Ethiopia (Amharic: ኢትዮጵያ ʾĪtyōp yā) is the second-most populous country in Africa (after Nigeria) and is Africa's oldest independent country and the only one never to be colonized, save for a short Italian occupation in the 1930s and 1940s.
Located in the Horn of Africa region, it is bordered by Eritrea to the north (which seceded from Ethiopia in 1991 after a long and bloody war of independence), Djibouti to the northeast, Somaliland and Somalia to the east, Kenya to the south, and Sudan and South Sudan to the west.
Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa and the second-oldest official Christian nation in the world after Armenia. Ethiopia is also the place of the first Hijra (615 CE) in Islamic history where the Christian king of Ethiopia offered refuge to those fleeing from Mecca and sent by the prophet Mohamed.
Ethiopia is ranked with African countries the likes of Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia for preserving and maintaining its national parks as tourist attractions. The southern and south-western parts of the country are home to stunning natural beauty with a huge potential for tourism.
Ethiopia is one of the oldest independent nations in the world. It has long been an intersection between the civilizations of North Africa, the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa. Uniquely among African countries, Ethiopia was never colonized, maintaining its independence throughout the Scramble for Africa onward, except for five years (1936–41) when it was under Italian military occupation. During this period, the Italians occupied only a few key cities and major routes, and faced continuing native resistance until they were finally defeated during the Second World War by a joint Ethiopian-British alliance. Ethiopia has long been a member of international organizations: it became a member of the League of Nations, signed the Declaration by United Nations in 1942, founded the UN headquarters in Africa, was one of the 51 original members of the UN, and is the headquarters for, and one of the founding members of, the former Organisation of African Unity and the current African Union.
Ethiopia was historically called Abyssinia, a word related to Habesha, the native name for the inhabitants. In some countries, Ethiopia is still called by names cognate with "Abyssinia", eg, Turkish Habesistan, meaning land of the Habesha people. The English name "Ethiopia" is thought to be derived from the Greek word Αἰθιοπία (Aithiopia), from Αἰθίοψ (Aithiops) "an Ethiopian", derived from Greek terms meaning "of burnt (αιθ-) visage (ὄψ)". However, this etymology is disputed, since the Book of Aksum, a Ge'ez chronicle first composed in the 15th century, states that the name is derived from 'Ityopp'is, a son (unmentioned in the Bible) of Cush, son of Ham, who according to legend founded the city of Axum.
Ethiopia's population is highly diverse, consisting of more than 80 ethnic groups. The largest ethnic groups are the Oromo (34% of the population) and the Amhara (27%). The largest religious affiliations are Christian (63% of the population – comprising 44% Ethiopian Orthodox and 19% other denominations) and Muslim (34%).
Much of Ethiopia is a high plateau with central mountain ranges divided by the Great Rift Valley, but there are low-lying lands in the eastern and westernmost parts, with the lowest point being the Danakil Depression, 125 m (410 ft) below sea level. The highest point is Ras Dejen (Ras Dashen) in the Simien Mountains, 4,620m (15,157 ft) above mean sea level. The geologically active Great Rift Valley is susceptible to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Ethiopia is landlocked – the entire coastline along the Red Sea was lost with the de jure independence of Eritrea on 24 May 1993. The Blue Nile, the chief head stream of the Nile, rises in Lake Tana in north-west Ethiopia. Three major crops are believed to have originated in Ethiopia: coffee, grain sorghum, and castor bean.
The predominant climate type is tropical monsoon, with wide topographic-induced variation. As a highland country, Ethiopia has a climate that is generally considerably cooler than other regions at similar proximity to the Equator. Most of the country's major cities are located at elevations of around 2,000-2,500m (6,600-8,200 ft) above sea level, including historic capitals such as Gondar and Axum.
Addis Ababa, the modern capital, is situated in the foothills of Mount Entoto at an elevation of around 2,400m (8,000 ft), and experiences a healthy and pleasant climate year-round. With fairly uniform year-round temperatures, the seasons in Addis Ababa are largely defined by rainfall, with a dry season Oct-Feb, a light rainy season Mar-May, and a heavy rainy season Jun-Sep. The average annual rainfall is around 1200mm (47 in). There are 7h of sunshine per day on average, 60% of the daytime hours. The dry season is the sunniest time of year, though even at the height of the rainy season in July and August there are usually several hours of bright sunshine a day.
The average annual temperature in Addis Ababa is 16°C (61°F), with daily highs averaging 20-25°C (68-77°F) throughout the year, and overnight lows averaging 5-10°C (41-50°F). A light jacket is recommended for evenings, though many Ethiopians dress conservatively and wear a light jacket even during the day.
Most major cities and tourist sites lie at a similar elevation to Addis Ababa and have comparable climates. In lower lying regions, particularly in the east of the country, the climate can be significantly hotter and drier. The town of Dallol, in the Danakil Depression in the east, has the world's highest average annual temperature of 34°C (93°F).
Ethiopia uses the Ethiopian calendar, which dates back to the Coptic calendar 25 BC, and never adopted either the Julian or Gregorian calendar reforms. One Ethiopian year consists of twelve months, each lasting thirty days, plus a thirteenth month of five or six days (hence the "Thirteen Months of Sunshine" tourism slogan). The Ethiopian new year begins on 10 or 11 September (in the Gregorian calendar), and has accumulated 7–8 years lag behind the Gregorian calendar: thus, for the first nine months of 2007, the year was 1999 according to the Ethiopian calendar. On 11 Sep 2007, Ethiopia celebrated New Year's Day (Enkutatesh) for the Julian year of 2000.
In Ethiopia, the 12-hour clock cycles do not begin at midnight and noon, but instead are offset six hours. Thus, Ethiopians refer to midnight (or noon) as 6 o'clock. Airline timetables are based on the 24-hour clock and use the Gregorian calendar. To avoid confusion, we use the 24-hour format in all our Ethiopian listings.
All visitors must obtain an entry visa, except for nationals from Djibouti and Kenya, and foreigners in transit at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport for a few hours to catch a connecting flight and who do not leave the airport or pass the Immigration Desk. Since 2002, tourists from 33 countries are able to obtain entry visas on arrival at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, and at the airport in Dire Dawa. In April 2013, the fees for visa-upon-arrival valid for three months were USD20 or €17 (cash only), regardless of whether one was applying for a Tourist, Business or Transit Visa. (Per March 2015, the price for on month tourist visa is USD50. It can also be payed in a range of other currencies thanks to a combined visa and bank system.) The procedure is relatively quick and painless; just look for a door with a sign "Visa" on the left hand before the immigration counters. You can get a visa in advance of travel through your local Ethiopian embassy, but the queue at the airport is frequently longer for those who already have visas than it is for those getting the visa at the airport. This is because all Ethiopian passport holders need to go through the same queue as those who have already obtained visas in advance, and the majority of arriving passengers are Ethiopian citizens.
