,, The price level is not high (we stayed in Hargeisa in a relatively decent hotel with breakfasts for $ 15 per day). The people as a whole are pleasant and benevolent. Unlike in most African and Arab countries, there are almost no beggars.
The country has exciting nature, magnificent beaches. Still, the top attractions are related to the history of human development, the most famous of which is located 50 km from Hargeisa: Laas Gil (or Las Gil), a complex of rocky cliffs with magnificently preserved rock carvings and has an approximate age of about 10,000 years.
The main plots are images of livestock and pastoralists-hunters [, there are also images of giraffes that lived in this region several millennia ago. In translation from the Somali language, "Laas-Gil" means "Camel well". In December 2002, this complex with rock paintings was discovered by a French scientific expedition. Las Gil is the most significant Neolithic monument in all of Africa and one of the largest in the world. Facility funded by France.
There is no doubt that the recognition of Somaliland would dramatically increase the flow of tourists, and Las Gil would be included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Five best experiences in Somaliland:
I was getting high on khat.
Khat is a drug, literally, a plant with amphetamine effects typically consumed in the Horn of Africa and Yemen and extremely popular throughout Somalia.
If you travel to Somaliland, you must spend at least one afternoon eating khat with the locals.
If you can taste good quality things, it can be a good experience.
Feeding the gazelles
What was the highlight of my trip to Somaliland?
Hard to say, my trip was great overall, but what surprised me the most was going to have breakfast at a random cafe in Berbera and suddenly being surrounded by gazelles.
I won't go into the ethical question of having wild animals in your garden, but many bars have gazelles that roam freely in their garden, and if you get some leaves from a tree, they won't hesitate to approach you.
Somaliland is a very traditional country where livestock markets abound, and I highly recommend you visit one such market in Hargeisa.
Backpacking in Somaliland is one of those trips where, honestly, there isn't much to do, but the highlight is meeting new people.
Expect lots of smiles, people asking you for photos, and endless invitations to chew-khat.
The only real tourist attraction experience is visiting some caves containing around 5,000 rock art paintings, some of the most impressive and well preserved of this particular type in Africa. One of the highlights of my visit to Somaliland.
There are international flights from Hargeisa Airport.
Getting around the country is very easy and cheap.
Most cities are connected by buses, including Boroma, Berbera, or Burao, and you simply have to go to the bus station and inquiry about departure times. In Hargeisa, the bus station is located in the city center.
However, getting around is slow, as the roads are not in good condition.
If you want to go south of Boroma, to Zeyla and the border with Djibouti, you need a 4×4, but you can share it with other locals if you go to the station.
The country is not rich, and this dramatically affects the infrastructure - the asphalt road goes from Hargeisa to the seaport of Berbera (until 1941, the capital of Somaliland), the rest of the roads are mostly unpaved with all the ensuing consequences (bumps, stones, sand drifts, etc.).
Tips on how to travel to Somaliland by land (2021)
How to travel to Somaliland from Djibouti? - I used this option, and it was easy. In Djibouti, there is a departure point for the 4 × 4 to Somaliland, and I am specifying the 4 × 4 because, once you cross the border, there are no roads to Borama - almost 300 km later - but only desert and sand. So it was almost an adventure.
How to travel to Somaliland from Ethiopia? It is very easy. I used it to get out of Somaliland. The closest and most famous city is Harar, but you may not find direct transport to the border; but you should first go to Jijiga, the capital of Ethiopian Somalia.
How to travel to Somaliland from Oman? You can enter Somaliland via Berbera from Salalah (Oman) by boat, and it is entirely legal and doable. I actually met a couple of tourists who did on a cargo ship, but they had to wait in Salalah for almost three weeks before the boat left.
How to travel to Somaliland from Somalia? This border is closed to foreigners.
No tourists ever visit Somaliland for food. This country is one of the worst countries I have been to when it comes to food.
Okay, it's not that bad, but it's just dull, bare, and there's nothing memorable, apart from some fresh fish I ate in Berbera. That was good.
Their main dish, which they eat all day, is a lentil stew called "penis", literally pronounced as "penis" I'm not kidding. So when you walk into a bar, you say you want a "penis," and they'll bring you these lentils.
In addition to this, pasta with tomato sauce is also the main dish but, as you can imagine, it is not a good pasta.
They always eat with their hand, even a plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce.
Eating khat is a kind of way of life in Somaliland. All men eat it and after all life in the countryside stops from lunchtime until the evening. Regardless of all the social issues that khat has brought to Somali society, it is an interesting event to see and experience. Khat gets you high (if you get good quality leaves, which cost $ 10), but you have to chew it (and swallow it) for at least a couple of hours, washing it with soda or any sweet drink because khat is exceptionally bitter.
The official currency is the Somaliland shilling with the largest denomination being 5,000 shillings. Coins were issued only as souvenirs.
