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  • Overview

    Djibouti is a small and easily overlooked destination on the Horn of Africa. A frequent pit stop for vessels passing in and out of the Red Sea, it's certainly off the beaten track for tourists.

    Around two thirds of Djibouti's citizens reside in the capital, Djibouti City, making their living through the large informal market economy. Travellers looking to spend a few hours here should visit the Central Market, the Stade du Ville (national stadium), Presidential Palace, and Hamouli Mosque. Getting around isn't cheap, though, as the lack of regulation and infrastructure means that taxis are expensive.

    Largely desert, the country's landscape includes mountains in the interior, a coastal plain in the east (the beaches at Doralé and Khor-Ambado have warm waters and exotic marine life) and an arid plateau in the west. Most of the interior sits within the Afar Depression, a region that lies 500 feet (155m) below sea level and is rich in ancient fossils. It's also one of the hottest places on Earth, with temperatures sometimes reaching 118°F (48°C). Lake Assal is another area of interest. Located some 75 miles (120km) south of Djibouti City, it is the lowest point in Africa.

    The British Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office advises against all travel near the border with Eritrea, but the rest of this unique country enjoys political stability and a relatively safe atmosphere.

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    English Pronounciation

    Djibouti has an arid climate and is hot year-round, with lots of sunshine and not much rain. Most of the country is desert, ranging from the semi-arid to the arid, though the Goda Mountains have a cooler, milder climate. Between May and September, Djibouti is swelteringly hot and temperatures average a whopping 104°F (40°C), sometimes reaching highs of 113°F (45°C). Humidity levels are also high during this period, adding considerably to the discomfort.

    The cooler season, which is also the rainy season, runs from mid-October to mid-April, when temperatures average a far more comfortable 77°F (25°C). Occasional rain showers are refreshing and do not disrupt travel too much, though some fog and cloud cover should be anticipated during the rainy season. Djibouti gets plenty of sunshine year-round, however, with an average of eight to ten hours of sun every day.

    The best time of year to visit Djibouti is in the cooler, rainy season between November and April, as the dry season is uncomfortably hot. The month to avoid is July, which is not only swelteringly hot but also plagued by hot desert winds.

    Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport
    Location: 2 miles (3km) from Djibouti City centre.
    Time: GMT +3
    Car Rental: Car rental services are available at the airport.
    Money:

    The Djiboutian franc (DJF) is the official currency of Djibouti. The franc is divided into 100 centimes. There are several banks in Djibouti City and a few authorised bureaux de change. Credit cards are seldom accepted and there are only a handful of ATMs in the city, which are frequently out of order and can't be relied on. Outside of the capital banking facilities are almost nonexistent.

    Language:

    Arabic and French are the official languages of Djibouti, but the majority of locals speak either Somali or Afar.

    Electricity:

    Electrical outlets in Djibouti usually supply electricity at 220 volts, and 50Hz. European two-pin plugs with round pins are standard.

    Entry Requirements:

    US nationals: US citizens require a passport valid on arrival. A visa is required and can be issued on arrival at the airport if the passenger's visa is valid for a minimum of 6 months from the arrival date, but it is advisable to arrange a visa prior to travel when possible.

    UK nationals: UK citizens require a passport valid on arrival. A visa is required and can be issued on arrival at the airport if the passenger's visa is valid for a minimum of 6 months from the arrival date, but it is advisable to arrange a visa prior to travel when possible.

    CA nationals: Canadian citizens require a passport valid on arrival. A visa is required and can be issued on arrival at the airport if the passenger's visa is valid for a minimum of 6 months from the arrival date, but it is advisable to arrange a visa prior to travel when possible.

    AU nationals: Australian citizens require a passport valid on arrival. A visa is required and can be issued on arrival at the airport if the passenger's visa is valid for a minimum of 6 months from the arrival date, but it is advisable to arrange a visa prior to travel when possible.

    ZA nationals: South African citizens require a passport valid on arrival. A visa is required and can be issued on arrival at the airport if the passenger's visa is valid for a minimum of 6 months from the arrival date, but it is advisable to arrange a visa prior to travel when possible.

