Ethiopia is a country situated in the Horn of Africa. It is the 2nd-most populous nation in Africa ( after Nigeria ), bordered by Eritrea to the north, Djibouti to the northeast, Somalia to the east, Kenya to the south, and Sudan to the west. Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa and the second-oldest official Christian nation in the world after Armenia. Ethiopia is also the 10th richest country in Africa.
Ethiopia is one of the oldest independent nations in the world. It has long been an intersection between the civilizations of North Africa, the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa. Unique among African countries, Ethiopia was never colonized, maintaining its independence throughout the Scramble for Africa onward, except for a five-year period (1936-41) when it was under Italian military occupation. During this period, the Italians occupied only a few key cities and major routes, and faced continuing native resistance until they were finally defeated during the Second World War by a joint Ethiopian-British alliance. Ethiopia has long been a member of international organizations: it became a member of the League of Nations, signed the Declaration by United Nations in 1942, founded the UN headquarters in Africa, was one of the 51 original members of the UN, and is the headquarters for and one of the founding members of the former OAU and current AU.
Ethiopia was also historically called Abyssinia, derived from the Arabic form of the Ethiosemitic name "ḤBŚT," modern Habesha. In some countries, Ethiopia is still called by names cognate with "Abyssinia," e.g., Turkish Habesistan, meaning land of the Habesha people. The English name "Ethiopia" is thought to be derived from the Greek word Αἰθιοπία Aithiopia, from Αἰθίοψ Aithiops ‘an Ethiopian’, derived from Greek terms meaning "of burnt (αιθ-) visage (ὄψ)". However, this etymology is disputed, since the Book of Aksum, a Ge'ez chronicle first composed in the 15th century, states that the name is derived from "'Ityopp'is", a son (unmentioned in the Bible) of Cush, son of Ham who according to legend founded the city of Axum.
The predominant climate type is tropical monsoon, with wide topographic-induced variation. As a highland country, Ethiopia has a climate which is generally considerably cooler than other regions at similar proximity to the Equator. Most of the country's major cities are located at elevations of around 2,000-2,500 metres (6,600-8,200 ft) above sea level, including historic capitals such as Gondar and Axum.
The modern capital, Addis Ababa, is situated in the foothills of Mount Entoto at an elevation of around 2,400 m (8,000 ft), and experiences a healthy and pleasant climate year-round. With fairly uniform year-round temperatures, the seasons in Addis Ababa are largely defined by rainfall, with a dry season from Oct-Feb, a light rainy season from Mar-May, and a heavy rainy season from Jun-Sep. The average annual rainfall is around 1200 mm (47 in). There are on average 7 hours of sunshine per day, meaning it is sunny for around 60% of the available time. The dry season is the sunniest time of the year, though even at the height of the rainy season in July and August there are still usually several hours per day of bright sunshine.
The average annual temperature in Addis Ababa is 16°C (61°F), with daily maximum temperatures averaging 20-25°C (68-77°F) throughout the year, and overnight lows averaging 5-10°C (41-50°F). A light jacket is recommended for the evenings, though many Ethiopians prefer to dress conservatively and will wear a light jacket even during the day.
Most major cities and tourist sites in Ethiopia lie at a similar elevation to Addis Ababa and have comparable climates, though in less elevated regions, particularly the lower lying regions in the east of the country, the climate can be significantly hotter and drier. The town of Dallol, in the Danakil Depression in this eastern zone, has the world's highest average annual temperature of 34°C (93°F).
High plateau with central mountain range divided by Great Rift Valley
Ethiopia uses the Ethiopian calendar, which dates back to the Coptic calendar 25 BC, and never adopted the Julian or Gregorian reforms. One Ethiopian year consists of twelve months, each lasting thirty days, plus a thirteenth month of five or six days (hence the "Thirteen Months of Sunshine" tourism slogan). The Ethiopian new year begins on September 10 or 11 (in the Gregorian calendar), and has accumulated 7-8 years lag behind the Gregorian calendar: thus, for the first nine months of 2007, the year will be 1999 according to the Ethiopian calendar. On 11 September 2007, Ethiopia celebrated New Year's Day (Enkutatesh) for 2000.
