The Department of Foreign Affairs strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before travelling to Ethiopia. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.
Irish Citizens should note that the Irish Government does not provide funds for emergency medical repatriation or for repatriation of remains.
Irish citizens travelling to, or living in, Ethiopia are encouraged to register their contact details here.
Contact details for the Irish Embassy in Ethiopia is available here. (Opens in new window)
Most visits to Ethiopia are trouble-free. While Ethiopia is generally stable, there is a high threat of terrorist attacks.
Ethiopia’s security services announced on 6 November 2013 that they have reliable evidence indicating that terrorist attacks in Addis Ababa and other regional towns are under preparation. The have called on the public to be alert and to co-operate with the security services. A warning to this effect was reiterated by the Ethiopian Government on 13th November
On 13 October 2013 a bomb blast in Addis Ababa killed 2 people, the Ethiopian authorities have remained on alert following their announcement in late 2008 that they had information on plans to carry out a terrorist attack. Since then security has been high in hotels, shopping centres, and other public places. A number of small-scale bomb attacks have occurred in Addis Ababa in recent years. There were widespread disturbances following disputed elections in 2005. Although the situation has been generally calm since then, there is a possibility of disturbances.
Irish expatriates and visitors to Ethiopia should remain alert to the possibility of sudden unrest or disruption and remain aware of their surroundings at all times. Irish citizens are advised to monitor local developments and to avoid disturbances, large gatherings or public demonstrations. Irish citizens living or travelling in Ethiopia are encouraged to register with the Irish Embassy
When in Ethiopia, Irish citizens should remain vigilant at all times. In July 2012, there were reports of significant, and possibly violent, demonstrations near mosques in Addis Ababa’s Merkato area. Caution should be exercised, when in this area, particularly after Friday prayers.
Visitors are advised to avoid all travel to
- within 10 km of the border with Eritrea, with the exception of the main road through Axum and Adigrat, and tourist sites close to the road (e.g. Debre Damo and Yeha)
- areas within 10 km of the borders with Sudan, South Sudan and Kenya
- the Somali Region and the Danakil depression or ‘Afar triangle’ in country’s northeast
- the four woredas (districts) (Akobo, Wantawo, Jikawo and Lare) of the Nuer zone and the Jore woreda of the Anuak zone of the Gambella region
Visitors are advised to avoid all save essential travel to
- the remainder of the Gambella region
- all other areas adjacent to Ethiopia’s borders.
For entry requirements for Ethiopia, please contact the nearest embassy or consulate . Please note that the onus is on the visitor to ensure that they apply for the correct number of days for their stay. Overstaying a visa can lead to a court appearance / fine and deportation.
You should ensure you apply for the correct visa: journalists or photographers should explain the purpose of their visit when applying for a visa and, if advised by the Ethiopian authorities, obtain a business visa. They should then ensure that they obtain a filming permit from the Government Communications Office in Addis Ababa before undertaking filming/interviews etc. Should these steps not be followed and a journalist or photographer not be able to show their permit to the police or military when requested to do so, they may be arrested and/or their equipment consficated.
The Ethiopian authorities have in the past looked at a change in visa policy which would involve the withdrawal of the visa on arrival facility. We strongly recommend that you contact your closest Ethiopian Embassy or Mission prior to travel, to obtain guidance on the latest entry requirements.
It is advisable to take a number of photocopies of your passport with you. During your stay you should carry a photocopy of your passport at all times.
Safety and Security
Violent crime, particularly against foreigners, is not usual. However, muggings and armed assaults are reportedly on the rise. Crime increases significantly after dark and it is best not to walk unaccompanied in Addis Ababa or elsewhere after nightfall. You should be alert when calling or texting on your mobile phone- it is best not to do this on the street: violent muggings have occurred over mobile phones worth less than €20 in Ireland. Travellers should be aware that petty theft (bag snatching or pick-pocketing) is most common in areas frequented by foreigners such as the Piazza, Mercato, Bole and Churchill Road areas of Addis Ababa. Travellers should be especially watchful for pickpockets upon alighting from taxis outside locations frequented by tourists and foreigners, particularly ones on Bole Road. It is advisable, even in daylight, to bring a local guide if going to the Mercato.
Vehicle doors should be kept locked and bags kept out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag-snatching from vehicles stopped at traffic lights. You should be aware that if someone points to your vehicle as if to identify a problem, there is a possibility that this could be a scam. If your vehicle comes into contact with another, you should ensure that your valuables are secure before getting out of the vehicle and while you are not in the vehicle. If there is a dispute at the scene, try to remain calm, do not engage physically, and try to take note of the other driver’s name, licence plate, description, etc.
Road safety standards are low in Ethiopia, and extreme care is advised while driving or walking on roads. Travellers are strongly advised not to travel by road outside towns and cities after dark, due to the increased risk of road accidents.
On 6 January 2013, an Austrian tourist was shot and killed by armed robbers while camping near the Nile downstream from the Blue Nile Falls near Bahir Dar. This is an area popular with tourists.
Southern Nations Region
There are occasional inter-tribal clashes as well as flare-ups between Government forces and tribespeople in the Omo Valley. On 20 May 2012, tourists were attacked while travelling in the Surma region near the Omo River between the towns of El Dima and Kibbish and one of the tourists was shot in the arm. Tourists visiting tribes in this region should keep abreast of local developments so as not to be caught up in any tensions.
