Eritrea is a relatively small country (by African standards), about the same size as Pennsylvania or England, and has a varied and contrasting landscape due to its diverse topography as part of the geological feature of the Great Rift Valley which traverses all of Eastern Africa, the Red Sea and Middle East. The country's most interesting destinations are its natural attractions, beyond the towns and villages. There are six main topographical features in the country. The highlands in the center and south of Eritrea, the western lowlands, the Sahel in the north, the subtropical eastern escarpments, the northern coast and archipelago and the southern coast.
The highlands where the capital Asmara is situated lie between 1500 and 3500 meters above sea level and are blessed with a temperate, mediterranean and dry climate, with little seasonal variation in temperature but where the rainy season falls between May and September and dry season between December and April. There is however considerable variation in temperature between the different levels in altitude of the highlands. The landscape essentially consists of valleys, hills and vast expanses of flat plateaus interrupted by very dramatic chasms. The dry season from December to April is distinguished by the redbrown, rusty, beige or black (stone and rubble-colored) landscape, resembling photos from Mars. The vegetation consists largely of shrubbery, eucalyptus, aloes, cacti and the odd explosively colorful specs of bougainvillea, jacaranda or other adornments planted in the villages and towns. The rainy season brings torrents of rain and nourishment to the land which transforms completely into a verdant, emerald and grassy landscape in the post-rain months of August to October. Rural highlanders live a lifestyle which resembles biblical times. Villages with stone houses, small plots, ancient temples (both christian and muslim), people farming and herding with traditional means using little technology, transporting their goods (as well as themselves) with mules and camels. A good place to explore the highland landcape is in the outskirts of Asmara, the capital. Near the village of Tselot is the Martyrs National Park, inaugurated in 2000. It is a mountaineous forest and wildife preserve at the ridge of the highland plateau where the capital was built.
The western lowlands lie between 1500 and 100 meters above sea level, the climate is tropical with high humidity and heat throughout the day during the rainy season (which falls at the same time as the highlands) and dry hot days with cold nights during the dry season. The landscape consists largely of plains, grassy, muddy and green during the rainy season and dry, dusty with sparse shrubbery during the dry season. The plains are interrupted by the odd hills and mounts as well as three seasonal rivers originating in the Eritrean highlands and one perennial river constituting the border with Ethiopia and originating in the Ethiopian highlands (the Setit, known as 'Tekeze' in Ethiopia and 'Atbara' in Sudan). All major towns in the lowlands are placed on or around these rivers. The southern half of the lowlands consists of a typical African savannah and hosts the odd flocks of wild African elephants and other typically savannah-type flora and fauna. The northern half of the lowlands is considered part of the Sahara desert and consists of vast expanses of sand dunes and rocks with a few sparsely populated oases. The best place to explore both aspects of the lowlands is the market town Tessenei by the Sudanese border and its surroundings, as it lies right between the dry and green parts of the lowlands and is a place of trade for the nomadic peoples of the desert as well as the sedentary farming communities of the savannah. Tessenei affords some of the most basic of amenities for visitors such as hotels with showers and flush toilets, shops (including photoshops to buy film and bottled drinks) and restaurants serving well-cooked meals. It is accessible by asfalt road from the capital Asmara via Keren and the towns of Agordat and Barentu which takes about 10 hours. Buses run daily from Asmara. It can also be reached by dirt track from the Sudanese city of Kassala only 40 Kms away. Considering the border bureaucracy, this short distance however could prove to be a whole days endeavour.
