Djibouti: Expensive, Difficult and Dirty – A visit April 2017
July 2017: A report by a cruising boat which called in at Djibouti on their way to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal.
Published 6 years ago, updated 4 years ago
Djibouti was visited from 13 to 18 April 2017.
You don’t need an agent for Djibouti, but in some ways, you can wish there was one. (Especially after you have met Mr Mohamed in Suakin.) It would make it may be easier to navigate the difficulties.
There is a change for visas because before you could stay for 72 hours without paying for a visa but that rule is gone now. You can choose to stay 72 hours for US $60- . or have a visa for 30 days for US $90.- All have to be paid in US$ and they don’t have change. The 72 hours are short because it takes already half a day to clear in and out. Clear out fee was for us ( 3 people) US $ 40.-
When you arrive you are escorted to an anchorage near the Coastguard station (Port de Peche). For Clearing in you then have to go to the commercial harbor about a mile away which you can do with your dinghy but as soon as you tie your dinghy to a bollard there come men who will “guard” it for say US$20- (3.500 DJF) Coast Guard advised us not to pay more than 700 DJF. but they were angry about that so we paid 1000 in the end. They still were angry…For the duration of your stay you can, after asking and getting permission, tie your dinghy to the Coast Guard Station’s dock. No problem.
We didn’t like Djibouti very much. It is expensive, dirty and it is difficult to get things done and there is at times some harassment. Especially transport is expensive as the anchorage is far from the centre of the town. No public transport to Port de Peche (Anchorage) so you need a “taxi”. Everybody tries to overcharge you and everybody wants your money. Pay no more than 500 DJF for a ride to town. (2.50 US$)
At the same place as the immigration office is there is a duty-free shop. You can pay in local money or US$, prices are not unreasonable but they have limited stock If you see what you like then buy it immediately because the next day it can be gone.
Water is a problem and the only solution is to buy 20-litre bottles at the Nougaprix supermarket or the Casino. But beware: You have to pay a ridiculous amount of deposit for those bottles to the supermarket so after having filled your tanks and having taken the bottles back to the supermarket (all with taxis…) you have a lot of cash money in your hands so don’t leave that till your last day…There are some men in Port de Peche who offer to get you “drinking water” but that is terrible disgusting brackish water. They ask a ridiculous amount of money for it and you get it in dirty jerrycans. Laundry is difficult to organize so we used the “drinking water” for laundry after getting the price down. In the end, we paid 0.08 US$ per litre. (180 litres for 3000 DJF).
The Nougaprix supermarket in town has an ATM machine next to it and there you can also get US dollars from the ATM and local Djibouti Francs. The other supermarket is the Casino, which is on the other side of the town and a long (and expensive) trip with a taxi, at least 1000 local Francs. The supermarkets are good but both expensive so you don’t see many locals there.
Diesel is US$ 1 per litre, plus the taxi ride, of course.
The Internet is impossible to understand how it works. We bought a SIM card at the local Telecom (bring your passport!) and a card to top up in town but they were not compatible and nobody could explain to us what we had to do to get it working. The solution is to go to Kempinski Hotel, buy a coffee and get the internet password. You only can reach Kempinsky by taxi and it cost 1000 DJF. (from the anchorage). There are also some public computers available at the hotel. Other Hotels, like Marriot charge internet use by the hour. Quite expensive.
Our recommendation is to go to Djibouti only if it is really necessary. For the beauty of the town, you don’t have to do it because its horrible. We went there to try to get some work done on the steering cables (new ferrules and swages). We had hoped with all the warships in the harbour there was maybe a workshop who could help us but that was wishful thinking. We tried to find a chandler-shop but there isn’t one in town and hardware shops didn’t sell what we needed. We had help from some local Americans but in the end, it didn’t work. As soon as you need something special for the boat you can’t forget it in some of the countries along the Red Sea.
Our Buddy boat went, after Socotra, to Massawa, Eritrea. We caught up with each other in Suakin, Sudan. They were happy with their choice but the whole crew contracted food poisoning one of the first days in a town so they were there for two weeks. Going in or out of Massawa was no problem. In any case, everything was cheaper than Djibouti.
Our next stop was Suakin after a very good sail up the Red Sea.
Report by Karin from Amber Nectar.