In Ethiopia, the 12-hour clock cycles do not begin at midnight and noon, but instead are offset six hours. Thus, Ethiopians refer to midnight (or noon) as 6 o'clock.
Note: Airline timetables are based on the 24-hour clock and use the Gregorian calendar.
Note: the administrative divisions of Harari, Addis Ababa, and Dire Dawa are included in Oromia for travel purposes.
Ethiopia is placed among African countries of Kenya, South-Africa, Tanzania and Zambia for preserving and well maintaining national parks for tourist attraction. The southern and south-western part of the country has a stunning natural beauty with a huge potential of becoming a unique resort.
See also African National Parks
All visitors to Ethiopia (except for Kenyan and Djiboutian nationals) are required to obtain an entry visa. Since 2002, tourists from 33 countries (listed here: with additional information) are able to obtain entry visas upon their arrival at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, and at the airport in Dire Dawa. In September 2009, the fees for visa-upon-arrival was US$20, regardless of whether one is applying for a Tourist, Business or Transit Visa. The procedure is relatively quick and painless; just look for a door with a sign "Visa" on the left hand before the immigration counters.
Ethiopian Airlines is one of the most successful and reputable airlines in Africa. Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa is the main hub for Ethiopian Airlines and also hosts Lufthansa, Sudan Airways, Kenya Airways, British Airways, KLM, Turkish Airways and Emirates. A new runway and international terminal, which was said to be the largest in Africa, opened in 2003.
CAUTION Arriving in the country without a major currency such as Euros or American Dollars is not recommended, especially if one has not obtained a visa prior to arrival. Travellers cheques and cash can be exchanged at the airport.
There is a slow and uncomfortable railroad between Addis Ababa and Djibouti, which currently only runs between Dire Dawa and Djibouti. The main stations are Addis Ababa, Debre Ziet, Nazret/Adama, Dire Dawa and Djibouti. Note: the first class fare from Dire Dawa to Djibouti is 93 Bir (£4.60), but the other way, it costs 4900 DJF (£18.50)!
One way to get in from Sudan is via the border village of Metema. One way to get in from Kenya is via the border town of Moyale. The road from Kenya to Ethiopia through the town of Moyale is much better and well maintained than the road from Sudan to Ethiopia through Metema. On the Kenyan side of Moyale the road is horrible and is known for banditry so be careful and make sure you have plenty of time, at least 24 hours, to travel from Moyale to Nairobi.
Ethiopia is landlocked and currently uses the seaport in Djibouti. From there, Ethiopia can be reached by bus or car following a good road to the border and a dirt track from there onwards.There is a navigable river called Baro in Western Ethiopia that connects Gambella town to the Sudanese Capital Khartoum. But river port at Gambella has been closed for decades.
Ethiopian Airlines is reasonably priced and has fairly comprehensive domestic services. Flights are often overbooked, so it is essential to reconfirm your tickets at least a day in advance and show up at the airport on time. If you forget to reconfirm, they will assume you aren't going to show up and may give away your seats.
There is a train between Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa via Debre Ziet, Mojo, Nazret/Adama and Awash.
There is a comprehensive network of cheap buses along the major roads, although these are slow and basic. Buses travelling shorter distances generally leave whenever they have filled up with passengers (in practice, these means once an hour or so); nearly all long-distance buses leave at dawn (6AM on the European clock; 12AM on the Ethiopian clock). Buses do not travel at night; they will stop before sundown in a town or village with accommodation for the passengers, or, between Dire Dawa and Djibouti, just in plain nature. Between some cities (e.g. Adama and Addis Ababa), minibuses will run after the larger buses have stopped for the night. Everyone on the bus must have a seat by law -- this prevents overcrowding, but often makes it difficult to catch a bus from an intermediate point on a route. If planning to travel by bus, keep in mind that the vehicles are old and very dusty and the roads are bad. Ethiopians do not like opening the bus windows, so it gets hot and stuffy inside by afternoon. If you like fresh air, sit as close to the driver or one of the doors as possible as the driver keeps his window open and the conductor and his assistant often have the door windows open.
