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: 13 March 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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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. A number of aircraft operated by Air Madagascar have been banned from operating in the EU because they don’t meet international safety standards. FCO staff have been advised to use alternate airlines to reach Comoros where possible. A full list of airlines subject to operating restrictions in the EU is available on the European Commission website
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.
While there have been no successful piracy attacks since May 2012 off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden, 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.