Eritrea Travel Asmara City Centre

Eritrea sits on the horn of Africa, bordering Sudan, Djibouti, and Ethiopia.

An African nation with a sprinkling of European and Arabian influence. This former Italian colony has charm and relaxed vibes. If you’re looking for a safe country in Africa that is full of adventure, smiling locals, and incredible architecture – this destination is for you.

There are essential things to know before your Eritrea Travel Adventure begins. 

These tips will help you plan your trip and provide you with insider knowledge about travel in Eritrea. We hope you enjoy this fascinating country as much as we did.

Eritrea Travel – 10 Things To Know Before you Go

1. Download a VPN – Be Prepared to be offline

Eritrea travel tips - download a VPN
Eritrea travel tips – Download a VPN before you arrive in Eritrea

Internet is very limited in Eritrea, so be prepared to be more or less offline in the country. You will need a VPN to access what little internet is available, so download and activate one before you arrive. Be warned though; it’s terribly slow.

We used Surfshark VPN and could send/receive emails. But social media such as Facebook and Instagram didn’t work for us. We expected to be offline for the week, so it didn’t bother us too much.

We heard that a VPN called ‘HA Tunnel Plus’ works well for the locals in Eritrea, so this could be a better option.

Either way, many internet cafes in Asmara charge around 15 Nakfa ($1) for an hour. It’s worth asking the young staff at internet cafes to configure the settings on your device. They’re quite savvy at making the necessary changes on your phone to get better access to the internet.

2. Download Google Maps of Eritrea & pin everything 

Travel Eritrea Tips - Download Google map Offline
Travel Eritrea Tips – Download Eritrea Google map Offline and save things you want to visit, places to eat before you arrive.

Download an offline Google map of Eritrea before you arrive, and save or favourite all the areas of interest. We’d recommend pinning the location of your hotel in Asmara, cafes, and places to eat, and the many fascinating Art-Deco buildings, churches, and markets too.

If you have the map downloaded before arriving in Eritrea, you can pin more highlights once you’re in the country. Unfortunately, you will not be able to download a map after you arrive in Eritrea, and there are very limited options for maps or navigation once you’re here.

3. You need a Visa for Eritrea & Bring your International Covid Vaccination Certificate

After closing its borders in early 2020 due to the pandemic, Eritrea opened again to tourism in September 2022. 

Most nationalities need a visa to visit Eritrea. You must apply for a visa in your country of residence. If your country does not have an Eritrean embassy, you may be able to obtain it in another country or even apply for a VOA (Visa on Arrival). 

We’d recommend that you check the iVisa website for assistance or more information. 

Alternatively, this list of all Eritrean Embassies and Consulates worldwide may help you to apply for your visa.

Covid Vaccination Requirements for Eritrea

We visited Eritrea in late October 2022. Upon arrival at Asmara airport, we showed our electronic International Covid Vaccination Certificate, advised them what hotel we were staying at, and did a quick rapid test (free of charge); it was all straightforward. 

Furthermore, moving through immigration was hassle-free. It took about 5 minutes for the woman to check and process our visas – but no questions asked, and we received a warm welcome to Eritrea with a smile.

4. Bring enough USD cash or EUR for the entire trip – No ATMs 

Eritrea Travel - Bring USD Cash

Eritrea is a cash society. Therefore, you must bring enough cash as there are no opportunities to withdraw more money. There are no ATMs that work with international bank cards. The best currency to bring is USD, as it will usually get you the best exchange rate for the local currency in Eritrea, the Nakfa. 

Ensure that all USD notes are in good condition and printed after 2006. Otherwise, they may not accept them. Euros are accepted too, however, the exchange rate for local currency is lower than USD.

A currency exchange shop called HIMBOL is in the airport, in the small arrivals hall to your left. There is another one on Harnet Avenue, the main street in Asmara. You will need a passport to exchange any cash.

We visited in late October 2022. The rate of exchange at this time was:

$1 USD = 15 Nakfa

1 EUR = 14.70 Nakfa

Don’t exchange too much cash into Nakfa as it’s almost impossible to change it back before departure. Also, they will not change any Nakfa back to USD or foreign currency before your departure flight, so try and plan your spending on your final day or two accordingly.

Travel Eritrea Currency Exchange
The Exchange Rates Sheet at Himbol Currency Exchange Shop in Asmara. It changes daily, but USD usually remains pegged to $1 = 15 Nakfa. Travel Eritrea can be very affordable.

5. Bring a good Power Bank

Electricity is usually unavailable during the daytime in Eritrea, so I recommend bringing a good power bank to charge your phone, camera, etc. The more expensive hotels may have generators to run the power, which is what you’re paying more for.

The water supply for showers and toilets runs on electricity, so you cannot shower or flush the toilet if the electricity is off. Plan your bathroom time accordingly.

Many bathrooms usually include a big bucket filled with water and a large cup to have a bucket shower or manually flush the toilet. 

6. Book your first night’s accommodation before you arrive

Eritrea Travel - Crystal Hotel Asmara
Travel to Eritrea – Book your first night’s accommodation, especially if you’re arriving late at night. We booked Crystal Hotel in Asmara.