It seems to be often impossible to obtain a visa at an overseas consulate (e.g. Kampala, Cairo), as there is a policy of not granting visas to non-residents. There seem to be exceptions though. Obtaining a visa at Tel Aviv embassy is very easy: it takes around 15 minutes and costs ₪100 for a 1 month visa and ₪150 for a 3 month visa. You can request a multiple entry visa at the same price if needed. As of July 2012, the Ethiopian visa in Khartoum was also easy to obtain. A completed form, USD20, and two photos delivered in the morning was enough to get the visa on the same afternoon. These are sometimes for one month and sometimes for two, depending on the mood of the consular officials. Extending a visa in Addis Ababa is a day-long tedious process, so bear it in mind if you are planning to stay for more than 4 weeks. For other countries, the only way to gain a visa might be by flying in, or posting your passport back to your home consulate.
Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months from your arrival date and must have at least one blank page.
Ethiopian Airlines is one of the most successful and reputable airlines in Africa, and offers superior service on international flights to any of the US carrier members of the Star Alliance. Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa is the main hub for Ethiopian Airlines and also hosts Lufthansa, Sudan Airways, Kenya Airways, British Airways, KLM, Turkish Airways, Emirates, Gulf Air, Egypt Air and fly Dubai. A new runway and international terminal, which was said to be the largest in sub-Saharan Africa, opened in 2003. Terminal 2 services international flights, while Terminal 1 services domestic and some regional (Djibouti, Nairobi, Khartoum, etc.) destinations. In the U.S., there are direct flights from/to Los Angeles, Newark, and Washington, D.C. to/from Addis Ababa. A direct flight isn't actually "direct", as these three flights contain a stopover at either Dublin or Lomé depending on the flight you take. Direct flights are not to be confused with nonstop flights, which are flights that contain no stops.
You'll probably be approached by people wanting to help with your bags. They're largely harmless and just looking for a tip, but it could be an easy time to lose a bag. If you have one person help you, twenty will ask for a tip. If you have someone help you one to five Birr is a sufficient tip, but most first time visitors will not have Ethiopian currency and will have to give them foreign currency. If you have a driver pick you up at the airport they will typically take care of any tips for you.
Caution: Arriving in the country without a major currency such as euros or US dollars is not recommended, especially if you've not obtained a visa prior to arrival (This has changed as of March 2015 as there are ATMs taking Visa and Mastercard at the airport aswell as forex-services taking a wide range of currencies). Travellers cheques and cash can usually be exchanged at the airport. Upon arrival, foreigners are often greeted by a throng of locals attempting to "help" load their luggage into cars. They will expect money afterwards and, if you're confused by your newly obtained Ethiopian currency, you'll likely give them more money than you intended. Generally an appropriate payment for a minor task like loading luggage into the car would be between 5-15 birr (ignore requests for more money because you are a foreigner).
Alhough more expensive than public transport, this is a good way to explore Ethiopia. There are few rent-a-car services in Ethiopia outside of Addis Ababa so you may prefer to depend on the services of touring companies that offer cars and 4x4s complete with driver.
Border crossings from neighbouring countries include the border village of Metema to get in from Sudan.
From Kenya the border town is Moyale. The road from Kenya to Ethiopia through the town of Moyale is much better and well maintained. On the Kenyan side of Moyale the road is horrible and is known for banditry so be careful and make sure you have plenty of time, at least 24h, to travel from Moyale to Nairobi. However, the road is being rebuilt and paved, with large sections already finished and the remaining sections were expected to be finished around early 2015.
A train service between Addis Abeba and Djibouti City was built in the 2010s primarily for freight service, connecting the landlocked Ethiopia to an important port, but it also serves passenger trains taking roughly 12 hours for the whole trip
The dilapidated but historical Chemin de Fer train station in downtown Addis Ababa is in the Kazanches neighbourhood near the Sheraton Addis and may be of interest as a relic of the Ethio-Djibouti Railway that began service in 1890 during the reign of Emperor Menelik II.
Ethiopian Airlines is reasonably priced and has fairly comprehensive domestic services. Flights are often overbooked, so it is essential to reconfirm your tickets at least a day in advance and show up at the airport on time. If you forget to reconfirm, they may assume you aren't going to show up and give away your seats.
Tip: Booking tickets for Ethiopian Airlines on-line works out very expensive when compared with booking at their office in Addis Ababa. For example, the route Addis -> Gondar -> Lalibela -> Addis was quoted on-line for USD450 whereas at their booking office (at the Hilton in Addis) the ticket cost only USD150. Even better: If you have booked your international trip to Ethiopia via Ethiopian Airlines's webpages you will get a 50% discount on domestic flights. Even if you have arrived on an airline other than Ethiopian, you can still get the discounted prices (booked at offices in Ethiopia) by having proof of an international reservation with Ethiopian regardless of whether you have flown the flight or not. So you can get the discount by booking a refundable or cheap flight from Hargeisa or Nairobi for the future and quoting the ticket number when booking domestic flights.
Chartered flights (both to serviced airfields and "bush flights") are available from Abyssinia Flight Services, located on TeleBole road, just down the street from the airport. Helicopter service is available from National Airways, Abyssinia Flight Services, and certain government-owned companies.
Parking at Bole airport costs 5 birr (approximately USD0.27) and is payable in cash only to the parking attendants on arrival.
Ethiopian buses fit into one of the following categories: the ubiquitous minibuses or matatus (typically Toyota Highace vans that room up to 14 people) that operate throughout the region; small to large sized passenger buses called "Higer bus" (named after the manufacturer) that often travel between regions ("1st level" to "3rd level" indicating the class); luxury buses (Korean modern standard buses) going between the main cities, and the large (often double-jointed) red Addis Ababa city buses.
There is a comprehensive network of cheap Higer buses along the major roads, although these are slow and basic. Buses travelling shorter distances generally leave whenever they have filled up with passengers (in practice, these means once an hour or so); nearly all long-distance buses leave at dawn (06:00 or twelve on the Ethiopian clock). Buses do not travel at night; they will stop before sundown in a town or village with accommodation for the passengers, or, between Dire Dawa and Djibouti, just in the plain countryside. Between some cities (e.g., Adama and Addis Ababa), minibuses will run after the larger buses have stopped for the night. Everyone on the bus must have a seat by law – this prevents overcrowding, but often makes it difficult to catch a bus from an intermediate point on a route. If planning to travel by bus, keep in mind that almost all the vehicles are old and very dusty and most of the roads are bad (As of March 2015 this is changing rapidly thanks to an increasing economy and Chinese road projects. The main roads are now at very good standard most places). Ethiopians do not like opening the bus windows, so it gets hot and stuffy inside by afternoon. If you like fresh air, sit as close to the driver or one of the doors as possible, as the driver keeps his window open and the conductor and his assistant often have the door windows open. It can be risky riding the minibuses and Higer, as they are a leading contributor to Ethiopia's position among the most dangerous places in the world to drive. The drivers often do not use mirrors and simply disregard the possibility of oncoming traffic when changing lanes.
