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Crossing The Border To Somaliland: The Danger, The Process and Useful Tips

As some of you may know, I have traveled around Africa for 2 months and I decided to save the most challenging country for last: SOMALILAND! This is my 95th country! Woohoo! and after hearing all the horror stories about it, I was really nervous and excited at the very same time!

After almost 24 hours of travel time from Comoros which included an overnight stay in Nairobi airport and a 5-hour layover in Ethiopia, I finally landed on Djibouti! My hosts, Gladsy and Romain, a lovely Filipina with a French partner picked me up from the airport and prepared a wonderful dinner for me with some friends 🙂 I really had no plans in Djibouti other than to get my Somaliland Visa.

Somaliland is an unrecognized state. This means that no country or international organization thinks that Somaliland is a real country. Instead, they include Somaliland as an Autonomous Region of Somalia, together with Puntland. Due to this, they have no direct access to humanitarian aid. The small aid that it receives goes through NGO’s who operate in the country. As such, they get a huge chunk of their income from taxes, especially on international remittances.


Good thing my host’s apartment in Djibouti is close to the Somaliland Liason Office, (or that’s what the details in the web provide), so all we had to do is walk around and follow google map. Unfortunately, it wasn’t updated so we couldn’t find it. Some streets in Djibouti doesn’t have a name. It was even harder cos the people either speak French, Somali or Arabic, so it’s difficult to ask around.

Good thing Gladsy met this Djiboutian guy named Osman while she was volunteering for Caritas in Djibouti. This guy is VERY NICE!!! He picked us up within 10 minutes after Gladsy gave him a call and asked for help. 🙂  

Osman speaks English, Somali, and French. (Aside from German and Spanish. WOW!! How cool is that!) So we had no trouble asking around. After driving around for a good 10 minutes and asking several people on the way, we finally found the Consulate Office of Somaliland 🙂

Armed with my Philippine passport, a pen, and a passport sized photo, I went inside the Consulate Office and met this lovely lady who assisted me in processing my visa. She was really friendly we took a lot of photos together. She even liked our facebook page haha! I actually thought it would be hard or impossible to get it. But I just filled out the form provided by the consulate, attached my photo, paid $31, and waited for the 24-hour processing time.

So the next morning, we went back to the Consulate Office and I was able to get my visa! My heart was really pounding hard of excitement when I saw it! <3


I made some research on how to cross the border, one travel company offers 500$/day which includes a private car and a bodyguard. I find it very expensive so I tried to look for a public transport. With the help of Osman, we negotiated with a Somali guy who is the owner of the pickup truck going to Somaliland. I paid 12,000 Djiboutian Francs (roughly about 68$, I paid a little more so I can get the front seat) with no receipt, just pure trust! Initially, I was hesitant about it, but he felt bad that I didn’t trust him so I just let it go. I just crossed my finger hoping he wouldn’t try to get away with my money. Haha! Thank goodness I have Osman with me, otherwise, it is IMPOSSIBLE to find this terminal. There are no signs of it at all!!

I prepared myself physically and mentally for the journey. I’m used to crossing borders and I LOVE IT! This is my 3rd time crossing the border in my entire trip in Africa. But this one is different, I don’t know what to expect. I bought a lot of food, ice cold water, and borrowed clothes from the Filipinas because my luggage is still missing and I’m afraid we’ll get stranded! Osman drove me again to where we met the Somali guy and he was there waiting for me. That’s such a relief! Good thing he’s trustworthy!

The 13-hour journey started at 4:30 P.M. (that’s the only schedule they have). We rode on a pickup car with improvised seats at the back. It’s just a short 20-minute ride to go to the Somaliland border from Djibouti. I was with Somalis and Djiboutians in the car, one of them is Abde-Aziz, the only guy there who speaks English.

When we arrived at the border, I was interrogated for more than an hour at the Djibouti Immigration. They asked me soooo many questions and they wouldn’t let me out. I had to show them ALL my visas and prove them that I have traveled extensively before and I know what I’m doing. I actually thought that I wouldn’t make it to the border because they have declared recently that the border is only for Djiboutians and Somalis (maybe not true!). But lo and behold, after more than an hour of uncertainty, they finally let me out! (YEY!!!)

