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Summary: Located in eastern Africa east of Ethiopia and tracing the Horn of Africa, Somalia is mostly flat to undulating plateau rising to hills in the north. With Somaliland in the north and Puntland in the center both seeking independence, Somalia has an economy based primarily on agriculture, livestock and light fishing, mining and telecommunications, while the country works to control its financial sector and political instability.
Time Zone: UTC+3
Languages: Somali, Arabic, Italian, English
Power: 220V, 50 Hz
Currency: Somali Shilling - Currently 1 SOS = 0.0007 USD $
Climate: Somalia has principally a desert climate, with a northeast monsoon season from December to February bringing moderate conditions in the north and very hot temperatures in the south, and a southwest monsoon season from May to October when it is intensely hot in the north and hot in the south. The country has irregular rainfall and hot and humid periods called tangambili between each monsoon season.
Mogadishu: Despite the strife, Mogadishu continues to survive, with the Garesa Museum and the National Theater once the popular hotspots, it is easier now to turn to the Bakara Market, where virtually anything is for sale, from clothing and jewelry to wood carvings, ammunition and passports. The beaches are nice, but make sure you have an armed escort to help keep you safe wherever you go. The national parks of Kismayu and Hargeysa are the country's best wildlife reserves.
Safety and Security: Many regions are considered unsafe including the border region between each faction, and crime is common in cities making the rural areas, ironically, the safest. Never travel alone and avoid traveling at night. Police impact is virtually nonexistant, so bring a copy of all travel documents, keep a very low profile, avoid any overt displays of wealth, and hire an armed escort when you arrive.
Local Culture: Somalia is an Islamic country, and some parts of Somalian culture are traditional, and respect should be shown for the local beliefs. Beachwear should be left on the beach, although casual to modest dress is accepted, covering the shoulders and wearing longer shorts is fine. Ask permission before taking pictures, and avoid photographing military buildings. Locals are very accommodating and friendly despite any inter-tribe friction.
Banking: Credit cards are rarely accepted and traveler's checks more frequently, and although Somalia has a loose banking sector, currencies can be exchanged at hotels, kiosks, or banks that are typically open from Saturday to Thursday until just before noon. There are no ATMS, however, many places accept US dollars.
Phrases: With your camera out, sawir means picture, and locals will nod yes or no.
Tipping: Follow standard tipping rules for an additional 10% to 15% on top of your bill.