Pre-Departure Information

Travel Ethiopia PLC

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Tel: +251 11 552 54 78, 551 01 68, 550 88 70/ 552 31 65
Fax: +251 11 551 02 00
P.O.Box: 9438 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Emergency Contact  - Mrs. Samrawit Moges

Founder and Managing Director

Mob: +251 911 20 69 76

Ms. Betelihem Zerihun

Tour Manager

Mob: +251 913 16 44 38


In this note you will find useful travel facts, background information, and our suggestions that will help you prepare and enjoy your travels. Please note that things change rapidly in Ethiopia, so some information in this document may have changed.


The main airport, with international connections to most parts of the world, is Bole Airport, just 8km from the center of Addis Ababa. Domestic services fly to all regions and most tourist sites. All international flights arrive and depart from Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa. The national carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, is Africa’s oldest airline, and has an excellent safety record.


Visitors are required to carry a valid passport and sufficient funds to facilitate their stay. Visas are required for all foreign visitors to Ethiopia, with the exception of nationals of Djibouti and Kenya. A visa application may be obtained at Ethiopia’s diplomatic missions overseas where visas are readily available. However, nationals of 37 countries are now allowed to receive their tourist visas upon arrival in Ethiopia (for citizens of the USA, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, China, Japan, Korea, Israel, Kuwait, Russia, the UK and most other European Union nations). If you opt for this method, application forms will be handed out to you on your international flight. You must complete these and take them to the counter to pay (50 USD for one month) and get the visa stamped into your passport. If you intend to get your visa on arrival please ensure that your passport is valid for at least 6 months from your date of entry to Ethiopia and that you have at least 2 blank pages. Travel Ethiopia also recommends to carry a photocopy of the picture page of your passport. Keep this in a separate place in your baggage. If for any reason you lose your passport, this will expedite the process of replacing it.


Personal effects are admitted free, and a duty-free allowance of 1 liter of alcohol, 200 cigarettes and 0.5 liter of perfume is permitted. If you have a computer, video camera or major electrical equipment you will need to declare them. You will be expected to have those equipment with you when you leave.


Ethiopia is located in north-eastern Africa. It is a ruggedly mountainous country, with an area of 1,251,282 km2. It is surrounded by Kenya, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and Djibouti. The country is composed of an elevated central plateau generally varying in height from 2,000m and 3,000m. In the north and center of the country, there are up to 25 mountains whose peaks rise over 4,000m, the tallest being Ras Dashen, which is 4,543m in elevation. The most famous Ethiopian river is the Blue Nile (Abay), which runs a course of 1,450km from its source at Lake Tana, to join the White Nile in Khartoum.

The ecosystems of Ethiopia is diverse and varied, ranging from arid dry lands to extensive rainforests. Ethiopia has a large variety of indigenous plant and animal species. In some areas, the mountains are covered with shrubs such as pyracantha, jasmine, poinsettia, and a varied assortment of evergreens. Caraway, carcade, cardamom, chat, coriander, incense, myrrh, and red pepper are common.

Most of Ethiopia's predators have become endangered. This is a result of limited space in the farmer’s constant search for agricultural and grazing lands. It goes without saying that you should not collect or purchase any items made from endangered plant or animal species.


Ethiopia is believed to be the origin of mankind as attested by the earliest Hominid fossil ever to be discovered. Lucy or Dinknesh is a 3.2 million-year-old skeleton of a bipedal hominin, Australopithecus afarensis, discovered in afar regional state and on display at the National Museum in Addis Ababa. The Afar region has also yielded evidence of the earliest stone tools ever to have been discovered, dating back to 2.5 million years and manufactured by a hitherto unknown hominin species.

