Djibouti  is in East Africa, bordered by Eritrea to the north, Ethiopia to the west and south, and Somalia to the southeast. The Gulf of Aden lies to the east. The country can be divided into three regions; the coastal plain and volcanic plateaus in the central and southern parts of the country and the mountain ranges in the north. Much of the country is vast wasteland with virtually no arable land.
Djibouti's climate is very hot, humid and arid, especially in the summer. The summer heat is moderated, however, by a sustained breeze in the coastal city of Djibouti. From October to April, the temperature is cooler, with occasional rain. Cyclones from the Indian Ocean create heavy rains and flash flooding.
All visitors to Djibouti, except those from Singapore, are required to have a visa. Depending on your nationality, there may be some differences on how long your visa is good for and if you need a visa prior to arrival or at arrival.
Those travelling on EU and North American (USA/Canada) passports can get a visa on arrival for 10,000 DJF (3-day transit visa) or 15,000 DJF for a one-month tourist visa (contrary to many web posts as of 2020 visa on arrival is still available). The payment can be made in USD or Euro equivalent. You will need to show proof of return ticket as well as hotel reservation in Djibouti. Ethiopian Airlines will not board you on a flight into Djibouti if you do not have a ticket onward from Djibouti, even if you have a visa (as of 2020 this is not true).
If you plan to enter by land you have to arrange for visas in advance. Visas can be obtained from neighbouring countries and where no Djibouti embassy exists, they can often be obtained from the French embassy. The types of visas include: Entry (visa de séjour); Tourist (visa de tourisme); Business (visa d’affaires); and Transit (visa de transit).
Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport (JIB) connects Djibouti with Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It also has flights to Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Tanzania, Egypt, Madagascar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen. Air France and Djibouti-based Daallo Airlines (D3) ) operates flights to Paris. Daallo also flies to Ethiopia, Kenya, Saudi Arabia and Somalia. The airport is 5km (3 miles) south of the city.
Also, please note that batteries are not allowed in carry-on luggage, they must be stored in checked luggage or you may face confiscation.
When leaving the airport, take care not to be overcharged for a taxi. There is a large sign outside that states taxi fares -- you should not be paying more than 2,000 Djiboutian Francs for a ride to the Kempinski or Sheraton. Example of ripoff request - 20USD to go 2km.
There are roads from Djibouti to Assab (Eritrea) and going west into Ethiopia via Dikhil. Travellers using them should be aware that road conditions are generally poor and personal security might be at risk when travelling – particularly to Ethiopia. Visitors are advised to check transit regulations as political conditions in Ethiopia and Eritrea are changeable. Currently, there are no problems with traveling to Eritrea and no formal border posts. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended for the interior. There is a new highway from Djibouti to Tadjoura. Traffic drives on the right. It is advisable to carry water and petrol on any expedition off main routes. An International Driving Permit is recommended, although not legally required. A temporary licence to drive is available from local authorities on presentation of a valid British or Northern Ireland driving licence.
Buses operate from Djibouti to most towns and villages throughout the country. Buses leave when they are full. A minibus service operates in Djibouti, stopping on demand. A flat-fare system is used.
There are ferry services connecting Djibouti to Yemen. Djibouti City is one of the main ports of eastern Africa so it's well trafficked.
A new standard-gauge railway line links Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa with Djibouti; passenger services were inaugurated in January 2017. Djibouti E-visa is not recognised by Ethiopian immigration staff at Furi-Lebu train station in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia as a valid travel document. Only a visa issued by a Djibouti embassy on passport is considered valid due to non-availability of computer at the Ethiopia-Djibouti border crossing.
Taxis are available in Djibouti and from the airport to the town, the price is fixed and displayed on a billboard on the exit towards the parking area; also in Ali-Sabieh, Dikhil, Dorale and Arta. Fares can increase by 50 percent after dark.
Sheraton Hotel offers free airport shuttle, but you need to order it in advance.
