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Summary

  • Reconsider your need to travel to Ethiopia, including Addis Ababa, due to ongoing civil unrest and the threat of terrorist attack. Maintain heightened vigilance at all times.
  • Reconsider your need to travel to the Oromia and Somali region border areas, including Jijiga, due to increasing reports of violent clashes. See Safety and security.
  • Do not travel to border areas with Somalia and the Somali Region in eastern Ethiopia. Ongoing conflict occurs along the border with Somalia.
  • Do not travel to the border areas with Kenya, South Sudan, and Sudan, including the Gambella Region and the Danakil desert area in eastern Ethiopia, because of the extremely dangerous security situation in these areas.

  • Do not travel to the disputed border area with Eritrea due to the threat of violence at any time. Clashes between Ethiopian and Eritrean armed forces took place in June 2016 around the Tsorona Central Front militarised border area. Fighting was reported in the areas of Humera, Tsorona, Zalambessa and Badme.

  • The State of Emergency called in October 2016 in response to protests and unrest in the Oromia and Amhara regions, was lifted on 4 August 2017. Continue to monitor local media, and avoid large gatherings and protests as the security situation can change at short notice.

  • In April 2017, grenade attacks in Gondar and Bahir Dar injured a number of people, including a foreigner, highlighting the ongoing security instability in the Amhara region. See Safety and security.

  • Due to the uncertain security situation, officials at the Australian Embassy have been advised against private travel to North Gondar in Amhara region until further notice. See Safety and security.

  • Roadblocks and checkpoints can be established without warning and disruptions to services, including telephone and internet networks, have been experienced.

  • Sporadic violence continues in the Gambella Region. In April 2016, an armed incursion by elements of South Sudan's Murle community resulted in over 200 deaths. Recent inter-tribal clashes have caused damage to NGO property within the area. Tensions in the area remain high, with the likelihood of further clashes.
  • Because of the dangerous security situation, register your travel and contact details, so we can contact you in an emergency.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia for up-to-date information.

The website of the Government of Ethiopia lists Australia as a country whose nationals can now obtain a visa on arrival (at a cost of US$50). However, in practice this only applies to visitors arriving at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa.

The Government of Ethiopia has increased the fines for travellers who overstay their visas. The fine has been increased from US$20/month to US$10/day.

In March 2017, the US government announced new restrictions on carrying electronic devices for passengers travelling from or through Ethiopia to the United States. See the US Department of Homeland Security website for further details. 

Ethiopia is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a serious and potentially fatal disease preventable by vaccination. Get vaccinated for yellow fever before travelling to Ethiopia (see Health). If you're arriving in Ethiopia from another country infected with yellow fever, you will be required to present a yellow fever vaccination certificate to be allowed entry. For more information about yellow fever, including Australian re-entry requirements, see the Department of Health website.

Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months after the date you intend to return to Australia.

Safety and security

Amhara region

Recent grenade attacks in Gondar and Bahir Dar highlight the ongoing security instability in the Amhara region. On 29 April 2017, it was reported that a grenade was thrown at the entrance to a concert hall at Merkel Square in Bahir Dar. On 24 April 2017, a grenade attack reportedly occurred at Lodge du Chateau, injuring a number of people, including one foreigner. On 10 January 2017, there was an explosion at the Intasole Hotel in Gondar, reportedly killing one and injuring six others. On 4 January 2017, there was also an explosion at the Grand Hotel in Bahir Dar. Reconsider your need to travel to the Amhara region.

 

Civil unrest and political tension

State of Emergency

The State of Emergency called in October 2016 in response to protests and unrest in the Oromia and Amhara regions, was lifted on 4 August 2017. Continue to monitor local media, and avoid large gatherings and protests as the security situation can change at short notice.

Due to the uncertain security situation, officials at the Australian Embassy have been advised against private travel to North Gondar in Amhara region until further notice.

