Tigrinya and Arabic are both official languages of Eritrea, but Tigrinya is used for primary communication and government documents. Italian is also widely spoken and understood by the locals, as is Amharic, which is the tongue of neighboring Ethiopia. It helps to learn basic words and phrases from these prevalent languages, as English is not common.
Eritreans use the Eritrean Nakfa (ERN), which is 100 cents. Bank notes come in denominations of ERN 100, 50, 10, 5, and 1. Credit cards can be used at airports, major hotels and travel agencies, but you should expect a convenience charge of up to five percent, which makes traveler’s checks more practical. It is not hard to exchange dollars for nakfas as currency exchange is available at major hotels, bureaux de change offices and banks. Note that banking hours are 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. during the weekdays (Monday through Friday), and 8:00 a.m. to 12:00p.m. on Saturday.
Voltage is at 220 to 240 Volts throughout the country and use the Europlug and Schuko sockets. You will have to bring with a travel adapter, voltage converter and step-down transformer for devices and appliances that don’t use these specifications.
The international dialing code for Eritrea is +291, but the telecom infrastructure in the country is not well developed. Landlines are available in most hotels in Asmara, and mobile service is available from the sole operator in the country—Eritel. Eritrea is not reached by any roaming service and internet is very slow. Only big cities have internet cafés, but the connections are weak and some websites are not accessible because of government restrictions (which is not bad if you plan on going off the grid for a few days).
Import restrictions apply to items like cigarettes, tobacco and alcoholic beverages. However, you will not be charged customs if you bring less than 200 cigarettes, 250 grams of tobacco or 50 cigars. The limit on alcoholic beverages is one liter. When it comes to duty-free shopping, outlets can be found at the international airports in the cities of Asmara, Assab and Massawa. Just like most countries in the area, Eritrea also has an International Free Trade Zone where shops don’t charge taxes on certain goods.
Eritrea Tourist Information Office: +291-1-126-997 or 123-941 or 122-999
Consulates in Eritrea
US Consulate, Asmara: +291-1-120-004
French Consulate, Asmara: +291-1-200-664
Canadian Consulate, Asmara: +291-1-181-940
British Consulate, Asmara: +291-1-120-145
Ethiopian Consulate, Asmara: +291-1-116-365
German Consulate, Asmara: +291-1-186-670
Swiss Consulate, Asmara: +291-1-110-966
Russian Consulate, Asmara: +291-1-124-172
Italian Consulate, Asmara: +291-1-120-160
Dutch Consulate, Asmara: +291-1-127-628
Greek Consulate, Asmara: +291-1-121-976