The bus stations usually open somewhere around 05:00. If you are catching an early morning bus, you should get to the station at 05:00. They are very chaotic first thing in the morning, and many buses will sell out of seats before they leave with the dawn about 06:00. To make things easier and less stressful, you can often buy a ticket in advance. In Addis, find the correct window at the bus station the day before you wish to travel and buy your ticket there. (You will need help finding the window unless you can read Amharic, but there are usually people around who will help if you ask.) The ticket will be in Amharic, but there will be a legible bus number written on it somewhere. Simply find that bus the next morning at the bus station. In smaller cities, you can often buy your ticket from the conductor when the bus arrives from its previous trip the afternoon before you travel. Even if you already have a ticket, arrive early and claim a seat as soon as possible. If you don't have a ticket, you will have to ask people to show you the correct bus (unless you can read Amharic). In this case, don't waste time trying to buy a ticket from the window or from the bus conductor—push your way on board the bus and claim a seat! The conductor will sell you a ticket later. Medium sized backpacks can usually be squeezed under the seats, but large packs and most luggage will have to go up on the roof. Claim your seat before you worry about your luggage. Luxury buses however have a really professional aproach with both numbered seating and dedicated luggage compartments under the bus. Anyone assisting you with your luggage, including the person passing it up to the conductor's assistant on the roof, will expect a small tip (around 2-3 birr).
On several routes (Addis - Dire Dawa, Bahardar - Addis) you may also find informal traveller cars with no fixed departure; when looking around at a bus station you may be approached by somebody who offers you a faster connection by going with a private car; this is more expensive than the normal bus but also much faster. You'll be handed a cell phone number where to call in order to make an appointment. These cars may leave before sundown or travel even at night.
A good way to tour Ethiopia is by car. You can take small aircraft to expedite your tour, but you will see more of the scenery if you travel by car. Reasonably priced touring companies include Galaxy Express Services, NTO, Dinknesh and Focus Tours Ethiopia, as well as Ethiopia Safaris and Journeys Abyssinia with Zawdu. They can take you off the beaten track so you can see the beauty and attractions of Ethiopia.
Nevertheless, hiring a car is quite expensive (starting from 600-900 birr depending on the condition and quality; 600 birr for a cheap car with driver). But if you want a car for at least 8 people it costs 1,000-3,000 birr per day. Prices will vary at this time due to inflationary pressures in the country. Drivers pass on their costs for spare parts and need to increase the price if fuel rises. A driver guide's credentials should be checked such as tourism license, insurance, engine (external and internal). Before accepting a contract, it is also a good idea to quiz the driver-guide about tourism routes via a travel guide book (eg: Lonely Planet and Bradt Guide) but you must also accept that this information could be out of date. When driving to the "deep south" of Ethiopia also check the licence plates, because the authorities in the south check in and log "3" plate tourism cars, take the names of the passengers and passport number. They need a letter from the tour company to show the agent is bona fide on some routes and parks. Petrol costs 21 birr a litre. Make sure to check the pump is zeroed before re-fuelling starts.
There are a several highways in Ethiopia, some of these are in good condition:
Road 1: Addis Ababa-Asmara via Dessie and Mekelle
Road 3: Addis Ababa-Axum via Bahir Dar and Gonder
Road 5: Addis Ababa-Gambela via Alem Zena and Nekemte
Road 6: Addis Ababa-Jimma via Giyon
Road 48: Nekemte-Gambela National Park via Gambela
TAH 4 to the north: Cairo via Khartoum and Bahir Dar
TAH 4 to the south: Cape Town via Gaborone, Lusaka, Dodoma, Nairobi and Awasa
TAH 6 to the east: Djibouti via Dessie
TAH 6 to the west: Ndjamena via Darfur
Road conditions vary considerably around Ethiopia; some roads are smoothly sealed while others consist mostly of large stones. Accommodation is cheap and available in almost every village (although these "hotels" usually double as bars and brothels). Food and drink are also easily available. You will attract considerable attention (it is not uncommon for whole schools to empty out as the children run after you). Be prepared to have stones and sticks thrown at you, especially in the south.
The capital Addis Abeba now boasts a two line light rail system that is intended to enable better public transit service while reducing traffic congestion.
In addition to that, the long unused railway system has been reinvigorated with a line from the capital to the port of Djibouti City. While this line is primarily intended for freight transport, it also enables both domestic and international passenger transport.
Amharic is the first official language of Ethiopia. The language is a Semitic language related to Hebrew and Arabic, and if you know either one you'll recognize some cognates. In all parts of the country everyone speaks Amharic to some extent, no matter what their first language may be. The language is written in the Ge'ez script.
In big cities, many people under 40 speak some English. (The Commonwealth version of English, as spoken in neighbouring Kenya and Uganda, is the primary foreign language taught in schools and both the British Council and the EU have helped in providing textbooks.) In rural areas, find local school children to translate for you for a fee that could be next to nothing. (Ethiopians have a distinct way of speaking English. Because it is heavily accented, it might be a bit difficult to understand it at the beginning. However, when you get used to the way they pronounce some English words, it will become fairly understandable.) Older Ethiopians, especially those from the Tigray region or Eritrea (which was once a state of Ethiopia), may speak Italian, while other elders may speak Russian or Cuban-accented Spanish due to the influence of the former Derg regime.
In the north, especially in Tigray, Tigrinya is the primary language, also written in Ge'ez. However, Amharic is widely understood. In the middle highlands regions Oromifa, or Afaan Oromo is widely spoken. Oromifa uses a Latin alphabet. In the Ogaden region, located mostly in Somali regional state (near the border with Somalia and Somaliland), Somali is common, and is written in a Latin alphabet; Arabic is also common, with a Yemeni influence. Towards the border with Djibouti, French becomes slightly more common.
Local currency is the Ethiopian birr, denoted by the symbol "Br" or "ብር " (ISO currency code: ETB). It is one of the more stable African currencies. There are 100 santim to the birr and coins of 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 santim circulate, together with a one birr coin. Banknotes come in values of 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100 birr.
You're not supposed to import nor export more than 100 birr. Usually hotel and car rental bills must be paid in cash.
There are ATMs in all bigger cities. Dashen Bank is your best bet for finding an ATM; then Commercial Bank of Ethiopia and Wegagan Bank. Visa and Master card are the most accepted brands. Don't expect foreign Cirrus or Plus cards to work. The ATMs are not always reliable, so have a back-up plan for cash when away from Addis Ababa. Master card works at all the Dashen bank and Awash bank ATMs.
Opportunities to use credit cards (Visa and MasterCard) are increasing in Addis Ababa, but remain rare elsewhere.
Any commercial bank in Ethiopia can exchange cash. The rates are the same everywhere and are set by the central bank daily. There are hundreds of commercial bank branches in Addis, including in the Sheraton and Hilton hotels, and in the corner of the baggage claim hall at the airport. Most cities and towns that tourists visit will have at least one commercial bank, except for villages in the Omo valley. Many hotels will convert US dollars to birr at the front desk. Because of forgeries in circulation, banks might not accept US dollar notes printed before 2002, or torn or very worn notes. It is illegal to change money on the black market and the rates aren't much better than what you get from the banks. It is essentially impossible to exchange the birr outside of Ethiopia due to currency controls, and it is illegal to remove more than 200 birr from the country without permission.