Unique among African countries, the ancient Ethiopian monarchy maintained its freedom from colonial rule. Ethiopia became prominent in modern world affairs in 1896, when it defeated colonial Italy in the Battle of Adwa. Between 1936 and 1941, Ethiopia was invaded and occupied by the fascist Italian regime. After liberation, Haile Selassie restored his throne and Ethiopia started to pay a more prominent role in the liberation of other African countries. In 1974, a military junta, the Derg, deposed Emperor Haile Selassie (who had ruled since 1930) and established a socialist state. Torn by bloody coups, uprisings, wide-scale drought, and massive refugee problems, the regime was finally toppled in 1991 by a coalition of rebel forces, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). A constitution was adopted in 1994, and Ethiopia's first multiparty elections were held in 1995. In August 2012, longtime leader Prime Minister Meles Zenawi passed away and was replaced by his Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, marking the first peaceful transition of power in decades.

Ethiopia is among the first independent nations to sign the Charter of the United Nations. It gave tremendous moral and material support to the decolonization of Africa and to the growth of Pan-African cooperation. These efforts culminated in the establishment of the Organization of African Unity and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, both of which have their headquarters in Addis Ababa.


Agriculture is the backbone of the national economy. The sector accounts for over 50% of the country’s GDP and 85% of the labor force. The principal exports from this sector are coffee, oilseeds, pulses, flowers, vegetables and sugar. There is also a thriving livestock sector, as Ethiopia has the largest number of livestock in Africa. As result, the export of cattle hoof, hides and skin has been gaining momentum.

The manufacturing sector has shown enormous growth in recent years. Food & beverages and textiles and leather are important subsectors for manufacturing in Ethiopia. Mineral exploration has also stepped up in recent years. There are reserves of oil, natural gas, coal, gold, cooper, tantalum, potash, zinc, iron ore, nickel, marble, precious and semi-precious stones.


The climate of Ethiopia varies greatly according to topographical regions. In general, the climate is temperate in the highlands and hot in the lowlands. The major part of the country consists of high plateau, which gives the country its pleasant, moderate climate with minimal seasonal temperature variation. The mean minimum during the coldest season is 6˚C (43˚F) while the mean maximum rarely exceeds 26˚C (79˚F). Temperature variation in the lowlands are much greater, and the heat in the desert and Red Sea Coastal areas is extreme, with occasional highs of 60˚C (140˚F). In Addis, the average temperature consistently remains around 15˚C (59˚F) throughout the year; however, you should not underestimate the intensity of the equatorial sun. It is advised to bring a hat, sunscreen and sun glasses.

Heavy rainfall occurs in most of the country during June, July, August and September. The average annual precipitation in the country during the major rainy season is 39 inches. While the northeast and eastern plains receive less than 19 inches, Addis Ababa receives close to 49 inches of rainfall.


While clothing will depend on the time of the year, it is best to remember that Ethiopians are fairly conservative in their dress. Dress is less conservative in Addis Ababa, where most people dress in western fashion.

For tourists light cotton clothing with sunglasses and a hat is advised in the warm lowlands, while in the highlands light or medium-weight clothing is appropriate. During the rainy season a light raincoat and umbrella are essential, and a sweater is best for chilly evenings. The sun can be very strong in high altitudes, so a strong sunscreen is important. Outside of the rainy season, pack light clothes for the daytime and a jacket or sweater for the evenings. A good pair of comfortable walking shoes is essential.
Shoes must always be removed before entering churches and mosques. When visiting the northern part of the country, where churches are the main attractions (Lalibela, Axum, etc) it is advisable to wear flight socks to ensure your comfort.

Other things to pack

Small flashlight with extra batteries, Binoculars, Earplugs (for noisy planes or roommates), Reading materials, Converter and adaptor plugs for electronics and Travelers checks and Credit Cards.


Ethiopia is in the GMT + 3 time zone. As Ethiopia is situated close to the equator; there is almost a constant twelve hours of daylight. In Addis Ababa, on average, the sunrise and sunset start at around 6:30am and 6:45pm respectively. Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar, which consists of 12 months of 30 days each, and the 13th month of five or 6 days (on a leap year). The calendar is 7 years behind the Western or Gregorian calendar, with New Year’s Day falling in the month of September.


