Popularly known as the North Korea of Africa, Eritrea is the most hermetic country in the continent and the most repressive dictatorship but, paradoxically, this is a surprisingly chilled-out and tourist-friendly destination, filled with kind-hearted people, huge diversity, and loads of unique things to do.
Read my travel guide to Eritrea containing all practical information.
Capital – Asmara
Population – 5.7 million, (116th).
Language – Tigrinya (from the same family as Arabic & Amharic, the main language in Ethiopia) is the most common language, but given the ethnic diversity of the country, many other languages are spoken.
Visa – You can either get a visa from your closest embassy (but it is a slow process) or, if there wasn’t an embassy in your home country, you can get it on arrival if you pre-arrange it through a travel agency. Check my travel guide for more details.
Permits – A special permit is needed for visiting any place outside of the capital, a different one for each and every one. Most permits can be obtained at the tourism office.
Internet – There is no mobile internet and the only way to connect is by purchasing some vouchers which can only be used in specific hotels and cyber cafés. They cost around $1 per hour but still, the internet is awful, only good for WhatsApp and sending text emails.
Travel insurance –Always a must and I recommend World Nomads for the following reasons:
- One of the few companies that cover Eritrea
- It is the only company that covers with an unlimited budget
- It provides coverage for a very big bunch of adventure activities
5 Top experiences in Eritrea – My favorites:
- Keren animal market – A very traditional livestock market that takes place on Monday.
- Massawa – Ottoman architecture and buildings destroyed by the war.
- Italian Heritage – Eritrea was an Italian colony from the end of the 19th century until WWII. Italian architecture can be see all across the country.
- Asmara’s coffee scene – The Italian heritage can also be seen in Asmara’s coffee culture.
- Foro market – Super offbeat Thursday market where many different ethnicities attend.
Typical costs – Eritrea is cheap but more expensive than its sister Ethiopia. $1 = 15 nakfas
- Macchiato: 7-10 nakfas
- Breakfast (foul): 15-25 nakfas
- Vegetarian lunch: 50-70 nakfas
- Non-vegetarian lunch: 100-120 nakfas
- Permits: 50 nakfas each
- Public bus from Asmara to Keren: 25 nakfas
- Mini-van from Asmara to Massawa: 75 nakfas
- Budget room: 10-20USD
- Mid-range room: 25-40USD
Moving around – As a foreign traveler, you can take the public bus, no problem, and most cities and towns are connected by either big, public buses or mini-vans.
Accommodation – In my Eritrea travel guide you can see different options. Note that in Eritrea, nothing can be booked online.