Visiting Ethiopia

General Information

Welcome to Ethiopia!

Three young girls carry handwoven cloth they sell to tourists in Bahar Dar, Ethiopia. © 2011 Samuel Boland, Courtesy of Photoshare
Three young girls carry handwoven cloth they sell to tourists in Bahar Dar, Ethiopia. © 2011 Samuel Boland, Courtesy of Photoshare

Ethiopia is situated in the heart of the Horn of Africa. It shares borders with Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, the Sudan and South Sudan. The total area is about 1,127,127 square km, of which 7,444 square km is water. Ethiopia has ample arable land, estimated at about 66 percent of the total area. Ethiopia is the second-most populous country in Sub-Saharan Africa with a population of 94.1 million, and a population growth rate of 2.6% in 2013. Addis Ababa, the capital, is the national crossroads. This 127-year-old city lies on the central plateau at an average altitude of 2400 m above sea level. This has various advantages, including no mosquitoes and few other diseases or insects.

Cultural Awareness

Ethiopians love to celebrate, whether important events in their history, major landmarks in the religious calendar or simply special family days. Best clothes are worn, food and drink are plentiful, musicians play and people dance and sing.


Ethiopia is home to approximately 80 tribal or ethnic groups. Languages spoken include Amharic, Tigrinya, Orominga, Guaraginga, Somali, Arabic and other local languages. English is a major foreign language taught in schools. The official working language in Addis Ababa is called Amharic. However, almost everyone you encounter will speak enough English to enable you to communicate.

Here are a few words in Amharic:

Hello – Selam; Good morning- Endemen aderk (for masculine) Good morning– Endemen adersh (feminine) Good morning – Dehna aderachu (plural); Goodbye – Dehna hun (for masculine), Dehna hugni (feminine); Dehna hunu (plural); Thank you – amesegnalehu


Addis Ababa has hotels ranging from the luxurious Sheraton Addis which charges from US$350 (between 260 up to 367) a night and to the tourist standard. For reservations and more information you can contact the event management company for the International SBCC Summit (

Below are some Addis Ababa hotels recommended for business travelers.

  • Siyonat Hotel
  • Dessalegne Hotel
  • Washington Hotel
  • Monarch Hotel
  • Friendship International Hotel
  • Capital Hotel
  • Radisson Blu Hotel
  • Hilton Hotel
  • SaroMaria Hotel
  • Harmony Hotel
  • Kaleb Hotel

Money and Banking

The currency is the Ethiopian Birr (pronounced “Birr”), divided into 100 cents, or “santim.” Its value is set at biweekly hard-currency auctions; the rate is around US$ 1.00 = Birr 20.76.Check www.xe.comfor for up to date conversion rates. Birr is issued in 100, 50, 10, 5 and 1 Birr banknotes and 50, 25, 10, 5 and (though rarely seen) 1 cent coins. A currency declaration form has to be filled out upon arrival when exchanging money at banks. As long as you have your receipts, you may exchange leftover Birr back to dollars at hotels, banks or at the airport. Any transactions outside official channels are illegal and not encouraged.

Restaurants and Facilities

Addis Ababa has a wide range of good quality restaurants offering traditional Ethiopian food as well as an excellent choice of other cuisines.

  • Traditional Ethiopian food: Habesha 2000, Desalech, Yod Abyssinia, Dashen, Gursha and others. During weekends and some week days there will be traditional dances at some of these restaurants.
  • Arabic and Mediterranean food: Al Baraka, Al Mendi, Sana’a and Greek Club
  • Asian: China Bar and restaurant, Hong Kong Restaurant and Shanghai
  • Continental/European: Steak House, Savor, Cupcake delights, Fusion Bistro, Gusto and others
  • Indian: Ajanta Restaurant, Jewel of India, Sangham, Bombay Brasserie
  • Italian: Castelli, Don Vito, Makush Gallery, Antica and Pizza Deli Roma (known for its pizza) 

Supermarkets and Self-catering

A number of ‘European’ style grocery stores are located in various parts of town. All prices are marked and not negotiable in grocery stores.  Recommended grocery stores include:

  • Novis – located on Bole Rd. The store has a good selection of pasta, fresh and canned fruits and vegetables, staples (oil, salt, and spices), milk products, meat, bread, beer and wine.
  • Fantu – located on Bole Rd. The store has a good selection of pasta, fresh and canned fruits and vegetables, staples (oil, salt, and spices), milk products, meat, bread, beer and wine.


