Name Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Time Zone GMT + 3
Capital City Addis Ababa
National Language Amharic and several regional dialects
Official Language Amharic (official national language)
Currency Ethiopian Birr (ETB)
Land Area 1,104,300 km2
Drives on the Right
Country Code 251
Ethiopia is located in the Horn of Africa. It shares borders with Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, Sudan and South Sudan.
Population & People
An estimate of 91,195,675 as of 2012.
Vegetation & Special Natural Features
• Within Ethiopia is a vast highland complex of mountains and dissected plateaus divided by the Great Rift Valley, which runs generally northeast to southwest and is surrounded by lowlands, steppes, or semi-desert. The great diversity of terrain determines wide variations in climate, soils, natural vegetation, and settlement patterns.
• Ethiopia is an ecologically diverse country, ranging from the deserts along the eastern border to the tropical forests in the south to extensive Afromontane in the northern and south-western parts. Lake Tana in the north is the source of the Blue Nile. It also has a large number of endemic species, notably the Gelada Baboon, the Walia Ibex and the Ethiopian wolf (or Simien fox). The wide range of altitude has given the country a variety of ecologically distinct areas; this has helped to encourage the evolution of endemic species in ecological isolation.
• The predominant climate type is tropical monsoon, with wide topographic-induced variation. The Ethiopian Highlands cover most of the country and have a climate which is generally considerably cooler than other regions at similar proximity to the equator. Most of the country's major cities are located at elevations of around 2,000–2,500 m (6,562–8,202 ft) above sea level, including historic capitals such as Gondar and Axum.
• The modern capital Addis Ababa is situated on the foothills of Mount Entoto at an elevation of around 2,400 m (7,874 ft), and experiences a healthy and pleasant climate year round, the seasons in Addis Ababa are largely defined by rainfall, with a dry season from October–February, a light rainy season from March–May, and a heavy rainy season from June–September. The average annual rainfall is around 1,200 mm (47.2 in). The dry season is the sunniest time of the year, though even at the height of the rainy season in July and August there are still usually several hours per day of bright sunshine. The average annual temperature in Addis Ababa is 16 °C (60.8 °F), with daily maximum temperatures averaging 20–25 °C (68–77 °F) throughout the year, and overnight lows averaging 5–10 °C (41–50 °F).
• Most major cities and tourist sites in Ethiopia lie at a similar elevation to Addis Ababa and have a comparable climate. In less elevated regions, particularly the lower lying Ethiopian xeric grasslands and shrublands in the east of the country, the climate can be significantly hotter and drier. Dallol, in the Danakil Depression in this eastern zone, has the world's highest average annual temperature of 34 °C (93.2 °F).
• Ethiopian Birr (ETB) and cents or santim.
• US dollars, Euros and GB Pounds can easily be exchanged at banks. When bringing US dollars, it's best to bring notes that are series 2006 or later.
• ATMs are available in Addis Ababa (accepting Visa and Mastercard) and in a few locations outside of the capital. It is not recommended, however, to rely on ATMs outside of Addis Ababa as they can often be out of order and/or money. Visa users can take cash advances at Dashen Bank branches throughout the country while Mastercard users can take a cash advance at the United Bank in the Hilton. Few hotels or other merchants accept credit cards, and when they do there is often an additional service charge.
• Travellers Cheques are accepted at some banks, but travellers should bring the original receipt of purchase as well as his/her passport. There may also be a service charge associated. Travellers Cheques cannot be used to pay for goods in retail shops and may only be changed at the bank.
• Remember to keep your receipts for ATM transactions or currency exchanges if you think you may need to change back your Birr to foreign currency (USD or Euro, mostly) before leaving Ethiopia.
Passport / Visa
• Tourists holding passports from any of the following "tourist-generating" countries can obtain a tourist visa valid for 30 days upon arrival at Bole International Airport for a fee of US$20: 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, Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea (South Korea), the Russian Federation, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America.
• Nationals from all other countries must obtain a visa before arrival from their nearest embassy.
There is no national welfare scheme and visitors to Ethiopia are responsible for their own medical expenses. We insist on our clients being covered by Flying Doctors Rescue Service.
• With proper precautions, visitors to Ethiopia can enjoy a healthy stay. The SAFARI Company's clients automatically become members of the Flying Doctors Rescue Service for emergency evacuation to Nairobi. However, you are required to carry your own complete holiday/medical insurance.
• We suggest you consult with your local medical practitioner for information on all inoculations and vaccinations.
• Malaria protection is imperative. Taking a prescription anti-malarial drug (i.e. Malarone; chloroquine is NOT an effective anti-malarial in Ethiopia) is advised.
