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Ethiopia

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Summary

  • 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. 
  • Due to ongoing civil unrest, expect heightened security measures, restrictions on movement and expression, and disruptions to internet and telephone services in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region, including Hawassa/Awasa. Avoid protests and demonstrations, as they could turn violent. Monitor the media and follow the advice of local and federal authorities. See Safety and security.
  • Reconsider your need to travel to the Guji and Borena districts of Oromia. The security situation is volatile. See Safety and security.
  • Reconsider your need to travel to the Danakil desert. In 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. See Safety and security.
  • Do not travel to the Somali region in eastern Ethiopia due to frequent violent clashes. See Safety and security.
  • Do not travel to areas bordering Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan or Eritrea due to the threat of violence and conflict. See Safety and security.
  • Roadblocks and checkpoints get set up without warning. Disruptions to services, including telephone and internet networks, have occurred. See Local travel.

Entry and exit

Every country or territory decides who can enter of exit through its borders. The Australian Government cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet you destination's entry or exit requirements.

Visas

Visas on-arrival are only available 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 USD10 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.

Other formalities

To prevent the spread of Ebola Virus Disease into Ethiopia, authorities routinely screen international travellers at all entry points. Travellers with a high temperature during screening may be quarantined.

There are restrictions on carrying electronic devices for passengers travelling from or through Ethiopia to the United States.

More information: 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

Passport

Check the expiry date of your Australian passport before you travel. Some countries won't let you enter unless your passport is valid for six months from when you plan to leave that country.

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 access your passport by deception. If you're forced to hand it over, contact the Embassy for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Money

Ethiopia's currency is the Birr (ETB).

Currency controls are strict in Ethiopia. Travellers with more than USD3,000, or equivalent, must declare it on arrival, transit and departure.

You can't exchange Australian dollars in Ethiopia but US dollars can be exchanged in most banks. ATMs in Addis Ababa can be without cash unexpectedly. There are fewer ATMs outside Addis Ababa, and cash advances aren't always possible. Travel with ETB at all times.

Credit cards are accepted at major hotels and a few other outlets in Ethiopia. Travellers cheques can be cashed at major banks. Check with your bank if your cards will work in Ethiopia.

Safety and security

Civil unrest and political tension

Due to ongoing civil unrest, expect heightened security measures, restrictions on movement and expression, and disruptions to internet and telephone services in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region of Ethiopia, including Hawassa/Awasa. Avoid protests and demonstrations, as they could turn violent. Monitor the media for latest information and follow the advice of local and federal authorities.

The security situation 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 and possible violent outbreaks.

While violence subsided in 2018 in the Amhara region, there was a lot of political violence in 2017.

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 only occur with a recognised tour company as they are normally supported by armed police or military escort.

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 Prophet Mohammed's birthday.

  • Avoid protests, demonstrations and large crowds as they could turn violent.
  • If you're in an area affected by demonstrations or violence, find a safe location and remain indoors until it's safe to leave
  • Follow local authorities' instructions.
  • Be alert to news of planned and possible unrest. Avoid affected areas.

Border regions

Do not travel to areas bordering Kenya. Along and near the border with Kenya, there are armed groups, and cross-border violence including kidnapping, banditry and tribal and clan disputes. 

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 violent clashes with militant insurgents. 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.

Do not travel to the Ethiopia-Eritrea border region. Despite Ethiopia's withdrawal, the situation remains extremely volatile and dangerous and the area remains heavily land-mined. Cross-border conflict or other violence could occur.

Terrorism

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, 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.

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. In 20107-18, there were serious armed clashes along the border between the Somali region and the Oromia region, including Jijiga within Ethiopia.

The Australian Government does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers.

  • 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, locations known to be possible terrorist targets, and in the lead up to and on days of national or religious significance or international meetings.
  • If you visit possible terror targets, have an exit plan.
  • Be alert to news of any new or emerging threats.
  • Follow local authorities' instructions.
  • If there's an attack, and it's safe to do so, leave the affected area immediately.
  • Do not travel to the Somali region in eastern Ethiopia.
  • If, despite our advice, you 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.

More information:

Crime

Unprovoked violent assault occurs, including in popular tourist areas in Addis Ababa.

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. Groups of young children often commit these crimes.

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.

Highway banditry and armed carjackings occur outside the main urban centres.

  • Carry only what you need.
  • Avoid carrying bags that are easy to snatch.
  • Don't tempt thieves – avoid wearing expensive watches, jewellery and cameras.
  • Pay close attention to personal possessions.
  • Keep car windows and doors closed and locked, even when moving.
  • Don’t leave valuables exposed in your car, even when moving.
  • Avoid walking at night.
  • Due to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, if you're a victim of violent crime, seek immediate medical assistance.
  • Keep an eye on local sources of information on crime.

