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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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
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.
In my Eritrea travel guide you can see different options. Note that in Eritrea, nothing can be booked online.