Hypodermic Needle Injection Hand IMG_7420 by Steven Depolo via Flickr Creative Commons

Nationals from all countries are required to obtain a visa before entering Somalia. It is important to remember that a Somali visa does not permit entry to Somaliland. Travelers intending on traveling to Somaliland will need to get a separate visa. All travelers are required to be in possession of a passport which is valid for more than six months after leaving the country. Citizens of Israel or travelers who have an Israeli visa or transit stamp in their passport will be refused entry. Most travelers obtain a visa in neighboring Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, but the Somaliland Mission in London, UK, also issues visas.

Health and Safety

Medical facilities in Somalia are scarce, particularly in the central and southern regions of the country, which are still heavily embroiled in conflict. Visitors are strongly advised to take out travel or medical insurance prior to entering the country. Travelers suffering from chronic conditions should take sufficient medications along for the duration of their stay as the availability of medications in general is low.

The following vaccinations and immunizations should be received before entering Somalia: meningococcal meningitis, tuberculosis, hepatitis A and B, and typhoid diphtheria. In some areas, water from the faucet has been chlorinated but the consistency of this sterilization cannot be guaranteed. All water should therefore be treated as potentially contaminated and should be boiled before drinking, brushing teeth, or making ice with it. Alternatively, travelers can purchase bottled water from local stores. Milk is generally not pasteurized and should also be boiled before consumption. The food in the country is usually fine to eat but travelers should be extra careful of food bought from street vendors.

The political situation in Somalia is tumultuous to say the least. For a prolonged period the country was without a government and was controlled by warlords and militia groups. At one point, Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, was considered to be the most lawless city on earth. Many security organizations advise not going to Somalia at all. Foreigners in Somalia are prime targets for kidnappings and random attacks.

Somaliland, which was formerly a part of Somalia but has now declared itself as independent and has established its own government and infrastructure, is the safest part of the country. If travelers are intent on visiting this region, they would do well not to go further than Somaliland. The capital of Somaliland, Hargeisa, is safe but when traveling outside of the capital, it imperative that a guide is present.

Travelers should take careful note of the advice given by travel agents, guides, and hotel staff who know the area well. Generally, tourists should stay away from areas where there are armed men or constant fighting. While the police force in Somaliland is established, the police force in greater Somalia was only recently set up and is therefore not altogether reliable.

Click here for History and Culture in Somalia