Republic of Djibouti
Travel Warnings: Issued when Protracted situations make a country dangerous or unstable. Defer or reconsider travel.
Travel Alerts: Issued when short-term conditions pose imminent threats. Defer or reconsider travel.
Embassy Messages: Issued when local security issues arise.
Requirements for Entry:
Journalists require a letter of accreditation approved in advance by the Ministry of Communication and Culture. U.S. journalists and other journalists working for U.S.-based media institutions should contact the U.S. Embassy’s Public Affairs section at least two weeks prior to travel to facilitate this accreditation process. Journalists who fail to receive an accreditation letter risk arrest, seizure of equipment, and/or expulsion.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to, or foreign residents of, Djibouti.
Regional terrorist groups continue to threaten Western interests and can easily cross borders to conduct attacks in public places where Westerners congregate. Civil unrest or armed conflict in the neighboring countries of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Yemen, and Somalia affect the security situation in Djibouti. A large number of refugees and asylum seekers from across the region, including Somali refugees and asylum seekers from Ethiopia, have settled in the Ali Addeh Camp near Ali Sabieh, and refugees from Yemen continue to settle in the Markazi refugee camp near Obock.
Tensions along the Djibouti-Eritrea border exist from an ongoing border dispute, necessitating approval from the Djibouti government before travel north of Obock. Border skirmishes may occur intermittently.
Many border areas between Djibouti and both Ethiopia and Somalia lack visible demarcation and may still contain landmines.
Crime: Crimes of opportunity are most common and include pickpocketing, purse snatching, theft from or of vehicles, and identity theft (by stealing credit card information).
Victims of Crime: Legal response or recourse for victims of crime is extremely limited. Report crimes to the local police by dialing 18 throughout Djibouti (French/Arabic) and contact the U.S. Embassy at +(253) 77-877-229. Local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes. U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault should first contact the U.S. Embassy.
See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence should contact the Embassy for assistance.
For further information:
Consult the CDC website for Djibouti prior to travel.
Medical facilities in the capital of Djibouti are limited, and facilities are nonexistent in many outlying areas. Trauma care is only intended to stabilize a patient prior to medical evacuation. Medicines are expensive and often in short supply. Carry medication in its original packaging with your doctor’s prescription.
Dual U.S.-Djiboutian citizens with disabilities may qualify for special education and health services through the Ministry of National Solidarity and the Ministry for the Promotion of Women and Family Planning.
You are responsible for all medical costs. U.S. Medicare does not cover you overseas. Most care providers expect payment in U.S. dollars or Djiboutian francs before treatment is provided.
Medical Insurance: If your health insurance plan does not provide coverage overseas, we strongly recommend supplemental medical insurance and medical evacuation plans. Dual U.S.-Djiboutian citizens with disabilities may qualify for education and health services through the Ministry of National Solidarity and the Ministry for the Promotion of Women and Family Planning.
Malaria is endemic. Use CDC recommended mosquito repellents including DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR-3535. Sleep under insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets. Chemoprophylaxis is strongly recommended for all travelers.
Given Djibouti’s proximity to the Arabian peninsula, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is also a risk.
The following diseases are prevalent:
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Further health information:
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Convictions for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs result in long prison sentences and heavy fines. Although the narcotic khat is legal in Djibouti, it is illegal in many countries, including the United States. Some laws are also prosecutable in the United States, regardless of local law. For examples, see our website on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice website.
The Embassy operates within the legal and administrative framework of Djibouti, and cannot intervene in criminal and civil matters including judicial proceedings, private contract, employment or commercial disputes.
Photography: It is illegal to take pictures of government buildings, military installations or personnel, and other infrastructure such as air and sea ports, bridges, and public buildings, as well as of religious sites, such as mosques. You could be fined, have your photographic equipment confiscated, and risk detention and/or expulsion. Do not take photos of Djiboutians without their permission.
Children: Dual Somali or Djiboutian-U.S. citizens should be aware that moving children to Djibouti or Somalia (including Somaliland) from the United States for the purpose of having Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) performed can be prosecuted in both countries. FGM/C is illegal under both Djiboutian and U.S. law.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information. Djiboutian law enforcement officials occasionally prevent foreigners from contacting anyone while in detention. Because of this, the U.S. Embassy may not receive notification of an arrest or may not be allowed access to you if you are detained.
