Travel Tips & Facts

Brief & General Information about Ethiopia: Ethiopia (formerly known as Abyssinia) is located in the east of Africa, commonly known as the Horn of Africa. It covers an area of 1, 1 12,000kmq, twice the area of France, and according to the recent census has an estimated population more than 95 million inhabitants with 80 ethnic groups. Ethiopia has a very strong cultural identity, which has been preserved thanks to a long period of independence, lasting practically until present times. Ethiopia is truly a land of contrasts and extremes; a land of remote and wild places. Some of the highest and most stunning places on the African continent are found here, such as the jaggedly carved Simien Mountains, one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites – and one of the lowest place on earth the hot but fascinating Danakil Depression, with its sulphur fumaroles and lunar-like landscape. Ethiopia is old; old beyond all imaginations Ethiopia known as cradle of human kind, it is almost certain that human beings and their hominid ancestors evolved in the eastern zone of the Rift Valley: Lucy, our most distant ancestor, who lived 3.2 million years ago, was found in the rift Valley region a place called Hadar. As Abyssinia, its culture and traditions date back over 3,000 years. The oldest independent nation in Africa has a heritage dating back to first century AD. Traders from Greece, Rome, Persia and Egypt knew of the riches of what is now Ethiopia, and by the first century AD, Axum was the capital of a great Empire. This realm became one of the first Christian lands of Africa. Late in the 10th Century, Axum declined and a new Zagwe dynasty, centered what is now Lalibela, ruled the land. Axum, Lalibela and Gonder now provide our greatest historical legacy and the cultural attraction is truly astonishing, the lower valley of the Omo unlike any other place on Earth has the largest diversity of ethnically different groups in the whole of Ethiopia and possibly in Africa. A voyage to the Omo Valley is a true expedition to encounter some of the most remarkable tribal peoples with their vibrant local market and there are a number of festivals and cultural ceremony conduct throughout the country in different seasons, in general Ethiopia is truly a land of discovery, brilliant and beautiful, secretive, mysterious and extraordinary.

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Location, Size & Geography

Ethiopia is situated in the Northern east of Africa customary known as the horn of Africa because of the horn, shaped tip of the continent has a total area 1,104,300 km2 (426,400 sq mile) that making it 10th in Africa & 27th largest country in the world of it 0.7 % is water). For the sake of comparison, Ethiopia covers approximately twice the area of Kenya or the state of Texas and five times the area of the United Kingdom or; it is closest in size to South Africa and or covers an area as large as France and Spain combined, is situated in north – eastern Horn of Africa with a neighboring countries: in the east shares boarders with Somalia (1,600 km), in the north with Eritrea (910 kms), in the north east with Djibouti (340 kms), in the south Kenya (830 kms) and in the west with Sudan (1,600kms.) It is a country of immense geographical contrasts with a high mountain up to 4,620m peak with the Great Rift Valley which begins at Jordan, Red Sea and traverses long distance all the way the Danakil depression (which contains the lowest point on the earth 120 meter below sea levels) continuing towards the south of Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and finally Mozambique.

Name & Government structure: Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is an independent republic operating under the structure as the president is the head of state the prime minister is the head of government.

Addis Ababa the Capital: The capital of Ethiopia which mean (NEW FLOWE), founded in 1886 by Empress Taytu at the top of Mount ‘Entoto’ (3000m) and expanded at the bottom of the mountain, currently have an estimated to be 6(six) millions inhabitants with astonishing growth speed is also known as the capital of Africa by hosting many international organization headquarters, including the UN for Africa (ECA), the AU (African union) and other Diplomatic mission for Africa.

Climate: Despite its proximity to the Equator, Ethiopia’s high altitude ensures a temperate, moderate, even chilly climate, certainly not tropical. There are two seasons: the dry season, which prevails from October through May, and the wet season, which runs from June to September.

Population & People: Ethiopia’s population is estimated around 95 million according to the recent census, that makes second highest population in the continent next to Nigeria. Ethiopia is composed of about 80 ethnic groups. Based on the linguistic they speak, they can be divided into Semitic, Cushitic, Omotic and Nilotic Saharan.

Major Ethnic groups: Oromo 40%, Amhara 25%, Tigre 7%, Somali 6%, Sidama 9%, Gurage 2%, Wolaita 4%, Afar 4%, other nationalities 3%.

Language: Ethiopia is a multi ethnic state with a great variety of languages spoken, of which there are over 80 with 200 dialects. The dominant languages are Amharic (official language of the federal offices), Afan Oromo and Tigrigna. English and Arabic are wildly used, Italian and French is also spoken

Economy: About 80% of the country GDP is earn their living from the land, mainly as subsistence agriculture, Agriculture is the backbone of the national economy and the principal exports from this sector are coffee, oil seeds, flowers, vegetables, sugar and foodstuffs for animals. There is also a thriving livestock sector, recent flourishing small & medium scale industry help the country’s GDP significantly, according to the IMF and other international monetary organization reports the country has been registered an Annual growth rate of more than 10% for the last decade.

