Electricity

Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Two-pin plugs are used. Even in Addis Ababa, electricity supply is irregular and blackouts are common.

Language

Amharic is the official language, although over 80 local languages are also spoken. English and Arabic are widely spoken as well as some French and Italian.

Money

The official currency is the Ethiopian birr (ETB), which is divided into 100 cents, and foreign currency can be exchanged at banks and authorised hotels. Only major establishments accept credit cards in Addis Ababa, and credit cards have even more limited usage outside the capital. Visitors should carry hard currency with them, preferably in US dollars. ATMs are sparse, but banks are usually open every day except Sundays from 8am to 11am and 1pm till 4pm.

Tipping

Tourist hotels and restaurants usually add a 10 percent service charge to the bill, but tipping is still fairly common, though only small amounts are customary.

Health

Travellers to Ethiopia are recommended to have hepatitis A, hepatitis B, meningococcus, and cholera vaccinations. There is a risk of yellow fever in Ethiopia, and proof of vaccination is required if visitors are arriving from a country with a risk of yellow fever transmission or have transited through an airport of a country where yellow fever occurs.

Malaria is prevalent in the lowlands and altitude sickness may affect travellers to the highland areas, including Addis Ababa. Bilharzia is present in many of the lakes in Ethiopia and travellers are advised to drink boiled or bottled water, as waterborne diseases are prevalent. A rabies vaccination is recommended for anyone who will be spending a lot of time in wilderness areas or around animals, and a polio booster is recommended for adults who had the vaccine as children.

Medical facilities are poor outside of Addis Ababa, while in the capital, hospitals are available but medical supplies are erratic. Visitors should bring their own regular medications with them and arrange comprehensive travel insurance.

Safety

The vast majority of trips to Ethiopia are trouble free, but safety precautions are recommended. Visitors are cautioned to avoid all public demonstrations and large crowds, particularly in Addis Ababa, and to keep a low profile in public places. Valuables should not be displayed, as petty theft is a concern, and visitors should only use buses or taxis from the airport that have been organised by their hotel or travel company.

Most of Ethiopia can be explored in relative safety, but there are travel warnings in place for some areas, and travellers are advised to check travel warnings on reputable government websites before planning their itineraries. Caution should generally be exercised in all border areas and the British FCDO advises against all travel to within six miles (10km) of the borders with Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan and Kenya, though there are a few exceptions to this rule made for prime tourist hotspots and main roads.

Travel warnings are also in place for parts of the Somali region, parts of the Danakil desert, and parts of the Gambella region. Overland travel to Sudan or Kenya is dangerous due to armed bandits, and should only be attempted in a convoy.

Flooding often affects Ethiopia between June and September each year, with flash floods sometimes killing hundreds of people in low-lying areas.

Local customs

The Ethiopian Highlands are mainly Orthodox Christian and restaurants do not serve meat dishes on Wednesdays, Fridays, and during Lent. The Ethiopian calendar, which is similar to the Julian calendar, consists of 13 months (12 months of 30 days, and a thirteenth month of five or six days). Homosexuality is illegal in Ethiopia, and carry penalties of between 1 and 15 years imprisonment. Shoes should be removed before entering mosques and churches; photographs should not be taken of military buildings and airports, and permission should be asked before photographing religious festivals and people.

Doing business

Etiquette is very important in Ethiopia, both socially and in business. Formal attire is expected of men and women; greetings are very important and the shaking of hands is the norm for first meetings. Ethiopians like to establish good relations with one another and personal relationships are the cornerstone of business.

Businessmen in Addis Ababa understand some English, and perhaps some French and Italian. Ethiopians also respect their elders, so visitors should show the same courtesy. Business hours are generally 8.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday, with an hour taken at lunch, though this may vary from business to business.

Duty free

Travellers to Ethiopia over the age of 18 years do not have to pay customs duty on 400 cigarettes or 250g of tobacco; 2 litre of alcoholic beverages; 2 bottles or 600ml of perfume.

Communications

The international dialling code for Ethiopia is +251 and the outgoing code is 00, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0027 for South Africa). Internet services are increasingly available and travellers can purchase prepaid SIM cards for unlocked phones.

Passport & Visa

All visitors must obtain an eVisa or get a visa from the Ethiopian Embassy closest to their place of legal residence before travelling. E-visas can be obtained before departure online at www.evisa.gov.et/. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter Ethiopia if visitors are arriving from a country with a risk of yellow fever transmission or have transited through an airport of a country where yellow fever occurs. It is highly recommended that travellers' passports have at least six months' validity remaining after the intended date of departure from their travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Entry requirements

US citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Ethiopia. A visa is required and can be obtained online or on arrival in the country for those travelling as tourists and arriving at Addis Ababa.

British citizens require a passport that is valid upon arrival in Ethiopia. A visa is required, and can be obtained online or on arrival in the country for those travelling as tourists and arriving at one of the main airports. Holders of British passports with endorsements other than 'British Citizen' should check with the embassy to confirm their entry requirements.

Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Ethiopia. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival in the country for those travelling as tourists and arriving at Addis Ababa.

Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Ethiopia. A visa is required, and can be obtained online or on arrival in the country for those travelling as tourists and arriving at Addis Ababa.

South African citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Ethiopia. A visa is required, and can be obtained online or on arrival in the country for those travelling as tourists and arriving at Addis Ababa.

Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Ethiopia. A visa is required, and can be obtained online or on arrival in the country for those travelling as tourists and arriving at Addis Ababa.

New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Ethiopia. A visa is required, and can be obtained online on arrival in the country for those travelling as tourists and arriving at Addis Ababa.

Useful contacts

Ethiopian Tourism Organisation: www.ethiopia.travel/

991 (fire and rescue services, medical emergencies, police).

Embassies / consulates in other countries

Embassy of Ethiopia, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 364 1200.

Embassy of Ethiopia, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7589 7212.

Embassy of Ethiopia, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 565 6637.

Embassy of Ethiopia, Canberra, Australia (also responsible for New Zealand): +61 2 6295 9984.

Embassy of Ethiopia, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 346 4067.

Embassy of Ethiopia, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 678 7062.

Embassies / consulates in Ethiopia

United States Embassy, Addis Ababa: +251 1 130 6000.

British Embassy, Addis Ababa: +251 11 617 0100.

Canadian Embassy, Addis Ababa: +251 11 317 0000.

Australian Embassy, Addis Ababa: +251 11 667 2678.

South African Embassy, Addis Ababa: +251 11 371 1002.

Irish Embassy, Addis Ababa: +251 1 518 0500.


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