- Visa to Ethiopia
- Visa on Arrival
- Links to Ethiopia’s Embassies
- Ethiopian Money and Foreign Exchange
- Tipping for Photographs
- Health and Safety
- Ethiopian Food
- Mealtime Etiquette
Visa to Ethiopia
Nearly all visitors to Ethiopia will arrive at Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport: Prior to reaching immigration, you will see a small office where you may receive your visa (remember to have $50 with you.) The office is near the bottom of the escalator. If you do not already have a visa, you must stop here before getting in line to have your passport stamped.
In July, 2018 a new “eVisa” system was created. Eligible visitors may now apply for and receive their visas online. To see a list of eligible countries and other requirements, visit the eVisa website.
Visa on Arrival
To receive your visa upon arrival at Bole International Airport, you will need to pay a fee of either $50 in cash for each person in your group. Your passport should be valid for at least six months after your date of entry. You will need to provide the name and phone number of either your tour operator or the hotel where you will spend your first night. Passport photos or other documents are not required. If your country is not on the list to the right, you can receive your visa at the nearest Ethiopian embassy or consulate. If this is not practical, please contact Scenic Ethiopian Tours for more information.
Links to Ethiopia’s Visa on Arrival
Korea, Republic of
United States of America
Ethiopian Money and Foreign Exchange
Ethiopian currency is the “birr” and comes in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 birr notes. You can easily change your foreign currency for birr at any of Ethiopia’s banks. However, if you plan to change Ethiopian birr back to a foreign currency at the end of your tour, you should keep the receipt of your foreign currency exchange. The banks want to make sure you actually brought foreign currency into Ethiopia and will want to see the receipt as proof. For this reason, we suggest you only change funds that you are confident you will spend during your tour. If you later need more birr, banks are in all towns and cities.
ATM machines are also widely available in Addis Ababa and are increasingly found in the larger towns. Before leaving home, you should inquire at your bank about any transaction fees for using a foreign ATM. At most banks, the total amount that can be withdrawn by any one ATM card is 3,000 – 4,000 birr in one way in a day it gives 4 times.
Credit cards are generally only accepted by Ethiopian Airlines, some travel agents, and at foreign hotels such as the Sheraton, Hilton, or Radisson Blu. You should not expect to use your credit cards at local restaurants or gift shops.
Tipping for Photographs
If you see someone you would like to photograph, always ask before taking their photo. Many Ethiopians will be curious as to why you are taking their photo. A proud and resilient people, many Ethiopians are justifiably sensitive about being portrayed in a negative light. When practical, explain why you want to take their picture – they are especially photogenic; you like their traditional clothing; they are doing a task you find interesting; etc. – and offer one or two birr. Always feel free to negotiate, especially if you want to take numerous photographs. However, if you are taking pictures of a group of people – dancers, football players, etc. – tipping is not necessary. If you are not sure, ask your guide when a small tip for photography is appropriate.
Health and Safety
Ethiopia is one of the safest countries in Africa for foreigners, and violent crime against foreigners is almost unknown. However, all visitors should take extra precautions to secure their valuables. A money belt or other means to hide cash and documents is strongly recommended. Scenic Ethiopian Tours recommends that all tour participants consult their physicians 30 days prior to tour departure. All tour members are encouraged to purchase traveler’s health insurance that covers emergency repatriation. Many carriers offer reasonably priced short term policies. Visitors coming from certain destinations are required to have a Yellow Fever immunization card. Certain areas of Ethiopia have malaria mosquitos and all visitors should confer with their physicians to determine which prophylactics, if any, are necessary.
The Following Tips are from the USA’s Center for Disease Control Traveler’s Health:
- Get vaccines and medicines to prevent travel-related diseases as recommended by your healthcare provider.
- Wash your hands often.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Use insect repellent.
- Use sunsreen of at least SPF 15.
- Avoid touching animals.
- Drink beverages that have been bottled and sealed.
- Follow local laws and customs.
- Carry a copy of your passport.
- Do not put ice in drinks.
- Eat foods that are fully cooked.
Home to the African Union, various United Nations offices, and countless foreign NGOs, Addis Ababa is very much an international city and visitors can enjoy all types of cuisine. Outside of the capital, your food options are more limited. The major tourist destinations usually have good – some very good – western fare, but in the more remote areas, injera with various meat, vegetables, and “wot” will be your primary option. Various pasta dishes are also widely available.
Bottled mineral water, sparkling and still, is available throughout the country. In most towns an assortment of fresh-squeezed juices or smoothies are available. Home to a surprising number of breweries, Ethiopia boasts some very good beers. Ethiopian wine is sweet for many foreigners’ taste, but if you enjoy a drink now and then, you should definitely try “tej,” a, home-made honey wine found throughout the country.
Most traditional Ethiopian food is eaten with the hands; this is done by tearing off a piece of injera, using it to grab some food, and putting it directly in your mouth.
Traditional meals are eaten from a communal plate, but you should not reach all the way across to the other side to grab food; eat what is close to you.
It is polite to eat with your right hand – the left is considered unclean and therefore you should avoid using it if you can.
There will always be a way to wash your hands before and after the meal. Sometimes a waiter will bring a basin and pitcher to the table.
When greeting others at a restaurant, often they will have already washed their hands or already be eating. In place of a handshake, they will offer you their wrist; lightly grasp their wrist but do not shake it. If your hands aren’t suitable for a handshake either, you can touch your wrist to theirs.
The gursha is a gesture when a person will carefully place a morsel of food directly into your mouth. It is a gesture of respect and it is courteous to accept it.
If you are invited into someone’s home, take your shoes off if they remove theirs. Greet each person present (starting with oldest first.) Always allow any elders to begin eating before you do. If you are the oldest present, Ethiopians will patiently wait until you begin to eat.
Ethiopian Orthodox Christians fast two days a week (Wednesday and Friday) and for the two months before Easter. On these days, observant Christians do not eat or drink until 3pm and also completely refrain from eating animal products (except for fish.)