Ethiopia Travel Tips
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All visitors, except Kenya and Djibouti nationals, are required to obtain entry visas. Visa applications may be obtained at Ethiopia’s diplomatic missions overseas. However, nationals of 36 countries listed below are now allowed to receive their tourist visas upon their arrival at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, and at the airport in Dire Dawa. The visa fee is dependent of the type of visa requested (tourist, business, journalitst, etc.). The latest fees for tourist visa-upon-arrival is US $40 for 30 days and US $60 for 60 days. The procedure is relatively quick and painless; just look for a door with a sign "Visa" on the left hand before the immigration counters at Bole airport.
Nationals of the following countries can get up to three months tourist visas upon their arrival at Bole Internaltional Airport: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea (south Korea), Russian Federation, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Kingdom, and United States of America.
If you are planning to enter Ethiopia by land, you should obtain a tourist visa in advance from your local Ethiopian Embassy.
Travelers are advised to check latest travel policy and additional information from Ethiopia Embassy websites. Click here for Embassy of Ethiopia at Washington DC.
Health and Immunizations
Several vaccinations are highly recommended when traveling to Ethiopia, they include:
- Yellow Fever
- Hepatitis A
It is also recommended that you are up to date with your polio and tetanus vaccinations. Make sure you start getting your vaccinations at least 8 weeks before you travel. Consult your doctor before your trip for the type of vaccination you may need based on your health status and latest health news in the area.
Malaria is transmitted by mosquitos bites. There is a risk of catching malaria in many parts of Ethiopia, especially at the low land areas that lie below 2000 meters (6500 feet) elevation. So while the Highlands and Addis Ababa are considered low-risk areas for malaria, you still have to be careful and take precautions.
Ethiopia is home to the chloroquine-resistant strain of malaria as well as the dangerous falciparum strain. Make sure your doctor or travel clinic knows you are traveling to Ethiopia so you get the right anti-malarial medication.
Prevention of malaria involves protecting yourself against mosquito bites and taking antimalarial medicines. To prevent mosquito bites, follow these guidelines:
- Stay inside when it is dark outside, preferably in a screened or air-conditioned room.
- Wear protective clothing (long pants and long-sleeved shirts).
- Use insect repellent with DEET (N,N diethylmetatoluamide).
- Use bed nets (mosquito netting) sprayed with or soaked in an insecticide such as permethrin or deltamethrin.
- Use flying-insect spray indoors around sleeping areas.
- Avoid areas where malaria and mosquitoes are present if you are at higher risk (for example, if you are pregnant, very young, or very old).
Addis Ababa and Ethiopia's highlands you will be visiting are at high elevations. High altitude can affect healthy individuals in a number of ways including: dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, fatigue and headaches.
The local currency is the Ethiopian birr, made up of 100 cents. Notes are issued in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, and 100 birr. There are five different coins: 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents.
Currency regulations: There is no limit to the amount of foreign currency imported into Ethiopia, but it must be declared on arrival, using a currency declaration form. Foreign currency may be changed only at authorized banks and hotels. The currency declaration form will be required by Customs on departure. Visitors may change back any excess birr into foreign currency at the airport before departure, but you must, in addition to the currency declaration form, bring with you all receipts for exchange transactions.
Click here to read more about Money Matters: Cash, Currency Exchange and Credit Cards
Ethiopia uses 220 volts and 50 Hz. It is best to bring your own round, two-prong adapter and transformer if necessary.
Time and calendar
Ethiopia uses the Ethiopian calendar, which dates back to the Coptic calendar 25 BC, and never adopted the Julian or Gregorian 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 September 11 or 12 during leap year (in the Gregorian calendar), and has accumulated 7-8 years lag behind the Gregorian calendar: thus, for the first eight months of , the year will be according to the Ethiopian calendar. On 11 September , Ethiopia celebrates New Year's Day (Enkutatesh) for .
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.
Daylight: Being relatively close to the Equator, there is an almost constant twelve hours of daylight. In Addis Ababa, the sunrise and sunset starts at around 06:30 and 18:45 respectively.
- January 07 : Ethiopian Christmas (Gena)
- January 19 : Timket (Epiphany)
- March 02 : Victory of Adowa
- April 10 : Ethiopian Good Friday
- April 12 : Ethiopian Easter (Fasika)
- May 01 : Labour Day
- May 05 : Patriots Victory Day
- May 28 : Downfall of the Dergue (Derg Downfall Day)
- September 11 : Ethiopian New Year (Enkutatash)
- September 27 : Finding of the True Cross (Meskel)
Other public holidays include the following Muslim holidays which are timed according to local sightings of various phases of the moon and therefore the dates changes from year to year.
- Dec 24 : Mawlid al-Nabi (Birth of the Prophet)
- September 17 : Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
- September 23 : Eid-al Adha (Arafat)
Click here to read more about Ethiopia Public Holidays
Best Areas to Explore
- Addis Ababa
- The Northern circuit: Bahir dar, Gondar, Semene Mountains, Axum, Lalibela, the rock churches of Tigray
- The Southern Circuit: Awasa, Omo Valley, Rift Valley Lakes
- The East: Dire Dawa, Harar, Jijiga (Somalia)
When to Travel to Ethiopia
The best time to go to Ethiopia depends on what you are planning to do when you get there. Ethiopia is "the land of 13 months of sunshine", with a rainy season from June to September. The predominant climate type is tropical monsoon, with wide topographic-induced variation. As a highland country, Ethiopia has a climate which 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 - 2,500 metres (6,600 - 8,200 ft) above sea level, including historic capitals such as Gondar and Axum, and Addis Ababa - the highest capital city in Africa at 2,400 meters (8,000 feet).
Ethiopia has three different climate zones according to elevation:
- Kolla (Tropical zone) - is below 1830 meters in elevation and has an average annual temperature of about 27 degree Celsius with annual rainfall about 510 millimeters. The Danakil Depression (Danakil Desert) is about 125 meters below sea level and the hottest region in Ethiopia where the temperature climbs up to 50 degree Celsius.
- Woina dega (Subtropical zone) - includes the highlands areas of 1830 - 2440 meters in elevation has an average annual temperature of about 22 degree Celsius with annual rainfall between 510 and 1530 millimeters.
- Dega (Cool zone) - is above 2440 meters in elevation with an average annual temperature of about 16 degree Celsius with annual rainfall between 1270 and 1280 millimeters.
The average annual temperature in Addis Ababa is 16°C (61°F), with daily maximum temperatures 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 the evenings, though many Ethiopians prefer to dress conservatively and will wear a light jacket even during the day.
For the most part traveling in Ethiopia is safe, but you should take the same precautions as you would traveling in any African country. It is also wise to avoid all border areas (with Somalia, Eritrea, Kenya and Sudan) since there's still pockets of political unrest, and kidnapping of tourists in these areas have occurred in the past.
Basic safety rules for travelers to Ethiopia
- Make a copy of your passport and keep it in your luggage or somewhere safe.
- Don't walk on your own at night in Addis Ababa and other major tourist towns.
- Avoid travel at night.
- Watch out for pickpockets at crowded places, especially when shopping at Mercato area in Addis Ababa
- Don't wear jewelry (if you wear, make sure it is not easy to see by bystanders).
- Don't carry too much cash with you. Take basic precaution to avoid bystander noticing you are carrying significan money with you.
- Wear a money belt that fits under your cloths.
- Don't carry a lot of camera equipment or expensive items, especially in the major cities.