Cheap Flights to Asmara, Eritrea
- Area Capital : 45 km² (17 sq. mi)
- Area Code & Prefix : +291 1
- Currency : Nakfa
- Population Capital : 804,000 (2015)
- Official Languages : Tigrinya, Arabic, Tigre, Afar, Saho, Bega, Bilen, Nara and Kunama with English and Italian understood.
- Time Zones : EAT (UTC+3)
- Airport : Asmara International Airport
Asmara International is a small but clean and modern airport just 2km from the city. It has two runways and one terminal capable of serving only two to three cheap flights to Asmara at a time. The main waiting room has shops selling cigarettes, liquor and souvenirs, a small bar Take Off with a larger bar and restaurant across from the terminal entrance. The airport additionally serves ERAF and the Eritrean Air Force. Travellers can take a taxi to the city centre or one of the public buses that operate from 06h00 to 21h00.
Travellers from South Africa have two airlines to fly with departing from Johannesburg to Asmara:
- Qatar Airways (via Doha) 13h 10m+
- Emirates (via Dubai) 14h 45m+
Airlines landing at Asmara International Airport comprise:
Reasons to Visit Asmara
- Asmara is capital to Eritrea, a small country with an interesting history and today, probably one of the safest places in the world. The city’s origins date back to between 800 and 400 B.C. The area had four clans of people, the Tigrinya and Tigre that battled incessantly until women from each clan decided on unification, thus the name Arbate Asmera emerged, literally meaning the four made them unite.
- Nicknamed Little Rome, Asmara is the heart of Italy’s past African kingdom with many shops still maintaining their Italian names. Exploring the city affords visitors stunning wall paintings in various areas by Asmara artists, wonderful old and modern religious buildings, odd looking 1930s Fiat trucks used for water transportation to areas without water, horse-drawn ghari’s and donkeys laden with goods, all normal sights to Asmara residents.
- Asmara’s climate during summer is not hot but pleasantly warm and experiences mild winters with short wet season during July and August and its driest months during December to February.
- Amazingly this small country has a fabulous range of hotels located in its capital city. Guests may first inspect their room, checking hot water is available and bathroom facilities are in good condition, before accepting it. A 10% sales and/or service tax may be added at some hotels. The opulent Hotel Asmara Palace built in 1999 has bathrooms made of marble, a swimming pool, tennis court, fitness facilities, conference halls and shops. The Keren Hotel aka Albergo Italia is probably the oldest hotel in Asamar, reopening in 2005 after extensive upgrades, restoring its original splendour. There’s the stunning Hamasien Hotel, built in 1920 that offers luxurious comfort with the best national and international cuisine at good prices. The Sunshine Hotel, with just 26 rooms and 4 suites is one of the top hotels with 24 hour service and rooms equipped with all a traveller needs. Relax in the terrace and garden bar or at the piano bar for an evening of entertainment.
- As with the choice of hotels, visitors have a wonderful range of restaurants providing fast and efficient service. But try out some of the smaller local restaurants offering good food at great prices and be treated as a special guest. Eritreans generally eat early so a late dinner would likely have the best already sold out.
Places to Visit In Asmara
- Located in Massawa Road, the Art Lovers Club is a venue for meeting and creating by performing artists where plays, poetry and stage performances are held. Enjoy a meal in the small restaurant set in a pleasant garden.
- The National Museum (opposite the Selam Hotel) has exhibitions of artefacts from excavations of Adulis, Sabean material and scrolls in Geez and inscribed tombstones from the Dahlak Islands.
- Explore the ancient remnants of Eritrea from between 800 and 400 B.C. at The Sembel Archaeological Site thats an exceptionally well preserved sample of a village during that time. To get there take a No. 12 or 9 bus, a taxi or private car.
- The Governors Palace now Asmara’s city hall was built in 1897 in Italian art-deco style by Fernando Martini, Eritreas first Italian governor.
- Built in Lombard-Romanesque style in 1922 is the Cathedral of Asmara with a tall 52m Gothic bell tower, clearly visible to the entire city and a prominent landmark. Climbing the tower is especially amazing when the bells toll and pop into the primary school, nunnery and monastery, home to a statue of Maria in its garden.
- Another notable landmark is Nda Mariam Orthodox Church made up of three main elements. The stones in front of the church were the original bells and one can’t help notice the beautiful mosaic of religious scenes by Italian artist Nenne Sanguineti Poggie above the churches two wooden doors. The interior provides beautiful murals of stories from the Old and New Testament. View several other stunning frescos and mosaics created by Nenne Sanguineti Poggie around the city, specifically those on the frontage of the old Liceo School, at the Agasien School and the mosaics in the tabernacle of the Church to St. Mary situated in Axum.
- Located on Peace Street is Al Khulafa Al Rashiudin, built in 1938 with Dekemhare travertine and Carrara marble.
- Other notable buildings well worth viewing are Kidane Mehret, behind the central market, the Synagogue of Asmara, built in 1906, just off Main Street, Mar Bin Abdulaziz Mosque in Gaza Banda and St Michaels Orthodox Church in Senita.
- Housing the Southern Red Sea National Museum is the Massawa Housing Complex that’s shows Eritreas history in five interesting segments.
- For dining out with a view the Cherhi Recreation Centre situated on a hill and resembling an air traffic control tower affords wonderful vistas of the sprawling city while relaxing in its Cozy Bar or savouring local and international cuisines.
- Sembel Huts (close to the Sembel Residential Complex) comprises conference rooms, a restaurant, disco and live music. Friday and Saturdays afford international and traditional midnight barbeques.
- The Pyramid Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and you can view your meal before deciding from five different buffets including pizzas.
- Asmara Zoo situated in Biet-Ghiorgi’s is small and home to ostriches, a lion, snakes, baboons, hyenas and a few birds of prey but also has a scenic area to stroll through with views of valleys and gorges and a playground for children. Enjoy a bite or refreshment in the rondavel-style restaurant and bar and when departing visit the British Cemetery next to the entrance of the zoo. To get there take bus No. 1.
- Take an unforgettable train journey to the Red Sea coast from the highland plateau but be prepared to part with a couple of hundred dollars or do a group booking.
- If you’ve exhausted every possible sight, take in a movie at one of nine movie theatres that show regular Italian, English and Indian films, either dubbed or with subtitles.
Getting Around Asmara
Walking is the best way to view sights and discover Asmara with all major sights within comfortable walking distance. If travelling more than 25km outside Asmara, either by bus, taxi or car, you must have the required travel permit.
The city has a good operation of buses and minibuses including long-distance buses from Asmara to other cities. There are five bus terminals in the city and the depot for buses to Keren and Agordat is located near the Kidane Mehret Church. Gemal Public Transport operates minibuses and is managed by ex-soldiers. Buses and minibuses have specific stops for boarding.
As services are infrequent its best to book in advance with a local travel agent. You’ll receive a list of boat operators that includes dhows and speedboats and which ones visit the Dahlak Islands. Permits are required and obtainable from the Ministry of Tourism in the city.
Petrol is expensive but readily available, except for Dankalia and Sahel and diesel is only used by vehicles belonging to the government. Its highly recommended not to drive at night specifically on mountain roads with steep vertical verges. Rental vehicles can be booked via major travel agents with local car rental companies.
Taxis don’t use meters and the airport route is more expensive than city travel. Taxis normally carry multiple passengers but can be hired for private use, at a higher price. Night travel is also more expensive.