- We strongly advise you not to travel to any part of Somalia because of armed conflict, the ongoing very high threat of terrorist attack and dangerous levels of violent crime, including kidnapping.
- If you are in Somalia, we strongly urge you to leave if it is safe to do so.
- There is no effective police force in Somalia and lawlessness, violent crime, banditry and looting are common.
- On 5 April 2013, the UK Government warned that it believes terrorists are in the final stages of planning attacks in Mogadishu.
- Foreigners, including Australians, face an ongoing very high threat of kidnapping in Somalia and are actively targeted by kidnappers. Western aid workers, journalists and religious representatives have all been targeted by kidnappers.
- Reports of mid-January 2013 indicate that militants may be planning to abduct foreigners in Hargeisa, Somaliland.
- There is an ongoing very high threat of terrorist attack in Somalia. Westerners have been targeted and killed in terrorist attacks throughout the country, including the capital Mogadishu.
- Somali-based militants represent a significant risk to Westerners in Somalia and elsewhere in East Africa. Since early 2010, there has been an increase in major terrorist attacks in Somalia. Somali-based militants have also claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks as far afield as Uganda.
- In October 2011, the Kenyan military launched an incursion into southern Somalia, with the stated aim of pursuing the al-Shabaab extremist group. In response, al-Shabaab has launched attacks within and outside of Somalia. Further attacks are likely to occur.
- On 25 October 2011, two Westerners employed by the Danish Refugee Council were kidnapped in Galkayo in Puntland. Other Westerners kidnapped from Kenya have been held by armed groups in Somalia. A large number of foreigners have been kidnapped in Somalia in recent years. Many remain in captivity.
- Attacks by pirates against all forms of shipping in and around Somalia's waters, the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden remains a serious threat, including at somedistance from the coast. We strongly advise Australians to maintain a high level of vigilance and to exercise extreme caution when sailing/boating anywhere near the Horn of Africa. See our piracy bulletin for further information.
- The Australian High Commission in Kenya is responsible for Somalia, but due to access limitations and the dangerous security situation, the Australian Government's ability to provide consular support to Australian citizens in Somalia is extremely limited.
- Given the extremely dangerous security situation we strongly recommend that you register your travel and contact details with us, so we can contact you in an emergency.
- Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
Entry and exit
Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the Permanent Representative of the Somali Republic to the United Nations (425 East 61st Street, Suite 702, New York, United States, NY10021, telephone (212) 688-9410/5046; fax (212) 759-0651) or the Embassy of the Somali Republic in Kenya (Jabavu Road, Hurlingham, Nairobi, Kenya, telephone (254) (20) 273-6618, Fax (254) (20) 273-6619) for the most up-to-date information.
A valid yellow fever vaccination certificate may be required for entry into Somalia.
Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.
Safety and security
We strongly advise you not to travel to Somalia, including Somaliland and Puntland, because of the very high threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping. Somali militants have publicly threatened to wage jihad battles in Puntland and Somaliland and against Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) targets and Africa Union (AU) peacekeepers elsewhere in Somalia. If you are in Somalia, we strongly urge you to leave if it is safe to do so. If you decide to stay, you should ensure you have appropriate personal security measures in place.
On 5 April 2013, the UK Government warned that it believes terrorists are in the final stages of planning attacks in Mogadishu. Terrorist attacks could occur without warning at anytime, anywhere in Somalia. Past attacks have involved multiple, consecutive explosions. You should avoid any large gatherings and demonstrations as they may turn violent and could be targeted at perceived western interests.
Reports of mid-January 2013 indicate that militants may be planning to abduct foreigners in Hargeisa, Somaliland.
Reports indicate militants continue to plan attacks against foreign oil companies and oil fields in Puntland.
Militant groups represent a significant risk to Australians in Somalia.
In October 2011, the Kenyan military launched an incursion into southern Somalia, with the stated aim of pursuing the al-Shabaab extremist group. In response, al-Shabaab has launched attacks within and outside of Somalia. There have been a number of violent incidents since the Kenyan incursion, especially in Mogadishu. Further attacks are likely to occur. Civilians may be caught up in the fighting. On 17 October 2011, militants reportedly threatened to launch attacks in Somalia in retaliation for military operations within Somalia by Kenyan security forces.
In November 2011, al-Shabaab announced a ban on the operations of 16 UN and non-government organisations from areas in Somalia under al-Shabaab control.
Since early 2010, there has been an increase in major terrorist attacks in Somalia. Somali-based terrorists are now operating on other parts of East Africa. In July 2010, a Somali militant group claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks in Uganda that killed at least 76 civilians.
A number of recent incidents demonstrate the capacity of militants to carry out attacks in Somalia. Some examples include:
- On 18 March 2013, a car bombing near the President’s palace in Mogadishu killed several people and injured many more.
- On 29 January 2013, a suicide bombing on the President’s compound in Mogadishu killed a number of people.
- On 7 November 2012, an explosion occurred near the parliament compound in Mogadishu. At least one person was killed.
- On 20 September 2012, two explosions occurred in a restaurant in Mogadishu. A large number of people are reported to have been killed and injured.
