June 25, 2004
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Somalia is a developing country in the Horn of Africa. It has had no government since the onset of civil war in 1991. That year, the northwest part of the country proclaimed itself the Republic of Somaliland, and it now has its own governing authority, although its economy is linked with the rest of the country. However, Somaliland has not received international recognition as an independent state. The northeastern section of Somalia, which is semi-autonomous, is known as Puntland. Somalia 's economy was seriously damaged by the civil war and its aftermath, but the private sector is trying to reemerge. Tourism facilities are non-existent. The capital of Somalia is Mogadishu. The principal city of Somaliland is Hargeisa. Other cities and towns of importance include the ports of Bosasso in Puntland, Berbera in Somaliland, and Kismayu in the South, Baidoa, and Garowe.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport is required for travel to Somaliland and Puntland. Both regions also require a visa and issue their own, which can be obtained at their respective ports of entry. A passport is required for travel to other parts of Somalia, including Mogadishu, but no visa is required.
Travelers may obtain the latest information on visas as well as any additional details regarding entry requirements from the Permanent Representative of the Somali Republic to the United Nations, telephone (212) 688-9410. Persons outside the United States should contact the nearest Somali embassy or consulate. All such establishments, where they exist, are affiliated with the Transitional National Government based in Mogadishu, whose authority expired in August 2003 and is not widely accepted throughout Somalia, including the Somaliland and Puntland administrations.
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.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Since the U.S. does not have an Embassy or any other diplomatic presence in Somalia, the U.S. government cannot provide services to U.S. citizens in Somalia.
Somaliland has experienced a level of stability that has not been present in other parts of Somalia. However, travelers should always check current conditions in Somaliland before traveling. There were s everal fatal attacks against international relief workers, including Westerners, throughout Somalia and Somaliland in late 2003 and early 2004. Additionally, there have been recent threats against Westerners in Somalia, including Somaliland, and all visitors are urged to restrict their movements in the region. Persons traveling to or through this area should also be aware that incidents such as armed banditry and road assaults may occur. Civil unrest persists in the rest of the country.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.
Up to date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-317-472-2328. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
CRIME: With the exception of Somaliland, crime is an extension of the general state of insecurity. Serious and violent crimes are very common. Kidnapping and robbery are a particular problem in Mogadishu and other areas of the south.
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, please 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 in Somalia are extremely limited. Travelers should carry personal supplies of medications with them.
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 whether 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 U.S. 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, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses 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.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Malaria is endemic in many areas. There have been outbreaks of cholera in Mogadishu, Kismayo in the south, and Puntland in the northeast.
Travelers to Somalia should take malaria prophylaxis. P. falciparum malaria, the serious and sometimes fatal strain in Somalia, is resistant to the anti-malarial drug chloroquine. Because travelers to Somalia 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 (LariamTM), doxycycline, or atovaquone/proguanil (MalaroneTM). 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 Travelers' Health web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/malinfo.htm.
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/ith.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: 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 Somalia is provided for general reference only, and it 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 Assistance: None
There are no traffic lights in the country except in Hargeisa in Somaliland. The poor condition of most roads makes driving difficult. Night driving can be dangerous due to the absence of lighting.
AIR TRAVEL: There is limited commercial air travel to Hargeisa, Mogadishu, Galcayo, and Bosasso from Addis Ababa, Nairobi, and Dubai. The United Nations and the European Commission have daily humanitarian flights from Nairobi to Somalia.
As there is no direct commercial air service between the U.S. and Somalia by local carriers at present, or economic authority to operate such service, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Somalia 's compliance with international aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the U.S. Department of Transportation within the United States at
tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet 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 telephone (618) 229-4801.
INFRASTRUCTURE: Water and electricity systems are poor. A functioning telecommunications system exists in major towns in Somalia.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: There is no organized system of criminal justice in Somalia nor uniform application of due process. Enforcement of criminal laws is haphazard.
Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the U.S., for U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens to exploit children sexually via pornography, the Internet or other means or to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a person under the age of 18 in a foreign country, regardless of whether there was intent.
CURRENCY ISSUES: The Somali shilling is the unit of currency except in Somaliland, which uses the Somaliland shilling. U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere. Credit cards are not accepted in Somalia.
CHILDREN/FAMILY ISSUES: In accordance with the Somali law, any child whose father is a Somali citizen is also considered to be a Somali citizen. Somali children require their father's permission to leave the country.
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 Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.
EMBASSY LOCATIONS/REGISTRATION: There is no U.S. Embassy in Somalia. U.S. citizens who plan to enter Somalia despite the Travel Warning are urged to register and obtain updated information on travel and security from Embassies in neighboring countries. Travelers to the self-declared "Republic of Somaliland" should register with the U.S. Embassy in Djibouti, and travelers to Puntland or southern Somalia should register with the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi.
The U.S. Embassy in Djibouti is located at Plateau du Serpent, Boulevard Marechal Joffre, Djibouti City; telephone (253) 35-39-95. The after-hours telephone number is (253) 35-13-43. The mailing address is Ambassade Americaine, B.P. 185, Djibouti, Republique de Djibouti. The workweek in Djibouti is Sunday through Thursday. The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi is located on United Nations Avenue, Gigiri, Nairobi, Kenya; telephone (254)(20) 363-6000; facsimile (254)(20) 363-6410. In the event of an after-hours emergency, the Embassy duty officer may be contacted at (254)(20) 363-6170. The Embassy's mailing address is P.O. Box 606 Village Market, 00621 Nairobi, Kenya or mail using U.S. domestic postage may be addressed to Unit 64100, APO AE 09831, USA