The immigration office was already closed when they stamped my passport with the condition that I wouldn’t come back to that border because they will NOT let me in. And he wasn’t joking… HE WAS VERY FIRM.

I really thought that the car going to Somaliland already left me so I had to think of my Plan B — I won’t be able to enter Djibouti so I have to spend the night in the small border town. And usually, towns in the border are not always the best and sometimes dangerous. I had to stay positive despite the thought of fear and I assured myself several times that I will make it to Hargeisa (the capital of Somaliland).

The Somaliland Immigration Office is 15 minutes from the Djibouti side, I had to walk really fast as I’m afraid they’ll be closed. Lucky monkey, I was able to hitchhike with a Somali guy. (Thank goodness for this skill I’ve learned from our backpacking experience!)

Good thing they were still open when I got there! And compared to the Djibouti Immigration, I didn’t have any problem with them at all! They just asked for my passport with the visa that I got from the Consulate, as well as the receipt of my payment (I didn’t know it’s required but good thing is that I have this habit of keeping receipts). After I got through the Somaliland Immigration, I was looking and shouting the name of Abde-Aziz. I couldn’t remember how he looked like, I just know that he’s the only one who speaks English in the car. I looked like a crazy and lost puppy that time haha but I don’t really mind because he heard me and that’s all that matters! I was really glad that he asked the driver and the other passengers to wait for me, although he actually thought that the Djiboutian Immigration won’t let me out. It appears that they always have problems like that. I wanted to cry with happiness for what he did for me. I had to give him the chips that I brought to thank him!

So, at 8 P.M. we started an INCREDIBLE drive in the desert, mountain and sand dunes! That’s 13 hours of off-road journey. I saw a lot of camels, gazelles, and local houses. I kept taking photos of them and the other passengers are giving me these weird look because these animals are just like chickens to them. Hahaha

IT WAS SUCH A CRAZY RIDE– We saw people helping other cars who got stuck in the dunes; We stopped for 3 times so the driver could take a nap; The aircon stopped working so the windows were fully-open because it’s really HOT; and random locals were giving me food and drinks during the entire trip which is VERY CONTRADICTING to what people are saying that Somaliland is dangerous and the people are bad. COMPLETELY OPPOSITE! WHAT. AN. ADVENTURE!! My journey to Hargeisa wouldn’t be as exciting without these lovely people I was in the car with <3


“You will get kidnapped, raped, and then killed!!!” — those were the words the Djiboutian guy at the border told me as he looked me straight in the eye. I have to be honest, I got scared for a while, especially after A LOT of people warned me about the country. But I wanted to prove that they are wrong, so I tried to regain all the courage that’s left of me and told him  “Don’t worry about me. I can take care of myself!!”

When you hear about Somalia, I know what comes into your mind — PIRATES, PIRACY, RAPE, MURDER. Hey, you must be watching too many movies! Let me reiterate that Somalia is an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT COUNTRY from Somaliland, albeit the latter not internationally recognized. As I’ve been to Hargeisa, I can say that it’s safe. In fact, most of the countries issued a travel advisory for their nationals against traveling to Somalia, except Hargeisa.

For me, every place is dangerous, some places are just more dangerous than the others. So you have to be cautious anywhere you go. Whether it’s just a few kilometers from your house, or even inside the comforts of your own home! Accidents are like thieves in the night– SO ALWAYS BE CAUTIOUS, ANYWHERE, ALL THE TIME.


The moment I arrived in Hargeisa at around 9 A.M., the first thing I did was to look for a travel agency to book a last minute flight ticket to Djibouti where I will be catching my flight to Istanbul. (Remember what the guy at the Djibouti Immigration told me? THEY WON’T LET ME BACK IN). It’s Friday, a rest day for a Muslim country like this so offices are closed. I was really panicky because I can’t miss my commitment in Turkey.

