ERITREA

Country Description: Eritrea is a poor but developing East African country. Formerly a province of Ethiopia, Eritrea became an independent country on May 24, 1993, following a 30-year long struggle, which culminated in an overwhelming referendum vote for independence. There are occasional reports of terrorist attacks by the Eritrean Islamic Jihad (EIJ) on Eritrean civilians in western areas bordering Sudan. Tourism facilities in Eritrea are very limited.

Passport and/or Visa Requirements: A visa is required and must be obtained in advance. There is an airport departure tax. Entry information (and information on departure tax) may be obtained at the Embassy of Eritrea, 910 17th St., N.W., Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20006, telephone (202) 319-1991; fax (202) 319-1304. Overseas, inquiries may be made at the nearest Eritrean embassy or consulate.

Travel Information: Eritrea and Sudan do not have diplomatic relations and overland travel between these two countries may be dangerous. Air travel between Asmara and Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, is heavily booked, and advance reservations are recommended by the airlines. Passengers should allow two hours minimum for pre-departure security and other processing at the airport.

Road Safety Conditions and Domestic Travel Hazards: Roads in Eritrea are in poor condition with many of them unpaved. Land mines and unexploded ordinance litter the countryside in many areas, continuing to cause injuries and deaths among the populace. Although a demining effort is underway, it is wise to consider all areas that are not well-traveled as potentially dangerous due to live mines. Areas north and west of Keren are known to be heavily mined. Check with the local government and local village officials before traveling in less-frequented areas. Avoid walking alone and hiking in riverbeds or areas that local government officials do not certify as safe. There is a risk of encountering banditry or EIJ insurgent activity in the north and west of the country. Travelers should consult both local government and U.S. Embassy officials about travel plans to these areas.

Medical Facilities: Medical facilities in Eritrea are extremely limited. Travelers must bring their own supplies of prescription drugs and preventive medicines. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health care services. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. The Medicare/Medicaid program does not provide for payment of medical services outside the United States. In some cases, supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas and medical evacuation coverage has proven useful. For additional health information, travelers can contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international travelers hotline at (404) 332-4559, Internet: http://www.cdc.gov/.

Travel Warnings, Advisories and Areas of Instability: Street crime such as theft and robbery is rare throughout most of Eritrea, including the capital city of Asmara. While travel throughout Eritrea is relatively safe, it is prudent to exercise normal safety precautions regarding valuables carried and areas visited. The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The pamphlets "A Safe Trip Abroad" and "Tips For Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa" provide useful information on personal security while traveling abroad and on travel in the region in general. Both are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402.

Currency Regulations: The Government of Eritrea continues to use the Ethiopian birr. Credit cards are not accepted in Eritrea. Foreigners must pay bills at major hotels in U.S. dollars or U.S. dollar-denomination travelers checks.

Drug Penalties: U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of the country in which they are traveling. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs are strictly enforced. Convicted offenders may expect long jail sentences, fines and possible confiscation of personal property.

Embassy Location/Registration: U.S. citizens are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Asmara and to obtain updated information on travel and security in Eritrea. The U.S. Embassy address is Franklin Roosevelt Street, P. O. Box 211, Asmara. The telephone is (291-1) 12-00-04; the fax number is (291-1) 12-75-84.

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