I’ve been to Djibouti last 2017 on my solo trip around Africa where I crossed the border to Somaliland. Not a lot of people really know about this country and even if they do, they think it’s not safe considering its distance whose name is branded with Piracy even until now.
As per Wikipedia, Djibouti is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Eritrea in the north, Ethiopia in the west and south, and Somalia in the southeast. The remainder of the border is formed by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden at the east. Being located strategically in the red sea, one of the main income sources of this country is its maritime port for imports from and exports to neighboring Ethiopia.
QUICK FACTS ABOUT DJIBOUTI
Languages spoken: Official languages are French and Arabic. Local languages are Afar and Somali
Religion: 94% is Muslim and 6% Christian
Climate: Very dry especially in the months of April-October
Currency: Djiboutian Francs
Best time to visit: November-March where the weather is colder
VISA REQUIREMENT FOR FILIPINOS
Djibouti is among the Visa-Free Countries for Filipinos where we only need to apply for a Visa on Arrival. All you have to do is fill in the details in the Arrival Card, hand in your Passport (with a remaining 6 months validity from your departure) to the officer-in-charge, and wait for your name to be called. It will be better if you bring along your Yellow Fever Card just in case.
The airport in Djibouti is very small– the size of the holding area for those arriving in the country is just like a classroom so I’m sure you won’t get lost. Take note that Immigration Officers in Djibouti are not very welcoming to tourists (based on my experience) and everyone coming to Djibouti whether tourists or not are “potential spies” or “illegal worker” considering that there are a lot of Military Camps within their territory. Expect a very cold treatment from them if you’re lucky. If you’re not, then expect to be detained at the airport for a couple of hours.
Make sure to have cash and also the arrangement of the accommodation where you’ll be staying.
Visa fee: 90 Euros
Allowable duration of stay: 30 Days
WHERE TO STAY IN DJIBOUTI
This is a very expensive country so expect to pay a lot for accommodations. Mid-end hotels include Atlantic Hotel and Les Acacias Hotel. The only high-end hotels are Djibouti Palace Kempinski and Sheraton Hotel. If you’re on a tight budget, the cheapest hotels are Du Coté Chez Val and China Shandong Restaurant and Hotel.
BUDGET FOR DJIBOUTI
Give yourself at least a 50 US Dollar budget for your everyday expenses like food and transportation, and this should exclude your hotels and tours. Djibouti is a very expensive country. A meal at a local restaurant would cost you a minimum of 1,500 Djf and it could go as expensive as 5,000 Djf.
WHAT TO DO IN DJIBOUTI
1. Walk around the City
The City Center is very interesting. Within the streets covered in dust, you’ll find stalls selling clothes and anything under the sun (literally and figuratively), you’ll see women with stacks of cash asking if you’d like an exchange, and food stalls selling local food and delicious Ethiopian Coffee. Expect it to be very busy and always keep an eye on your things!
2. Go on a food trip
The food in Djibouti isn’t bad at all (albeit being expensive) and it will be nice if you can try these restaurants as recommended by a friend who lived there for 3 years: La Mer Rouge, Chez Youssouf, Haramous Pizzaiolo, Jules Verne and Delight.
3. Drive up to Arta to get a view of the Red Sea
If you have a day to spare, then this will be a nice thing to do. Arta is the highest point in Djibouti and if you want to take a break from inhaling all the dust in the City, then this is the place to be. Get yourself some fresh air and stay at Sunny Hill (it’s a hotel) for a night if you prefer.
4. Go snorkeling
Most of the reef in Djibouti’s beaches are so close to the shore and all you need to carry is that snorkeling gear!
5. Swim with the whale sharks
From the months of November-March, whale sharks can be seen within Djibouti’s oceans (without any feeding) and a local tour company would know where to find the best (so you have to book a tour). If you’re lucky, you’d also come across Sea Turtles and Dolphins! Most of the tours include a stopover at a nice beach where you can go snorkeling too.
6. Go to Lac Assal
Known as The Lowest Point in Africa, you’ll see salt flats as far as the eyes can see. Go for a dip and see yourself floating the entire time. The water is very salty so bring yourself a gallon of water to wash up or walk to the hot spring if you can still take the heat. (If you’re going in the summer, make sure to bring lots of water and ice. Temperature can rise up to 55 degrees!)
7. Go to the beach!
The most popular ones are Sable Blanc, Arta Plage and Khor Ambado (which is the closest from the City Center). These beaches are almost untouched. A basic hut, a small toilet, and a small restaurant are all you’ll find so make sure you bring all the necessary things like beach umbrella and towels. Never ever forget your sunblock!
8. Visit the animals at Decan Animal Refuge
A visit to this refuge will guarantee a meal and a well-maintained home for these rescued animals so I highly suggest you do this on your visit. They have ostriches, lions, peacocks, leopards, cheetahs, and a whole lot more.
LAST: If you want to go on an exciting adventure then cross the border and go to SOMALILAND… You can read my experience here.
WHAT NOT TO DO IN DJIBOUTI?
- Do not wear revealing clothes (sleeveless is okay)
- Do not take photos of public structures
- Do not take photos of locals without their permission
- Bargaining is okay but makes sure to make “friends” with them before doing so
- Avoid making remarks about them being colonized by France unless you really know the person
- Never ever make any bomb joke
- Avoid getting yourself in trouble with a local
- Don’t bring a drone or cameras with huge lenses. Remember, everyone is a potential spy so taking these things will only make them doubt you.
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