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World Travel Guide > Guides > Africa > Djibouti

Djibouti travel guide

About Djibouti

Tucked away in the Horn of Africa, diminutive Djibouti offers ethereal landscapes, traditional tribes and mega marine life by the camel load – little wonder this slice of East Africa is being touted as the next big thing.

Refreshingly devoid of large-scale tourist developments (for now, at least), you won’t find international hotel chains outside the eponymous colonial capital. Tourists are still something of a rarity and it is not uncommon to be invited into a family’s home to share a pot of tea.

Contrasting strongly with the bright blue skies and the colourful macawis worn by locals, the flat plains outside Djibouti City have a harsh and otherworldly aesthetic, which are celebrated by the local tribespeople in poetry and song. The loose rocks that litter the khaki-coloured ground amid semi-wild herds of camel speak of the country’s volcanic past.

Away from the capital, which is wafted by a cool Red Sea breeze, Djibouti becomes oppressively hot in the summer months. Locals move slowly and purposefully; at least until the daily delivery of khat, a semi-narcotic plant chewed like gum, which seems to stop daily life in its tracks.

If you do manage to defy the heat, there are ample opportunities to connect with the natural world. Visitors can scale the dormant Ardoukoba volcano, explore Lake Assal, the lowest point in Africa, or go snorkelling with whale sharks in the Red Sea. Found in the Bay of Ghoubbet, these slow-moving giants trawl the Djiboutian coast, gorging on plankton.

Exhibiting a blend of African and Arabian culture, the people of Djibouti are equally fascinating. Gracious and welcoming to foreigners, their country still largely works along tribal lines, but it is quiet, unthreatening and small enough to get to grips with. Above all else, though, it’s absolutely stunning.

Key facts

Area:

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

Population:

899,598 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

35.7 per sq km.

Capital:

Djibouti.

Government:

Republic.

Head of state:

President Ismail Omar Guelleh since 1999.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Abdoulkader Kamil Mohamed since 2013.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus travel health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Djibouti on the TravelHealthPro website

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you are in Djibouti and have symptoms call the helpline on 1517 immediately and ask for advice.

International travel

Djiboutian air, sea and land borders are open. You should contact airlines direct to get details of scheduled flights. The train service to and from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia has reopened but only for freight. No date has been advertised for the reopening of passenger services.

When leaving Djibouti, you must provide evidence of a negative test to airport authorities.

From 21 June, when leaving Djibouti, foreign residents of Djibouti (as well as Djiboutian nationals) are required to show evidence of having received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine or evidence of an appointment overseas for a vaccine or provide evidence of medical exemption from having the vaccine.

Entry and borders

See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Djibouti.

Returning to the UK

When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.

You are responsible for organising your own COVID-19 test, in line with UK government testing requirements.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.

Plan ahead and make sure you:

  • can access money
  • understand what your insurance will cover
  • can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned

Local measure

Face coverings must be worn in public and private spaces where social distancing is not possible. Restaurants, shops are open with social distancing measures in place.

Accommodation

Hotels were permitted to reopen from 30 June 2020 with social distancing measures in place.

Public places and services

Gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited. Government offices and places of worship have reopened with social distancing in place.

Healthcare in Djibouti

View Health for further details on healthcare in Djibouti.

COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Djibouti

We will update this page when the Government of Djibouti announces new information on the national vaccination programme. You can sign up to get email notifications when this page is updated.

The Djibouti national vaccination programme started in March 2021 and is using the AstraZeneca, Sinovac and Johnson and Johnson vaccines. British nationals resident in Djibouti are eligible for vaccination if they choose to join the programme. You should follow the advice given to the general public to access vaccines.

Find out more, including about vaccines that are authorised in the UK or approved by the World Health Organisation, on the COVID-19 vaccines if you live abroad.

If you’re a British national living in Djibouti, you should seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider. Information about COVID-19 vaccines used in the national programme where you live, including regulatory status, should be available from local authorities.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

Further information

Website for President of Djibouti

Health Ministry Facebook page

Crime

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 FCDO 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 notably the border with Somaliland, the north-west of Somalia and on roads north of Tadjoura where there are military roadblocks. You should respect the advice given by those operating the roadblocks and, if required, seek formal military approval for a journey.

Road travel

Avoid travelling outside city centres after dark; vehicles often have no lights and livestock may be on the roads. Driving standards are generally poor and on the main Djibouti-Ethiopia road there are a very high number of large trucks. Many drivers use the (legal) narcotic khat and this contributes to speeding and unsafe driving. Roads are generally narrow, poorly lit and poorly maintained. Police set up wire coils as roadblocks on some of the major roads, which are not clearly visible at night. Stay on paved roads. Unmarked landmines are present in the border region with Eritrea, but in other border areas most landmines have been marked or cleared. The borders between Djibouti and Ethiopia and Djibouti and Somalia are not always clearly identified.

