Ethiopia is like nowhere else on the planet, a beautiful country blessed with a peerless history, fabulous wildlife and some of Africa's most soulful peoples.
Ethiopia is one of Africa's most beautiful countries and its landscapes are epic in both scale and beauty. Here is a place where you can trek more than 3000m above sea level (the Simien and Bale mountains) or visit the lowest place on the African continent, the Danakil Depression. In between, there are lush highlands and stirring deserts, vertiginous canyons and sweeping savannah, vast lakes and high plateaus. If you look hard enough, you'll also find landmarks of great significance, from the source of the Blue Nile to, again, the mesmerisingly desolate Danakil Depression, peppered with an astonishing 25% of Africa’s active volcanoes.
Ethiopia, the only African country to have escaped European colonialism, has retained much of its cultural identity and its story is one of Africa's most fascinating. It all begins with Lucy, one of our most celebrated ancient ancestors, moves effortlessly into the realm of ancient Aksum with its oblelisks and echoes of the Queen of Sheba, and then takes on power and passion as Christianity, with mysterious echoes of Ancient Israel, takes centre stage. And unlike so many other places in Africa, the ancients here left behind some extraordinary monuments to faith and power which serve as focal points for so many wonderful journeys.
Welcome to Africa's most underrated wildlife destination. The Ethiopian wolf, that charismatic canid from the high country around the Simein Mountains, Menz-Guassa and Bale Mountains, is the ultimate prize, the sighting of a lifetime. There are gelada monkeys across the high northern plateau as well as other primates, while watching the extravagantly horned and sure-footed walia ibex cling to a rocky precipice is one of the great sights in nature. The birdwatching, too, ranks among the best in Africa. And there are elephants at Babille, crocodiles in Nechisar and the hyenas of Harar. It's quite a line-up, one that could add a whole new dimension to your trip.
Peoples with Proud Traditions
When it comes to human cultures, Ethiopia has an embarrassment of riches. There are the Surmi, Afar, Mursi, Karo, Hamer, Nuer and Anuak, whose ancient customs and traditions have remained almost entirely intact. Venturing into these communities and staying among them is akin to receiving a privileged initiation into a forgotten world. A highlight of any trip here is witnessing one of the many festivals that are an integral part of the traditional culture, from age-old ceremonies marking rites of passage to Christian celebrations of singular passion, the impact upon those who witness such events can provide travel memories to last a lifetime.
When to travel and what to bring
The main tourist season starts in late September all through January since the weather at this time of the year is at its most pleasant, the landscape is greener, and it is the harvest season for agricultural products like coffee and many fruits. Besides, ethiopian celebrations also lie in this season. The rainy season is from June till beginning of September. During these months things are more quiet, and hotels tend to have more rooms available, though the rain does not affect travelers to get around except while trekking. In fact, some prefer the rainy summer season, due to the frequent evening rain that clears the air and guarantees a green landscape while travelling.
- Light clothes for lowlands and daytime highlands.
- Light jacket and pants for evenings in the highlands (including Addis Ababa)
- Warm jacket for evenings above 3000 meters.
- Trekking shoes for most days except city tours.
Tourist visa are issued at Bole International airport upon arrival for the listed countries below, remember 20 US dollars in cash as payment per visa; where as for those which can not obtain visa up on arrival, Bega Tour Operation can handle the process in advance for you from Addis Ababa. Tourist visas are valid for three months. Kenyan and Djibouti nationals do not need travel visa to Ethiopia.
Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, North korea, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russian federation, Slovakia, South africa, South korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United kingdom and United states of america.
Currency, ATM and Credit card
The local currency is Ethiopian birr, and is made up of 100 cents. Visitors may import an unlimited amount of foreign currency. Credit cards work in most hotels, banks and in the Ethiopian Airlines offices. All ATM machines of Dashen Bank, Wegagen Bank, Commercial Bank of Ethiopia and Zemen Bank can be used with international Visa, Visa Electron and Mastercard. Diners Card can be used at the Sheraton Hotel in Addis Ababa.
Time, Calendar and Language
Ethiopia is three hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT +3), and remain constant so throughout the year. The Ethiopian Calendar, which originates from the Julian Calendar, has twelve months with exactly thirty days, plus five or six days (leap year) comprising the thirteenth month. In the Ethiopian Calendar, the new year starts the 11th of September according to the Gregorian Calendar.
Ethiopia is a multi-ethnic state with more than eighty languages and more than 200 dialects, the main languages are amharic, tigrinya and oromo/oromiffa. English is the most spoken foreign language and means of instruction on secondary school level.
Health and Immunizations
A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is no longer mandatory in order to enter Ethiopia, but if you've recently traveled to a country where it is present you will need proof of immunization. For US yellow fever vaccination clinics.
Several vaccinations are highly recommended when traveling to Ethiopia, they include:
- Yellow Fever
- Hepatitis A
It is also recommended that you are up to date with your polio and tetanus vaccinations.
Make sure you start getting your vaccinations at least 8 weeks before you travel.
There's a risk of catching malaria in many parts of Ethiopia especially in areas that lie below 2000 meters (6500 feet).
So while the Highlands and Addis Ababa are considered low-risk areas for malaria, you still have to be careful and take precautions. Ethiopia is home to the chloroquine-resistant strain of malaria as well as the dangerous falciparum strain. Make sure your doctor or travel clinic knows you are traveling to Ethiopia (don't just say Africa) so s/he can prescribe the right anti-malarial medication.
For the most part, traveling in Ethiopia is safe, but you should take the same precautions as you would traveling in any poor country (see below). It is also wise to avoid all border areas (with Somalia, Eritrea, Kenya, and Sudan) since there's still pockets of political unrest, and kidnapping of tourists in these areas have occurred in the past.
Basic safety rules for travelers to Ethiopia
- Make a copy of your passport and keep it in your luggage.
- Don't walk on your own at night in Addis Ababa and other major tourist towns.
- Watch out for pickpockets at the Mercato in Addis Ababa
- Don't wear jewelry.
- Don't carry too much cash with you.
- Wear a money belt that fits under your clothes.
- Don't carry a lot of camera equipment especially in the major cities.
- Avoid travel at night because roads are perilously filled with potholes, livestock, and broken down vehicles.