The bus stations usually open somewhere around 5AM. If you are catching an early morning bus, you should get to the station at 5AM. They are very chaotic first thing in the morning, and many buses will sell out of seats before they leave at 6AM. To make things easier and less stressful, you can often buy a ticket in advance. In Addis, find the correct window at the bus station the day before you wish to travel and buy your ticket there. (You will need help finding the window unless you can read Amharic, but there are usually people around who will help if you ask.) The ticket will be in Amharic, but there will be a legible bus number written on it somewhere. Simply find that bus the next morning at the bus station. In smaller cities, you can often buy your ticket from the conductor when the bus arrives from its previous trip the afternoon before you travel. Even if you already have a ticket, arrive early and claim a seat as soon as possible. If you don't have a ticket, you will have to ask people to show you the correct bus (unless you can read Amharic). In this case, don't waste time trying to buy a ticket from the window or from the bus conductor -- push your way on board the bus and claim a seat! The conductor will sell you a ticket later. Medium sized backpacks can usually be squeezed under the seats, but large packs and most luggage will have to go up on the roof. Claim your seat before you worry about your luggage. Anyone assisting you with your luggage, including the person passing it up to the conductor's assistant on the roof, will expect a small tip (around 2-3 birr).
On several routes (Addis - Dire Dawa, Bahardar - Addis) you may find also a kind of informal traveler cars with no fixed departure; when looking around at a bus station you may be approached by somebody who offers you a faster connection by going with a private car; this is more expensive than the normal bus but also much faster. You'll be handed a cell phone number where to call in order to make an appointment. These cars may leave before sundown or travel even at night.
A good way to tour Ethiopia is by car. You can take small airplanes to expedite your tour, but you will take in more of scenery if you travel by car. Reasonable touring companies include Galaxy Express Services NTO [www.south-expedition.com], Dinknesh and Focus Tours Ethiopia . as well as Ethiopia Safaris and Journeys Abyssinia with Zawdu. [www.ethiopiatjazz.com]. They can take you off the beaten track so you can see the beauty and attractions of Ethiopia. Nevertheless, hiring a car is quite expensive (starting from 600-900 depending on condition and quality of model.600 Birr for cheap car with driver). But if you want a car for at least 8 persons is costs from 1000-3000 Birr per day. Prices will vary at this time due to inflationary pressures inside the country. Drivers pass on their costs for spare parts and need to increase the price if fuel rises. A driver guide's credentials should be checked such as tourism license, insurance, engine (external and internal). Before accepting a contract, it is also a good idea to quiz the driver-guide about tourism routes via your own travel guide book (ie Lonely planet and Bradt Guide) but you must also accept that this information could be out of date. When driving to the "deep south" of Ethiopia also check the license plates, because the authorities in the south check in and log "3" plate tourism cars, take the names of the passengers and passport number. They need a letter from the tour company to show the agent is bona fide on some routes and parks. Gas comes at 13 ETB a liter. Make sure to always check how much gas is bought and to get a receipt after filling up the gas, or you might be overcharged.
There are a several highways in Ethiopia, majority of the roads in Ethiopia are in good conditions:
Road 1: Addis Ababa-Asmara via Dese
Road 3: Addis Ababa-Axum via Bahir Dar and Gondar
Road 4: Addis Ababa-Djibouti via Nazret (Adama), Awash and Dire Dawa
Road 5: Addis Ababa-Gambela via Alem Zena and Nekemte
Road 6: Addis Ababa-Jimma via Giyon
Road 48: Nekemte-Gambela National Park via Gambela
TAH 4 to the north: Cairo via Khartoum and Bahir Dar
TAH 4 to the south: Cape Town via Gaborone, Lusaka, Dodoma, Nairobi and Awasa
TAH 6 to the east: Djibouti via Dese
TAH 6 to the west: Ndjamena via Darfur
Road conditions vary considerably around Ethiopia; some roads are smoothly sealed while others consist mostly of large stones. Accommodation is cheap and available in almost every village (although these "hotels" usually double as bars and brothels). Food and drink are also easily available. You will attract considerable attention (it is not uncommon for whole schools to empty out as the children chase you).
Amharic is the official language of Ethiopia. The language is a Semitic language related to Hebrew and Arabic, and if you know either one you'll recognize some cognates. In all parts of the country everyone speaks Amharic to some extent, no matter what their first language may be. The language is written in the Ge'ez script.