Anyway, Abde-Aziz helped me look for a taxi to show me around town. I couldn’t get out of the car because of the way I dressed (my hair wasn’t covered). I don’t want to offend anyone. We then went straight to the airport. After passing 5 security check points, they still didn’t let us in! (security is very tight in this part of Africa) I was just lucky to meet an Immigration Officer outside who called someone then called another one who eventually told us to go to the Air Djibouti office in town (It’s their rest day but they are more than willing to help me)… We hurriedly went and the guy booked me a last minute flight for Djibouti on Saturday afternoon for only $155! Ha! I can finally relax and discover Somaliland <3

Somaliland is a very strict Muslim country and all women are covered. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my luggage with me so the clothes I had were the ones I borrowed from Gladsy and Janet, the Filipinas I met in Djibouti. So I had to put my hair up and used long sleeves to cover my arms and a trouser for my legs! Apparently, EVERYTHING should be covered, even the hair. (face may be exposed)

On Friday afternoon, my taxi driver drove me around town. I wanted to go to the Laas Geel which is a UNESCO heritage site but there are certain government permits to be requested… Everything here in this part of the world is restricted!

It’s a very cheap country for Africa. However, there is no proper paved road, not much buildings and establishments, and there’s a lot of beggars.

Anyway, I wasn’t able to do much while on my 3-day journey but all I can say is that it is safe. They even claim that there is ZERO PERCENT CRIME RATE FOR TOURISTS IN THE LAST 10 YEARS! (Wow!!) I would want to believe that because the people are nice and very helpful which is really contradicting to what I read and what I was told about. I WASN’T KIDNAPPED, RAPED, AND KILLED!! HA!!!


1. Shop at Downtown Hargeisa

It is a huge marketplace where people do their trade. Shop for clothes, shoes, vegetables, and what not. I really love buying from locals as it will greatly and directly benefit them and their families.

2. Visit Dahabshiil Business Center

The tallest building in Somaliland and the only building that has a lift. It has a shopping center, gym, and a restaurant. I couldn’t say it’s a ‘must visit’ as it’s just like any other building… But still, it’s pretty interesting to see how they start building things in a developing country! 🙂

3. Eat a Camel Meat or Drink A Camel Milk

It might not be appetizing to you but this is their delicacy! And when they offer it to you, do not turn it down as it could be disrespectful. They say Camel Milk is very healthy too!

4. Try Somali, Ethiopian, Yemeni, or Western Cuisine

Not keen on trying the Camel Meat or Camel Milk? Don’t worry, there’s a lot of restaurants around that you can try. Most of them are inside hotels. Top 3 restaurants in Lonely Planet are Saba (specializing in Yemenese Cuisine), Summer Time Restaurant, and Kulan Art Cafe where you can have a sip of Somali Tea 🙂 Dining out is quite cheap with a meal at one of the best restaurants costing US$10 and local meals around US$.

5. Get a Henna Tattoo

It is a trend among Somali women to have a henna tattoo on their hands and on the feet. They do a very intricate design which I’m sure you’ll love <3

6. Move Out of the City and See the Rock Paintings at Laas Geel

Las Geel is the home to cave formations on the rural outskirts of Hargeisa, Somaliland. They contain some of the earliest known cave paintings in the Horn of Africa. Laas Geel’s rock art is estimated to date to somewhere between 9,000 and 3,000 years BC. The paintings are well preserved and the view outside the cave is just stunning!

It is a mere 75-minute drive from Hargeisa. However, a special permit is necessary to do this trip because a guard must accompany you. The only way to get here is by a hired car which would cost about 100$ – 150$, including the driver, the gas, and the security. At the site, $25 shall be paid to the guard. He’ll walk you up, down, and through the site and point out the major paintings. There are 10 caves, so make the most out of your visit and take a look at everything. Make sure to bring A LOT of water, an umbrella or a hat. The heat could be pretty extreme, so make sure to protect yourself!

7. Chill at Berbera Beach

One hundred kilometers east from Laas Geel, along the asphalt Road Number 1, is the coastal town of Berbera. This 528-mile beach is clean and almost empty, a very nice place to chill indeed. I have read that they really have a really beautiful coral reef 🙂 There are decent accommodations around the area too, so why not stay a night or two?


1. Cover Yourself Up

And by that, I mean from head to toe. From the strands of your hair to your toe. Wear a very long dress and a hijab. We don’t wanna offend them in any way, don’t we?

