Visa

All foreign nationals require a visa to enter Ethiopia. Fortunately, the process is very straightforward. You have two options for securing a visa, you can pay online in advance through the online evisa service, or you can obtain a visa on arrival at Bole International Airport. If you use the online service, you will still collect your visa at the airport on arrival but you can skip the payment queue (which is welcome after a long overnight flight!). 

If you are paying on arrival, note that you cannot pay in Ethiopian Birr or card payment. You will need to pay in cash in either GBP, USD, or EUR. The price for a visa is around 50 USD for a standard 30 day visa. 

To secure a visa, your passport will need to be valid for at least the next 6 months from the point of arrival in Ethiopia. 

If you need to extend your visa, you can do this at the Immigration Headquarters on Churchill Avenue in Addis. For multiple entry visas, or if you are visiting on business, you need to contact the Ethiopian embassy in your home country, as these cannot be obtained online or on arrival.

Foreign Currency

It is fine to bring in foreign currency, but if you are carrying more than 3000 USD equivalent, you will need to declare this. Generally there is no reason to bring huge wads of cash with you, as there are ATMs all over Addis and in all the major towns in the north and south. You are only allowed to import or export a maximum of 200 Ethiopian Birr. 

Cameras

Ethiopia is very photogenic, so you’ll want to bring a good camera with you to take the best snaps of your adventure. If you are planning on bringing a professional camera, you will need a permit. We can help you arrange this. There are no clear guidelines indicating which kinds of camera require permits, and handheld cameras are usually never questioned, but as a general rule - the bigger the camera, the more likely you’ll need a permit. 

Money

The local currency is Ethiopian Birr. In many of the built up cities, you can pay by card but you should not rely on this. If you’re going anywhere remotely out of cities, you should have cash to hand. Even in Addis Ababa, many establishments won’t accept card payments, or internet connectivity issues could mean they can’t accept it at the time. 

ATMs can be found in most built up areas, so you don’t need to bring lots of cash with you into the country. It’s also now wise to walk around with huge sums of money withdrawn from Addis to last for your whole trip, so the best thing to do is plan ahead based on where you are going and for how long. Your guides can help you with this, but withdrawals are typically limited to 4000 Birr (~120 USD) anyway so you will need to top up throughout your trip. 

Note: your guides won’t mind being tipped in a foreign currency, so consider this when determining birr withdrawal amounts. 

Daily Expenditures

We advise carrying enough small notes (10 birr notes are very handy) for small payments and tipping. If you’re travelling to the Omo Valley, you’ll need enough 5 or 10 birr notes to pay for photographs.

Daily expenditure will depend on personal preferences and requirements, and of course what is included in your tour with us. 500-800 birr (20-30 USD) per day is a good ball park to help you budget, and this will cover lunches, dinners, drinks and small personal spending. It does not include breakfast, excursions, entrance fees etc. which will typically be included in your tour price.

What to bring

Much of Ethiopia is highland, which means temperatures are much milder than many countries in East Africa. Addis Ababa itself sits above 2000 metres, so you’ll be acclimatising the moment you step off the plane!

Given the diversity of climate from region to region in Ethiopia, you need to pack for the full spectrum of weather conditions (depending on where you are going, of course). In the Danakil Depression, temperatures will be approaching 40°C, whereas in the heights of the Simien Mountains at night, temperatures can fall to below freezing. 

In general, daytime temperatures will range from 15°C to 25°C - so pack light clothes with a jacket/coat for the evenings. Most hotels offer a laundry service, so you don’t need to bring too much!

Remember, Ethiopians are conservative dressers so please respect this and dress to cover at least your knees and shoulders.

For a full kit list for trekking in Ethiopia, check out our trekking in the Simien Mountains page here.

Communications

The internet in Ethiopia is intermittent, and internet outages are frequent (either voluntarily during protests/civil unrest or involuntarily due to infrastructure). Most hotels in built up areas will offer internet which is generally reliable. 

Ethiopia has just one telecom provider, the state-owned Ethio Telecom. The mobile data coverage is surprisingly good. You will need to purchase a SIM card on arrival in Addis, and unfortunately it is not a simple process! Your guide will help you organise this, but essentially you will need to get a SIM card cut for your phone and they’ll take your passport details and a photo in the shop. It costs around 50 Birr (~2 USD). 

There are mobile data bundles available, depending on how much data you plan to use. 

Vaccinations

It is important that you consult your GB or travel health nurse before visiting Ethiopia. Which vaccinations you will require, and specific advice pertaining to your safety while in the country will depend on your medical history and current health.

Thanks to Ethiopia’s high altitude, malaria is absent in much of the country. Most areas above 2000 metres are reportedly malaria free. That said, we still recommend taking anti-malarials as the disease is still present in low lying areas of the country.

A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate used to be required, but is no longer required at the time of writing, but it might be if you are coming from a country where the disease is present. A cholera vaccination is required if you have a visited a cholera infected area within 6 days of arriving in Ethiopia. 

It’s a good idea to bring a simple first aid kit with you, and you must bring any medicines you require with you, as local pharmacies have limited stocks. 

It’s extremely important that you take our comprehensive travel insurance when visiting Ethiopia. 

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Dining Etiquette

The mainstay for Ethiopian cuisines is injera topped with all sorts of sauces, meats (vegetarian options available as well), and spices. You will usually be eating with your hands when eating injera, and you should take care to only eat with your right hand. Placing food in your mouth with your left hand is considered rude. 

You’ll also likely encounter a gursha, a tradition in Ethiopia where your host will feed you a piece of the meal - this should always be accepted!

Ethiopian food is great, but if it’s your first time in the country and you are spending a number of weeks here, you should strike a balance between local cuisine and international foods that you are more accustomed to. We speak from experience...

Dress Code

Ethiopians are conservative dressers, so you should take care to respect this and dress accordingly. Clothing should cover the knees and shoulders. Of course, allowances are made in certain parts of the country (e.g. the Danakil Depression) where the searing heat demands shorts! 

Tipping

Tipping is vitally important in Ethiopia and is somewhat of a cultural expectation. While tipping is hugely appreciated by the local staff and we recommend tipping generously where you can, it can be difficult social terrain so I wanted to say a few words about this to help you avoid any awkward/uncomfortable situations.

The social awkwardness is often worse regarding the amount of the tip rather than whether or not to tip at all (as most travellers will provide some amount of tip). An approach that we have found works well is to decide beforehand how much you want to tip, then take out and fold up the notes and place them firmly in your guide/drivers hands, thank them for their help/services and then move on. You don't want to be in a position where you are being watched as you take out notes one by one deciding when to stop.

As a general guide, we recommend tipping 10 USD per day for guides, and 5 USD per day for drivers/support staff (drivers, cooks etc.). People do often tip much higher than this but it comes down to your budget, so my suggestion would be to start at 10 USD/day and go up/down from there depending on the quality of service and your budget. It can be tricky but it's important to feel like you're tipping what you feel is deserved whilst sticking to your budget!

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Ready to Explore Ethiopia?