In big cities, most people under 40 speak some English. (English is the primary foreign language taught in schools.) In rural areas, find local school children to translate for you for a fee that could be next to nothing. (Ethiopians have a distinct way of speaking English. Because it is heavily accented, it might be a bit difficult to understand it at the beginning. However, when you get used to the way they pronounce some English words, it will become fairly understandable.)
Up north in Tigray, Tigrinya is the primary language, and it's also written in Ge'ez. However, Amharic is widely understood.
In the middle regions, Oromo is widely spoken. Oromo language uses a Latin alphabet.
The official currency is the Ethiopian Birr (ETB). You are only supposed to import and export 100 birr. Usually hotel and car rental bills must be paid in cash.
1 USD is about 16.4 ETB, 1 EUR is about 22.94 ETB and 1 GBP is about 26.23 ETB as of October 2010. Coins are valued at 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents, and banknotes come in values of 1, 5, 10, 50, and 100 birr.
CASH MACHINES are still rare. There are many cash machines in Addis Ababa and they only work (Sept 07) on VISA DEBIT CARDS. There are about 50 cash machines in Addis Ababa.
(Nov 08) Dashen Bank has already 19 ATM locations in Addis Ababa. Dashen banks with ATM cash machines allow one to make cash advances with a VISA credit card (May 2009). Most reliable ones are located at Sheraton Hotel and Dembel Shopping Center. There is also ATM at the Hilton Addis Ababa, as well as at the DH Geda building on Bole Rd. Some Dashen banks that do not have ATMs will also provide a cash advance with a VISA credit card.
CHANGING CASH and Travellers Cheques
Any commercial bank in Ethiopia can change cash and travellers cheques. The rates are the same everywhere. There are dozens of commercial banks in Addis, including in the Sheraton and Hilton hotels, and in the corner of the baggage claim hall at the airport. Most cities and towns that tourists visit will have at least one commercial bank, except for villages in the Omo valley. U.S. Dollars, Euros, or British pounds are the best currencies to carry.
It is illegal to change money on the black market and the rates aren't much better than what you can get from the banks.
In cites like Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa (little accpeted in Dire Dawa, not like Addis) the US-dollar is mostly accepted. In some shops in Addis Ababa the prices will be written in ETB+USD. Also some ATM in Addis Ababa gives out both U.S. Dollar and birr. Most of the hotel in Addis Ababa accepts US-dollar. All airports in Ethiopia accepts U.S. Dollar.
Comparing to the other African countries is Ethiopia an expensive country. But Ethiopia is not a very expensive country for tourists.
To stay at a 5-star hotel in Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa, Nazret, Bahir Dar, Gondar and Awasa costs on average 1500 birr/per night.
Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa and Adama/Nazret has the most expensive prices in the country. For example a 32 in (81 cm) LCD TV costs around 15 000 birr. Food is also expensive if you buy it in the downtown.
You need about 400 birr per day for hotel, fuel, food, lodging and transport. In Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa you can need 600 birr per day.
"Here is a guide, what you can get for the money (Food and Drinks):"
Injera is Ethiopia's national dish. Injera is a spongy, tangy tasting bread made from the grain teff, which grows in the highlands of Ethiopia. It is eaten with wot (or wat), the traditional stews made with spices and meat or legumes. Some popular wats: Doro (chicken) wat, Yebeg (lamb) wat and Asa (fish) wat. Another popular dish is Tibbs, spicy beef fried in butter. It can be either really bad (burnt to a crisp and resembling petrified wood) or juicy and delicious in more fancy restaurants. (The Holiday Hotel in Addis serves delicious Tibbs).
The injera sits directly on a large round plate or tray and is covered with wat placed symmetrically around a central item. The various wats are eaten with other pieces of injera, which are served on a side plate. Injera is eaten with the right hand - rip a large piece of injera from the side plate and use it to pick up one of the various flavors of wat on the main platter. Do not eat with your left hand! In Ethiopia food is a respected gift from God and eating with your left hand is a sign of disrespect.
Another popular injera dish is firfir: fried,shredded injera. It can be served with or without meat or with all sorts of veggies.
If you prefer vegetarian foods, try the 'shiro wat' which is a vegetable stew served with injera, most of the times you have to specifically ask for it as it doesn't come with most of the combinations as ethiopians prefer meat.
