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Ethiopia

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Ethiopia (Amharic: ????? ??ty?p y?) 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.

Regions

Cities

  • Addis Ababa – capital of Ethiopia and one of the biggest shopping cities in Africa
  • Adama (also known as Nazret or Nazareth) – popular weekend destination near Addis
  • Axum (Aksum) – home of ancient tombs and stelae fields, in the far north
  • Bahir Dar – monasteries on the islands of Lake Tana and the beautiful Blue Nile Falls nearby
  • Dire Dawa – the second largest city; in the east
  • Gondar – some of East Africa's only castles
  • Harar – ancient walled city near Dire Dawa
  • Lalibela – home to 11 astonishing rock-hewn churches
  • Mekele – a town in the Tigrayan Highlands in the north

Other destinations

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.

  • Abijatta Shalla Lakes National Park
  • Awash National Park
  • Mago National Park
  • Omo National Park
  • Rift Valley lakes - seven lakes that are a popular weekend getaway for Addis residents, great for birding, water sports or relaxing at the luxury resorts
  • Simien National Park
  • Sodere - spa resort

Understand

History

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 ???????? (Aithiopia), from ?????? (Aithiops) "an Ethiopian", derived from Greek terms meaning "of burnt (???-) visage (??)". 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.

People

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%).

Terrain

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.

Climate

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).

Time and calendar

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.

Get in

Visa requirements

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.

By plane

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).

Other international airports are in Dire Dawa, Mekele and Bahir Dar.

By car

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.

By bus

  • Public transport brings you to the border. With the Sudan or Kenya crossings, you just walk to the other side. If you arrive at the border towns late at night, try not to cross the border in the dark. Wait in the town and do your travelling in the morning.
  • Buses that cover some distance start in early morning. This implies that if you arrive during the day you would be stuck at least until the next morning.
  • From Gedaref (Sudan) catch a bumpy bus or truck (SDG700) to the border. The Sudanese side consists of several small villages and a tiny town. In Ethiopia you could find better, but basic, accommodation. Buses leaving for Gonder dry up by mid-afternoon so you must either arrive early at the border or spend the night in Metema (around 50 birr).
  • From Djibouti you can take a small bus to the border (2-3h) where you will find buses to Dire Dawa. This road is a dirt track and the trip takes at least half a day, at nightfall the bus uses to stop and you resume travel the next day. From Ethiopia into Djibouti, a bus leaves supposedly around midnight (buy tickets during the day at the office in the centre of Dire Dawa). This arrives at the Djibouti border in the morning where you change onto a different bus to get to Djibouti City. It is a good idea to take a tuk-tuk to the bus station as hyenas wander the streets of Dire Dawa at night.

By train

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.

Get around

By plane

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.

By bus

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.

By car

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 4: Addis Ababa-Djibouti via Nazret (Adama), Awash and Dire Dawa

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

By bicycle

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.

By train

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.

Talk

See also: Amharic phrasebook

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.

See

  • Huge obelisks in Axum
  • Historic routes, churches and mosques LalibelaAxumGondar, Harar
  • Volcanic lake Danakil Depression and Erta Ale
  • Rift Valley lakes Wonchi crater lake, Langano, Tana
  • National Parks such as Menengesha
  • Many beautiful churches in Addis Ababa
  • Rock-hewn churches in Lalibela
  • Castles in Gondar

Itineraries

  • Northern historic circuit. A loop from Addis Ababa to Bahir Dar on Lake Tana, to Gondar, then Axum, and Lalibela, and back to Addis. Other stops can be included, such as Simien National Park, Adwa and nearby Yeha, Hawzien and Mekele. The circuit can also be done in the opposite direction. Destinations can be reached affordably by domestic airlines but you may want to consider taking the bus journey from Addis to Bahir Dar to experience the awe-inspiring and switch-backing descent from the highlands deep down into the gorge of the Blue Nile and back up again and for the abundant wildlife you'll see on this stretch of the road. A new paved road is in place and has, in synergy with the Luxury bus companies, turned this gruelling bus trip into a quite a decent trip (March 2015).

Do

  • Tribal region safari in the Lower Omo Valley
  • Trekking in Dodolla, Bale Siemien Mountains National Park
  • Bird watching in Rift Valley lakes
  • See the gelada ("baboons") at Debre Sina near Addis Ababa
  • White water rafting in the Omo River
  • Attend a traditional coffee ceremony.
  • Visit an azmari bet (azmari bar) to listen to azmari musicians and singers.

Buy

Money

Local currency is the Ethiopian birr, denoted by the symbol "Br" or "?? " (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.

Changing cash

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.

US dollar

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.

Costs

Ethiopia is relatively cheap for tourists, compared to other African countries.

To stay at a 5-star hotel in Addis AbabaDire Dawa, Nazret, Bahir DarGondar and Awasa costs on average 1,500 birr per night.

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.

You need about 400 birr per day for hotel, fuel, food, lodging and transport. In Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa you can need 600 birr per day.

Tipping

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.

Eat

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.

Drink

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.

Sleep

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, LalibelaBahir 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, AwasaArba 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.

Work

In the big cities, especially Addis Ababa:

  • There is a high demand for IT professionals.
  • Many start-up companies search for individuals with computer networking and consulting backgrounds.
  • Addis Ababa has the highest number of NGOs in Africa, and possibly among all third world countries. They are reputed for providing generous salaries to their employees.
  • Many expatriates work in NGOs and small start-up IT companies.
  • Compared with other African cities, Addis Ababa has a high number of big, medium and small sized computer training schools, and governmental and private learning institutions. Many students who attend hope to obtain an IT or consulting job, in the very scarce job market of the city.

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.