2. Bring Sufficient Amount of US Dollars

US Dollars is widely accepted here, so make sure you have more than enough! Save yourself the trouble of finding an ATM but no worries about it as well because ATM’s issue USD:)

3. Going to the beach? See Tip # 1.

Yes, especially in the beaches. Bring a burkini or swim with your usual long dress on 🙂

4. Alcohol is a NO-NO.

Don’t even try. It’s illegal!

5. Think Twice Before Taking THAT photo

This applies when taking photographs of people and military installments. Make sure to ask permission from the subject of your photo (If it’s a person. Haha!)

6. Book Your Flights Ahead of Time

And make sure it’s confirmed! Some airlines (like Air Djibouti) doesn’t have an online booking. So in that case, you have to go to their office in Hargeisa to get that flight.

7. Don’t Worry About Not Having a Wifi

The wifi in Hargeisa is really fast I was able to download a lot of movies. So you don’t have to worry about not being able to contact your family and friends 🙂

So that’s how I wrapped up my amazing journey around Africa. If someone asks me if I would want to go back to Somaliland, I’ll definitely say YES!! It’s such a shame that my stay wasn’t long enough. I would love to see more of their culture, meet more beautiful Somalis and try their cuisine (No, I haven’t tried the Camel Meat and Camel Milk yet)! If the time comes that I’ll have the opportunity to come back, I hope that Somaliland will be a better place to live in, with people living in peace and prosperity. They have been through so much and they deserve it. We all do ❤️

Take a leap of faith and try visiting Somaliland too 🙂

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60 thoughts on “Crossing The Border To Somaliland: The Danger, The Process and Useful Tips

  1. Thank you very much your visiting on somalilnd and I appreciate you how to write this useful report
    Somaliland is peaac country and their people very good welcoming to tourists

  2. So brave lady, and so lucky, I may ask question, do you ever hear dervish district of Taleh, your next journey will here, thank you

  3. Really i read your story about your trip to Somaliland you can’t imagine how much my love for my country has increased, thank you for visiting our country, I would like to meet you to show you beautifull historical sites of our country

  4. as you see sis the most enemies of somaliland is neighbor countries so thanka to discover to somaliland and wellcome back more times

  5. I love this story! I have been looking into going to that region of Africa also visiting Djibouti and originally I wanted to skip Somalia. But now, since I know about Somaliland, I will for sure plan to go there as well! I hope I will be able to find a person there who could help me as you had 🙂

  6. you are welcomed to Somaliland any time you want sister as you already saw Somaliland has more enemies that dont like the peace and the development that we had staring our neighboring countries like Djibouti but we will never stop and look back we will go forward and build our country so sister may god bless you sister

  7. Thank you….
    We will wait you again…
    Somaliland is safe country you will get more thing that you don’t mention here…

  8. Thank you so much for your courageous decision to proceed with your planed trip to Somaliland despite the negative and misinformation given by Djibouti’s immigration officials at the border between Somaliland and Djibouti.

    On the contrary it’s Djibouti that is unsafe and undemocratic only ruled by two unelected presidents, the current one and his predecessor uncle since its independence from France in 1977 where Somaliland had five democratically elected presidents since Somaliland reclaimed its sovereignty in 1991.

    So thank you so much again for your visit to Somaliland and your future return visits to this beautiful and welcoming country.

  9. it is a miracle journey combined with a few adventure scenerios by road from Djibouti to Somaliland. This tells how strong you are regardless of what others told you .they simply want to discourage you but it was a wonderful decision to insist to see what you wanted to experience. One thing you missed visiting saryan museum in HARGEISA just opposite of kulan cafe side of the road where you would have learned a lot more. I am the founder and director of the museum and my name is Saeed shukri. enter saryanmuseum.net or saryanmuseum.com .see younext time. appreciated your visit to Somaliland

  10. Thanks for the way you can talk my country i hope you come back again and get extra information.


  11. Thanks for your honesty message to the world. You really did good view from The Somaliland republic! I hope to come again in Somaliland, Most peaceful nation in Horn of Africa.

