Eritrea - Worlds worst place to backpack #9

Eritrea - Africa's youngest country

Flag of the State of Eritrea (1993-1995)

The country hugs the north east coast of the African continent with the Red Sea combing its entire length and one of the worlds longest mountain ranges dissects the country in half.

tsada amba hike

Dry desert scatters the coastline where archipelagos lie out in the Red Sea and highlands rise up to 3000m. Although it looks small on the map, small for African country standards, its actually just as big as England.

Village down tsada amba

Unfortunately this beautiful area is also one of the most volatile regions in Africa.

Orthographic projection centred over Asmara

Eritrea is officially one of the worlds worst police states. The president is constantly ranked in the top 10 worst dictators of our time.
The government control everything and will certainly know about your presence in the country if you dare to set foot. You need a tourist visa from one of the few embassies scattered around the world, you cant just expect to turn up on one of its borders. Speaking of, the border with Ethiopia and Djibouti are closed indefinitely meaning you have to enter via Sudan, which is in the middle of a country being spit in two.

Visa restrictions mean you have to inform the time and date of your arrival at the exact overland border post, this means your plans have to be quite stringent, and traveling through Sudan at the moment, a country on the brink of war, things may not go exactly to plan.

Expect bureaucracy at the borders to take you hours, its impossible to cross after dusk so dont get the late bus from Sudan or you could be sleeping rough in a sketchy African border town.

Can you believe that Eritreans actually need a visa to leave the country!?! They rarely get granted one. Every movement within the country feels like you are being watched. Travellers describe it as eery and constantly lurking uncertainty.

post card from Eritrea
'Postcard from Eritrea'

According to the BBC, "Eritrea is the only African country to have no privately-owned news media." Ranked worse than North Korea for the tightness of its media control by the internationally acclaimed Freedom of Press Index. Could be quite difficult to find a flashpacker hostel with free wifi?

Remains of Edicas’ mud hut, Karonga, north Malawi

In fact, there are plenty of hotels in Eritrea. Hotel suites with cliche 1970s decor go for around $30US. You wont find the best deals on hostelworld or hostelbookers, you have to go straight to the source, the hotels website.
The Lion Hotel looks like your best deal with its outside areas and its 'internet service room'

No elections have ever been held here, yet the ruling government, and the only party allowed to run is ironically named the The People Front for Democracy and Justice. Go figure....

'Check out this rare yet very bizarre interview with the looney president, he is so arrogant, defensive and calls the journalist insane'

The UN see Eritrea as a destablising state in the Horn of Africa. Across the Red Sea lies Yemen, another 'destablising' state. The government who rule with an iron fist. They use their security forces to commit gross violations of human rights throughout the country. They have been accused of arming militas in Somalia and other insurgent groups in the region. Systematic beatings and arbitrary arrests are the norm for people who try and exercise their universal lawful rights such as speaking out on religion, gathering in groups in public and god forbid you get accused of taking the piss out of the president.....woooo weeee you gonna get a slashing son!!

Nah, its not funny, people die. Not cool.

Rebel in northern Central African Republic 02

So with some serious military buildup in neighbouring Sudan to the west, a country on the brink of civil war, to the south remnants of the 30 year war with Ethiopia still linger and no entry nor exit through Djibouti either, chances of your travel plans being ruined are pretty high.

Dont mess with one of Africa's most secretive's Eritrea, worlds worst place to backpack #9

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