Stay safe

  • Avoid travelling to the eastern part of the country beyond the city of Harar. Somali separatist groups occasionally launch guerrilla attacks. Most expats who go there are US military personnel actively training the Ethiopian army's anti-terrorism unit. Many others are Chinese, Indian or Malaysian representatives of oil companies, who have been targeted in major guerrilla attacks resulting in dozens of casualties. Harar is safe for extended stays, and Jijiga is generally also safe for short trips.
  • Armed insurgent groups operate in the Afar region. In 2012 an Afari group attacked tourists in the Danakil Depression, killing five European tourists, and kidnapping two others. The Ethiopian government alleges that this was sponsored by its rival, Eritrea.
  • In 2008, a hotel in the town of Jijiga and two hotels in the town of Negele Borena were bombed.
  • Organized crime and gang violence are very unusual in most parts of the country. However, in the border areas of Sudan (Gambella Region) and Kenya, there are reports indicating occurrences of banditry. Avoid these areas.
  • Though Ethiopia has a secular government, the people are very religious. The two dominant religions (the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Islam) strongly influence day-to-day life. Due to their influence the government implements certain rules and laws that could appear unsettling to westerners. In particular, homosexuality is illegal and is not tolerated.
  • Compared to other African countries, robbery is not a major problem in the cities and towns. However, travellers are advised to look after their belongings. Travellers should be cautious at all times when travelling on roads in Ethiopia. There have been reports of highway robbery, including car-jacking, by armed bandits outside urban areas. Some incidents have been accompanied by violence. Travellers are cautioned to limit road travel outside major towns or cities to daylight hours and travel in convoys, if possible.
  • Travellers with vehicles and cyclists may often be the target of stoning by local youths when driving in rural areas.
  • Traffic accidents, both for pedestrians and vehicle passengers/drivers are common -- Ethiopia is one of the most dangerous places in the world to drive. These accidents are often fatal. Pedestrians frequently walk into the middle of the road without looking, vehicles do not use mirrors and traffic lanes are more of a guideline than a rule. It is highly advisable to hire a driver and to travel in the largest vehicle reasonably possible, to maximize safety. Always keep doors locked and do not lower windows enough for beggars to put their hands in (distracting a driver while robbing through the passenger side window is a common tactic).
  • Most federal police and some private security guards carry Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifles. This is common, and should not be cause for alarm -- it is simply cheaper for them to purchase and repair these weapons than more "traditional" police tools like pistols and pepper spray. The federal police are generally well trained and very effective in their jobs, and can be distinguished by their blue camouflage uniforms. City police wear a solid blue shirt, and are less reliable. Traffic police wear a blue uniform with white hat and sleeves, and are generally the least reliable of the city police.
  • For a few years, there have been anti-government movements in the south and especially in the Oromia region. The largest minority, the Oromia people, are disadvantaged by the homogeneous government. In August 2016 Protests in the Oromia region were violently suppressed and protesters were killed in Gondar and Bahir Dar. The major bus companies shut down their service during the protests and roads were blocked, especially on the weekends. Avoid large crowds and keep an eye for an unusual concentration of security personnel.

Stay healthy

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.

Respect

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.

Connect

Telephone

The country code for calling Ethiopia is 251. The city code for Addis Ababa 011 (or 11 from outside Ethiopia).

Mobile

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.

Internet

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 AbabaDire 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.

Mail

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.

Newspapers

English language papers include Capital and The Reporter each costing 5 birr.

Hear about travel to Ethiopia as the Amateur Traveler talks to Anwar from beyondmyfrontdoor.com about travel to this country rich with beauty and history.

Hear about travel to Ethiopia as the Amateur Traveler talks to Anwar from beyondmyfrontdoor.com about travel to this country rich with beauty and history.

Image credit: Darren Garrett

A 17-year-old boy of Bengali immigrant parents once told me how much he loved riding a bicycle—but that he would drive a car when he was an adult.

We were cycling from London to the coastal city of Brighton at the time. His mind was clearly infused with cultural notions of car ownership as a form of status and wealth — but more than that, it seemed to hinge on an idea that cycling belonged to a time of childhood, youth, and, broadly, of innocence. His image was in harmony with futurist author H.G. Wells, who wrote in 1905: “Cycle tracks will abound in utopia.”

In an age of politics proud to knock the vulnerable, where many fear for society’s loss of innocence, the way bicycles are creating a place for themselves on the world’s car-filled roads offers both a beacon and guide. It shows how a fringe and fragile, but rational idea can survive a political climate that prides itself on the ability to be firm, tough, and even mean.

Physics alone makes a compelling case for the value of the bicycle. Designed to human proportions, bicycles are recognized as the most energy-efficient means of transport available — better even than walking. A bicycle requires around 50 calories per passenger mile, and while cars vary greatly in efficiency rates, the equivalent figure starts at around 1,500. The bicycle is to transportation what pulleys and winches are to lifting; in their very essence, and even quite literally, bicycles give power to the powerless.

Over history, this quality has made them ever-present in both social change and protest. In 1896, American suffragette Susan B. Anthony famously pronounced of the bicycle, ‘’I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.’’ In the grainy footage of Chinese protesters clearing the wounded from Tiananmen Square in 1989, bicycles are visible bearing stretchers and helping protesters get around. In Saudi Arabia, as religious leaders prop up a conservative nation reliant on oil prices, the country’s first domestically produced film, Wadjda, features a young girl determined to resist the forces that try to stop her from riding the green bicycle she dreams of owning. The bicycle toes a delicate cultural line, along which it is powerful enough to inspire, but innocent enough not to offend censors.

In many examples, the bicycle plays both practical and emotional roles. Kimberly Coats, a cycling advocate who’s worked across Africa, has seen bicycles allow health workers to cover otherwise-impossible distances. Coats now runs women’s cycling club Team Rwanda Cycling, and explains how women have been slower to take up riding in Rwanda than in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and other places she has worked. “It’s been an uphill battle to find women interested in learning to cycle and then having the fortitude to stand up to the cultural stigma placed on them for riding,” she says. “It’s a slow process, but it is a process, and we are witnessing change. It’s not just freedom; bicycles are essential to a better quality of life in Africa.”

Una publicación compartida de Team Rwanda (@teamrwanda) el 31 de Dic de 2016 a la(s) 10:04 PST

Coats’ partner organization, Qhubeka, runs a number of projects across Africa that reward community work with bicycles. In the informal settlement of Kayamandi, in South Africa’s Western Cape province, 18-year-old Olwethu is now able to cycle to school and pursue ambitions of studying medicine. “Riding my bicycle has brought me closer to myself. It has taught me to be brave. The bicycle has changed my life,” she says. “I’m standing proud to show that I can ride my bicycle as a female and that not only men can ride. We also can do this.”

Those qualities are well-summarized in a 2012 message, encouraging riders to join a bicycle phalanx as it made its way to New York’s Union Square and Occupy Wall Street protests: “Bike Blocs at street protests have the advantage of being able to break up and reform. The spontaneity of a Bike Bloc means that participants are able to easily move through the streets without needing leaders or a decided route … In the past, Bike Blocs have provided a tremendous amount of solidarity and logistical support to demonstrators who are on foot.”

In both Western and non-Western settings, the low barriers to obtaining and using a bicycle, which requires little maintenance and is largely resilient against most kinds of mechanic failure, predisposes the technology toward inclusivity.