Bicycling is a great way to get around the small capital.
Although the official languages are French and Arabic, the most common native languages of the local population are Somali and Afar. Omani Arabic, Amharic, Greek and Hindi are also spoken by smaller numbers.
English may be spoken at tourist facilities, but is not widely spoken by locals or taxi drivers.
The city of Djibouti is utterly charmless. A large portion is filled with sad shacks, and many of the dirt streets are choked with garbage, reeking fetid water, and foraging goats. In many places there are people living in the open, surrounded by their few possessions.
Khat: A leafy stimulant. An alkaloid - think of it as a very mild version of cocaine. The herb is flown into the country each morning from Ethiopia and arrives by truck in Djibouti's Central Market at about 1PM. It is inexpensive and there is virtually zero risk of adverse effects beyond annoying your friends with chat.
There are ATMs all over the city so there is no need at all to exchange money. If, for some strange reason, you do want to exchange, conversion between DJF and USD is stable as the DJF is tied to the dollar. You can convert dollars to francs with local street money changers located in the Djiboutian market area for 175 DJF to 1 USD. The street money changers are primarily women. As is true everywhere, pay attention and count carefully.
You can purchase general merchandise and food items at the larger department stores using USD and they will use the 175 conversion rate. The tourist traps will obviously see you coming a mile away and hit you with ridiculous conversion rates as well as their tourist prices. If you have access to Camp Lemonnier, go to the disbursement office for the best rate at 177.
These rates have not changed since July 2020.
The city of Djibouti has many places to eat as well as tourist traps. If you are interested in western cuisine, be prepared for sticker shock. If you are interested in good local cuisine, then you and your pocket book will be happier for the experience. For example, the Ethiopian Community Center offers a wide variety of dishes with a local flair which are very tasty, safe to eat, and reasonably priced. Best to avoid places that the tourists hang out at, and you will be happier for the experience. Average price per meal outside of a tourist trap: $4 including drink.
The well intentioned above writer confuses ‘tourist’ with ‘servicemen’. There are not many tourists outside the hotels. The price inflation (6USD for a Heineken) are a result of the very large number of military personnel from the US, Spain, China, etc who spend their well earned money in bars that are comfortable to them.
Basic situational awareness is always a good idea.
The US, Canada, and the UK official sites warn about the possibility of ‘terrorist’ attacks but a quick news search finds no evidence of any recent incident.
As is true everywhere, the posture of local security staff at checkpoints and gates are the best indicators of threat levels. In Djibouti they are very casual and seldom armed.
Most significant threat is falling in to an open sewer.
Basic ‘developing country’ vaccinations and hygiene considerations are advised. Experienced travelers will already have Cholera, Typhoid, (and Yellow fever, but not required here) vaccinations, and have a handful of prophylactic malaria medications on hand, but if visiting only Djibouti City none are essential.
Health insurance is advisable. Doctors and hospitals may expect immediate cash payment for any medical treatment. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travelers over one year of age coming from infected areas. Cholera is also a serious risk and precautions are essential. Up-to-date advice should be sought before deciding if these precautions should include vaccination as medical opinion is divided over its effectiveness. Typhoid immunization is usually advised.
Malaria risk exists via mosquitos, predominantly in the malignant falciparum form year round. Strains resistant to chloroquine have been reported here. Mefloquine, doxycycline or atovaquone/proguanil are recommended. The adult HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is currently at .91%.
Casual wear is widely acceptable, but visitors are reminded that Djibouti is a Muslim country and certain codes of behavior should be observed. Unlike some Muslim countries westerners and a few locals wear shorts in Djibouti.
The 13th French Foreign Legion Demi-Brigadeis (13ème DBLE), was permanently stationed in Djibouti, and consisted of about 800 men. They redeployed to the United Arab Emirates on June 13th, 2011.
There is also a 2,000 person plus U.S. military presence in Djibouti, located at Camp Lemonnie across the runway from the international airport