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Somaliland is the country that isn’t. Still unrecognised by the rest of the world despite more than twenty years of de facto independence, Somaliland is an exciting nation reverberating with fascinating history and nomadic heritage. Our group tours and tailor made holidays to Somaliland take you to a country that could not be further off the tourist trail, and can rightly be considered to be one of the last true frontiers of African travel. From the modern capital Hargeisa to the ancient port of Berbera, from desert communities to some of the best rock art on the continent, Somaliland has much to offer the intrepid traveller. It’s a wonder that more people haven’t woken up to the subtle charms of this intriguing nation. But then perhaps that’s no bad thing – travelling in Somaliland carries an air of excitement that more popular destinations fail to match.
3 Hours Before Flight Time
Arrive border between Djibouti and Somaliland (Lawya-cado), drive to Zeila probably dates to the 7th century, indicating that the seeds of Islam were planted on the African side of the Gulf of Aden within decades of the prophet’s lifetime, visit ruined An old mosque in the town of Zeila, one of the oldest ports on the east coast of Africa and other Ottoman empire history building, lunch and drive to Hargeisa and overnight Sugal Hotel or similar hotels
In the early morning, you will explore Hargeisa by visiting the Civil War Memorial and The Central Market. After this, you will visit Laas Geel, the most important rock art site in Africa. The vibrant colours and well-preserved paintings are estimated to be around ten thousand years old. Drive continues to Berbera where you will be taken to your hotel. Here you can hang out on the beach and go for a swim while the sun goes down then overnight Damal Hotel Berbera or similar hotels.
We spend the morning exploring Berbera. After lunch, we leave the city and travel through the mountains to Sheikh, through fantastic scenery with great views of the dry plains below. At Sheikh we visit the ruins of Ferdusa, a city dating back to the 16th century. Back to Berbera, lunch and overnight at Sugal Hotel or similar hotels
Transfer to the airport 3 hours before your departure.
Sorry Maps will be available soon.
Please note that some sections of these tours travel to areas where the British FCO advises against all travel too. Namely the road from Hargeisa to Berbera in Somaliland. We research the security of our destinations highly and safety is a priority for us, however, we advise you do your own research too to ensure you are comfortable with your trip. During the journeys through these areas in Somaliland, we will be travelling with armed guards.
A deposit is taken on the booking ($150) and can be made by credit card (via Paypal) or bank transfer.
Balance can be paid in advance by bank transfer or Paypal and is due 4 weeks prior to departure.
Somaliland visa can be obtained at the airport and borders upon arrival through our sponsorship.
From Djibouti city, there are cars leaving every afternoon from Avenue 26. Go there in the morning, book your seat, and come back in the afternoon after 3 pm. The cars only travel during the night because of the heat. There are no buses, just these public 4WD vehicles so they can basically charge you whatever they want. If they try to charge closer to $100, don’t bother with them then book a flight instead with Djibouti Air at the rate $111 only 35 mins flight. The drive from Djibouti to Hargeisa takes around 20 hours due to the rough road, while private 4WD will take you to Hargeisa 9 hours.
You can easily fly to Somaliland with Ethiopian Airlines. They have direct flights every day two flights (morning and afternoon) from Addis Ababa to Hargeisa and clockwise. Another option is to travel overland by taking a bus from Addis Ababa to Harar and then continue the journey the next by taking a minibus to Jijiga and from there to the border.
There are not so many options when it comes to accommodation, alas; Hargeisa has a few high-end hotels, but we’d recommend Sugaal Hotel, located a street away from the main drag and featuring very friendly and helpful staff.
In Berbera, most tourists stay at the fanciest place in town, the Mansoor Hotel and Damal Hotel.
Tipping is commonly recognised as a way of rewarding guides and drivers for good service. If you are happy with your guide and driver, please consider leaving a tip for them. We recommend that each group member sets aside approximately $15-20 for the guide and $10 for the driver.
If you are not flying to Somaliland from Africa, you are most likely coming from Dubai, FlyDubai and Air Arabia are the only non-African airline company flying to Hargeisa every day.
Somaliland countryside outside Laas Geel It’s de jure (ancient Roman for ‘technically’) part of the failed state of Somalia – or, if you wanna get all technical, the Federal Republic of Somalia. In reality, it’s a de facto independent state. We have a great blog about the difference between Somalia and Somaliland here. So is it an independent country? Basically, yes.