The Sahel in northern Eritrea lies at the eastern fringes of the greater Sahara desert distinguished by its sharp contrast with the sandy deserts of the western lowlands as well as the eastern coast. The Sahel consists of a towering narrow chain of mountains ranging from 1000 to 2500 meters above sea level aligned between the deserts to the east and west and continuing all the way to the north to Sudan and Egypt (a feature of the Great Rift Valley). The slopes to the east and west are sparsely populated by herding nomads. The rainy season in the western slopes falls in the same time as in the highlands and western lowlands and in the eastern slopes it conforms to the Red Sea's schedule of erratic precipitation between December and March. However, rainfall in this region is generally erratic and of a much lesser quantity than everywhere else. The climate is desert-like with little humidity, dry hot days and cold nights with little seasonal variation in temperatures. Variations in temperature are seen however, between different altitudes. Heavy erosion due to war and previous overgrazing has also seriously impeded the benefits of two rainy seasons. The landscape is therefor very arid and fit for only the most tenacious of nomadic herding communities. The central and northern core consists of impenetratable and hair-raising mountain passes, gorges and valleys. This was the main base for the Eritrean rebels (who now make up the country's current government) when fighting for independence from Ethiopia. One seasonal river, Anseba, originating in the highlands, bisects the mountain range and drains in a delta on the Red Sea coast of Sudan just north of the Eritrean border. The best place to explore the Sahel is the town of Nakfa, the main base of the Eritrean resistance which gave the national currency its name. Nakfa also has a war-museum commemorating the liberation struggle and a comfortable yet modest government-run hotel with restaurant and sattelite TV. It is accessible from Asmara via Keren on asfalt road and from Keren via the town of Afabet on a dirt road. This takes 10 to 12 hours as the road between Keren and Nakfa is aweful. Buses run to Nakfa from Keren starting early in the morning so a trip from Asmara would entai an overnights stay in Keren (which is served many times daily from Asmara). Afabet is accessible by asfalt road from the port of Massawa via the town of She'eb. The Massawa-Nakfa trip would take about 10 hours still as the unavoidable Afabet-Nakfa leg of the journey is the most taxing. Buses run once weekly from Massawa to Nakfa.
The subtropical eastern escarpment, consists basically of the eastern (seaward) slopes of the highland region. Unique for this thin sliver of landscape is that it hosts the country's only subtropical rainforest and one of the world's largest selection of bird species, both seasonal (winter-migrants) and endemic (tropical). Being so mountainous, it has not been heavily settled (luckily) as it was seen as incovenient for farming. But nevertheless there are some small coffee and spice plantations in its central, higher altitude areas as well as tropical fruit plantations in the lower areas. The Solomouna National Park is the best place to explore this area and is accessible by asfalt road from the capital Asmara as well as the port of Massawa. The only way to the national park is by guided tour with one of Eritrea's tour agencies which all operate out of Asmara. Travelling to the coastal Massawa from highland Asmara one also passes through this region represented by the towns and villages between Nefasit (25 km from Asmara) and Dongollo Alto (50 Km from Asmara).
The northern coast and archipelago consists largely of a sandy redbrown and beige semi-desert with some shrubbery and volcanic basalt-rock along the mainland coast. The elevation is between 500 and 0 meters above sea level and the climate is always tropical and humid, reaching uncomfortable highs of 37 to 50 degrees in the summer months of May to September and to breezy and warm "low's" of 25 to 35 degrees between October and March. Rainy season is an insignificant concept on the coast as it seldom rains at all, save for the freak storm that occurs on the odd year. Some minimal precipitation and cloudiness may occur in the months of November to March, but the coast relies mainly on the runoff from the highlands and eastern escarpments for its water supply (from aquifers and table water). The few attractions inland are the hot springs resort about 35 Kms from the port city of Massawa, where hot mineral water baths are available and the water is also bottled as one of the country's most popular mineral water sources and brands (Dongollo, sold in brown glass bottles). The coast and archipelago host some of the Red Sea's most untouched coral reefs, rife with marine wildlife ranging from dugongs and manta's to big spools of tigerfish, dolphins and of course sharks. Eritrea's coast offers some of the best diving in the world but some of the most limited diving and tourist facilities, all of which are based in the port city of Massawa and are extremely expensive. The Beaches in and immediately surrounding the port city of Massawa as well as to the north are of modest to poor quality due to pollution as well as flooding and erosion from the nearby highlands. Parts of the northern coast also consists of large mangrove swamps, great for fishing and birdwatching but not for beachlife. The beaches on the Dahlak islands on the other hand are clean, white and pristine, with lagoons of clear turquoise water. The only way to get to the Dahlak islands is to charter a boat from a licensed company in Massawa. The biggest island Dahlak Kebir which features one modest resort-hotel is only 90 Kms away and so are some other smaller uninhabited islands like Dissei, which can make for affordable day-trips from Massawa but the archipelago extends much farther than that and offers much greater attractions. With Eritrea's limited facilities, the possibility of going on longer cruises and exploring more of the attractions is very expensive and narrowed down to a few European run companies based in Massawa. With the country's heightened sense of security, doing so independently on ones own boat or a chartered one is impossible. The best place to explore the northern coast and archipelago is obviously the port city of Massawa.
