Exercise a high degree of caution in Ethiopia, including Addis Ababa, due to possible civil unrest, threat of terrorist attack and violence. Be vigilant at all times.
- Avoid protests, demonstrations and large crowds as they could turn violent without notice. Monitor local media for news of planned and possible unrest. See Safety and security.
- Reconsider your need to travel to the Guji and Borena districts of Oromia. The security situation is volatile and Australian Embassy officials are advised to avoid private travel. See Safety and security.
Reconsider your need to travel to the Danakil desert. On 4 December 2017, a foreign tourist was killed in the northern Afar region. See
Safety and security.
Do not travel to Gambela region in the west, because of armed attacks, inter-tribal clashes and other violence. An armed incursion in the Gambela region resulted in over 200 deaths in April 2016. See Safety and security. See Safety and security.
- Do not travel to the Somali region in eastern Ethiopia including the border with Oromia and Afar region due to frequent violent clashes and cross-border conflict. See Safety and security.
Do not travel to areas bordering Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan or Eritrea due to the threat of violence and conflict. The border with Eritrea is militarised. Ethiopian and Eritrean armed forces clashed in June 2016. Further clashes are possible. See Safety and security.
- Roadblocks and checkpoints can be set up without warning. Disruptions to services, including telephone and internet networks, have occurred. See
Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.
Entry and exit
You can only get a visitor visa on arrival from Bole International Airport. All other travellers need to get a visa in advance. More information: Government of Ethiopia
For a business visa you may need prior approval from the Ethiopian Department of Immigration and Nationality Affairs before applying to an
Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Check your visa’s expiry date. If you overstay your visa, you’ll be fined US$10 per day.
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.
To prevent the spread of Ebola Virus Disease into Ethiopia, authorities are routinely screening international travellers at all entry points into Ethiopia. Travellers with a high temperature during screening may be quarantined.
In March 2017, the US government announced new restrictions on carrying electronic devices for passengers travelling from or through Ethiopia to the United States.
US Department of Homeland Security
Ethiopia is listed by the
World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. If you're arriving from an endemic country, you’ll need a yellow fever certificate. More information:
Department of Health
Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia and has at least two blank pages.
Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.
Be aware of attempts to get access to your passport by deception. If you are forced to hand it over, contact the Embassy for advice.
If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.
The currency of Ethiopia is the Birr (ETB).
Currency controls are strict in Ethiopia. If you have foreign currency exceeding US$3,000, or equivalent, you must declare it on arrival and departure. This applies even if you’re transiting for more than 24-hours.
You can’t exchange Australian dollars in Ethiopia but US dollars can be exchanged in most banks. There are limited ATMs in Addis Ababa, mostly in large hotels.
Credit cards are accepted at only a few outlets in Addis Ababa. Travellers cheques can be cashed at major banks. ATMs are found in major cities but can’t always be used for cash advances. Check with your bank to ensure your credit card will work in Ethiopia and you have access to funds.
Safety and security
Civil unrest and political tension
The security situation in Ethiopia has improved significantly since 2017 but conditions can change rapidly and without warning.
International events and political developments can trigger large demonstrations. Civil unrest can turn violent. Ethiopian security forces don't have a widespread presence in the country and may not have the capacity to respond to incidents.
Reconsider your need to travel to the Guji and Borena districts of Oromia, due to ongoing sporadic conflict. Although foreigners have not been targeted, travel should be avoided due to possible violent outbreaks.
While violence has subsided in 2018 in the Amhara region, there was a lot of political violence in 2017. In April 2017, a grenade reportedly was thrown at the entrance to a concert hall at Merkel Square in Bahir Dar and another grenade attack at Lodge du Chateau injured a number of people, including one foreigner. In January 2017, an explosion at the Intasole Hotel in Gondar killed one person and injured six others; there also was an explosion at the Grand Hotel in Bahir Dar.
Reconsider your need to travel to the Danakil desert in northeast Ethiopia. In December 2017, a foreign tourist was shot and killed and Ethiopian guide shot and wounded at Erta Ale in the Danakil area of the Afar region, north-east Ethiopia. There is now an increased police and military presence. Travel to this area should be undertaken with a recognised tour company as they are normally supported by armed police or military escort.
In October 2016, a stampede at the Irreecha Festival in Oromia resulted in a number of deaths.
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.
- Avoid protests, demonstrations and other large crowds as they could turn violent without notice.
- If you are in an area affected by demonstrations or violence, you should find a safe location and remain indoors until it is safe to depart, adhering to any instructions and restrictions issued by the local authorities.
- Monitor local media for news of planned and possible unrest. Avoid affected areas.
