Ethiopia Tips and
With an area of 1, 112, 000 square kilometers, Ethiopia is as large
as France and Spain combined.
From the north and running down the center are the Abyssinian
highlands, to the west of the chain the land drops to the grasslands of
Sudan, to the east the deserts of the Afar and the Red Sea. South of
Addis Ababa, the land is dominated by the Rift Valley Lakes.
The main rivers are the Blue Nile, the Tekezze (which joins the Nile
in Sudan) the Awash, the Wabe Shebelle, the Omo, and Baro and Birbir.
The population is estimated at 70 million, over 50 per cent of whom
are under 20 years old. The average number of inhabitants per square
kilometer is 49.
Ethiopia is a multi-ethnic state with a great variety of languages
spoken in the country, of which there are eighty three, with some 200
dialects. The main three languages are Amharic, Tigrigna and Oramigna.
English is also widely spoken. Amharic is the most prominent of the
local languages. The name originates from the Amhara people, who live in
the highlands of Ethiopia.
Ethiopian languages belong to one of four main language groups: Semitic
(Such as Amharic and Tigrigna), Cushitic (such as Afan Oromo), Omotic
and Nilo-Saharan. A useful phrase book will provide phonetic guides to
The former military regime was overthrown in 1991.
Ethiopia is now a Federal Republic made up of 14 regions, mainly
based on ethnicity. (In southern Ethiopia, 5 regions have combined to
form the Southern Region.)
The present government was elected in 1995 for a 5-year term.
85% of the population gets their livelihood from the land. Coffee
(the word originates from the name of the province Kaffa, in the south
west of Ethiopia) provides 65% of foreign currency earnings.
The opening up of the economy since the overthrow of the previous
government in 1991 has created more favorable grounds for development of
Ethiopia is the "water tower" of the region (the Blue
Nile contributes to 85% of the main Nile flow) and plans are now in
progress to better exploit the countrys water resources both to boost
agricultural production and for power generation.
Mineral exploration and mining has stepped up in recent years-there
are reserves of natural gas, coal, Gold, copper, tantalum, potash, zinc,
iron ore, marble, precious and semi-precious stones.
The export of livestock, skins and hides (Ethiopia has the largest
domestic livestock population in Africa) oilseeds, pulses and animal
feed makes up the rest of Ethiopias foreign currency earnings, with
tourism set to make an increasingly important contribution.
When to come to Ethiopia
This can depend on where you are going. In most of the country, the
main rainy season runs from June to the end of September, with short
rains in March.
In the Omo and Mago parks however, in Southern Ethiopia, the seasons
are different with the main rains from March to June, and shorter rains
With the upgrading of the airports along the historic route (Axum,
Lalibela, Gondar and Bahir Dar), it is now possible to visit the north
even in the rainy Sean.
For travelers who do not mind waiting out a downpour (usually
followed by brilliant sunshine) there are certain rewards-a green
countryside full of crops and flowers and the sites largely to your
Visa and Immigration Requirements
Visa applications may be
obtained at Ethiopia's diplomatic missions overseas. However, nationals
of 33 countries are now allowed to receive their tourist visas on
arrival in Ethiopia at the regular charge. The list includes Argentina,
Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France,
Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea,
Kuwait, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland,
Portugal, Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland,
Taiwan, United Kingdom and United States.
Climate and Clothing
Day Forecast in Celsius for Addis Ababa
Because of elevation, temperature rarely exceed 25 degree c. (77
Fahrenheit) in most of the country, although in some of the lower lying
areas (Awash, Omo and Mago parks) it can get considerably hotter.
Pack light clothes for the daytime and jacket or sweater for the
evenings, and a good pair of walking shoes even if you are not going
trekking-path ways around historic sites is usually uneven and stony.
Trekkers in the Simian and Bale Mountains will need warm clothes,
waterproofs and 3-4 seasons sleeping bags.
A cultural note: Ethiopians are generally modest dressers and
visitors should be sensitive about going underdressed into places of
worship. Shoes must always be removed before entering churches and
mosques-for getting around sites like Lalibela with its many churches
airline socks are very useful.
Health and Medical
All visitors should be in possession of valid yellow fever
vaccination certificate. Immunization for Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid and
Polio is recommended.
