How to obtain a Djibouti visa when entering overland

It was certainly a fun few days in Addis! After four visits to the Djibouti embassy, as well as visits to the British and South African embassies, we finally have our Djibouti visas.

We arrived at the Djibouti embassy almost an hour before they opened and once open it didn’t take long to realise this wasn’t going to be an easy process! They were adamant that if we wanted to travel by land we needed a letter from our embassy and that the embassy would know what to write.

Amazingly they asked why we didn’t just fly … ignoring the fact that if we did we’d be able to obtain a visa on arrival and not spend our days running around Addis! We tried explaining our situation and that we were backpacking but they were having none of it. [UPDATE Dec 2017 – I know understand that all visas must be obtained in advance of arrival so please do double-check the current situation].

We figured we had a better chance at the British Embassy, since we were married in the UK, so we arrived promptly at 8am and although we saw a notice saying appointments were required, we managed to talk our way in once they opened at 8.30.

Unfortunately they weren’t able to help us and provided a general letter requesting that the Djibouti embassy accept Catherine’s passport as proof of nationality! They weren’t able to include our names and that we intended to travel overland so it was back to square one. They did however serve us coffee and biscuits!

It was then a mad dash across town to the South African embassy hoping they were open past 11. I wasn’t hopeful when the lady at the counter said they would need to send my fingerprints to SA to confirm my citizenship before they could do anything!!

I persisted, and she agreed to nip upstairs to discuss with her manager.  Long story short, we met a lovely guy named Carl who was interested in our trip, has traveled extensively himself and who had experience writing similar letters for travelers heading north to Sudan.

Carl wrote us a letter confirming my name, passport number and that I intended to travel overland through Gelille on X date. Critically, he also mentioned I was traveling with my wife and included Catherine’s name.

(Carl – if you’re reading this thank you so much again for all your help).

We thought we were home and dry when we went back to the embassy the next morning but there was one further spanner! Be sure any $100 bills are 2006 series or newer. We had to go back to our hostel to change our notes even though the  bank confirmed they do accept 2003 series, contrary to the embassy saying bank categorically wouldn’t!

We just made it back before they closed at 11.30 and returned three hours later to collect our passports with our one month visa!

Summary of documents required:

1. Copy of passport
2. Copy of yellow fever vaccination
3. Accommodation booking (head to where you can book and then cancel for free)
4. Letter from embassy (essentially confirming that you are who you say you are and that you intend to travel overland)
5. $95 (bring a selection of bills!)

The embassy opens at 9am and processing is same day.

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