Djibouti

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Friday, 13 June 2014.   This advice contains new information in the Summary and under Safety and security (reports current as of mid-June indicate potential terrorist threats may be aimed at Western and Djiboutian interests in Djibouti. Attacks may target official government facilities, including embassies and military installations, as well as soft targets such as restaurants, clubs and commercial entities). We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Djibouti because of the threat of terrorist attack and the uncertain regional security environment.

Djibouti overall

Border with Eritrea and Somalia

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Djibouti because of the threat of terrorist attack and the uncertain regional security environment.
  • Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
  • Reports current as of mid-June indicate potential terrorist threats may be aimed at Western and Djiboutian interests in Djibouti. Attacks may target official government facilities, including embassies and military installations, as well as soft targets such as restaurants, clubs and commercial entities.
  • An explosion at a restaurant in Djibouti city on 24 May 2014 killed three people and injured many more, including Westerners. We recommend that you exercise extreme caution if travelling to Djibouti at this time.
  • On 29 May 2014 the US Embassy in Djibouti issued a message for US citizens noting that it “has asked Embassy personnel to avoid large gatherings at restaurants and other public places. The area around Menelik Square will remain off-limits for Embassy personnel until further notice”. We recommend Australians follow this advice.
  • Australians in Djibouti should avoid all protests, demonstrations and large gatherings as they can turn violent.
  • We strongly advise you not to travel to the border with Eritrea because of the ongoing border tensions.
  • We strongly advise you not to travel within 10km of the border with Somalia (Somaliland) due to the risk of kidnap.
  • Australia has a Consulate in Djibouti, headed by an Honorary Consul, which can provide limited consular assistance. The Australian Embassy in Addis Ababa provides full consular and passport assistance to Australians in Djibouti.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Djibouti for the most up-to-date information.

A valid Yellow Fever Certificate is required for entry into Djibouti if you have arrived from a country where yellow fever is endemic.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Djibouti because of the threat of terrorist attack and the uncertain security environment. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.

Reports current as of mid-June indicate potential terrorist threats may be aimed at Western and Djiboutian interests in Djibouti. Attacks may target official government facilities, including embassies and military installations, as well as soft targets such as restaurants, clubs and commercial entities.

An explosion at a restaurant in Djibouti city on 24 May 2014 killed three people and injured many more, including Westerners. We recommend that you exercise extreme caution if travelling to Djibouti at this time.

On 29 May 2014 the US Embassy in Djibouti issued a message for US citizens noting that it “has asked Embassy personnel to avoid large gatherings at restaurants and other public places. The area around Menelik Square will remain off-limits for Embassy personnel until further notice”. We advise Australians in Djibouti to follow these recommendations.

In planning your activities, consider the kind of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided. Possible targets include commercial and public areas known to be frequented by foreigners such as hotels, clubs, restaurants, bars, schools, markets and shopping areas, places of worship, embassies, outdoor recreation events, tourist areas and historic sites. Djibouti hosts a number of foreign military bases. Airports, aircraft and military interests are also possible targets.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin for more information on terrorism and our General advice to Australian travellers for tips on staying safe overseas.

Civil unrest/political tension

While the political situation in Djibouti remains largely stable, demonstrations can occur at short notice. Australians in Djibouti should avoid all protests, demonstrations and large gatherings as they can turn violent.

Civil unrest and/or armed conflict in neighbouring countries (Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea) may also negatively affect the security situation.

Border with Eritrea: We strongly advise you not to travel to the border with Eritrea. There were military clashes between Djibouti and Eritrea in June 2008 and further conflict is possible. You should monitor local information sources for up-to-date reports.

Crime

Petty crime, such as pickpocketing, occurs in Djibouti.

There have been reports of banditry outside the capital.

We strongly advise you not travel within 10km of the border with Somalia (Somaliland) due to the risk of kidnap.

Avoid visiting Dorale and Khor Ambado beaches late in the afternoon due to their isolation.

The risk of crime increases at night. You should not walk alone after dark.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out whether your ATM card will work overseas.

Djibouti's economy is cash-based. Travellers' cheques can be exchanged at major banks, but credit cards are not widely accepted. There are a limited number of ATMs in Djibouti and these are frequently broken.

Make two photocopies of valuables such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local travel

Djibouti has been declared a “mine-safe” country, meaning landmines have been identified and marked, however they have not been removed. You should remain on paved roads especially in the northern districts of Tadjoura and Obock and the southern district of Ali Sabieh.

Australians are advised to avoid travelling to remote areas of the country, including the borders with Ethiopia and Somalia where the presence of security forces is low.