Malaria: in many sites malaria is not a problem because of the
elevation - this is true of Axum, Gondar and Lalibela for example, but
it can occur in Bahir Dar at the end of the rainy season and after
unseasonable rains. Chloroquine resistant strains have been identified
in some areas so you should consult your doctor about the prescription.
Alternatively, you can keep mosquitoes and other insects at bay with
repellent creams and sprays. (Climatic changes and phenomena such as
el-Nino has meant the appearance of Malaria at unseasonable times, and
its spread to areas previously malaria free)
Visitors should take a simple first aid pack, which would include:
different size plasters, antiseptic cream, anti-histamine cream and/or
tablets for insect bites, sun barrier cream (while temperatures are
moderate the sun is strong) and anti diarrhea tablets such as Imodium
for emergencies (they will not cure the problem but will control the
symptoms). Generally, visitors should take out standard holiday health
insurance in their home countries.
Food and Drinks
With people from so many different ethnic groups, the food and drinks of
Ethiopia are varied. A typical dish is Wot, a hot spicy stew of meat or
vegetables, seasoned with a blend of Berbere. It is often made with Doro
(Chicken), and normally served with injera, the traditional spongy
pancake made from a fermented teff flour batter.
In most good restaurants, or in the local coffee house, you will find
delicious dishes that reflect the customs and the ingredients of the
In Addis Ababa, as in most of the larger cities, visitors will also find
a wide range of restaurants that reflect the influences of other
cuisines. All large hotels have international restaurants, but elsewhere
in the city you can sample Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern, Italian,
French, Greek and other cuisines.
Ethiopia produces its own wines. Dukam and Gouder are fine reds, Axumite
is sweeter and Crystals is a dry white wine. Ethiopia?s famous honey
wine, or Tej, is found all over the country as is Tela, a local beer and
Katikala, a distilled liquor.
Addis Ababa has two 5 star hotels: The Hilton Addis 5*, the Sheraton
Addis 5* plus luxury collections, and a growing number of tourist
Standards vary outside the capital (the hotels in the north are
generally better than those in the south), but there are a number of
ecologies built recently even in the Omo and Mago areas where camping
was unavoidable it is generally possible to get relatively clean rooms
with en suite toilet and shower.
Travel by air, road and rail
Ethiopian Airlines operates an extensive (43 airports and an
additional 21 landing strips) and generally efficient and reliable
domestic air service, but cancellations and delays do occur.
Traveling by road allows visitors to experience Ethiopias
wonderful scenery, but road conditions are generally poor, and
mountainous topography in the north will cut speed.
The hour flight to Lalibela for example takes nearly two days by
Railway enthusiasts who wish to travel by train from Addis Ababa to
Dire Dawa or on to Djibouti should be prepared for delays and run down
Ethiopia has recently secured substantial grants for the renovation
of its road and rail network, but improvement will take time. Find out
more about the weather at:
Converter for all Currencies.
The local currency is the Ethiopian Birr, made up of 100 cents. Visitors
may import and unlimited amount of foreign currency, providing
declaration of such currency (on the appropriate blue-colored form) is
made to customs on arrival. Foreign currency may only be changed at
authorized banks and hotels. The currency declaration form must be
attained as this will be required by customs on departure. Visitors,
however, will be able to change back any excess Ethiopian Birr to
foreign currency at the airport before departure. If you do have
Ethiopian Birr to cash at the airport, you must, in addition to the
currency declaration form, bring with you all the receipts for exchange
Duty-free imports are
permitted for up to :
a) 200 cigarettes, or 50 cigars, or 1/2 lb of tobacco
b)1 litre of alcoholic beverages
c)1/2 litre, or two bottles, of perfumes.
Visitors may export souvenirs with a value not exceeding E.Birr 500,
although some articles (such as animal skin and antiques) require an
There is a US$ 20 departure tax for international flights
Electricity: 220 volts
Many antiques cannot be exported and may be confiscated if found in
airport searches. The National Museum in Addis Ababa can issue a
Generally only 100 ASA is available, slide film usually not.
As a matter of courtesy, permission should be sought before
photographing individuals and in many parts of the country, particularly
among the Afar and among the ethnic groups living by the Omo River,
people will demand a fee.
In some sites (Blue Nile falls for example) there is a charge for