Last updated: 13 Jan 2020



Eritrea stretches along the Red Sea and is a low-lying coastal area with a mountainous interior. Eritrea’s capital, Asmara, was a cluster of four villages at the beginning of the 19th century. In 1897, the Italian colonial government moved the administration there from Massawa.

There are a number of churches and mosques which can be visited. Marble from the Italian Carrara quarry was used to build the largest mosque, Al Khulafa Al Rashiudin. The National Avenue is the major thoroughfare of the city; an ideal place to meet people and enjoy the numerous cafes and bars.

Massawa was an important centre in ancient times and remains the largest natural deep-water port on the Red Sea. Emberemi is famous for the mausoleums of Sheikh el Amin and Muhammad Ibn Ali. It is an important pilgrimage site.

Visit the religious sites of the Tomb of Said Abu Bakr el Mirgani and the Mariam de Arit. Debre Sina, near Elabered on the Asmara–Keren road, is also a noteworthy monastery.

Go to the beach: the modern city of Asseb in the southeasterly Province of Denkalia has many pleasant beaches. Wide sandy beaches and calm seas along the Red Sea coast.
Capital:  Asmara (ASM)
Currency:  Eritrean Nakfa (ERN)
Language:  No official language. Tigrinya and Arabic are the most widely spoken. English and Italian are also widely spoken.
Dialling code from SA:  + 291
Time Zones: UTC / GMT +3 (1 hour ahead of South Africa)
Public Holidays 2020: 

Jan 1, 6, 7; Mar 8; Apr 10, 12; May 1, 24; Jun 20; Jul 31; Sep 1, 11, 27; Oct 29; Dec 25

Side of the Road: Right
Best Time to go: October – May (winter)
Best For: Religious Sites
Plugs: 230 volts AC, 50 Hz. European-style plugs with two rounded pins are used. There are occasional power surges.
Drinking Water: All water should be regarded as being potentially contaminated. Milk is unpasteurised. Bottled water is available. 
Health: Travellers can suffer from altitude sickness.  Medical facilities are very limited. It is advisable to carry basic medical supplies.  Comprehensive health insurance is recommended and it should include emergency air evacuation coverage.
Customs: Visitors should dress modestly. Smoking is widely accepted by traditional and elderly Eritreans. Shoes should be taken off in religious buildings. Respect to religious customs and traditional values should be shown. Dress should be conservative. Fasting periods should be observed. It is also considered rude to show the soles of your feet or shoes, and to touch or move objects with your feet.  The right hand must be used for the giving or receiving of food or objects.
Local Offences / Laws: It is illegal to photograph military and government buildings.  It is inadvisable to change money on the black market. Homosexuality is illegal. 
Travel Tips / Warnings: Coffee is a delicacy in Eritrea and is prepared in a special coffee ceremony.  Credit cards are accepted in major hotels, but a commission may be charged.  Check the local political situation before finalising travel plans. The Gregorian calendar is most commonly used but the Eritrean traditional Julian calendar is still functional, which is also referred to as the Geez calendar.
Duty Free: The following goods may be imported into Eritrea without incurring customs duty:
• 400 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco.
• 2L of alcoholic beverages.
• 500ml of perfume.
• 100g of jewellery.
• 1 camera and 1 item of electronic equipment for personal use.
Prohibited Imports: The usual import restrictions apply on organic products and firearms.
Prohibited Exports: The export of antiques, such as religious parchments and artefacts, is prohibited.

Issuing Authorities

Embassy of the State of Eritrea,
1281 Cobham Rd, Queenswood 0186.
P O Box 11371, Queenswood,
0121 Pretoria
Tel:+27 (0)12 333-1302
Fax:+27 (0)12 333-2330
E-mail:  /
Consular hours: 0830-1130 Mon-Fri


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SA Representative

SA Embassy
51/53 Hitseito Street, 245, Tiravalo,
Asmara, State of Eritrea
Tel: 00 291 1 525 17/39
Fax: 00 291 1 53072 (consular)

Travel Health

Compulsory:  None
Recommended Travel Vaccines: Hepatitis A & B, Meningitis, Rabies, Typhoid, Tetanus, Polio
  Malaria Risk