  12. Thanks for a very interesting report. I am thinking of following in your steps a few weeks from now. I know the couple you stayed with in Djibouti has moved to Paris. If you have email and phone to other people who helped you find the Somaliland consular mission and who helped you cross the border I would appreciate it.
    Wishing you a blessed Christmas !

  13. Great and brave traveler girl, I really enjoyed reading your travel story about Somaliland I’m organizing my trip to Horn of Africa in these days, it includes Djibouti, Eritrea and indeed Somaliland. I too have the passion to discover new places like “my ancestors Marco Polo, Cristoforo Colombo”. HAD JAMMAHAD, JAMANORA MOHAMOUD and other guys from Somaliland this is my Facebook >https://m.facebook.com/pasquale.tarricone.1,or email [email protected] or 0039 391 1593617 WhatsApp,so please ask me friendship.I hope to reach Somaliland in February (I need before a Eritrea visa).For the Filipina girl, If you arrive one day in southern Italy, send me a message and I will be happy to welcome and host you.

  14. Was the cost for a visa the same for U.S. citizens?
    Did you have any issues because you stuck out? I’m Asian American.

  15. hanga ako sayo kabayan , nakaya mo mag tour sa dilikado na lugar , base sa nabasa ko sa experience mo sa somalia , talagang may determination ka.

    Thanks & God Bless u more
    Joel Abapo

  16. Great piece of writing, I’m planning my trip exploring NE Africa and will do the land border crossing late Oct 2018. Can’t wait to explore!

  17. Thanks dear Really you are talking reality Somaliland is peaceful plz Again came back our country in Hargeisa

  18. Fantastic story by a brave young lady. Your courage and honesty are very much appreciated. The world needs a lot of people like you. May you be safe in all places you travel. Long live the Philippines. Long live Somaliland.

  19. Hi,
    I wish you stayed longer and visited more places. Somaliland is a vast and a beatiful country. There are many more cave paintings, beautiful white-sand beahes and colorful mountains. The weather is great, there is 12 months of sunshine. You can scud-dive, mountain hike and visit almost undiscovered archeological sites all in the same day.
    Somaliland is safe country with a welocoming and friendly people.
    Wow! You have painted the Somaliland picture with diligency and within one day- that is what I call talented, honest and courageous lady. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

  20. I believe the young lady explored the reality of Somaliland. Regardless ill-feeling of many Somalis against Somaliland, it will maintain its enlighten corner in the Horn.

    Very soon, every thing will change.

    Thanks for your clear message to those hate Somaliland.

    Mohammad Osman
    Riyadh, K.S.A.

  21. Hey beautiful lady, thank you for writting what you saw and its the truth. I love honest lady like you.

  22. As to Saftey nothing has changed,I lived in Somaliland as a young man 1957 to 1960 never felt unsafe,Somali’s wonderful people.

  23. Thank you so much, for your clear message to the world. you really did good view from The Somaliland country.

  24. Thanks a lot Kach for your beautiful article and appreciate your honest views about Somaliland. We are Safe, kind and welcoming nation with a huge potential about tourism lot of natural resources and we have a beautiful healthy corral in our see.

  25. Thank you for useful tips.
    For me as a traveler it’s very interesting.
    I’d like to travel in Somaliland. I’m young traveler and photographer, so i think it’s interesting place.
    I hope that I will not have problems with entering this country.
    The only thing that can be problematic is the situation with my university,
    I’m interested to know the impressions of those who have already visited this country.
    And how much money should I bring with me?

  26. What an amazing and well crafted article. Thanks for the honesty feedback of my innocent country.
    You are very brave and curious girl and your curiosity exhibited us those Djaboutian immigration officers who are very jealous about our development.
    Somaliland is the most beautiful and safest country in Africa.

  27. Shame on the Djiboutian Immigration officer who is trying spread lies about Somaliland some how he is a hater.

    Thank you for telling the truth.

  28. Thank you very much for your visit Miss Howe. i am attracted your determination, & decision to experience what’s right, or reversely stories intentionally said #Rep of #Somaliland image.

    Truly speaking, you proved how it’s good one to verify whatever being told, instead of regretting latter, after acknowledging its TRUTH.

