Unrest and Coups in Comoros: Travel Tips for Staying Safe

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Political instability and coups are common on the African island nation of Comoros. This is what you need to know to stay safe.

A road and buildings surrounded by jungle in Ouziouani, Comoros Photo © Getty Images/Thomas Belliard / EyeEm

Comoros (or Cloud Coup Coup Land, as it is sometimes known) has a history of unstable politics and multiple coups. The country's three major islands, Grade Comore, Anjouan and Moheli (the fourth, Mayotte is actually still a part of France) have experienced almost twenty coups since independence.

The political violence and instability has left Comoros desperately poor, and it has few natural resources available to recover its failing economy.

Political situation and crime in Comoros

As a result of its colonial history and the ongoing political debate regarding the separate status of Mayotte, there are regular demonstrations throughout Comoros and a fairly high level of anti-French sentiment. However, the political situation may change – before you go, check with your Government's travel advice for the latest information on political violence.

You should remain vigilant and maintain a low profile while moving around, avoid any crowds or political gatherings as these can quickly turn violent. Monitor local media to keep abreast of local developments during your stay.

The three main islands are generally crime-free, but you should take sensible precautions against pick pocketing and mugging. Do not walk around town centres unaccompanied at night. Safeguard your valuables and cash and keep copies of important documents, including passports, in a separate place to the documents themselves. Deposit them in hotel safes, where practicable.

Violent crime is not common. In Moheli, for example, there is a very low homicide rate. The most commonly reported crime is home break-ins. Most reported crimes are crimes of opportunity due to poverty. Physical harassment and violent crime are very rare. In fact male travelers face more nuisances from pushy prostitutes who frequent almost every nightclub than anything else.

Local laws and customs in Comoros

The islands are strictly Islamic so you should behave in a respectful manner. Women should dress modestly and Westerners should drink alcohol discreetly, especially during Ramadan. Alcohol is readily available in Moroni from Indian and Chinese merchants near Volo Volo. Castle beer from South Africa and cheap boxed wine from France are common. Most merchants will supply black plastic bags so that no one will notice you bought alcohol, except that they only give black bags to customers buying alcohol.

Although the Comoros are a rather liberal Muslim country, it is considered disrespectful for women to expose their shoulders, much of their chest, knees, and especially stomach and lower back. Locals will not expect foreign, non-Muslim women to cover their heads. Public affection between men and women is not accepted here. Non-Muslim religious proselytizing is illegal, as is giving Bibles to locals.

Individual reactions may vary upon being photographed, but visitors must be advised that taking unauthorised photographs of the locals will, at best, offend an individual and at worst, cause irrational and potentially violent reactions.

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