Eritrea is a state in East Africa. It borders Djibouti, Sudan, and Ethiopia. The country is washed by the waters of the Red Sea. On the south-east of Eritrea, there is the Afar Depression. The capital city is Asmara.
The climate in Eritrea is dry sub-equatorial. The average annual temperature varies from +23°C to +37°C. The best time for visiting Eritrea is from May to September.
The Constitution says that all the languages are equal. The local people can speak English, Arabic, Amhara, and Tigrinya. Half of the people practice the Sunni Islam and the other half are the Christians.
Many tourists share the opinion that Eritrea is the most picturesque, clean and comfortable country on the entire African continent. Eritrea today is a unique historical part of Africa which attracts the tourists, with its architectural and historical monuments and unique landscapes.
In the city of Dekemhare, the tourists will see well-preserved examples of the Italian architecture, Catholic cathedrals, and monumental Christian temples. Visit the city of Senafe and you will see the ruins of Matara and famous mummies of the Debre Libanos Monastery.
Unfortunately, many historical, cultural and architectural monuments were destroyed during a long-term war. However, the capital city of Eritrea, beautiful Asmara was not touched. Asmara is a wonderful city resort where the tourists can see the Governor’s Palace, the Grand Mosque, the Roman Catholic Cathedral, and the St. Mary’s Coptic Cathedral. You should definitely visit the Asmara Theater and Opera House, the Tank Cemetery, Pushkin monument in the Pushkin Square, Cinema Impero, and the National Museum of Eritrea.
This African country can offer uniquely beautiful coral reefs and crystal clear water. The Gurgusum Beach close to Masaura is very popular among the tourists. On the Dahlak Kebir island, there is everything you need for diving, snorkelling and surfing. The tourists can see the coral reefs, sunken ships, and underwater karst caves.
In Keren, anyone can play tennis or golf, go to sports clubs and visit the night clubs. In Barentu, there are museums demonstrating the culture and everyday life of the people on the African continent.
If you strive for something more adventurous, go to the out-of-town resort Beilul in Debubawi Keyih Bahri. There, you can stay in the camping and participate in the amazing night safari.
In the country, there is Asmara International Airport.
There are no direct flights to Eritrea from CIS countries. The tourists will have to take transit flights with a transfer in the hub airports in Europe and Egypt.
Eritrean Airlines offers direct the flights from Amsterdam, Milan, and Rome. Lufthansa offers the flights to Eritrea from Frankfurt. Egyptair and Yemen Airways offer the best prices for the flights to Eritrea from Europe with a stop in Cairo and San’a.
Eritrean Airlines also has the flights through Djibouti and Dubai. Saudi Arabian Airlines flies through Jeddah.
There is an international bus running between Eritrea and Djibouti and Sudan. The border between Ethiopia and Eritrea is closed due to the conflict.
All the foreigners must obtain a visa to travel to Eritrea.
A visitor visa is valid for 30 days from the day of arrival to Eritrea.
One can apply the documents for a visa to the Embassy or Consulate of Eritrea. The normal time for processing the documents is 5-15 days. If a tourist has an invitation from the Eritrean side, he or she can obtain a visa right at the airport.
If needed, the tourists can extend their stay in the country by applying to the Department of Immigration in Asmara.
To leave the capital city of Eritrea, the tourists must obtain a permit at the Tourist Information Center in Asmara.
A permission is also required to visit the archaeological monuments in Eritrea. The permit is issued by the office of the National Museum.
Due to the aggravated conflict between the neighbouring countries, it will be problematic to get a visa for those people who have visited Ethiopia before.
In Eritrea, there are restrictions concerning the transportation of currency. The sum exceeding 10.000 US dollars must be declared. The money indicated on the declaration form should be exchanged within 3 months. It is necessary to keep all the cheques and slips as you can exchange the national currency only of you have these documents.
The tourists can bring in Eritrea the following goods duty-free:
- photo camera and gadgets for personal use;
- tobacco and alcohol;
- jewellery (100 g).
The jewellery from precious metals must be indicated on the declaration form. It is not allowed to export skins of animals, ivory, rhinoceros horns, gold, diamonds and coffee beans (without the documents confirming the purchase). It is prohibited to export antiquities, religious artefacts and parchment.
The tourists must have a vaccination certificate against yellow fever, hepatitis, and tetanus.
The national Eritrean cuisine cannot be called exotic.
What is unusual about it is that all the dishes are very hot here. The tourists should also get used very few ingredients in each dish. The staple food is pea and grains.
