"Every hundred feet the world changes."
- Roberto Bolaño, 2666

Travel information about Ethiopia

Ethiopia is situated just north of the equator, and most of the country is covered by the Ethiopian Highlands with varying heights between 1500 and 3000 meters above sea level. Several mountain peaks rise above 4000 meters, the highest being Ras Dashen, africa's 4th highest mountain (4550 meters). The Ethiopian Highlands is often called the Roof Of Africa due to its height and grand size. Because of this, Ethiopia experiences an all year moderate temperate, even chilly at night, climate.

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.

Vaccinations, health and safety

The following advice must be viewed as a guide only, it is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, nor should it be treated as one. Also, please keep in mind that targeted health and vaccination advice should include factors such as; Past medical history, activities, lenght of stay, type of travel and accomodation, altitude and time of year.

Bega Tour Operation recommend you to see a doctor with travel health experience at least six to eight weeks before traveling, this you will usually find at your local vaccination center. The following vaccinations are typically taken or reboosted before travelling to Ethiopia; Diphtheria, hepatitis A and B, tetanus, polio, pertursis, malaria, typhoid, yellow fever and cholera. Mind that malaria do not exist in the highlands above 1500 meters, including Addis Ababa.

"It is safe, and you can't get safer than safe."
- Jonas Salk, asked about safety of polio vaccine he created

There are many ways to minimize the chances of getting ill, including; Bottled water only (this also includes icecubes in drinks), avoid swimming in lakes and rivers, and minimizing contact with insects. Bega Tour Operation emphasize that vaccinations are not mandatory for getting tourist visa, but your vaccination card being up to date will make sure you do not spend time worrying, and rather enjoy your holiday as planned.

The ethiopian highlands, including Addis Ababa, are at high elevations. Altitude sickness may effect healthy individuals in a number of ways, including; dizziness, nausea, fatigue, shortness of breath and headache.

Ethiopia is a friendly and safe country, known for low crime rates and smiling faces, although it is wise to take same precautions as in other third world countries. These include; watch out for pickpockets at markets in major cities, and don't flash expensive cameras or smartphones while walking alone at night.

Tourist Visa

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.

Bega Tour Operation recommends using the ATM machine located next to the immigration office (where you apply for tourist visa) at Bole International Airport for some fast and easy first-day cash. ATM machines are easy to find in the bigger cities, but do not expect to find one in rural areas. Bega Tour Operation has a Visa and Mastercard terminal at the office 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.

"So, how is the Ethiopian cuisine?"

The ethiopian traditional cuisine differs from international cuisine quite a lot. Both in terms of ingredients and spices, but also how it's eaten; Ethiopians eat with their right hand, and most dishes are served on top of injera, a flat sourdough flatbread used to pick up the food. Because of long traditions of fasting, there are a great variety of vegan dishes to choose from, especially on fasting days.

Even though Ethiopia is landlocked, it is easy to find a good meal with one of the 175 species of freshwater fish. Fish dishes in Ethiopia are for most part served with rice and vegetables, unless you visit a restaurant specializing in fish.

"Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what's for lunch."
- Orson Welles

Ethiopia, and Addis Ababa in particular, is embracing international cuisine surprisingly fast, and a wide array of restaurants are popping up every day. We can confidently say that you will be able to order your favourite dish also here, and that you yourself can decide what level of curiosity you want on a meal to meal basis.

Beverages containing alcohol are served everywhere, and Ethiopia has a great variety of locally-produced high-quality beer. One of the local speciality however, is tej, an indigo-colored wine made from honey, regarded as the royal beverage and a favourite amongst tourists.

Most international beverages have factories in Ethiopia, such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Heineken to name a few.

Mobile and Internet

Turn on your telephone upon landing at Bole Airport, and you are good to go! (most telecom service providers are supported, check here for a comprehensive list). For internet on your smartphone, the access-point is 'etc.com' (no username or password) and turn on roaming in your cellular settings. 3G network is available in bigger cities.

Use of data-roaming can be expensive in Ethiopia. If you are planning extensive use of the internet, Bega Tour Operation can arrange for you an ethiopian 3G sim-card for 30 USD/EUR, of which half (15 USD/EUR) will be given back in return for the sim-card. Please let us know in advance if you want us to arrange a card for you.

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."
- Mark Twain