Kitfo is minced meat, spiced with chili. You can have it raw (the locally preferred way, but there's a risk of getting the tape worm), 'leb-leb' (lightly cooked) or fully cooked. It comes with a local cheese 'ayeb' and a spinach.
For the pickier traveler, almost every place in Ethiopia also serves spaghetti (thanks to the short lived Italian occupation.) In nice restaurants in Addis you can find excellent spaghetti and lasagna (try the Blue Tops or Top View restaurants), and in the more peripheral places you will usually find it overcooked with bland tomato paste as sauce.
The coffee ceremony involves drinking a minimum of three cups of coffee and eating popcorn. It is a special honor, or mark of respect to be invited into somebody's home for the coffee ceremony.
In preparation for the ceremony the coffee beans are roasted in a flat pan over charcoal. The beans are then ground using pestle and mortar. The coffee is brewed with water in a clay coffee pot and is considered ready when it starts to boil. Coffee in Ethiopia is served black with sugar.
Tej is a honey wine, similar to mead, that is frequently drunk in bars (in particular, in a tejbeit)
A variety of Ethiopian beers are available, all of which are quite drinkable, also Ethiopian wine - both red and white - which would not win any prizes but are drinkable.
There is a wide range of accommodation in Ethiopia. There is a luxurious Sheraton hotel in Addis Ababa. At the same time, you can find a "hotel" nothing more than a small room with a tiny bed, and no running water in the border town of Moyale.
Staying in tourist areas generally results in a broader range of choices, but watch out for tourist prices. It is acceptable to bargain with the hotel owner, for they usually tend to charge you "faranji" (foreigner) prices at first, which are often twenty times the local rate. You won't be able to bargain down to local prices (close to nothing) but you can bargain down a lot. This is NOT true at the government run "Ghion" chain, and the fancier private chains as well, where prices for foreigners are fixed. (Bekale Mola, for example).
Addis: Addis is full of cheap hotels. Most tourists stay in the piazza area, where there are many hotels ranging from very cheap to moderately cheap. Except for the cheapest most of them have running hot water, and fairly clean. Park Hotel starts at 20 Birr a single and 30 Birr a double. Two big ones are Taitu hotel and Wutma hotel. Also if you want a taste of fame, contact athlete Haile Gebre Selassie's sister Azalitch Gebre Selassie. She arranges a good welcome for guests here in Ethiopia. She arranges accommodation. Her number is +251 911 627898. She is perfectly happy to help out when she is free.
The two biggest hotels in Addis are the Sheraton, referred to by expats as "The Sheza", and the Hilton. Both are enormous. They are also very expensive. Both have swimming pools, good restaurants, souvenir shops and bakeries: the rooms are comfortable. If you cannot afford these two hotels, visit them and chat up the expats (especially at lunch time when they take their break by the pool) and if your accommodation needs to be improved, they might be able to help out. You also could have a glimpse of a rich or famous celebrity or high powered world politician, who are in Addis to do some charity work or to deal with some sort of African politics.
Outside Addis: up north, in every one of the cities (Axum, Lalibella, Bahir Dar, Gondar) one can find hotels overpriced such as the government-run Ghion chain hotels to cheaper ones. But also in smaller places on the major roads offer cheap places if you do not mind the most basic rooms. A tourist town like Debark that serves for trekking the Simien Mountains also offers a range of rooms, with the most popular being the Simien Park Hotel (25/30 Birr), where you could also pitch a tent for 20. It meets the normal standards for food, electricity, water, cleanliness and hygiene.
In the south, all of the cities (Shashemane, Wondo Genet, Awasa, Arba Minch, Jinka...) have decent, cheap hotels. The most basic rooms start at 15 Birr for a single and 20 Birr for a double. Many of them don't have hot water and electricity all hours of the day, so you should schedule time for a shower in advance. There are also three (fairly expensive) resort hotels on the shore of Lake Langano. In the smaller villages in and around the Omo valley (Weyto, Turmi, Key Afar, Dimeka, Konso, etc.) there are usually few (very basic) or no hotels, but if you are travelling through the valley to see the tribes, there is always a campground or a restaurant that offers beds. If you camp out at one of these villages, you should hire a guard to watch over your stuff overnight.