Do not travel to areas bordering Kenya. Along and near the border with Kenya, there are armed groups, landmines and cross-border violence including kidnapping, banditry and tribal and clan disputes. In November 2016, in Surma Woreda, armed men attacked and robbed a group of Europeans, seriously injuring one of the group. The driver of the vehicle, an Ethiopian national, was shot and subsequently died.
Do not travel to Somali region, which includes the border with Somalia. Violent clashes between government forces and insurgents are common along and near the border with Somalia. Ethiopian troops are in Somalia and tensions in the border region are 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.
Do not travel to the areas bordering Sudan and South Sudan, including the Gambela 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 Gambela region by elements of South Sudan's Murle community resulted in over 200 deaths.
Do not travel to the disputed border area between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Despite the Ethiopian Prime Minister announcing a unilateral withdrawal from the disputed border area in June 2018, the situation remains extremely volatile and dangerous and the area remains heavily land-mined.
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. Cross-border conflict or other violence could erupt at any time in this region.
Terrorism is a threat in Ethiopia. Terrorists are reportedly planning attacks against a range of targets, including commercial and public places frequented by foreigners. Terrorists may use occasions such as Ethiopia hosting an international meeting or days of national or religious significance to mount attacks, but an attack could occur at any time.
Possible targets for terror attacks 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 targets. Some local hotels, including the Hilton and the Ghion, have received bomb threats in the past.
Past attacks include:
- In 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.
- In October 2013, a bomb blast in the Bole district of Addis Ababa killed two people. Somalia-based militants claimed responsibility.
- In May 2012, tourists travelling by vehicle between the towns of El Dima and Kibbish, West Omo, were fired upon by a gunman.
The threat of terrorist attack, including kidnapping, is particularly high in the Somali region, which borders Somalia. 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.
- In planning your activities, consider the kinds of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided.
- Be alert to possible threats, especially in public places and in the lead up to and on days of national or religious significance or international meetings.
- Exercise particular caution around locations known to be possible terrorist targets.
- If you choose to visit possible terror targets, have an exit plan if there is a security incident.
- Keep an eye on the news for any new or emerging threats.
- Take official warnings seriously and follow the instructions of local authorities.
- If there is an attack, leave the affected area immediately if it is safe to do so.
Do not travel to the Somali region in eastern Ethiopia.
- If, despite our advice, you decide to travel to Somali region or any other area where there is a threat of kidnapping, seek professional security advice and have effective personal security measures in place.
Violent assault is rare but often directed at foreigners, particularly 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. A number of recent robbery victims have been assaulted after refusing to hand over their property.
In December 2017, a foreign tourist was shot and killed and an Ethiopian guide shot and wounded at Erta Ale in the Danakil area of the Afar Region, north-east Ethiopia. Reconsider your need to travel to these areas due to significant risk of violent crime.
Highway banditry and armed carjacking have been reported outside the main urban centres.
- Carry only what you need. Leave other valuables, including your passport, in a secure location.
- Avoid carrying bags that are easy to snatch.
- Don't tempt thieves – avoid wearing expensive watches, jewellery and cameras.
- Pay close attention to your personal possessions at all times.
- Keep your car windows and doors closed and locked at all times, including when moving.
- Don’t leave valuables exposed in your car, including when moving.
- Avoid walking alone at night.
- Due to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, if you're a victim of violent crime, especially rape, seek immediate medical assistance.
- Keep an eye on local sources of information on crime.
Landmines are a hazard in the border areas with Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia. If you travel near these borders despite our advice that you ‘do not travel’ to these areas (see
Safety and security), stick to well-travelled roads.
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, wandering on roads are additional safety hazards.
By law, drivers involved in car accidents can face severe punishments, including imprisonment and fines. If an accident occurs, it is illegal to move your vehicle before a police officer arrives. However, if you feel the situation is unsafe, leave the area immediately and report the incident to the nearest police station.
In 2016, a US national was killed when protesters threw rocks at his car on the road from Holeta to Addis Ababa. Security forces sometimes close roads, including highways. On 10 August 2017, security forces closed the main road from Addis Ababa to Jijiga, between Babile and Harar, due to intense fighting in the area.
- Familiarise yourself with local traffic laws and practices before driving.
- Drive defensively and legally.
- Don't drink and drive.
- Keep your car windows and doors closed and locked at all times, including when moving.
- Avoid driving at night, where possible.
- If stopped by police, follow their instructions.
- If rocks are thrown at your car, leave the area as quickly and safely as possible.
In addition, when travelling outside Addis Ababa
- seek local advice on road and security conditions along your proposed route before you travel
- leave details of your travel itinerary with a reliable person
- travel in a group where possible
- carry a comprehensive medical pack
- consider carrying a satellite phone – regular telephones, including the mobile network, are unreliable.
