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Somalia travel guide

About Somalia

Think Somalia and what springs to mind? Pirates, Civil War, Islamic militants? Suffice to say it’s not your average holiday destination. Until 2012 the country had been without a government for two lawless decades and, although the fractured nation has witnessed a period of relative stability recently, it remains highly dangerous.

Travel is possible in the northern districts of the self-proclaimed Republic of Somaliland, a quasi-independent state that has broken away from the rest of Somalia. Travellers, however, should avoid visiting other areas.

And that's a shame, because behind the turmoil lies a destination of considerable beauty. Somalia has a varied landscape of mountains, deserts, tropical rainforests, undiscovered beaches and coral reefs. Sadly, much of it is under threat from unregulated logging, drought and the ongoing civil war.

Modern day Somalia developed from a string of Arab sultanates, which were scattered along the northeast coast of Africa. As Arab influence waned during the late 19th century, the British, French and Italians designated these territories as protectorates. These were the subjects of various treaties, forged amid frequent clashes between the colonial powers and the neighbouring Ethiopians, and between the European powers themselves.

The problems Somalia experiences today were sown in 1960, when the British and Italian Somalilands were merged. Inherited tribal rivalries and territorial disputes have dominated the country's history since.

Years of fighting between rival warlords and an inability to deal with famine and disease have led to the deaths of up to one million people. The area is still extremely volatile, with attacks taking place, especially in the capital of Mogadishu.

Those keen on travelling to the region would be well advised to visit neighbouring Ethiopia or Djibouti instead. But if you are set on Somalia, there are a handful of attractions to see including the Laas Geel cave complex, which offers exquisite Neolithic art and stunning rock formations

Gorgeous beaches and beautiful coral reefs can also be found along the coast, but you’d have to be one dedicated beach bum to seek them out.

Key facts


637,657 sq km (246,201 sq miles).


11,079,013 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

16.6 per sq km.




Federal republic. At the Arta Peace Conference in 2000, an interim parliament was established. The northern part of the country considers itself independent as the Republic of Somaliland with Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud as president since 2010, although it has not achieved international recognition.

Head of state:

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed since 2017.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre since 2022.

Travel Advice

Your travel insurance could be invalidated if you travel against advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).

Areas where FCDO advises against travel

Parts of Somalia, including eastern Somaliland  

FCDO advises against all travel to Somalia, including the 3 eastern regions of Somaliland – Togdheer, Sanaag and Sool – and excluding the 3 western regions of Somaliland – Awdal, Maroodijeh and Sahil. This is due to the threat from terrorist groups and continuing violence.

Western Somaliland

FCDO advises against all but essential travel to the 3 western regions of Somaliland – Awdal (including Boorama), Maroodijeh (including Hargeisa) and Sahil (including Berbera).

Find out more about why FCDO advises against travel.

Support from FCDO

Support from FCDO is severely limited in Somalia, including Somaliland, with no support in person from staff at the British Embassy Mogadishu or the British Office Hargeisa.

If you need urgent help from the UK government, for example if you’ve been arrested or you’re concerned about forced marriage, contact:

If you’re in the UK and are concerned about a British national in Somalia, including Somaliland, call FCDO on 020 7008 5000.

People of Somali descent, including Somaliland descent

The government of Somalia and the authorities in Somaliland will consider any British national of Somali (including Somaliland) descent to be a dual national. FCDO can offer only limited consular support in these cases. 

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and any specific travel advice that applies to you:

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

About FCDO travel advice

FCDO provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

This information is for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, who choose to travel despite FCDO advice. It is based on the UK government’s understanding of the current rules for the most common types of travel. 

The authorities in Somalia set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Somalian Embassy in the UK.

COVID-19 rules

There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Somalia, including Somaliland.

Passport validity requirements

To enter Somalia, including Somaliland, your passport must have an ‘expiry date’ at least 6 months after the date you arrive.

Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.

You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.

Visa requirements

You must have a visa to enter Somalia, including Somaliland.

You can get a single-entry visa, valid for one month, for 60 US dollars when you arrive at:

  • Mogadishu International Airport
  • Hargeisa International Airport

It is not clear if you’ll be given a visa on arrival at other points of entry. Get confirmation from local authorities or your sponsoring organisation.

You may also need to provide a letter of invitation when you arrive, outlining the reason for your visit. You can usually get this from your place of work. Without this letter, you may not be allowed to enter.

Vaccination requirements

For details about medical entry requirements and recommended vaccinations, see TravelHealthPro’s Somalia guide

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Somalia, including Somaliland. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.

Khat is a legal drug in Somalia, but it is an offence to take it out of the country. Officials regularly search bags at Hargeisa and Mogadishu airports, and anyone found to be in possession of khat is likely to face criminal prosecution.

Taking money into and out of Somalia (including Somaliland)

In Somaliland you must declare cash or travellers cheques if the value is 10,000 US dollars or more.