Air: Ethiopian Airlines offers domestic services to the major towns in Ethiopia. The cheapest and quickest way to get around Ethiopia's historic sites in the north is by air. Most of Ethiopia's major towns and sites of interest are accessible by air, and fares are cheap by international standards.

On all domestic flights within Ethiopia, the baggage weight allowance is 20 kgs per person including camera equipment and hand luggage. Flights to more remote areas, such as Gambella, may impose a 10 kg limit depending on the plane being used. Ethiopian Airlines does perform luggage and body searches. If you are carrying anything that could be perceived as an antiquity, it will be confiscated, unless you produce a receipt.

Road: The best way to experience the variety of scenery that Ethiopia has to offer is travelling by road. But road conditions in Ethiopia can be poor and given the nature of the terrain a road journey to Axum, for example, takes three days, while the flight from Addis Ababa takes two hours. The scenery by road is, of course, incomparable, but some travelers may lack time. Vehicle hire in Ethiopia is relatively expensive when compared to some other countries. Cheaper but uncomfortable alternatives are public and private buses running between most towns.


Addis Ababa has three 5 star hotels: the Sheraton Addis, Radisson Blu and Capital hotel. Marriott Executive Apartments and Elilly International hotel are other tourist class hotels. Standards vary outside the capital (the hotels in the north are generally better than those in the south), but apart from the Omo and Mago areas where camping is unavoidable it is generally possible to get relatively clean rooms with en suite toilet and shower.


The Ethiopian national dish consists of Injera, made out of grain known as Teff. Originally, Teff used to grow only in Ethiopia. Now, it is gaining worldwide attentions for its nutritional value as it is gluten and cholesterol free. After Teff is fermented, it is cooked as a flatbread (similar to a pancake) and called Injera. The Injera is then served with different kinds of cooked meat, vegetables and sauce. The sauces are generally spiced with Berbere, a blend of herbs and spices (including hot peppers) which gives the food an Ethiopian taste.

Ethiopian food is very ideal for vegetarians. There is a numerous selections including vegetables, pulses, and vegetarian sauces devoid of meat and dairy products. This is meant to accommodate devout Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, which have 196 fasting days in a year where they do not eat meat or any dairy product. Meat lovers can also enjoy Ethiopian food as there are several dishes made up of beef, lamb and chicken.

Along with the traditional Ethiopian meal, it is a customary to drink either t’ej, a type of honey wine, or a local beer called t'ella. Ethiopia also produces its own wine. Dukam and Gouder are dry red wines, while Axumite is sweet red wine. Crystal is dry white wine. Bottled beers are also sold throughout Ethiopia, with popular brands being Dashen, Habesha, Castel, Bedele, St. George, Harar, and Heineken.

Drinking tap water is not recommended, but bottled water is widely available in many shops, hotels, and restaurants throughout the country. You may use any brand of bottled water as all are safe and reliable.


Ethiopia, with a population of up to 93.8 million, is the second most populous nation in Africa. The Ethiopian people are composed of different ethnic, religious, and linguistic backgrounds ranging from Cushitic and Nilotic, like other East African countries, to Semitic like those found in the Middle East. The population is composed of more than 80 ethnic groups, with Oromo and the Amhara being the largest.

Courtesy and hospitality are virtues that have transcended time and generations in Ethiopia. A few words of a local language, no matter how broken they may be, will go a long way in the kind hearts of the people. The day-to-day rituals of the diverse cultures, the traditional ways of eating delicious spicy sauces by hand with injera flatbread, and the wholesome aromas of Ethiopian coffee ceremony can only be fully experienced by indulging oneself in these delights.


In Ethiopia, a handshake greeting is normal, with a pleasant discussion on personal matters before getting down to business. After a close personal relationship has been established, people of different sex may kiss three times on the cheeks. Greetings should never be rushed and it is appropriate to inquire about the person’s family, health, job, etc. The offer of tea and coffee is very common and provides a setting to discuss and understand Ethiopia through the lens of the local people. Smoking is not popular outside of the major cities and it might be perceived as insulting to smoke in front of priests or the elderly.

