Asmara at a Glance
Living in Asmara
Asmara is the capital city of Eritrea and is located in the center of the country, with a population of more of 650,000. It is famous for its classic Italian colonial architecture, which has been superbly preserved over the years. Asmara — which is sometimes referred to as Asmera locally — has been Eritrea's capital since 1897. It is a religiously diverse city and there is superb scenery all around Asmara, making it one of the most beautiful places in the whole of Africa.
Transportation in Asmara
Asmara has the only international airport in Eritrea, which makes it a very important transport hub for the country. Flights are available to cities such as Riyadh, Cairo, Sanaa and Jeddah.
Massawa can be reached by train but the transport infrastructure in Eritrea is generally quite poor. Renting cars or using taxis is also expensive due to the extremely high fuel prices in this part of the world.
The best way to get around while living in Asmara is walking. Another option is the bus. The city is served by a number of decent downtown bus-lines. Fares are low but the roads get extremely busy during rush hour periods. As well as the notable red buses, there are many white minibus lines that serve Asmara city center.
Sea travel is possible around Eritrea but the Horn of Africa is famous for piracy, so care and precautions should always be taken.
Culture and Leisure
Italian food is easily found in Asmara and the city has a good choice of good Italian restaurants due to its colonial heritage, while colonial buildings are found across Asmara and have been startlingly well preserved over the years.
The main street in Asmara — dubbed Independence Avenue or Kombishtato to the locals — is home to many of the top cultural sights of the city, including cinemas, bars, shops and cafes. The Eritrean National Museum is based in Asmara and is one of the top cultural institutions that the nation has to offer.
Foreigners living in Asmara should head to the Biet Ghiorghis Zoo and Park area on the outskirts of the city for a day out, as this is one of the best places to sample the incredible Eritrean scenery. Another great place to visit for stunning views is the Martyrs National Park.
Asmara Beer is the alcohol of choice for both locals and expatriates living in Asmara and while there is not a wide choice of nightclubs, the nightlife in the city is reasonably lively. Coffee is also very popular in the city due to its Italian heritage.
Safety and Security
Asmara is considered to be one of the safest capital cities in the third world and most of the locals are particularly friendly towards foreigners living in Asmara.
Despite the low levels of crime compared to many other cities in the region, expats should be aware that Eritrea's civilian militia program means a large proportion of the population has easy access to guns. Tap water is not safe to drink and taking photographs of government areas is strictly prohibited.
Staying well away from Eritrea's border with Ethiopia is recommended to all expats living in Asmara as this is one of the least safe places in the whole of Africa. Eritrea’s border with Sudan should also be avoided, while walking and hiking in the countryside is not recommended due to the many minefields that can be found all over the country.
Those who are moving to Asmara must remember to declare all of their electronic items when they arrive in Eritrea, or they are risking the devices being confiscated by security officials.