Eritrea - Consular Information Sheet
February 9, 2001
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Eritrea is a poor, but developing
east African country. Formerly a province of Ethiopia, Eritrea
became an independent country on May 24, 1993, following a 30-year
struggle that culminated in an overwhelming referendum vote for
independence. Tourism facilities are very limited. The capital
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa, which must be
obtained in advance, are required. There is an airport departure
tax, and residents of Eritrea generally must obtain an exit visa
from Eritrean Immigration in advance of their departure. Entry
information (and information on the departure tax) may be obtained
from the Embassy of Eritrea, 1708 New Hampshire Ave., N.W., Washington,
D.C. 20009; telephone (202) 319-1991; fax (202) 319-1304. Overseas,
inquiries may be made at the nearest Eritrean embassy or consulate.
DUAL NATIONALITY: U.S. citizens born in Eritrea or who
otherwise acquired Eritrean citizenship, may be subject to the
obligations of Eritrean citizenship, including national service.
National service involves approximately six months of military
training, followed by one year of military or other service. Dual
citizens who are in doubt as to whether they may be subject to
this requirement should check with the nearest Eritrean embassy
or consulate. For further information, please see the
Bureau of Consular Affairs' web site at http://travel.state.gov/
for the flyer on Dual Nationality.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Tensions between Eritrea and Ethiopia
related to a border dispute escalated in May 1998, resulting in
armed conflict the following month. 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. The United Nations authorized a peacekeeping
force along the Eritrean-Ethiopian border in September 2000. The
first peace observers arrived that month and peacekeeping troops
are to begin deployment in January.
Land travel west, south and southeast of Barentu is dangerous
and should be avoided. On December 4, 2000, three separate mine
incidents were reported on well-traveled roads within a 24-kilometer
radius south of the western Eritrean city of Barentu. In late
January, near the town of Antore in western Eritrea, two people
were killed and two wounded when a pickup truck detonated a land
mine. Also in late January, another mine detonation killed two
people and wounded six in western Eritrea, 36 kilometers west
of the town of Guluj, near the Sudanese border. The December and
January incidents appear to have involved freshly laid mines.
Because of these incidents as well as reports of banditry and
threats from the terrorist group Eritrean Islamic Salvation (EIS),
the U.S. Mission in Eritrea has instructed its personnel not to
travel by land west, south and southeast of Barentu. Americans
traveling in this area despite the obvious dangers are strongly
advised to check with local authorities before embarking on their
journey, and particularly to avoid travel at night.
Mines remain throughout the country. U.S. citizens should avoid
traveling at night and on unpaved and secondary roads. They should
avoid walking alone and hiking in riverbeds or areas that local
government officials do not certify as safe. For further information
on land mine hazards in Eritrea, please see the section below
on "Traffic Safety and Road Conditions."
Although Eritrea and Sudan have recently re-established diplomatic
relations, 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
Eritrean Islamic Salvation (EIS) - formally called the Eritrean
Islamic Jihad - terrorist activity near the Eritrean-Sudanese
border in areas north and west of the road between Keren and Barentu,
and along the coastline north of Massawa. There are reports that
EIS insurgents have laid new land mines and EIS attacks have occurred
in these areas. Travelers may encounter banditry unrelated to
the EIS along the coastline south of Massawa. Travelers should
use extreme caution when traveling in these areas, and 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 crime, such as theft and robbery is rare
in Asmara and other cities and towns, but it is increasing. Travelers
should exercise normal 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. The pamphlets, A
Safe Trip Abroad and Tips
for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa, provide useful information
on personal security while traveling abroad and on travel in the
region in general. Both are available by mail from the
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs,
or via the
Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical facilities in Eritrea are
extremely limited. Travelers must bring their own supplies of
prescription drugs and preventative medicines because pharmaceuticals
are in short supply.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always
valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs
do not provide payment for medical services outside the United
States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment
for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care
overseas may face extreme difficulties.