Travel to the northern region of Djibouti (above the 12 degree north latitude line which passes through Obock) requires prior permission from the Djibouti government.

Roads in Djibouti are sometimes narrow, poorly lit and badly maintained. Roaming livestock are an additional hazard especially if driving at night. The standard of driving and vehicle maintenance is generally poor. Police set up wire coils as roadblocks on some of the major roads, and these may be difficult to see at night. Intercity travel is limited to bus and ferry services between the capital city and the towns of Tadjoura and Obock. We recommend that you do not travel at night and that overland travel be undertaken in a convoy. For further advice, see our road travel page.

In the event of an accident, the driver should wait until the police arrive on the scene.

There are no train services between Ethiopia and Djibouti.

Piracy:.There is a high risk of piracy in the coastal areas of Djibouti. There have been attacks by pirates against all forms of shipping in and around Djibouti's waters and the Gulf of Aden. Pirates have been using motherships to attack shipping further than 1,000 nautical miles (1,800km) from the coast of Somalia. All forms of shipping are attractive targets for Somali pirates, including commercial vessels, pleasure craft (yachts etc) and luxury cruise liners. We strongly advise Australians to maintain a high level of vigilance and to exercise extreme caution when anywhere near these waters.

See our piracy bulletin for further information about the risk of piracy. The International Maritime Bureau issues piracy reports on its website.

Airline safety

Please refer to our air travel page for information about aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Djibouti, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs in Djibouti are severe, and include long jail sentences and heavy fines. The narcotic khat is legal in Djibouti, but is illegal in many other countries.

Homosexuality is not explicitly illegal in Djibouti, however local communities are intolerant of homosexuality and same sex relationships. See our LGBTI travellers page.

Hunting is forbidden by law.

Public displays of drunkenness could result in a two year prison term.

Photography of infrastructure, such as public buildings, ports, airports, bridges and military facilities, is prohibited. It is also illegal to photograph military personnel. Your equipment will be confiscated and you may be arrested. You should use particular care when taking photos near these prohibited places. If in doubt, seek advice from authorities.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australian overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Local customs

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to begin in mid-June 2015. During Ramadan, Australians travelling to countries with significant Muslim communities should take care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. In particular, people who are not fasting are advised to avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public and in the presence of people who are fasting. For more information see our Ramadan travel bulletin.

There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in Djibouti and you should take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.

Information for dual nationals

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The standard of health facilities in the capital is limited and very basic to non-existent in outlying regions. Medicines are sometimes unavailable in rural areas and can be expensive. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation (at considerable expense) to a destination with appropriate facilities would be necessary.

Malaria occurs widely throughout the year in Djibouti. Other insect-borne diseases (including dengue fever and filariasis) are also a risk to travellers. We encourage you to consider taking prophylaxis against malaria and to take measures to avoid insect bites including using insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose-fitting, light coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, cholera, hepatitis, schistosomiasis, meningococcal disease and tuberculosis) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea. High summer temperatures can lead to dehydration and sunstroke if adequate precautions are not taken.

There have been ongoing outbreaks of polio in countries across the Horn of Africa. Travellers should ensure they have completed a primary course of polio vaccination and receive a booster dose prior to travel. If you are unsure of your polio vaccination status, check with your doctor or travel clinic at least eight weeks before you depart.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed a human case of avian influenza in Djibouti. See our health page and Avian Influenza bulletin for further information on influenza.

Where to get help

Australia has a Consulate in Djibouti, headed by an Honorary Consul, which can provide limited consular and passport assistance. You can obtain full consular and passport assistance from the Australian Embassy, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia:

Australian Honorary Consulate, Djibouti

Honorary Consul
Ahmed Osman Guelleh
Australian Consulate
AlGALUXE building, 5th Floor
Djibouti City, Republic of Djibouti
Tel: 253 21 353844/21 353836
Fax: 253 21 353294
Mobile: 253 77 811800
Email: info@gsk-group.com

Australian Embassy

Apartment 384, Hilton Hotel
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Telephone: +251 11 5523320
Facsimile: + 251 11 552 3344
Email: addisababa.info@dfat.gov.au
Website: www.ethiopia.embassy.gov.au

If you are travelling to Djibouti, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Consulate or the Australian Embassy in Addis Ababa, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural Disasters, Severe Weather and Climate

The climate is very hot and dry from May to October, with strong dust storms occurring in June. Daytime temperatures can be over 50 degrees. Djibouti is experiencing severe drought after four years of below average rainfall. Local services and the availability of water and basic food may be affected in certain areas.

Djibouti is in an active volcanic and earthquake zone.

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor the media for the latest information.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with Children page.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.