Ethiopia FAQs

Is Ethiopia safe for travel?

Ethiopia is, in general, a very safe country for travelers, the only exceptions being some border regions.  We always keep up to date with safety and security issues in country and advise that you also check the latest Foreign Office travel advice or equivalent service from your home country, before departure.

When is the best time to visit Ethiopia?

You can visit Ethiopia at any time of the year, although most visitors come between October and March, when the climate is generally dry and warm.  There are wide variations in temperature, rainfall and seasons across the country though.  Road improvements mean the rainy seasons now have little impact on travel in the north of the country, and if you're not adverse to a bit of rain (generally in the afternoon) you will be rewarded with lush green landscapes and less busy attractions.  However, the rainy seasons can make trekking difficult in the Simien mountains between May and September, and in the Bale mountains between August and October.  Rain can also make some roads in the Lower Omo Valley impassable during April, May and October.  At the other extreme, the Danakil Depression is best avoided from May to September, when temperatures can reach a searing 45°C or higher.

Do I need a visa to travel to Ethiopia?

All visitors to Ethiopia (except Kenyan or Djiboutian nationals) require a visa. Citizens of many countries can now apply for an e-visa online, which is the quickest and easiest method.  Citizens of the same countries can also obtain a visa on arrival at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa (but be prepared to queue).  A 30 day tourist visa costs US$50, or a 90 day one costs US$70.  You will also need a valid passport with at least 6 months remaining validity.  Please note that visa on arrival is not available to visitors entering by land borders.  For more details, see the Ethiopian Embassy website.  

Do I need any special vaccinations to visit Ethiopia?

In general, we recommend that you have up-to-date vaccinations against Polio, Tetanus, Typhoid & Hepatitis A. Malaria prophylaxis may also be required if you intend to travel to lowland areas. Check for up-to-date information on the NHS travel website.

What is the currency in Ethiopia?

The unit of currency in Ethiopia is the birr.  This is generally not available outside Ethiopia, but cash can be exchanged in Addis Ababa and other cities.  It is advisable to bring US dollars, as the easiest currency to exchange, although Euros and Pounds Sterling are also widely accepted at banks and forex bureaux.  Alternatively, if you have an International Visa or Mastercard, you can withdraw local currency from cash machines, but be aware that these are rare outside of major towns.  Check up-to-date exchange rates.

What languages are spoken in Ethiopia?

There are thought to be between 70 and 90 languages spoken across Ethiopia, but the official language of Ethiopia is Amharic.  Amharic belongs to the Semitic family of languages, which includes Arabic and Hebrew, but is very different to either of these.  It is written in a script of its own which is only used in Ethiopia.  A lot of people in the cities speak some English, especially those working in shops and restaurants. In the countryside though, you're unlikely to find people who speak much English. We recommend that you take a pocket phrase book and learn some basics such as common greetings.

What is Ethiopia like for gay and lesbian travellers?

Unfortunately, homosexual acts are still considered criminal in Ethiopia and same-sex relationships are completely taboo from both a cultural and religious perspective.  Hotels are unlikely to permit same-sex couples to share a double room.  However, most travellers do not encounter any problems, provided they are discrete.  This is especially the case for female travellers.