Please check with your own insurance company to confirm whether
your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical
evacuation, and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems
requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United
States can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Please ascertain
whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor
or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you
incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric
treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas
insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau
of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical
Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via
of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations
and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international
travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX
(1-888-232-3299), or via the
CDC's web site at http://www.cdc.gov/.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign
country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ
significantly from those in the United States. The information
below concerning Eritrea is provided for general reference only
and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
Most roads in Eritrea are in fair condition. The roads between
the major cities of Asmara, Massawa, Mendefera, Dekemhare, Barentu
and Keren are paved and are in relatively good condition. However,
the roads leading to the smaller villages are usually unpaved
and in poor condition.
Land mines and unexploded ordnance litter the countryside in
many areas and continue to cause occasional injuries and deaths.
Although a demining effort is underway, it is wise to consider
all areas that are not well-traveled as potentially dangerous
due to live mines. Areas north and west of Keren are known to
be heavily mined. Also, there are minefields near Massawa, Ghinda,
Agordat, Barentu, south of Tessenae, Nakfa, Adi Keih, Arezza,
Dekemhare and in a roughly 40-kilometer wide region bounded on
the east by the Eritrea-Ethiopia border on the south by the Mereb
River and on the north by the Setit River. Please check with local
government and local village officials before undertaking travel
off paved roads in Eritrea because newly discovered minefields
are regularly found. Please exercise caution when traveling to
remote areas or off primary roads, avoiding secondary roads when
possible. Please ensure that other traffic has passed over unimproved
roads before traveling on them, which may mean delaying an early
morning departure from remote areas or waiting until traffic resumes
after a lull due to bad weather or other factors.
Many Eritreans make use of inexpensive public transportation,
especially bus service. Please avoid buses if at all possible
due to the accident risks that come with extreme over-crowding.
Taxis are plentiful and inexpensive in Asmara, but they are also
likely to be crowded with many passengers not wearing seatbelts.
If an empty taxi is available, a customer may request a "contract,"
meaning that for a slightly higher price, the driver will not
pick up additional passengers. This option increases comfort and
safety for a small extra cost.
Drivers should be aware of heavy pedestrian and bicycle traffic
that generally obstructs the flow of vehicular traffic on city
streets. Occasionally, horse-drawn carts, cattle, or goats can
also obstruct traffic. Children and the elderly are especially
likely to wander into the street in the path of moving traffic.
Drivers should be mindful of small motorized carts traveling at
low speeds. These vehicles are normally operated by elderly or
disabled people who do not always yield to faster moving traffic.
When parallel parking on city streets, be aware of pedestrians
trying to dart into your space as you back in to park.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial
air service by local carriers at present, nor economic authority
to operate such service between the U.S. and Eritrea, the U.S.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Eritrea's
Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation
For further information, travelers may contact the Department
of Transportation within the United States at telephone 1-800-322-7873,
the FAA's web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The U.S.
Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air
carriers for suitability as official providers of air services.
For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers,
travelers may contact the DOD at telephone (618) 229-4801.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S.
citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which
sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States
and may not afford the protections available to the individual
under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe
than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating
Eritrean laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or
imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal
drugs in Eritrea are strict, and convicted offenders can expect
jail sentences and heavy fines.
CURRENCY ISSUES: The government of Eritrea introduced
the country's new currency, the nafka, in November 1997. As of
December 2000, only the airlines and one hotel in Asmara accept
credit cards. Generally, foreigners must pay bills at major hotels
in U.S. dollars or U.S. dollar-denomination traveler's checks.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For
information on international adoption of children and international
parental child abduction, please refer to our web site at
http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone 202-736-7000.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: U.S. citizens are encouraged
to register with the U.S. Embassy in Asmara and to obtain updated
information on travel and security in Eritrea. The U.S. Embassy
address is: Franklin Roosevelt Street, P.O. Box 211 Asmara, telephone
(291-1)12-00-04; fax (291-1)12-75-84.