Tips for Travellers

Land

Ethiopia covers an area of 1.14 million square kilometres, an area more than the size of France and Spain combined. About 65 percent of the land is arable, with 15% presently cultivated.

Climate

There are two seasons: the dry season prevails from October through May, the wet season runs from June to September.

Topography

Ethiopia has an elevated central plateau varying in height between 2000 and 3000 meters. In the north and center of the country there are some 25 mountains whose peaks rise over 4000 meters.

The most famous Ethiopian river is the Blue Nile (or Abay), which runs a distance of 1450 kilometers from the source in Lake Tana, to join the White Nile at Khartoum to form the Nile proper.

Language:

Amharic is the official language of Ethiopia, although English, Italian, French, and Arabic are widely spoken. In areas outside of the larger cities and towns, indigenous languages are likely to be spoken – of which there are eighty-three, with some 200 dialects. The most common of these are Oromigna and Tigrigna.

Climate:

Despite its proximity to the Equator, Ethiopia's high altitude ensures a temperate, moderate, even chilly climate – certainly not tropical. There are two rainy seasons: the irregular short rains from late January to early March, and the long rains from June until mid-September.

Government:

Ethiopia is an independent republic operating under the constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. The president is the head of state, while the prime minister is the head of government.

Entry points by air:

Bole International Airport, Addis Ababa; upgraded airports include those at Dire Dawa, Bahar Dar, Gondar, Lalibela, Axum, Arba Minch, and Mekele.

Entry points by rail:

Dewele on the Djibouti border. Arrivals undergo full customs and immigration checks. The railway, with day and night trains, runs from Addis Ababa to Djibouti via Nazaret, Awash Station, and Dire Dawa.

Entry points by road:

Moyale (in Kenya), Humera and Metema (in Sudan), and Dewele (in Djibouti). All have full customs and immigration checks.

Calendar:

Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar, which consists of twelve months of thirty days each and a thirteenth month of five days (six days in a leap year). The calendar is seven years and eight months behind the Western (Gregorian) calendar.

Communications:

Telephone, telex, fax, internet and airmail services connect Addis Ababa to all parts of the world. Services are available at the internet cafes as well as in the main hotels. International direct dialling is available from all major centres in the country.

Currency:

The local currency is the Ethiopian birr, made up of 100 cents. Notes are issued in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, and 100 birr. There are five different coins: 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents.

Currency regulations:

There is no limit to the amount of foreign currency imported into Ethiopia. Foreign currency may be changed only at authorized banks and hotels. Visitors may change back any excess birr into foreign currency at the airport before departure, but you must bring with you all receipts for exchange transactions.

Daylight:

Being relatively close to the Equator, there is an almost constant twelve hours of daylight. In Addis Ababa, the sunrise and sunset are at around 06.30 and 18.45 respectively.

Driving:

Drivers require a valid International Driving Licence, which can be obtained by exchanging your local licence at the Transport and Communications office on Asmara Road in Addis Ababa. Visitors can recover their original licences a day or so prior to departure. Those with their own vehicles will require a permit from the Ministry of Transport and Communications. Driving is on the right.

Energy:

Ethiopia uses 220 volts and 50 Hz. It is best to bring your own round, two-prong adapter and transformer if necessary.

Health requirements:

All visitors (including infants) are required to possess a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate. Vaccination against cholera is also required for any person who has visited or been in transit through a cholera-infected area within six days prior to arrival in Ethiopia. Malaria is endemic throughout the country. Visitors should begin taking a recommended chloroquine-based prophylactic two weeks before their arrival and continue taking them for six weeks after their departure. In addition, medication for chloroquine-resistant malaria is a wise precaution.

Time:

Ethiopia is three hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. Time remains constant throughout the year. The Ethiopian day is calculated in a manner similar to many equatorial countries,

where day and night are always the same length: counting

starts at Western 6.00 a.m. and 6.00 p.m. Western 7.00 a.m. is therefore one o'clock, noon is six, 6.00 p.m. is twelve o'clock midnight, and so on.

Visa and immigration requirements:

Visa applications may be obtained at Ethiopia's diplomatic missions overseas – Nationals of 33 countries are now allowed to receive their tourist visas on arrival in Ethiopia at the regular charge, including Western European and North American countries and Argentina, Australia, China, Israel, Japan, Korea Republic, Kuwait, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, South Africa and Taiwan.

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