Rail travel

The freight rail service is running. No date has been set for reopening the passenger train service.

Sea travel

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.

Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Djibouti. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

Djibouti and international interests within Djibouti (including several military bases and personnel) may be seen as a legitimate target by Al Shabaab because of Djiboutian participation in the African Union peacekeeping mission, AMISOM, and international support to the Somali Government. Al Shabaab has previously issued public threats against Djibouti. In May 2014, they claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a restaurant in Djibouti city, which injured foreign nationals.

Be vigilant at all times, especially in crowded areas and public places like transport hubs, hotels, restaurants, shopping areas and bars, and during major gatherings like sporting or religious events. Previous terrorist attacks in the region have targeted places where football matches were being viewed.

Follow the advice of local authorities, take care while travelling around the country and avoid large gatherings.

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.

Djibouti has a predominantly Muslim population. You should dress and behave in a conservative manner.

Whilst drinking alcohol is permitted, drunken behaviour could result in a two-year prison term.

Homosexual behaviour is not illegal, but public displays of affection such as kissing or handholding by same-sex couples could lead to prosecution by the authorities under laws prohibiting attacks on “good morals” given the cultural norms in Djiboutian society. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

During Ramadan you should show respect to those who are fasting and take care not to offend Islamic values. See Travelling during Ramadan.

Photographing infrastructure (such as ports, public buildings, airports, military facilities and bridges) is prohibited. Your equipment will be confiscated and you could be arrested. When taking photos near prohibited places you should take care and seek local advice if you are unsure.

French, Arabic and Somali are widely spoken.

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.

Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Entry to Djibouti

With effect from 21 June, all passengers arriving in Djibouti who cannot show evidence of having been vaccinated, will have to spend 10 days in quarantine in their own accommodation.

Whether arriving by air, land or sea, if you are over 11 years of age, you will also be required to provide a PCR test certificate from the country where you started your journey. The test must be taken within 72 hours of the start of the journey and 120 hours of arrival in Djibouti.

Passengers who started their journeys or transited South Africa, India or Brazil will not be allowed to enter Djibouti due to increasing concerns about COVID-19 variants. Djiboutian Nationals are not allowed to travel to those countries. Djiboutian Residents should double check with their airline before planning to travel to those countries.

On arrival at all entry points (land, air or sea), if you are older than 11 years, you will be tested for COVID-19 which can take up to an hour. You should not eat anything 30 minutes before your arrival at the entry point. You will have to pay for the test either by credit card, but as the credit card machines do not always work, cash (dollars, euros accepted) is a more reliable method of payment. If the test result is positive, foreign travellers will have to go into quarantine, at their own expense, at a hotel agreed with those conducting the test or if showing symptoms into the hospital, until testing negative. Djiboutian nationals who test positive can choose to go to a government isolation site at no cost or pay costs of staying at a hotel. You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test.

Demonstrating your COVID-19 vaccination status

Demonstrating your vaccination status from the UK is not formalised for entry into Djibouti, so you should follow alternative advice for entry. Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination and should not be used to demonstrate your vaccine status.

Exit rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)

All travellers must present a negative PCR test when leaving Djibouti. From 21 June, when leaving Djibouti, foreign residents of Djibouti (as well as Djiboutian nationals) are required to show evidence of having received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine or evidence of an appointment overseas for a vaccine or provide evidence of medical exemption from having the vaccine.

Regular entry requirements

Visas

British nationals need a visa to enter Djibouti. You should get a visa before travelling. Applications may take several weeks to process and should be made well in advance of travel, including crossing of land borders. You must have evidence of your onward journey.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Djibouti.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, transit and exit from Djibouti.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Djibouti on the TravelHealthPro website

See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Djibouti.

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

Medical treatment

Medical facilities in Djibouti are limited. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 35 09 62 or 35 27 12 (switchboard) and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

From May to October the climate is very hot and dry.

Djibouti is in an active volcanic and earthquake zone. To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see the website of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Intense rainfall, whilst rare, can lead to flash floods, particularly in the vicinity of Djibouti City, most recently in November 2019. This can lead to major disruption, damage to buildings and roads, and the outbreak of water-borne and respiratory diseases. You should avoid flood areas and follow official advice.

Credit and debit cards are not widely accepted. Where credit cards are accepted, visa cards are often required. ATMs are normally available in Djibouti City but may not accept Mastercard. You should make sure that you carry sufficient hard currency.

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, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (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.

Travel safety

The FCDO 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 FCDO 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 FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.

Further help

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.

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