Ethiopia Travel Advice
Best Time to Visit Ethiopia
It is best to avoid Ethiopia in the rainy season which falls between June to October, but the rest of the year is good to travel. The months following the rainy season offer lush, green landscapes covered with wildflowers and is a great time for trekking.
The predominant climate type is tropical monsoon. The average annual temperature in Addis Ababa is 16°C, with daily maximum temperatures averaging 20-25°C throughout the year, and overnight lows averaging 5-10°C.
Flights & Getting Around
Most visitors to Ethiopia will arrive at Addis Ababa's Bole International Airport and from there either board another plane or drive to their next destination. For the traveller with a limited amount of time, Ethiopian Air is definitely the way to see the major sites and has an impeccable safety record.
There is a comprehensive network of cheap buses along the major roads, although these are slow and basic and often only leave when they are filled up with customers. Please note that buses do not travel at night.
Although there are still some rough patches on the roads, they have improved dramatically over the past few years and a good way to experience Ethiopia is by car as you get to see the scenery that you would often miss while flying.
Visa & Passport Requirements
All visitors to Ethiopia must obtain an entry visa. It is advised that visas are obtained from any of Ethiopia’s embassies abroad before travelling, but for nationals of many countries you can obtain a visa at Bole International Airport on arrival. This only applies if you are arriving by air and should you be arriving overland you will need to have your visa prior to travel.
Ensure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to your home country. Ethiopia will refuse entry on arrival and some airlines will not allow passengers to board flights if their passport does not meet this requirement.
It is always advised to contact your local travel clinic or doctor at least 6 weeks before travel for the most up to date health information.
Visitors visiting Ethiopia from a Yellow Fever destination are required to have a Yellow Fever immunization card.
Certain areas of Ethiopia have prevalent malaria mosquitos so it is advised to take a course of malaria prophylaxis before and during travel.
Other vaccinations that are recommended when travelling to Ethiopia include: Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Diphtheria, Meningococcal.
It is also recommended that you are up to date with your polio and tetanus vaccinations.
Do not drink tap water in Ethiopia, but rather bottled water or take along some water purification tablets.
The official currency is the Ethiopian birr, but as with many African countries the US dollar is the preferred foreign currency in Ethiopia and although the euro is growing in popularity not all banks will accept it. Wherever there are forex facilities you will have no problem changing US Dollars. Any commercial bank in Ethiopia can exchange cash.
Most of the bigger cities have ATM machines, but it is always advised to keep some cash on you in case, as most service providers prefer cash payment.
International traveller’s cheques in Stirling Pounds, Euro, US Dollars are generally accepted. Although more banks in Ethiopia change cash than travellers cheques, you will usually end up getting slightly worse rates for cash.
American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are accepted in Ethiopia, but Visa is the most reliable. Be sure to ask your credit or debit card company for information of merchant acceptability in Ethiopia.
Tipping for good service is entirely at your discretion when travelling in Ethiopia. Tipping is dependent on the size of your group as well as the service received. Most of the time people expect a tip for the service offered and they may even ask for it. Tips are expected for drivers or guides and some restaurants will include a service charge to the bill, but be sure to check if they have before paying. If they haven’t included it already then a small tip is appropriate. Small favours generally expect a tip.
Tips for taxi drivers are not expected, but if you are happy with the service provided, a tip is always appreciated.
What to Pack
When travelling to Ethiopia it is best to pack lightweight, comfortable clothing. Warm clothing is advised for night time and early mornings as the temperature change can be quite drastic.
Good walking shoes are a must and don’t forget sunblock as well as a sunhat to protect yourself from the hot sun.
Mosquito repellent is advised to ward off the mosquitos, as well as flea powder should you be doing a lot of site-seeing in old churches etc.