Destination: Asmara, Eritrea

By Sonja Gregurek

Born in Orange, California, Sonja fell in love with travel at age 5 through cross-country trips throughout the lower 48 states with her grandparents, parents, and siblings. Eritrea was #306 on the TCC list.

Visas (for U.S. passports)

  1. Application form provided on Web site.
  2. Recent passport size photograph
  3. Proof of USA residency permit is required if traveling with non-USA passport.
  4. Passport must be valid at least six months beyond the dates of the trip.
  5. Proof of sufficient funds to cover all expenses. (We provided a general letter from our bank indicating sufficient funds however did not note our balances)
  6. Visa Fees: $50 for Tourist.
  7. Only Cashier’s checks and money orders are acceptable and should be payable to the Embassy of Eritrea
  8. Include self-addressed envelope with one of the following stamps: • USPS Ex- press / Priority • UPS • Federal Express Account Number
  9. Mail the completed form to: Embassy of Eritrea 1708 New Hampshire Ave, NW Washington, DC 20009

Visa Processing takes approximately 10 business days, which was the timeframe we experienced. Although not stated as a requirement, we did have to show proof
of our inbound and outbound flights. The Embassy was easy to deal with and they answer the phone.

Ms. Almaze was very helpful and assisted me with my Visa and was accessible by phone and email:

Flights to Eritrea
Several carriers fly daily to Eritrea
from Dubai-FlyDubai, Cairo-Egypt Air, Istanbul-Turkish Airways, Khartoum- Sudan Airways or Addis Ababa-Ethiopian Airways. We flew Ethiopian Airways inbound from Addis Ababa to Eritrea, and outbound to Dubai via FlyDubai.

Flying from Addis Ababa to Asmara was beautiful, with dramatic canyons and chasms. Remote villages, balancing on the edges of the cliffs, leave you wondering how people survive in such remote locations.

Arriving Asmara Airport
The airport is small and well organized. Most people speak English and immigra- tion will ask what hotel you will be stay- ing upon arrival. There’s no ATM at the airport but there is money exchange. Taxi from airport to hotel cost us 200 Nakfa, which we negotiated as part of a shared ride. Taxi was originally 350-400 Nakfa. It is common to share taxis with others, so if asked to share, negotiate a lower cost.

What to Do and See
We stayed in the capital of Asmara (hotel reserved with—if you try to contact hotels directly, they usually don’t respond), as locals and tourist alike have to obtain a permit to travel outside the area. If you plan on visiting other areas of Eritrea, permits can be processed from the Embassy at time of issuing visa or upon arrival from the Ministry of Tourism. These are usually issued within 24 hours but may take longer.

Asmara is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, noted for its well-preserved modern- ist and art deco Italian architecture. The main landmarks of the city are all located within walking distance of each other.

The Dark Underbelly
In Asmara we walked past by beggars on the main street from the elderly to children. Mothers solicit their daughters ranging from 2 to 5 years of age to any takers, carrying over into the bars at night. The government turns a blind eye to these horrifying conditions.

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