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Ethiopia

If you’re travelling to Ethiopia, our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information.

Security Status

  • Normal precautions
  • High degree of caution
  • Avoid non-essential travel
  • Do not travel
  • Overview
  • Safety and Security
  • Local Laws and Customs
  • Natural Disasters and Climate
  • Health
  • Embassy Contact

Overview

Overview

General COVID-19 Travel Advisory in Operation:

Avoid non-essential travel until further notice:

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advises against all non-essential travel overseas until further notice. This includes Great Britain but does not apply to Northern Ireland. It also includes all travel by cruise ship.

If you are currently travelling outside of Ireland:

Flight restrictions and route cancellations are happening on a daily basis worldwide and there is no guarantee that air routes will continue to operate. For this reason, where commercial flights are still an option, we recommend that people who wish to do so make arrangements to return to Ireland as soon as possible.

We are working with airlines to show maximum flexibility to those passengers who need to change their existing flight arrangements. Where commercial flights are no longer available, we are working side-by-side with our international partners to identify alternative options where possible.

It may not be feasible or possible for everyone who wants to travel back to Ireland to do so in the short term. We ask Irish citizens remaining abroad to make decisions that safeguard their health and well-being and that they follow local public health and safety requirements.  We ask that they remain in close contact with family, friends and their local Irish Embassy or Consulate. 

We know that this is a stressful situation for citizens and our embassy network is working around the clock to provide people with all the information and assistance that we can, bearing in mind the situation is unfolding across multiple countries and is not one under our control. 

What to do on entering Ireland from abroad:

The Irish Health Authorities require anyone coming into Ireland, apart from Northern Ireland, to restrict their movements on arrival for 14 days. Check the Irish Health Service COVID-19 Advice Page for full information on these requirements. This includes Irish residents. Exemptions are in place for providers of essential supply chain services such as hauliers, pilots and maritime staff.

Where to go for more information:

We continue to make updates to our online travel advice for over 200 countries and recommend that you download our TravelWise App and follow us on Twitter. If abroad you should register with your local Irish Embassy or Consulate and regularly check their website and especially their Twitter accounts for details of any local public health measures and travel restrictions.

Security status

Avoid non-essential travel.

Travel Updates

While most visits to Ethiopia are trouble-free, the security situation can be unpredictable and civil unrest has occurred regularly across the country in recent months. This can result in road closures, disruption to phone and internet networks, closure of businesses and, in some cases, violence. These incidents are often localised, and therefore Irish citizens are advised to monitor local news and get in touch with their contacts in the places they plan to visit. If in any doubt, visitors should be ready to change their travel itinerary at short notice. There is a risk of terrorism from regional groups associated with al-Qaeda and al-Shabaab, and security is tight in most hotels, shopping centres and other public places. Citizens are advised to exercise caution and avoid demonstrations and large gatherings.

Before travelling, Irish citizens should ensure that they are fully aware of the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Travel Advice for different regions of Ethiopia, particularly areas where we advise against all travel. We advise that you stick to well-known tourist routes and download the TravelWise App to receive updates to travel advice.

Travel insurance, including international medical evacuation, is essential for visitors to Ethiopia as medical facilities may be limited. It is essential that you check the terms of your travel insurance policy thoroughly before you travel. You should be aware that if you travel to areas of the country where the Department advises against travel, your travel insurance is likely to be invalidated and the Embassy’s ability to provide consular assistance may be restricted

Novel Coronavirus

One case of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has been confirmed in Ethiopia.
If you are in Ethiopia, you should monitor developments regularly and follow the advice of local authorities. See links to relevant websites below.
Ministry of Heath: http://www.moh.gov.et/ejcc/
Ethiopian Public Health Institute: https://www.ephi.gov.et/

Bole International Airport is conducting additional health screening of passengers, including temperature checks, in light of the outbreak of COVID -19 in many countries around the world. Travellers displaying symptoms consistent with COVID-19 may be transferred to a nearby isolation facility for up to 24 hours while further tests are carried out. Anyone who tests positive will remain at the isolation facility for a further 14 days, in line with guidance from the World Health Organisation.

Private healthcare facilities with the capability to respond to COVID-19 cases exist, but capacity is limited. You should be aware that in the event of a significant COVID-19 outbreak in Ethiopia, the ability to access treatment for other ailments is likely to be limited.

Current information is available from the Ethiopian Public Health Institute.


Be alert to common signs of infection: respiratory problems, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Seek medical advice if you experience these symptoms.