The southern coast is perhaps Eritrea's most dramatic yet most inhospitable landscape because of its volcanoes, quicksand, bubbling mudpools, salt lakes, coastal cliffs, the inland desert and depressions. The elevation ranges between peaks of over 2000 meters above sea level and depressions of more than 100 meters below sea level with fields of salt pans and strangely shaped rocks where temperatures reach the highest possible on our planet. The southern coast has the highest recorded temperatures in Eritrea which regularly reach 55 degrees celsius. Humidity maintains the temperatures high all throughout the day and seasonal variations are the same as in the northern coast. The northern inland areas of the southern coast offer a dramatic landscape of contrast between the backdrop of the towering mountains of the highlands to the west and the vast expanses of coastal desert to the east. It is the only area of considerable vegetation in the whole region, thanks to the highland rainfall and runoff. The area also hosts an interesting wildlife of mountain goats and ostriches. The region is situated between the port city's of Massawa and Assab which are about 500 Kms apart so is ideally accessed on a journey between the two cities. But can also consist of excursions from Massawa and/or Assab individually. Especially for trips geared towards viewing the inland landscapes. Any journeys without guides to this region is off-limits due to the high dangers associated with the climate as well as political volatility surrounding the Ethiopian border areas. The only public transportation in the area consist of buses from Massawa to Assab and back which run a few times weekly. Assab is also served by Eritrean Airlines from Asmara a few times weekly as well.
Eritrea was awarded to Ethiopia in 1952 as part of a federation. Ethiopia's annexation of Eritrea as a province 10 years later sparked a 30-year struggle for independence that ended in 1991 with Eritrean rebels defeating governmental forces; independence was overwhelmingly approved in a 1993 referendum. A two-and-a-half-year border war with Ethiopia that erupted in 1998 ended under UN auspices in December 2000. Eritrea currently hosts a UN peacekeeping operation that is monitoring a 25 km-wide Temporary Security Zone on the border with Ethiopia. An international commission, organized to resolve the border dispute, posted its findings in 2002 but final demarcation is on hold due to Ethiopian objections.
Hot, dry desert strip along Red Sea coast; cooler and wetter in the central highlands (up to 61 cm of rainfall annually); semiarid in western hills and lowlands; rainfall heaviest during June-September except in coastal desert.
At the head of Ethiopian north-south trending highlands, descending on the east to a coastal desert plain, on the northwest to hilly terrain and on the southwest to flat-to-rolling plains. Eritrea retained the entire coastline of Ethiopia along the Red Sea upon declaring independence from Ethiopia in 1993.
Only nationals of Uganda and Kenya and foreign citizens of Eritrean descent (holders of Eritrean ID cards) can enter Eritrea without a visa. All others must apply for a visa in advance before entering the country.
The Eritrean Embassies in London, Stockholm and Washington DC as well as the mission to the UN in New York have websites where an application can be downloaded and printed out, saving you some time. However unless you are a national of USA, Sweden or the UK, this is not where you mail your application. Americans should mail their application to Washington DC (not New York as the mission there will only -at best- forward the application to DC), Swedes to Stockholm and Brits to London respectively.