Although it’s hard to plot a single, accurate timeline in such a global trend, 2009 might usefully be seen as a tipping point in the cultural renaissance of the bicycle — a moment when its marginal, grassroots appeal started to go mainstream. With a greater number of people living in cities than the world’s rural areas for the first time, a pendulum tipped — bringing with it the need for efficient transport in settings that now define most of the human presence on Earth.

In the manicured spaces of the modern Western city, the bicycle offers a safe, healthy means of rebellion, perfectly attuned to the new vogue. Financial institutions in London and New York, which flocked eagerly to sponsor cycle hire schemes, have led the clamor around buying a slice of H.G. Wells’ prophesied utopia.

Nonetheless, the bicycle now has an almost existential appeal. In Paris, Mayor Anne Hidalgo has begun closing stretches of urban expressway so that the banks of the River Seine can see a “reconquest” by bikes and pedestrians. Back in London, Mayor Sadiq Khan has pledged to double cycling investment, build more bike lanes, and “make London a byword for cycling.” Campaigners are determinedly holding his feet to the fire on those promises, but the way politicians are now expected to come to the table with positive sound bites on bicycles demonstrates how central they are in the creation of modern, livable spaces.

This growing political popularity of cycling is not only the prevail of public-spirited leftists. In New York, it was finance-billionaire-turned-mayor Michael Bloomberg who first insisted Manhattan streets must accommodate bicycles. Some of the most impressive cycle infrastructure in London was signed-off by Boris Johnson; a man educated at Eton and Oxford, belonging to the highest walks of the British class system. To traditional conservatives, cycling seems to have a life-affirming appeal that draws resilience, thanks to the diversity of its gene pool.

The notion that bicycles form part of the architecture of a healthy city is also growing outside the West. Clarisse Linke is Brazil’s country director for the global Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, through which she has successfully pushed for the implementation of bicycle infrastructure in sprawling, gridlocked São Paulo. A well-integrated network of bike lanes has boosted the popularity of cycling on key routes by 116 percent, while also delivering large reductions in fatal accidents.

“The bike lane program came with a broader movement for reclaiming public spaces in São Paulo,” explains Linke. “There’s also an important mindset change in the population, which started to discover the need and joy of being ‘out in the streets.’ Bikes play an important role in that, as citizens have the possibility to interact with other citizens while outside a car.”

A city-centric view of the unstoppable roll of the bicycles, however, is perhaps wishful thinking. In thriving urban areas, we see bicycles in a glorified role as an avatar for metropolitan liberty. Cycling is celebrated in a city’s culture, media, and politics; cycling fashion is championed, each fatality is given broad coverage, condemned by campaign groups, and commemorated by protesters willing to close junctions by lying down in the street — an action that channels the idea of a sit-in into a “die-in.”

Una publicación compartida de karen ball (@didyoumakethat) el 29 de Jun de 2015 a la(s) 10:16 PDT

It isn’t only a question of urban areas, however. Different cities have different characteristics. Activists in the concrete sprawl of Houston, Texas, have been moved to begin a “ghost bike” project in which painted bicycles are left at those places where cyclists have been killed by drivers; their deaths treated by police as if such events were an obvious cost of using the road network on two wheels. Despite the existence of a grassroots cycling community to condemn the injustice, its presence has not yet permeated the minds of public servants.

Outside major metropolitan areas, the rights of cyclists are even more easily flouted. The statistics bear this out. In the U.K., rural roads host just 32 percent of every billion miles cycled, but are home to 58 percent of cycling fatalities. When the League of American Bicyclists ranked state policy on cycling (measuring a mix of state spending on bikes, long-term planning, and enforcement against driving offenses), it was Washington that topped the table, with West Coast companionship from Oregon and California also inside the top 10. States with lower urban density, like Alabama, Kentucky, Kansas, and Nebraska, propped up the bottom of the list.

Then there’s the curious phenomenon of the extreme anger that the mere presence of cyclists on our streets seems to evoke in some. Despite cyclists frequently suffering as the victims of roads, allowances for bicycles attract an ire that seems to go well beyond mere infrastructure. In New York, Bloomberg’s pro-bike changes saw a rival politician remark that, if elected, he would “tear out his fucking bike lanes.” Cycling communities are full of stories of unwarranted road rage. Even London’s former mayor, Boris Johnson, mercurial in his love of cycling, criticized fellow riders in 2012 for thinking of themselves as “morally superior.”

Julian Huppert, who served as MP for the U.K.’s top cycling city, Cambridge, tells similar stories about Eric Pickles, a minister with a bruising reputation for dismissing bikes. “He attacked Cambridge for focusing on cycling, describing it as the choice of the ‘elite,’” Huppert tells me. “In Cambridge, over a third of trips for work or education are done by bike; imagine the gridlock if we stopped cycling!”

These incidents aren’t isolated. In an era of Brexit and Trump, bicycles can be readily found in the basket of goods used to typify supposedly out-of-touch city types. The same nostalgic politics that harkens back to a glorious, unfettered past sees the curtailment of car use, imposition of speed limits, and affordance of greater rights to cyclists as an arrogant imposition of the future, a world of “political correctness gone mad.”

One common view of bicycles, rational and human-scale, is as a vehicle of liberalism, while cars become the prevail of those with an affinity for libertarian power. On roads dominated by heavy traffic, the cyclist quickly learns what it is to feel a minority, vulnerable, and structurally and systematically discriminated against. What happens in a culture that diminishes the value of rules, or scoffs at those that protect the vulnerable, is an increasingly central question of modern politics—but a familiar one in cycling.

Una publicación compartida de Qualitytraining (@quality__training) el 10 de Feb de 2017 a la(s) 6:08 PST

Looking at the road through this political lens, the value of bicycle campaigning takes on broader resonance for how vulnerable ideas can protect and advance themselves in judgmental times. A number of characteristics have, in this regard, always worked in the bicycle’s favor. For starters, cycling is an active, physical activity with a real-world manifestation that is at odds with the sometimes cerebral disposition of liberal thought. To cycle is to vote with your bike, and in a network built around cars, it’s a de facto public protest.

While liberal politics can struggle to offer symbols that enforce abstract ideas with semiotics that evoke feeling, the bicycle as a visual icon — instantly recognizable and unifying — has a galvanizing, rallying role in campaigns. Despite efforts — both positive and critical — to typecast cyclists, bicycles have broad appeal across a political spectrum; adherents are as likely to be proponents of conscientious living as they are to believe in a free-market world of survival of the fittest.