• Hospitals vary greatly in quality throughout the country and private hospitals or clinics are generally preferable. In Addis Ababa, recommended hospitals include: St Gabriel Hospital, Bethzatha Hospital and Myunsung Christian Hospital (Korean Hospital).
• Ethiopia runs on 220V and uses 2 round-prong plugs (such as those used in Europe). For those travelling with plugs of a different type, an adapter is advised. Adapters are available in Ethiopia, but the quality may vary.
• Please bring sufficient spare batteries for photographic equipment as many lodges have limited power supply.
• Ethio Telecom is the sole provider of phone, mobile and internet services. While great progress is being made, connections may sometimes be disrupted, slow, or altogether impossible. International mobile phones may or may not work for either making or receiving calls and/or SMS messages.
• It is recommended to always ask before taking a photograph of any person. Many people will happily oblige, but others may not want their photos taken, and that should be respected. In some areas, cultures believe that photographing women, camels or other people or animals will in fact put a curse upon the photographed subject.
• Often times, people might ask for a fee (1-5 Ethiopian birr) to take their photos. You should always negotiate the price before taking a photo. You may, of course, opt not to take a photo if you don't agree with the price, terms or practice.
Food & Water
• Please do not drink tap water; we recommend you drink bottled water which is readily available in all lodges and camps.
• Please advise us of any allergies, likes or dislikes before you embark on your holiday.
• Please ensure that baggage is packed in soft bags and if you are flying on internal flights, should weigh no more than 15kg per person.
• It is possible to store luggage not required during the safari with us at The SAFARI Company or at your hotel if you are returning there after your trip. Please refer to our recommended packing list.
Ethiopia offers a treasure-trove of experiences, ecosystems, wildlife and cultures. The SAFARI Company encourages our guests to support our guides by learning and honouring their policies which helps preserve our precious environment. In order to promote responsible tourism, we ask that you join us in observing the following tips.
Whilst on a game drive
• Please do not interfere with animal behaviour.
• No more than 5 vehicles around an animal at one time (please accept the decision of your guide to leave an animal if he feels it is becoming overcrowded).
• Please do not get too close to the animals as this may distress them.
• Please do not get out of the vehicle without consulting your guide.
• Please try to be as quiet as possible when viewing wildlife close up. Your guide will turn off the vehicle's engine whenever possible.
• Please minimize off-road driving.
• No speeding! The speed limit in the parks is 40kph.
Protect the Environment
• Please do not litter, especially cigarette butts.
• Please do not collect bones, feathers, stones or plants etc; they are all mini ecosystems.
• Please do not buy bones, stones, feather displays or plants etc.
• Please do not take photographs of the local people without asking their permission first.
• Please do not encourage trade or give personal items away to the local people (if we support begging we promote begging).
• If you have brought gifts to give to the local people, please give them to your guide for proper distribution.
• Beware of anyone asking you for gifts or money and do not feel obliged to donate anything.
• Please report back to us if you are harassed.
Television & Music
• Most places do not have either and some safari vehicles do not have radios.
• The sounds of the bush/desert are so special, unique and memorable that we advise against either, but if you are a 'music addict', we suggest you bring an iPod and sufficient power supply.
• Ethiopia remains a very safe country for travellers. There are, however, some basic precautions to consider for safe travels. Always watch your belongings and beware of pickpockets, especially in large crowds particularly in Addis Ababa (most notably the mercato and near to the stadium).
• Crimes that do happen are often crimes of opportunity, so it is advisable not to walk around with mobile phones, iPods or other tempting valuables out in the public eye.
• A common scam is that of people (often students or self-appointed guides) inviting guests to a coffee ceremony or other small gathering. People are often taken to a local home where coffee, tej and maybe local food is served. After the fun, guests are handed a bill of often the equivalent of US$100 or more, and forced to pay. If you are interested in a local coffee ceremony or traditional dinner and dance, we will be happy to advise you.
Guide to Tipping
• Although tipping is a safari tradition, it is never compulsory and should only be done if you feel you have received good service. People working in the tourism industry earn decent salaries compared to local standards. While there are no standard tips within the industry, we can offer the following suggestions:
• In many restaurants, a 10% service charge is often added. While this is meant to go to the staff, giving a few extra birr for good measure is acceptable.
• In small cafes, 1-2 birr or some spare change is an appropriate tip.
• For local guides for a day, the equivalent of US$2-4 is fine.
• For drivers who are with you for an extended time, US$5-8/day is a good tip.
• For other service providers (shoe-keepers, priests, scouts, etc) a few birr, depending on the nature of their service is acceptable.
• Staff very much appreciate receiving gratuities from you, our guests, because it is one way of assuring them they are doing a good job.