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Somalia

Somalia
The Somali Republic
Do not travel to Somalia due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, health issues, kidnapping, and piracy.

Do not travel to Somalia due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, health issues, kidnapping, and piracy.

Country Summary: Violent crime, such as kidnapping and murder, is common throughout Somalia, including Puntland and Somaliland.  Illegal roadblocks are also widespread.  A number of schools acting as “cultural rehabilitation” facilities are operating throughout Somalia with unknown licensing and oversight.  Reports of physical abuse and people being held against their will in these facilities are common.

Terrorists continue to plot kidnappings, bombings, and other attacks in Somalia.  They may conduct attacks with little or no warning, targeting airports and seaports, government buildings, hotels, restaurants, shopping areas, and other areas where large crowds gather and Westerners frequent, as well as government, military, and Western convoys.  Methods of attack can include car bombs, suicide bombers, individual attackers, and mortar fire, among others.  

Civil unrest occurs throughout Somalia and can sometimes be violent.

Medical facilities across Somalia have limited capacity and are often nonexistent in rural areas.

Pirates are active in the waters off the Horn of Africa, especially in the international waters near Somalia.  

The U.S. government has extremely limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Somalia due to the lack of permanent consular presence in Somalia.

Due to risks to civil aviation operating within or in the vicinity of Somalia, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR).  For more information U.S. citizens should consult Federal Aviation Administration’s Prohibitions, Restrictions and Notices.

Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page.

If you decide to travel to Somalia:

  • Review your personal security plan and visit our page on Travel to High-Risk Areas.
  • Avoid sailing near the coast of Somalia and review the Live Piracy Report published by the International Maritime Bureau.
  • Draft a will and designate appropriate insurance beneficiaries and/or power of attorney.
  • Discuss a plan with loved ones regarding care/custody of children, pets, property, belongings, non-liquid assets (collections, artwork, etc.), funeral wishes, etc.
  • Share important documents, login information, and points of contact with loved ones so that they can manage your affairs, if you are unable to return as planned to the United States. Find a suggested list of such documents here.
  • Establish your own personal security plan in coordination with your employer or host organization, or consider consulting with a professional security organization.
  • Develop a communication plan with family and/or your employer or host organization so that they can monitor your safety and location as you travel through high-risk areas. This plan should specify who you would contact first, and how they should share the information.
  • Identify key sources of possible assistance for you and your family in case of emergency, such as the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate, FBI, the State Department, your employer (if traveling on business), and local friends/family in the high-risk area. 
  • Be sure to appoint one family member to serve as the point of contact with hostage-takers, media, U.S. and host country government agencies, and Members of Congress, if you are taken hostage or detained.
  • Establish a proof of life protocol with your loved ones, so that if you are taken hostage, your loved ones can know specific questions (and answers) to ask the hostage-takers to be sure that you are alive (and to rule out a hoax)
  • Leave DNA samples with your medical provider in case it is necessary for your family to access them.
  • Erase any sensitive photos, comments, or other materials from your social media pages, cameras, laptops, and other electronic devices that could be considered controversial or provocative by local groups.
  • Leave your expensive/sentimental belongings behind.
  • Enroll your trip in the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Review the Crime and Safety Report for Somalia.

U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations.  Review the Traveler’s Checklist.

Last Update:  Reissued after periodic review with updates to the Risk Indicators.

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Embassy Messages

Alerts

Quick Facts

PASSPORT VALIDITY:


Duration of stay

BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:


1 page

TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:


Yes

VACCINATIONS:


Yellow Fever vaccination is not required but most countries that fly in and out of Somalia require proof of vaccination

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:


None

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:


None

Embassies and Consulates

U.S. Embassy Kenya

United Nations Avenue
Gigiri, Nairobi, Kenya
Telephone:
(254) (20) 363-6451 (Monday through Thursday, 7:15<br>a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Friday from 7:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.)
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: (254) (20) 363-6170
Fax: (254) (20) 363-6410
Email: 

Destination Description

See our Fact Sheet on Somalia for information on U.S. - Somalia relations.

Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements

Requirements for Entry:

  • Passport
  • Visa (obtain before traveling or a 60-day tourist visa upon arrival in Mogadishu for $60)

Visit the Permanent Representative of the Somali Republic to the United Nations/Department of Immigration and Naturalization websites or the nearest Somali embassy or consulate for visa information. Direct visa inquiries for Somaliland and Puntland to the person/organization you will be visiting, as there is no office in Kenya to issue these visas.