Many of those who campaign for cycling provisions genuinely see it as an answer to their perceptions of the world’s ills: climate change, pocketbook politics, self-reliant transport, taxpayer value for money, improved public health, emotional well-being. The belief that the bicycle really could fix all of our problems, whatever they are, creates an absolute vision that serves bicycle campaigning with both a practical roadmap and a religious zeal. It’s easier to build a utopia if you can imagine what it looks like, even if the only detail in that image is plenty of bikes.

The necessity of walking the talk is also paramount, and international cycling groups have exemplified much of what is required in smart, successful campaigning: Point to positive examples elsewhere, create healthy competition between nations and cities, get media visibility, don’t indulge rivalry between groups in the same movement, share knowledge, make politicians aware, hound them where they do not acknowledge you and praise them where they do, reply to consultations, write letters, propose visions. In short — be busy. Cycling has the added bonus of creating its own tribe — cyclists — and a value system is always at its strongest where it resides in the shared form of a community, rather than in potentially atomized, isolated individuals.

This inclusivity and action has had a tendency to filter upwards, making it possible to put ideals into practice. Female politicians have been instrumental in pushing through transport changes to the good of cycling: Anne Hidalgo has made Paris a leading light of the movement, Janette Sadik-Khan (no relation to London’s mayor) bossed Bloomberg’s transport policy, and Val Shawcross has been stalwart in London’s pro-bike changes.

The consistent thread in all of this is one of bicycles as a solution; an idea that can open those ghettos that form when busy roads segregate public space. It is not a combative form of transportation, but rather one that is well suited to pulling down the walls between groups and breathing air into the places where hostile politics fester.

Much of this can help in forming templates for how the politically vulnerable ideas and minorities of this world can now fortify themselves — designing transport to relegate motor traffic and prioritize humans and human interaction is only a metaphor for a broader struggle getting underway. Coats, though talking of bicycles in Rwanda, has words that are global in their relevance: “What I love about cycling is that it’s a sport that can cut through ethnic divisions, country conflict, and help overcome social and cultural stigma.”

In sympathy with this, the bicycle offers a pace of travel that is itself an incitation to patience. Change happens slowly, and you will more likely win a war by converting an opponent than defeating them. Huppert recalls how campaigners once struggled to get cycling issues into Parliament, but after a debate was scheduled and attracted a packed house in September 2013, it became easier to secure funding and changes further down the line.

Una publicación compartida de Colleen Lidz (@klidz) el 21 de Sep de 2014 a la(s) 11:09 PDT

Linke describes São Paulo’s eventual embrace of its bicycle infrastructure as evidence for the same gradual acceptance. “Public opinion changed significantly since the start, when the media voiced several criticisms, amplifying problems and making the population go against the program,” she says. “In the beginning, critics simply denied the possibility of bikes in São Paulo — saying that ‘bikes are good for Amsterdam, but they don’t fit in São Paulo.’”

Clear in Linke’s reflection, however, is a desire to welcome rather than punish those slow to come around to her way of thinking. “As the network moved forward and started to show new cyclists on the road, the main criticisms moved their focus from, ‘We don’t want bike lanes’ to ‘These bike lanes are not so good, we want better ones,’” she explains. “The media support changed along with the population’s support towards the bike lane program.”

Against a backdrop of social media burnout, and the unsettling capacity of the internet to create multiple realities, the fake-news furor of the 2016 U.S. presidential election seemed a high watermark for the feeling that the delicate bonds that secure human empathy are under threat.

As Donald Trump makes and unmakes both his promises and insults, playing fast and loose with facts along the way, the concept of gaslighting has been popularized as a term used to describe a process of taking control of a subject by making targets question their own memories, perceptions, and even sanity. Gaslighting is done through chicanery and contradiction, conjecture and non sequitur, rather than outright opposition.

But if gaslighting’s purpose is to unhinge people from their sense of self, cycling as a form of transport is the opposite, an antidote. It offers space to think. To ride is a small act of self-affirmation. I cycle, therefore I am; I am pedaling, I move forward, I feel the wind on my skin.

The word “transport,” unpacked to its etymology, means literally “across doors.” It represents the gray area between home and work, lived realities that we strive constantly to control. Transport is very often the thing that happens while we are making other plans.

As concern for the state of our public discourse begins to mount, as we rue our inability to communicate across divides that seem very new and needlessly wide, perhaps the humble bicycle, a transportation mode that puts people in contact with one another and gives them back that control they seem to crave, offers a unique opportunity to remake those realities for the better.

This piece was originally published at How We Get To Next and is reposted here with permission.

Some rights reserved Licence Creative Commons

new york

In New York. All photos taken by Sara Melotti.

SARA MELOTTI, A NEW YORK-based Italian photographer, had started noticing something disturbing. Her model friends were constantly criticizing their own appearances. And she started to realize that she was complicit. “With the kind of work I was producing, I was contributing to set very unrealistic beauty standards that made my friends, myself and countless other women suffer,” Melotti said. “Emotionally, psychologically and sometime even physically — coming from a background in the dance world I witnessed battles with eating disorders first hand.”

Feeling guilty, Melotti decided that she should start using her talents as a photographer for the greater good. So she began traveling around the world to photograph women and challenge our standards of beauty.

agadir

In Agadir, Morocco

“I think the world — especially the western one — forgot what beauty really is,” Melotti said. She’d seen how the sausage gets made for what we in the west see as “beautiful.” “It takes hours of work,” Melotti said, “a model with physical traits that belong to below 2% of the population, a whole team of professionals and tons of photoshop and post-production to achieve the look we see in those images.”

monno

Silvia in Monno, Italy

Her project, which she calls “Quest for Beauty,” will eventually take her to at least 20 countries over every continent. So far, she has been to ten.

Trinidad

Clara and Liliana in Trinidad, Cuba.

She asks everyone she photographs five questions: 1. What is Beauty? 2.What’s the most beautiful thing in the world to you? 3. What makes a woman beautiful? 4. What makes a woman unbeautiful? 5. Do you feel beautiful?

Paris

Marine in Paris.

The answers are as diverse as the women. Audrey, in Paris, said, “I don’t think there are women less beautiful than others or that there’s something that makes them unbeautiful; I think that beauty should be subjective and that every woman is beautiful for someone somewhere around the world. It’s all about personal taste.”

alps

Angioletta in Monno, Italy

Emily in New York said that the only thing that makes a woman un-beautiful is “Falsity. Trying to fit in a mold of what others want/tell you to be.”

Ethiopia

In Ethiopia

Caitriona, a surfer in Ireland, said a woman is beautiful “When she is happy or confident or doing something they love.”