Avoid demonstrations and large gatherings throughout the country as they may turn violent. International events and political developments may trigger large demonstrations. Monitor the media and other local news sources for safety information.

Large crowds are common on key national and religious dates. These include 7 January (Ethiopian Christmas); 19 January (Epiphany/'Timket'); 2 March (Victory of Adawa); 5 May (Ethiopian Patriots' Victory Day); 28 May (Downfall of the Derg); 11/12 September (Ethiopian New Year); and 27 September (The Finding of the True Cross/'Meskel'). Large crowds also gather on Ethiopian Easter; Eid (End of Ramadan); Eid al Adha and the Birthday of the Prophet Mohammed.

On 2 October 2016, a stampede at the Irreecha Festival in Oromia resulted in a number of deaths. 

Ethiopian security forces don't have a widespread presence in the country and may not have the capacity to respond to incidents.

Border with Kenya: Do not travel to areas bordering Kenya due to the presence of armed groups and landmines. Cross-border violence occurs, including kidnapping, armed banditry, and tribal and clan disputes. On 7 November 2016, in Surma Woreda (south-western Ethiopia), approximately 20kms from Dima city, a group of Czech and Slovak nationals were attacked and robbed by armed men who threw rocks at their car, seriously injuring one of the group. The driver of the vehicle, an Ethiopian national, was shot and subsequently died.

Border with Somalia: Do not travel to the areas bordering Somalia due to violent clashes between government forces and insurgents. Ethiopian troops are in Somalia and tensions in the border region remain extremely high. Somali and Ethiopian government troops have been involved in violent clashes with militant insurgents since December 2006. Firearm, grenade and landmine attacks on security forces are common. Civilians have been killed and injured.

Heavy fighting has been reported on the Ethiopia-Somalia border and the Kenya-Somalia border. The risk of violent attacks and terrorist acts is ongoing.

Border with Sudan and South Sudan, including the Gambella Region: Do not travel to the areas bordering Sudan and South Sudan, including the Gambella Region, due to the presence of armed groups, inter-tribal clashes, landmines, and the risk of banditry and kidnapping. The security situation in these areas is extremely volatile and there is a high threat of violent crime and civil unrest. In April 2016, an armed incursion into the Gambella region by elements of South Sudan's Murle community resulted in over 200 deaths.

Border with Eritrea, including the Danakil desert area: Do not travel to the disputed border area between Ethiopia and Eritrea due to the extremely dangerous security situation and the presence of landmines. This includes the Danakil desert area bounded by the Dessie-Adigrat road, the Dessie-Djbouti road and the disputed Ethiopia-Eritrea border.

Clashes between Ethiopian and Eritrean armed forces took place on 13 and 14 June 2016 around the Tsorona Central Front militarised border area. Fighting was reported in the areas of Humera, Tsorona, Zalambessa and Badme. These events demonstrate the unstable environment of the border regions between the two countries. Due to the potential for violence in these areas at any time, do not travel in the area.

Terrorism

There is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Ethiopia. We continue to receive reports that terrorists are planning attacks against a range of targets, including commercial and public places frequented by foreigners.

In planning your activities, consider the kinds of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided. These include clubs, hotels, resorts, restaurants, bars, schools, places of worship, landmarks, markets and marketplaces, shopping centres and malls, political and sporting events, public gatherings (including large religious festivals and concerts), outdoor recreation events, embassies, Ethiopian government buildings and tourist areas. Aircraft, airports, petrol stations, buses and bus terminals, railways and other transport infrastructure are also possible terrorist targets.

Some local hotels, including the Hilton and the Ghion, have received bomb threats in the past.

Terrorist incidents include:

  • On 11 December 2015, a grenade attack occurred at the Anwar Mosque in the Merkato area of Addis Ababa, causing at least one death and several injuries.
  • On 13 October 2013, a bomb blast in the Bole district of Addis Ababa killed two people. Somalia-based militants claimed responsibility.
  • On 20 May 2012, tourists travelling by vehicle between the towns of El Dima and Kibbish, West Omo, were fired upon by a gunman.

