of these incidents, as well as reports of banditry and threats from an indigenous terrorist group with connections to international Islamic extremists, the U.S. Embassy in Eritrea urges Americans not to go to areas west, south, and southeast of Barentu. Americans traveling in these areas despite the dangers are strongly advised to check with local authorities before embarking on their journey and to avoid travel after dark.

In addition to reports of freshly laid mines, some mines set during the 1998-2000 war with Ethiopia and the 30-year struggle for independence remain throughout the country. In 2001 there were 111 reported mine incidents that resulted in 49 deaths and 118 persons injured. Americans should avoid walking alone and hiking in riverbeds or areas that local government officials do not certify as safe.

Although Eritrea and Sudan have re-established diplomatic relations, the border often remains closed. Overland travel between these two countries is dangerous and strongly discouraged. The Eritrean-Sudanese border remains tense. In addition, there is a risk of encountering banditry or Islamic extremist terrorist activity near the Eritrean-Sudanese border in areas north and west of the road between Keren and Barentu. There are reports that terrorist insurgents have laid new landmines and terrorist attacks have occurred in these areas. Travelers should use extreme caution when traveling in these areas and should avoid them if at all possible. If such travel is essential, travelers should consult both the local government and the U.S. Embassy.

CRIME: Street crimes, such as theft, robbery, and assault are rare in Asmara and other cities and towns, but the incidence of these occurrences is increasing. Travelers should exercise vigilance in their personal security and safety precautions regarding valuables carried and areas visited.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at

Source: U.S. Department of State

hot, dry desert strip along Red Sea coast; cooler and wetter in the central highlands (up to 61 cm of rainfall annually); semiarid in western hills and lowlands; rainfall heaviest during June-September except in coastal desert

Source: CIA World Factbook

Eritrea's electrical current is 220/50 (volts/hz) and uses the plug adaptors listed to the right under Related Items. Please note: Not all electrical sockets in these countries provide grounding. Many North American appliances are designed to operate only within the 100-125 volt range. These appliances will suffer damage if plugged into 220-250 volts without the proper transformer or converter.

To determine which plug adaptors you'll need and if you'll require a transformer or converter, use our Electrical Connection Wizard.

For a detailed discussion of international electrical standards, see our related article on Electrical and Phone Adaptation.

Download Magellan's Guide to World Electrical ConnectionsDownload Magellan's Guide to World Electrical Connections

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa, which must be obtained in advance, are required. Eritrea does not issue entry visas at the airport. All visitors to Eritrea who enter Eritrea with a U.S. passport and a visa do not need an exit visa, as long as they do not remain in Eritrea past their visa expiration date. Persons who stay beyond their visa expiration date may be subject to fines, imprisonment, or be required to remain in Eritrea for more than a month while the case is reviewed in court. Please see the section below on “Criminal Penalties.” All long-term residents, regardless of their citizenship, must obtain an exit visa before departure.

U.S. citizens who were born in Eritrea and enter Eritrea using their Eritrean passport or national I.D. card are required to obtain an exit visa prior to departure. In some cases an exit visa application may substantially delay travel plans or even be denied, even to such persons who entered Eritrea legally. Eritrean authorities have stated that Eritreans who left the country in an “illegal manner” prior to obtaining U.S. citizenship may not be allowed to depart Eritrea. Please see section on “Dual Nationality.”

There is an airport departure tax. Information about the airport tax and entry/exit requirements may be obtained from the Embassy of Eritrea, 1708 New Hampshire Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20009; telephone (202) 319-1991; fax (202) 319-1304. Overseas, inquiries may be made at the nearest Eritrean embassy or consulate.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry and departure.

Source: U.S. Department of State

The time zone for Eritrea is 3 hours offset from GMT, which means that if it is 12:00 noon in New York, the time in Eritrea would be 8:00 pm

The unit of currency in Eritrea is the nakfa (ERN).

Look up the current exchange rate using's Universal Currency Converter

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