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Djibouti

For the city of the same name, see Djibouti (city).

Djibouti is in the Horn peninsula, bordered by Eritrea to the north, Ethiopia to the west and south, and Somaliland to the southeast. The Gulf of Aden lies to the east. The country can be divided into three regions; the coastal plain and volcanic plateaus in the central and southern parts of the country and the mountain ranges in the north. Much of the country is wasteland with virtually no arable land.

Cities

  • Djibouti - the capital and largest city
  • Ali Sabieh
  • Balho
  • Dikhil
  • Khor Angar
  • Obock
  • Tadjoura
  • Yoboki

Other destinations

  • Lake Abbe on the Ethiopian border is a desolate, steaming lake surrounded by limestone chimneys and a lunar landscape used as the "Forbidden Zone" in Planet of the Apes.
  • Lake Assal is Africa's lowest point (157m below sea level) and the saltiest lake outside Antarctica. Its shores are largely salt pans and nearby is Ardoukoba, which last erupted in 1978.
  • Maskali Island
  • Moucha Island

Understand

Djibouti's climate is very hot, humid and arid, especially in the summer. The summer heat is moderated, however, by a sustained breeze in the coastal city of Djibouti. From October to April, the temperature is cooler, with occasional rain. Cyclones from the Indian Ocean create heavy rains and flash flooding.

Get in

Visas are required by most nationals. Those travelling on French and Singaporean passports can get a visa on arrival for 5,000 Fdj, valid for one month. Transit visas are valid for 10 days and are available on arrival at the airport to nationals of the European Union, Scandinavian countries and the USA for 10,000 FDJ (about US$55). If you plan to enter by land you have to arrange for visas in advance. Visas can be obtained from neighbouring countries and where no Djibouti embassy exists, they can often be obtained from the French embassy. The types of visas include: Entry (visa de séjour); Tourist (visa de tourisme); Business (visa d’affaires); and Transit (visa de transit).

By plane

Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport (JIB) connects Djibouti with Dubai It also has flights to Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Puntland, Somaliland, Tanzania, Egypt, Madagascar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen. Air France and Djibouti-based Daallo Airlines (D3) [1]) operates flights to Paris, and Daallo also flies to Ethiopia, Kenya, Saudi Arabia and Somalia. The airport is 5km (3 miles) south of the city.

By car

There are roads from Djibouti to Assab (Eritrea) and going west into Ethiopia via Dikhil. Travelers using them should be aware that road conditions are generally poor and personal security might be at risk when traveling – particularly to Ethiopia. Visitors are advised to check transit regulations as political conditions in Ethiopia and Eritrea are changeable. There are no formal border posts with Eritrea. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended for the interior. There is a new highway from Djibouti to Tadjoura. Traffic drives on the right. It is advisable to carry water and petrol on any expedition off main routes. An International Driving Permit is recommended, although not legally required. A temporary license to drive is available from local authorities on presentation of a valid British or Northern Ireland driving license.

By bus

Buses operate from Djibouti to most towns and villages throughout the country. Buses leave when they are full. A minibus service operates in Djibouti, stopping on demand. A flat-fare system is used.

By boat

There are ferry services connecting Djibouti to YemenDjibouti City is one of the main ports of eastern Africa so it's well traveled.

By train

Passenger train services between Ethiopia and Djibouti City have restarted in December 2016. Reportedly passenger trains reach a top speed of 160 km/h (roughly 100 mph) and take 12 hours for the more than 700 km long journey from Addis Abeba that used to take three days by road.

Get around

  • Taxis are available in Djibouti and from the airport to the town, as you exit the airport there is a big billboard displaying expected taxi fares, look for it; also in Ali-Sabieh, Dikhil, Dorale and Arta. Fares can increase by 50 percent after dark.
  • Bicycling is a great way to get around the small capital.
  • Ferry services sail daily from L'Escale (Djibouti) to Tadjoura and Obock. The journey takes about three hours.

Talk

Although French and Arabic are the official languages, Somali and Afar are widely spoken. English may be spoken at tourist facilities, but is not widely spoken by locals or taxi drivers.

See

  • Lake Assal. 150m below sea level, Lake Assal is the third-lowest point on Earth. You'll need to hire a car or ask someone who lives in Djibouti to drive you there. Expect a rough ride: the roads outside the capital are destroyed by the truck traffic between Djibouti and Ethiopia. The road passes within sight of the Devil's Island, and some impressive views. Expect to be awestruck.
  • Lake Abbe is one of the most desolate places on Earth and is dotted with limestone chimneys standing as high of 50 metres. It was described as lunar, and Planet of the Apes was filmed here.

