Birdwatching in Eritrea
Eritrea Travel & Accommodation
Getting to Eritrea
The only easy way to get to Eritrea is to fly there. All flights come into Asmara Airport. Lufthansa and Egypt Air run weekly connections from Europe. The Yemeni national airline Yemenia also flies to Asmara. Many flights arrive during the night.
Remember that you need to get a visa before you arrive in Eritrea. Tourist visas can be obtained easily from Eritrean Embassies and Consulates for about $50-60US, and last 1 month.
Binoculars and Telescopes
Currently, travellers need special permission to bring binoculars into the country. Contact Solomon Abraha at Travel House International for more information about this. If they are necessary, Solomon can get permission for you. See below for his contact details.
Asmara Airport is only a short distance outside the city. Taxis usually cost about 300Nfa. ($20) to get to town. Buses run every hour or so during the day if you want to save some cash, and cost only 1 Nakfa. You can pay on the bus. The number 1 is the only bus that goes from the airport to the centre of town, but it stops running at about 9pm and starts again at about 6am, so if you arrive in the middle of the night, you'll have to get a taxi.
There is a $20US airport tax fee to pay on leaving Eritrea.
Accommodation in Asmara
Asmara has a full range of accommodation, ranging from European prices and standards at the Hotel Intercontinental, to the pensions dotted around the town centre, which can cost as little as 30Nfa a night (but beware of bed-bugs if you go this cheap!).
Here are some recommendations at different prices, going from most expensive to cheapest:
Travelling Around Eritrea
There are many complications to travelling around Eritrea (listed below) so my first recommendation is to organise your trip through an experienced travel agent. Solomon Abraha runs Travel House International and should definitely be your first point of contact. As well as being one of the best, most professional and most experienced travel agents, he himself is one of Eritrea's keenest birdwatchers, and speaks both English and Italian excellently. What more do you need? Here are the contact details for Travel House:
Travel House International No 5, 175-5 Street, PO Box 5579. Telephone: 201881; 201882; 201883. Fax: 120064; 120751. www.travelhouseeritrea.com
Travel around Eritrea is best organised through an experienced travel agent. Travel permits are necessary for all destinations, and whilst they are not difficult to get, you could waste a lot of time dealing with bureaucracy if you don't know the system. If you want to try yourself, the relevant office is the Ministry of Tourism on Asmara Avenue, almost opposite the distinctive Catholic Cathedral (St Mary's). Most permits cost about 20 Nfa, although for some destinations such as Filfil and archaeological sites (Qohaito, Adulis, Metera) they cost 70 Nfa, and may require a separate permit. The Ministry of Tourism will explain the procedure.
2 basic options exist: Car hire or public transport on Eritrean buses.
Car hire can be organised through several organisations, listed below. Prices are similar to those in the west, currently at 1000Nfa per day (about $70US) for a saloon car, and up to 2000Nfa per day (about $140US) for a 4-wheel drive. A 4-wheel drive is strongly recommended, especially because many good birding locations are accessed along unsurfaced roads.
Africa Car Rental: Tel: 121755
Alfa: Tel: 201355
Dina: Tel: 116124
Leo Rent a Car: Tel: 202307
Sahil Car Rental: Tel: 125804 (located at 171 Harnet Avenue in the centre)
Star Car Rental: Tel: 126849
Travel House International: Tel: 120208 (located near the centre, on 175-5 St. opposite Casa degli Italiani)
Whilst it is possible, very cheap and an interesting way to meet people, travelling on the local buses often involves long waits and uncomfortable travel conditions on board. The bus stations are located in a cluster about 2km to the north of the town centre. They are near to the "Media Eritra" Markets. If you ask people, they'll direct you there. Ask for the bus station for the town you want to get to, and most people know. If you'd prefer to try in Tigrinya, ask for 'Nay awtobus metsebey nab...' with the name of the town. When you get there, ask people for the bus by saying the name of the town. You'll soon be pointed in the right direction. As a foreigner you'll likely be pushed to the front of the queue. If not, queues are often lines of bags, rocks and tin cans, and you need to put your bag at the right end. Occasionally written lists exist, and you need to add your name. For some locations, buses fill up slowly, so you may be able to get straight on without queuing, but you may have to wait an hour or two for the bus to fill before it will leave. Waiting times are completely unpredictable, although usually between 1 and 3 hours. Buses rarely leave after dark. Fares are very cheap (at the time of writing - 28Nfa to Adi Keih, 17Nfa to Keren, 20Nfa. to Massawa). Once you have reached your destination town, you can easily get around on foot if you like trekking, and you should easily be able to find a local person who is willing to show you the sights and take you to the birdwatching locations described on this website. They may expect or hope for a small fee/tip, which you should negotiate in advance. As I mentioned above, this is a great way to meet the friendly, hospitable Eritreans, and get a feel for life from their point of view.
Good current maps of Eritrea do not exist. The only one you are likely to be able to get hold of is the International Travel Map (Scale: 1:900,000) published by ITMB Publishing in Canada. Without wanting to criticise the only map available, be warned that there are lots of mistakes on this map, including place names that are wrong, or old fashioned, places omitted, obsolete roads, etc. So always ask for local advice, or take somebody with you who knows the area.
Recommended Further Reading
The Bradt Guide to Eritrea by Edward Denison was republished in 2007 and the information therein is far more comprehensive. I recommend investing in a copy for your trip.
|Bird Checklist for Eritrea|
|Travel & Accommodation|
|Adi Keih Birdwatching|
|Dahlak Islands Birdwatching|
|Elabered / Keren Birdwatching|
|Gash Barka Birdwatching|
|Children and Schools|