HSE medical advice to protect yourself from getting COVID-19 is below.
Do:
• wash your hands properly and regularly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub
• cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough and sneeze
• put used tissues into a bin and wash your hands
Don’t:
• touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
Additional information on COVID-19 can be found via the following links:

HSE

HPSC

ECDC

World Health Organisation

Latest Alerts

As of late December 2019, protests in response to attacks on religious buildings have been reported in multiple locations across the Amhara and Oromia regions, as well as Jijiga in Somali region. Signs of large public gatherings and protests should be avoided as a precaution. Check with your local contacts in advance of travelling outside of Addis Ababa, particularly if travelling by road as impromptu road blocks may be established by protesters.

Addis Ababa

On 22 June 2019, targeted attacks were carried out against government officials in Addis Ababa (and Amhara region). The situation in Addis Ababa has returned to normal and remains calm. However, citizens should continue to exercise caution, monitor local media and avoid any signs of demonstration.

There has been an increase in petty crime in Addis Ababa, in particular street robbery and muggings. Ensure that you keep doors locked when driving, be wary of distraction techniques, and remain cautious when walking around the city, particularly after if alone or after dark (around 6pm).

Festivals and celebrations are held frequently in Addis Ababa throughout the year. Large crowds can gather, particularly around the Meskel Square area. Check if your travel coincides with a major festival and exercise caution around large gatherings, as these events can be targets for opportunistic crime (particularly pickpocketing).

Amhara

On 22 June 2019, targeted attacks were carried against senior government officials in Bahir Dar, the capital of Amhara region, resulting in loss of life, road blocks, security checks and disruption of the internet services. Tensions remain high in parts of Amhara region, and public protests have taken place in Bahir Dar as recently as October 2019. Citizens should exercise caution, avoid large gatherings, monitor local news and follow the advice of local authorities.

In late September 2019, violent clashes were reported around Chilga Woreda in Central Gondar Zone, including a number of civilian casualties. While such incidents are mostly related to intercommunal disputes, unrest can occur at any time with risk of being unintentionally caught up in conflict. Travellers should monitor local media and follow the advice of local authorities.

There has also been a rise in ethnic tensions in parts of Amhara region, resulting in disturbance and violence. We advise against travel to the Wollo and Shewa zones of Amhara region.

Afar

Historically there have been incidences of attacks and kidnapping of foreigners near the Danakil Depression in Afar region. Travel to this area should only be undertaken with a recognised and reputable tour operator supported by a military or armed escort.

Oromia

 

In late October 2019, civil unrest – and, in some cases, violence – was reported in a number of towns across the Oromia region, including Ambo, Adama, Debre Zeit (Bishoftu), Dodola, Shashemene and Bale Robe. Impromptu road blocks affected travel on major roads leading into and out of Addis Ababa, as well as road travel to and from Dire Dawa. While the situation has calmed, citizens planning to travel to these areas should continue to monitor local media, follow the advice of local authorities, and avoid any signs of protest and unrest. It is also advisable to get in touch with local contacts in advance of travel, and minimise road transportation when possible.

There have been serious clashes in the East and West Haraghe zones of Oromia, and around the town of Moyale on the Kenyan border. Since June 2018, there has also been serious violence in the West Guji and Gedeo zones (on the border between Oromia and SNNPR regions) resulting in the mass displacement of people in the area.

 

SNNPR (Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region)

Since July 2019, SNNPR has been under a localised form of state emergency control. This was instigated in response to violent protests, looting and burning of buildings in Hawassa city and surrounding areas. While the situation has been brought under control and remains calm, some restrictions on movement (particularly in Sidama areas) are still in place. We advise against non-essential travel to SNNPR. 

Somali Region

Violent clashes have occurred across the Somali region and the situation can be  volatile, particularly along the border with Somalia, but is currently calm. In the past, foreigners have been subject to attacks and kidnapping by rebel groups along the border. Serious confrontations between ethnic groups have taken place in recent months along the border of the Oromia and Somali regions, resulting in the mass displacement of people.

Tigray

In July 2018 Eritrea and Ethiopia signed a peace agreement, and flights between the two countries re-opened. However, the security situation in border areas is unpredictable and we advise against travel to the border area in Tigray region.