Phone Service: Although land lines do exist in parts of Djibouti, cellular phones are the norm. You may purchase a SIM card locally for use in an unlocked GSM cell phone. The national cellular phone provider is Djibouti Telecom. Telecommunications systems outside of Djibouti City are unreliable or non-existent.
Currency: The Djiboutian Franc (DJF) is the official currency. It is cash economy; credit cards are accepted at major hotels and supermarkets only. Most vendors and banks will only take bills printed after 2006 due to counterfeiting. Exchange currency only at reputable banks. ATMs are limited and may not recognize U.S. issued credit cards, including MasterCard, though Visa generally works.
Firearms: Strict regulations may be enforced on the temporary import and export of firearms. Contact the Embassy of Djibouti in Washington, D.C. or the Djibouti National Police for specific information regarding customs and registration requirements prior to travel. Hunting without a permit is illegal.
Faith-Based Travelers: See our following webpages for details:
LGBTI Travelers: While there are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI events, societal norms do not allow for the public discussion of homosexuality and there are no known LGBTI organizations. Authorities may prosecute public display of same-sex sexual conduct under laws prohibiting attacks on “good morals.” No antidiscrimination law exists to protect LGBTI individuals.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: Persons with disabilities face limited access to transportation, communication, accommodations, and public buildings. There are few sidewalks and no curb-cuts, and most buildings lack functioning elevators
Women Travelers: The law prohibits female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), but the practice remains prevalent with rates estimated at 78 percent nationally. Reliable rape statistics are not available, and laws for sentencing perpetrators are not enforced effectively. Domestic violence is common but underreported. Rather than the courts, families and the informal clan-based justice system generally handle cases of domestic abuse or violence. Police rarely intervene in domestic violence incidents, The National Union of Djiboutian Women operates a walk-in counseling center (Cellule d’Ecoute) in Djibouti City that provides services and referrals for women and men.
See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
Road Conditions and Safety: Although main roads in Djibouti City are well maintained, others are unpaved or in poor repair and subject to unexpected flooding. Highways are prone to frequent rock slides. Many roads wind through steep ravines and lack guardrails.
Police occasionally set up random roadblock stops on major roads to conduct inspections of vehicle registration and insurance.
Outside of Djibouti City, hazards include narrow roads, insufficient lighting, poor vehicle maintenance (missing headlights) and wayward pedestrians and livestock. Police set up roadblocks on major roads which are not clearly visible at night. Other risks include excessive speeding and erratic driving habits. The widespread use of the narcotic khat by drivers contributes to speeding and unsafe driving habits.
When driving outside Djibouti City, avoid all travel after dark and use convoys of two vehicles in case one car becomes disabled. Carry additional fuel and provisions (water, satellite phone, first aid kit). Gas stations are located at a considerable distance from one another and sell only diesel fuel in rural areas. There are few professional roadside assistance services.
Landmines: Stay on paved roads. Unmarked land mines exist in the border region with Eritrea, though most landmines have been marked or cleared from border regions.
Traffic Laws: A U.S. driver’s license or International Driving Permit is required to drive in Djibouti. The use of cell phones while driving is prohibited. Exercise caution at intersections; drivers often run red lights and do not stop at intersections. Third-party liability insurance is required and you must display the insurance sticker.
Accidents: Remain inside the vehicle and wait for the traffic police or gendarmes. If a hostile mob forms or you feel you are in danger, leave the scene in your vehicle if possible and proceed directly to the nearest police station to report the incident. If you are injured, drive to the nearest hospital or clinic.
Public Transportation: Avoid all travel by public transportation, and hire private transport from a reliable source. Public transportation is unregulated, unreliable, and generally unsafe. Hotel and airport shuttle services are a safe alternative. Taxis are available but are considered unsafe. U.S. Embassy personnel are prohibited from riding in buses or taxis.
The capital city and the towns of Obock and Tadjoura have intercity bus and ferry services. An electric limited rail, replacing the century old Ethio-Djibouti railway, began operation in October 2016 with freight service.
Hiring a vehicle: Reputable car rental firms can include the services of a driver. Be particularly vigilant at airports where criminals use luggage tag information to present themselves as pre-arranged drivers. Do not use your passport as a security deposit. If you allow your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.
See our Road Safety page for more information.
Sea Travel: The threat of piracy remains significant. Pirates have held foreigners hostage for ransom. Reports of attacks on local fishing dhows in Djiboutian coastal waters continue. Djiboutian military ships are clearly marked, and may turn away small craft or divert vessels to verify citizenship of passengers.
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. See the FAA’s safety assessment page.