This guide also has safety advice for regions of Somalia, including Somaliland.


There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.    

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 how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Terrorism in Somalia

Terrorists are very likely to try and carry out attacks in Somalia, including Somaliland.

The terrorist group Al Shabaab, and other groups opposed to the Somali government, continue to carry out frequent attacks, including in the capital Mogadishu. Terrorist groups operating in Somalia have made threats against westerners and those working for western organisations in Somalia, including Somaliland.

Attacks could be indiscriminate and occur at any time, including in places visited by foreign such as:

  • government buildings
  • military bases
  • hotels and restaurants
  • transport hubs including the international airport
  • crowded places
  • at high-profile events

Stay aware of your surroundings, keep up to date with local media reports and follow the advice of local authorities. The Somali government regularly carries out counter-terrorist operations against Al-Shabaab, mainly in central and southern Somalia.

Examples of previous significant attacks include:

  • in June 2023, there was an attack on the Pearl Beach Hotel at Lido Beach in Mogadishu with at least 9 civilians reported killed and 10 injured
  • in 2022, 2 large improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were used to attack the Somali Ministry of Education, with over 100 civilians reported killed and 300 injured
  • in 2022, there was an attack on the Tawakal Hotel in the city of Kismayo, with 13 people reported killed and 47 injured
  • in 2022, there was an attack at the Hayat Hotel in central Mogadishu with 21 people reported killed and 117 injured
  • in 2022, there was a bomb attack at the Pescatore Seafood Restaurant in south Mogadishu, with 8 people reported killed and 27 injured
  • in 2022, there was a bomb attack inside Hassan Dhiif restaurant in the city of Beledweyne, with 18 people reported killed and 30 injured
  • in 2021, there was a bomb attack on a minibus travelling between Mogadishu and Jowhar, with at least 17 people reported killed and many injured
  • in 2020, there was an attack on the Elite Hotel in central Mogadishu, with 15 people reported killed and at least 15 injured

While attacks occur less frequently in Somaliland, terrorists are still very likely to try to carry out attacks.

The risk of attacks in Somalia, including Somaliland, may be further heightened during religious holidays.

Terrorist kidnaps

There is a high threat of kidnapping throughout Somalia, including in regions bordering Kenya and Ethiopia, and in Somaliland. Terrorists and criminal groups, including piracy groups, are involved in kidnapping. A number of western nationals, including British nationals, have been kidnapped in Somalia and some have been killed. 

British nationals are seen as legitimate targets, including tourists, humanitarian aid workers, journalists and business travellers. If you are kidnapped, the reason for your presence is unlikely to protect you or secure your safe release. 

The long-standing policy of the British government is to not make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners builds the capability of terrorist groups and finances their activities. This can, in turn, increase the risk of further hostage-taking. The Terrorism Act (2000) makes payments to terrorists illegal. 

If you are working or travelling in Somalia, including in Somaliland, you should be aware of the risk of kidnapping. You should maintain a high level of vigilance at all times, including:

  • when travelling and at transport hubs
  • in crowded public places
  • in camps for displaced people
  • at religious gatherings and places of worship
  • in markets, shopping malls, hotels, bars and restaurants

Make sure you have carefully considered the threat and have reasonable, proportionate mitigation measures in place.

Political situation

Political and community-based violence is common across Somalia, including Somaliland, and can flare up with little warning. Take care in public places where people gather. Monitor local and international media to help you avoid areas where demonstrations, protests, large crowds or disturbances are taking place. Leave any area of unrest quickly and do not attempt to watch or photograph it.

Military activity in the Red Sea area      

There is a military response to Houthi militants’ attempts to disrupt international shipping in the Red Sea. The military activity is limited to the Red Sea and Yemen, but travel advice for nearby countries could change at short notice. You should monitor travel advice and follow instructions from local authorities.


There is a dangerous level of criminal activity by armed militia throughout Somalia. There have been murders, armed robbery and criminal kidnaps.

The humanitarian situation in Somalia has led to a large displacement of people, and a growth in refugee camps which are overpopulated. Food and health insecurity has led to an increase in crime, particularly around the refugee camps.

Laws and cultural differences

Personal ID 

Always carry your passport and visa with you as ID. The Somali government in 2023 introduced a National Identity card, which is being rolled out across the country. Somali nationals should consult local authorities in Somalia on personal ID requirements.


Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims. The dates vary by year and country. During this time, do not:

  • eat, drink, smoke or chew gum in public in the daytime, including in your car
  • play loud music or dance
  • swear in public

Get more advice when you arrive from your tour guide, hotel or business contacts.

You should also:

  • check opening hours of shops and restaurants
  • be aware that if hotels and restaurants are providing food or drink in fasting hours, they may separate you from Islamic guests, for example with screens
  • follow local dress codes – clothing that does not meet local dress codes may cause more offence at this time
  • be aware that fasting can cause tiredness, particularly during the later afternoon and early evening
  • be patient and show tolerance

Public offences

Somalia has adopted Sharia law but is yet to implement it throughout the country. Al-Shabaab and other insurgent groups often have an extreme view on how to apply Sharia law.