Afar and Somali Regions
There are occasional acts of banditry in very remote areas, most recently in January 2012 when a number of tourists were killed in the Danakil area. Some of the remoter regions which are not usually on the tourist map suffer from political or ethnic instability. There is a high risk of kidnapping in the Somali region. We advise against all travel to the Somali Region and the Danakil Depression (or "Afar Triangle") in the north-east.
On 12 March 2012, a bus was attacked in Jowee in the Gambella region. Reports indicate that 19 people were shot dead, and a number of others wounded and kidnapped. We advise against all travel to the four woredas (Akobo, Wantawo, Jikawo and Lare) of the Nuer zone and the Jore woreda of the Agnuak zone in the Gambella region. We advise against all but essential travel to other parts of Gambella region.
Eritrean Border Region
The Ethiopian military attacked targets across the Eritrean border during the morning of 15 March 2012. Reports suggest that a number of people were killed in the attacks. There is a risk that foreign nationals could be caught up in violence close to the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea, or as a result of wider retaliation. We advise against all travel within 50km of the Eritrean border, with the exception of the main road between Adigrat and Axum. Military presence is high in the Ethiopia-Eritrea border area, and the border is completely closed to both international and local travellers.
Kenyan Border Region
Intertribal clashes, clan disputes and banditry are common in this region and are fought by both Ethiopian and Kenyan security forces. This periodically raises tensions and cross-border violence has been reported. Armed groups hostile to the Government of Ethiopia operate in several areas near the border with Kenya. We advise against all but essential travel to this area.
Sudan and South Sudanese Border Regions
We advise against all but essential travel to all other areas adjacent to these borders not mentioned above.
In July 2012 and August 2013, there were reports of significant, and possibly violent, demonstrations near mosques in Addis Ababa’s Merkato area. Visitors and expatriates should avoid public demonstrations/protests and large crowds.
Local Laws and Customs
Both Muslim and Christian Ethiopians generally dress in a conservative manner. Women usually keep their shoulders and knees covered, and in some areas wear more conservative clothing. Wearing sleeveless clothing or clothing which does not cover the knee may cause offence, particularly outside Addis Ababa.
Visitors should be aware that the Western and Julian calendars are used in Ethiopia. The year 2010 in the Western calendar is 2002-2003 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.
Homosexual activity is illegal and the subject is taboo for the majority of Ethiopians.
Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Ethiopia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
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 and camera and arrest.
Travellers must obtain a permit to export antiques. To avoid confusion on departure, it would be helpful to retain receipts for any souvenirs purchased, including crosses, which could be mistaken for a valuable cultural artefact.
Ethiopian is not a signatory to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations which governs the right of Foreign Nationals who are arrested or detained to have their Embassy or consulate notified of their detention/arrest.
Natural Disasters and Climate
Malaria is prevalent in areas of the country below 1800 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, you should seek up to date medical advice as to whether you will need anti-malarial medication. On arrival, you should take adequate precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes. Note that the full range of anti-malarial medications which can be purchased in Ireland is not available in Ethiopia.
You should also obtain medical advice prior to travelling to ensure that all recommended vaccinations are up-to-date.
As of May 2013, a number of cases of Yellow Fever have been reported in the South Omo zone of the Southern Nations Regions: travellers to this zone should double-check that their Yellow Fever inoculations are up to date.
Some travellers find the altitude in the Ethiopian highlands hard to adjust to, and may need to avoid over-exertion. Waterborne diseases are prevalent and it is advisable either to boil water before drinking, or to 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.
Additional Country Info
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. You should ensure that you obtain adequate medical insurance before arrival which covers medical evacuation by air ambulance. 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.
(February 2013) The Ethiopian Government and the World Health Organisation have reported an outbreak of meningococcal meningitis around Arba Minch and Shebdino, in southern Ethiopia. There have been a number of deaths reported in the Arba Minch area. Travellers to the Southern Region, in particular Awassa, Shebdino and Arba Minch, should familiarize themselves with the symptoms of meningitis and seek medical attention swiftly should they experience them.
Cash / Banking
Credit cards are accepted at the Hilton, Radisson and Sheraton Hotels, by Ethiopian Airlines, and by an increasing number of other businesses in Addis Ababa, with Visa being much more widely accepted than Mastercard. You can check the location of ATMS which take Visa at Visa's online ATM locator. ATMs at a number of banks in Addis Ababa, as well as in other major towns (including Gondar, Bahir Dar, Awassa, Harar and Mekelle) take international bank cards or credit cards, though ATMs can be out of cash or out of order for long periods at a time. You should therefore ensure you have an adequate supply of cash or travellers’ cheques, bearing in mind that travellers’ cheques are not generally accepted outside Addis Ababa. In case of emergency, Western Union have offices in Ethiopia which can facilitate money transfers.
There are strict rules on removal of foreign currency and Ethiopian birr from Ethiopia. It is not permitted to take more than USD$3000 (or equivalent in foreign currency) out of Ethiopia, unless the amount has been declared on arrival in the country or you an Ethiopian bank advice certifying the purchase of the foreign currency. To declare foreign currency, a customs declaration form must be completed and submitted, and the receipt given must be presented on departure in order to remove foreign currency worth more than USD$3000. In Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, the customs declaration form can be completed in the baggage hall. It is not permitted to carry more than 200 Ethiopian Birr in or out of the country. Amounts over 200 Ethiopian Birr, or undeclared amounts over USD$3000 may be confiscated.
DIPLOMATIC AND CONSULAR MISSIONS IN ETHIOPIA
Contact details for the Irish Embassy in Ethiopia is available here. (Opens in new window)Top