We advise against all travel to:

  • The border area with Eritrea, with the exception of the main roads up to Axum and to Adigrat
  • The border areas with Sudan, South Sudan and Kenya (including all land border crossings)
  • The border area with Somaliland, and within 100km of the border of Somalia (in Ethiopian Somali region)
  • West Guji zone (Oromia) and Gedeo zone (SNNPR)
  • Benishangul-Gumuz region
  • East, West and Kellem Wellega zones in Oromia
  • Wello and Shewa zones in Amhara

We advise against all but essential travel to:

  • Gondar zone, with the exception of the city of Gondar
  • The remaining areas of the Somali region (with the exception of the regional capital, Jijiga)
  • The internal border area between Oromia and Somali regions
  • Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR)

Gambella Region (excluding the border area with South Sudan, where we advise against all travel)

Emergency Assistance

We suggest you learn as much as you can about Ethiopia before your trip from travel agents, tour operators and guide books. The best help is often close at hand so if you have problems, start by talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management.

You can contact the emergency services in Ethiopia by dialling:

  • Emergency: 911
  • Police: 991
  • Ambulance (in Addis Ababa): 907

Our tips for safe travels

  • As internet and other communication services may be unpredictable, it is advisable to have alternative communication plans in place and to inform friends/family of your travel plans.
  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities
  • Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App
  • Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly in an emergency, such as a natural disaster or a family emergency
  • Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates

Safety and Security

Safety and security

Terrorism 

There is a threat from terrorism in Ethiopia and security is tight in most hotels, shopping centres, and other public places. Irish citizens are reminded to maintain a high level of security awareness at all times: avoid crowds, review your personal safety, remain vigilant and be cautious when frequenting prominent public places and landmarks.

Crime

Crime remains relatively low in Ethiopia but muggings and armed assaults are reportedly on the rise especially in Addis Ababa. While violent crime, particularly against foreigners, is unusual, it is not unheard of. Crime increases significantly after dark and its best not to walk unaccompanied in Addis Ababa or elsewhere after nightfall. Please take sensible precautions:

  • Don't carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place
  • Don't carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home
  • Avoid showing large sums of money in public and don't use ATMs after dark, especially if you're alone. Check no one has followed you after conducting your business
  • Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, and arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible
  • Keep a close eye on your personal belongings and hold on to them in public places such as internet cafés, train and bus stations
  • Keep your vehicle doors locked and your bags out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag snatching from vehicles stopped at traffic lights
  • Be alert when calling or texting on your mobile phone – it's best not to do this on the street. Violent muggings have occurred over mobile phones worth less than €20 in Ireland

Petty Theft

Bag snatching and pick pocketing are most common in areas frequented by foreigners such as the Piazza, Mercato, Bole and Churchill Road areas of Addis Ababa. Be especially watchful for pickpockets when getting out of taxis in these areas.

Reporting Crime

If you are a victim of a crime while in Ethiopia, report it to the local police immediately. And you can contact us at the Irish Embassy in Addis Ababa if you need help

Visas

Ethiopian tourist visas (one month or three months, single entry) are available to Irish citizens upon arrival at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa. The on-arrival visa process is available only at Bole International Airport and is not available at any of the other airports in Ethiopia. Current visa fees are $50 for one month and $70 for 3 months – both are only for single entry. This can be paid in US dollar or in Euro.

E-visas for Ethiopia can also be applied for online at www.evisa.gov.et.

Travellers who transit through Bole International Airport do not require a transit visa if they remain in the permitted transit area and depart within 12 hours.

Homosexuality

Homosexual activity is illegal and the subject is taboo for the majority of Ethiopians.

Social unrest

The political situation across Ethiopia can be volatile, and is likely to become increasingly so in the period leading to national elections in May 2020. Public and civil protests are frequent and can turn violent without warning. Recently there have been regular incidents of ethnically-motivated violence at universities. If you intend to visit a university during your stay, please seek the advice of your university contacts.

We advise you to avoid demonstrations and public gatherings, which can sometimes turn confrontational. Always keep yourself informed by monitoring local media and staying in contact with your hotel or tour organiser.

Driving

If you are planning to drive in Ethiopia, be aware that road safety standards are low and you need to be extremely careful while driving or walking on roads. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Ethiopia has the highest rate of traffic fatalities per vehicle in the world. We advise against travelling by road outside towns and cities after dark, due to the increased risk of road accidents.

Roads in Ethiopia are poorly maintained, inadequately marked and poorly lit. Road travel after dark outside Addis Ababa and other cities is dangerous and discouraged due to hazards posed by broken-down vehicles left in the road, pedestrians walking in the road, stray animals, and the possibility of armed robbery. Excessive speed, unpredictable local driving habits, pedestrians and livestock in the roadway, and the lack of adherence to basic safety standards for vehicles are daily hazards on Ethiopian roads.

