Information & Facts
Etiquette is very important in Ethiopia, both socially and in
business. Formal attire is expected of men and women. Greetings are
very important and the shaking of hands is the norm for first
meetings. Ethiopians like to establish good relations with one
another and personal relationships are the cornerstone of business.
English is understood by most businessmen in Addis Ababa, as well
as some French and Italian. Ethiopians respect their elders and
visitors should show the same courtesy. Business hours are
generally 8.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday with an hour taken at
lunch, but may vary according to individual businesses.
There are three main seasons in Ethiopia, with temperatures
depending on the altitude. The lowlands are generally hot and
humid, with cooler temperatures in the Ethiopian Highlands. The dry
season runs from October to May and is the most pleasant time to
visit, while June to September is the rainy season.
The international dialling code for Ethiopia is +251. The
outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g.
0027 for South Africa). The area code for Addis Ababa is (0)1.
Telephone, fax and postal facilities are available in most main
towns. IDD is available. There are Internet cafes in Addis Ababa
and Internet services may be available in upmarket hotels in other
areas. A GSM 900 network is provided, but coverage is limited to
Addis Ababa and a few other parts of the country.
The Ethiopian Highlands are mainly Orthodox Christian and
restaurants do not serve meat dishes on Wednesdays, Fridays and
during Lent. Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar, which consists
of 13 months (12 months of 30 days, the thirteenth month has five
or six days), and in 2008 the year is 2000/2001 in Ethiopia. There
is a six-hour difference between Ethiopian time and Western time,
so 3am in Western time will be 9am Ethiopian time (add six hours to
the time). Homosexuality is illegal. Shoes should be removed before
entering mosques and churches. Photographs should not be taken of
military buildings and airports, and permission should be asked
before photographing religious festivals and people.
Travellers to Ethiopia over the age of 18 years do not have to
pay customs duty on 100 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 227g of tobacco;
1 litre of alcoholic beverages; 2 bottles or 500ml of perfume; and
gifts to the value of Br10.
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Three-pin plugs
are used. Even in Addis, electricity supply is irregular and
blackouts are common.
Travellers to Ethiopia are recommended to have hepatitis A and
cholera vaccines, as there have been recent outbreaks of these
diseases. Malaria is prevalent in the low lands (below
6,562ft/2,000m) and altitude sickness may affect travellers to the
highland areas such as Addis Ababa. Bilharzia is present in the
majority of lakes in Ethiopia and travellers are advised to drink
boiled or bottled water, as waterborne diseases are prevalent.
Medical facilities are poor outside of Addis Ababa, where hospitals
are available but medical supplies are erratic; visitors should
bring their own regular medications with them and arrange
comprehensive medical insurance before travel.
Amharic is the official language, although over 80 local
languages are also spoken. English and Arabic are widely spoken as
well as some French and Italian.
The official currency is the Ethiopian Birr (ETB), which is
divided into 100 cents. Foreign currency can be exchanged at banks
and authorised hotels. Credit cards have limited usage outside of
Addis Ababa, and even in the capital they are only accepted by
major establishments. Visitors should carry a supply of travellers
cheques or hard currency with them, preferably in US dollars. ATMs
are sparse, but banks are usually open every day except Sundays
from 8am to 11am and 1pm till 4pm.
Foreign visitors to Ethiopia may obtain a visa on arrival. For
tourist visas, the fees are as follows: USD 20 (one month,
single-entry); USD 30 (three months, multiple-entry); USD 40 (six
months, multiple-entry). Work visas are also obtainable, but are
probably best organised in advance. Note that entry into Ethiopia
is only allowed from Addis Ababa International Airport, unless the
Government has granted prior permission for another point of entry,
and a visa has been pre-organised. A yellow fever vaccination
ceritificate is required to enter Ethiopia, if arriving within six
days of leaving or transiting through an infected area. NOTE: It is
highly recommended that your passport has at least six months
validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your
travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different
rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Visitors are cautioned to avoid all public demonstrations and
large crowds, particularly in Addis Ababa, and to keep a low
profile in public places. Travel to the Gambella region near the
southern Sudanese border, as well as to within 12 miles (20km) of
the Eritrean border in the Tigray and Afar regions (military
zones), should be avoided due to violent unrest and an unstable
security situation. The border between Eritrea and Ethiopia is
closed. Travelling to Somalia by road should also be avoided, as
well as all travel east of Harar. There have been several recent
explosions in Jijiga. Overland travel to Sudan or Kenya is
dangerous due to armed bandits, and should only be attempted in a
convoy. There is a high threat from local terrorism in the country,
and although not directed at foreigners, visitors need to be
cautious in public places. Flooding often affects Ethiopia between
June and September each year, killing hundreds of people in flash
floods in low-lying areas.
Local time is GMT +3.
Tourist hotels and restaurants usually add a 10% service charge
to the bill. Otherwise tipping is fairly common, but only small
amounts are customary.