Local travel

Landmines

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, stick to well-travelled roads. see Safety and security

Road travel

Driving in Ethiopia can be hazardous due to poor road conditions, vehicle maintenance, local driving practices and lighting. Pedestrians and livestock wander onto roads.

Drivers involved in car accidents can face severe punishments, including imprisonment and fines. If an accident occurs, it's illegal to move your vehicle before a police officer arrives. However, if you feel the situation is unsafe, leave the area immediately and report  to the nearest police station.

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.
  • Keep your car windows and doors closed and locked at all times, even when moving.
  • Avoid driving at night.
  • If rocks are thrown at your car, leave the area as quickly and safely as possible. 

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
  • carry a comprehensive medical pack
  • consider carrying a satellite phone – regular phones, including the mobile network, are unreliable.  

More information: Road travel

Driver's licences

International driver permits are not recognised in Ethiopia. You need to convert your Australian licence to a local one.

Motorcycles

Check if your travel insurance covers you when using a motorcycle, quad bike or similar vehicle. Always wear a helmet.

Taxis

Only use registered taxis and authorised limousines, preferably those arranged through your hotel. Avoid flagging down taxis in the street, and sit in the back seat rather than the front. Not all taxis are metered. Ensure the meter is used or agree the fare before you leave.

Public transport

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.

Air safety

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. The Aviation Safety Network website has information on aviation safety in Ethiopia.

More information: Air travel

Laws

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. We can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Drug laws

Penalties for drug offences are severe. They include long jail sentences and heavy fines.

More information: Drugs

Other laws

Ethiopian laws affecting family matters (including divorce, child custody and child support), business activities and other issues, can differ substantially from Australian law. Seek professional advice on your rights and responsibilities.

Ethiopia applies the death penalty for serious offences, including aggravated murder.

The following activities are illegal:

  • same-sex relationships – more information: LGBTI travellers
  • purchasing or removing Ethiopian antiquities, animal skins or other cultural artefacts, including some Ethiopian crosses, without a permit
  • exporting precious stones and minerals over prescribed limits for personal use – check limits with local authorities before you purchase
  • owning ivory
  • moving your vehicle before a police officer arrives after an accident
  • giving money to or purchasing something from a beggar or vendor in traffic
  • photography around military zones or assets, the Presidential Palace in Addis Ababa, of military personnel and where there are signs prohibiting photography.

Australian laws 

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
  • terrorism

More information:

Dual nationals

Ethiopia doesn't recognise dual nationality. This may limit our ability to provide consular assistance to arrested or detained Australian-Ethiopian dual nationals. Always travel on your Australian passport.

More information: Dual nationals

Local customs

There are conservative standards of behaviour and dress in Ethiopia. If in doubt, seek local advice.

Orthodox Christian areas use the Julian ca;emdar in the highlands, and some Ethiopians set their clocks differently to standard practice causing significant time differences. ToEthiopian Ailines and other large international airlines use standard international time, but check other bookings and appointments.

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you leave to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. Make sure your policy includes 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 won't pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and aren't covered under your policy
  • that you’re covered for the whole time you’ll be away.

More information: Travel insurance

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 leave, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up. Discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medication available over the counter or by prescription in Australia is available in other countries. Some may be illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in Ethiopoa and if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives before you travel.

Take enough legal prescription medication to last for your trip. 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.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Insect-borne diseases

Ethiopia is listed by the WHO as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a potentially fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes. It's preventable by vaccination. 

Malaria is widespread in Ethiopia, except for the capital Addis Ababa and areas above 2,000 metres. Chloroquine resistant strains are 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
  • use insect repellent and wear 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.

More information:

HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS is widespread. Take 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 outbreaks that are more serious occurring sometimes. 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.

Polio

Ethiopia is vulnerable to international spread of the wild poliovirus.

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.

Altitude sickness

The altitude in the mountainous regions can cause problems, particularly for those who suffer from lung, heart or chest problems. Altitude sickness affects healthy travellers. 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're affected by severe altitude sickness, descend as soon as possible.

More information: Altitude sickness

Medical facilities

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. Medical evacuation can be very expensive.

Natural disasters

Some areas are experiencing severe drought. Local services and the availability of water and basic food may be affected. Disease has increased.

Flooding may occur in the rainy season in March, and 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
  • monitor local media and other sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • follow authorities' advice
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare.  

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, crime and medical emergencies: 991

Otherwise, go direct to hospital or 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.

Australian Government

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
Email: adba.consular@dfat.gov.au
Website: ethiopia.embassy.gov.au

Check the 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.

Additional information

Additional resources