Do

  • Scuba Diving — Despite the country's arid landscape, off the coast lie several reefs teeming with all sorts of life.
  • Sea Kayaking — Sea kayaking allows you to enjoy the Gulf of Tadjoura and Ghoubet Kharrib in an eco-friendly way, with the possibility of observing whale sharks and sea turtles.

Buy

Money

The currency of Djibouti is the Djiboutian franc, denoted by the symbol "Fdj" (ISO currency code: DJF). The Djiboutian franc is pegged to the US dollar. You can convert dollars to francs with local street money changers located in the Djiboutian market area. The street money changers are ladies who line the street waiting to convert US dollars to francs. They are generally honest brokers. Have your calculator ready and make sure to ask in advance what the conversion rate is, if they quote you anything less than 175, go to another broker. Most of them speak a basic English.

Shopping

Khat: A leafy stimulant popular with the locals. The herb is flown into the country each morning from Ethiopia and arrives by truck in Djibouti's Central Market at about 1PM. It is fairly inexpensive, but quality varies greatly, so shop with caution. Khat may not be taken out of Djibouti through the airport.

You can purchase general merchandise and food items at the larger department stores using USD. The tourist traps will see you coming a mile away and hit you with ridiculous conversion rates and tourist prices. If you have access to Camp Lemonnier, go to the disbursement office for the best rate.

Eat

Drink

The city of Djibouti has many places to eat, including tourist traps. If you are interested in western cuisine, be prepared for sticker shock. If you are interested in good local cuisine, then you and your pocketbook will be happier for the experience. For example, the Ethiopian Community Center offers a wide variety of local flares which are very tasty (safe) and reasonably priced. Best to avoid places that the tourists hang out at, and you will be happier for the experience. Average price per meal outside of a tourist trap: US$4 including drink.

Sleep

Stay safe

Natural hazards include earthquakes and droughts. Occasional cyclonic disturbances from the Indian Ocean bring heavy rains and flash floods.

Visitors should be aware of the risk of banditry if traveling outside the capital city.

Stay healthy

Health insurance is advisable. Doctors and hospitals may expect immediate cash payment for any medical treatment. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travelers over one year of age coming from infected areas. Cholera is also a serious risk and precautions are essential. Up-to-date advice should be sought before deciding if these precautions should include vaccination as medical opinion is divided over its effectiveness. Typhoid immunization is usually advised.

Malaria risk, predominantly in the malignant falciparum form, exists year round. Resistance to chloroquine has been reported. Mefloquine, doxycycline or atovaquone/proguanil are recommended.

The adult HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is over 3% or 1 in 33 adults. Protect yourself.

Respect

Casual wear is widely acceptable, but visitors are reminded that Djibouti is a Muslim country and certain codes of behavior should be observed. Shorts are generally not appropriate outside of hotels, beaches, or sport activities.

Connect

The 13th French Foreign Legion Demi-Brigadeis (13ème DBLE), permanently stationed in Djibouti, consists of about 800 men. They can be contacted by mail at: 13ème DBLE - Djibouti, Quartier MONCLAR, SP 85030, 00815 ARMEES.

There is also a U.S. military presence in Djibouti: more that 2,000 personnel at Camp Lemonier across the runway from the international airport.

There is a 3G phone nextwork in the country that runs on 900MHz. The maximum speed is 7mbps but expect it to be lower. You can get 1GB of data for about $3 USD. More info can be obtained here

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Exercise a high degree of caution; see also regional advisories.

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice. In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location. The Government of Canada will assist you in leaving a country or a region as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at your personal expense. Situations vary from one location to another, and there may be constraints on government resources that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries or regions where the potential for violent conflict or political instability is high.

Terrorism

Regional terror groups, including those associated with al Qaeda and al-Shabaab, continue to threaten Western interests and other potential targets in Djibouti. The September 21, 2013 attack on an upscale Nairobi mall illustrates the threat of attacks on civilians in East Africa.  Further attacks cannot be ruled out. Be vigilant in crowded places and monitor local media.

Crime

Street crime is on the rise. Be vigilant in public places frequented by foreigners, such as hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and shopping areas. Do not show signs of affluence. Ensure that personal belongings, including passport and other travel documents, are secure at all times.

Demonstrations

Political demonstrations occur frequently. Avoid all gatherings and demonstrations as they can turn violent without warning. Monitor local news reports and follow the advice of local authorities.

Road travel

Drivers and pedestrians should exercise caution in the capital. Do not travel after dark. Streets are narrow, poorly maintained and lack adequate lighting. Local driving habits, pedestrians, roaming livestock and excessive speeds pose additional risks. Major roads are paved, but often lack guardrails. Police may set up roadblocks of wire coils, which may be difficult to see at night. Railway crossings are not well indicated. In the event of an accident, the driver should wait until the police arrive on the scene. You should contact the Embassy of Canada in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Consulate of Canada in Djibouti, or local authorities for the latest security information prior to overland travel.