US dollars, euros or pounds sterling are the best currencies to carry, in that order. You may find it best to keep most of your cash in your home currency and take out what you need daily. Additionally, since ATM machines dispense money in birr, it may be easier to simply withdraw money from the ATM as needed. Prices are extremely low in Ethiopia and a US dollar will go a long way.
Banks no longer accept travellers cheques.
In cities like Addis Ababa and to a much lesser extent Dire Dawa, the US dollar is mostly accepted. In some shops in Addis Ababa the prices will be written in birr and USD. Some ATMs in Addis Ababa give out both US dollars and birr. Most hotels in Addis Ababa accept US dollars. All airports in Ethiopia accept US dollars.
You cannot obtain US dollars in Ethiopia through legal means unless you have a flight ticket to leave the country. This means that if you need dollars (e.g. to get a Djibouti visa) and don't have a flight ticket to leave Ethiopia you will need to either change money on the black market or ensure that you have enough US dollars on you.
Ethiopia is relatively cheap for tourists, compared to other African countries.
Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa and Adama/Nazret have the most expensive prices in the country. For example a 32 inch (81cm) LCD TV costs around 15,000 birr. Food is also expensive if you buy it in those city's centres.
In Ethiopia tipping is common in hotels, restaurants and bars. One is also expected to tip parking lot attendants whether officially hired by institutions or self assigned. In some restaurants it is customary to tip any dancers, and this is usually done by sticking the paper money bill on the forehead of the dancer.
Injera is ubiquitous in Ethiopia. It is a spongy, tangy-tasting bread made from the grain teff, which grows in the highlands of Ethiopia. It looks and feels akin to a crepe or pancake. It's eaten with wot (or wat), traditional stews made with spices and meat or legumes. Popular wats are doro (chicken) wat, yebeg (lamb) wat and asa (fish) wat.
The injera sits directly on a large round plate or tray and is covered with wat placed symmetrically around a central item. The various wats are eaten with other pieces of injera, which are served on a side plate. Injera is eaten with the right hand - rip a large piece of injera from the side plate and use it to scoop up one of the flavours of wat on the main platter. Eating with the left hand is considered disrespectful, as it is the hand traditionally used for personal hygiene and is thus considered unclean. Another popular injera dish is firfir: fried, shredded injera. It can be served with or without meat or with all sorts of veggies.
If you prefer vegetarian foods, try the shiro wat, which is an oily bean stew served with injera. Shiro is common on Ethiopian "fasting days", in which devout Ethiopians eat an essentially vegetarian diet.
One of Ethiopia's most famous dishes is tibbs or tibs, spicy beef or lamb fried in butter (nitre kibbeh). Tibs comes in several styles, most commonly "chikina tibs", fried in a sauce with berbere spice, onions, bell peppers, and tomato; and zil-zil tibs, a more deep fried breaded version served with tangy sauces. Equally as famous is kitfo, minced meat spiced with chilli. You can have it raw (the locally preferred way, but there's a risk of getting parasites), leb-leb (lightly cooked) or fully cooked. It comes with a local cheese ayeb and a spinach. In the Harar region, you can find kitfo derivatives including camel meat. Many restaurants that serve kitfo include it in their name (e.g. Sami Kitfo, Mesob Kitfo, etc.) but typically serve a wider selection than just raw meat.
For the pickier visitor, almost every place in Ethiopia also serves spaghetti (thanks to the short lived Italian occupation) - but not as Italians would know it. Italian restaurants are common, as are so-called "American style pizza and burger" places that have little in common with American pizzas and burgers. There is continued demand for more American style dining in Ethiopia from, not only expats, but from Ethiopians as well. There are restaurants like the Country Kitchen (not the chain) that serves American style fried chicken and wings run by an American-born-and-raised Ethiopian. Good pizza can be had at Metro Pizza at the Dagim Millenium Hotel. The restaurant at Addis Guest House run by an American raised Ethiopian named Yonas serves a good selection of western foods including great French toast for breakfast. It is worth the trip just to meet Yonas who may be the best tour guide you can find in the city. "Kaldi's Coffee House" are all over the city. They are largely Starbucks knockoffs, but they do it well. Great coffee, good pastries, and very good ice cream. You will find westerners or western raised Ethiopians everywhere in the capital and they all are very helpful.
Common spices include berbere, Ethiopia's natural spice which includes fenugreek; mittmitta, another piquant spice; and rosemary, which is used in almost all meat in the country. Most local meats are of poor quality and are stringy and tough even when cooked perfectly. Luxury hotels and restaurants will often import their meat from Kenya, which is much higher quality.
Ethiopia is the historical origin of the coffee bean, and its coffee is among the best in the world. Coffee is traditionally served in a formal ceremony that involves drinking a minimum of three cups of coffee and eating popcorn. It is a special honour or mark of respect to be invited into somebody's home for the ceremony. Ethiopians tend to drink their coffee either freshly brewed and black, very strong, with the grounds still inside; or as a macchiato, Ethiopia's popular form of coffee.
In preparation for the ceremony the coffee beans are roasted in a flat pan over charcoal. The beans are then ground using pestle and mortar. The coffee is brewed with water in a clay coffee pot and is considered ready when it starts to boil. Coffee in Ethiopia is served black with sugar; some ethnic groups may add butter or salt to the coffee but will generally not do so with foreigners. Beware, after drinking coffee in Ethiopia, you will find yourself always disappointed with the quality of coffee when you return home. In Ethiopia the coffee is so fresh as it is usually roasted the same day as it is consumed. You will dream about coffee for weeks after leaving Ethiopia.
Tej is a honey wine, similar to mead, that is frequently drunk in bars, in particular, in a tej beit (tej bar). It strongly resembles mead in flavour though it typically has a local leaf added to it during brewing that gives it a strong medicinal flavour that may be off putting. It is considered manly to consume this beverage.
A variety of Ethiopian beers are available, all of which are quite drinkable. Many breweries that were formerly owned by the Ethiopian government are now owned by Western beverage companies like Heineken (Harar beer) and Diageo (Meta beer). The nationally ubiquitous beer is St. George, or "Giorgis" named after the patron saint of Ethiopia, which is a light lager similar to American beers that has been brewed in Addis Ababa since 1922. Ethiopian breweries rival many microbreweries in the west and most beers are sold for under USD1.
Ethiopian wines, both red and white, exist but are generally considered undrinkable by foreigners.
There is a wide range of accommodation in Ethiopia. Staying in tourist areas generally results in a broader range of choices, but watch out for tourist prices. It is acceptable to bargain with the hotel owner, for they usually tend to charge you "faranji" (foreigner) prices at first, which are often twenty times the local rate. You won't be able to bargain down to local prices (close to nothing) but you can bargain down a lot. This is not true at the government run "Ghion" chain, and the fancier private chains as well, where prices for foreigners are fixed. (Bekale Mola, for example).
