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Travel Tips

The Ethiopia travel tips below will help you plan your trip to Ethiopia. This page has information about visas, health, safety, when to go and money matters.

Health and Immunizations

A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is no longer mandatory in order to enter Ethiopia, but if you've recently traveled to a country where it is present you will need proof of immunization. Several vaccinations are highly recommended when traveling to Ethiopia, they include: Yellow Fever, Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Diphtheria, Meningococcal, Malaria 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.

Safety

For the most part traveling in Ethiopia is safe, but you should take the same precautions as you would travel in any poor 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 travellers without guides to Ethiopia.

  • Make a copy of your passport and keep it in your luggage.
  • Don’t walk on your own at night in Addis Ababa and other major tourist towns.
  • Watch out for pickpockets at the Mercato in Addis Ababa and any other crowded areas.
  • Wear a money belt that fits under your clothes.

When to Go to Ethiopia

The best time to go to Ethiopia depends on what you're planning to do when you get there. The tourist board markets Ethiopia as ``the land of 13 months of sunshine`` which is a little optimistic since there is a rainy season from June to September. In fact the weather varies tremendously throughout the country, see `` Ethiopia's Weather and Climate`` for information about average temperatures and rainfall. Also, depending on your interest, there are many good months to visit Ethiopia:

  • Trekking — October to March
  • Omo River tribes — June to September and November to March
  • Ethiopia’s major festivals — Timkat (19 January) and Meskel (end of September or early October.) Gonder, Addis Ababa.
  • Don’t miss Danakil Depression – one of the most incredible places I ever visited.
  • Decide if Omo Valley is really for you – not everyone will appreciate this destination.
  • Harar is still a bit off the tourist circuit and you can do something unique and feed the hyenas.
  • The churches of Tigray are another spot you can get away from the crowds.
  • If doing the Northern Circuit, don’t miss Simien National Park. Even a day trip is enough to get a good taste of this park and see the famous, interesting Gelada monkeys- October to March.

Currency and Money Matters

Foreign currency is rarely used in Ethiopia; there is a possibility of paying with foreign currency in hotels and also in tour operators but it is advisable to carry local birr to buy whatever you want in the market or destinations - Birr. 1 Birr is divided into 100 cents. There are 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100 Birr notes.

Cash, Credit Cards and ATM’s
The US Dollar is the best foreign currency to bring with you to Ethiopia and it can be exchanged at banks and foreign exchange bureaus. US Dollars should be carried in cash (they do not accept travelers checks).
Major credit cards can be used to pay for flights with Ethiopian Airlines and you can always withdraw from any ATM available in major cities.
Getting to Ethiopia
Most people will arrive in Ethiopia by air at the Bole International Airport. Taxis are available to and from the city center. The airport lies 5 miles (8 km) southeast of the city center ( Addis Ababa).

High Altitude

Addis Ababa and Ethiopia's highlands (which you'll be visiting if you're planning on doing the historical circuit) are at high elevations. High altitude can affect healthy individuals in a number of ways including: dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, fatigue and headaches.

  • Try some food and drink that will take you out of your comfort zone – like raw lake fish and beef.
  • Drink honey wine, called Tej.
  • Vegetarians will have some choice, with Shiro and Tegamino (bean paste & injera) served everywhere. They are especially catered on Wednesdays & Fridays when you can order the “fasting food”…a platter of vegetarian dishes. Many places also serve vegetables and rice
  • Don’t miss getting coffee in the little road side spots. You can get a small cup for as little as 5 ETB and a great cultural experience. Go to the cafe and ask for “Und Buna” or “One Coffee”
  • Try the different brands of beer and find one you like
  • Chew the khat – the tea like leaves that are a mild stimulant. It’s best to chew with a peanut and/or a little sugar.
  • Drink bottled water.
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