It is unlawful to use a cell phone or other electronic communications device while driving in Ethiopia (even if it has a hands-free feature), and use of seat belts is required. Be sure to carry your valid driver's license with you, as well as proof of comprehensive local insurance coverage. While in a vehicle, keep your doors locked and the windows rolled up at all times. Keep bags, purses, and valuables out of sight — in the trunk, on the floor, or in the glove compartment. Do not carry unnecessary items in your bag; leave your credit cards, social security card, etc., at home. Do not open your doors or windows to give to beggars. Police can fine people for giving money to beggars.

If you want to drive:

  • Bring your international driving license and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law and you risk being detained, fined or banned from driving if caught
  • Be aware of Ethiopia's traffic laws, such as speed limits
  • Wear your seatbelts at all times
  • Keep your vehicle doors locked and your bags kept out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag-snatching if you're stopped at traffic lights

Traffic accidents

If your vehicle comes into contact with another, make sure that your valuables are secure before getting out of the vehicle and lock doors to prevent theft while you're not in the vehicle. . The Traffic Police will come to assess the scene and mark the location of the incident.

If there is a dispute at the scene, try to remain calm, don't engage physically, and try to take note of the other driver's name, licence plate, description, etc. . If a crowd assembles, stay in your car and wait for the police to arrive.

Vehicle hire

If you are hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you're allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.

Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).

Local Laws and Customs

Local laws and customs

Remember, local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or may even be illegal.

Entry requirements (visa/passport)

Ethiopian tourist visas (one month or three months, single entry) are available to Irish citizens upon arrival at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa. The on-arrival visa process is available only at Bole International Airport and is not available at any of the other airports in Ethiopia. Current visa fees are $50 for one month and $70 for 3 months – both are only for single entryThis can be paid in US dollar or in Euro.

E-visas for Ethiopia can also be applied for online at www.evisa.gov.et.

Travelers who transit through Bole international Airport do not require a transit visa if they remain in the permitted transit area and depart within 12 hours.

Business visas of up to three months' validity can also be obtained at Bole International Airport upon arrival, but only if the traveller has a sponsoring organization in Ethiopia that has made prior arrangements for issuance through the Ethiopian Main Department for Immigration & Nationality office in Addis Ababa.

Current visa extension fees are $100 for a first time one-month extension, $150 for a second time 15 day extension, and $200 for a third time 10 day extension. Travellers whose entry visa expires before they depart Ethiopia must obtain a visa extension through the Main Immigration Office in Addis Ababa. Currently, there is an overstay penalty fee of $5 a day from 1-15 days and $10 a day after 15 days. Such travellers may also be required to pay a court fine of up to 4000 ETB ($300) before being permitted to depart Ethiopia. Court fees must be paid in Ethiopian Birr. Travellers may be detained by immigration officials and/or required to appear in immigration court, and are required to pay the penalty fee before they will be able to obtain an exit visa ($20, payable in dollars) permitting them to leave Ethiopia.

Muslim and Christian society

Both Muslim and Christian Ethiopians generally dress in a conservative manner. Women usually keep their shoulders and knees covered, and in some areas they may wear more conservative clothing. Be aware that wearing sleeveless clothing or clothing which does not cover the knee may cause offence, particularly outside Addis Ababa. In most, but not all, Ethiopian Orthodox churches there are restrictions on full or partial access for women - notices are usually posted in English at the entrances of the main churches that tourists frequent.

Illegal drugs

Illegal drug use (no matter what the drug) carries stiff penalties, including fines and long prison terms.

Western and Julian calendars

The Western and Julian calendars are used in Ethiopia. The year 2019 in the Western calendar is 2011-2012 in the Julian calendar. Christmas is celebrated on 7 January and New Year on 11 September.

Similarly, two systems of time are used. Ethiopian time is measured as a 12-hour day starting at 6am. Western 7am is referred to by many as one o’clock. Many Ethiopians are aware of this difference and will often convert times when speaking to foreigners.

Homosexuality

Homosexual activity is illegal and punishable by imprisonment under the law. The subject is taboo for the majority of Ethiopians.

Exporting antiques

You must get a permit to export antiques from Ethiopia. To avoid confusion on departure, you should keep receipts for any souvenirs you’ve bought, including crosses, which could be mistaken for valuable cultural artefacts.

In Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, you can fill in the customs declaration form in the baggage hall.

Photography

Ethiopian law strictly prohibits the photographing of military installations, police/military personnel, industrial facilities, government buildings, and infrastructure (roads, bridges, dams, airfields, etc.). Such sites are rarely marked clearly. Travel guides, police, and Ethiopian officials can advise if a particular site may be photographed. Photographing prohibited sites may result in the confiscation of film/camera and arrest.

