Eritrea Road Network

By | October 31, 2022

Eritrea’s primary roads.

According to wholevehicles, Eritrea has a relatively extensive network of roads. The road network is estimated to be approximately 16,000 kilometers long. It is unclear how large the network of tarmac roads is, but the larger towns are generally connected by tarmac roads. There may be about 1,000 kilometers of asphalted road. There are no highways in Eritrea.

Due to the mountainous nature of Eritrea, traveling is a time-consuming business due to the many hairpin bends. The highest roads are in the highlands around Asmara, where several roads are between 2,000 and 2,500 meters above sea level, especially to the northeast are large descents with hairpin bends. Characteristic of the Eritrean roads are the low design standards. The road network still largely has the same alignment as it was in the 1920-30s when the roads were built in the Italian colonial period. Many bridges are very simple and narrow. The road network is clearly centered on the capital Asmara, with several roads in 4 directions. An important route runs between Asmara and the port city of Massawa. In the far east there is also a main road to the port city of Assab.

Eritrea’s road network is not well integrated with that of neighboring countries. Due to the shared history, the road network is connected to that of Ethiopia, but the border between the two countries was closed between 1998 and 2018. There are no paved roads to Sudan and no roads at all to Djibouti. The country is therefore isolated and difficult to reach.

It is mentioned that the gasoline in Eritrea is among the most expensive in the world, mainly because of its scarcity, fuel is very poorly available, which also explains the high price.


In Asmara, some city roads have segregated carriageways. A northeastern bypass of Asmara will be constructed in 2020-2021, between the P1 and P2. In 2021, a southeastern bypass of Asmara was under construction, between the P3 and P1. In Asmara, almost all streets in the center and the older residential areas are asphalted, in the suburbs this is not the case.

Toll roads

In about 2009 a new toll road opened between the Asmara region and the coastal plain to the east. This toll road is single lane and has a lot of hairpin bends, but is of good quality.

Road management

In 2013, the Land Transport Authority road manager was established.


Eritrea’s road network largely took shape during the Italian colonial period until 1941. During that time, a relatively extensive network of roads was developed. About 100,000 Italians lived in Eritrea just before the Second World War and they developed a relatively high-quality infrastructure for that time. The main road connections built by the Italians were to and from the port cities of Massawa and Assab. From Assab this was a connection that went directly to Ethiopia, from Massawa it went via Asmara and from there via two routes to Ethiopia. There was also a road from Asmara via Keren to the border with Sudan.

In particular, the capital Asmara was a highly developed city for its time, with modern architecture and Asmara at the time is said to have more traffic lights than Rome. The city was characterized by wide boulevards flanked by rows of trees. In January 1941, the British army captured the colony of Eritrea and much infrastructure was damaged or destroyed. During the 30-year Eritrean War of Independence from 1961 to 1991, little was invested in Eritrean infrastructure. In fact, the country had a poorly functional infrastructure for 50 years, with a serious lack of maintenance.

At independence in 1991, Eritrea had a network of 4,930 kilometers of road. Afterwards, a road building program was started. In 2000, the road network was estimated at 6,990 kilometers, of which 660 kilometers were asphalt, 800 kilometers gravel and 5,530 kilometers unpaved. In 2015, Eritrea had 14,500 kilometers of road. The road quality was also improved, many roads were paved. The Eritrean post-war rehabilitation program was called ‘Wefri Warsay Yika’alo’ and it included the rehabilitation of the Asmara-Massawa road, the construction of a coastal road from Massawa to Assab and the construction of a Keren-Tesseney road on the border with Sudan.

A final peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia was concluded in 2018. As a result, international sanctions were lifted and the border between the two countries opened on September 11, 2018 for the first time in 20 years. In 2019, construction began on a 134-kilometer east-west route between Asmara and Aqurdat, which was built by China. In 2019, the renovation of roads connecting Eritrea to Ethiopia also started with European support.

Export ports

One of the most important geopolitical issues in the Horn of Africa was the export and import port for Ethiopia. Globally, there were four seaports, namely Massawa and Assab in Eritrea, Djibouti and Mogadishu in Somalia. Eritrea was an Italian colony at the time. In 1917 a railway from Addis Ababa to Djibouti was completed, from that moment most exports went through Djibouti. The port city of Massawa was important for Eritrea itself, the eccentrically located port city of Assab from an Eritrean point of view, Assab developed as the main trade route of Ethiopia, because this route was flatter and Eritrea and Ethiopia were in a union from 1952. From 1952, Assab therefore took over the role of Djibouti as Ethiopia’s main export port.

Until the 1990s, two-thirds of the trade went through Assab and a third through Massawa. The disadvantage of the port of Massawa is the great distance from Central Ethiopia and the long distances over poorly developed roads through the Ethiopian Highlands. When the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia closed in 1998, all freight traffic immediately went to the port of Djibouti. Later, a second freight railway to Djibouti was built, making Djibouti definitively the most important port in the region. The port city of Assab, in particular, fell into disrepair due to the loss of its trade. Massawa still retained some value for trade to and from Eritrea itself. Since 2018, both ports of Assab and Massawa can be used again for Ethiopian exports,

Road numbering

Eritrea’s road network had joint numbering with Ethiopia until the 1990s, but has since introduced its own numbering of Primary Roads (P), Secondary Roads (S) and Tertiary Roads (T). The P-roads are often, but not always asphalted. It is unclear whether road numbers are indicated on signs.


# No. Route Length
P1 Asmara – Massawa 110 km
P2 Asmara – Keren 80 km
P3 Asmara – Senafe (gr. Ethiopia) 180 km
P4 Asmara – Adi Kwala (gr. Ethiopia) 150 km
P5 Keren – Teseny (gr. Sudan) 300 km
P6 Massawa – Asseba 520 km
P7 Assab – Bure (gr. Ethiopia) 70 km
P8 Gahtelai – She’ebo 50 km
P9 Serejeqa – Shebah 50 km


What little signage there is seems to be British-style, with green signs and white letters. Newer signposts have blue signs with white letters that use the Transport font.

Eritrea Road Network