Somalia - Country Commercial Guide
Business Travel
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Business Customs

While large business enterprises have adopted numerous business methods and styles of international business engagement, there is still evidence of culture-specific business norms that one should be familiar with.  Somalis have a long business tradition— though informal—and are known for their “entrepreneurial spirit.”  Though it may take time to develop trust and confidence, Somali businesspeople seek to establish direct business relationships and trust with reputable companies willing to venture into the country.  While the use of email is not a common practice, people prefer exchanging information verbally through voice applications or messages through social media apps.  Though U.S. citizens are advised not to travel to Somalia, business visitors should arrange their itineraries to allow for long meetings, as traditional Somalis often undertake several activities within a session.  For example, some Somalis may engage and converse over telephone calls and conduct multiple actions within an ongoing in-person meeting.  Traditional Somali sweetened tea and snacks are usually offered in business meetings.

For internal corporate meetings within Somalia, most businesses tend to dress “smart casual.” Most Somali businesspeople wear business suits/dresses for official business meetings.  Dress is conservative for Somali men and women.  Traditional Islamic and Somali attire is often worn after work for social functions.  Clothing Somalis consider “Islamic” is often worn on Fridays.  Somali women are not required to wear “Islamic dress,” but the cultural norm is for Somali women to dress “modestly” (according to Somali customs) and cover shoulders and hair.  Lightweight clothing (whether business or leisure) is appropriate year-round in Somalia because of the very warm climate and high humidity.  The work week is Sunday to Thursday, and often Fridays are reserved for prayers—Somalis may refuse to schedule or take meetings on Fridays.  Saturdays are generally considered allowable workdays unless it is a public holiday.

Meeting appointments and scheduling can be challenging in Somalia for people accustomed to U.S. business norms.  Meetings often start late, do not end on time, and may continue late.  It is generally not recommended to plan or schedule appointments immediately after another meeting is expected to conclude due to these frequent delays.  Also, anticipate last-minute changes or rescheduling of appointments.  It is recommended to reconfirm meetings at least one or two days before the meetings, preferably (for most Somalis) through the telephone or direct social media messaging.  It is customary to be mindful of prayer times and schedule short breaks between meetings, especially during lunch or afternoons for prayer times.  Some meeting participants may observe silence when the “call to prayer” is heard, particularly if the meeting location is close to a mosque. 

Business cards are not widely used in Somalia but offering one to potential clients is advisable.  It is becoming increasingly common practice to give business cards to others at business events and other meetings.  Everyday customary business practices such as replying to phone calls, emails, and providing quotes within a reasonable time are important for being perceived as polite and competent.  The use of first names at the initial introductory meeting is common and usual.  Consistent with the most prevalent religious practices in Somalia, the use of Islamic greetings and salutations is common.

Over time, as relationships improve, Somalis generally observe that business behaviors become more open, transparent, and communicative.  Gifts and other forms of appreciation are not common or expected in Somalia, but when trust and relationships are developed, the exchange of gifts is possible.

Somali businesses value U.S. products and services and are willing to pay for high-quality goods and services. Constant engagement, communications, and after-sales service are important elements of business relationships for most Somalis.  It is common for Somalis to negotiate strongly on prices and quotations.  Therefore, as part of a value proposition, many businesses seek to pitch product quality, after-service support, and other factors.  Somalis may respond favorably to price sheets that are broken down—or with different sales options listed—so that there is a basis for reasonable price and option negotiations.  It is common practice to negotiate listed prices downward.  Pricing options, such as one option with only products and another with products and after-service support, provide room to negotiate the value of add-on services, for example.

Somalis tend to respect a verbal commitment as an agreement, but a formal and written agreement duly agreed and signed by all parties is advisable.

Women play an important role in Somalia’s business sector and now represent a large proportion of some of the start-ups and successful companies.  Women enjoy the same legal benefits as men but are less often given priority and offered fewer opportunities due to cultural practices.

Most Somali businesspeople associated with large businesses travel regularly to/from Somalia for business meetings in Nairobi, Addis Ababa, or Djibouti, and it is possible and reasonable to ask for or arrange meetings outside the country.

Business competition and rivalry are stiff in Somalia.  Threats of terrorism, violence, and blackmail to deter business ventures and competition is common, and discrete and confidential information should not be shared publicly and beyond the agreed parties.

Travel Advisory

U.S. citizens are advised NOT to travel to Somalia due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, health issues, kidnapping, and piracy.  Further information can be found via the Department of State’s travel advisory page: Somalia International Travel Information (  It is possible to conduct business without physical presence in Somalia.

The United States Embassy in Nairobi provides consular support for Somalia.  The U.S. government is severely limited in its ability to provide routine or emergency services to U.S. citizens in Somalia.  In an emergency, U.S. citizens in Somalia will have to rely on their own resources or journey to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate outside of Somalia.

Visa Requirements

As of 2023, Somali’s immigrant department changed a visa fee of $60 for a single-entry visa, $400 for a six-month multiple entry visa, and $800 for a one-year multiple visa entry.  U.S. citizens receive the visa on arrival.  However, if traveling for business purposes, the visitor must submit a letter of invitation or “guarantor” by the host company at the airport immigration desk.  It is important for a local person or escort to be present at the airport to facilitate visas and customs clearance.  Somaliland requires a separate visa application, fees, and processes, and a valid visa from Somalia will not be accepted in Hargeisa.