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

Find information on dual nationalityprevention of international child abduction, and customs regulations on our websites.

Safety and Security

The U.S. government cannot provide consular services to U.S. citizens in Somalia.  You will have to rely on your own resources or journey to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in an emergency.

Terrorist organizations and armed groups in Somalia attack government authorities and facilities, African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) personnel and bases, and civilian and non-governmental targets, including, but not limited to:  hotels, restaurants, airports, seaports, and shopping areas. Inter-clan and factional violence is also a regular occurrence throughout Somalia.

Al-Shabaab, an al-Qa’ida-affiliated foreign terrorist organization based in Somalia, has repeatedly attacked the Mogadishu Aden Adde International Airport (MGQ) and other locations in Somalia with mortars and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices. In October 2017, the group detonated an explosive device in the Zobe district of Mogadishu, killing more than 500 people in what is believed to be the single deadliest attack in Somalia’s history.

Cultural Rehabilitation Centers:  Some schools and other facilities acting as cultural rehabilitation centers are operating in Somalia with inadequate or nonexistent licensing and oversight. Reports of minors and young adults being held in these facilities against their will and physically abused are common.

Protests and civil unrest occur regularly throughout the country, including in the capital, often without advanced warning and sometimes turning violent.  U.S. citizens should:

  • Avoid walking alone, especially at night.
  • Avoid displaying cash and valuable personal property.
  • Dress conservatively.
  • Carry a copy of your U.S. passport and visa. Keep original documents in a secure location.
  • Avoid demonstrations and use vigilance during your movements around the country. Even events intended to be peaceful can become violent.
  • Maintain caution in areas frequented by foreigners.
  • Be cautious when traveling in major cities and along border areas.
  • Monitor news and consular messages.

Somalia - Kenya border: Cross-border violence, attributed to al-Shabaab, occurs periodically, including large-scale attacks against civilians, government security forces, and AMISOM troops.  Kidnapping, improvised explosive devices, and grenade attacks targeting international aid workers and civilians occur.  Al-Shabaab actively operates in border areas, including Lamu and Wajir counties of Kenya.  In February 2018, al-Shabaab killed two teachers and injured another during an attack at a primary school.

Crime: Violent crime such as kidnapping, bombings, indirect fire attacks, murder, armed robbery, carjacking, and illegal roadblocks by armed individuals in uniforms occur throughout Somalia, including the self-declared autonomous region of Somaliland.

See the Department of State and the FBI webpages for information on scams.

Victims of Crime: Somali authorities have limited capacity and resources to investigate and prosecute criminal activity.  U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault or domestic violence should contact the U.S. Embassy in Kenya for assistance.

Report crimes to the local police nearest to you and contact the U.S. Embassy in Kenya at (+254) (20) 363-6451.  

Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.

See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.

We can:

  • contact relatives or friends with your written consent
  • provide our information on victim’s compensation programs in the U.S.
  • provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution

Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the U.S. Embassy in Kenya for assistance.

Tourism: No formal tourism industry infrastructure is in place. Tourists are considered to be participating in activities at their own risk. Emergency response and subsequent appropriate medical treatment is not available in-country. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.

Local Laws & Special Circumstances

Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. You may be taken in for questioning by the police if unable to produce an acceptable form of identification. Convictions for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs result in long prison sentences and heavy fines.

Furthermore, some crimes 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.

Local courts operate under a combination of Somali customary and Islamic law, some of which may be hostile towards foreigners.

Arrest Notifications: If arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy in Kenya immediately. The U.S. government’s ability to provide consular services is severely restricted as a result of ongoing security concerns. Furthermore, dual U.S.-Somali citizens are recognized as Somali citizens by authorities, which impedes our ability to provide any consular assistance. See our webpage for further information.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Water, health, and electricity systems are poor.

Photography: Do not take pictures of government buildings, military installations, and key infrastructure such as airports and border controls. You could be detained or arrested, fined, and have your equipment confiscated. Do not take photos of people without their permission.

Phone Service: Cellular phones are used extensively. SIM cards can be purchased locally and used with a compatible cell phone.