Remember that you are a guest of the country. As a guest, we highly encourage our visitors to respect the cultures and customs of the indigenous people. We also want to highlight that trip members should respect the privacy of individuals (especially when taking photographs) and not make promises unless they fully intend to fulfill their obligation. In the same vein, bargaining is a serious matter in most countries and it is really not fair to bargain unless there is a genuine interest to buy. For example, if you are not interested in buying something then simply say “No” because in many places “Maybe” means “Yes”.


Ethiopia is a multi-ethnic and multi lingual state. There are over 83 languages spoken in the country with 200 dialects. Amharic is the working language in Ethiopia. Other major languages include Oromigna, Somali and Tigrigna. English is also widely spoken.

The Semitic languages are mostly spoken in the Northern and Central parts of the country. The principal Semitic language is Amharic. The Cushitic languages are found mainly in the East, West, and South. Of this group, Oromiffa is the predominant language. The Omotic languages, on the other hand, are spoken in the Southwest part of the country, near the Omo River. Finally, the Nilo-Saharan languages are spoken in regions along the Sudan frontier.

Some of the written languages use the Ge'ez alphabet, the language of the ancient Axumite kingdom. In fact, Ge'ez is the only indigenous written language in all of Africa.


The predominant religions in Ethiopia are Ethiopian Orthodox and Islam. The peaceful existence of Christianity and Islam, the two major religions in Ethiopia, which entered the country near their times of founding, demonstrates the tolerance and co-existence of the various groups in the country. Christianity is more common in the northern and central parts of Ethiopia, while Islam is more dominant in the low lands.


Ethiopian Saint Yared devised a musical notation in the 6th century for his stupendous repertoire of sacred music with finely choreographed sacred dance to go with it. To this day, highland Ethiopian secular music and dances are based on Yared's legacy. The most common folk dance, the esskista has basic elements running through the traditional dances of all the various highland peoples. Mostly based on shaking shoulders, its combination of the religious, fetish and sensuous is as confusing as it is fascinating. The somersaults of the Welaita and the coquettish theatrics of the Omo people are in sharp contrast to this.


While both doctors and dentists are available throughout the country, the major hospitals are located in the large cities. Visitors are recommended to bring first aid pack and sufficient supplies of any drugs that they need regularly.

In many tourist sites, malaria is not a problem due to high elevation. This is true for Axum, Gondar and Lalibela. However, in Bahir Dar, there is a relatively high incidence of malaria particularly at the end of the rainy season and after the unseasonable rains. Chloroquine resistant strains have been identified in some areas, so you should consult with your doctor before departure if you intend to take prescribed medication. Alternatively, you can keep mosquitoes and other insects at bay with mosquito nets and repellent creams and sprays.

If travelling to the Omo Valley, it is highly recommended to take both the yellow fever inoculation and malaria prophylaxis.

It is also worth taking some precaution in regards to food and drinks to avoid any potential health problems. Drinking tap water is not advisable and in certain local places, it is best to drink from the bottles instead of glasses. It is also recommended to eat well cooked food. Eating vegetables and fruit is not a problem provided that you are certain of the cleanliness.


Electricity in Ethiopia is 220 Volts, alternating at 50 cycles per second. If you travel to Ethiopia with a device that does not accept 220 Volts at 50 Hertz, you will need to purchase a voltage converter. Outlets in Ethiopia generally accept 2 types of plug: three round pins arranged in a triangle, or two round pins. If your appliances plug has a different shape, you will need a plug adapter.

Please be aware that the electricity service can be erratic. You should always travel with a flashlight and spare batteries, and do not rely on an electric razor or hairdryer.


Ethiopia is generally a very safe country. However, casual theft and pick-pocketing are fairly common in some parts of the country. As a precaution, we recommend a lightweight passport pouch that can be worn under your clothing, either around your neck or waist. The pouch should hold only your passport, air tickets, a credit card and most of your travelers’ checks. You should be alert when traveling in cities and crowded areas. Police can be identified easily through their obvious uniforms.