- On 12 September 2012, an explosion occurred at a hotel in Mogadishu. A number of people are reported to have been killed and injured.
- On 1 May 2012, an explosion occurred at a hotel in Dusamareb. A number of people are reported to have been killed and injured.
- On 4 April 2012, an explosion occurred at the National Theatre in Mogadishu. A number of people are reported to have been killed and injured
- On 14 March 2012, a bombing occurred at the presidential palace complex in Mogadishu. A number of deaths and injuries were reported.
- On 17 February 2012, a bombing at a police compound in Mogadishu injured two people.
- On 8 February 2012, an explosion at Muna Hotel, near the presidential palace in Mogadishu, killed at least 13 people and injured a number of others.
- On 11 January 2012, a grenade attack was launched against the UNDP building in Mogadishu.
- On 18 October 2011, a government building in Mogadishu was bombed, reportedly killing four people.
- On 10 June 2011, the Somali Minister of Interior and several civilians were killed in an attack by a suicide bomber.
- On 21 February 2011, seven people, including two AU soldiers, were killed and 35 others were injured in a suicide attack on a police station in Mogadishu.
Terrorists have targeted aircraft. Airports are also possible targets. You should not travel through Somali airspace on aircraft without self-protection capabilities. In March 2007, a cargo plane with 11 people on board was shot down over El-Mann port after taking off from Mogadishu International Airport. Militants in control of the southern port city of Kismayo have issued threats against air traffic using the local airport.
In planning your activities, consider the kind of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided. Possible terrorist targets include commercial and public areas known to be frequented by foreigners such as hotels, clubs, restaurants, bars, government and foreign interests, embassies, schools, markets and shopping areas, places of worship, transport and transport infrastructure, including airports and aircraft, foreign oil companies, oil infrastructure and oil fields, residential areas, outdoor recreation events, tourist areas and historic sites.
Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General Advice to Australian Travellers.
Ongoing very high threat of kidnapping in all parts of Somalia
There is an ongoing very high threat of kidnapping in all parts of Somalia. On 25 October 2011, two Westerners employed by the Danish Refugee Council were kidnapped in Galkayo in Puntland. Reports of mid-January 2013 indicate that militants may be planning to abduct foreigners in Hargeisa, Somaliland.
Other Westerners kidnapped from Kenya have been held by armed groups in Somalia.
Westerners, including aid workers, journalists and those working for Western organisations, continue to be attacked. Many, including Australians, have been kidnapped, killed or injured. A number of aid agencies have suspended operations. For more information about kidnapping, see our Kidnapping Threat travel bulletin.
The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers that paying a ransom increases the risk of further kidnappings, including of other Australians. If you do decide to travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping, you should ensure you have personal security measures in place, seek professional security advice and take out kidnapping insurance.
Civil unrest/political tension
We strongly advise you not to travel to Somalia because of widespread armed conflict, the extremely dangerous security situation and the breakdown in law and order. If you are in Somalia, we strongly urge you to leave if it is safe to do so.
Somalia concluded its transitional governance period in September 2012 and a new federal government has taken its place. While there have been some security advances made by the African Union Mission in Somalia and other forces in in 2012, the security situation remains tense and unpredictable across much of the country and the threat of conflict or attacks by armed groups remains high.
Security across Somalia, but particularly in southern and central Somalia and areas bordering Ethiopia and Kenya, remains unstable as a result of drought conditions. Food shortages remain common and have resulted in the displacement of thousands of people. The displacement of people may lead to an increase in disease, greater strain on scarce resources, an increased risk of crime and higher security threats to foreigners.
Somalia has been without an effective central government since the overthrow of the Said Barre Government in 1991. There has been a series of transitional governments, with the latest formed in February 2009, however the security situation remains tense and unpredictable.
Armed conflict is prevalent in south-central Somalia, including in and around Mogadishu where intense fighting is common and moving around the city is dangerous. The risk of violent attacks and terrorist acts remains high. The security situation remains highly unstable and unpredictable.
Firearm, grenade, mortar and landmine attacks on security forces, including military convoys, are common. Civilians are often killed and injured. Violent clashes occur almost daily in the capital Mogadishu. Areas frequented by civilians, including residential areas and markets, have increasingly come under attack.
You should avoid all protests, rallies and demonstrations as they may turn violent. International events and political developments may prompt large demonstrations in Somalia.
Foreigners face a continuing very high risk of kidnapping in Somalia. Westerners, including aid workers, religious representatives and journalists, have been targeted and killed in attacks throughout Somalia, including in Mogadishu. A large number of foreigners have been kidnapped in Somalia in recent years. Many remain in captivity. An Australian photojournalist and his Canadian colleague were kidnapped outside Mogadishu in August 2008. They were released in November 2009 after enduring 15 months in captivity.
There is no effective police force in Somalia. Lawlessness, violent crime, banditry and looting are common.
Fighting between armed gangs breaks out sporadically. Clan violence also occurs.
Anti-Western attitudes are strong in some parts of Somalia. This may result in the violent harassment of foreigners.
Due to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical assistance.