If you want to drive in Ethiopia, you can apply to convert a valid Australian licence to a local one. International driver permits are not recognised in Ethiopia.
Check with your insurer whether your policy covers you when using a motorcycle, quad bike or similar vehicle. Your policy may not cover accidents that occur while using these vehicles. Wear, and ensure your passengers wears, a correctly fastened helmet.
Only use registered taxis and authorised limousines, preferably those arranged through your hotel. Avoid flagging down taxis in the street, and consider sitting in the back seat rather than the front. Not all taxis are metered. Ensure that the meter is used or that the fare is agreed before you depart.
Bus and limited rail services exist, though safety standards are not the same as in Australia. In the past, buses have been attacked outside Addis Ababa. Take care of your belongings on public transport as petty crimes occurs.
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.
You’re subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.
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.
Penalties for drug offences are severe. They include long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Ethiopian laws affecting family matters (including about divorce, child custody and child support), business activities and other issues, can differ substantially from Australian law. If you might engage in activities subject to local laws, particularly family laws, seek professional advice on your rights and responsibilities.
Ethiopia applies the death penalty for serious offences, including aggravated murder.
The following activities are illegal:
- homosexuality – more information:
- purchasing or removing Ethiopian antiquities, animal skins or other cultural artefacts, including some Ethiopian crosses, without a permit - more information: Airport Customs Office
- exporting precious stones and minerals beyond prescribed limits for personal use – check limits with local authorities before you purchase
- owning ivory
- moving your vehicle after an accident and before a police officer arrives
- giving money to or purchasing something from a beggar or vendor in traffic
- photography around military zones or assets, or of military personnel
- photography where there are signs prohibiting photography
- photography around the Presidential Palace in Addis Ababa.
Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:
- bribery of foreign public officials
- child pornography
- child sex tourism
- female genital mutilation
- forced marriage
- money laundering
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.
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.
Take out comprehensive
travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. Make sure your policy includes adequate coverage for any pre-existing conditions.
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 your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.
- what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
- that you’re covered for the whole time you’ll be away.
Physical and mental health
Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.
- At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
- Get vaccinated before you travel.
Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.
Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel.
Take legal prescription medicine with you so you remain in good health. Always carry a copy of your prescription and a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.
Ethiopia is listed by the
World Health Organization as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a potentially fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes. It is preventable by vaccination.
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.
Protect yourself against insect-borne illnesses:
- ensure your accommodation is insect proof
- take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
- get vaccinated against yellow fever before you travel
- consider chloroquine-resistant malaria prevention medication
- seek medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.
HIV/AIDS is prevalent. Exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.
Other infectious diseases
Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including acute diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, measles, tuberculosis, brucellosis, bilharzia and meningitis) are also prevalent, with more serious outbreaks occurring from time-to-time. Bilharzia (schistosomiasis) and certain other water-borne diseases are transmitted in fresh water sources such as lakes and rivers.
- Use good hygiene practices including frequent handwashing.
- Boil all drinking water or drink bottled water.
- Avoid ice cubes.
- Avoid raw and undercooked food.
- Don't swim in fresh water.
- Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering 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 about polio is available from the Australian Department of Health.
The altitude in the mountainous regions of Ethiopia can cause problems, particularly for those who suffer from lung, heart or chest problems. Healthy travellers can also be affected. Symptoms of altitude sickness include headache, dizziness, vomiting and reduced coordination. In severe cases, fluid can build up in your lungs, brain or both, which can be fatal.
- Ascend slowly, especially above an altitude of 2,500 metres.
- Rest when needed. Don't push your body. Avoid alcohol and cigarettes.
- If you are affected by severe altitude sickness, descend as soon as possible.
Health facilities are limited in Addis Ababa and inadequate in rural areas.
If you become seriously ill or injured, you'll need to be evacuated to a destination with appropriate facilities. Medical evacuation can be very expensive.
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 been reported.
Flooding may occur in the rainy season from July to September and some roads can become impassable.
More information: Severe weather
Ethiopia is in an active earthquake and volcanic zone.
More information: Earthquakes
If a natural disaster occurs:
- secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag).
- closely monitor local media and other sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
- follow the advice of local authorities
- contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts.
Where to get help
Depending on what you need, 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.
Emergency phone numbers
- Fire: 991
- Medical emergencies: 991 or go direct to the hospital
- Criminal issues: phone 991 or contact the nearest police station
Always get a police report when reporting a crime.
Tourism services and products
For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.
Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas. For consular assistance, contact the Australian Embassy in Addis Ababa.
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 or +251 967 941377
Facsimile: +251 11 667 2868
Australian 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, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.