US dollars are accepted basically everywhere. So you don't even need to change money. However, having some local currency is a bit convenient as, in traditional places, you'll always get the price in shillings, so you don't have to make tiresome calculations.
You can easily change money in many places. Still, I recommend going to the money market in Hargeisa, which is an attraction in itself as you can see the locals loaded with hundreds of bricks in cash (bankrolls). Most of the bricks are made up of 1000 banknotes, which means they don't have much money in their hands.
2021: Alcohol is illegal in Somaliland. It's only available on the black market, but some locals do it on their own at home, and you're likely to see some people drunk at night.
I arrived in the city of Boroma at 3 am and, while I was looking for a hotel, this disturbing local approached me holding a plastic bottle with a strange opaque white liquid. He was massively drunk, drooling and trying to hug me or something, but it was effortless to push him away. After a few days, a young and educated local told me that homemade alcohol is a big deal in Somaliland. Still, most of it is so strong and dangerous, so seeing people as messed up as that Boroma guy is very regular.
International credit cards are not accepted, but there are some ATMs in Hargeisa from which you can withdraw some USD for a 3% commission.
You could cash out a few hundred with your Mastercard.
These banks are Premiere Bank and Dahabshil Bank, and you can find their ATMs in the center of Hargeisa.
Check the Hargeisa money market. (2021)
Price of the most typical things (in 2021):
Meal in a local : 10,000 Sh
Meal in a local (with meat): 20,000 Sh
Meal in a mid-range eatery: 30,000-40,000 Sh
Main course at a great restaurant: $ 8- $ 12
Fresh juice: 10,000 Sh
1L water: 2.000-3.000 Sh
Local bus to virtually any city: 20,000-40,000 Sh
Budget accommodation: $ 10- $ 15
Mid-Range Accommodation: Starting at $ 25
2021: Before leaving for Somaliland, I heard that a police escort was mandatory in some areas, practically everywhere outside of Hargeisa, and you would be assigned one upon your arrival at that destination.
That was not my case (and I have visited many places and gone through many checkpoints).
At first, I thought it might be an old rule that no longer applied, but I heard a woman was traveling alone who visited Somaliland just a few weeks before me, and the police assigned her an escort.
That means that it could only depend on the mood and perception of the policeman and, since Somalis are an extremely patriarchal society, you may have a better chance of getting a police escort if you are a woman traveling alone.
Funny story: A guy, a colossal crook, followed me for about one hour, pretending to be a police escort and, as proof, he wore a shirt that clearly said "escort", but he was too stupid to understand that his shirt meant being a male escort (like one accompanying a woman). He made up this story to get some money, of course.
2021: Somaliland is safe, but Somalia is not.
All the negative things you see in the media about Somalia that refer to pirates, bombs, or Al Shabab actually happen in mainland Somalia.
There have been some terrorist attacks in Somaliland, yes, but the last one was in 2008, a long time ago, and nothing has happened since then, plus the country enjoys one of the lowest crime rates in the world.
1. The cost of visas in different missions is different (for example, in Addis Ababa, $ 70, in Djibouti, you do not need to pay anything, but upon entry from the stamped representative office in Djibouti, they will take $ 30).
2. All the hotels have Wi-Fi, not very fast, but it works pretty well. Outside of the hotels (except for an upscale restaurant in Hargeisa), you may hardly find Wi-Fi for public use. (2021)
3. As this used to be a British colony, you meet many Somalis who speak impeccable English, and most people will know a few essential words.
They use a lot of English words in their language, like numbers, for example. Language shouldn't be a problem when traveling to Somaliland.
4. Visa for Somaliland upon arrival:
If you arrive by plane, you can get a VOA (Visa on Arrival) if previously agreed with your hotel in Hargeisa.
Hotels can organize your VOA:
However, only citizens of the EU, the United States, Canada, China, and some other Asian countries can apply for a VOA. Still, I recommend that you contact the hotel to learn about all the requirements and their rates.
Typically, a VOA costs $ 60, plus potential hotel commissions.
Neighboring countries: Djibouti (northwest), Ethiopia (west), Somalia (east), and the Gulf of Aden (north)
Population (in 2021): 5.7 million
Religions: Islam is the state religion. it is forbidden to promote any other religion. Almost all the inhabitants of Somaliland are Sunni Muslims, but in everyday life, no excessive religiosity is noticeable.
All Somalis speak Somali in the Cushitic language, the family of many languages spoken in northeastern Africa.
It is difficult to describe how it sounds, but I can tell you that they use some Arabic words, as Arabs have been trading in this region for centuries, and in fact, Arabic is widely taught in schools.
For their writing, they use the Latin alphabet.
Average monthly net salary (in 2021): 360 USD
Somaliland is an unrecognized state that controls the territory of the former British protectorate (formerly "British Somalia"). Not internationally recognized, but de facto a full-fledged state, with its army, borders, currency, foreign policy, regular elections.