Religion: Ethiopian Orthodox churches, are deeply rooted mainly in the northern part of the Country which will cover almost 50 %, Islam will cover 35% mainly in the east and south. There are other religion Evangelical, Protestant, Roman Catholic and animism also practice in a very few remote areas which will cover the rest 15% of the population.

Currency: The local currency is the Ethiopian Birr (ETB), made up of 100 cents. Birr notes are available in dominations of 5, 10, 50 and 100. Visitors may import an unlimited amount of foreign currency but this must be declared on arrival to the customs with an Authorities blue-colored form. Foreign currency may only be exchanged at authorized banks & hotels, and a receipt must be obtained. The currency declaration form must be obtained at this will be required by customs on departure. Visitors may change back any surplus Ethiopian Birr to cash at the airport before departure. In addition to any Ethiopian Birr, along with the currency exchange form you must bring with you all receipts for exchange transactions.

Time and calendar: Ethiopia is in GMT +3 hours’ time Zone, and follows the unique calendar called Julian calendar which is seven years and eight months behind the Gorgonian calendar, consists of thirteen month, the twelve months consists of 30 days each and the last (13th Month) will have 5 or 6 days during leap year, The New Year fall on the 11th of September.

Accommodation: Addis Ababa has many 5 star hotels- including Sheraton (Luxury collection) and a growing number of tourist standard up market, midrange and budget hotels. Standards vary outside the capital, but apart from some remote areas where camping is unavoidable like in the Danakil Depression and trekking routes it’s generally possible to get various level/ standard hotels with clean rooms with en suite toilet and shower.

Customs: Duty free imports are permitted for up to:

  • 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, or ½ Ib of tobacco
  • 2 liters of alcoholic beverages
  • Half- liter or two bottle of perfume

Visitors may export souvenirs, although some articles (such as animal’s skin & antiques) require an export permit.

Communication: Telephone, Tele fax, Internet, e-mail and postal facilities are available in the country. Internet services are available in major cities and towns. The international dialing code for Ethiopia is +251.

Courier and Money Transfer Services: Money transfers can be made through Western Union and Money Gram. Both have representative branches in Addis Ababa and make their services available from private and national banks. For courier services, DHL, FedEx, UPS, TNT, and EMS have offices in Addis Ababa.

VISA: visa is required for all visitors to Ethiopia and they can get from Ethiopian Diplomatic Mission abroad ,Visitors from the countries listed below can obtain visa on arrival at Bole International Airport immigration office upon arrival with a regular fee of $50 : Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea Republic, Kuwait, Luxemburg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, UK, and US. Remark- China including passports issued in Hong Kong (SAR China) and MACAO (SAR China), visa is available on arrival.

Transportation: Surface Transpiration: There is asphalt road which connect the whole tourist destination except parts of the southern Omo Valley and Danakil Depression, for this route you need to have (4x4-SUV Jeep); the road is a gravel and dry weather road. Air Transportation: The National carrier is Ethiopian Airlines which has extensive domestic flight network flying to several destinations including the popular tourist destination including Axum, Lalibela, Gonder, Bahirdar, Mekelle, Dere Dawa, Arbaminch, Jimma.

Banking Hours: Banking hours is from 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM from Monday to Saturday, closing hours may be an hour longer in private banks. Most banks work through lunch time including foreign exchanges services.

Energy & power supply: Ethiopia uses 220 volts and 50HZ, Power cuts are frequent although the largest hotels and restaurants serving international visitors usually have generators. In any case it is a good idea to bring a torch as some streets in Addis can be dark at night. A torch will also be useful if you are planning to visit remote locations. Plug standards vary but the Type C (European two-pin) and Type L (Italian three-pin) sockets are most common, however it is best to bring your own round, two-prong adapter and transfer if necessary.

Clothing: Visitors should take light, summer clothes for the day time and something warm for the evenings, like a sweater or jacket. The temperature drops quite rapidly towards sunset. Simian or bale Mountains trekkers should bring warm clothes and water proofs for unexpected seasonal rains. Shoes must always be removed before entering churches and mosques, foe more information in clothing please contact us

Safety: Ethiopia is generally a safe country, and Addis Ababa a safe capital city, but one should still take the normal precautions, avoiding unfamiliar areas at night and not carrying large sums of money in accessible pockets. It is advisable to beware of pickpockets operating in certain areas, skilled at identifying new arrivals, other than that violent robbery and muggings are rare and generally visitors can tour the city day and night in safety. Safety is one of the main factors that are considered while Stunning Ethiopia Tours PLC organizes its trips.

Health: Ensure your inoculations for typhoid, tetanus, polio and hepatitis A are up to date, mainly if you are traveling out of the capital or you will stay away from the largest hotels. Anti-malarial prophylactics should be taken if you’ll be visiting low-lying moist regions such as the southern Rift Valley and South Omo. There is also a small risk of malaria, especially during the rainy season, at mid-altitude sites such as Bahir Dar and Harar. Malaria is all but absent above 2000m, for instance in Addis Ababa, Gondar, Lalibela and the Bale and Simien mountains.

