image of map of Ethiopia

Travel in Ethiopia


Security | Visas & permits | Immunizations | Arrival via Air | Recommended packing list | Departure via air | Money | Electric supply | Recommended travel vendors

Security

For current security and travel alerts for Ethiopia, please refer to International SOS.

Travelers are advised to remain vigilant and cautious when visiting prominent public places and landmarks and to avoid large demonstrations. Pickpocketing and other petty crimes are common in urban areas, but are mostly from targets of opportunity rather than planned attacks. Visitors should limit the amount of cash they carry and leave valuables such as passports, airline tickets, and jewelry in a hotel safe or other secure place.

Travelers should also exercise caution when traveling to any remote area of the country, especially the borders with Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya, and Sudan. In particular, travel via rail is discouraged due to episodes of derailment, sabotage, and bombings. In southern Ethiopia along the Kenyan border, banditry and incidents involving ethnic conflicts are also common.

Ethiopian law strictly prohibits the photographing of military installations, police and military personnel, industrial facilities, government buildings, and infrastructure (roads, bridges, dams, airfields, etc.). Such sites are rarely marked clearly.

Visas and permits

A visa is required for U.S. citizens and can be obtained before travel through a visa service for $70 by sending your passport to the Ethiopian embassy in Washington, or purchased at Bole International Airport upon arrival for $20 (payable in either U.S. dollars or euros). The on-arrival visa is not available at other airports or land borders in Ethiopia.

We recommend securing your visa through the Ethiopian embassy prior to your departure in case you are denied a visa for whatever reason, and because visas issued ahead of your trip offer multiple entries and are good for longer periods of time.

Ethiopia visa requirements >>

Immunizations

Please consult with Emory's TravelWell Clinic for information on immunizations necessary for travel to Ethiopia, and see more information on healthy travel to Ethiopia from the Centers for Disease Control. Be sure to pack your Yellow Fever immunization card before your flight.

Arrival via Air

Most international flights will arrive in Ethiopia at Bole International Airport. Customs importation restricts visitor's luggage to a maximum of:

  • 400 cigarettes or 250g of tobacco (adults only)
  • 2 liters of alcoholic beverages
  • 500ml of perfume
  • 100g of jewelry
  • electronic equipment for personal use only (i.e. not for sale)

Recommended Packing List

In addition to this general packing list for international travel and this guidance from CDC, we recommend packing the following items for travel to Ethiopia:

  • $300–600 cash (U.S. dollars), depending on your length of stay and accommodation choices
    • Approximately $20 in small bills for tipping
    • Convert to Ethiopian currency upon arrival at the airport or at a large hotel
  • Copies of your passport and visa, stored separately from your actual passport
  • Yellow Fever immunization card
  • Two passport photos and a copy of your passport for obtaining a SIM card for local cell phone usage. A local cell phone can be purchased in most marketplaces for $25. Loadable minutes for local cell phones can be purchased at most retailers as well, with 100 ETB cards lasting most travelers two to three weeks. Local calls cost pennies and international calls are about $1 per minute.
  • Telephone numbers of important contacts throughout Ethiopia and the U.S.
  • ISOS membership card (log in to ISOS to print your card)
  • Health insurance card
  • Any prescriptions needed
  • Several flash drives
  • Camera and charger
  • Laptop (preferably a small netbook) and charger
  • Basic first aid kit for personal use
  • Bug spray with Deet
  • Anti-malarial if traveling outside of Addis
  • Sleep sheet if traveling outside of Addis
  • One or two 220 volt adapters for standard two- or three-prong round European plug
  • Flash light
  • Sun hat/sunglasses
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Wet weather gear if traveling during rainy season: June–September or March–April
  • Light jacket for evenings
  • Guidebook (recommended: Lonely Planet or Bradt Guide)

Departure via Air

No airport tax is levied on passengers upon departure at the airport.

The free export of goods obtained in Ethiopia, up to a value of 500 birr, is permitted. For the export of skins, hides, and any kind of antique articles (swords, bibles, etc.), export certificates are required.

Money

You can exchange dollars for Ethiopian birr at a good rate upon arrival at Bole International Airport. All travelers are permitted to carry $3,000 in foreign currency in and out of Ethiopia with proper evidence of its source. Travelers can only carry up to 200 birr out of the country.

Foreign currency should be exchanged in authorized banks, hotels, and other legally authorized outlets, and proper receipts should be obtained for these transactions. Exchange receipts are required to convert unused Ethiopian currency back to the original foreign currency, and visitors may change back any surplus birr at the airport before departure. You must retain your currency declaration form as this will be required by customs on departure.

There are limited ATMs available throughout the country, usually at the larger hotels in Addis Ababa, although they have been known to be out of service for significant periods of time. As a cash-based economy, use of credit cards at business locations outside of hotels is discouraged. Always get receipts for cash transactions.

More banking and purchasing info >>

Electric supply

Ethiopia uses 220 volts, 50 cycles AC.

Recommended travel vendors

For recommended travel vendors, including hotels and ground transportation options, please see our recommended vendors page.

Resources