Somaliland Trip Report March 2012
Replies: 9 - Last Post: Oct 9, 2012 3:59 AM Last Post By: jonzy85
Apr 8, 2012 10:52 AM
Somaliland Trip Report March 2012Just thought I'd give a quick report on my recent trip to Somaliland. I spent 5 days there in Hargeisa and Berbera, visiting Laas Geel also. It was a fascinating trip, even if there is not a whole lot to do and see. I travelled with 2 other guys and more than 99% of the people were incredibly friendly.
The visa is got very easily from the Somaliland Embassy for $40. They are only open until 2. It is not that hard to find, but there is some confusion because it has changed location, I think. It is no longer beside the Djibouti embassy, but still quite close. The best way to describe where it is, is to continue on the Bole Rd, until you see the Wussemer (sp) Hotel. Take the next road after it and the embassy is on your right after about a 5-10 minute walk.
From Addis Ababa, we got the Selam bus to Jijiga It leaves at 5.30 a.m. from Meskel Square and you buy tickets there in their office the day before. This cost 320 Birr and was on a very comfortable coach. The journey took about 11 and half hours, with a stop off for lunch along the way.
We spent the night in Jijiga. Strangely enough, most of the hotels were full. We managed to find one for 60 Birr for a room with common toilet and no shower at all. There was no name above the door so I can't help there.
The next morning we got a minibus to Wajaale, the border town for 30 Birr, which takes about an hour. Border formaities are quite straight forward and there is a place to get breakfast on the Somaliland side.
To get to Hargeisa you need to get into a shared taxi. There are plenty of these about. The proper price is 120 Birr, but they will try to charge you for your bags. For 3 of us, they tried to charge another 120 Birr for our bags. We refused and got in the back of another station wagon for 100 Birr. This is not a comfy ride especially the 1st 30km, which is more or less off road. There are also 6 checkpoints before you reach Hargeisa.
In Hargeisa, there are money changers all over the place. They change Birr and US Dollar. For Birr the rate was 320/330 SIS to the Birr. The Dollar was 6,200 SIS ( I think).
We couchsurfed in Hargeisa and this definitely made our time there a lot easier. On returning from Berbera, we ended up having to spend another night in Hargeisa and the couchsurfing guys weren't around, so we stayed at the Hadhwannag. A twin room cost $15 and was en suite. I would definitely recommend this place. The food here was also exceptional.
In Hargeisa, there are a few bureaucratic errands you must run if you want to go to Laas Geel and Berbera, or get a new Ethiopian visa.
For the Ethiopian visa, you first have to go to an office to get some permit to leave the country. I'm not very sure on the details here as I had a multi entry visa and didn't have to go through this process. This office is difficult to find, as is the Ethiopian consulate, which is across the road from the Ministry of Water (I think) down a lane. Perhaps it would be best to go there first and get directions to the office for the permit. It was also closed on the Thursday and Sunday we were there, but I think it is usually open on Thursdays.
To leave Hargeisa, without an armed guard, you need to go to the police hq and get a permit from the police chief. Our couchsurfing host brought us there, so I'm not sure on directions, but it is quite close to the Ambassador Hotel.
To get the permit Laas Geel, you need to go to the Ministry of Tourism building, which again, is close enough to the Ambassador Hotel. These permits now cost $25 per person and it is payable at the office in Hargeisa. You do not pay anything more at Laas Geel anymore.
It is possible to visit Laas Geel and continue on to Berbera in one day, without arranging private transport. We got in a shared taxi in Hargeisa for $6 each. This is the full price to Berbera, but there is no choice but to pay this. Laas Geel town (if you could call it that) is about an hour away. The site is 7km from the road. We negotiated a car (the only car in town) to take is to the site for $20...he wanted $100 at first. Laas Geel, is well worth the effort and you are brought around by a pretty entertaining guide.
Back on the road at Laas Geel, we only had to wait 10 minutes before a cattle truck agreed to take us in the cab. We paid him 50,000 Somali Shillings. The journey took about 2 hours to Berbera.
In Berbera we stayed at the Shiida (sp) hotel and got a triple room, en suite, with a fan for 60,000 SIS per night. I'm happy to recommend this place and it is located close to the roundabout with the clock.
The beach is the main attraction in Berbera, even though a walk around town is quite interesting. The nicest beach is beside the Mansour hotel about 5km out of town. We luckily were taken there for free by a Somali guy and back by a few guys also at the beach. The beach closer to town is also fine. You walk past a graveyard to get there. Al Hayaza (sp) is the best fish restaurant. The shared taxi back to Berbera cost 35,000 SIS each and took just over 3 hours.