Travel Ethiopia Plc is a responsible tour operator and the safety of our clients and staff is of paramount importance. We would not suggest any trip without considering the safety of our clients. Should the foreign and commonwealth Office advice against travel for any reason, we will contact anyone who is booked to travel to discuss alternatives.


In medium to large towns, you will find stationary shops, good pharmacies, music shops and general convenient stores. Even in small towns you will find convenient stores selling items such as batteries, pens, paper, soap, biscuits and bottled drinks. Most towns and villages have markets. In larger towns, these will be open daily, but the main market day throughout the country is Saturday. Buying from local markets rather than big shops puts money directly into the hands of the local community.

Many antiques cannot be exported and may be confiscated if found in airport searches. The National Museum in Addis Ababa can issue a clearance certificate.

When it comes to shopping for rare gift articles and genuine souvenirs from Ethiopia there is an amazing selection of religious icons, crosses, antique jewelry of various metals, gold and silver jeweler, leather goods of all kinds and pure cotton textiles to choose from.


We ask you not to give money, candy or gifts indiscriminately to children as this encourages begging. If you wish to do something for the children you meet, we suggest you bring pencils, pens, crayons, erasers, simple English books, "magic slates" etc. and give them to your guide who will distribute them to local schools where they will be much appreciated and of greater overall benefit to the community.


All modern forms of communication; telephone, mobile, fax, or Internet, are available and relatively reliable in Ethiopia. Airtime cards are sold at most shops and hotels. The country code of Ethiopia is 251 and Addis Ababa’s area code is 11 (or 011 if calling from within the country).

Reliable internet cafes are located throughout Addis Ababa and major cities outside of the capital. Elsewhere in the country, however, internet usage and access is rare and slow. Wi-Fi is available in all major hotels, although network is often a problem.

For courier services, DHL, FedEx, UPS, TNT, and EMS have offices in Addis Ababa. Standard mail between Addis Ababa and most of Europe takes approximately one week, but it can take longer (2 weeks to a month) to reach elsewhere in the world.


The Ethiopian currency is the Birr, made up of 100 cents. Notes are issued in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, and 100. There are five different coins: 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents. One birr has started being issued in coin form.

Traveler’s Checks are not easily cashed outside of the larger cities. Credit cards are accepted in certain hotels, lodges and large shops. Cash may be withdrawn from automated teller machines in major cities using VISA, Master card, and Union Pay debit cards, but it is best not to rely on these outside of Addis Ababa. VISA, Master card and credit cards are accepted in big hotels in major cities and some malls in Addis Ababa.

US dollars are accepted at major establishments, like hotels, ticket offices. However, you need to use local currency for shopping and while traveling outside of Addis that we are able to change your foreign currency at any bank. Tipping in USD is acceptable.

The rate of exchange fluctuates moderately. As of December 2016: USD 1.00 = ETB 22.51 (Ethiopian Birr)

We would be remiss to not warn you that there is no way to replace cash if it is lost or stolen. If you are carrying US dollars, bring plenty of 10’s and 5’s as they are needed for tipping and change is not always available. It is a very complicated and time-consuming exercise to change birr back to a hard currency so this should be avoided if at all possible, especially as US Dollars are accepted as readily as birr. In order to change birr back to dollars on leaving the country, visitors will be asked to produce bank receipts. Therefore, if you think you might need to change money back please be sure to keep your bank receipts.

There are a number of banks within easy reach throughout Ethiopia. Banking hours are generally from 8:00am until at least 4:30pm, Monday through Saturday.


Many tourists like to combine visits to Ethiopia with Kenya, Sudan or Djibouti. For visitors who are interested, we can arrange and provide extension program on request. Separate visas are required for all countries. There are reasonable road links between these countries and there are frequent flights between Addis Ababa, Nairobi, Khartoum, and Djibouti.