Hanoi

In Hanoi, Vietnam

Katie in Hong Kong, when asked if she thought she was beautiful, said, “Yes, because it’s easy for me to feel content. I have my beloved people (family including my cat, boyfriend and friends), a healthy body, a job that i love, I think I am a useful person with a beautiful heart, therefore I’m beautiful!”

marrakech

Jamila in Marrakech, Morocco

To “Do you feel beautiful?” Giulia in Kinslae, Ireland, said, “Let’s say I really like my ugliness.”

hoi-an

Bian in Hoi An, Vietnam.

Ilse in Mexico had maybe the best definition of beauty: “Beauty is something you can see and you don’t want to stop seeing.”

Marika

Marika in Monno, Italy

Ashley in New York said what makes a woman un-beautiful is “Being a poser.”

Cuba

Lourdes in Havana, Cuba.

Leila in Marrakech said, “I think like every girl that there are days better than others. Somedays I feel beautiful and somedays I feel ugly? The clothes give you confidence. You feel good when you look good.”

Hong Kong

Bai in Hong Kong

When Nastasia in New York was asked if she felt beautiful, she said, “I do. There are days when I don’t, just like everyone else but I remind myself of all the things that I should be grateful for and that helps me gain perspective. I had major back surgery when I was 12 resulting in a giant scar and protrusion on the left side of my back. I used to hate it and felt hideous. It still bothers me sometimes but I’ve learned to embrace it for the most part. I look at it as a symbol of resilience and strength. I’ve endured pain but I’ve also overcome it.”

paris

Audrey and Cecile in Paris.

When asked what the most beautiful thing in the world to her is, Yoanna in Trinidad, Cuba, said, “My children.”

Katie

Katie in Hong Kong

To “What makes a woman unbeautiful?” Elena in Paris said, “Women are constantly bombarded by messages that tell us we are not enough just as we are. That we need to buy a plethora of products – or even resort to surgery – to make ourselves more beautiful. We are often our own toughest critics. In addition to this, especially when it comes to celebrity culture, it’s very common to tear women down publicly, pointing out perceived flaws (“look at the cellulite on X celebrity” or “Y looks so ugly without makeup”). This practice has to stop. Men’s bodies are not the subject of such close scrutiny; they live their lives without carrying this big weight on their shoulders. Because of this, I would never ever dare tell a woman that she is not beautiful. Throughout her life, she has already faced so much scrutiny and criticism. But if we were to go below the surface and judge inner beauty, I think that envy, jealousy and bitterness are incredibly unattractive qualities.”

Garrettstown

Catrina in Garrettstown, Ireland.

Ruthie in New York said, “I don’t know that anyone is unbeautiful. I don’t love when girls are mean to each other or put other women down, that makes my heart hurt when I see that.”

cobh

Patricia and Evelin in Cobh, Ireland.

Nishan in Ethiopia said what makes a woman unbeautiful is, “Bad health and rage.”

Mexico

Ily in Izamal, Mexico

Helen in Paris said, “Beauty depends on the soul and exposure to life. I was lucky ’cause I was born in a poor family, my father spent 10 years as a prisoner in Germany, and the women in my family grew strong. My mother was a miracle! That’s beauty.”

subway

Emily in New York

Sara’s project is ongoing, but she has been to Italy, Morocco, the US, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Mexico, Cuba, France, Ethiopia, and Ireland so far.

montmartre

Celeste in Montmartre, Paris.

She says, “Our uniqueness is, in my opinion, the best asset we have and there’s nothing more beautiful than being our beautifully unique selves!”

morocco

Chaima and Khadija in Agadir, Morocco

Sara chafes at questions about the technical side of her work — she believes that the focus should instead be on the subject.

Ethiopia

In Ethiopia

She writes on her blog, “When I roam the streets of a new city (or village) i spend time talking to people before I even take out the camera, I try to make a connection first and when it comes time to click I forget any technicality because when I want to create something true and honest I think and shoot with my heart.”

Oxkutzzab

Bego in Oxkutzzab, Mexico

“Looking at a portrait we should ask ourselves so many more questions… “Who’s the person in the picture?” “Where is she from?” “Where is she going?” “Is she happy?” “What’s her story?”.

You can see more of her photos at her page, Quest for Beauty. Her project is totally self-funded, so if you like what she’s doing, you can donate to her there, too.

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.

Intermission

How to say ‘cheers’ in 50 languages

Africa and the Middle East, overland [PICS]

This instagrammer’s epic shots of Yosemite National Park will make you want to travel right now

10

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

DESPITE being terrifying natural phenomena, volcanoes are also fascinating — we never know when the fiery power contained deep within the Earth will manifest itself, but we know the spectacle will be formidable. We selected some beautiful photographs of volcanoes from around the world that we hope will inspire you to go see them in person.

Ethiopia

Erta Ale Volcano

Erta Ale is a continuously active shield volcano. It last erupted in January 2017.

Volcanoes

Photo: Indrik myneur

Guatemala

Volcán de Fuego

Volcán de Fuego is a highly active volcano. If you’re lucky, you can see its full fury.

Photo: Arthur Wei

Indonesia

Mount Sinabung

Mount Sinabung’s last eruption was in May 2016.

Volcanoes

Photo: Yosh Ginsu

volcanoes

Photo: Yosh Ginsu

Democratic Republic of Congo

Nyiragongo Volcano

Nyiragongo Volcano contains the world’s most active and largest lava lake.

Volcanoes

Photo: Cai Tjeenk Willink

Hawai’i

Kīlauea, The Big Island of Hawai’i

You can take boat tours to check out Kīlauea’s lava pouring into the Pacific Ocean up close.

volcanoes

Photo by Buzz Andersen

Volcanoes

Photo by Mandy Beerley

Haleakalā, Māui

Haleakalā volcano is currently dormant, but the Haleakalā National Park on the Hawaiian island of Māui is still a great place to check out craters. Note: Once a volcano has been dormant for more than 10 000 years, it is termed extinct.

volcanoes

Photo by Jeff King

Ecuador

Tungurahua Volcano

Photo: Diariocritico de Venezuela

Iceland

Holuhraun Lava Field

volcanoes

Photo: Sparkle Motion

Eyjafjallajökull

Eyjafjallajökull’s eruption in the spring of 2010 threw volcanic ash several kilometers up in the atmosphere, which led to air travel disruption in Europe for several days.

Volcanoes

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Bolivia

Volcán Licancabur

Volcán Licancabur stands 19,400ft in southwestern Bolivia, fronted by the minerally colored Laguna Verde. It can be reached and climbed in conjunction with tours to the nearby Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat. Volcán Licancabur is dormant.

Volcan Licancabur, Bolivia

Photo: szeke

Italy

Mount Etna

Mount Etna is Europe’s largest active volcano.