Guest houses are common in Ethiopia. These vary from large homes with a number of bedrooms to small hotels and essentially operate as a "Bed and Breakfast". Some have shared baths, other have private baths. The best ones have generators available to deal with power outages as well as internet service and satellite TV. The good ones tend to be clean and they treat you like family. They are much cheaper than the brand name hotels and you will get more exposure to the local culture. If you tip well you will be treated like royalty.
In the north, in every city (Axum, Lalibela, Bahir Dar, Gondar) one can find hotels, from overpriced ones such as the government-run Ghion chain hotels to cheaper ones. Smaller places on the major roads offer cheap places if you do not mind the most basic rooms. A tourist town like Debark that serves for trekking the Simien Mountains also offers a range of rooms, with the most popular being the Simien Park Hotel (25/30 birr), where you could also pitch a tent for 20. It meets the normal standards for food, electricity, water, cleanliness and hygiene.
In the south, all the cities (Shashemane, Wondo Genet, Awasa, Arba Minch, Jinka...) have decent, cheap hotels. The most basic rooms start at 15 birr for a single and 20 birr for a double. Many of them don't have hot water and electricity all hours of the day, so you should schedule time for a shower in advance. There are also three fairly expensive resort hotels on the shore of Lake Langano. In the smaller villages in and around the Omo valley (Weyto, Turmi, Key Afar, Dimeka, Konso, etc.) there are usually few (very basic) or no hotels, but if you are travelling through the valley to see the tribes, there is always a campground or a restaurant that offers beds. If you camp out at one of these villages, you should hire a guard to watch over your stuff overnight.
In the big cities, especially Addis Ababa:
Some people have a desire to do some sort of charitable work while in Ethiopia. There are many opportunities to volunteer in and around Addis Ababa. Organizations such as Love Volunteers and Projects Abroad offer a range of volunteer projects including teaching English, caring for children and healthcare. Many non-profit organizations produce goods that they sell to help fund their efforts. Most locals at hotels and guest houses can point you to them. Abebech Gobena Yehetsanat Kebekabena Limat Mahber is a great example. Missionaries of Charity started by Mother Teresa of Calcutta have a centre near Sidest Kilo in Addis Ababa.
Many visitors bring donations to Ethiopia. Although most anything is appreciated, there are things very difficult to get in Ethiopia that make great donations. Soy formula for orphanages is a great example as lactose intolerant babies need this to thrive and it is hard to find in-country. High quality soccer footballs (what would be considered cheap footballs at USD10-15 in Western countries) are hard to find as well. Deflate a football and you can get over 30 in a large bag. You will be seen as a hero when you give them away at orphanages and schools.
Don't drink the tap water. It's full of parasites, and hotels generally recommend guests not to drink it, nor to eat salads and uncooked foodstuffs that are usually washed in tap water. This applies to ice as well – unless it is distilled, or you are at a reputable Western hotel like the Sheraton, Radisson Blu, or Hilton. Bottled water for drinking is available almost everywhere in small, medium and big bottles – popular brands are Yes (flat water) and Ambo (sparkling water). Make sure you drink enough, especially when the weather is hot.
Consult a doctor before going to Ethiopia about what vaccinations against infectious diseases you should consider. The risk of malaria is low to non-existent in the capital and the highlands, but high in the lake regions and lowlands. Doxycycline for malaria prevention is cheap in Addis.
If you get sick, go to one of the big private hospitals, e.g., Korean, Hayat, St Gabriels.
A large part of Ethiopia is at a high elevation. In those areas, people unaccustomed to breathing in thinner air may have a hard time moving around at first. It is advised to allow yourself a few days to acclimatize to the air.
Ethiopians are very proud of their culture, identity, and country. Avoid criticizing their cultural lifestyle, especially their brand of Christianity (Ethiopian Orthodox). Avoid all contentious religious discussion, or you may risk all good will and hospitality you could have been afforded. Rather than argue about the merits of Orthodoxy or Islam, it's best to ask friends to explain their customs, festivals and beliefs and to listen with respect.
The Ethiopians' relationship with the Westerners is generally free of racial animosity. However, there is considerable suspicion and even xenophobia toward foreigners in the countryside. Ethiopians can be short-fused if they feel they are not treated as equals.
It is a sign of respect for men to avoid eye contact with women. If you are a foreign man, maintaining a formal distance from women will be seen as good manners. If you meet a woman who is with a man, ask the man's permission before talking to her. Likewise, if you're a foreign woman in public with a man, don't be upset if Ethiopian men address all questions to him. They will do this not to slight you but to show respect. This will be the case on public transport and in restaurants.
It is very important to remove your shoes when entering a home.
The country code for calling Ethiopia is 251. The city code for Addis Ababa 011 (or 11 from outside Ethiopia).
Ethiopia's connectivity is among the worst in the world. The mobile telecom network uses GSM (as in Europe/Africa), operated by Ethio Telecom (ETC) and has limited 3G (1x EV-DO service) and 2G (CDMA) service. There is good voice coverage into small cities. Per March 2015 this seems to have improved drasticly and now both calls and roaming works great (at least around urban areas).
For all travellers, having a mobile phone is a must. It is cheap and easily available. Satellite phones and VSAT devices are heavily restricted or illegal without hefty fees and licenses.
There are only a few stores renting SIM cards including ArifMobile. However, purchasing a SIM is inexpensive, and can be done anywhere that sells phones. The best spot is to buy it at a Ethio Telecom shop to not get ripped of. Per March 2015 a SIM card costs 15 birr and the system requires the seller to take a photo of you and your passport information to activate your SIM. You'll have to sign an agreement that you will not commit any crimes with your phone. All local stores will have calling cards you can purchase to call internationally. For domestic calls, phones are topped up with a prepaid card, available in denominations of 2000, 500, 100, 50 and 25 birr and smaller.
In general calls, SMS' and roaming is quite cheap.
Less than 1 million people in the country have access to internet, and internet service is extremely limited. There are numerous internet cafes in Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa, Nazret, Bahir Dar, Gonder, Awasa and other cities; however their speeds are often dial-up at best, and some operate illegally. In Addis Ababa, connection speeds are more than adequate for performing tasks such as checking e-mail most of the time. A typical internet cafe will have a dozen computers using one "broadband" (actually 3G mobile internet speeds from 128kbit/s) connection. ADSL is available, but expensive, and reserved for enterprise customers most of the time. At the Addis Sheraton, the internet connection rivals that of most Western hotels, but costs USD30 for a 24 hour connection. Ethiopia's international connection is unstable: On bad days, even a broadband connection will only deliver dial-up speed, because the whole country's traffic is running via an undersized backup satellite connection. The government has announced plans to rollout 4G LTE service.
To use the internet costs between 25-35 Ethiopian cents/min in the bigger cities but outside the cities it usually costs more than 1 birr/min. Watch out for computer viruses! Most computers or flash disks in use are infected.
Outside of bigger towns, it is harder to find a working Internet connection and the charge per minute is often much higher than in bigger towns.
Ethiopia is deploying an internet filter, to access blocked sites, use a VPN or use the free, open-source TOR Project. Personal use of VoIP services such as Skype has been legalized as of July 2012.