The tourists will be surprised to see white bread En bash as this is the only African country where people eat white bread.
The tourists can try Shiro (mashed peas), Ful (bean, tomatoes, and onion stew), Kitcha (wheat flour flatbread), and Kitcha fitfit (flatbread with butter and yoghurt).
The vegetarians should definitely try Injera (spongy pancakes), Alicha birsen (hot lentils curry), and Ades (sweet mashed lentils).
There are not so many meat dishes in Eritrea. We recommend Tsebhi (roasted mutton or beef with hot pepper and tomatoes), Zigini (meat rubbed with hot pepper with pea), and Capretto (lamb ribs).
Fish is usually served in the coastal regions. The choice of fish dishes is not very rich. Actually, the tourists can try only two dishes: Zigna Acca (fish stew) and Nigna Acca (roasted fish). The foodies will be delighted by squid with pasta Plapa and roasted snapper.
In large cities, there is alcohol imported from other countries. In small towns, the tourists can try a local grains beer Siwa, honey-based alcoholic beverage Mess, and home-brew Daga.
As for the non-alcoholic drinks, order black coffee Bun or herbal tea Shahi. The locals have a cult for making this drinks. Strange as it may seem but fruit drinks did not gain popularity in this country. Mango, paw-paw and banana juices are found only in Asmara.
The national currency is the Nakfa (ERN). The Central Bank of Eritrea issues:
- the bank notes (1-100 ERN);
- coins (1-100 ERN).
In some regions, the US dollars (US$) and Ethiopian birr (ETB) are accepted.
The tourists can exchange the currency at banks and in hotels in Asmara.
Visa and MasterCard are accepted in government institutions in the capital city, travel agencies, and airlines. The commission for an exchange transaction is 5-7%. Each transaction must be registered, the form is given to the tourists on arrival at the airport.
The are on ATMs in Eritrea.
Large banks and hotels in Asmara and Massawa accept traveller’s checks.
The criminal level in the country is low, but Eritrea is not a safe country for the tourists. Outside Asmara, there is a risk to find the landmines and unexploded ordnance.
There are checkpoints in every large city and the tourists must provide the passport and the permit for their trip to a city.
Details of interest
If you are planning to visit such an exotic country as Eritrea, it is as important to learn more about the country and potential risks as find a fellow traveller and book the tour.
It is strongly recommended to have a first-aid-kit with common drugs. First of all, it should contain the drugs to treat intestinal infections. To avoid any infections, follow the common hygienic rules, try not to eat street food.
Sightseeing in Eritrea
If you are in Eritrea, visit the following places:
- The Catholic Cathedral and the Church of our Lady of the Rosary on the Liberty Avenue in the capital city are a must-see. In Asmara, there is also a very beautiful Coptic Church of St. Mary built in 1938. The tourists will be delighted by the major Islamic Holy Site of Eritrea the mosque Al Khulafa al Rashedin. Walking along the streets of the capital city, the tourists will find the St. George Greek Orthodox Church founded by the Greek community in Asmara. On the Liberty Avenue, the tourists can take pictures of the Old Governor’s Palace, which is today the Presidential Palace. Walking in the eastern direction, the tourists will reach the Asmara Theater and Opera House. In Eritrea, there are very big markets offering very good conditions for shopping. The tourists often go to the Souvenir market Edaga Lakha. The second largest market Medeber is to the north-east from the capital city and this is a real workshop in the open air.
- The Dahlak Islands and its unique fauna are included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Dahlak Islands are the best place for diving or snorkelling, water skiing, surfing and kitesurfing, yachting and sailing. Wonderful beaches on the islands attract a lot of people.
- In Keren, there are many historical monuments. The tourists can have an excursion to the British War Cemetery, visit the St. Mary of Da’arit Cathedral and walk to the old Italian railway station. Your trip to Keren will be incomplete if you do not visit the Debre Sina Monastery.
- In Massawa, there is a hotel Savoiya with an amazing view on the harbour and port. 150 m away from the port, one can see a famous house Abu Hamdum. A bit further is the Piazza Degli Incendi with the Sheikh Hanafi Mosque at the very centre. To the north from the Dahlak Hotel, the tourists will see a magnificent Imperial Palace.
Souvenirs in Eritrea
In Eritrea, the tourists can buy:
- coffeepots, candlesticks and traditional African drums in Senafe;
- leather bags, pearl jewellery and ivory figurines (Barentu);
- rattan furniture and woven products, bright hand-made rugs (the markets in Asmara).