Ethiopia on the whole is fairly relaxed about photography, and apart from a few museums and sensitive government and military installations, you can photograph virtually everything. However, please note that flashes damage artifacts. Except in general street and market scenes, it is not appropriate to photograph people without permission. As a matter of courtesy, permission should be sought before photographing individuals in many parts of the country, particularly among the Afar and among the ethnic groups living by the Omo River. In some sites (Blue Nile falls for example) there is a charge for video photography. Please respect the privacy of the local people, especially in remote areas, and do not intrude unduly with your camera. Use discretion and you should return with some marvelous photographs.


There are many great national and local holidays and celebrations throughout the year all over the country. These may share origins with Christian, Muslim and tribal festivals elsewhere in the world, but have unique indigenous characteristics in Ethiopia.

  • January 7 – Ethiopian Christmas
  • January 19 – Timket (Epiphany)
  • March 2 – Adwa Victory day
  • April 17 – Id Al Adha (Arefa)
  • April 14 – Ethiopian Good Friday (date varies)
  • April 16 – Ethiopian Easter (date varies)
  • May 1 – International Labor Day
  • May 5 – Ethiopian Patriots’ Victory Day
  • May 28 – Downfall of the Derg
  • June 26 – Eid al-Fitr (date varies)
  • September 2 – Eid al-Adha
  • September 11 – Ethiopian New Year
  • September 27 or 28 – Meskel (Finding of the True Cross)
  • December 01 – Birth of the Prophet Mohammed (date varies)


Learn a few words of Amharic (Amarigna). Here are a few words that can go a long way during your stay in Ethiopia. Knowing another language allows one to cross rivers.


  • Hello - Selam/Tena
  • yestelegnGood morning - Endemn aderu/k(M)/sh(F)
  • Good afternoon - Endemn walu/k(M)/sh(F)
  • Good evening - Endemn ameshu/k(M)/sh(F)
  • Goodbye  - Dehna hunu/hun(M)/hugne(F)
  • How are you?  - Dehna neh? (For males) / Dehna nesh? (For females)
  • Where is …? - Yet no …?
  • Good - Tiru/
  • MelkamBad  - Metfo
  • No - Aydelem/
  • AyhonemYes (all right) -
  • EshiExcuse me  - Yikirta
  • I am sorry - Aznalehu
  • How much is it? - Sint no?
  • Thank you  - Ameseginalehu
  • You’re welcome - Minim
  • aydelPlease - Ebakih (for males)
  • Why? - Ebakish (for females)
  • Only a - littleTinish


Drivers in Ethiopia use the right lane; a valid international license is required to drive. The maximum speed limit within the city is 60km/hr.

A foreigner wishing to shoot documentary or feature films in Ethiopia shall obtain a permit from the Ministry of Information and Culture.

Guide books such as Lonely planet, the Bradt guide to Ethiopia and the Spectrum guide to Ethiopia are available in a revised edition.


Embassy of Ethiopia 

Currency Exchange Rates 

Consular Information Sheet 

Africa Guide: Ethiopia 

Travelers’ Reports on Ethiopia [Lonely Planet] 

World Weather: 

Ethiopia [Ethnologue Database] 

Ethiopia [INCORE Internet Country Guides] 

Ethiopia [Visible Earth] 

The Addis Tribune Home Page 

Ethiopia [Foreign Affairs Canada] 

Currency Exchange Rates: 

Resource for determining correct times anywhere in the world: 

Zierer Visa Service: 

About us

Welcome to Ethiopia- an ancient wonderland with rich cultural traditions, architectural remains, natural beauty and enormously hospitable people. Ethiopia has a history of over 3,000 years, which has been preserved in a remarkable manner. Only in Ethiopia will you find yourself dramatically transported back in time through the participation in sacred rituals of an archaic faith.

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Our Address

Ayat Apartment ground and first Floor

Walking Distance from UNECA, Guinea Conakry Street
Addis Ababa  Ethiopia
Po.Box. 9438
Office:   +251 115 52 54 78