BEST TIME TO TRAVEL TO ETHIOPIA
The best time to travel to Ethiopia is during the dry season (mid October to May). Depending on your budget, you may prefer to visit Ethiopia during the low season (June to September). Nevertheless, it is also nice to experience some wide known religious festivals such as Timkat or Meskel.
If you are planning to visit the northern highlands of Ethiopia, the best time will be from October to March although it does not rain very heavily during the rainy season. In the northern route a trekking in the Simien Mountains can be included, which it is advisable to do it from September to November when it is dry, green and dust free. If, on the contrary, you prefer to experience the lifestyle of more than 50 unique tribes in the Omo Valley region of South Western Ethiopia, you will have to come from August to October. Finally, the expedition to the Danakil Depression, as one of the hottest places on earth reaching temperatures of 50ºC (122ºF), is better to be visited from November to early January.
A yellow fever vaccination certificate is not required unless you are coming from an endemic area. However, Ethiopia is listed in the endemic zone for yellow fever so travellers arriving from non-endemic areas are recommended to get the vaccine. It is also advisable to be immunised for Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid and Polio.
Malaria is a health issue for many Ethiopians, specially for those living in lowland areas. However, Malaria is not a problem in highlands (above 1,600 meters above the sea level), including Addis Ababa, Lalibela, Axum, Mekele, Gondar and Harar. On the other hand, other popular destinations such as Awassa, Bahir Dar or Lake Tana surroundings can pose a risk for Malaria especially at the end of the rainy season (October-November). Consequently, it is highly advisable to include mosquito repellents in your suitcase as well as sprays.
It is highly recommended to contract a health insurance during your stay. In addition, a first aid pack is essential and it should include: anti-histaminic, antiseptic cream for insect bites, plasters, high SFP sunscreen (mind the Ethiopian altitude and the equatorial climate zone), anti diarrhoea pills and saline solutions in case of severe dehydration.
For more information on vaccines and health issues please check this link.
Tourist visas (for one or three months, single entry) are available upon arrival at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa.
The fee is payable in US dollars and EURO. Current visa fees are $50 for one month and $70 for three months. It is also possible to obtain a business visa of up to three months validity upon arrival with the prior arrangements made by the sponsoring organisation in Ethiopia. The visa extension fees are currently $100 for a one month extension (first time), $150 for a fifteen days extension (second time) and $200 for a 10 days extension (third time). If the traveler’s visa expires before the departure, it is required to obtain a visa extension at the Immigration Office in Addis Ababa. There is a overstay penalty fee of $5 a day from one up to fifteen days and $10 a day after fifteen days. In such cases, the traveler may also be required to pay a penalty of up to 4,000 ETB ($300) before being allowed to leave Ethiopia.
When travelling to Ethiopia, it is important to know that domestic fares are considerably reduced (by more than 40%) if your international ticket to travel to the country has been purchased with Ethiopian Airlines. Please be aware that Ethiopian Airlines, as the only domestic carrier, requires the tour companies the ticket number in order to make the discount for any domestic flights. For further information please click here.
The weather in Ethiopia depends tremendously on the elevation. When planning to come to Ethiopia, it is advisable to check the average temperatures of the region you will spend time in since it can range from low temperatures at the Bale Mountains area to daytime temperatures above 50º (122ºF) in the Danakil Depression. However, Ethiopian climate is actually quite pleasant for tourism thanks to the altitude. Thus, the historic north route situated in the Ethiopian highlands have an average of 15ºC (59ºF) and 27ºC (80ºF). On the other hand, the southern part of Ethiopia is warmer, with temperatures reaching up to 32ºC (90ºF).
The rainy season normally starts mid-June and it will continue until early October but sometimes this pattern may change from the Rift Valley area (starting and ending a few weeks earlier than in the highlands) to the Omo Valley (concentrating the rainy season in March, April and May).
Birr is the Ethiopian currency and it is available in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100 notes. It is easy to exchange US dollars or euros into Ethiopian birr (ETB) at the airport or any Ethiopian bank upon arrival. Nevertheless, note that Ethiopian banks will ask you for a receipt proving your foreign currency exchange in case you want to change ETB back to your foreign currency before leaving. Bank opening hours are usually from 8am to 5pm (Monday to Saturday).
Credit cards are not commonly accepted for payments but you can use ATM machines since they are widely spread in Addis Ababa and they are also becoming common in other main cities. Please check the transaction fees of your bank before using an ATM and note that 4,000 ETB is normally the maximum amount that can be withdrawn per day.
TELEPHONE AND INTERNET ACCESS
Ethio Telecom is the only telecommunication operator in Ethiopia. It is possible to buy a SIM card by providing a photocopy of the passport and paying a 300 ETB fee at any branch of the company spread in Addis Abeba. On the other hand, Internet access is available in most hotels of the capital. However, it is more difficult to find wireless connection in smaller cities.