What makes Comoros a unique country to travel to?
The Union of the Comoros is a developing nation located in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa. Comoros consists of three islands--Ngazidja (also known as Grand Comore), Moheli, and Anjouan--that cover about 900 square miles. A fourth island, Mayotte, officially changed status from a French “collectivity” to an actual French Department in March 2011. All four islands are within the consular jurisdiction of the U.S. Embassy in Antananarivo, Madagascar. Ngazidja is home to the capital city, Moroni, and is the most developed of the three islands. Facilities for tourism are limited and telecommunication links are unreliable. French, Arabic, Swahili, and Comoran are spoken.
You should be vigilant against pickpocketing and other forms of petty crime when visiting crowded market areas, parks, and at the beaches. Violent crime is uncommon; Moheli, for example, has not reported a homicide in decades. The most commonly reported crime is home break-ins. Most reported crimes are crimes of opportunity.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
While you are traveling in another country, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. In some places you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. In some places driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in your host country, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going.
Persons violating the laws of Comoros, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs in Comoros are strict, with convicted offenders receiving a mandatory minimum five-year jail sentence and heavy fines.
Arrest notifications in host country: While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas. Please note that there is no official permanent U.S. presence in Comoros – such official notification to U.S. authorities must be made to the U.S. Embassy in Madagascar, and may therefore be extremely slow.
Even though, Arabic and French are the official languages, most people speak Comoran, a mixture of Arabic and Swahili.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
Medical care is substandard throughout the country including Grande Comore. Adequate evacuation insurance coverage for all travelers is a high priority. Travelers should carry their own supplies of prescription drugs and preventive medicines. Malaria is prevalent in Comoros. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that travelers to Comoros should take one of the following antimalarial drugs: mefloquine (Lariam™), doxycycline, or atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone™). Other protective measures, such as the use of bed nets and insect repellants, help to reduce malaria risk. Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area, and up to one year after returning home, should seek prompt medical attention, and tell the physician their travel history and what antimalarials they have been taking. For additional information on malaria, protection from insect bites, and antimalarial drugs, please visit the CDC Travelers' Health web pages. The East African Indian Ocean islands have seen a rise in the cases of chikungunya, a viral dengue-like ailment, and dengue itself. As with malaria, chikungunya and dengue are transmitted by mosquitoes. Every effort should be made to use bed nets, repellants, proper clothing, and other barriers that discourage/prevent mosquito bites. The CDC has further information on chikungunya and dengue on its website. Rabies vaccines should be considered for shorter stays for adventure travelers, hikers, backpackers, or rural travelers who are staying more than 24 hours away from a reliable source of human rabies immune globulin and rabies vaccine for post-exposure treatment. Take seriously all bat, carnivore, and other mammal bites or scratches, and seek post-exposure prophylaxis even if already immunized.
There is a high risk of marine hazards (jellyfish, coral, and sea urchins) as well as traveler’s diarrhea throughout the country. Food and beverage precautions are essential in order to reduce chances of illness. Travelers should carry loperamide (Imodium®) and/or a quinolone (Ciprofloxacin) antibiotic for presumptive self-treatment, if diarrhea occurs.
Safety and Security
Comoros has experienced occasional strikes and civil unrest, resulting in violent clashes between police and demonstrators, and has a history of coups since becoming independent. We recommend that U.S. citizens exercise extreme caution near demonstrations and avoid political rallies and street demonstrations as even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence.
Conditions change rapidly on the islands of the Comoros due to weak political institutions and a lack of economic development. Reports of religious-based violence are rare.
Although foreign residents and visitors have not been targeted for violence, the potential for further outbreaks of civil disorder remains, and U.S. citizens should exercise caution and good judgment, keep a low profile, and remain vigilant.
Running water and electric power are unreliable, even at the most upscale hotels on the islands, and nonexistent for the most part outside the few urban areas. Care should be taken to ensure that water is potable and that food is cleaned and properly cooked.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Comoros, you will encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. In Comoros, one drives on the right side of the street. Roads are ill-maintained, congested, very narrow, and poorly lit at night. Travelers should exercise extreme caution when driving after dark, or walking along trafficked roads. Some urban roads are paved, but many rural roads are not. Most roads are full of potholes and dangerous curves. Roads have no posted speed limits, but road conditions limit speeds to well below 30 miles an hour. Drivers and front seat passengers are required to wear seat belts. There are no laws regarding child safety seats. There are no organizations in Comoros that provide emergency or roadside assistance. Individuals involved in accidents rely on passersby for assistance. Taxis or a rental car with driver are preferable to public transportation.