Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. You may be taken in for questioning by the police if unable to produce an acceptable form of identification. Convictions for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs result in long prison sentences and heavy fines.
Local courts operate under a combination of Somali customary and Islamic law, some of which may be hostile towards foreigners.
Individuals establishing a business or practicing a profession that requires additional permits or licensing should seek information from the relevant local authorities prior to practicing a profession or operating a business.
Furthermore, some crimes are also prosecutable in the United States, regardless of local law. For examples, see our website on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice website.
Arrest Notification: Somali law enforcement officials routinely block access to foreign and dual nationals in detention. The U.S. Embassy in Kenya may not receive notification or be allowed access to you if you are detained. Furthermore, dual U.S.-Somali citizens are recognized as Somali citizens by authorities, which impedes our ability to provide any consular assistance. If you are arrested or detained, ask Somali police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy in Kenya immediately. The U.S. government’s ability to provide consular services across Somalia is severely restricted due to ongoing security concerns and the lack of a permanent consular presence in Somalia, including the Somaliland region See our webpage for further information.
Photography: Do not take pictures of government buildings, military installations, or key infrastructure such as airports and border controls. You could be detained or arrested, fined, and have your equipment confiscated. Do not take photos of people without their permission.
Phone Service: Cellular phones are used extensively. SIM cards can be purchased locally and used with a compatible cell phone.
Currency: The Somali shilling is the unit of currency except in the Somaliland region, which uses the Somaliland shilling. Be advised that most Somali shillings in circulation are believed to be counterfeit. U.S. dollars are widely accepted. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are generally not accepted, and you are advised against using your credit card in Somalia, even if accepted. It is not possible to obtain currency advances against a credit card. ATMs are increasingly available in Mogadishu. ATMs in Somalia disburse U.S. dollars.
Faith-Based Travelers: See our webpages for details:
LGBTI+ Travelers: Same-sex sexual contact is punishable by three months to three years in prison. Anti-discrimination provisions do not apply to LGBTI individuals. Society considers sexual orientation a taboo topic, so there is no known public discussion of this issue. Severe societal stigma typically prevents LGBTI individuals from making their sexual orientation publicly known.
See our LGBTI travel information page and section 6 of our Human Rights Report for further details.
Travelers with Disabilities: The provisional constitution prohibits the state from discriminating against any person on the basis of disability. However, it makes no reference to discrimination in the private sector. Social acceptance of persons with disabilities in public is not as prevalent as in the United States. Few government buildings, schools, banks, or grocery stores have accessible facilities, including in Mogadishu. Some hospitals and clinics are equally inaccessible to people with disabilities and lack wheelchair ramps or lifts, including some of the hospitals travelers commonly use. Expect accessibility to be very limited in transportation, lodging, communication/information, and general infrastructure, and largely absent outside of major cities.
Much of the disability equipment for sale locally is refurbished rather than new. Replacement parts can be found in local informal markets and are also generally refurbished parts. Imported higher-end equipment such as electric wheelchairs and lifting equipment can be purchased from a very limited number of medical equipment suppliers in the major cities. Almost all supplies must be purchased and imported from overseas.
Students: See our students abroad page and FBI travel tips. We are aware of allegations that some boarding schools in Somalia engage in abusive practices such as corporal punishment, physical restraint, and confiscation of travel documents.
Youth: We are aware of cases of forced marriage. Some facilities involved in “cultural rehabilitation” (“dhaqan celis,” meaning “returning to Somali culture”) engage in abusive practices such as corporal punishment, physical restraint, and confiscation of travel documents.
Women Travelers: There are no laws against spousal violence, including rape. There are documented patterns of rape perpetrated with impunity, particularly of displaced women and members of minority clans. Authorities rarely use formal structures to address rape. Survivors suffer from subsequent discrimination based on the attribution of “impurity.” Domestic and sexual violence against women remain serious problems, despite the provisional federal constitution provision prohibiting any form of violence against women. See our travel tips for women travelers.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Although the provisional federal constitution prohibits the circumcision of girls, FGM/C is almost universally practiced throughout the country. Up to 98 percent of women and girls have reportedly undergone FGM/C, primarily between the ages of 5 and 14 years.