U.S. companies that require foreign businesspersons—include Somalis—to travel to the United States are advised to allow ample time for visa appointments and adjudications.  Visa applicants should go to the State Department Visa Website.


The U.S. dollar is the most commonly accepted currency in Somalia.  Mobile money denominated in U.S. dollars is the most accepted form of payment by vendors.  Obtaining a local sim card and using local mobile payment systems is considered convenient.  Some local banks have ATMs installed in major hotels and banks.  Most restaurants and retail outlets outside of the Mogadishu International Airport do not accept credit cards.  Carrying a limited amount of cash in U.S. dollars is advisable in case local ATMs and credit cards networks are temporarily non-functional.  Somali shillings exist but are not commonly used or traded, except in remote or outside cities or towns, and there is a high prevalence of counterfeit shilling bills.


Somalia does not have fixed-line telecommunications services but mobile operators such as Hormuud Telecoms (Southern Somalia), Golis (Puntland), and Somtel (Somaliland) provide voice and data services.  Even though mobile internet is accessible in significant towns, most of rural Somalia does not have reliable internet access.  Most quality hotels have wi-fi.

Travelers can get sim cards from mobile outlets or dedicated shops.  The process requires an identification registration such as a passport.  Setting up a mobile payment wallet such as EVC or Zaad is important for easy payments since cash payments are limited and may be unavailable in many places.  Somalia electrical standard is 230 volts, 50 Hz.  A three-pronged (grounded) British-style plug is used almost exclusively.


Of the 21,830 kilometers of roads in the country, only 2,860 kilometers are estimated to be paved (13 percent), and most of this paved network is believed to be in poor or deplorable condition.  For business travelers, road travel is not recommended due to security and safety conditions in the country.  The country has international airports (Mogadishu, Hargeisa) and several regional airports (Garowe, Kismayo, and Bosasso).  There is no rail transport in the country.

More than ten international airlines offer international flights to/from Somalia, including Ethiopia Airlines, Qatar Airways, Air Djibouti, Turkish Airlines.  Several local airlines fly to/from Nairobi, Kenya, and other regional travel centers.  Domestic air travel within Somalia is available and accessible.  Confirmation of flight status is vital as flights can be canceled without notice.

Though travel to Somalia by U.S. citizens is not advised, travel within major cities such as Mogadishu generally requires security preparation and planning, including the use of armored vehicles and security escorts due to the risk of terrorist attacks, carjacking, and kidnapping.  Note the U.S. Department of State travel warning and seek the advice of international and local security companies operating in the country.

International business meetings often happen inside Mogadishu International Airport (considered a “green zone”), where most international organizations, the UN, and much of the diplomatic community are located.  Some international and local hotels and security companies operate inside the airport green zone, and accommodation and travel inside the airport can be arranged.  In Mogadishu and major towns in the southern Somalia, travelers are generally advised not to walk outside of secured areas as the risk of violence remains high.  If U.S. visitors travel to Somalia despite travel advisories not to do so, U.S. visitors are strongly advised to NOT accept meetings outsides of the green zones, and if such meetings are arranged contrary to this advice, visitors unfamiliar with Somalia should be accompanied by qualified escorts.


The official language of Somalia is Somali, but most businesspeople and government officials speak English. However, some businessmen who cannot speak English well may request a translator to accompany them to meetings.  Official government correspondence is in Somali.  Most people speak Somali with variations of local accents and dialects.


Somalia’s medical facilities are not recommended for business travelers.  In the event of emergency medical care, a limited number of clinics are located inside the Mogadishu International Airport zone.  Some hotels—like Chelsea Village—have emergency centers.  It is always important to have medical insurance coverage before a business trip, and medical evacuation coverage should be considered for those traveling to Somalia due to limited in-country facilities.  COVID-19 vaccination and yellow fever vaccination are recommended for business travelers.  Malaria is prevalent in the country, and there is a need for malaria prophylaxis.

Local Time, Business Hours, and Holidays

The country operates on UTC+3.  The time difference between Somalia (+3 UTC) and the east coast of the United States (-5 UTC) is 7 hours (summer/daylight savings) or 8 hours (in winter).

Business travelers should verify official holidays before scheduling a visit.  Somalia uses the Islamic calendar and major holidays are Eid Al Adha, Eid-Ul-Fitrs, Mowlid, and Ramadhan.  Fasting holidays tend to slow and slightly adjust working hours.  These Islamic calendar dates vary due to the lunar calendar.  The following calendar is representative and should not be considered definitive of holidays in Somalia.  

DateHoliday Name
Jan 01New Year
Feb 18Mi’raaj Nabi
Apr 22Eid-ul-Fitr
May 01Labor Day
June 26Independence Day
June 29Eid- Al Adha
July 1Republic Day
July 19Islamic New Year
July 28Ashura
Sep 27Mawlid Nabi
Dec 25Christmas Day

Temporary Entry of Materials and Personal Belongings

A visitor’s personal baggage is admitted duty free.  Duty is not charged on items for personal use, including clothing and personal materials.  Alcohol drinks are prohibited in Somalia, and business travelers need to be aware that customs offices at the airport may frisk persons and thoroughly check luggage, making arbitrary decisions on what is permitted.  Extra pieces of electronic devices, mobile phones, and equipment will attract extra scrutiny and sometimes arbitrary customs fees at the airport.