It’s illegal for Somali Muslims to convert to another religion or promote any religion other than Islam.

Alcohol laws and bans

The drinking and sale of alcohol is banned in Somalia.

Illegal drugs and prison sentences

Drug offences, including drug use, possession and trafficking, are treated seriously in Somalia and are punishable by law. Possible punishments include a lengthy prison sentence without bail.

LGBT+ travellers

Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Somalia. LGBT+ partners should not show affection in public.

Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.


Credit cards are not widely accepted in Somalia and it is not possible to get currency advances using a credit card. You should take cash with you into the country. The US dollar is the main currency for exchanging in Somalia.

In Hargeisa you can withdraw US dollars from ATMs using international credit and debit cards.

Transport risks

Road travel

Travelling by road in Somalia is dangerous and you should get advice from a security firm or a sponsoring organisation. Government forces, militias and other armed groups operate checkpoints on roads across Somalia. Exercise extreme caution when passing checkpoints and closely follow the instructions given by police and military personnel.

Sea travel

There is still a significant risk of piracy in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, where piracy has been reduced but not fully prevented. Pirates can attack up to 1,000 nautical miles from the Somali coast or more. The threat assessment of the combined international naval counter-piracy forces is that sailing yachts should not enter the designated high-risk area, due to the risk of hijacking. 

Maritime crime and security incidents are also a risk in the Southern Red Sea area.

Extreme weather and natural disasters

Find out what you can do to prepare for and respond to extreme weather and natural hazards.


The main rainy season in Somalia takes place between April and June, followed by lesser rains in October and November.

Localised flooding may prevent you from getting to some parts of Somalia, including Somaliland.

Flooding increases humanitarian need by forcing people to move or cutting them off from possible support. The end of 2023 saw widespread flooding in south-western Somalia, leading to significant internal displacement and disruption to travel.

This section has safety advice for regions of Somalia. It only covers regions where the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) has specific advice.

You should also read FCDO’s overall travel advice and safety and security advice.

Togdheer, Sanaag and Sool

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advises against all travel to the regions of Toghdeer, Sanaag and Sool in eastern Somaliland. The situation remains volatile, so if you do travel, exercise extreme caution.

Renewed violence broke out between the Somaliland army and clan militias in Las Anod, Sool Region, on 6 February 2023 and the situation remains tense.

On 9 August 2023, a clan militia carried out activities in Dabagorayaale, close to Oodweyne town in Toghdeer region. Protests also took place in Burao, Toghdeer, and Erigavo in the Sanaag region.

Awdal, Maroodijeh and Sahil

FCDO advises against all but essential travel to the 3 western regions of Somaliland – Awdal (including Boorama), Maroodijeh (including Hargeisa) and Sahil (including Berbera).

On 11 August 2023, violent clashes occurred between the clan militia based in Ga’an Libah and the Somaliland security forces in Go’da Yar near the mountain.

Border areas

Check with local authorities before travelling to the border, and monitor travel advice for your destination: Ethiopia, Kenya or Djibouti. If you try to cross the border without the correct documents, officials may stop you.

Land borders with countries neighbouring Somalia may close at short notice. You may get a fine or detention for illegally crossing borders. The land border with Kenya is currently closed due to recent cross border terrorist activity. There have been reports that foreign nationals have been prevented from crossing the Djiboutian border into Somalia, though the border remains open.

The rest of Somalia

FCDO advises against all travel to the rest of Somalia. There is ongoing, serious violence between opposing factions in many parts of the country. Civilians of all ages have been killed in fighting, which often involves heavy weapons.

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

Call 999 and ask for an ambulance.

If that number does not work, call the Somali Red Crescent on 445 for emergency services.

Contact your insurance company quickly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Vaccine recommendations and health risks

At least 8 weeks before your trip:

Go to TravelHealthPro to see what health risks you’ll face in Somalia, including:

  • cholera
  • polio

The humanitarian situation in Somalia has led to a large displacement of people, and a growth in refugee camps which are overpopulated. This has led to health insecurity and an increase of exposure to disease, particularly around the refugee camps.


The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro.

The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.

Healthcare in Somalia

There are basic hospital facilities in Hargeisa. Elsewhere, medical facilities are extremely limited and often at great distances. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad, evacuation by air ambulance and repatriation.

FCDO has a list of medical facilities in Somalia where some staff will speak English.

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in Somalia

Ambulance: 999

Fire: 555

Police: 888

These emergency numbers can be unreliable. The Somali Red Crescent operates a free number for all emergency services on 446.

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

You can also contact FCDO online.

Help abroad in an emergency

If you’re in Somalia and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British Embassy in Mogadishu.

FCDO in London

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)

Find out about call charges

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