High speed Internet (broadband) access is available at most hotels. Some coffee shops have free wireless internet.  Please note internet connection speed may vary.


Ethiopia has direct-dial access to most countries. On lines with direct international access, dial 00 followed by the country and city codes and the number you are calling (no second dial tone – dialing is straight through). Pay phones are also available at some sites and they work with two 10-cent coins for local calls and one 50-cent coin for calls to mobiles; some phones are also available that work with cards – the cards may be available in shops or Tele centers nearby. Visitors planning a longer stay in Addis can buy a local SIM card and top it up with pay-as-you-go credit. To call from abroad, Ethiopia’s Country Code is 251; Addis Ababa’s City Code is 11. For example to call the country office from abroad, dial +251-11-000000

Mobile Phones

International mobile phones will need to be “unlocked” in order for them to work in Ethiopia, but you may incur roaming charges. Please contact your mobile carrier for information about your individual plan options.

Alternatively, for less than $20 you can purchase a local pre-paid SIM card for your unlocked mobile phone. There is only one telecommunications company in Ethiopia: Ethio Telecom, formerly Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC).


The standard voltage in Ethiopia is 220V, like the UK, Europe, Australia and most of Asia and Africa. Bring appropriate adapters and don’t forget converters if you’re bringing electronics outside of this range. The US, Canada and most of Latin America use 100V-127V electronics, but some appliances can be used in all countries, like chargers, tablets/laptops, photo cameras, cell phones and toothbrushes. Check to see if “INPUT: 100-240V, 50/60Hz” is on the label of your appliance—if so, then it can be used anywhere.

Most laptop power cords will handle both 110v and 200v.

 Ethiopian Seasons

  • Kiremt or Meher (summer)– June, July and August are the summer season. Heavy rain falls in these three months.
  • Belg (autumn) – September, October and November are the spring season sometime known as the harvest season.
  • Bega (winter) –December, January and February are the dry season with frost in the morning especially in January.
  • Tseday (spring) –March, April and May are the autumn season with occasional showers. May is the hottest month in Ethiopia.

Airfare and Travel

Ethiopian Airlines is the official carrier of the 2016 International SBCC Summit. It has generously offered a 10% fare discount to all conference participants on Economy class and Business class tickets. 


Either on your flight or at the airport, you will be given an entry card that you will need to fill out and provide to the immigration officer along with your passport.

If you are carrying in excess of $3,000 USD (or its equivalent) in cash, you are required to officially declare it on paper. You will find relevant declaration forms either on your flight, or you can ask the immigration officer.

After getting your passport stamped by the immigration officer, you may collect your luggage and proceed to customs clearance. The customs agents can check the content of your luggage at their discretion. More on visas.


Peace and security prevails in Ethiopia, a country with no major security threats that is on a path of rapid social and economic development. Regional and global events often take place at the UN and African Union Conference Centers and at the large and modern Millennium Hall. Ethiopia has been selected Winner of the World Best Tourist Destination for 2015 for its safety and peace in July 2015 by the General Assembly of the European Council on Tourism (ECTT). The AU and the IGAD Summits (Addis Ababa), the Tana High Level Forum on Security in Africa and other high-level VIP meetings take place on a regular basis with no security threat. In 2015, Addis hosted the 3rd International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD) in which the heads of global institutions like the World Bank, IMF and other high-level figures attended. Ethiopia has also hosted several continental and regional sport events in 2015 in the capital and major regional towns (Bahir Dar, Hawassa, Mekelle and Dire Dawa) with no security issues. Ethiopia will be hosting the regular Africa Heads of States Summit in January 2016, which is one week prior to the start of the 1st International SBCC Summit.