When you apply for a visa to Eritrea, you must do it at an Eritrean Embassy in - or acredited to - the country where you are a citizen and nowhere else. There are Eritrean Embassies in Europe: London, Paris, Brussels, The Hague, Berlin, Rome, Stockholm and Moscow. There are also consulates in Athens, Milan, Franfurt and Geneva. If you come from a European country without an Eritrea mission, you can contact the Eritrean Embassy in Brussels. Nationals of Central Asian countries are served by the Embassy in Moscow. Eritrean Embassies serving the Americas are in Washington DC and Ottawa. The consulate in Oakland, California is closed as of October 2007. All US and non-Canadian nationals of the Americas can contact the Eritrean Embassy in Washington DC for a visa. Embassies in Africa: Pretoria, Abuja, Nairobi, Kampala, Djibouti, Khartoum, Cairo and Tripoli. The Embassy in Abuja is ackredited to ECOWAS member states and affiliates. The Embassy in Nairobi is acredited to the East African Community and affiliates. The Embassy in Pretoria serves the SADC and affiliates. The Embassy in Tripoli serves Libya and Northern Africa. There is also an Eritrean consulate in Kassala, Sudan exclusively serving Sudanese nationals. Embassies in the Middle East: Riyadh, Sanaa, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Kuwait, Tel Aviv (Ramat Gan) and Damascus. Consulates in Jeddah and Dubai. Nationals of Lebanon, Jordan or Iraq can enquire with the Embassy in Damascus for a visa. Bahrainis are referred to the Embassy in Riyadh while nationals of Oman are served by the Embassy in Abu Dhabi. Eritrean Embassies in Asia and Oceania: Islamabad, New Delhi, Singapore and Beijing. Citizens of Iran and Adghanistan can contact the Embassy in Islamabad. Other South Asians are served by the Embassy in New Delhi whilst the Embassy in Singapore serves citizens of ASEAN member countries. Mongolians are referred to the Embassy in Beijing. Koreans are referred to the Embassy in Tokyo. The Eritrean Embassy in Canberra is also acredited to Oceania (New Zeeland and Pacific Islands).
If you're living/staying in/close to a city with an Eritrean Embassy, and you're a citizen of that country, you can walk in, submit an application, pay the fees and receive a tourist visa within the next day or three working days. The consulates and missions will only be receiving applications and payments while communicating them on to the main embassy, the handling time may therefor be a few days longer than the walk-in service at an actual embassy. If you DON'T have an Eritrean Embassy nor any consulate in your country (see list above) check with your country's foreign office (state department, ministry of foreign affairs) which Eritrean Embassy applies to your country and contact them for an application. The Eritrean Embassies in London, Stockholm and USA as well as the mission to the UN in New York have websites where an application can be downloaded and printed out, saving you some time. However unless you're American, Swedish or British, this is not where you send your application (see above). For a tourist visa, you need to submit specific information about when and at what border post you will arrive and depart, so it is wise to have already made some plans (bought a ticket or so).
Eritrea's only international airport at present is in the capital Asmara. Lufthansa is the most reliable airline flying 3 times a week into Asmara from Frankfurt. Eritrean Airlines flies twice weekly to/from Frankfurt, Dubai and Djibouti and once weekly to/from Rome and Jeddah. Egyptair serves Asmara twice weekly from Cairo. Yemenia Air fly twice weekly from Sanaa. Saudi Arabian Airlines fly twice weekly from Jeddah/Riyadh. There is a 20eur, 20$us airport fee payable upon departure.
There is no international railway connection to Eritrea.
You can enter Eritrea driving from Djibouti and Sudan (Kassala border crossing) provided you have a valid certificate of ownership of the vehicle you're driving (no rentals) and all your (including your passengers') passports and visas in order as well as a customs declaration (if necessary). The roads on the borders are very poor so you should be driving a 4WD. The first gas-station entering Eritrea from Djibouti is about 30 Km away from the border in Assab and about the same distance from the Sudanese border in Tessenei. Diesel is more easily available than petrol.
There are Sudanese pickup taxis running from Kassala in Sudan to the Eritrean border (a half hour away) daily, and Eritrean taxis from the Eritrean border to Tessenei about an hour away (poor road). There are also Djiboutian taxis running from Obock in Djibouti to the border village of Moulhoule two hours away on a very poor road. The service is very irregulaly (a few times per week) and Moulhoule is where they're going even if they say 'Assab'. Eritrean taxis will take you from the Eritrean border to the port city of Assab, another hour away. You always have to walk across the borders. No public transport crosses borders.
The bureaucracy of the border crossings can take hours so start in the morning or early afternoon from Kassala in Sudan or Obock in Djibouti as it is not possible to enter Eritrea after dusk (border post closes and there are no pickups there until the next morning and the nearest town is very far away).