All in all, it was a really interesting side trip from my travels in Ethiopia. If people are travelling, especially to Harar, and have a bit of extra time I would definitely recommend doing this. At the same time, it's not a must see destination. Be prepared to be stopped every minute or two by people asking where you are from etc. It is all very warm and friendly though and they are genuinely curious and excited to see you there. Regarding safety, I was only there a few days so don't feel qualified to judge the sitution. I can only say that we felt extremely safe the whole time. There was only one unsavoury incident where a guy shouted from a car (in a British accent) to get out of the country before he shot us, or words to that effect. But this was a complete isolated incident.
I'm sorry I can't be more specific on some of the details, if anyone has any other questions don't hesitate to ask.
At the risk of being slated for "bigging up my blog", I have some pictures on the following link if anyone is interested.
Apr 8, 2012 12:10 PM
1Very interesting, thanks for sharing.
It wasn't very clear where you began your journey from at the beginning of the post - or maybe it was and I missed it - but I recognised Bole Road from my time in Addis. I stayed near Peacock off Bole. If you're ever nearby Peacock Restaurant do injera to die for..
I liked your blog too. Particularly the seciton on Simien - i was there in the rainy season and sadly couldn't see a thing :(
Apr 8, 2012 10:35 PM
2Just one thing, "you first have to go to an office to get some permit to leave the country". This is not entirely true. This "permit" is only if you want to get a new Ethiopian visa in Hargeisa. If you already have one, or one for Djibouti, or are flying out of the country to anywhere, you do not need this "permit". I also entered overland from Ethiopia but flew to Djibouti. I flew from Berbera and got the visa for Djibouti on arrival.
Apr 9, 2012 6:47 AM
3The permit you get from the immigration police is to verify that your being in Somaliland is legal. The Ethiopian liaison office is indeed opposite the Water Ministry past the ruins of the church and then through the bushes. The hotel you mean is Imperial, not Ambassador which is all the way over by the airport. To get to the Ministry for everything including Tourism turn down the road just beside the Imperial Hotel Minimarket and walk for about 400m. For the police HQ walk past Imperial, over the bridge and turn left at the fork, left at the next road and then left after the SPU police unit. As Jonzy will attest it is a weird process actually getting into the police HQ!
I'm glad to hear that you made it to Las Geel and Berbera in a day. The tour seems very overpriced given the low cost of car hire here.
Fluffy! It is no longer possible to get a visa on arrival in Djibouti without an onward flight ticket. Something I just found out the hard way.
Apr 9, 2012 7:41 AM
4Yet another reason people shouldn't go to Djibouti :(
Apr 10, 2012 12:07 AM
5Cheers Ian for clearing up the details I was sketchy/completely wrong about.
Seems like you had an interesting trip to Djibouti!
Apr 20, 2012 2:32 PM
Apr 20, 2012 10:29 PM
7I don't think it is possible or safe to go to Puntland. Even the Eastern third of Somaliland is supposed to be a bit hairy.
Aug 22, 2012 3:17 PM
Thanks for your trip report, which was extremely helpful when we were planning our trip to Somaliland (we travelled there in May 2012).
I wanted to update the forum with some information about transport to Las Geel. We tried to get to Las Geel as you did, by taking the shared taxi between Hargeisa and Berbera and disembarking at Dhubato (the nearest town to Las Geel) to find transport to the site. Unfortunately, on the day that we did this, the one car in Dhubato had gone to Hargeisa for the day. We tried to walk to the site and found a man from the village to guide us, but he did not seem to know the way and we ended up not feeling safe with him, particularly as various other men seemed to appear out of nowhere to join us. We returned to town to find another guide. When we returned, the locals had telephoned the guard at Las Geel and the police came to find us. They forced us to get into their truck, transported us back to the roadblock, and commissioned the next car that came by to transport us back to Hargeisa (escorted by an armed policeman). Apparently it is forbidden for tourists to walk to the site.
So, in the end, it might be better to organize a taxi to take you to Las Geel on the way to/from Berbera, or try to find other travellers (at Oriental Hotel?) to share transport with. Otherwise, you run the risk of ending up in Dhubato town with no car in sight!
Oct 9, 2012 3:59 AM
9guianna...i only saw your post now and I hope you will forgive me for having a smile at it. I didnt even know the "town" was called Dhubato, but yep, there was only one car there! It's a long way from the road to the actual rock paintings...I certainly wouldnt fancy walking it!
As with most things in Somaliland, it's impossible to make definite plans and you just have to figure things out when you get there!
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