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.
need to know for traveling in Eritrea
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 many other languages are spoken.
Area: 117,600km² (97th largest country)
You can either get a visa from your closest embassy (slow process) or, if there isn’t an embassy in your home country, you can get it on arrival, if you pre-arrange it through a travel agency and book a minimal tour.
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.
You will also need a VPN to connect.
For Eritrea, I recommend IATI Insurance:
5% discount if booking here:
Best time to visit
Eritrea, 3 seasons in 2 hours – the Ministry of Tourism uses this slogan to promote tourism in Eritrea.
Asmara sits at an elevation of 2,235 meters, so enjoys cool weather all year round.
The Red Sea is best avoided in summer.
The official currency is the Eritrean Nafka
1 USD = 15 ERN
There are no ATMs and cards aren’t accepted. Bring all your money in cash.
Budget: starting at $50 a day for budget backpackers (accommodation and food can be pricey).
Permits for traveling around Eritrea
A special permit is needed for visiting any place outside of the capital, a different one for each and every town.
Most permits can be obtained at the tourism office, dates must be specified and they can’t be changed afterwards.
Hotels outside of Asmara will ask for these permits.
Top experiences in Eritrea
Keren animal market
A very traditional livestock market takes place on Monday.
Ottoman architecture and buildings destroyed by the war.
Eritrea was an Italian colony from the end of the 19th century until WWII. Italian architecture can be seen all across the country.
Super offbeat Thursday market where many different ethnicities attend.
tips for Eritrea
Hotels are pricey, usually basic and can’t be booked online.
In my Eritrea travel guide you can see different options.
Asmara has an international airport with daily flights from Addis. You can also fly from Istanbul with Turkish Airlines.
All land borders are closed.
As a foreign traveler, you can take the public bus, and most cities and towns are connected by either big, public buses or mini-vans.