    Once more, congratulating your visit to Somaliland, and request if you had chance to return it, with free expenses during your visit over promise (just inform me prior travel through my email) and witness saga behind reason nicknamed OASIS of #PEACE. regards

  29. Thank you very much and I hope next time u come we will be recognised so we can build more roads and pavements and better public transport system.now thing for the beggars u saw in Hargeisa are 98% Ethiopian Oromo .somalilanders are very proud people

  30. The story and the feeling of it were all humble and honest. Wish you had seen more of the country and its beauty. So many wrong information were given to you about Somaliland, but you proven them all wrong because of your bravery and the strength of your personalities, kudos. It will a pleasure to have you back again.

  31. After reading your blog, I feel to go there. Till now, I was thinking Somaliland is a place where a tourist may not be comfortable. Your tips and inspiration is great to follow..thanks and regards

  32. It’s wonderfull journey I like your story including your journey picture and how you ride the cars it’s some thing very amazing
    Great you are a brave lady

  33. Thanks Your Visit my Country Come Back Another Time We Welcome Open hands, This Documentry Is Very Important bro

  34. Thanks for your visit to Somaliland, it’s a very clear picture to sick people who are against Somaliland peace and prosperity. Welcome back and meet the people who are very pleasure to show you the history of this country.

  35. Thank you so much for visiting my Somaliland. Next time you come, please ask around for a local guide who will be glad to help with transportation and free of charge. We receive our guest with hospitality and dignity. Glad you didn’t listen to that crude and jeolous Djiboutian guys. Please come back again and discover Somaliland and its wonderful people.

  36. Thank you. You have a clear picture of real Somaliland. Next time you came to somaliland get the right people to show you around.It is very safe to use public transport when travelling.

  37. Thanks you cleared our peace and prosperity onthe ather hand you panished your journey the jealous peaple.

  38. Thank you so Much. U really discover how Somaliland and its people are. Really it makes me to put down, stop my Work and sit back to read your story. Its showing the world Somaliland is peaceful country which is not part of Somalia.

    Djiboutian Immigration Staffs should know their Hateness and Jaleousness for Somaliland.

    Our country we didnt build a water but our Bloods.

    Thank u soo much and Come back in Somaliland.

    It does not matter tha nationality u have and religion u believe. Somaliland is Just like your Home. There is love and peace. Come Again

    1. Thank you so much you really cleared the peace allah gave us you told indirectly jealous people and those dislike us .

  39. I think that your courage and courageous determination to know what is rumored about our country,led to your own self-examination, what are the real conditions ,,, I congratulate you on your courage and thank you for your valuable report about our country. I hope to see you again and visit our country and you are always welcome

  40. You practically test and check and finally knew a lot about Somali land , your previous believe about that guys ( Djiboutian immigration guys ) propaganda is totally become false . Thanks dear and will come to Somali land any time .

    1. Hi Abdirachid, and thanks for your comment. Could you please share some nice places to discover in east and west Somaliland?

  41. Wow strong lady I admire your courage and your determination to visited this blessing land I really loved your friendly feedback with details about somaliland and you are more than welcome to back any time

  42. What a nicely arranged and professional written trip story, guidance tips for travelers, full ground information contained in this work!
    I appreciate your bravery and curiosity to visit to Somaliland and your kind expression you delivered to every one thinking bad about Somaliland.

  43. Thank you for portraying the facts Somaliland is one of the worlds most friendliest people glad that you concluded your Africa journey Africa’s best kept secret.. Somaliland.

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Written by Kach Umandap

Founder of Two Monkeys Travel Group. Since 2013, Kach has visited all the 7 continents (including Antarctica) and 151 countries using her Philippines Passport. In 2016, she bought a sailboat and went on sailing adventures with her two cats - Captain Ahab & Little Zissou in the Caribbean for 2 years. She now lives in Herceg Novi, Montenegro where she's enjoying her expat life and living on a gorgeous Stonehouse. She writes about her experiences traveling as a Filipina traveler with a PHL Passport. Also tips on backpacking trips, luxury hotel experiences, product reviews, sailing & adventure travel.