As Somalia circled the drain of failed statehood, Somaliland declared independence in May of 1991 (the same year as Eritrea). At this year’s Independence Day.
That question could be answered with a whole blog unto itself, but the basic distinction between the two is that Somaliland was ruled by the British and what is now Somalia was ruled by the Italians. In 1991 there was something of a disagreement on how the unified country should be run, and Somaliland broke away and established independence. Despite having its own currency, government and electoral process, and basically being a way better country than its counterpart to the south, Somaliland remains unrecognized by the larger world.
In a nice nod to their British colonial roots, they use the Somaliland shilling. The largest note (bill) is a 5000, and when changing money you’ll usually end up with a huge pile of cash. The most common note/bill you’ll see is the 1000 – it’s so common in comparison to the 500-/5000-shilling notes, in fact, that you’d be forgiven for thinking that they don’t exist. The current exchange rate is around 8000 shillings to USD $1. The US dollar is readily accepted in the country, and ATMs in Hargeisa actually dispense crisp US notes. Everyone is aware of the current exchange rate, so you can easily pay in USD and get change in shillings.
Believe it or not, it’s not based entirely around piracy! There’s a fair bit of tourism, especially for country collectors who’d rather not visit the ‘real Somalia’ due to safety concerns.
Somaliland’s main export, however, is livestock. The country’s main economic partners are the Gulf countries, who buy huge quantities of cows, camels and goats. The animals are sent by ship over the Gulf of Aden daily. Animal husbandry and herding are rich and storied practices in Somaliland, and different tribes pride themselves on their individual techniques.
Somaliland is a deeply fascinating country that cries out to be explored. Some would say that it most fully embodied traditional Somali culture, unlike the ‘real’ Somalia to the south that has, arguably, lost its way. The language of the two countries are the same, and the food is very similar. Somaliland is still very much a tribal society, but it has managed to incorporate its tribal culture into a functioning democracy. No small feat, especially when compared with neighbouring countries that are unable to move past their petty internecine conflicts. Tribes in Somaliland are incorporated into the Ministry of the Interior and help arbitrate inter-tribal conflicts. A member of one tribe is guilty of manslaughter against another? The offending tribe pays 100 camels as recompense and everyone moves on.
Somaliland is a hospitable but conservative Muslim society – do not expect to be painting the town red on monster bar crawls. You could, however, end up at a khat party – after Yemen, Somaliland’s consumption of the addictive leaf is one of the highest in the world. The transport infrastructure of the country is surprisingly good; it takes around three hours to get from Hargeisa to Berbera.
The government is very much invested in distancing itself from its southern neighbour and shedding the unsavoury reputation thereof, and so they’ve invested massively in the safety of its few tourists. Somaliland is a very safe and peaceful country; for instance, it’s perfectly safe to walk alone at night in Hargeisa. Guests to the country are also provided with armed escorts – more for the government’s peace of mind than yours!
Do keep in mind that Somaliland remains a poor country; though violent crimes and hotel break-ins are almost completely unheard of, there is a small chance of pickpocketing. As previously mentioned, Somaliland is a conservative Muslim society, and women should dress modestly to avoid unwanted attention. Men should refrain from taking pictures of women in the country, as their male relatives could well take offence to this. Most conflicts are easily resolved with an apology, a smile and a handshake, however!
While you are in Somaliland your dressing must respect the religion and tradition and if you are women dress more conservatively and wear something long.
Somaliland has plenty to offer during your stay! Some of the most vibrant cave paintings in the world can be found in the country – at the site of Las Geel, a few hours away from Hargeisa, you can see numerous millennia-old paintings.
Berbera, the second-biggest city, is by the sea and offers great beaches. You can easily hire a boat and there is a dive shop that can arrange day-long dive trips.
Simple people-watching (not in a pervy way) is one of the most rewarding activities in the country, however. Visit Hargeisa’s bustling market or head to the camel market in the morning for a wild experience.
The country has, surprisingly, some of the cheapest and fastest internets in Africa. There are two main companies, confusingly called Somtel and Telesom. There are a varied and decent number of packages for mobile connectivity. Coverage is good through the country, and buying a SIM card will cost you a princely USD $1. 300 MB of data on top of the SIM’s default package is another USD $1.
No, debit and credit cards are not accepted in Somaliland , however there are ATM machines in Hargeisa.
Alcohol is not available Somaliland where it is illegal. Everyone chews khat instead of drinking alcohol in Somaliland!
USD are accepted in currency exchanges. Make sure to bring cash.