Helpful links on Ethiopia:

UK Government Travel Advice | US Dept. of State | Australian Government Travel Advice


Vaccination and Medication

The United States Center for Disease and Control Prevention recommends all travelers be up-to-date on routine vaccines and to visit their doctor 4-6 weeks prior to their trip to discuss any vaccination or medications they may need for traveling. A yellow fever vaccine is required for all travelers coming from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission. Further information on yellow fever and malaria can be found here.

There are recurrent cases of waterborne diseases (Typhoid, Amoeba, cholera) among others that occur from time to time but very much depend on personal hygiene. Malaria is present in the country but limited to the low land areas of the south where the altitude is below 2000m. This is not the case with Addis Ababa.


Do not drink the tap water during your stay in Addis Ababa. Bottled water is easily available.


Addis Ababa is the third highest capital city in the world at 7,000 ft. Due to this high elevation, travelers may experience altitude sickness while acclimating—it can take up to four months before an adult adjusts to the Addis Ababa altitude! Drink lots of water.

Pharmacies and Health Care Facilities

Prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can be purchased at most pharmacies. However, visitors should bring enough medicine to last the length of their stay as specific brand availability and quality cannot be guaranteed. Local hospitals include:

Region Facility Names (Option 1 & 2) Contact Number 1 Contact Number 2 Notes
Addis Ababa Swedish Clinic 0113710768 0911-206291
BethzathaHospital 011-5533453 011-5514141
Hayat Hospital 011-6624488 011-6614250
Korean/ MCM Hospital 011-6295424
Washington Hospital
Addis Hiwot Hospital
Blue & White Clinic 0911-372242 0911-962831 for children

Advice to Conference Participants and other Travelers:

  • Maintain proper individual hygiene with regular hand wash after using public facilities, avoid unnecessary hand shakes. Cough into the elbows to avoid recontamination
  • If you have any chronic health problem, make sure you take enough medication to last for the period of stay in Ethiopia as some of the medications may not be available on the local markets(diabetic, hypertension, cholesterol medications )etc.
  • Make sure you have some warm clothes in your luggage to respond to the changing weather.
  • Avoid eating uncooked foods prepared in public places (salads, fruits that can not be peeled etc).
  • For acute health problems, UN Health Care Center (UNHCC) is available to respond to individual on a cost recovery basis. This means services will be provided and either the participant or the conference organizers will have to pay for these depending on the prior arrangements.
  • For emergency situations, UNHCC can be reached from any hotel in Addis Ababa on the following telephone numbers: +251115448888 or +251 115445502.

Services Available at UN Health Care Center:

UNHCC is basically an outpatient health care facility but provides quite a good number of services as listed below.

  1. Walk-in clinic on a daily basis- consultations with Internists, General Practitioners.
  2. Consultations by appointment in the following fields:
  • Internal Medicine
  • Gynecology and Obstetrics
  • Pediatrics
  • Dental Care
  • Ophthalmology
  • Gastro-enterology
  • Psychiatrics/Psychology
  • ENT
  • Stress counseling
  • Radiology (X-rays and Ultra sounds)
  • 24hrs/7days off duty hours coverage of emergency care
  • Ambulance services for transportation to city hospitals
  • Short stay-in ICU
  • Pharmacy
  • Laboratory services

For more information about the UNHCC, call:

Dr. Grace Fombad:+251 911 508218 | Dr. Eyesusawit Shewangizaw: +251911 221726 | Sr. Kelemwork Kejela: +251 911201803

Further Information

Ethiopia’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism has information on various other relevant topics.

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