Avoid drinking or brushing your teeth with tap water. Bottled water is safe and widely available. It’s a good idea to carry a few packs of antiseptic wet wipes to wash your hands after toilet stops or before meals in more remote areas where running water may not be available. Vaccination against Cholera is also required for any person who has visited or transited a cholera-infected area with six days prior to arrival in Ethiopia. Please advise your doctor before your trip.

Food & Drink: The Ethiopian national dish consists of Enjera, a flat, circular pancake of fermented made from an endemic grain seed called teff, served with different kinds of cooked meats, vegetables and different sauce, The sauces are generally spiced with berbere, a blend of herbs and spices (including hot peppers) that gives Ethiopian food its characteristic taste. Vegetarians should try "fasting food" (for devout Ethiopian Orthodox Christians fast days make up more than half the year), a colorful spread of salads and vegetables devoid of all meat and animal products. After or before the meal gassy or mineral water is common. Along with soft drinks, locally produced beer and alcoholic drinks are available based on your preferences. Usually one eats national dishes with the right hand (water for washing is usually brought to the table before the food is served).

Addis Ababa now boasts of a wide variety of traditional, Italian, Far East and western restaurants and at hotels in tourist sites European style foods are always available. If you are travelling to remote areas and camping, such as the Danakil Depression & south west Omo Valley parts of Ethiopia, our company provide professional cook with first class cooking materials. It’s also advisable to inform if you have any special dietary preference during booking.

Tipping: In most hotels and restaurants, a 10% service charge is added to the bill. Tipping is a fairly frequent custom, but amounts are depending on the service quality differ.

Ethiopian Holidays/ festivals

  • Enkutatash (Ethiopian New Year) 11 September
  • Meskel (The find of the true cross) 27 September
  • Genna (Ethiopian Christmas: birth of Christ) 7 January
  • Timkat Ethiopian Epiphany: baptism of Christ) 19 January
  • Adwa Day (commemorates the victory by Menelik II over Italy in 1896) 2 March
  • Patriots' Day (celebrates end of Italian occupation in 1941) 6 April
  • International Labour Day 1 May
  • Ethiopian Good Friday May (variable)
  • Fasika (Ethiopian Easter Sunday) May or April (variable)
  • Idd al Fitr (end of month of fasting for Ramadan) May (variable)
  • Idd al Adha August (variable)

Entry points: Travelers using rail ways on the Djibouti border is the only point of entry to Ethiopia and those driving to Ethiopia via surface, Moyale (in Kenya), Humera and Metema (in Sudan), and again Galafi in Djibouti are the available means of entries. All arrivals undergo full customs and immigration checks. For the major part of travelers accessing via flight, the Bole International Airport is the only terminal available in the Capital Addis Ababa though there are other domestic airports and airstrips serving domestic needs.

Driving: Drivers require a valid International Driving License, which can be obtained by exchanging their local license at the Transport and Road Authority office in Addis Ababa. Visitors can recover their original license a day or so prior to departure. Those with their own Vehicle will require a permit from the ministry of Transport and communication. Driving is on the right side.

When to travel: Ethiopia can be visited at any time of year, but different seasons have different advantages. Conventional wisdom is that visitors should avoid the rainy season, which usually starts in June, but peaks over July and August in the central and northern highlands. Certainly, highland towns such as Gondar, Lalibela and Addis Ababa can be very damp and cool during the rains that aside, however recent improvements in the northern circuit’s road network makes the rains far less of an obstacle to travel than would have been the case few years ago. The countryside is also very green and scenic during the rains, and you’ll encounter fewer tourists at popular sites such as Lalibela.

The late rainy season, from September through to early October, is a lovely time of year. There’s a significant drop in precipitation over this period, but the countryside is very green, and punctuated by yellow Meskel wild flowers. On 27 September (a day later in leap years), Ethiopia erupts into festival mode to celebrate Meskel, which commemorates the finding of the True Cross more than 1600 years ago.

Arguably the optimum time to visit Ethiopia is from mid October to January, when the rains are over but the countryside is still quite green. This is also the peak tourist season, so facilities and sites of interest tend to be busier than at other times. It is well worth aiming to be in Lalibela or Gondar for Timkat (Ethiopian Epiphany), another wonderfully colorful celebration held on 18th & 19th January (except on leap years).

The late dry season, from February to May, is also a good time to visit, though the scenery tends to become dryer and browner towards the end of this period, except in the far south where the first rains often fall as early as April.

Wildlife can be observed throughout the year, but the European winter - November to March - is particularly rewarding for birders, as resident species are supplemented by large numbers of Pala arctic migrants.

Remark- for some special route like the south west cultural & Danakil (Dallol) Depression routes please contacts us to know the details recommended traveling season.