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Summary

  • Reconsider travel to Ethiopia, including Addis Ababa, due to ongoing civil unrest and the threat of terrorist attack.
  • The Ethiopian government declared a six month State of Emergency from 9 October 2016. This follows months of protests and unrest in the Oromia and Amhara regions, which resulted in deaths and injuries. Failure to comply with State of Emergency measures could lead to arrest. In March 2017, the Ethiopian government lifted some State of Emergency restrictions. We still recommend travellers carry identification, avoid all large gatherings and protests, monitor the media for details on the application of the State of Emergency and follow all instructions issued by local authorities. See Safety and security.
  • Due to the uncertain security situation as a result of these demonstrations, officials at the Australian Embassy have been advised against private travel to Agew Awi, Bahir Dar, East Gojjam, West Gojjam, North Gondar and South Gondar zones 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.
  • The attack on the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi, Kenya in 2013 underscores the ongoing threat posed by Somalia-based militants in the region.
  • Be vigilant in the Merkato area of Addis Ababa. On 11 December 2015, a grenade attack occurred at the Anwar Mosque in this area.
  • We strongly advise you not to travel to border areas with Somalia and the Somali Region in eastern Ethiopia.  Ongoing conflict occurs along the border with Somalia.
  • We strongly advise you not to 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.
  • We strongly advise you not to 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.
  • Sporadic violence continues in the Gambella Region, most recently resulting in over 200 deaths following an armed incursion by elements of South Sudan's Murle community in April 2016. Tensions in the area remain high, with the likelihood of further clashes.
  • Because of the dangerous security situation, we strongly recommend that you 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 the most up-to-date information.

The website of the Government of Ethiopia lists Australia as a country whose nationals may now obtain a visa on arrival. 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 for Ethiopia. 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 US. 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. We strongly recommend that all travellers be vaccinated for yellow fever before travelling to Ethiopia (see Health). If you are arriving from another country infected with Yellow Fever, you will be required to present a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate to be allowed entry into Ethiopia. For more information about yellow fever, including Australian re-entry requirements, see the Department of Health website.

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia.

Safety and security

On 10 January 2017, there was an explosion at the Intasole Hotel in Gondar (Amhara region), reportedly killing one and injuring six others. On 4 January, there was also an explosion at the Grand Hotel in Bahir Dar (Amhara region). Remain vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities.

 

Civil unrest/political tension

State of Emergency: The Ethiopian government declared a six month State of Emergency from 9 October 2016. This follows months of protests and unrest in the Oromia and Amhara regions, which resulted in deaths and injuries. Failure to comply with State of Emergency measures could lead to arrest. In March 2017, the Ethiopian government lifted some State of Emergency restrictions. We still recommend travellers carry identification, avoid all large gatherings and protests, monitor the media for details on the application of the State of Emergency and follow all instructions issued by local authorities. See unofficial independent translation of emergency arrangements of the original State of Emergency Proclamation. 

Carry identification, avoid all large gatherings and protests, monitor the media for details on the application of the State of Emergency and follow all instructions issued by local authorities.

Due to the uncertain security situation, officials at the Australian Embassy have been advised against private travel to Agew Awi, Bahir Dar, East Gojjam, West Gojjam, North Gondar and South Gondar zones in Amhara region until further notice.

Avoid demonstrations and large gatherings throughout the country as they have the potential to turn violent. International events and political developments may trigger large demonstrations. You should 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); 27 September (The Finding of the True Cross/'Meskel'). Large crowds also gather on Ethiopian Easter; Eid (End of Ramadan); Eid Al Aradha and the Birthday of the Prophet Mohammed.

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

Border with Kenya: We strongly advise you not to travel to the 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 the 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: We strongly advise you not to 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: We strongly advise you not to travel to the areas bordering Sudan and South Sudan, including the Gambella Region, due to the presence of armed groups, inter-tribal clashes and 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. Continuing unrest and sporadic violence in this region resulted most recently in over 200 deaths following an armed incursion by elements of South Sudan's Murle community in late April 2016.

Border with Eritrea, including the Danakil desert area: We also strongly advise you not to 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, we strongly advise against all travel in the area.

In January 2012, five western tourists were killed and two kidnapped by gunmen in the Danakil desert area. The kidnapped tourists were released in March 2012. In April 2009, two Ethiopians were killed and a foreign tourist injured when a landmine exploded in the Danakil desert area. In 2007, three British nationals were kidnapped in the same region. They were released after being held for several months.

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.

The 21 September 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi, Kenya, underscores the ongoing threat posed by Somalia-based militants across neighbouring countries and in Ethiopia.

In planning your activities consider the kind 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.
  • In January 2012, five foreign tourists were killed and two kidnapped from the Afar region (Danakil Desert area). The kidnapped tourists were released in March 2012.

You should be particularly vigilant in the lead up to and on days of national or religious significance (see Civil unrest section), or international meetings in Addis Ababa, as militants may use these occasions to mount attacks.

Somali Region of eastern Ethiopia: We strongly advise you not to 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.

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 particular threat of kidnapping, you should 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 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. Visitors should 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. When driving you should ensure that car doors are locked, windows are up and that valuables kept out of sight. When parked, you should ensure that valuables are kept out of sight.

Due to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to 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$3000 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. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport online or contact 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 travel to these regions is essential, travellers should remain on well-travelled roads.

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.

Airline safety

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

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

Laws

You are subject to the local laws of Ethiopia, including ones 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 custodial sentences and fines.

Photography around military zones, assets and personnel is illegal and may result in arrest and detention. You should obey signs prohibiting photography and refrain from taking 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 may 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 please refer to the Forced marriage and Female genital mutilation pages.

Local customs

There are conservative standards of behaviour and dress in Ethiopia. You should 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 to standard practice elsewhere, resulting in significant time differences. To avoid confusion, always check bookings and appointments.

Information for dual nationals

Ethiopia does not 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

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

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations 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 to 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 pages also provide 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 would 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. We strongly recommend that you are vaccinated against yellow fever before travelling to Ethiopia. See the Entry and Exit section 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 2000 metres. Chloroquine resistant strains are prevalent in some areas. Other insect-borne diseases (including dengue fever, leishmaniasis, filariasis and African sleeping sickness) also occur. We encourage you to take prophylaxis against malaria where necessary and take measures to avoid insect bites, including using an insect repellent at all times, 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.

We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Do not 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. It is recommended that Australians travelling to Ethiopia are up to date with routinely recommended vaccinations against polio, including a booster dose, as per the Australian Immunisation Handbook, prior to departure. 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.

The outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in west Africa is the most serious in recorded history. In an effort to prevent the spread of the disease into Ethiopia, authorities have introduced additional health screening and information requirements for travellers arriving by air and land. Travellers who register a high temperature during screening may be quarantined. For more information on the outbreak and other travel restrictions and preventative measures, see the Ebola outbreak in west Africa travel bulletin.

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. You should also 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. The address is:

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.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the above mission, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre 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.

The rainy season is from July to September when flooding may occur 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