Ethiopia Travel Information

The Basics


Local time is GMT +3.


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


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.

Travel Health

Travellers to Ethiopia are recommended to have hepatitis A and cholera vaccines, as there have been recent outbreaks of these diseases. Malaria is prevalent in the low lands (below 6,562 feet/2,000m) and altitude sickness may affect travellers to the highland areas such as Addis Ababa. Bilharzia is present in the majority of lakes in Ethiopia and travellers are advised to drink boiled or bottled water, as waterborne diseases are prevalent. Travellers to Ethiopia are also recommended to get vaccinations for yellow fever, meningococcus, and hepatisis B. 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, where hospitals are available but medical supplies are erratic; visitors should bring their own regular medications with them and arrange comprehensive medical insurance before travel.


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

Safety Information

Visitors are cautioned to avoid all public demonstrations and large crowds, particularly in Addis Ababa, and to keep a low profile in public places. Travel to the Gambella region near the southern Sudanese border, as well as to within 12 miles (20km) of the Eritrean border in the Tigray and Afar regions (military zones), should be avoided due to violent unrest and an unstable security situation. The border between Eritrea and Ethiopia is closed. Travelling to Somalia by road should also be avoided, as well as all travel east of Harar. There have been several explosions in Jijiga. Overland travel to Sudan or Kenya is dangerous due to armed bandits, and should only be attempted in a convoy. There is a high threat from local terrorism in the country, and although not directed at foreigners, visitors need to be cautious in public places. Flooding often affects Ethiopia between June and September each year, killing hundreds of people in flash floods 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. Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar, which consists of 13 months (12 months of 30 days, the thirteenth month has five or six days), and in 2008 the year was 2000/2001 in Ethiopia. Homosexuality is illegal. 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.


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. English is understood by most businessmen in Addis Ababa, as well as some French and Italian. Ethiopians respect their elders and visitors should show the same courtesy. Business hours are generally 8.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday with an hour taken at lunch, but may vary according to individual businesses.


The international dialling code for Ethiopia is +251. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0027 for South Africa). The area code for Addis Ababa is (0)1. Telephone, fax and postal facilities are available in most main towns. IDD is available. There are Internet cafes in Addis Ababa and Internet services may be available in upmarket hotels in other areas. A GSM 900 network is provided, but coverage is limited to Addis Ababa and a few other parts of the country.

Duty Free

Travellers to Ethiopia over the age of 18 years do not have to pay customs duty on 100 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 227g of tobacco; 1 litre of alcoholic beverages; 2 bottles or 500ml of perfume; and gifts to the value of Br10.

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