Six tips for travel to Mogadishu

Obviously, I mean five tips for travel to Mogadishu if you ignore the most important one: Don’t go!

This is perhaps the most dangerous city on the planet. Its citizens, if you can call them that absent any meaningful form of government, often opt for piracy given a dearth of viable alternatives to poverty or an early, unnatural death. Visitors are encouraged to stay away, as renting a militia to protect you is unlikely to top the odds in your favor to any compelling degree. From the minute you arrive at the airport, you are an attractive kidnap target; you are effectively the food on someone’s table.

So, just why the hell would you travel to Mogadishu? This is the truest form of adventure travel. Forget about the hiking and climbing and wilderness trips that the so-called adventure guys rave about. That’s all bullshit. They are designed for you to come home alive. Mogadishu, on the other hand? There are no safeguards, and you won’t be asked to sign a release. Welcome to a world that’s more than arm’s reach from the calming presence of law.

Still intent on going to Somalia? Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

1. Safety ends when the wheels drop
Jubba Airways is the only commercial airline that services Mogadishu, and it claims an impeccable safety record. Once you get on the ground, however, the rules change — immediately. I kicked around taking a trip to Mogadishu last spring and spoke to the general manager of Jubba about arranging a same-day arrival and departure. He wouldn’t take my money … telling me the closest he’d bring me to Mogadishu was Hargeisa, Somaliland.

2. Get some security
Asking your Kung Fu-master buddy to hang with you on this trip is not enough. You need firepower, lots of it. Fortunately, there are militias that can be hired en route from the airport to the city. They are said to be generally unreliable, but at least you’ll have something. Go into Mogadishu without protection, and you are fucked. There’s no other way to put it.

3. Pick up some of your own heat
Since you won’t be able to tote weapons to Somalia all that easily, you’ll probably have to buy something when you get there. The Bakara Market can handle all your small arms needs. Pick up an AK-47 and enough ammo to last you a few days of intense fighting. Rocket-propelled grenades are probably overkill, since you’ll be defending yourself from ground forces, not helicopters. And, don’t forget to haggle — they love that.

4. Avoid the crowds
It will be easiest to move after a call to prayer, but you still won’t be safe. Nonetheless, this is one of those rare cases in Mogadishu when things will get (slightly) easier for you. Don’t be a dumbass: use it. In general, you’ll want to steer clear of crowded spots, jut because crowds mean more people who could kidnap you, and you probably don’t want that.

5. Bring cash
Your plastic promise “everywhere you want to be,” but it’s working on the assumption that nobody would want to be in Mogadishu under any circumstances … even with a battalion of Rangers behind you. The good news is that greenbacks still mean something in Mogadishu. So, you’ll have some negotiating power. Just don’t go flashing your wad around, or your trip will last a lot longer than you planned.

6. Check out the sights
There’s more to Mogadishu than the Bakara Market. You could always go to the beach. But, you’ll probably have more fun viewing the Arba-Runcun Mosque or the Mogadishu Cathedral (which was built by the Italians, according to Jubba’s website). Both are close to the waterfront and the old city.