Many flights to Asmara will arrive very late in the evening and we’d recommend booking at least your first night’s accommodation online, so you have somewhere to sleep.

We emailed 10+ hotels in Asmara to check availability and price for our arrival dates. Still, because the internet is so limited, we received only one reply from Crystal Hotel in Asmara. This is one of the better tourist hotels in Asmara, and the price of a room is USD 60 (single room) OR $83 (standard double room), which includes breakfast and wifi.

There are superior rooms available for approx $100 per night too.

We booked our first two nights here as our arrival flight was scheduled for 11 pm. It was easy to get a taxi from the airport, and there was a flat rate of 300 Nakfa or $20. Staff was waiting for us to arrive around midnight, with big welcoming smiles. 

You can reserve a room at Crystal Hotel on or email them directly: [email protected].

Once you’re in the country, there are many more choices for hotels, guesthouses, and pensions for every budget that you cannot find online.

Note: We’re currently working on putting a list together for more accommodation options in Asmara. This will include more information and prices.

7. Plan to Get your Permits to Travel in Eritrea on a Weekday

If you wish to travel to different cities or areas in Eritrea, you must first obtain permits from the Tourist Office on Harnet Avenue in Asmara. Do this as soon as possible, as they can sometimes take time to process. 

Our experience was very smooth in getting our permits to travel to Keren and Massawa (which includes Dahlak Islands). You will need to tell them what dates you wish to travel to these cities, so it’s good to know a rough itinerary of your movements. 

We applied on Thursday morning and returned to the office on the same day between 2-6 pm to collect them. You will need your passport to apply for the permits and pay 50 Nakfa ($3.40) per permit.

Note: The Tourist Office will request that you go next door to the copy shop and get a photocopy of your passport and Eritrean Visa Page for them to submit the permits on your behalf. The lady in the copy shop charges 3 Nakfa per page to photocopy it for you. Make sure you have photocopies of your permits when you leave Asmara as we were asked for copies at the military checkpoints.

The Tourist office is open Monday to Friday from 8-12 and 2-6 pm and 8 am-12 pm on Saturdays. CLOSED on Sundays. 

8. Bring clothes for all seasons to travel Eritrea

The best time to visit Eritrea is during the high season, from October to March. The shoulder season is April and September, also pleasant times to visit. The low season in Eritrea is from May to August; it is very hot during this time, we don’t recommend visiting at this time.

Bring clothes suitable for both hot and cold weather. If you want to go swimming, snorkelling, or diving in the Dahlak Islands – remember to bring your swimsuit, sunscreen, and perhaps snorkel gear (as this is hard to find in the country).

For women, a scarf is recommended to cover your head if you wish to visit the churches.

Check out our Ultimate Packing List for Africa for all the essentials for Eritrea travel and beyond.

9. Download all Netflix, Movies, and entertainment before you arrive

Travel Eritrea - Download Netflix
Travel Eritrea Tip – Download Netflix on your phone for some entertainment.

Download a couple of movies & series on Netflix to keep you entertained. They’re so handy on long bus journeys or even just waiting for the bus to fill on some occasions (which can take a few hours if you just missed the last full bus).

Alternatively, you may want to watch something in the evening to relax. Of course, you can usually pick up CNN news on the TV if you have one in your room, but that’s about it.

10. Bring a Guidebook for Travel to Eritrea

Eritrea is a fascinating country to learn about. Once you’re here, getting more information about what there is to see and do is nearly impossible.

We recommend you bring a Travel Guidebook with you. The Bradt Travel Guide to Eritrea will be beneficial.

If you would like to learn more about the history and culture of Eritrea, then this book called Understanding Eritrea – Africa’s most repressive state is an interesting read. It’s always useful to have the context of history and culture before you travel Eritrea.

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Practical Information about Travelling in Africa

Read more about our experience of travelling in Eritrea, our final country to visit in Africa.

If you’re planning to travel further in Africa, we’ve got some comprehensive blogs with many useful tips for you. Have you ever wondered, how many countries in Africa are there? 54 or 55? We cover them in depth in our Ultimate Africa Bucket List.

If you’re considering travelling to West Africa, it’s worth reading these 17 ESSENTIAL Things to know before exploring this region of Africa.

And don’t forget about the food! Check out our list of 10 Best Food Countries in Africa, however, our delicious Food Map of Africa covers the dish you need to try in each African nation!

You may be interested in visiting Ethiopia too, a neighbouring country to Eritrea.

Our complete Itinerary for Two Days in Lalibela is a must-visit destination and a Day Trip to Simien Mountains is highly recommended.

Furthermore, Ethiopia has some fantastic cuisine, and these 15 most popular Ethiopian dishes are unmissable. This Food Tour in Addis Ababa will introduce you to the best food and coffee in this bustling capital city.

Head to our AFRICA Page for detailed blogs about individual countries and if you’re simply looking for a place to find our best advice, tips, and suggestions on travel gear and products we use and love, then our Travel Resources Page is for you.