Mount Etna erupting

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Russia

Volcano Gorely

Volcano Gorely consists of five overlapping stratovolcanoes and is one of the most active in southern Kamchatka. It last erupted in June 2010.

Volcanoes

Photo: Kuhnmi

Volcano Vilyuchinsky

Volcano Vilychinsky seen from volcano Gorely on a misty morning.

Volcanoes

Photo: Kuhnmi

Papua New Guinea

Tavurvur Volcano

Tavurvur Volcano last erupted in 2010.

volcanoes

Photo: Taro Taylor

Prague’s laid back and extensive coffee culture makes it a fantastic city for freelancers, with hundreds of great coffee shops all over the city. Here are some great cafes where you can settle in, and stay caffeinated and productive for hours.

1. Monolok

Una publicación compartida de Huyen Vuova (@huyen.vuova) el 24 de Abr de 2017 a la(s) 1:32 PDT

Monolok is one of the most comfortable places to work in Vinohrady. It has plenty of seating across two floors, including a little outdoor terrace. Their small menu of breakfast and lunch items means you’ll never go hungry at Monolok. The café is also great for small meetings because there’s plenty of space between the tables. But perhaps the best thing about Monolok is the music which gives the place a chill vibe.

2. Cafedu

Una publicación compartida de Cafedu (@cafedu_prague) el 25 de Sep de 2016 a la(s) 10:55 PDT

Cafedu reading room is open 24 hours a day. But you can only get your croissants and lattes at the café until 10 pm every night. It’s a student café that’s often busy, but if you can get a table, it’s a great place to be productive because almost everyone else will also be studying or working.

3. Friends Coffee House

Una publicación compartida de Miranda 🌎 (@mirandamhunt) el 4 de Dic de 2015 a la(s) 3:21 PST

Friends Coffee House is another great place to work in Prague. Despite being in the heart of the city, it doesn’t carry a city center price tag. It has spacious and cozy back rooms, where you’ll also find a small library. And if you like the calming sound of running water, there is a fountain in a back room with floor-to-ceiling windows.

4. Cukrarna Alchymista

Una publicación compartida de Barbara (@barbarag027) el 19 de Oct de 2016 a la(s) 9:06 PDT

This unique café and tea room is in Prague 7. Cukrarna Alchymista (or the Alchemist) has wood-paneled walls and brass chandeliers. But the real magic of the Alchemist is the fairy tale garden, which fish-pond. They have the best variety of homemade cakes and desserts in town, but no regular food.

5. Můj šálek kávy

Una publicación compartida de Luci Fabianová (@luckafabi) el 24 de Mar de 2017 a la(s) 11:48 PDT

There’s café in Karlin, owned by doubleshot coffee roasters, Můj šálek kávy. The Czech specialty coffee roasting company is serious about their coffee, so you know your brews are always going to be high quality. They offer espresso and filter coffee from countries like Brazil, Ethiopia, and Colombia, in addition to great coffee and pastries. Their exposed brick and bookcase atmosphere is perfect for a long work session. It gets busy, so a reservation is recommended.

6. Café Sladovsky

Una publicación compartida de Noona Maria (@noonavin) el 17 de Feb de 2017 a la(s) 12:09 PST

This hipster hideaway is not only a café, but a great spot to grab a beer with friends after hours. Café Sladovsky has a really affordable menu that includes breakfast favorites, sandwiches, and a variety of burgers. The patterned wallpaper and the cushy weathered furniture make you feel like you’re in the movie Garden State. It’s a great atmosphere to get your creative juices flowing.

7. Kavárna Pražírna

As are so many great bars and restaurants in Prague, Kavárna Pražírna is in a stunning underground cellar. Their selection of coffees from Ethioia, Peru, Colombia, and El Salvador is roasted in house. In addition to coffee, they serve homemade lemonade and alcoholic drinks. Their roomy wooden tables and good lighting create the perfect mood to focus on your work. And don’t worry, even mostly underground, their WiFi signal is stellar.

8. Café Jen

Una publicación compartida de Prag'ta Yaşam (@pragtayasam) el 30 de Abr de 2017 a la(s) 12:20 PDT

Café Jen is a tiny hole-in-the-wall. There’s a welcoming chalkboard sign outside the door, and the café is always full of locals. They have a great selection of coffee roasts from around the world and a tiny food menu, which includes yummy homemade cakes. Maybe it’s the size, the décor, or how friendly everyone is, but it feels more like someone’s living room than a café.

For globe-trotters who don’t eat meat, learning to say “I am a vegetarian” in the local language can be an essential skill. In case you need to know, it’s “Ana natbateeyah” in Arabic, “Watashi wa bejitarian desu” in Japanese and “Eu sou vegetariano” in Portuguese.

In Britain, not only is there no language barrier but vegetarian diners have an annual celebration of their own. National Vegetarian Week (which begins on today) is a familiar foodie fixture which will this year enlist the help of the Hairy Bikers in championing the cause and encouraging the general public to “get stuck in and go veggie for a week”.

In Britain, adopting a diet free of meat, poultry, game, fish and shellfish has never been easier and is not just a metropolitan choice. Glasgow now rivals London as vegetarian restaurant capital of the UK, while a plethora of recipe books allows anyone without access to vegetarian restaurants or street food to experiment with non-carnivorous cuisine at home.

By comparison, life for a vegetarian traveller can be more of a challenge; merely crossing the Channel to France can be a vegetarian’s idea of hell – but don’t panic. There are plenty of meat-free havens out there, as this worldwide selection shows.

To mark National Vegetarian Week, here is my pick of 10 places, from Italy to India, where meat-free cuisine is celebrated.

1. Italy

Just one risotto

With the highest proportion of vegetarians in Europe and many classic restaurant favourites that are naturally meat-free, Italy wins hands-down as the most vegetarian-friendly destination on the continent. A simple “sono vegetariano” will yield delicious grilled or sautéed vegetable concoctions, risottos, salads and pasta dishes found in rural trattorias and truck stops, hip urban cafés and smart ristorantes. In Rome, head for L’Aranica Blue for treats such as black truffle macaroni, ricotta di bufala ravioli and buttered courgette flowers with a fine choice of wines on open shelves along the walls.

Black truffle pastaBlack truffle pastaCredit:Alamy

L’Aranica Blue: Via Cesare Beccaria 3; daily noon-4pm and 7pm-midnight: £25 a head (thefork.com/restaurant/arancia-blu/205317).

