Comoros travel guide
Not your typical tropical island getaway, Comoros may lay claim to sandy shores, limpid oceans and colourful coral reefs, but the archipelago’s greatest asset is its fascinating culture, which fuses together the most colourful elements of Africa and Arabia.
Floating between Mozambique and Madagascar, the archipelago has long been a crossroads between civilisations and most Comorians are of mixed Afro-Arab descent. A blend of Swahili and traditional Islamic influences pervade the islands giving them a calm and phlegmatic atmosphere that guarantees a hospitable welcome.
The four main islands that comprise sleepy Comoros do not share the tourist infrastructure of the Seychelles or Mauritius (with the exception of Mayotte), but they do share the warm seas, deserted beaches and stunning hiking that these destinations are renowned for.
Most travellers enter the country via the capital, Moroni, which nestles on the island of Grande Comore and hums with the atmosphere and traditional customs of a long-forgotten outpost. Men drink tea beneath whitewashed buildings in the Arab Quarter, as they have done for decades, while women in brightly coloured East African fabrics smile shyly from ornate doorways.
Also known as the Perfume Islands, the smell of vanilla, cloves and other spices is ever-present in Comoros, and locals are proud to produce more Ylang-Ylang essence for the perfume industry than anywhere else.
Leave fragrant Moroni behind and trek to the summit of Mount Karthala, also on Grande Comore. The archipelago’s highest peak, at just under 2,400m (7,800ft), this lofty vantage point happens to be one of the region’s most active volcanoes. The views are exquisite.
For a taste of France pay a visit to Mayotte, which, due to a quirk in colonial history is now governed from Paris. Arguably the most developed of the islands, it has a distinctly Gallic air, adding more depth to these already characterful islands.
2,235 sq km (863 sq miles).
807,118 (UN estimate 2016).
349.4 per sq km.
Federal Islamic Republic.
President Ikililou Dhoinine since 2011.
President Ikililou Dhoinine since 2011.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are used. Electricity shortages occur.
Last updated: 10 October 2017
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 www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
Crime levels are low, but you should take sensible precautions.
Piracy remains a significant threat in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in the Comoros, attacks can’t be ruled out. See terrorism
Safety and security
Crime levels are low, but you should take sensible precautions against pick-pocketing and mugging. Avoid walking alone at night on beaches or in town centres. Safeguard valuables and cash. Use hotel safes, where possible. Keep copies of important documents, including your passport, in a separate place. Although uncommon, sexual assaults have occurred.
Facilities on Anjouan are basic. Visitors to the island usually stay in Mutsamudu. Mohéli has few facilities for tourists. On Grande Comore (also known as Ngadijza) there are a few hotels of an acceptable standard in or near the capital Moroni.
On Grande Comore, the main round-island road is of a reasonable standard, but some other roads are in a poor condition.
You may use either a UK Driving Licence or an International Driving Permit for up to three months. Consult the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (telephone: + 269 744 100 or email: email@example.com if an extension is required.
The European Commission has banned all Air Service Comores flights, except one aircraft (type LET 410 UVP, with the registration D6-CAM), from operating within the EU due to safety concerns. FCO staff and their dependants have been advised to avoid flying on all Air Service Comores aircraft subject to the EU ban.
Air Madagascar operates flights from Madagascar to Comoros. Air Madagascar has been removed from the list of airlines banned from operating within the European Union. However, staff at the British Embassy in Madagascar are advised to use an alternative to Air Madagascar if a safer mode of transport is available.
A list of recent incidents and accidents can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.
You can travel between the three islands by boat. Take care at all times when travelling by boat and avoid travelling on vessels that are clearly overloaded, in poor condition or without life jackets. Overloaded ferries have capsized in Comorian waters, sometimes with significant loss of life.
Recent piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden highlight that the threat of piracy related activity and armed robbery in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean remains significant. Reports of attacks on local fishing dhows in the area around the Gulf of Aden and Horn of Africa continue. The combined threat assessment of the international Naval Counter Piracy Forces remains that all sailing yachts under their own passage should remain out of the designated High Risk Area or face the risk of being hijacked and held hostage for ransom. For more information and advice, see our Piracy and armed robbery at sea page.
As a result of its colonial history and the ongoing political debate regarding the separate status of Mayotte, there are regular reports of demonstrations and there is anti-French sentiment throughout Comoros. Remain vigilant, maintain a low profile while moving around and avoid any crowds or political gatherings. Monitor local media to keep up to date with local developments. Avoid taking pictures of official buildings.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in the Comoros, attacks can’t be ruled out.
Following the intervention of the French army in Mali in January 2013, security checks on aircraft operated by French company Air Austral have increased at the airport.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
Comoros is an Islamic country. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend other cultures or religious beliefs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan.
In 2017, the holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on 27 May and finish on 25 June.
In January 2013, President Ikililou Dhoinine promulgated a law declaring that Sunni Islam and the Chafeite rite as the country’s official religion. Shia Islam is not allowed in the Comoros.
Homosexuality is illegal in Comoros and the Penal Code provides a punishment of up to five years imprisonment and heavy fines for acts that are found to be “indecent or against nature with an individual of the same sex”.
Drug smuggling and the possession of drugs are serious offences. Those caught face long prison sentences, fines and deportation.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Visas are required. They can be obtained on arrival at Hahaya airport, or at other points of entry for €30. Details are available on the airport website (in French only).
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry into Comoros.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
Medical facilities are basic and limited on all three islands, and most are private. Electricity and water supplies are subject to frequent interruptions, which can affect hospitals and other public services. Medicines and food may not have been safely stored. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation
Malaria and cholera are common to Comoros, with malaria affecting all three islands.
The Karthala volcano near Moroni on Grande Comore erupts periodically, most recently in January 2007. Although there are no predictions of an imminent eruption, you should check the situation locally before making plans to visit the island.
Cash is the main means of paying for goods and services in Comoros. The Banque International du Comore (BIC – affiliated to BNP) is the only established bank on Grande Comore, and banking facilities are minimal to non-existent on the other islands. The two cash machines found at the BIC and the Itsandra Hotel work occasionally.
You can withdraw cash (local currency only) against a credit card from a small Bureau de Change office attached to the main BIC branch (on left hand side of main entrance).
Only one or two hotels accept credit cards for payment of bills (this can sometimes be problematic due to technical / connection problems with the equipment), but will not provide local currency against credit cards. Some hotels and restaurants will accept some foreign currencies (Euros and US Dollars preferred). Change may be given in local currency.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.