Traffic and Road Conditions in Eritrea

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions

While in Eritrea, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. According to the World Health Organization’s first report on global road safety in September 2009, Eritrea’s roads are deadly. The roads between major cities (Asmara, Massawa, Mendefera, Dekemhare, Barentu, and Keren) are paved and in relatively good condition, though winding mountain roads do not generally have guardrails. Secondary roads and roads in remote areas are usually unpaved and in poor condition. U.S. citizens should avoid traveling on these roads, especially at night. Bad weather can also make the condition of poor roads worse. If you must take unpaved roads, check first with local government and village officials as new minefields continue to be discovered. Even in Asmara city, some road surfaces have deteriorated to dangerous conditions. Eritreans are found travelling on foot nearly everywhere due to lack of transportation, often dressed in dark clothing and in unlit areas at night, which creates unpredictable and dangerous situations on roads. Street lighting may not exist in some locations, and power outages continue to leave some neighborhoods in the dark. Speed limits may not be obeyed. Travelers should check with the Embassy of Eritrea regarding drivers’ license requirements prior to your traveling to Eritrea.

Landmines and unexploded ordnance litter the countryside in many areas, occasionally causing injuries and deaths. Although the UN conducted de-mining efforts until late 2007, evidence of new mines has been reported, particularly in areas near the Ethiopian border. All areas that are not well traveled are potentially dangerous due to live mines, especially north and west of Keren. There are also minefields near Massawa, Ghinda, Agordat, Barentu, south of Tessenae, Nakfa, Adi Keih, Arezza, Dekemhare, and in a roughly 40-kilometer (24.8 mile) wide region just west of the Eritrean-Ethiopian border between the Setit and Mereb Rivers.

Many Eritreans use inexpensive public transportation, especially bus service. Travelers should avoid taking buses due to extreme over-crowding. Taxis are plentiful and inexpensive in Asmara, but usually carry multiple passengers along pre-defined routes. If an empty taxi is available, a customer may request a "contract" taxi, which accepts no additional passengers, for a higher fixed price. Drivers should be aware of heavy and erratic pedestrian, livestock, and bicycle traffic obstructing vehicle flow. Children and the elderly sometimes wander into the path of moving traffic, as do slow, motorized carts. Elderly or disabled people may not always yield to faster moving traffic.

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