2. Gujurat, India

Thali temptation

India has around 500 million resident vegetarians, and such is the unrivalled variety of its regional cuisine that in culinary terms it should be thought of as a collection of countries rather than just one. The concept of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food is so universal that just saying “veg” will work anywhere, although some states are more vegetarian-friendly than others.

Gujarat is a true vegetarian heaven where followers of Jainism consider all life so sacred that they do not even eat root vegetables such as onion and carrots because they believe harvesting means killing the plant.

Rooftop dining at the House of MG in AhmedabadRooftop dining at the House of MG in AhmedabadCredit:Alamy

It is amazing how delicious dishes can be when they contain only vegetables, spices, pulses, rice and grains that grow above ground. Located on the rooftop terrace of the House of MG, a boutique heritage hotel in Ahmedabad, Agashiye serves the mother of all vegetarian feasts in the shape of sensational unlimited “fill up” Gujarati thalis of more than a dozen different dishes, served from hand-beaten copper pots by armies of enthusiastic waiters in white kurtas.

House of MG: Bhadra Road, Sidi Saiyad Jali; daily noon-3.30pm and 7pm-11pm: £12 a head (houseofmg.com).

3. South India

Having your idli...

“South Indian food” is a generic term for “pure veg” multi-dish thalis served on fresh banana leaves. They include dishes such as dosas, idlis, vadas and uttappams, all made of rice or lentil flour and served with spicy sambal gravies and coconut chutneys originating from the street stalls, fast-food cafés and restaurants of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The Mavalli Tiffin Rooms in Bengaluru, known locally as MTR, is an atmospheric, iconic institution that has been serving the “world’s best dosa” since the Sixties.

A southern Indian thali being served on a banana leaf in IndiaA southern Indian thali being served on a banana leaf in IndiaCredit:Alamy

Mavalli Tiffin Rooms: Lal Bagh Main Road 14, Sampangi Rama Nagar; daily except Mondays 6.30am-11am and 12.30pm-9pm; £2 a head (mavallitiffinrooms.com).

4. South-east Asia

Tom yum yum

The region is famous for inexpensive and tasty street food, with plenty of vegetarian options typically involving tofu and tempeh instead of meat. In Vietnam, look for the word chay (vegetarian) displayed at stalls selling traditional meat-free Buddhist dishes. Learn to say “Cafésmangswirati” to get what you want from market stalls in Thailand – you just have to watch out for fish sauce being added.

In Chiang Mai, in the north of the country, head to Pun Pun at Wat Suan Dok temple (one of 80 veggie spots in town) for organic versions of Thai classics such as tom yum; in Bangkok, Na Aroon offers polished teak floors, high ceilings, elegant old-world charm and vegetarian fine dining.

Na Aroon Na Aroon

Pun Pun: Suthep Road; daily except Wednesday 9am-4pm; £6 a head (punpunthailand.org).

Na Aroon: Sukhumvit 1 Alley, Khwaeng Khlong; daily 6.30am-10.30pm; £18 a head (ariyasom.com/vegetarian-restaurant-bangkok).

5. Hong Kong/Singapore

Mushroom magic

Even in China, where almost every living thing is considered food, if you can master the phrase “wo shi sùshi zhuyi zhe” you can find inventive vegetarian dishes using wild mushrooms and “Buddhist meat” made from wheat gluten. The best countries in which to find first-rate Chinese vegetarian dishes are actually Singapore and Hong Kong, where there are so many dedicated vegetarian restaurants (360 in Singapore alone) that you will stumble across them. One of the best in Hong Kong is Pure Veggie House in Central, which serves modern, Oriental vegetarian dishes including 16 versions of mushroom and many “Buddhist meat” gluten dishes. In Singapore, don’t miss the superb Komala Vilas in Little India.

Pure Veggie House: 3/F, Coda Plaza, 51 Garden Road, Mid-Levels; daily 10am-11pm; £35 a heads (topstandard.com.hk/en/12-english/pvh/20-pvh-home).

Komala VilasKomala VilasCredit:Alamy

Komala Vilas: 76 Serangoon Road, daily 7am-10.30pm; £5 a head (komalavilas.com.sg).

6. Japan

Tofu triumph

When travelling around Japan, stay in ryokans (family-run inns that offer guests home-cooked breakfasts and evening meals). Establish your dietary needs in advance and the sumptuous feasts of homemade, local meat-free delicacies provided will be the best vegetarian food you ever taste. With its strong Buddhist traditions, Kyoto is brimming with excellent vegetarian dining opportunities. Hidden down a narrow alley, Tousuiro is an exquisitely atmospheric venue for sampling some divine tofu-based cuisine.

A ryokan at the Shibu Onsen in JapanA ryokan at the Shibu Onsen in JapanCredit:Alamy

Tousuiro: 517-3 Kamiosaka-cho, Sanjo-agaru, Kiyamachi-dori; Mon-Sat 11.30am-2pm and 5pm-9.30pm; Sun 12-8.30pm; £30 a head (tousuiro.com/en/).

7. Mumbai, India

Rajasthani relish

Mumbai is the place to try some of the finest vegetarian dishes from all over India. Even if you don’t make it any further, try Chetana – a buzzing contemporary vegetarian café in downtown Mumbai – for excellent Rajasthani thalis. It attracts an eclectic, friendly crowd of arty locals, media types and tourists. Alternatively, Café Madras is a lively South Indian favourite among vegetarian Mumbaikars.

Vegetarian thali served in MumbaiVegetarian thali served in MumbaiCredit:Alamy

Chetana: 4, K Dubash Marg, Kala Ghoda; daily 12.30pm-3pm and 7.30pm-11.30pm; £12 a head (chetana.com/r.htm).

Café Madras: 38-B Kamakshi Building, Kings Circle; Tues-Sun 7am-2.30pm and 4pm-8.30pm; £5 a head (zomato.com/mumbai/cafe-madras-matunga-east/menu).

8. San Francisco

California steamin’

8In the United States, San Francisco benefits from the legacy of its hippie past with a thriving casual vegetarian and vegan scene in the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood. Despite a recent move from downtown across the Bay to Oakland, Millennium still ranks as one of the world’s top vegan restaurants, serving impressive high-end cuisine and offering fabulous bay views. Greens, too, has been a purveyor of inventive vegetarian dishes since 1979.

Millennium: 5912 College Ave, Oakland; daily 5.30pm-9.30pm; Sun 10.30am-2pm; £24 a head (millenniumrestaurant.com).

Millennium in San FranciscoMillennium in San FranciscoCredit:Twitter

Greens: 2 Marina Boulevard; Fort Mason, Building A; daily – see website for timings for brunch/lunch/dinner; £30 a head (greensrestaurant.com).

