Djibouti Travel Guide

Djibouti Travel Guide

Travel & Tourism

A small nation located at the point at the Gulf of Aden, where the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean meet. It gained its independence from France in 1977 and is currently governed in a multiparty arrangement based on the French and Islamic systems of law.

The capital city is also known as Djibouti (or Djibouti town or Djibouti city), and around 65 percent of the nation’s population lives in this urban center. It is from here that most visitors start their journeys to explore the relatively untouched, isolated, and breathtaking sights of this small yet remarkable nation.

The country enjoys a strong economic relationship with neighboring Ethiopia, which uses Djibouti’s port for its exports. The two nations are connected by the Ethiopian-Djibouti rail link.

What to Do

1. Lake Assal: Visit the lowest point on the African continent: Lake Assal is roughly 155 meters below sea level. It is also the saltiest body of water on Earth, almost 35 percent more saline than the Dead Sea. Salt flats surround the lake where salt is mined for export to Ethiopia; they are a strange but beautiful sight. It gets very hot at Lake Assal, so remember to bring enough bottled water and dress accordingly.

2. Djibouti Town: Explore the capital city, both the traditional side (inhabited by Djiboutians) and the expatriate neighborhoods, complete with Western restaurants. Wander in the market, and observe the sale and consumption of the popular drug called khat, made of leaves of a plant native to East Africa that are chewed to give the user a sense of euphoria.

3. Moucha and Maskali Islands: These islands are about a 45-minute boat ride from the port of Djibouti town. The waters off these islands are a dream for divers: manta rays and various types of sharks live around the islands.

4. Khor Ambado: Located a 45-minute drive by four-by-four from Djibouti town in Tadjoura Bay, this idyllic white sand beach is a wonderful snorkeling spot. Explore a reef teeming with sea life just 115 feet (35 meters) from the shore. Though a popular destination for European tourists and expatriates, Khor Ambado is rarely busy.

5. Lake Abbe: This salt lake sits on the border between Djibouti and Ethiopia, at the Afar Triple Junction, where three pieces of Earth’s crust meet and form a depression in the earth. It is part of a string of six connected lakes in Ethiopia. The most impressive feature of this lake is its limestone chimneys, some of which reach heights of 164 feet (50 meters) and vent steam. Small camps of the nomadic Afar people can be found around the shores of the lake, as well as pink flamingos.

6. Gulf of Tadjoura: The best beaches in Djibouti are in this region. The town of Tadjoura has a small airport, providing easy access for tourists. That town has traditionally been a bustling port and trade center.

7. Grande Pecherie: This fish market in Djibouti town is set up along the waterfront early in the morning. Have your choice of fresh-caught fish prepared in front of your eyes. High quality and unbeatable prices: that’s certainlya winning combination for food lovers.

When to Go

The climate in Djibouti, a desert country, remains hot and arid year-round. Temperatures are especially high in the summer months, so we recommend visiting between October and April.

Getting In and Around

Visas: To enter Djibouti, foreign nationals are required to have a valid visa, passport, and proof of yellow fever vaccination. It is possible to purchase a visa at the airport in Djibouti, but doing so is not advisable. We recommend securing your visa before you arrive. A list of entry and exit requirements is available on the U.S. Department of State’s consular website.

Transportation: The main form of transportation in Djibouti is driving. We recommend renting a car; most of them will come with a driver. If you’re traveling outside of the city, a four-by-four is your best choice: many of the roads in Djibouti are unpaved and can be dangerous at night.

There are taxis in Djibouti town, but taxi drivers are infamous for overcharging tourists. Be aware of rates before you agree to a price offered by a taxi driver.

Mobile Phones: Even if you have an international plan on your mobile phone, making local calls or calls back home can be very expensive. If you plan on using a phone while traveling, you might buy a prepaid mobile or an SIM card and add minutes as needed. Keep in mind that mobile phone coverage is limited outside of Djibouti town.

Safety and Security

Concerned about your safety as you plan travel to Djibouti? We at, together with our friends, family and colleagues, travel extensively throughout the continent. Here are the resources we consult when thinking of our safety in Djibouti:

• UK Government Djibouti Travel Advice Guidance comment: Very timely and frequently updated. Perspective assumes that you ARE going to travel to Djibouti, and seeks to give you good guidance so that you understand the risks and are well informed.

• U.S. State Department Travel Advisory on Djibouti comment: Can sometimes be considered as overly conservative and discourage travel altogether to destinations that many reasonable people find acceptably secure. On the other hand, they have the resources of the CIA to inform them, so they know things that the rest of us don’t know. See what they have to say about Djibouti.

Local Advice

1. It has a very important and active port in the Gulf of Aden. This East African nation is just smaller than Massachusetts. It is bordered by Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia. Djibouti is divided into five districts: Ali Sabih, Dikhil, Djibouti, Obock, and Tadjoura.

2. The photographing of public buildings and infrastructure is prohibited. Be very careful when using your camera: it is always better to ask permission before taking a photo.

3. The currency is the Djibouti franc, represented by the symbol DJF. Djibouti is largely a cash-based society, and there are very few ATMs, even in the capital. We recommend changing your money before departing for Djibouti or at the airport when you arrive.

4. A population of slightly over 500, 000. The main ethnic groups are the Issa (from Somalia), the Afar, and Ethiopians. The official languages of Djibouti are French and Arabic, and Somali and Afar are widely spoken.

5. A primarily Muslim country. Dress on the conservative side, but remember to stay cool to avoid overheating.

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