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Country Guides for Africa

Ethiopia

Ethiopia Unique among African countries, the ancient Ethiopian monarchy maintained its freedom from colonial rule, one exception being the Italian occupation of 1936-41. In 1974 a military junta, the Derg, deposed Emperor Haile SELASSIE (who had ruled since 1930) and established a socialist state. Torn by bloody coups, uprisings, wide-scale drought, and massive refugee problems, the regime was finally toppled by a coalition of rebel forces, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), in 1991. A constitution was adopted in 1994 and Ethiopia's first multiparty elections were held in 1995. A two and a half year border war with Eritrea ended with a peace treaty on 12 December 2000. Final demarcation of the boundary is currently on hold due to Ethiopian objections to an international commission's finding requiring it to surrender sensitive territory.

Source: CIA World Factbook

Food and waterborne diseases are the number one cause of illness in travelers. Travelers’ diarrhea can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, which are found throughout the region and can contaminate food or water. Infections may cause diarrhea and vomiting (E. coli, Salmonella, cholera, and parasites), fever (Typhoid fever and toxoplasmosis), or liver damage (hepatitis). Make sure your food and drinking water are safe.

Malaria is a serious, but preventable infection that can be fatal. Your risk of malaria may be high in these countries, including cities. Prevent this deadly disease by seeing your health care provider for a prescription antimalarial drug and by protecting yourself against mosquito bites. Most travelers to East Africa, including infants, children, and former residents of East Africa, are at risk for malaria. All travelers at risk for malaria should take one of the following drugs (listed alphabetically): atovaquone/proguanil, doxycycline, mefloquine, or primaquine (in special circumstances).

A certificate of yellow fever vaccine may be required for entry into certain of these countries. For detailed information, see Comprehensive Yellow Fever Vaccination Requirements. Also, find the nearest authorized U.S. yellow fever vaccine center.

Dengue, filariasis, leishmaniasis, onchocerciasis, trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), and Rift Valley fever are diseases carried by insects that also occur in this region. Protecting yourself against insect bites will help to prevent these diseases.

Schistosomiasis, a parasitic infection, is found in fresh water in the region, including Lake Malawi. Do not swim in fresh water (except in well-chlorinated swimming pools) in these countries.

Because motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury among travelers, walk and drive defensively. Avoid nighttime travel if possible and always use seat belts.

CDC recommends the following vaccines (as appropriate for age):

See your doctor at least 4–6 weeks before your trip to allow time for shots to take effect.

  • Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG).
  • Hepatitis B, if you might be exposed to blood (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, stay longer than 6 months, or be exposed through medical treatment.
  • Meningococcal (meningitis) vaccine, if you plan to visit the western half of Ethiopia from December through June.
  • Rabies, if you might be exposed to wild or domestic animals through your work or recreation.
  • Typhoid, particularly if you are visiting developing countries in this region.
  • Yellow fever, if you travel anywhere outside urban areas.
  • As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria, measles, and a one-time dose of polio vaccine for adults. Hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11–12 years who did not receive the series as infants.

To stay healthy, do...

  • Wash hands often with soap and water.
  • Drink only bottled or boiled water, or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles. Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes. If this is not possible, make water safer by BOTH filtering through an “absolute 1-micron or less” filter AND adding iodine tablets to the filtered water. “Absolute 1-micron filter” are found in camping/outdoor supply stores.
  • Eat only thoroughly cooked food or fruits and vegetables you have peeled yourself. Remember: boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it.
  • If you travel to an area where there is risk for malaria, take your malaria prevention medication before, during, and after travel, as directed. (See your doctor for a prescription.)
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites:
    • Pay special attention to mosquito protection between dusk and dawn. This is when the type of mosquito whose bite transmits malaria is active.
    • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats.
    • Use insect repellents that contain DEET (diethylmethyltoluamide).
    • Read and follow the directions and precautions on the product label.
    • Apply insect repellent to exposed skin.
    • Do not put repellent on wounds or broken skin.
    • Do not breathe in, swallow, or get into the eyes (DEET is toxic if swallowed). If using a spray product, apply DEET to your face by spraying your hands and rubbing the product carefully over the face, avoiding eyes and mouth.
    • Unless you are staying in air-conditioned or well-screened housing, purchase a bed net impregnated with the insecticide permethrin or deltamethrin. Or, spray the bed net with one of these insecticides if you are unable to find a pretreated bed net.
    • DEET may be used on adults, children, and infants older than 2 months of age. Protect infants by using a carrier draped with mosquito netting with an elastic edge for a tight fit.
    • Children under 10 years old should not apply insect repellent themselves. Do not apply to young children’s hands or around eyes and mouth.
  • To prevent fungal and parasitic infections, keep feet clean and dry, and do not go barefoot.
  • Always use latex condoms to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.


  • Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    Download Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by CountryDownload Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by Country

SAFETY AND SECURITY: Although Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a peace agreement in December 2000, American citizens should exercise caution if traveling to the northern Tigray and Afar regions (within 50km/30 miles of the Ethiopian/Eritrean border) because of land mines and unsettled conditions in the border area. There is a peacekeeping mission in the border area, but the border with Eritrea has not yet been finalized. U.S. citizens should stay clear of security operations and should not try to intercede with police on behalf of Eritreans or anyone else.

Since the mid-1990's, various opposition elements and government forces have clashed around Harar and in the Somali regional state, particularly near the border with Somalia. Cross-border travel by road from Ethiopia into Somalia is not advised. Somali groups affiliated with terrorist organizations may occasionally operate within the Somali, Oromiya, Ogaden, and Afar regions.

Interethnic clashes are prevalent in the western-most tip of the Gambella Region in west Ethiopia. A flare-up of interethnic conflict from December 13-17, 2003 has claimed many lives. Travel to this region is not recommended.

Travel in Ethiopia via rail is strongly discouraged due to episodes of derailment, sabotage, and bombings as recently as February 2003.

In southern Ethiopia along the Kenyan border, banditry and incidents involving ethnic conflicts are also common. Travelers should exercise caution when traveling to any remote area of the country, including the borders with Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya and Sudan. Ethiopian security forces do not have a widespread presence in those regions.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet website at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, the East Africa Public Announcement, as well as consular information for other countries, such as Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.

CRIME INFORMATION:Crime is a growing problem in Addis Ababa. Pick pocketing, "snatch and run," and other petty crimes are common. Travelers should exercise caution in crowded areas such as the Mercato in Addis Ababa, Africa's largest open-air market. Visitors should limit the amount of cash they carry and leave valuables, such as passports, jewelry, and airline tickets in a hotel safe or other secure place. Keep wallets and other valuables where they will be less susceptible to pick pockets.

Travelers should be cautious at all times when traveling on roads in Ethiopia. There are reports of highway robberies, including carjackings, by armed bandits throughout the country. Some incidents have been accompanied by violence. Travelers are cautioned to limit road travel outside major towns or cities to daylight hours and travel in convoys, if possible.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

The pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad provides useful information on personal security while traveling abroad and on travel in the region. Pamphlets are available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov or from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, or via the internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov.



Source: U.S. Department of State

tropical monsoon with wide topographic-induced variation

Source: CIA World Factbook

Ethiopia's electrical current is 220/50 (volts/hz) and uses the plug adaptors listed to the right under Related Items. Many North American appliances are designed to operate only within the 100-125 volt range. These appliances will suffer damage if plugged into 220-250 volts without the proper transformer or converter.

To determine which plug adaptors you'll need and if you'll require a transformer or converter, use our Electrical Connection Wizard.

For a detailed discussion of international electrical standards, see our related article on Electrical and Phone Adaptation.

Download Magellan's Guide to World Electrical ConnectionsDownload Magellan's Guide to World Electrical Connections

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: Due to animosity stemming from the ongoing border dispute with Eritrea, U.S. citizens of Eritrean origin who seek to travel to Ethiopia may experience delays in processing of their visa applications because all such applications must be cleared through the main Ethiopian immigration office in Addis Ababa.

Laptop computers must be declared upon arrival and departure. Tape recorders require special customs permits. Prior to travel, individuals intending prolonged stays should direct their questions to the Ethiopian Embassy, 3506 International Dr., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008; telephone (202) 364-1200; fax (202) 686-9857; website www.ethiopian.embassy.org . Inquiries overseas may be made at the nearest Ethiopian embassy or consulate.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry and departure.



Source: U.S. Department of State

The time zone for Ethiopia is 3 hours offset from GMT, which means that if it is 12:00 noon in New York, the time in Ethiopia would be 8:00 pm

The unit of currency in Ethiopia is the birr (ETB).

Look up the current exchange rate using XE.com's Universal Currency Converter

Traveled to Ethiopia?

If you have visited this country recently and have ideas, thoughts, or suggestions to share with other travelers, we'd love to hear from you! Share your travel experiences and we'll post them on our website.

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Other Travelers' Experiences in Ethiopia

"I just spent 15 days in Ethiopia, and loved it. But, neither of the grounding adapter plugs were found anywhere. What you need is the two-prong, rounded adapter plug. Be sure to take that. And, if you are using a 3-prong appliance, you'll then need another plug that converts the three prongs into the two-prongs."
- Kathy Moroney, Sacramento, CA,