9. Latin America

Beans from Brazil

Beans, in one form or another, are popular in every country from Mexico to Chile, and can be delicious in combination with other ubiquitous Latin American ingredients such as tomatoes, chillies, corn, avocados, potatoes, rice and cheese. Brazil is the best place to go for variations on this theme. For lunchtime dining there are popular, all-you-can-eat canteen-style vegetarian buffet restaurants in every city, as well as a good choice of laid-back and friendly vegetarian cafés.

In Rio de Janeiro, head to Cultivar Brazil, a tiny intimate local organic bakery in the bohemian neighbourhood of Santa Teresa, which offers a good range of homemade vegetarian snacks and the best pao de queijo (cheese bread) you will ever taste. In Sao Paulo, Gopala Hari is a lovely, airy, first-floor space in an old house serving superb Latin versions of Indian flavours as “combos” of curry, salad, juice and sweets.

Cultivar Brazil: Rua Paschoal Carlos Magno 124; daily 8am-8pm; £4 a head (no website).

A mural outside Cultivar BrazilA mural outside Cultivar BrazilCredit:Alamy

Gopala Hari: R. Antônio Carlos, 429; Mon-Sat 11.30am-3pm; £10 a head (gopalahari.com.br).

10. Africa

Couscous comfort

Sub-Saharan Africa is generally bad news for vegetarians, with only a scattering of Indian or Lebanese cafés offering more vegetarian-friendly dishes. Ethiopia is the exception as the fasting that is part of practising the Orthodox Christian faith involves meat-free days on Wednesday and Friday and for the whole 40 days of Lent. At other times, perfecting the phrase “Ine vejeteriani nenyi” will secure you either a shiro (chickpea) or misir (lentil) wat curry, or a yetsom beyaynetu vegetarian platter with injera pancakes and salads.

Jemaa el Fna squareJemaa el Fna squareCredit:AP

In Morocco, meanwhile, you can feast on vegetable tagines, couscous, harira soup and salads in places such as the night market in Jemaa el Fna in Marrakesh. Earth Café is the only truly vegetarian café in town. Even carnivores might want to learn the Arabic for vegetarian and come here to be spared the obligation to eat the grisly morsels of loins and groins that meat-eating guests are expected to consume as a matter of courtesy when visiting a Bedu camp.

Earth Café: Derb Zawak, Riad Zitoun kedim 2; daily 8am-11pm; £5 a head (no website).

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Ethiopia - Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture

Sarah Howard

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

Ethiopia: Through Writers' Eyes

Yves-Marie Stranger

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.

Lonely Planet Ethiopia, Djibouti & Somaliland (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet

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)

The Highlands of Ethiopia

William Cornwallis Harris

Excerpt: ...in proportion, it was curious to listen to the vaunts of coming prowess that arose from the board. No limit was placed upon the victims who were to be gathered to their fathers, and loyalty and devotion knew no bounds.

Ethiopia - Travellers' Handbook (Travel Guide)

Trevor Jenner

Ethiopia - Travellers' Handbook is a book conceived for the discerning traveller, the package tourist and those people wishing to have a quick reference guide with a range of facts at their fingertips.The book provides a clear understanding of what there is to see and do in Ethiopia. The background and reference information conveys a wide-ranging view and it has been designed to be uncomplicated and straightforward to use, without having to constantly refer to abbreviations and symbols. It is a travel guide with a user-friendly presentation that allows quick reference to topics of interest. The many map illustrations have been designed to be uncomplicated and easy to follow. The book, which is full colour throughout, is packed with information, images and illustrations. As well as people, places and fauna, the book covers many aspects of Ethiopia including myths, history, development, political history, topography, Ethiopian Orthodox Church, language and reference data. Colonel John Blashford-Snell OBE, one of the greatest travellers and explorers of our time, has written the foreword.Other prominent organisations and people have contributed articles illustrating their exciting and heart-warming involvement with Ethiopia that are intended to further inform the traveller. The book contains completely independent travel advice.

Ethiopia inspiring journey

Esubalew Meaza

A Coffee Table Book about ETHIOPIA. Welcome to ETHIOPIA. A collection of Ethiopia's inspiring people, places, cultures, and landscapes.

Ethiopia: Past and Present

Julieta Preston

Travel photographer Julieta Green first visited Ethiopia in the 1960s. Here, her breathtaking photographs from that period are joined by photographs of Ethiopia today. The result is a stunning panoply of images from across Ethiopia celebrating the beauties of this ancient land, ranging from the castles and rock churches of the north to remote rural communities of the Omo Valley in the south.

Exercise a high degree of caution; see also regional advisories.

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.

Border with Eritrea, including the Danakil Desert (see Advisory)

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.

Somali region (see Advisory)

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.

Border with South Sudan and Sudan (see Advisory)

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.

Sporadic clashes have also occurred in the border areas with Sudan, particularly in thenorthwestern Amhara regions within 20km of the border with Sudan.

Border with Kenya (see Advisory)

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.

Terrorism

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.

Crime

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.

Violent incidents

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.

Demonstrations

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.

Road travel

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.

Vehicle accidents

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.

Air travel

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.

General safety information

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.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

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

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

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.

Influenza

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

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.
 

Meningitis

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.

Polio

There is a risk of polio in this country. Be sure that your vaccination against polio is up-to-date.

Rabies

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

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 Vaccination

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.
Risk
  • There is a risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination may be recommended depending on your itinerary.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

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!

Cholera

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

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.

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

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 feverWest Nile virus and yellow fever.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

Dengue fever
  • Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.  
  • Mosquitoes carrying dengue bite during the daytime. They breed in standing water and are often found in urban areas.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine available for dengue fever.
Leishmaniasis, cutaneous and mucosal

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.

Leishmaniasis, viceral

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.

Onchoceriasis

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.


Malaria

Malaria

  • There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
  • Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened, air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
  • Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.

Animals

Animals and Illness

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.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.

HIV

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

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.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Health facilities are very limited in Addis Ababa and completely inadequate outside the capital. Physicians are generally well trained, but hospital resources remain a constant problem. Shortages of medicine occur. Emergency assistance is limited. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation would be necessary. Air ambulance services from any airport in Ethiopia, including Addis Ababa, are very expensive and are available through an often lengthy process resulting in delays.

Health tips

The country is mountainous and high altitudes may cause health problems, including shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea, headaches and inability to sleep.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

Illegal and/or restricted activities

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.

Cultural practices

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.

 

Money

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.

Climate

Drought

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.

Rainy season

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.

Earthquakes

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.