Be alert in the lead up to and on days of national or religious significance (see Safety and security), or international meetings in Addis Ababa, as militants may use these occasions to mount attacks.

Somali Region of eastern Ethiopia: Do not travel to the Somali Region of eastern Ethiopia due to the extremely dangerous security situation, the threat of terrorist attack and the persistent high threat of kidnapping.

Conflict along the border with Somalia is ongoing. The risk of violent attacks and terrorist acts has increased. Over the past year, there have also been serious armed clashes along the border between the Somali Region and the Oromia Region, including Jijiga within Ethiopia. 

The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers that paying a ransom increases the risk of further kidnappings, including of other Australians. If you decide to travel to an area where there is a threat of kidnapping, seek professional security advice and have effective personal security measures in place. For more information about kidnapping, see our Kidnapping page.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Worldwide bulletin. 

Crime

There has been an increase in violent assaults against foreigners in Addis Ababa, including in areas around the Hilton and Sheraton Hotels, Entoto and the Bole Road.

Pickpocketing, bag and jewellery snatching and other petty crimes are common in crowded areas, especially in the Mercato open air market, Piazza areas, and tourist areas near the main post office of Addis Ababa. These crimes are often carried out by groups of young children. Avoid walking alone at night. A number of recent robbery victims have been assaulted after refusing to hand over their property.

Highway banditry and armed carjacking have been reported outside the main urban centres. Ensure that car doors are locked, windows are up and valuables kept out of sight when driving. When parked, ensure that valuables are kept out of sight.

Due to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, if you're a victim of violent crime, including rape, seek immediate medical assistance.

Money and valuables

Australian dollars cannot be changed in Ethiopia. US dollars can be changed in most banks. There are limited ATMs in Addis Ababa, mostly in large hotels.

Currency controls are strict in Ethiopia. Foreign currency cash notes exceeding US$3,000, or equivalent in any other convertible currency, must be declared on arrival and departure. This includes transit travellers staying in Ethiopia for more than 24-hours. You may export up to 200 birr (Ethiopian currency).

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place. You're required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport online or by contacting the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate, as soon as possible.

Local travel

Landmines are a hazard in the border areas with Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia. If travelling to these regions, remain on well-travelled roads.

On 10 August 2017, the main road from Addis Ababa to Jijiga, between Babile and Harar, was blocked by security forces due to intense fighting over border disputes.

In 2016, a US national travelling by car was killed by rocks thrown by protestors on the road from Holeta to Addis Ababa. In the past, buses have been attacked outside Addis Ababa.

Driving in Ethiopia can be hazardous due to poor road conditions, poorly maintained vehicles, local driving practices and inadequate lighting. Pedestrians and livestock, particularly camels, are additional safety hazards.

When travelling outside Addis Ababa consider travelling in a party and leave details of your travel itinerary with a reliable person. Carry a comprehensive medical pack. Telephones, including the sole mobile network, are unreliable. For further advice, see our road travel page.

Air safety

The Australian Government doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Ethiopia.

Refer also to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

You're subject to the local laws of Ethiopia, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

Australians who might engage in activities that involve local legal matters, particularly with regard to family law (divorce, child custody and child support), are strongly advised to seek professional advice, and ensure they are aware of their rights and responsibilities.

The death penalty may be imposed for serious crimes, such as aggravated murder.

Penalties for drug offences are severe in Ethiopia, and include long jail sentences and heavy fines. See our Drugs page.

Homosexual behaviour is illegal and penalties include imprisonment. See our LGBTI travellers page.

Permits are required for the purchase or removal of Ethiopian antiquities, or animal skins and other cultural artefacts. These may include Ethiopian crosses. Permits can be processed by the export section of the Airport Customs Office.