The country's territory is arid, with alternation of deserts and savannas.
A part of the territory is characterized by low-mountainous relief (height up to 2416 m - high-mountainous relief (the highest point is Mount Shimbiris). There is Haud - an internal plateau where the bulk of the country's population is located.
Best time to visit Somaliland
Somaliland can get quite hot in the summer, especially the coastal part, with temperatures averaging 45 ° C.
Hargeisa is located at 1300m, so that the weather may be slightly cooler there, but summer is still not a good time to go.
Therefore, the best time to visit Somaliland is from November to March.
I visited it at the end of January, and the weather was fantastic, especially in Hargeisa, where the temperature never exceeded 25 ° C, and one day even rained.
Somaliland has been a British colony since 1887. In 1960, Somalia was formed from two colonies - Italian Somalia and British Somalia. At the same time, the State of Somaliland formally existed as an independent state from June 26 to July 1, 1960, and there was no referendum among the inhabitants of the status. In subsequent years, the people of Somaliland felt de facto to be a particular part of Somalia. In 1988, the dictatorial regime of M. Siad Barre began suppressing the National Movement (SNM) and other rebel groups operating in Somaliland. As a result of the bombing, Hargeisa and Berbera were severely damaged. In the center of Berbera, a lot of ruins are still visible.
On May 18, 1991, the local authorities, led by the SNM, announced the restoration of independence from the rest of Somalia. In 2003, a referendum was held on the territory, where, according to official data, about 99% of residents voted for independence and the adoption of the new Constitution of Somaliland.
Somaliland is a rare example of electoral democracy in Africa. In 2010, the new president, Ahmed Silano, leader of the Kulmiye (Peace, Unity and Development Party) party, was democratically elected. Previously, he participated in the 2003 elections and received 205,515 (41.21%) votes, against 205,595 (41.23%) votes from Dahir Riyal Kahin, who then won. However, in the elections on June 26, 2010, he received 266,906 (49.59%) votes against 178,881 (33.23%) from the defeated incumbent President Dahir Rial Kahin.
"Greater Somalia" is an unstable state with a weak government that does not control large territories occupied by Islamists or simply clans or bandit groups. In contrast, Somaliland is a much more secure and stable state. Paradoxically, the recognized state is partly fictitious, and the unrecognized state is much more stable and well organized.
The topic of piracy has nothing to do with Somaliland: it occurs on the territory of the so-called Puntland, which occupies the north of "Greater Somalia" (the very tip of the "Horn of Africa."
The basis of the economy is the transit of goods to the Berbera port from Ethiopia, assistance from international organizations (for example, UNICEF), various Arab funds (for example, a college in Hargeisa was built with Kuwait's money).
Ethiopia, Djibouti, Great Britain, France, USA, Belgium, Ghana, South Africa, and Sweden have diplomatic representation in Hargeisa. These are de facto embassies.
The topic of discussing the future international recognition of the state has been repeatedly delayed. On May 18, 2011, in Nairobi on the 20th anniversary of the independence of Somaliland and on July 9 of the same year in Juba at the ceremony of the declaration of independence of South Sudan, Deputy Foreign Minister of Kenya Richard Onyonka even announced that Kenya also plans to recognize the independence of Somaliland.
Somaliland has always felt like an independent nation and, for many reasons, mainly conflicts and political problems, 1991 Somaliland decided to declare itself independence from Somalia.
However, no one has recognized him as such and, when I say no one, I mean no one, not even his former colonizer (the UK), the Olympic committee, FIFA, or the World Bank. Nothing.
A different interpretation of the situation: Somaliland is alone, abandoned and, even if they have full right to become independent, they will never, as this decision has been delegated to the African Union, and they do not want to recognize them because this could lead to a massive African revolution, as hundreds of minorities across the continent could say the same thing.
Somaliland comprises mostly Somalis; a huge ethnic group spread across Djibouti, eastern Ethiopia, northern Kenya, and, of course, Somalia.
Somalia is the most homogeneous African country, ethnically speaking.
It is a very patriarchal society - very conservative Muslim - in which I believe that women have very few rights. I do not remember seeing a single woman who did not wear hijab in the areas I visited.
Apart from that, Somalis are friendly, warm, and welcoming people, but, of course, this is an impoverished country, and sometimes you meet people who, at first, seem just to want to talk but then ask for money.
The Turkish-controlled Berbera was discovered for Europeans in the 19th century when the first expeditions of British explorers were organized here. One such trip by explorer Richard Burton in 1855 ended in a bloody massacre by residents. Burton managed to escape to Aden, although many of his associates were killed.
The city of Berbera is the oldest seaport in Africa, known in antiquity as Malao (the first mention of the city dates back to the 13th century); this is the only protected harbor on the southern coast of the Gulf of Aden. The construction of the deep-water port was completed in 1969 with the assistance of Soviet military engineers.