Ports and harbors: Assab (Aseb), Massawa (Mits'iwa). Sadaka Shipping Lines and Eritrean Shipping Lines serve the route Massawa - Jeddah in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They serve mainly muslim pilgrims and it is quite difficult for non-pilgrims to enter or transit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
If you are flying in to Asmara, you will need a permit from the Tourist Bureau on Liberation Avenue if you consider traveling outside Asmara's city limits. This permit needs to be applied for 10 days before travel. There are very few places other than Asmara, Keren and Massawa/Dahlak Islands that foreigners can travel to. If you are coming by land (or ferry to Massawa), you can get a travel permit at the locality of your arrival, to transit the country, given you have a valid entry visa. As long as you notify and consult with the Eritrean conculate issuing your entry visa about your point of entry and travel plans well ahead of time, getting the travel permit is no problem.
The most common form of intercity transportation in Eritrea is bus and/or minibus. The most frequent services, consisting of several buses/minibuses a day run between Asmara and Keren, Asmara and Massawa as well as between Asmara and the towns of the southern highlands such as Debarwa, Mendefera, Adi Quala as well as Dekemhare, Segeneiti, Adi Caieh and Senafe reaching the UN patrolled Temporary Security Zone on the Ethiopian border (at and beyond Senafe and Adi Quala) for which you need two permits to enter, one from the Eritrean authorities and one from the UN, both acquired in Asmara in advance. There are also daily bus services on the road between Teseney (On the Sudanese border close to Kassala) and Asmara traversing Barentu, Agordat and Keren as well as an alternative route traversing Barentu and Mendefera. Once a day buses/minibuses also run between Asmara and some of the villages of the southern highlands as well. Buses to the north of the country (Nakfa) are less frequent and travel between once weekly to a couple of times weekly between Asmara and Nakfa traversing Keren and Afabet. The buses to the southern coast (Assab) from Asmara are equally infrequent, once weekly only, traversing Massawa. Tickets are bought on the bus and the first come first served rule applies. Some state-run buslines to remote frontier areas do allow for tickets to be bought in advance at the Asmara bus station, where you can also inquire about the bus-schedule. There will always be some people who speak English and are more than willing to help translate.
Domestic flights also connect Asmara with remote Assab twice weekly, with the airline Nasair which also flies between Asmara and Massawa twice weekly. However the latter flight route may not be a necessary option since the distance between the two latter cities is only 120 Kms along one of Eritrea's best and most scenic roads and there are buses several times a day running between the two cities that cost a fraction of the flight and take little more than two hours making time for refreshing stops in the mountains.
The only rail line in Eritrea runs between Asmara and Massawa and it is only served by a museum railway (steam engine and all) with no regular service, it only caters to chartered tour groups and it takes a daunting 5 hours to complete the journey just one way.
The currency is the Eritrean nakfa. It is pegged to the US dollar. There are 15 nakfas to the USD. Coins are issued in denominations of 1 cent, 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents, 50 cents and 100 cents (1 nakfa. Banknotes are issued in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 nakfas. The best souvenirs to bring from Eritrea are traditional handicrafts made from leather, olivewood, clay and straw. These can be found in most souvenir shops in Asmara along with traditional home-spun cotton garments. Posters and postcards are also readily available at most press-kiosks even at the airport. Leopard- and zebra skin as well as ivory items can be found in the souvenir markets but you will be stopped from leaving Eritrea with these as well as stopped and fined at your home destination because international trade in such materials is banned. Eritrea however has several souvenirs made from goatskin. Gold, Pearl and Silver Jewellery is also available in the markets in Asmara along with frankincense and myrrh. Beware that when you buy any textiles such as home-spun cotton garments or mats or any such thing, including skin items (with fur remaining) keep them in a closed plastic bag away from any of your other items until you can have them properly cleaned, dried, preferably chemically treated and/or dry-cleaned before packing them with any of your other items to be brought home with you, or you could be bringing along some unwelcome souvenirs such as lice, bedbugs or other parasites.