Money

Ethiopia is still primarily a cash economy. Dollars and some of the more popular travellers’ checks can be changed at the airport, and at some banks.

ATMs

There are some ATM machines at the major hotels and commercial centres that accept major international credit and debit cards, although connectivity problems sometimes limit their availability. While credit cards are gaining acceptance with some hotels, travel agencies, and merchants (Visa is much more widely accepted than Mastercard), it is best to check ahead and ensure you have sufficient cash reserves. Bear in mind that travellers’ cheques are not generally accepted outside Addis Ababa.

There are strict rules about taking foreign currency and Ethiopian Birr out of Ethiopia.

You cannot take more than USD$3,000 (or equivalent in foreign currency) out of Ethiopia, unless you declared the amount when you arrived in the country or you have an Ethiopian bank advice certifying the purchase of the foreign currency. You cannot take more than 200 Ethiopian Birr in to or out of the country.

Amounts over 200 Ethiopian Birr, or undeclared amounts over USD$3,000 may be confiscated by the Ethiopian authorities.

In case of emergency, Western Union have offices in Ethiopia, which can facilitate money transfers.

Natural Disasters and Climate

Natural disasters and climate

Practical advice

  • If you’re travelling to Ethiopia, make sure you know what to expect – then plan and pack so that you’re prepared
  • Get local advice on how to manage in the case of a serious incident or dangerous conditions
  • Co-operate with local authorities and emergency services in the case of serious incidents
  • The rainy season in Ethiopia lasts from May to September. During this time, some areas, particularly in the Southern Region, can be prone to mudslides. Check with local contacts in advance of travel.

Altitude

Some people find it hard to adjust to the altitude in the Ethiopian highlands and need to avoid over-exertion.

Health

Health

Check with your doctor well in advance of travelling to see if you need any vaccinations for Ethiopia.

Medical facilities

Although there are hospitals in all major towns in Ethiopia, facilities and the supply of medicines are extremely poor even in the larger towns outside Addis Ababa. Make sure you have adequate medical insurance, which covers medical evacuation by air ambulance, before your arrival.

Almost all regional hospitals will be unable to treat serious injuries or illnesses adequately. In the most serious cases, even the medical facilities in Addis Ababa may not be adequate. It may be worthwhile to carry a comprehensive medical pack if travelling or living outside Addis Ababa for an extended period.

Polio

Polio vaccination is recommended for all travellers from Ireland to countries where polio transmission is a risk.

Before travelling to areas where poliomyelitis cases are still occurring, travellers should ensure that they have completed the recommended age-appropriate polio vaccine schedule and have received a booster dose, if necessary. More information is available on the Health Protection and Surveillance Centre website.

Meningococcal meningitis

In February 2013, the Ethiopian Government and the World Health Organisation reported an outbreak of meningococcal meningitis around Arba Minch and Shebdino, in southern Ethiopia, with a number of deaths reported in the Arba Minch area.

If you’re travelling to the Southern Region, in particular Awassa, Shebdino and Arba Minch, familiarise yourself with the symptoms of meningitis and seek medical attention swiftly if you experience them. 

Waterborne diseases

Waterborne diseases are common in Ethiopia and you should either boil water before drinking, or use bottled water. Since water boils at temperatures below 100 degrees centigrade at high altitudes, boiling may not be adequate to ensure sterilisation in some places.

Malaria

Malaria is common in areas of the country below 1,800 metres or so. In the northern tourist circuit, most towns are well above this altitude. However, Bahir Dar is at an altitude of 1850 metres, and does experience cases of malaria.

Before travelling, get up-to-date medical advice as to whether you will need anti-malarial medication. When you arrive, take adequate precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes. You should also be aware that the full range of anti-malarial medications, which can be purchased in Ireland, is not available in Ethiopia.

Chikungunya fever

An outbreak of Chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus, has been reported in Dire Dawa by the Ethiopian Ministry of Health as of September 2019. Travellers to this area should take steps to avoid mosquito bites. 

Rabies

Stray dogs are common in Addis Ababa and across Ethiopia. We recommend seeking advice from your doctor on rabies vaccination.

Embassy contact

Embassy Contact

In case of emergency, please contact the Embassy by telephone: +251 11 518 0500.

Embassy of Ireland
Kazanches
Guinea Conakry Street
Addis Ababa
Ethiopia

Tel: +251 (11) 518 0500
Fax: +251 (11) 552 3032

Monday - Thursday 8.30am to 12.30pm and 1.30pm to 5.00pm; Friday 8.30am to 12.30pm

Contact us