Currency: The Somali shilling is the unit of currency except in Somaliland, which uses the Somaliland shilling. Be advised, most Somali shillings in circulation are believed to be counterfeit. U.S. dollars are widely accepted.  You are advised against using your credit card in Somalia, even if accepted. It is not possible to obtain currency advances against a credit card. Credit cards and traveler's checks are generally not accepted, and there are an increasing number ATMs in Mogadishu. ATMs in Somalia disburse U.S. dollars.

Faith-Based Travelers: See our following webpages for details:

LGBTI Travelers: Same-sex sexual contact is punishable by imprisonment from three months to three years. Anti-discrimination provisions do not apply to LGBTI individuals. Society considers sexual orientation a taboo topic, and so there is no known public discussion of this issue. Severe societal stigma typically prevents LGBTI individuals from making their sexual orientation publicly known.

See our LGBTI Travel Information page and section 6 of our Human Rights report for further details.

Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: Access to transportation, lodging, and public buildings is limited. There are few sidewalks and no curb-cuts, and most buildings lack functioning elevators.

Students: See our Students Abroad page and FBI travel tips. We are aware of allegations that some boarding schools in Somalia engage in abusive practices such as corporal punishment, physical restraint, and confiscation of travel documents.

Youth: We are aware of cases of forced marriage. Some facilities involved in “cultural rehabilitation” (“dhaqan celis,” meaning “returning to Somali culture”) engage in abusive practices such as corporal punishment, physical restraint, and confiscation of travel documents.

Women Travelers: There are no laws against spousal violence, including rape. There are documented patterns of rape perpetrated with impunity, particularly of displaced women and members of minority clans. Authorities rarely use formal structures to address rape.  Survivors suffer from subsequent discrimination based on the attribution of “impurity.” Domestic and sexual violence against women remain serious problems, despite the provisional federal constitution provision prohibiting any form of violence against women.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Although the provisional federal constitution prohibits the circumcision of girls, FGM/C is almost universally practiced throughout the country. Up to 98 percent of women and girls have reportedly undergone FGM/C, primarily between the ages of 5-14 years.

Health

Medical care and services are extremely limited. Medicines are in short supply and many pharmacies stock ineffective or counterfeit medications Most care providers expect payment in U.S. dollars/Somali shillings prior to treatment.

We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas. 

Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage

We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation. Medical evacuation services in Somalia are extremely limited, and services responding from outside of the country will take in excess of six hours to respond.

Carry personal supplies of medications. Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor’s prescription.

Malaria is endemic. Use CDC-recommended mosquito repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon, eucalyptus, or IR-3535. Sleep under insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets. Chemoprophylaxis is strongly recommended for all travelers, even for short stays. Recommended chemoprophylaxis includes Atovaquone-proguanil, doxycycline, mefloquine, or tafenoquine.

You may need a polio vaccine before your trip to Somalia. If you were vaccinated against polio as a child but have never had a polio booster dose as an adult, you should get this booster dose. If you were not completely vaccinated as a child or do not know your vaccination status, talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated.

If you will be in Somalia for more than four weeks, the Government of Somalia may require you to show proof of polio vaccination when you are exiting the country. To meet this requirement, you should receive a polio vaccine between 4 weeks and 12 months before the date you are leaving Somalia. Talk to your doctor about whether this requirement applies to you.

Food-borne and water-borne illnesses are common. 

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:

Travel and Transportation

Road Conditions and Safety: Road conditions are poor. Night driving is particularly dangerous due to the absence of lighting. Other risks include lack of traffic lights, and pedestrians and animals in the road. Refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Somalia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Somalia’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.

The FAA has issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) containing information on the U.S. prohibition against U.S. civil aviation operations in airspace over Somalia. For background information and advisories consult the Federal Aviation Administration’s Prohibitions, Restrictions and Notices.

Maritime Travel: Recreational vessels should avoid the region. Consult the International Maritime Bureau's Live Piracy Report for information. See also www.marad.dot.govhttps://homeport.uscg.mil/, and https://msi.nga.mil/NGAPortal/MSI.portal.

For additional travel information

Last Updated: May 30, 2019

Travel Advisory Levels

Assistance for U.S. Citizens

U.S. Embassy Kenya
United Nations Avenue
Gigiri, Nairobi, Kenya
Telephone
(254) (20) 363-6451 (Monday through Thursday, 7:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Friday from 7:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.)
Emergency
(254) (20) 363-6170
Fax
(254) (20) 363-6410

Somalia Map