We spent our days in Hargeisa wandering the city and eating. No surprises there!
The central market is a lovely spot to walk around for the afternoon. It’s largely hassle-free with friendly vendors sipping tea and chatting with their neighbors. Products range from raw goat meat to spices, perfumes, kitchenware, clothing, produce and more.
It’s especially fun to walk this market in the early evenings stopping for ‘Somali tea’ served with camel milk and for some people watching. But do your wandering in the morning or late afternoon as the city shuts down from 1pm to 4pm every afternoon.
Exchange money on the street
At the time of writing, the exchange rate is about 6,500 Somaliland Shillings to $1 USD. About 80% of Somaliland citizens are unemployed and survive on the $300 million USD sent every year to Somaliland in remittances. Therefore, there are a ton of cash exchanges that go on. You’ll see the main roads in Hargeisa lined with men relaxing on the ground behind a 2 foot tall and 5 foot long stack of Somaliland Shillings.
Don’t miss Las Geel. It’s interesting to everyone on some level, whether you’re a history buff or not.
Las Geel is about 25 minutes off the main ‘highway’ on a bumpy road on the way from Hargeisa to Berbera. Day-trippers not going all the way to Berbera can get to Las Geel in roughly 1.5 hours.
There’s a short path that leads you right up to the caves with awesome 180-degree views over the typical Somaliland landscape. The trip is worth it for the views alone. The landscape is reminiscent of scenes from the desert outposts in the Star Wars movies.
These detailed and incredibly well preserved rock paintings (some parts date back to 9,000 B.C.E.) have been long known to locals but only recently documented by archaeologists in 2002.
We were told that most of the figures are cows, dogs and men.
“This is male bull, this is female. He sex her.”
Another plus? The only other person you’ll see is the ‘museum’ guard.
The permit for Las Geel is $25 per person and is supposed to be arranged in Hargeisa.
Travel from Hargeisa to Berbera: this is definitely possible by private taxi, but it’s probably worth hiring a driver and private car for a couple of reasons:
- It’s not easy arranging travel in Somaliland. It’s worth the extra money to have someone do it for you. There are several factors including permits and the necessary armed guard for any travel outside of Hargeisa.
- Only private cars are allowed on the road to Las Geel. The walk from the main road to the caves would take well over an hour each way and would be hot, dusty and not very fun.
Our travel was arranged through the Oriental Hotel. We paid $350 USD for the car, driver and required armed-guard for two nights in Berbera with a stop in Las Geel. It seems like the two tour companies in Hargeisa charge about the same amount and their help would have been super useful in arranging a dive. It’s most certainly possible to get a better deal on the car but we had very limited time to arrange everything.
An evening walk on the Berbera beach.
This is not the picturesque beach you may be dreaming of. There’s trash and abandoned crumbling buildings but I bet you won’t see another foreigner on your walk. Locals drive their cars out onto the beach and play in the sand or go for a dip. We enjoyed a relaxed sunset walk letting our toes sink in the sand and the waves wash over them.
If you’re planning to dive through the “dive center” at Man Soor, make sure to arrange this before you arrive. A boat is required to reach the reefs worth diving at. It does not seem like the dive team is very well prepared for serious dives. If you are not an experienced diver, we might recommend just snorkeling.
Spend time walking around Berbera. It’s not a big town and you can see a lot of it in an afternoon. Stop for a ‘Somali tea’ and watch the city go by. Other places of interest include the port (closes by 12pm), the fish market (a permit is required from the police station beforehand), old mosques and interesting but sometimes crumbling architecture.
Sunset from your hotel rooftop
We found that most hotels in Somaliland have rooftops and enjoyed the views and breeze each night.
We loved Somaliland — it’s so different from everywhere else we’ve been and we can’t recommend it enough!