Eritrea is generally a very cheap place to shop, eat, travel and spend time (Hotel prices apart from the pricy 5-star Intercontinental in Asmara are also very cheap). The only things that could be expensive in the country are understandibly imports (fuel and other foreign commodities), services that depend on imports (up-scale restaurants, hotels, private transport or flights) and various government fees (visas, airport taxes, travel permits etc.). If you stay away from imports (or bring them such as toiletries and cosmetics), eat locally and stay at a regular budget hotels, especially the government-owned, and if you travel on public land-transportation, you need less than $50 a day for food, lodging and transport in total.
Eritrean cuisine in the highlands (around Asmara) consists largely of spicy dishes very similar to Ethiopian food. The staple is a flat, spongy crepe or bread called injera made from a batter of fermented grains. Spicy stews with meat and vegetables are served on top of it and eaten with the hands. This cuisine is generally found in many restaurants in the country.
Middle Eastern dishes such as shahan-ful (bean stew) served with pitas are also readily available everywhere but more commonly eaten for breakfast or brunch in modest establishments.
Lowland cuisine is not readily available in many restaurants, but in the oldtown (outermost island) of Massawa, adjacent to the freeport area, there are some simple restaurants that serve cuisine typical to the Red Sea area such as grilled spicy fish and "khobzen" (pita's drenched in goats butter and honey).
Owing to its colonial history, Italian food is abundant albeit not too varied all across Eritrea. You will always find a restaurant that serves quite good pasta, lasagna, steak, grilled fish etc.
In Asmara there are also several Chinese restaurants, a Sudanese restaurant and an Indian restaurant (Rooftop).
The most common beverage in Eritrea is by far Beer. There is only one (state-owned) brand in the country so there is not much choice, but it is quite good at that. Beer is consumed cold in Eritrea! This is closely followed by various soft drinks, the most common flavors are as elsewhere in the world: orange flavor, lemon/lime flavor and cola flavor, produced by one of the most recognizable brands in the world. The same company that holds the beer monopoly also holds the monopoly on producing the local form of sambouca colloquially called "Araqi" as well as Vermouth and other spirits. International brands of the same spirits as well as others and are also readily available at most bars for a cheap price. Sophisticated drinks like "Cosmo" or "White Russian" are not understood in Eritrea outside of perhaps the Intercontinental Hotel who charge a steep price, quite predictably. On a side note, there is an Irish bar in the hotel, which might be of interest to some.
Traditionally Eritreans also drink the local form of mead called "suwa" and consists of old bread fermented in water with honey, as well as a sweet honeywine called "mies".
Tapwater should not be drunk by foreigners. There is plenty of relatively cheap bottled mineral water, both carbonated and non-carbonated in Eritrea.
Cafes in some towns offer fresh fruit juices. These should be avoided. There is no point in suffering from agonizing food-poisoning and wasting throughout your probabaly short stay in this country. Unpeeled fruits can be eaten or squeezed fresh by you. But avoid "ready-squeezed" juices and that goes for ice-creams and fruit salads and regular salads as well. Avoid them like the plague. Stick to bottled drinks and cooked foods.
There are hotels in all price and standard ranges in Asmara, from the modest ones costing 200 Nakfa ($30 per night) to the overpriced Intercontinental, the only international hotel-chain present in the country at the moment, setting you back more than at least the equivalent of $150 per night. Some hotels have one price for foreigners and another for locals. In most smaller towns, the lodging is quite modest and priced accordingly. The only expensive hotels outside of Asmara would be the hotels on the sea in Massawa, neither of which exceed $65 per night as of 2007. Modest in Eritrean terms means shared bathroom with several other tenants, no room-service, TV may or may not be available in the room (might be shared by many in cafeteria or common room), no air-conditioning and no change of sheets or cleaning throughout occupancy unless asked for (and then you might be charged extra just as if you had your clothes wahsed and ironed which is also readily available for an additional price). The middle-range hotels will have all these missing amenities (own bathroom, TV, air-conditioning etc.) but no room-service and change of sheets/cleaning/wash of clothes during occupancy is obviously for a charge. Restaurants and/or cafes are available at most mid-range hotels and are regular hangout places for people other than hotel-guests. In a hot place like Massawa, it is very highly recommended to stay at least at a middle-range hotel where air-conditioning is available. The only hotel that accepts credit cards in Eritrea is the intercontinental (for a fee) and it is also the only hotel in the entire country with a swimming pool (both indoor and outdoor), gym and other common amenities in a modern standard hotel. Most if not all hotels beyond the towns of Asmara, Massawa, Keren and Assab are of the modest category. There are reported to be mid-range hotela in Nakfa, Barentu and Tessenei as well as resorts in Gel'alo and Dahlak (on the coast south and east of Massawa).