These are some colleges and Universities in Ethiopia. (Major universities in bold)
Ethiopia has one of the lowest unemployment rate in Africa. The unemployment rate is 5% (2005). Notice that the average income is about 120 US-dollar/month per inhabitant. But in the capital Addis Ababa you can make over 400 US-dollar/month by IT works.
The country's economy is based on agriculture. 69% of the people lead an agrarian lifestyle (CCO). However, in the big cities, especially in Addis-Ababa,
There are many opportunities to volunteer in Addis Ababa. Projects Abroad is an organisation that organises a range of volunteer projects including teaching English, journalism, caring for children and healthcare.
Risks in Ethiopia
Alcohol-related violence, petty theft
(2-3 % of the adult population or 1 in 50 infected)
Authorities/corruption: Low - Middle
Security guards might be rude
Transportation: Low - Middle
Wild animal crossings everywhere, bad roads
Flea, tick and mosquito bites
Be careful of the food you eat, and don't stay in the sun too long. If you get sick, go to one of the big private Hospitals. The very expensive hospitals, especially in Addis-Ababa and Dire Dawa and Adama, are clean and well maintained.
Do not drink tap water. Bottled water, suitable for drinking, is available almost everywhere in bottles of 1.5, 1.6 or 1.8 liters. Make sure you drink enough water, especially when the weather is hot.
Consult a doctor before going to Ethiopia and stock up on prescription drugs you require. The risk of malaria is low in the capital and the highlands, however, this risk grows as you head to the lake regions and lowlands.
The country code for calling Ethiopia is 251. The Ethiopian dialing plan changed on September 17, 2005, such that the two-digit city code changed to three digits (or, from outside the country, one to two digits) and six-digit telephone numbers changed to seven digits. The city code for Addis Ababa, as of 17 Sep 2005, is 011 (or 11 from outside Ethiopia). An on-line telephone number converter, which will convert an old number to the new number, is available here: .
Ethiopia uses GSM network, operated by Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC) and 3G as the western countries. Currently there are decent coverage around big cities such as Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa, Adama, Bahir Dar, Awasa, Harar, Dese, Gonder, Mekele, and Nekemete. It is expanding into small cities. For all travelers, having a mobile phone is a must. It is cheap and easily available.
There are only few stores rent SIM cards: you can rent SIM card and phone inside Addis Ababa Sheraton hotel but is it very expensive. Your best option is to a rent SIM card and mobile phone from a local store. You can also buy a SIM card from many local stores (try anywhere that sells phones). You will have to show two forms of ID and give the seller a copy of your passport ID page, 2 passport style pictures, and 85 birr (as of 6/6/2010). You'll have to sign an agreement that you will not commit any crimes with your phone. All local stores will have calling cards you can purchase to call the US.
Roaming charges are very steep. For a short visit, your best option for mobile access is to rent a SIM card with a phone . While roaming arrangements are said to be in place in practice you may find it impossible to get a connection that works reliably, or at all.
There are numerous internet cafes in Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa, Nazret, Bahir Dar, Gonder, Awasa and other cities. Usually, within Addis Ababa, connection speeds are most of the time more than adequate for performing tasks such as checking one's e-mail. A typical internet cafe will have a dozen computers using one broadband (usually starts from 128kbps) connection. Ethiopia's international connection is unstable: On bad days, even a broadband connection will only deliver dial-up speed, because the whole country's traffic is running via an undersized backup satellite connection.
To use the internet costs between 20-50 Ethiopian cents/per min in the bigger cities but out side the cities it usually costs more than 1 birr/per minutes.
Most of the computers have USB, so maybe you'll interest in using a portable e-mail program (like Thunderbird portable) from an usb-stick. Take care of computer viruses! Most computers or flash disks in use are infected.
Outside of bigger towns, it is harder to find a working Internet connection and the charge per minute is often much higher than in bigger towns.
Ethiopia has one of the most efficient postal services in Africa. Many attribute this success to the extensive network of Ethiopian Airlines. However, mail does not get delivered to your address. You are required to buy a post office box. Once you get a post office box, the flow of your mail will be consistent. Post cards to Europe are at 2 ETB; North America 5 ETB. (2007)