March 5, 2004
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Djibouti is a developing African country located on the shore of the Red Sea. Approximately two-thirds of its population of 650,000 reside in the capital, also called Djibouti (or Djibouti City ). Modern tourist facilities and communications links are limited in Djibouti and are virtually non-existent outside the capital. Although there is no formal dress code, travelers should dress modestly in deference to local custom and culture, especially when visiting remote areas.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport, visa, and evidence of yellow fever vaccination are required. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times so that proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available if questioned by local officials. Police occasionally stop travelers on the main roads leading out of the capital to check identity documents.
Travelers may obtain the latest information on entry requirements from the Embassy of the Republic of Djibouti, 1156 15th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005, telephone (202) 331-0270, or at the Djibouti Mission to the United Nations, 866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 4011, New York, N.Y. 10017, telephone (212) 753-3163. Overseas, inquiries may be made at the nearest Djiboutian embassy or consulate. In countries where there is no Djiboutian diplomatic representation, travelers may sometimes obtain visas at the French Embassy.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.
AREAS OF INSTABILITY: Djibouti enjoys a stable political climate, thanks in part to the large French military presence based in country. However, Djibouti 's international borders are very porous and lightly patrolled. In particular, Somalia, Djibouti 's neighbor to the south, is believed to be a haven for terrorists and other insurgent elements. Continuing instability in Somalia and Yemen present the potential for internal unrest in Djibouti, which has large ethnic Somali and Yemeni populations. In addition, neighboring Ethiopia and Eritrea recently concluded a settlement to a long-running border dispute, and nearby Yemen is pursuing a struggle against potential terrorists. Civil unrest or armed conflict in neighboring countries could disrupt air travel to and from Djibouti or otherwise negatively affect its security situation.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Terrorism continues to pose a threat in East Africa. U.S. citizens should be aware of the risk of indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets in public places, including tourist sites and other sites where Westerners are known to congregate.
Travelers should exercise caution when traveling to any remote area of the country, including the borders with Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia. Djiboutian security forces do not have a widespread presence in those regions. Recently, there were several attacks on the Djibouti-Ethiopia railway. Although Americans did not appear to be targeted in these attacks, U.S. citizens should exercise caution nonetheless.
U.S. citizens are advised to keep themselves informed of regional developments and to register with the U.S. Embassy in Djibouti upon arrival. Although large public demonstrations are uncommon, U.S. citizens should avoid large crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times.
Several hundred U.S. military personnel are stationed in Djibouti. The presence of U.S. armed forces may increase the likelihood of threats or attacks against American civilians.
CRIME: Petty crime and pick pocketing is on the rise in the capital and elsewhere in the country.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov , or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov .
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical facilities are limited and medicines are often unavailable. Medicines that are available are extremely expensive. Medical services in outlying areas may be completely nonexistent.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations.
When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the United States may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs' home page at http://travel.state.gov .
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Malaria is prevalent in Djibouti. Travelers to Djibouti should take malaria prophylaxis. P. falciparum malaria, the serious and sometimes fatal strain in Djibouti, is resistant to the anti-malarial drug chloroquine. Because travelers to Djibouti are at high risk for contracting malaria, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that travelers should take one of the following antimalarial drugs: mefloquine (Lariam), doxycycline, or atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone). The CDC has determined that a traveler who is on an appropriate antimalarial drug has a greatly reduced chance of contracting the disease. In addition, other personal protective measures, such as the use of insect repellents, help to reduce malaria risk. Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician their travel history and what antimalarials they have been taking. For additional information on malaria, protection from insect bites, and antimalarial drugs, please visit the CDC travel health web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/malinfo.htm . Travelers are advised to begin malaria prophylaxis prior to arrival, as directed by a health professional.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en . Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/iht.
ROAD SAFETY: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Djibouti is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:
Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside/Ambulance Assistance: None
The Djiboutian Ministry of Defense and the national police force share responsibility for road safety in Djibouti. Landmines are known to be present in the northern districts of Tadjoureh and Obock. In addition, there are reports that there may be mines in the Ali Sabieh district in the south. Travelers should stay on paved roads and should check with local authorities before using unpaved roads.
The two main international routes to Djibouti City via Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, and Yoboki, Djibouti, are in poor condition due to heavy truck traffic on both roads. The presence of many heavy trucks on those routes demands that drivers remain vigilant. Major roads outside the capital are paved but lack guardrails in some areas, and railroad crossings are not clearly marked.
Roads in Djibouti City and elsewhere in the country are narrow, poorly maintained, and poorly lit. Drivers and pedestrians should exercise extreme caution. Excessive speed, unpredictable local driving habits, pedestrians and livestock in the roadway, and the lack of basic safety equipment on many vehicles are daily hazards. Speed limits are posted occasionally but are not enforced. The stimulant drug khat is widely used, particularly in the afternoons, creating another traffic hazard. Travelers should be aware that police set up wire coils as roadblocks on some of the major roads, and these may be difficult to see at night.
The only two means of public inter-city travel are by bus and by ferry operating between Djibouti City and the towns of Tadjoureh and Obock. Buses are poorly maintained and their operators often drive erratically with little regard for passenger safety.
For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html . For specific information concerning Djibouti driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, contact the Djibouti Embassy in Washington, DC.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial service at present between the United States and Djibouti, nor economic authority to operate such service, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Djibouti's civil aviation authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Djibouti's air carrier operations.
For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA International website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm . The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at 618-229-4801.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating the laws of Djibouti, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for use, possession, or trafficking in illegal drugs are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines. Although the mild stimulant khat is legal and widely used in Djibouti, it is considered an illegal substance in many countries, including the United States.
CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Djiboutian customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Djibouti of firearms. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Djibouti in Washington, DC for specific information regarding customs requirements.
CURRENCY ISSUES: Credit cards are not widely accepted in Djibouti. There are several automatic teller machines (ATMs) in Djibouti City and one each in Ali Sabieh, Tadjourah, and Plateau du Marabout, but they only accept Visa cards. The ATMs are frequently out of service, and travelers should not depend on them as the sole means for obtaining currency.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children, and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: U.S. citizens are encouraged to register at the U.S. Embassy at http://usembassy.state.gov/posts/dj1/wwwhindex.html and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Djibouti. The U.S. Embassy is located at Plateau du Serpent, Boulevard Marechal Joffre, Djibouti City. The mailing address is Ambassade Americaine, B.P. 185, Djibouti, Republique de Djibouti. The telephone number is (253) 35-39-95. Normal working hours are Sunday through Thursday, 7:00 A.M. to 3:30 P.M. The after-hours number is (253) 35-13-43, and the fax number is (253) 35-39-40.