Ethiopia has one of the most efficient postal services in Africa. Many attribute this success to the extensive network of Ethiopian Airlines. However, mail does not get delivered to your address. You are required to buy a post office box. Once you get a post office box, the flow of your mail will be consistent.
English language papers include Capital and The Reporter each costing 5 birr.
When in Ethiopia, say “salaamno“, smile widely, and be prepared to be welcomed with open arms and hearts by the people of this beautiful country. From the Amhara region to South Omo, from Dallol to Addis Ababa, the cultural diversity of Ethiopia takes shape in age-old festivals and living landscapes. Here are are some of the locals you may meet in this fascinating country. 1
A farming family in Dodola, near the Bale Mountain National Park. Throwing seeds into the air is part of the wheat threshing process, it allows farmers to remove any impurities.2
I saw this colorfully dressed Kereyu woman with her donkey near Awash National Park.3
A farmer near Dejen, Amhara.More like this: Exploring the rock churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia 4
Two friends celebrate Meskel, the Finding of the True Cross, in Addis Ababa's appropriately named Meskel Square. In September, thousands of people gather to watch the lighting of the demera (a large bonfire).5
A young boy holds a processional cross during the celebration of Timket in Gondar. Timket celebrates the baptism of Jesus in the river Jordan and churches parade to the Fasilidades Bath to take part in the overnight ceremonies.6
All around Ethiopia, you will find women roasting, grinding, and making coffee. Here, a friend’s sister in the small town of Adet, in Amhara, prepares us some of the best coffee in the country before we head out.7
A young boy from the Hamer tribe in the Southern Omo Valley participates in the ‘Bull Jumping’ ceremony which marks his transition from boyhood to manhood.8
The Karo are among the few tribes in Ethiopia that use clay to decorate their bodies with patterns. Only young boys decorate their bodies.9
An older woman from the Mursi tribe in South Omo wears a headdress made from the tusk of a warthog. The Mursi are known are fierce warriors.
A young Afar man works to bring tourists to Dallol, where landscapes of bright colors are formed by salt and hydrothermal vents from deep underground. This man’s family used to work in salt mines.11
A salt mine worker in the oppressively hot Denakil Depression uses a tool to cut up blocks of salt that will be transported by traders to larger towns via the famous camel caravans.12
A farmer woman wears the traditional scarf tied around her waist associated mostly with the region called Gojjam, in the Amhara region of Ethiopia.13
A street vendor in Mekele, sells chickens ahead of Christmas Day, also known as Lidet. Orthodox Christians often fast by avoiding meat for a number of weeks before holidays like Christmas and Easter. They celebrate by eating a spicy chicken stew called ‘doro wot’ that is often thought to be their national dish.14
This Tigranian farmer invited us to celebrate Christmas near the Gheralta range by cooking us some delicious food at her home at the base of one of the most famous rock-hewn churches.15
A woman in the walled city of Harar, which is predominantly Muslim, pauses to chat with some clerks at a hardware store while maintaining a perfect balance of cooking oil on her head.16
A young waitress take a pause during a busy time at a local restaurant in a small town in the Afar region.More like this: Exploring the rock churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia
Culture Smart! provides essential information on attitudes, beliefs and behavior in different countries, ensuring that you arrive at your destination aware of basic manners, common courtesies, and sensitive issues. These concise guides tell you what to expect, how to behave, and how to establish a rapport with your hosts. This inside knowledge will enable you to steer clear of embarrassing gaffes and mistakes, feel confident in unfamiliar situations, and develop trust, friendships, and successful business relationships. Culture Smart! offers illuminating insights into the culture and society of a particular country. It will help you to turn your visit-whether on business or for pleasure-into a memorable and enriching experience. Contents include: * customs, values, and traditions * historical, religious, and political background * life at home * leisure, social, and cultural life * eating and drinking * do's, don'ts, and taboos * business practices * communication, spoken and unspoken
Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher
Lonely Planet Ethiopia, Djibouti & Somaliland is your passport to all the most relevant and up-to-date advice on what to see, what to skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Explore the crooked alleyways of Harar, gape at the rock paintings of Las Geel, or experience the calcareous chimneys of Lac Abbe; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Somaliland and begin your journey now!
Inside Lonely Planet Ethiopia, Djibouti & Somaliland Travel Guide:Colour maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries show you the simplest way to tailor your trip to your own personal needs and interests Insider tips save you time and money and help you get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - including hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, and prices Honest reviews for all budgets - including eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, and hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer and more rewarding travel experience - including customs, history, art, literature, poetry, music, dance, architecture, politics, landscapes, wildlife, and cuisine Over 45 local maps Useful features - including Top Experiences, If You Like (activity guide), and Month-by-Month (annual festival calendar) Coverage of Addis Ababa, Djibouti City, Hargeisa, Harar, Lalibela, Gonder, Tigray, Berbera, Lac Abbe, Lac Assal, Las Geel, Bahir Dar, Aksum, Mekele, the Danakil, Woldia, Arba Minch, and more
The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Ethiopia, Djibouti & Somaliland, our most comprehensive guide to Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Somaliland, is perfect for those planning to both explore the top sights and take the road less travelled.Looking for more extensive coverage? Check out Lonely Planet's Africa guide for a comprehensive look at all the continent has to offer.
Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet, Jean-Bernard Carillet, Tim Bewer & Stuart Butler.
About Lonely Planet: Started in 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel guide publisher with guidebooks to every destination on the planet, as well as an award-winning website, a suite of mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet's mission is to enable curious travellers to experience the world and to truly get to the heart of the places they find themselves in.
TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice Awards 2012 and 2013 winner in Favorite Travel Guide category
'Lonely Planet guides are, quite simply, like no other.' - New York Times'Lonely Planet. It's on everyone's bookshelves; it's in every traveller's hands. It's on mobile phones. It's on the Internet. It's everywhere, and it's telling entire generations of people how to travel the world.' - Fairfax Media (Australia)
This book is the perfect companion to any exploration of Ethiopia, be it in the precarious saddle of an Abyssinian pony, or from the folds of an armchair. A compendium of all things Ethiopian, the book throws wide-open the precious windows of understanding, allowing you to gaze deeper into the landscape and people with wonder. Ethiopia has long attracted the attentions of eccentric adventurers, Jesuit explorers, foolish would-be conquerors, as well as saints and sinners in equal measure...and the keen interest of writers of all stripes.
This powerful book gives readers a chance to experience Ethiopia through the personal experience of a writer who is both Ethiopian and American. It takes readers beyond headlines and stereotypes to a deeper understanding of the country. This is an absorbing account of the author’s return trip to Ethiopia as an adult, having left the country in exile with her family at age 11. She profiles relatives and friends who have remained in Ethiopia, and she writes movingly about Ethiopia’s recent past and its ancient history. She offers a clear-eyed analysis of the state of the country today, and her keen observations and personal experience will resonate with readers. This is a unique glimpse into a fascinating African country by a talented writer.
Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher
Haggling at markets, deciphering street signs, chatting to kids, asking someone's hand in marriage...just some of the situations you might experience while travelling in Ethiopia. Lucky for you, they're all covered in our Ethiopian Amharic phrasebook. So get reading and start talking!Two-way dictionary Guide to pronunciation and grammar New sustainable travel vocab section Handy menu decoder
Lonely Planet gets you to the heart of a place. Our job is to make amazing travel experiences happen. We visit the places we write about each and every edition. We never take freebies for positive coverage, so you can always rely on us to tell it like it is.
Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet and Tilahun Kebede.
About Lonely Planet: Started in 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel guide publisher with guidebooks to every destination on the planet, as well as an award-winning website, a suite of mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet's mission is to enable curious travellers to experience the world and to truly get to the heart of the places they find themselves in.
TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice Awards 2012 and 2013 winner in Favorite Travel Guide category
'Lonely Planet guides are, quite simply, like no other.' - New York Times
'Lonely Planet. It's on everyone's bookshelves; it's in every traveller's hands. It's on mobile phones. It's on the Internet. It's everywhere, and it's telling entire generations of people how to travel the world.' - Fairfax Media (Australia)
City Maps Addis Ababa Ethiopia is an easy to use small pocket book filled with all you need for your stay in the big city. Attractions, pubs, bars, restaurants, museums, convenience stores, clothing stores, shopping centers, marketplaces, police, emergency facilities and the list goes on and on. This collection of maps is up to date with the latest developments of the city. This city map is a must if you wish to enjoy the city without internet connection.
The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice. In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location. The Government of Canada will assist you in leaving a country or a region as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at your personal expense. Situations vary from one location to another, and there may be constraints on government resources that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries or regions where the potential for violent conflict or political instability is high.
You are advised to exercise a high degree of caution in the country and to maintain security awareness at all times.
You are advised against all travel within 10 km of the Eritrean border in the Tigray and Afar regions. The border between Eritrea and Ethiopia is closed due to recurring military tensions and an unsettled border dispute, as demonstrated on March 15, 2012 when the Ethiopian military attacked targets in Eritrea. Adjacent areas are part of a special and heavily militarized security corridor where armed conflict could erupt. The security situation is particularly unpredictable in the northern regions of Tigray and Afar. Banditry and the threat of kidnapping are also a concern.
There is an ongoing threat of armed assaults and kidnappings against tourists and convoys in the Danakil Desert (northern Afar region). In January 2012, a group of foreign tourists was attacked by gunmen approximately 30 kilometers from the Ethiopian-Eritrean border, near the site of the Erta Ale Volcano. The attack resulted in the death of five people, with others injured and kidnapped. Avoid all travel to the Danakil Desert area, bounded by the Ethio-Eritrean border and the roads between the towns of Dessie and Adigrat and Dessie and the Galafi border crossing with Djibouti.
The presence of landmines poses a serious threat to visitors not travelling with a trusted tour company in the Danakil Desert. Explosions off the beaten path may cause injuries and death.
There is a high risk of kidnapping. Ongoing military operations against armed insurgent groups in the Somali region of Ethiopia and in the Ogaden and Hararge areas, toward the Somali border, have created an extremely volatile and dangerous security situation in which civilians have been killed and injured. Humanitarian missions, foreign aid workers as well as oil company workers and well operators in the Somali region have been subject to attacks and abductions by rebel groups including the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). The presence of landmines in this region poses an additional threat to safety.
Tribal issues and sporadic incidents of violence have long affected part of the border area with South Sudan. In March 2012, a bus was ambushed by gunmen in the Gambella region, 22 km north of the city of Gambella on the road to Addis Ababa. Nineteen people were killed, and others were wounded or kidnapped. In April 2012, an agricultural site 90 km south of the city of Gambella was attacked by gunmen, killing five and injuring nine. Although foreigners do not appear to be targeted, tensions are high and concerns regarding ethnic clashes and road banditry remain. Tensions remain high in western Oromia as well. Avoid non-essential travel to the city of Gambella where the security situation is generally more stable.
Intertribal clashes, clan disputes, and banditry are common in this region and are fought by both Ethiopian and Kenyan security forces. This periodically raises tensions and cross-border violence has been reported. Armed groups hostile to the Government of Ethiopia operate in several areas near the border with Kenya.
Regional terror groups, including those associated with al Qaeda and al-Shabaab, continue to threaten Western interests and other potential targets in Ethiopia. The September 21, 2013 attack on an upscale Nairobi mall illustrates the threat of attacks on civilians in East Africa. On October 13, 2013, a bomb exploded in the Bole neighbourhood of Addis Ababa, killing two people.
On November 5, 2013, Ethiopian authorities indicated that they had “found tangible and reliable evidence that shows that the terrorists had plans to carry out attacks in Addis Ababa and in other parts of the country”. Be vigilant in crowded places and monitor local media. In addition, domestic terrorist groups pose threats in certain regions, including in the Somali region, and parts of the Afar, Oromo, and Gambella regions.
There is a moderate level of crime in Ethiopia, including in the capital. Muggings, armed assaults and theft from parked cars happen. Crimes of opportunity, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching, are prevalent in Addis Ababa. Pickpockets and thieves are active throughout the city, but particularly on Bole Road and in the Piazza, the Merkato, and other areas frequented by tourists and foreigners. Crime significantly increases after dark, and foreigners should avoid walking alone after sundown. Similarly, driving outside of Addis Ababa after sundown is not advised due to banditry.
In the last few years, small bombings and explosions have occurred in Addis Ababa. Targets have included government buildings, public transit, and local restaurants and cafés. If travelling in the capital, you should monitor local developments and remain in regular contact with the Embassy of Canada in Addis Ababa. Be vigilant and aware of your surroundings at all times.
Politically and socially motivated demonstrations occur regularly and are often initiated with little or no advance notice. Some have escalated and turned violent in the past. Exercise caution and avoid public gatherings and demonstrations.
Apart from major arteries, roads are generally in poor condition and often unpaved. However, in recent years, the road network has significantly improved, particularly in and around Addis Ababa. Excessive speed, local driving habits, pedestrians, roaming animals, and poorly maintained vehicles pose hazards. Outside of Addis Ababa, overland travel should be undertaken during daylight hours only and in convoys if possible. Periodic fuel shortages can disrupt road travel.
It is common for vehicles to be approached by beggars or vendors. It is illegal to give money to, or purchase something from, people who approach vehicles stopped in traffic. If caught, both the beggar/vendor and the vehicle operator may be fined. However, it is common for people, particularly children, to throw rocks at vehicles if their plea for money is ignored.
Beware of individuals who appear to be offering assistance by signaling that there is a problem with your vehicle, as bandits frequently use this tactic to lure drivers out of their vehicles.
Overland travel to the areas bordering Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan is generally unsafe as banditry, including armed robbery and carjacking, is common. Landmines remain a hazard, particularly in the conflict zones of northern Ethiopia and near the areas bordering Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia.
Traffic accidents occur regularly in Addis Ababa and throughout Ethiopia. Drivers should use extra caution as traffic moves unpredictably and rules of the road are not respected. If an accident occurs, it is illegal to move your vehicle before a police officer arrives. However, if the driver or passenger feels the situation is unsafe, he or she should leave immediately and report the incident to the nearest police station. Drivers should always carry a first-aid kit as medical facilities are often undersupplied.
