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- The rainy season varies according to the location but usually begins some time between late April and June and continues until mid September.
- Temperatures in Addis Ababa range from around 10 – 25 °C (55 - 75 °F). The highlands are much cooler, especially at night, than the lowlands.
- Due to the altitude, the sun is very strong and temperatures can vary greatly between the sun and shade. Be sure to bring layers to keep you warm and to protect your skin from the sun. A high SPF sunscreen is recommended, even for those not usually prone to sunburns.
- The Ethiopian Birr is a closed currency and cannot be purchased outside the country. You are also forbidden from taking more than 200 Birr out of the country.
- Be careful how much you withdraw – Birr many be converted back into US dollars or Euros only for those holding onward plane tickets and with the original receipt for the conversion of Euros or US dollars into Birr.
- There are many ATMs in Addis Ababa. Typically, they accept only Visa cards.
- MasterCard may be accepted at some hotels in Addis Ababa, expect to use cash outside the capital.
- In other cities, cash may be withdrawn at banks with a Visa debit or credit card– though this is not guaranteed (and depends on temperamental internet and electricity supplies).
- Travelers’ Checks are not always accepted. US dollars are the most reliable currency to convert.
- In some restaurants a service charge will be included, otherwise it is polite to leave a small tip.
- Ethiopia is fairly conservative, especially outside of Addis Ababa. Avoid clothing which reveals your knees, shoulders, or midriff.
- Visitors will normally be greeted with a handshake, and sometimes men will lean forward, shoulder to shoulder. Ethiopians may greet female friends with three kisses on alternate cheeks.
Most travelers to Ethiopia will experience little more than an upset stomach – but taking a few sensible precautions before and during your trip will help you to avoid anything worse. For the most up-to-date travel health information, visit the World Health Organization – www.who.int
- Recommended vaccinations include hepatitis A, yellow fever (a certificate may be required on entry), typhoid, tetanus, diphtheria, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, and tuberculosis. Depending on the nature and duration of the trip, meningitis, hepatitis B, and rabies may also be advisable. Some have to be taken over several weeks – so be sure to visit your doctor well in advance.
- A cholera vaccination may be required if you are traveling from a country where the disease is prevalent.
- Malaria is present in many regions outside Addis Ababa and below 2,000m. It is chloroquine resistant; check with your doctor for the best medication. You should also avoid bites by using DEET-based sprays, wearing long sleeves and trousers, and sleeping under treated nets.
- Other medications you may wish to bring include antibiotics for stomach issues (such as ciprofloxacin); loperamide or similar for diarrhea; rehydration sachets, basic painkillers such as paracetamol or aspirin; band aids/sticking plasters and antihistamines. Those traveling to more remote areas may also wish to bring sterile needles, water purification tablets, and a general First Aid kit.
- Drink only bottled water, avoid raw vegetables or fruits without a peel outside of Addis Ababa, and do not have ice in drinks.
- If you require medication for pre-existing medical conditions, be sure to bring this with you, as it may be unavailable or less reliable in Ethiopia.
- Do not swim in the lakes as bilharzia (schistosomiasis) – a parasitic disease - is present. Lake Langano is an exception as it is bilharzia-free.
- Addis Ababa is around 2,400m above sea level – some visitors may experience mild altitude sickness.
- Ethiopia is generally a safe country, and visitors should feel comfortable in both cities and rural areas.
- The most common crime is minor pickpocketing – especially from children who may be pretending to sell tissues or gum. Move away if they get too close or walk alongside you.
- Avoid traveling outside of Addis Ababa at night – dark roads and animals cause serious accidents.
- Purchase comprehensive travel insurance before your trip begins, including medical evacuation in case of an emergency. Bring photocopies of your passport in case of loss.
- See the FCO website for current safety issues
Ethiopian Calendar and Clock
- Ethiopians use their own calendar (the Coptic or Julian calendar) – a 13 month calendar with the date approximately seven days behind the standard calendar. It is also seven and a half years behind the Western calendar and the millennium was celebrated in 2007!
- The clock is also different. The day begins at dawn (6am) which is 12 o’clock to Ethiopians. One hour after sunrise is 1 o’clock, and noon is 6 o’clock. The system resets at sunset (6pm), so 7pm is 1 o’clock for Ethiopians and so on. Because of this you must be careful to specify Western dates and times when making plans!
- Homosexuality is illegal for men and carries a penalty of up to 15 years imprisonment; couples should be extremely discreet.
- Prostitution is fairly widespread and HIV rates, especially amongst sex workers, are extremely high. Hiring prostitutes is strongly discouraged.
What to Pack
- High SPF sunscreen
- Insect repellent
- Spare or rechargeable batteries
- Waterproof bags to protect equipment
- Electric plug adaptors for 200 volts, 50 Hz. Northern European-style rounded two-prong plugs (type F) are most common, three pronged plugs can also be found.
- Some people find contact lenses uncomfortable in Ethiopia because of the dust – you may find it more comfortable to wear glasses while on the road.
- Antiseptic handwash
- An International Driving License if you are thinking of hiring a vehicle
- Good walking boots/shoes
- Sandals or other light shoes
- Waterproof jacket or rain poncho
- Lighter clothing for the lowlands, with layers for the cooler evenings
- Warm clothing for the highlands and early morning boat rides, including a fleece
- Sun hat/cap
- Avoid clothing which shows your shoulders, knees or midriff, especially outside Addis Ababa