travel tips

Visa & Immigration requirements

Visa applications may be obtained at Ethiopia diplomatic missions located in Abidjan, Accra, Beijing, Bonn, Brussels, Cairo, Dakar, Djibouti, Geneva, Harare, Jeddah, Johannesburg, Khartoum, Lagos, London, Moscow, Nairobi, New Delhi, New York, Ottawa, Paris, Pyongyang, Riyadh, Rome, Sanaa, Seoul, Stockholm, Tehran, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, Tripoli,'yienna, and Washington DC.

Visas are required for all visitors to Ethiopia, with the exception of nationals of Djibouti and Kenya. Visas should be applied for well in advance of any trip as applications can take time to process.

Except in the case of a few nationals, passengers in transit in Ethiopia holding confirmed onward bookings within 72 hours can obtain transit visas on arrival for a fee of Ethiopian birr 20. However, in this case, passports are held at the airport until departure and a pink-coloured receipt card is issued.

Any visitor intending to take up work or residence in Ethiopia must have a work permit from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and a resident permit from the Department of Immigration in the Ministry of the Interior. A visitor on a tourist visa cannot take up work or get a work permit. It is best to have all formalities cleared before you enter Ethiopia and come in on a working visa.

Health requirements

All visitors (including infants) are required to possess a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate. Vaccination against cholera is also required for any person who has visited or transited a cholera infected area within six days prior to arrival in Ethiopia. Your doctor may also recommend gamma globulin shots or refresher vaccines for typhoid and polio before you go. Hepatitis, typhoid, meningitis, and other communicable diseases do exist in the country, but most tourists will run little risk of coming in contact with them.

Malaria is endemic throughout the country even at altitudes as high as 2,000 metres (6,560 feet). Visitors should begin taking a recommended chloroquine-based prophylactic two weeks before their arrival and continue taking them for six weeks after their departure. Medication for chloroquine-resistant malaria is also a wise precaution, especially when in a malarial area.

Bilharzia (schistosomiasis) is common throughout Ethiopia but is easily avoided by drinking treated water - tap water in Addis Ababa is treated and safe to drink - and by not swimming in lakes and rivers, with the exception of lakes Langano and Shalla, which are known to be bilharzia free.

International flights

Ethiopia is served internationally by Ethiopian Airlines, Lufthansa, Alitalia, Egypt Air, Kenya Airways, Puntavia (Air Djibouti), Saudia, Sudan Airways, and Yemenia.

Ethiopia's major point of entry by air is Addis Ababa's Bole International Airport, which is modest but does provide full passenger facilities - currency exchange, postal services, banking facilities, telephones, a duty-free shop, gift shops, and a restaurant and bar service.

Taxis and rental cars are available at the airport for transport into Addis Ababa.

Customs

Besides personal effects, a visitor may import duty-free spirits (including liquors) or wine up to one litre, perfume and toilet water up to half a litre, and 250 grams (half a pound) of tobacco (up to 200 cigarettes or fifty cigars). 

If you are carrying a video camera, laptop computer, or any other pieces of sophisticated electronic equipment, it is usually entered in your passport to ensure that you take it with you when you go and do not sell it while in the country. You do not need to declare still cameras, small shortwave radios, calculators, and similar small electronic devices. Professional journalists and photographers must report to the Ministry of Information to get a permit.

Permit is given for temporary import of certain articles - such as trade samples or professional articles - which must be produced on departure or duty will have to be paid.

Visitors may import up to Ethiopia birr 10 and an unlimited amount of foreign currency, providing declaration of such currency (on the appropriate blue-coloured form) is made to Customs on arrival. This currency declaration form will be required by Customs on departure.

Permit is required for export of antiques and wildlife products from the appropriate authorities.

Domestic air services

Ethiopian Airlines operates a comprehensive network of regular daily flights between Addis Ababa and Axum, Bahar Dar, Dessie, Dire Dawa, Gondar, Humera, Jimma, Lalibela, and Makale, as well as several other flights each week to many other towns. The airline flies to forty-three airfields and an additional twenty-one landing strips within the country. Charter companies also offer flights to all main airports and to many landing fields not served by the national airline.

Road services

There are some 10,000 kilometres (6,200 miles) of gravel and dry-weather roads throughout Ethiopia, and some 3,600 kilometres (2,232 miles) of asphalt roads. A good bus network operates to and from the countryside from its terminal in Addis Ababa's Mercato.

