Lac Abbe Flamingos and Rock Formation, Djibouti
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Lac Abbe Flamingos and Rock Formation, Djibouti

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Djibouti Travel Guide

Key Facts

23,200 sq km (8,958 sq miles).


810,179 (2014).

Population density

34.9 per sq km.





Head of state

President Ismail Omar Guelleh since 1999.

Head of government

Prime Minister Abdoulkader Kamil Mohamed since 2013.


220 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are used.

Djibouti was originally inhabited by nomadic tribes, the main ones being the Afars and the Issas, who are strongly linked to Ethiopia and Somalia respectively. In 1862, the French signed a treaty with the Afar leaders, giving them land on the north coast. During the rest of the 19th century, Djibouti gradually became more firmly associated with France.

In 1945, French Somaliland (as the area was called) was declared an 'overseas territory' and in 1967, it became the French territory of the 'Afars and Issas'. In 1977, the French agreed to withdraw and the country achieved independence.

Controlling access to the Red Sea, Djibouti is of major strategic importance. During the Gulf War it was the base of operations for the French military, who continue to maintain a significant presence, contributing directly and indirectly to more than half the country's income.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 27 August 2015

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit


Petty crime is not uncommon in Djibouti. Don’t walk around town alone late at night. Keep valuables, particularly cameras and passports, out of sight.

Local travel

The FCO advise against all travel to the border with Eritrea. In 2008 there were military clashes between Djibouti and Eritrea after an incursion of Eritrean forces into the disputed Djibouti border region. The situation remains fragile and further conflict is possible.

Take great care if you travel to remote areas of the country, including the border with Somaliland, in the north-west of Somalia, where the presence of security forces is low.

Road travel

Avoid travelling outside city centres after dark; vehicles often have no lights and livestock may be on the roads. Roads are narrow, poorly lit and maintained. Police set up wire coils as roadblocks on some of the major roads, which are not clearly visible at night. Land mines are common in the northern districts of Obock and Tadjoura and the southern district of Ali Sabeih.

Rail travel

A limited railway service operates between Djibouti and Dire Dawa in Ethiopia. Construction has started to replace and modernise the railway line.

Sea travel

Piracy is a significant threat in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean and has occurred as far as 1,000 nautical miles from the coast of Somalia. Attacks of piracy and armed robbery against vessels in and around the Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin are successful almost exclusively against shipping which has not complied with agreed shipping industry best practice on self-defence measures, including on routing.  

Sailing vessels are particularly vulnerable to attack due to their low speed and low freeboard. All mariners intending to sail through high risk areas should consider alternatives, such as transporting the vessel by yacht carrier.

Yacht races and rallies do not have to take place in these high risk areas; they place their competitors at unnecessary risk of attack. Mariners should not take part in these races.

All mariners should follow the Best Management Practise for the Gulf of Aden and off Somalia published by the International Maritime Bureau. Mariners should register with the Maritime Security Centre, Horn of Africa for up to date advice and guidance on passage round the Horn of Africa and report regularly to the UKMTO (email:; telephone: +971 50 552 3215), giving their location, course and speed.

See our Piracy in the Indian Ocean page.