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Travel Security Advice for Djibouti

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djibouti_mapDjibouti_Overview


 

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

Djibouti is a developing African country located at the juncture of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.  It is a multi-party democracy with a legal system based on French civil law (Djibouti was a French colony until 1977), though modified by traditional practices and Islamic (Sharia) law.  Although exact statistics are unavailable, unemployment is estimated in excess of 50% of the working-age population.  Over two-thirds of the country’s estimated 650,000 residents live in the capital, also called Djibouti.  Modern tourist facilities and communications links are found in the city of Djibouti, but are limited outside the capital.  Read the Department of State Background Notes on Djibouti for additional information.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Djibouti are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate at the Department of State’s travel registration page in order to obtain updated information on local travel and security.  U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency.

U.S. Embassy Djibouti


Plateau du Serpent, Boulevard Marechal Joffre, Djibouti City
Telephone: (253) 35-39-95
Facsimile: (253) 35-39-40

ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

A passport, visa, and evidence of yellow fever vaccination are required.  Travelers may obtain the latest information on entry requirements from the Embassy of the Republic of Djibouti, 1156 15th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005, telephone (202) 331-0270, or at the Djibouti Mission to the United Nations, 866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 4011, New York, NY 10017, telephone (212) 753-3163.  Overseas, inquiries may be made at the nearest Djiboutian embassy or consulate.  In countries where there is no Djiboutian diplomatic representation, travelers may sometimes obtain visas at the French Embassy.  

American journalists or any American connected with the media must contact the U.S. Embassy’s Public Affairs section prior to travel to facilitate entry into Djibouti.  If you are unclear whether this applies to you, please contact the U.S. Embassy for more information.

HIV/AIDS RESTRICTIONS: The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Djibouti.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:

Djibouti enjoys a stable political climate.  However, its international borders are porous and lightly patrolled.  In particular, Somalia, Djibouti's neighbor to the south, is a haven for terrorists and insurgent elements.  On October 29, 2008, terrorists launched several coordinated and near-simultaneous attacks involving multiple car bombs against local and international targets in the regions of Somaliland and Puntland.

Terrorism continues to pose a threat in East Africa.  In particular, Al-Shabaab, a terrorist group loosely affiliated with al-Qa’ida based in Somalia, poses a threat to Americans in Djibouti.  U.S. citizens traveling in East Africa should be aware of the potential for indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets in public places, including hotels restaurants, and tourist sites where Westerners are known to congregate.  Read our Worldwide Caution for the most current travel warning on East Africa.

Also, tensions exist between neighboring Ethiopia and Eritrea due to their long-running border dispute.  Since April, 2008, there has been increased tension on Djibouti’s border with Eritrea after an incursion by Eritreans in that area.  Civil unrest or armed conflict in neighboring countries could disrupt air travel to and from Djibouti or otherwise negatively affect its security.

Travelers should exercise caution when traveling to any remote area of Djibouti, especially near the borders with Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia.  The recent Eritrean incursion underscores the importance of increased caution near that border.

Demonstrations have become more frequent due to power outages and the increase in energy prices.  Americans are advised to avoid all demonstrations as they may become violent.

Americans considering seaborne travel should exercise extreme caution.  There have been several recent incidents of armed attacks and robberies at sea by pirate groups on ships transiting around the Horn of Africa.  Following the April 2009 hijacking of a U.S. cargo vessel and the subsequent rescue of the vessel’s captain, resulting in the deaths of three pirates, Somali pirates threatened to retaliate against American citizens transiting the region.  See our
International Maritime Piracy Fact SheetAlso, please see the consular information sheet on Yemen for recent information on maritime conditions in Yemen’s waters.  It is strongly recommended that vessels convoy in groups and maintain good communications contact at all times.  Marine channels 12, 13 and 16 VHF-FM are international call-up and emergency channels and are commonly monitored by ships at sea.  2182 Mhz is the HF international call-up and emergency channel.  In the Gulf of Aden, use of transit routes farther offshore appears to reduce, but does not eliminate, the risk of contact with assailants.  Wherever possible, travel in trafficked sea-lanes.  Avoid loitering in or transiting isolated or remote areas.  In the event of an attack, consider activating the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon.  Due to distances involved, there may be a considerable delay before assistance arrives.  Vessels may also contact the Yemeni Coast Guard 24-hour Operations Center at 967 1 562-402.  Operations Center staff members speak English. 

U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times for ready proof of identity and U.S. citizenship if questioned by local officials.  Police occasionally stop travelers on the main roads leading out of the capital to check identity documents.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs' website, which contains current the Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. and Canada, or by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s extensive tips and advice on traveling safely abroad.

CRIME:

Accurate crime statistics are not available, but crime appears to be on the rise. Most crimes are petty thefts, but there have also been home invasions and more serious crimes.  Major crimes involving third country nationals (TCNs) are rare, but increasing in frequency.  The number of murders has increased, involving Djiboutians and TCNS.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.  Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law.  In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.