Since the operating gas stations are located at a considerable distance from one another (mostly in the cities of Djibouti, Ali Sabieh, Dikhil, Tadjourah and Obock), you should ensure you have sufficient fuel provisions in reserve before undertaking long drives.

While Djibouti has been declared a “mine-safe” country, you should stay on paved roads, particularly in the northern districts of Tadjourah and Obock as well as the Ali Sabieh district in the south, where mines have been found in the past.

Public transportation

Intercity public travel is limited to bus and ferry services between Djibouti and the towns of Tadjourah and Obock. Buses are poorly maintained and driven erratically. Avoid travel by road or rail to Djibouti. There have been acts of sabotage and derailment on the Djibouti-Ethiopia railway.

Consult our Transportation FAQ in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Piracy

Pirate attacks occur in Djiboutian coastal waters, and in some cases, farther out at sea. Mariners should take appropriate precautions. Whenever possible, transit in trafficked sea-lanes. When sailing in and around the Horn of Africa, in the southern part of the Red Sea near the coasts of Yemen and in the Gulf of Aden, vessels should convoy in groups and maintain good communications at all times. The Yemeni Coast Guard 24-hour Operations Centre can be contacted in case of emergency at 967-1562-402. For additional information, consult the Live Piracy Report published by the International Maritime Bureau.

General safety information

You should always carry identification, preferably a certified copy of your passport’s identification page. Avoid walking alone after dark. Because of their isolation, avoid visiting the beaches of Dorale and Khor Ambado late in the afternoon.

Modern tourist facilities and communications networks are limited in the city of Djibouti and scarce in many outlying areas. Outside the capital, cell phone coverage is often unavailable.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Polio

There is a risk of polio in this country. Be sure that your vaccination against polio is up-to-date.

Rabies

Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in East Africa, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in East Africa. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Cholera

There have been cases of cholera reported in this country in the last year. Cholera is a bacterial disease that typically causes diarrhea. In severe cases it can lead to dehydration and even death.

Most travellers are generally at low risk. Humanitarian workers and those visiting areas with limited access to safe food and water are at higher risk. Practise safe food and water precautions. Travellers at high risk should get vaccinated.

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in East Africa, certain insects carry and spread diseases like African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, malaria, onchocerciasis (river blindness), Rift Valley feverWest Nile virus and yellow fever.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.


Malaria

Malaria

  • There is a risk of malaria throughout the year in the whole country.
  • Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
  • See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss the benefits of taking antimalarial medication and to determine which one to take.

Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in East Africa, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.

Avian Influenza

There have been human cases of avian influenza ("bird flu”) in this country. Avian influenza is a viral infection that can spread by contact with infected birds or surfaces and objects contaminated by their feces or other secretions.

Avoid unnecessary contact with domestic poultry and wild birds as well as surfaces contaminated with their feces or other secretions. Ensure all poultry dishes and eggs are thoroughly cooked.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.

HIV

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks and impairs the immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). 

Practise safe sex while travelling, and don’t share needles, razors, or other objects which could transmit infection.

Remember that HIV can also be spread through the use of unsterile medical equipment during medical and dental procedures, tattooing, body piercing or acupuncture. Diseases can also be spread though blood transfusions and organ transplantation if the blood or organs are not screened for HIV or other blood-borne pathogens.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.

For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.

Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.

High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Medical facilities are limited in the capital and practically nonexistent in many outlying areas. Medicines can be extremely expensive and are often unavailable. Medical evacuation is necessary for serious illness cases or accidents.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

Homosexuality is illegal.

Strict regulations may be enforced on the temporary import or export of firearms. Contact the Embassy of the Republic of Djibouti in Washington for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Hunting is forbidden by law.

Photography of military installations is prohibited. Ask permission before photographing individuals, especially women wearing the veil.

An International Driving Permit is recommended.

Culture

Islamic practices and beliefs are part of the country’s customs, laws and regulations. Common sense and discretion should be exercised in dress and behaviour. Visitors should dress conservatively and respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities. It is forbidden to produce, display publicly or sell any object, image, film or audio-visual recording considered contrary to accepted standards of behaviour. The prohibition on the use of drugs must be respected. Consumption of alcohol is authorized, but public displays of drunkenness could result in a two-year prison term.

Money

The currency is the Djiboutian franc (DJF). Credit cards are accepted only by airline companies and some major hotels. Traveller’s cheques in U.S. dollars can be cashed at banks. There are only a few automated banking machines (ABMs). They are frequently broken and should not be depended upon as the sole means for obtaining currency.

Climate

The climate is very dry and hot from May to October. Due to below-average rainfall over the last four years, many regions of eastern Africa are currently afflicted by severe drought, including Djibouti. Expect difficulties travelling overland.