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It may be one of the smallest nations in Africa, but Djibouti should not be overlooked. With the vast salt lake of Lac Assal, the lunar-like landscape of Lac Abbe lake and plenty of opportunity for sports including water-based activities, this tiny nation packs a lot in. Those looking to relax can hit the white sands of the Gulf of Tadjoura shoreline.
The road network is fairly extensive, linking all major villages with the capital. A number of roads, such as Route de l’Unite, offer beautiful scenery and are reasonably well maintained. Most other roads, however, are mostly gravel so a four-wheel drive is advisable.
Driving licences: a temporary driving licence needs to be obtained on presentation of a valid UK driving licence.
Which side does Djibouti drive on: the right.
Rural areas: 37mph (60kph)
Built-up areas: 25mph (40kph)
Alcohol limits: 0.08 per cent; in line with the UK limit. Fines for exceeding the limit are rare.
Driving age: 18 years.
Seatbelts: currently not compulsory, but it is advisable to use them if fitted. Child booster seats for children under 12 years are available for a fee through most car rental agencies.
Mobile phones and GPS: using a mobile phone while driving is not currently prohibited, but it is recommended drivers refrain from this dangerous practice. GPS is not reliable, but as the country is small, it isn’t needed.
Cost of fuel in Djibouti: marginally cheaper than in the UK.
Car hire and fuel payment: credit card payment is accepted for car rentals. However, it is rare to find a petrol station that will accept credit cards.
Insurance: is not always included, so car renters need to check and if necessary, purchase it as an extra.
Traffic and parking: there is minimal traffic. However, farmer vehicles and cattle can cause hold ups. Parking is easy to find across the country.
Taxis tend to only be available in the big towns, such as Ali-Sabieh, Dikhil, Dorale and Arta. They are reasonably cheap, but as they do not run on a meter, tourists should agree a price with the driver before starting a journey. The ride to the capital from the airport should cost around £3. Prices increase by at least 50 percent at night.
The bus service runs from the capital to many towns and villages. There are no timetables; services tend to leave when they are full. Drivers are often willing to add in extra stops or deviate from the stipulated route. Prices are set and vary from town to town. There’s also the option of shared minibuses. These buses charge a flat rate of £0.20 and take passengers to their chosen destination.
Getting around the country by ferry is not really an option, although a private speedboat service runs between Obock, Tadjoura, and the capital, and costs around £5. However, the capital is one of the biggest ports in east Africa. This means that it is well served by local companies that have sporadic timetables to other countries. One of the most common routes is between Djibouti and Yemen, with a daily service available.
Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport is the only airport in the country and has scheduled flights to a number of other countries in Africa. Flights to Ethiopia, Eritrea Somaliland and Tanzania run weekly. There are also scheduled flights to the United Arab Emirates and Paris, France. The airport is only three miles to the south of the capital, and flights typically costs between £500 and £600 from Paris depending on the season and carrier.
Lac Assal lake is a must-visit for anyone heading to Djibouti. At 150 metres below sea level, it is in fact one of the lowest points on earth. Although no buses go there, it is easy to access via car. The drive itself is stunning, with an amazing view out to Devil’s Island and across the coast.
Lake Abhe, found right on the Ethiopian border, is another must-visit spot. Limestone chimneys with steaming hot water and lunar-esque landscapes surround this deserted lake. This spot was used to film parts of the Planet of the Apes specifically because of its unusual landscape.
The Goda Mountains are another perfect spot for a drive. With lush scenery and breathtaking views, this region is one place where tourists will not want to forget their cameras.
If all of this sightseeing sounds like too much exertion, then visitors can head to the Gulf of Tadjoura or the Bay of Ghoubbet. Here, the pale sands are ideal to simply stretch out and relax. Thanks to these shorelines being relatively unknown holiday destinations, there is no battling for towel space.
The climate is sweltering from May through September, with average temperatures hovering around 40ºC, although they can sometimes jump to 45ºC. The cooler season is much more comfortable, with occasional rain. Temperatures drop to 25ºC, meaning it is the ideal time to visit in comfort.