VICTIMS OF CRIME:

If you are the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see end of this sheet or see the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates).  This includes the loss or theft of a U.S. passport.  The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds may be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Please see our information on Victims of Crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.

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.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Persons violating Djibouti's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.  Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Djibouti are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Although the narcotic khat is legal and widely chewed in Djibouti, it is illegal in many countries, including the United States.

Djiboutians are generally conservative in dress and manner, especially in rural areas.

Photography of public infrastructure (including, but not limited to, public buildings, seaports, the airport, bridges, military facilities or personnel) is not allowed in Djibouti.  Use extreme caution when photographing anyone or anything near prohibited areas.  Photographic equipment will be confiscated, and the photographer may be arrested.

Djibouti is a cash-based economy and credit cards are not widely accepted.  Automated teller machines (ATMs) are limited.  Changing money on the street is legal, but be aware of possible scams as well as personal safety considerations if people observe you carrying large amounts of cash.  The exchange rate on the street will be similar to that at a bank or hotel.  It is important that the U.S. banknotes that you carry have a date of 2003 or newer because many currency exchanges will not accept U.S. paper money older than 2003.

Djiboutian customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Djibouti of firearms.  It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Djibouti in Washington, DC, for specific information regarding customs requirements.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Adequate medical facilities in the capital of Djibouti are limited, and medicines are often unavailable.  Medicines that are available are extremely expensive.  Medical services in some outlying areas may be completely nonexistent.  Motorists especially should be aware that in case of an accident outside the capital, emergency medical treatment would depend almost exclusively on passersby.  In addition, cell phone coverage in outlying areas is often unavailable, making it impossible to summon help.

Malaria and dengue fever are prevalent in Djibouti.  Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician their travel history and what anti-malarial drugs they have been taking.

In 2005, polio was found in all of Djibouti’s neighbors (Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Yemen), and health professionals strongly suspect it is present in Djibouti.  The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that all infants and children in the United States should receive four doses of inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) at 2, 4, and 6–18 months and 4–6 years of age.  Adults who are traveling to polio-endemic and epidemic areas and who have received a primary series with either IPV or oral polio vaccine should receive another dose of IPV.  For adults, available data does not indicate the need for more than a single lifetime booster dose with IPV.

Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Djibouti.  For further information, please consult the CDC's information on TB.

In May 2006, avian influenza was confirmed in three chickens and one human in Djibouti.  For more information about this illness, see the Department of State’s Avian Flu Fact Sheet.

In an effort to combat H1N1, immigration authorities at Ambouli International Airport take travelers’ temperature before admittance to the country. If a visitor is found to have a fever or otherwise appears to be sick, they may be detained or denied entrance.

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) websiteThe WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:

The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to determine whether the policy applies overseas and whether it covers emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.

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 Djibouti is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

The Djiboutian Gendarmerie and the national police force share responsibility for road safety in Djibouti.  While Djibouti has been declared a “mine-safe” country, this indicates landmines have been identified and marked, not that they have been removed.  Landmines are known to be present in northern Tadjourah and Obock districts.  In addition, there may be mines in the Ali Sabieh area of the south.  Travelers should stay on paved roads and should check with local authorities before using unpaved roads.

Driving on Djibouti roads can be hazardous.  Since most roads do not have shoulders or sidewalks, pedestrians and livestock use the roadways both day and night.  Driving at night is extremely dangerous and strongly discouraged on all roads outside Djibouti City.  While some main roads in Djibouti are well maintained, roads are often narrow, poorly lit, or washed-out.  Many secondary roads are in poor repair or completely washed-out.  Drivers and pedestrians should exercise extreme caution.  Minibuses and cars often break down; when breakdowns occur, local drivers usually place branches or rocks behind the vehicle to indicate trouble, but these warning signals are barely visible.  Excessive speed, unpredictable local driving habits, pedestrians and livestock in the roadway, and the lack of basic safety equipment on many vehicles are daily hazards.  Speed limits are posted occasionally but are not enforced.  The leafy narcotic khat is widely used, particularly in the afternoons, creating other traffic hazards.  Travelers should be aware that police set up wire coils as roadblocks on some of the major roads, and these may be difficult to see at night.

Drivers who do not have a four-wheel drive vehicle will encounter problems driving on rural roads.  There are no emergency services for stranded drivers, and it is always advisable to carry a cell phone or satellite phone when undertaking a trip outside of town; however, many parts of the country do not have cell phone coverage.

The two main international routes to the capital city, via Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, and Yoboki, Djibouti, both demand that drivers remain vigilant.  The route towards Dire Dawa is in very poor condition.  Both have a high volume of Ethiopian trucks transporting large cargo.  Railroad crossings are not clearly marked.

The only means of public inter-city travel is by bus.  Buses are poorly maintained and their operators often drive erratically with little regard for passenger safety.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the web site of Djibouti’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:

As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Djibouti, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Djibouti’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.  Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:

Please see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

 


 

The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding Travel to Djibouti HERE....

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information regarding Malaria for this region HERE....

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassy Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens)..............

Regards

The SW Team......

 

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