Saturday, September 18, 2021

How To Travel Around Eritrea

AfricaEritreaHow To Travel Around Eritrea

If you are flying into Asmara, you must get a permission from the Tourist Bureau on Liberation Avenue if you want to go beyond the city boundaries. This permission must be requested for at least 10 days before to departure. As of January 2010, foreigners may only go to Asmara, Keren, and the Massawa/Dahlak Islands (other than those on a designated mission working with the Eritrean government). If you arrive by land (or by ferry/private boat to Massawa), you may get a travel permit to transit Eritrea at the point of arrival, provided you have a valid Eritrean entrance visa. Obtaining a travel permit is simple as long as you inform and discuss with the Eritrean mission granting your entrance visa about your place of entry and travel plans well in advance.

The bus and/or minibus are the most popular modes of intercity transportation in Eritrea. The most frequent services, consisting of multiple buses/minibuses each day, run between Asmara and Keren, Asmara and Massawa, and Asmara and the southern highlands communities of Debarwa, Mendefera, Adi Quala, and Dekemhare, Segeneiti, Adi Caieh, and Senafe, all of which are close to the Ethiopian border. Because it is a highly fortified conflict zone, foreign people are unable to approach the Ethiopian border and go beyond the settlements of Senafe and Adi Quala. Daily bus services run between Teseney (near Kassala on the Sudanese border) and Asmara, passing via Barentu, Agordat, and Keren, as well as an alternate route passing through Barentu and Mendefera. Buses/minibuses operate once a day between Asmara and several of the communities in the southern highlands. Buses to the north of the nation (Nakfa) are less regular, running once or twice weekly between Asmara and Nakfa, passing via Keren and Afabet. Buses from Asmara to the southern shore (Assab) are as rare, only running once a week and passing via Massawa. On the bus, tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets for certain state-run bus lines that go to distant border regions may be purchased in advance at the Asmara bus terminal, where you can also ask about the bus timetable. There will always be individuals who speak English and are ready to assist with translation.

Nasair flies twice weekly between Asmara and distant Assab, and once weekly between Asmara and Massawa. The latter flying path, however, may not be required since the distance between the two cities is just 120 kilometers (75 miles), and it runs along one of Eritrea’s finest and most beautiful highways. There are also buses that operate several times a day between the two cities, which cost a fraction of the price of a trip and take little over two hours, including pauses in the highlands.

Eritrea’s sole rail line connects Asmara and Massawa, and it’s only serviced by a museum railway (complete with steam engine) with no regular operation other than freight. It exclusively accepts chartered tour groups and takes a long 5 hours to accomplish the one-way trip.