    IR nationals: Irish citizens require a passport valid on arrival. A visa is required and can be issued on arrival at the airport if the passenger's visa is valid for a minimum of 6 months from the arrival date, but it is advisable to arrange a visa prior to travel when possible.

    NZ nationals: New Zealand citizens require a passport valid on arrival. A visa is required and can be issued on arrival at the airport if the passenger's visa is valid for a minimum of 6 months from the arrival date, but it is advisable to arrange a visa prior to travel when possible.

    Passport/Visa Note:Visa:

    A visa is required and all travellers must hold return or onward tickets; required entry documentation for their next destination; sufficient funds to cover their stay in Djibouti or a voucher if travelling in an organised tour. It is highly recommended that travellers' passport have at least six months' validity remaining after the intended date of departure from their travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

    Travel Health:

    Malaria is a problem in Djibouti and some form of prophylaxis is recommended for all travellers in all areas. Vaccinations are recommended for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and typhoid. Those planning to spend a lot of time outdoors who may be at risk of animal bites should consider a rabies vaccination as well. Visitors should be up to date on vaccinations for polio, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), and tetanus-diphtheria.

    Travellers should not drink tap water in Djibouti unless it has been boiled, filtered, or chemically disinfected, and should avoid ice in beverages. Travellers shouldn't eat fruit and vegetables unless they have been cooked or peeled, and should eat all cooked meals while still hot.

    Medical facilities are extremely limited in Djibouti, even in the capital city, and visitors should ensure that they have comprehensive travel insurance. As the availability of medicine is limited, so visitors should take along any medication they may need in its original packaging and accompanied by a signed and dated letter from a doctor detailing what the medicine is and why it is needed.

    Tipping:

    Tips are not always expected but they are appreciated. Restaurants tend to add a 10 percent service charge to bills, making tipping unnecessary, but waiters, hotel service staff and taxi drivers will appreciate small amounts for good service.

    Safety Information:

    The UK Foreign Office advises against all travel to the border area between Eritrea and Djibouti, but the country is otherwise considered comparatively safe. No significant terrorist attacks targeting foreigners have occurred, though there is an underlying threat of terrorism spilling over from neighbouring countries. Petty, opportunistic crimes such as bag snatching and pickpocketing are fairly common in Djibouti City; violent crimes against foreigners are rare. Street protests in the capital are also rare but can become violent when they do occur and should be avoided by visitors. Seaborne travel along the coast of Djibouti is very dangerous as piracy is common.

    Local Customs:

    Customs and culture in Djibouti are reserved and formal: women should maintain modest dress at all times, with their shoulders and legs covered, especially when visiting mosques. Visitors should always address seniors with respect.

    Duty Free:

    Visitors to Djibouti must declare all currency and firearms on arrival and departure. One litre of alcoholic beverages can be imported into Djibouti without incurring customs duty. Weapons, drugs, and pornography are strictly prohibited.

    Useful Contacts:

    Tourist Office of Djibouti, Djibouti City: +253 21 35 37 90 or www.visitdjibouti.dj

    Djibouti Embassies:

    Embassy of the Republic of Djibouti, New York: +1 202 331 0270

    Consulate of France (also responsible for Djibouti), London: +44 207 073 1200

    Embassy of the Republic of Djibouti, Tokyo (also responsible for Australia): +81 3 5704 0682

    Consulate of Djibouti, Johannesburg, South Africa: +27 (0)11 719 9111.

    Foreign Embassies in Djibouti :

    US Embassy, Djibouti City, Djibouti: +253 (0)21 453 000.

    United Kingdom Embassy, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (also responsible for Djibouti): +251 1 61 2354

    Canadian Embassy, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (also responsible for Djibouti): +251 011 317 0000

    Australian Honorary Consulate, Djibouti City, Djibouti: +251 21 353 844.

    South Africa Embassy, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (also responsible for Djibouti): +251 11 371 1002

    Djibouti Emergency Numbers : 17 (Police); 19 (Ambulance); 18 (Fire)
    Djibouti