Climate

Despite its proximity to the equator, Ethiopia's high altitude, averaging some 2,400 metres (7,800 feet), ensures a temperate, moderate, even cool climate - certainly not tropical. The highest daytime temperatures rarely exceed an average of 21 or 22°C (70 or 71°F) and for much of the year seldom rise above 16 or 18°C (61 or 64°F). Temperatures at night can drop to a chilly lOoC (50°F) or less. There are two rainy seasons: the irregular short rains from late January to early March, and the long rains that stretch from June until mid-September. May is the warmest month and is usually a time of bright sunny days. Daytime temperatures in January run just as high, but the nights are chillier. June, July, and August are grey, wet, and cool.

Currency

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. In February 2001, 8.33 birr were equivalent to one US dollar.

Currency regulations

There is no limit to the amount of foreign currency imported to Ethiopia, but it must be declared on the currency declaration form obtained on arrival. Up to Ethiopian 10 birr may be legally imported. Foreign currency may be changed only at authorized banks and hotels. The currency declanHion form must be retained as this will be required by Customs on departure.

Visitors may change back any excess Ethiopian birr to foreign currency at the airport before departure. If you do have birr to cash in at the airport, you must, in addition to the currency declaration form, bring with you all receipts for exchange transactions.

Banks

Banks have two sets of hours: cash and business. They are open for cash transactions all day from 08.00 to 15.00 including lunchtime Monday to Friday and Saturday 08.00 to 12.00.

Business hours are from 08.00 to 12.00 and 13.00 to 17.00 Monday through Thursday and 08.00 to 11.00 and 13.00 to 17.00 on Friday. All the major banks offer currency exchange. The two private banks have similar working hours.

Credit cards

Some credit cards are accepted in the major hotels and some of the larger restaurants. American Express is the most widely accepted. The Sheraton and Hilton also accept Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club, Access, and Eurocard.

Government

Ethiopia, a member of the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity, is an independent republic, operating under the Federal Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. The president is the head of state, while the prime minister heads the main administrative office for the government. There is a Council of Ministers and Council of Representatives, with permanent secretaries in each ministry. Legislation carried through an elected constitutional council which oversees the application and operation of the constitution.

Local government consists of sixty-five National/Regional Governments, each comprising a national/regional executive committee, a judicial organ, a public prosecution office, an audit and control office, a police and security office, and a services and development committee. All local officials are elected by the people within each region.

Language

Amharic is the official language of Ethiopia, although English, Italian, French, and Arabic are widely spoken. In areas outside of the larger cities and towns, indigenous languages are likely to be spoken - of which there are eighty-three, with some 200 dialects. The most common of these are Orominya and Tigrinya.

Time

Ethiopia is three hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. Time remains constant throughout the year. Ethiopians calculate time in a manner similar to that of many equatorial countries - in units of 12 hours. This means that the daytime 06.00, in fact, is midday and, vice-versa, the nigh time 06.00 is midnight.

Daylight

Being relatively close to the Equator, there is an almost constant twelve hours of daylight. In Addis Ababa, the sunrise and sunset start at around 06.30 and 18.45 respectively

Calendar

Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar, which consists of 12 months of 30 days each and a 13th month of five days (six days on leap year). The calendar is seven years and eight months behind the Western (Gregorian) calendar.

Business hours

Governrnent offices remain open from 08.30 to 12.30 and 13.30 to 17.30 Monday through Thursday, and from 08.30 to 11.30 and 13.30 to 17.30 on Friday. Government offices are closed on public holidays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Most shops are open from 09.00 to 18.00 or 20.00 from Monday through Saturday with a lunch break from 13.00 to 15.00. Some shops or businesses close on Saturdays at 13.00. A few small all-purpose shops throughout the city open on Sunday mornings.

Communications

Internet, telephone, telex, fax, e-mail and airmail services connect Addis Ababa to all parts of the world. Services are available at the General Post Office and its many branches, as well as in the main hotels. International direct dialling is available from all the major centres in the country, which are served by microwave.

Electric Power

Ethiopia uses 220 volts and 50 Hz. It is best to bring your own round, two-prong adapter. American visitors should bring a small step-down voltage converter.

Medical services

Medical facilities are limited and generally poor, and overtaxed. Contact your embassy for referral to a recommended doctor. If you fall seriously ill or are gravely hurt, you may want to consider evacuation to nearby Nairobi or to Europe. Air rescue services are available, and you might want to make arrangements with one before your trip.

Medical insurance

Medical insurance should be purchased before you leave and preferably include emergency air evacuation coverage.

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