There are limits on the amount of precious stones and minerals that can be exported for personal use. Check with local authorities if in doubt.

Owning ivory is illegal in Ethiopia and penalties may include confiscation of the ivory, fines or detention.

Under Ethiopian laws, drivers involved in car accidents can face severe punishments, including imprisonment and fines.

Photography around military zones and assets, and of military personnel is illegal, and may result in arrest and detention. Obey signs prohibiting photography and don't take photos if the location or infrastructure may be considered sensitive. The area around the Presidential Palace in Addis Ababa should not be photographed.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas can be prosecuted in Australia.

Australia has strengthened legislation relating to female genital mutilation and forced marriage to protect Australian residents from being taken overseas for these purposes. The new criminal offences carry significant penalties ranging up to 25 years imprisonment. For more information about these crimes refer to the Forced marriage and Female genital mutilation pages.

Local customs

There are conservative standards of behaviour and dress in Ethiopia. Take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.

The Julian calendar is used in Orthodox Christian areas in the highlands, and some Ethiopians set their clocks differently from standard practice elsewhere, resulting in significant time differences. To avoid confusion, always check bookings and appointments.

Information for dual nationals

Ethiopia doesn't recognise dual nationality. This may limit our ability to provide consular assistance to Australian-Ethiopian dual nationals who are arrested or detained.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

Health

Before you depart, take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities aren't included in your policy. Regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government won't pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It's important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. Get vaccinated before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Medical facilities

Health facilities are limited in Addis Ababa and inadequate in rural areas. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation to a destination with appropriate facilities would be necessary. Medical evacuation costs can be considerable.

Health risks

Ethiopia is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a potentially fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, which is preventable by vaccination. Get vaccinated against yellow fever before travelling to Ethiopia. See Entry and exit for important information about vaccination certificate requirements. For more information about yellow fever, see the Department of Health website.

Malaria is prevalent in Ethiopia, except for the capital Addis Ababa and areas above 2,000 metres. Chloroquine resistant strains are prevalent in some areas. Other insect-borne diseases (including dengue fever, leishmaniasis, filariasis and African sleeping sickness) also occur. Take prophylaxis against malaria where necessary and take measures to avoid insect bites, including using a insect repellent, wearing long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including acute diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, measles, tuberculosis, brucellosis and meningitis) are also prevalent, with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time.

Boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Don't swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water borne diseases such as bilharzia (schistosomiasis). Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Ethiopia is no longer infected with wild poliovirus, but is still vulnerable to international spread of the disease. Stay up-to-date with routinely recommended vaccinations against polio, including a booster dose, as per the Australian Immunisation Handbook. Further information is available from the Australian Department of Health polio website.

The altitude in the mountainous regions of Ethiopia can cause problems for travellers, particularly those who suffer from lung, heart or chest problems. Healthy travellers may also feel the effects of the lack of oxygen.

Where to get help

Depending on your enquiry, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

For criminal issues, contact the local police. The national emergency number is 991. Always obtain a police report when reporting a crime.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can't do to assist Australians overseas. For consular assistance, see contact details below.

Australia has an Embassy in Addis Ababa which can provide consular assistance.

Australian Embassy, Addis Ababa

Turkish compound (off Cape Verde street)
Bole Subcity, Woreda 3
PO Box 3715
Addis Ababa, ETHIOPIA

Telephone: +251 11 667 2678
Facsimile: +251 11 667 2868
Email: consular.addisababa@dfat.gov.au
Website: ethiopia.embassy.gov.au

See the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you're unable to contact the above mission in a consular emergency, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Some areas of Ethiopia are experiencing severe drought after four years of below average rainfall. Local services and the availability of water and basic food may be affected. An increase in disease has also been reported.

Ethiopia is in an active earthquake and volcanic zone.

Flooding may occur in the rainy season from July to September and some roads can become impassable.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

Additional Resources