Money and valuables
Australian currency, credit cards and travellers' cheques are not accepted in Somalia. ATMs are not available in Somalia. US dollars are widely accepted.
Make two photocopies of valuables such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.
While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.
As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.
You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.
Road conditions are poor and dangerous. Landmines are a danger throughout Somalia. Illegal roadblocks are common in Somalia. For further advice on road travel, see our road travel page.
Piracy: There are high levels of piracy in waters off the Somali coast and pirates may be heavily armed. Attacks by pirates in and around Somalia's waters, the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden remain a serious threat, including some distance from the Somali coast. The murder of four foreign nationals on a hijacked vessel in Somali waters in February 2011 underscores the ongoing risk of piracy in this region.
Vessels are advised to stay more than 1000 nautical miles (1852km) from the coast of the Horn of Africa, although even this distance may not be safe, and to exercise extreme caution. Vessels are strongly advised to travel in convoy and maintain good communications at all times.
All forms of shipping are attractive targets for Somali pirates, including commercial vessels, pleasure craft (yachts etc) and luxury cruise liners. We strongly advise Australians to maintain a high level of vigilance and to exercise extreme caution when anywhere near these waters.
Airports and aircraft are possible targets for terrorists. See Safety and Security: Terrorism above. You should not travel through Somali airspace on aircraft without self-protection capabilities.
For further information, please refer to our air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.
When you are in Somalia, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.
Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter. If, despite our advice not to do so, you do travel to Somalia, you should be aware that the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular services to Australians in Somalia is extremely limited.
There is no organised system of criminal justice in Somalia, nor uniform application of due process. Enforcement of criminal laws is haphazard.
Courts operate with a combination of Somali customary and Sharia law.
Australians who might engage in activities that involve local legal matters, particularly with regard to family law (divorce, child custody and child support), are strongly advised to seek professional advice prior to travel, if possible, and ensure they are aware of their rights and responsibilities.
Homosexual activity is illegal.
Preaching religion other than Islam is illegal in Puntland and Somaliland and strongly discouraged elsewhere.
Penalties for drug offences are severe and may include imprisonment and heavy fines.
Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.
Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.
There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in Somalia. You should take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.
During Ramadan, eating, drinking and smoking between sunrise and sunset is forbidden for Muslims.
Information for dual nationals
Our Dual Nationals brochure provides further information for dual nationals.
We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.
Your doctor or travel clinic is the best source of information about preventive measures, immunisations (including booster doses of childhood vaccinations) and disease outbreaks overseas. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our Travelling Well brochure also provides useful tips for travelling with medicines and staying healthy while overseas.
Medical facilities in Somalia are extremely limited. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation to a destination with appropriate facilities would be necessary. Medical evacuation is very difficult to organise and costs are considerable.
Malaria occurs throughout the year in all parts of Somalia. Chloroquine-resistant strains of malaria are reported. Other insect-borne diseases (including dengue fever, yellow fever, filariasis and leishmaniasis) also occur. We encourage you to take prophylaxis against malaria and take measures to avoid insect bites, including using an insect repellent at all times, wearing long, light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.
Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including cholera, hepatitis, meningococcal, measles and tuberculosis) are prevalent, while other diseases (including meningitis, polio, Rift Valley fever and typhoid) are known to occur with outbreaks occurring from time to time. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before travelling. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water borne diseases such as bilharzia (schistosomiasis). Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.
The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Somalia is high. You should exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.
The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has confirmed cases of avian influenza in birds in a number of regions throughout the world, including the Horn of Africa. For a list of these countries, visit the OIE website. For information on our advice to Australians on how to reduce the risk of infection and on Australian Government precautions see our travel bulletin on avian influenza.
Where to get help
If, despite our advice not to do so, you do travel to Somalia, you should be aware that the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular services to Australians in Somalia is extremely limited.
Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Somalia.
You can obtain consular assistance from the nearest Australian High Commission which is in Kenya:
Australian High Commission, Nairobi
Riverside Drive (400 metres off Chiromo Road)
Telephone: (+254 20) 427 7100
Facsimile: (+254 20) 427 7139
If you are travelling to Somalia, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we strongly recommend you register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency, whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.
In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the High Commission, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.
In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.
Natural disasters, severe weather and climate
Earthquakes and tremors occur in Somalia.
Somalia is experiencing severe drought after four years of below average rainfall. Since July 2011 the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) declared six regions in southern Somalia to be officially in famine. All areas of Somalia are suffering from food shortages resulting in the displacement of thousands of people. The displacement of people may lead to an increase in disease, greater strain on scarce resources, an increased risk of crime and higher security threats to foreigners.
The temperature in Somalia is often extremely high. The average maximum temperature can exceed 45˚C during the hottest months.
The monsoon season extends from May to October in the southwest and from December to February in the northeast.
All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure.
Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.
Australians are advised to respect wildlife laws and to maintain a safe and legal distance when observing wildlife, including marine animals and birds
For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with Children brochure.
If you are planning on placing your children in schools or childcare facilities in Somalia we encourage you to research the standards of security, care and staff training within those establishments.