There are opportunities to go to Eritrea to teach and/or to do a research product at the country's institutions of Higher Education and Ministries. But funding must be provided from your home country as well as a clearance from the Embassy of Eritrea either in your country or accredited to your country.
Working in Eritrea for an Eritrean employer (state or private) and for an Eritrean wage is not an attractive prospect for most westerners or people reading Wikitravel:) Most foreigners in Eritrea work for foreign employers (the UN, the few remaining NGOs, Foreign Companies, Foreign Embassies and related agencies as well as the International School) and a few foreigners mainly from South Asia work for the Eritrean government in various state-job contracts. Most if not all of these individuals aquired their jobs in their home country and/or were recruited and provided with their legal documentation by the Eritrean government while in their home country. It is unusual and perhaps difficult to arrive in Eritrea on a tourist visa and later apply for a work and residence permit while there.
Watch out for bicycle riders and pedestrians. People don’t look when crossing and bike riding accidents are common. It is a safe city though and you can walk about at night and anywhere in the city and not worry about crime. There are sometimes children that aggressively beg but usually leave you alone if you are stern with them.
Do not drink the water and even check bottled water to make sure the cap is sealed. Be very careful what you eat. Many people get sick here. There is a Jordanian UN hospital that will treat foreigners. Local hospitals have inadequate facilities. Be healthy if you come here. Avoid uncooked food and unbottled drinks. Practise safe sex.
Eritreans are polite, hospitable and softspoken but due to the language barrier may generally keep their distance from foreigners. If approached by an English speaker, try to maintain an innocent topic of conversation and use universal common sense. Avoid displaying disdain, arrogance or too harsh criticism towards the country, culture, religion or politics of the country. Although most if not all will be more than tolerant of your "mistakes" as you are a passing foreigner. Do not fall prey to those willing to offer you a better exchange rate for your hard currency or some other "shady economic deal". A) They could be undercover government agents, which can land you in severe trouble with the zero-tolerance Eritrean justice system, or B) Even if they were not, you run the risk of being jipped or getting caught by the law which is something you must avoid at all costs in Eritrea. It is rude to take pictures of people or their property without asking for permission. When taking pictures of public buildings beware of government buildings, especially police and military buildings. Taking pictures of these is not always illegal but if done without permission or supervision, it can be viewed as highly suspect and can result in an uncomfortable arrest and interrogation. Ask the closest official (receptionist or police) for permission. Prostitution is legal but only in licensed establishments discretely placed out of the public eye (certain bars, nightclubs, hotels). Public display of romantic affection is considered immodest and overt flirting with an Eritrean is viewed by the general public as akin to prostitution or soliciting thereof and can be taken as extremely offensive if the person in question or their kin is not involved in such business. Like in many Middle Eastern and North African countries, use of the left hand to greet, eat or hand something to someone is considered very dirty. When handing something over, using both hands is accepted and even seen as respectful, but not using the left hand alone. Dress code is generally western, women are not required to "cover up" or wear veils, but showing too much skin, both for men and women will earn them very little respect and women (who show too much cleavage, wear too short a skirt/pair of shorts) will be viewed as prostitutes. "Western" (women) are generally allowed more freedom, as they are seen as allready "different" from the norm, than Eritrean or Eritrean-looking women, who would be judged badly also for smoking or even riding a bicycle in public. Women do however drive in Eritrea, all vehicles, even military tanks, ships, planes and they command troops, serve in all the ranks of the army and government in the same capacity as men. It is a country undergoing a post-liberation accelerated (and sometimes paradoxical) cultural evolution.