Upon entering the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, all bags are scanned, without exception, including checked-in luggage. Suitcases may also be searched manually. Baggage tags must be retained, as they must be presented upon exit from the airport baggage claim area, without exception.
Consult our Transportation FAQ in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.
Tourist facilities are limited outside Addis Ababa, and any travel outside the capital, especially in rural areas, should be carefully planned.
Power outages are frequent, particularly during the dry season (November to June). Not all buildings have generators, so outages can result in lack of street lighting, restaurants and supermarkets without adequate refrigeration, and gas stations unable to supply fuel. Carry flashlights and backup supplies.
Carry identification at all times and safely store certified photocopies of passports, visas and other travel documents.
Remain discreet and avoid displaying any signs of affluence in public. Valuables or bags should not be left unattended.
Although coverage can be poor outside urban centres, it is improving and it is still advisable to carry a cellular phone in case of emergency. In an emergency, call 991 for police, fire department or ambulance services.
Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.
Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
This country is in the African Meningitis Belt, an area where there are many cases of meningococcal disease. Meningococcal disease (meningitis) is a serious and sometimes fatal infection of the tissue around the brain and the spinal cord. Travellers who may be at high risk should consider getting vaccinated. High-risk travellers include those living or working with the local population (e.g., health care workers), those travelling to crowded areas or taking part in large gatherings, or those travelling for a longer period of time.
There is a risk of polio in this country. Be sure that your vaccination against polio is up-to-date.
Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.
Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
|* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.|
|Country Entry Requirement*|
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
In some areas in East Africa, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in East Africa. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
There have been cases of cholera reported in this country in the last year. Cholera is a bacterial disease that typically causes diarrhea. In severe cases it can lead to dehydration and even death.
Most travellers are generally at low risk. Humanitarian workers and those visiting areas with limited access to safe food and water are at higher risk. Practise safe food and water precautions. Travellers at high risk should get vaccinated.
Schistosomiasis is caused by blood flukes (tiny worms) spread to humans through contaminated water. The eggs of the worms can cause stomach illnesses like diarrhea and cramps or urinary problems. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Avoid swimming in contaminated water. There is no vaccine available for schistosomiasis.
In some areas in East Africa, certain insects carry and spread diseases like African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, malaria, onchocerciasis (river blindness), Rift Valley fever, West Nile virus and yellow fever.
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
Cutaneous and mucosal leishmaniasis causes skin sores and ulcers. It is caused by a parasite spread through the bite of a female sandfly. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from sandfly bites, which typically occur after sunset in rural and forested areas and in some urban centres. There is no vaccine available for leishmaniasis.
Visceral leishmaniasis (or kala azar) affects the bone marrow and internal organs. It is caused by a parasite spread through the bite of a female sandfly. It can also be transmitted by blood transfusion or sharing contaminated needles. If left untreated it can cause death. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from sandfly bites, which typically occur after sunset in rural and forested areas and in some urban centres. There is no vaccine available for leishmaniasis.
Onchocerciasis (river blindness) is an eye and skin disease caused by a parasite spread through the bite of an infected female blackfly. Onchocerciasis often leads to blindness if left untreated. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from blackfly bites, which are most common during the daytime and close to running water. There is no vaccine available for onchocerciasis although drug treatments exist.
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in East Africa, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks and impairs the immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).
Practise safe sex while travelling, and don’t share needles, razors, or other objects which could transmit infection.
Remember that HIV can also be spread through the use of unsterile medical equipment during medical and dental procedures, tattooing, body piercing or acupuncture. Diseases can also be spread though blood transfusions and organ transplantation if the blood or organs are not screened for HIV or other blood-borne pathogens.
Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.
For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.
Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.
High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.
All illicit drugs are illegal except khat, a local stimulant. Khat is illegal in Canada.
Although weaponry is relatively easy to acquire, it is illegal to carry a firearm in Ethiopia.
It is illegal to own any quantity of ivory, including in jewelry.
Homosexual activity is illegal for both genders, and is punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment.
Laptop computers and video equipment other than for personal use must be declared upon arrival and departure. Some recording devices may require special customs permits. If these items are being used for work, you should contact the Consulate of Ethiopia in Toronto for permission to bring them into the country. Each visitor is only permitted to bring one of each device, such as a laptop, cell phone, projector, etc.
It is strictly prohibited to photograph military installations, police and military personnel, industrial facilities, and government buildings and infrastructure, including roads, bridges, dams and airfields. It is extremely dangerous to stop either on foot or in a vehicle near a restricted area, no matter the reason.
Tourist souvenirs are often copies of Ethiopian antiques or religious paraphernalia. It is important to have a proper receipt that clearly indicates that a purchased item is a souvenir and not authentic, as the exportation of real antiques or religious items is not permitted. Receipts should be carried on your person when travelling. It should be noted, however, that even upon presenting such documents, items purchased for exportation may still be confiscated, no matter how small or seemingly trivial they are.
A local driver's licence is required to drive in Ethiopia. Travellers must present their valid Canadian driver's licence or their International Driving Permit (IDP) to obtain one.
Ethiopia operates within both the Western and the Julian time and calendar systems. Time is usually measured as a 12-hour day starting at 6 a.m. (e.g. 9 a.m. Western time is referred to as 3 a.m. Julian time).
The Ethiopian highlands are predominantly Orthodox Christian. There is fasting in this region each Wednesday and Friday, and during Lent. Primarily vegetarian dishes are available during this period (except in large hotels).
Always obtain permission from religious authorities before visiting churches.
The currency is the birr (ETB). It is illegal to enter or exit Ethiopia while carrying more than 200 birr. It is also illegal to travel in or out of Ethiopia with more than US$3,000 (or its equivalent in any convertible foreign currency) unless also carrying a bank advice certifying the purchase of the foreign currency or a customs declaration form completed upon entry. Even the provision of such documents may not safeguard you against confiscation of the extra funds, imprisonment or fines. You must declare foreign currencies upon arrival and may be required to present this declaration when applying for an exit visa.
Exchange foreign currency at banks or official foreign exchange offices only, as penalties for exchanging money on the black market range from fines to imprisonment. Official exchange rates are close to black-market rates.
Credit cards are not widely accepted except by large hotels, travel agencies, and a few shops and restaurants in Addis Ababa. Take hard-currency cash or traveller's cheques to Ethiopia. Traveller’s cheques can be cashed at the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia or at any privately owned bank.
Due to below-average rainfall over the last five years, many regions of eastern Africa, including Ethiopia, are currently afflicted by severe drought. You may encounter difficulties travelling overland. Local services and the availability of water and basic food may be affected.
The rainy season normally extends from June to September. Some roads may become impassable during this period due to flooding. Keep informed of regional weather forecasts and plan accordingly.
Ethiopia is located in an active seismic zone. You should know the address and telephone number of the Embassy of Canada in Addis Ababa in the event of an emergency, and make sure that your registration with the Registration of Canadians Abroad is as accurate and complete as possible.