International Travel

English

Country Information

Ethiopia

Ethiopia
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Exercise increased caution when traveling in Ethiopia due to the potential for civil unrest and communications disruptions. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.

Exercise increased caution when traveling in Ethiopia due to the potential for civil unrest and communications disruptions. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.

Do not travel to:

  • Somali Regional State due to potential for civil unrest, terrorism, and landmines.

Reconsider travel to:

  • The East Hararge region of Oromia state due to civil unrest.
  • The Danakil Depression region in Afar due to crime.
  • Border areas with Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, and Eritrea due to armed conflict or civil unrest.

The Government of Ethiopia has restricted or shut down internet, cellular data, and phone services during and after civil unrest. This impedes the U.S. Embassy’s ability to communicate with, and provide consular services to, U.S. citizens in Ethiopia.

The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens outside of Addis Ababa. 

Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page.

If you decide to travel to Ethiopia:

  • Monitor local media for breaking events and be prepared to adjust your plans.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Stay alert in locations frequented by Westerners.
  • Carry a copy of your passport and visa and leave originals in your hotel safe.
  • Have evacuation plans that do not rely on U.S. government assistance.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Review the Crime and Safety Report for Ethiopia.
  • U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.

Somali Region

Civilians have been killed and injured in civil unrest along the Oromia-Somali Regional State border and in ongoing military operations against armed groups in the Ogaden and Hararge areas.

Terrorists maintain a presence in Somali towns near the Ethiopian border, presenting a risk of cross-border attacks targeting foreigners.

There are also landmines in this region.

U.S. government personnel may not take personal trips to the Somali region.

Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.

The East Hararge Region of Oromia State

Demonstrations can occur anywhere with little warning. Civil unrest has resulted in injuries and deaths in parts of Oromia State. Government security forces have used lethal force in response to some demonstrations.

Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.

The Danakil Depression in Afar

Violent crime, such as armed assault, is common.

The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa has restricted travel to Danakil Depression for Embassy personnel.

Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.

Border Areas with Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, and Eritrea

U.S. government personnel may not take personal trips to:

  • The border areas with Eritrea in the Tigray and Afar regions.
  • The border with Kenya in the Oromia region.
  • Gambella (except Gambella City).
  • Benishangul Gumuz (except Asosa) adjacent to the Sudan border.

U.S. government personnel must travel to Gambella City and Asosa by plane only. 

Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.

... [READ MORE]
Embassy Messages
Alerts
Quick Facts
PASSPORT VALIDITY:


6 months

BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:



1 page

TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:


Yes

VACCINATIONS:


Yellow fever

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:


1,000 ETB and $3,000

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:


1,000 ETB (4,000 ETB if travelling to Djibouti) and $3,000

ALL /
ALL /
Embassies and Consulates

U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa

Entoto Street
PO Box 1014
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Telephone:
+251-11-130-6000
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: 011-130-6000
Fax: +251-11-124-2435 and +251-11-124-2419
Email: ConsACS@state.gov

Destination Description

See our Fact Sheet on Ethiopia for information on U.S.-Ethiopian relations.

Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements

Requirements for Entry:

  • Passport
  • Visa
  • World Health Organization (WHO) card with yellow fever vaccination.

Visas:

  • Obtain your visa before traveling. Contact the Embassy of Ethiopia for the most current visa information. Apply for an eVisa on the website for the Main Department for Immigration and Nationality Affairs. Tourist visas are also available upon arrival at Bole International Airport, though not for U.S. citizens of Somali or Eritrean descent. Overseas inquiries should be made at the nearest Ethiopian Embassy or Consulate.

Foreign Currency Restrictions:

  • Visitors to Ethiopia may hold up to a maximum of 1,000 ETB per trip to and from Ethiopia. This limit is extended to 4,000 ETB for a person travelling to Djibouti.
  • Residents of Ethiopia must declare all foreign currency exceeding the equivalent of $1,000 when entering the country.
  • Nonresidents of Ethiopia must declare all foreign currency exceeding the equivalent of $3,000 when entering the country.
  • Residents of Ethiopia may not hold foreign currency for more than 30 days after declaring it. Nonresidents may hold foreign currency for the duration of their visa.
  • When departing Ethiopia, nonresidents carrying more than the equivalent of $3,000 in foreign currency and residents carrying any amount of foreign currency must produce a valid bank document or foreign currency customs declaration that is less than 30 days old.

Ivory, Animal Skins, Souvenirs, Precious Stones and Minerals, Antiques/Artifacts:

  • Travelers transporting ivory may be detained, imprisoned, or fined and the ivory may be confiscated.
  • Contact the Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority. Souvenirs that are copies of antiques and religious artifacts require a proper receipt but still may be confiscated.
  • Export permits processed by the Export Section of the airport customs office are required for antiques, including religious artifacts, Ethiopian crosses, and animal skins and other wildlife parts. Contact the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority for a permit.
  • There are limits on the amount of precious stones and minerals that can be exported for personal use. Check with local authorities if in doubt.
  • See our Customs and Import Restrictions information sheet.

Electronics:

  • Laptop computers and video equipment other than for personal use must be declared upon arrival and departure.
  • Some recording devices may require special customs permits. If these items are being used for work, you should contact the Ethiopian Embassy or the Ethiopian Ministry of Communications before you travel.
  • The Embassy cannot assist with obtaining permits or the return of confiscated equipment.

HIV/AIDS:

  • The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Ethiopia. Please verify this with the Ethiopian Embassy before you travel.

Find information on dual nationality, prevention of international child abduction, and customs information on our websites. 

Safety and Security

See the Department of State Travel Advisory for Ethiopia. Ethiopia has experienced sporadic and spontaneous civil unrest throughout the country, some of which has ended in violence. During such episodes, the government often curtails or limits mobile telecommunications, internet access, and social media. If this happens, you may be unable to contact family and friends or emergency services.

Safety Precautions:

  • Avoid demonstrations and public gatherings, as they have the potential to turn violent.
  • Quickly leave the area if a demonstration is forming.
  • Review your personal safety and security posture, remain vigilant, and exercise caution when visiting prominent public places and landmarks where westerners gather on a routine or predictable basis.
  • Avoid unattended baggage or packages left in any location, including in taxis.
  • Monitor consular messages.
  • Avoid travel outside of major towns, particularly along border areas (Kenya, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan).
  • Avoid walking alone.
  • Do not display cash and valuable personal property.
  • Secure your valuables and travel documents.
  • Drive with doors locked and windows closed or rolled up enough at all times to prevent theft while stopped in traffic.

Terrorism: Al-Qa’ida and its regional affiliate, Somalia-based al-Shabaab, maintain a presence throughout East Africa. Current information indicates that terrorist organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens and Western targets and interests in East Africa, as well as against high-profile targets within those countries that contribute troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia, including Ethiopia.

Border with Kenya: There have been numerous incidents of inter-ethnic conflict reported near the border areas with Kenya, as well as attacks attributed to the Oromia Liberation Front. Criminal activity in this border area also remains a concern.

Border with Eritrea:

The border is closed and remains disputed. The border area is a militarized zone where armed conflict can erupt without warning. The latest clash between the Ethiopian and Eritrean forces was reported on June 12, 2016. There have also been reports dating back to 2012 of armed groups attacking and kidnapping foreigners and Ethiopian nationals in the area. In December 2017, a German tourist was killed and an Ethiopian national wounded during an attack by unidentified assailants in the vicinity of the Erta Ale volcano in Afar region. The incident occurred during a nighttime tourist excursion to the volcano.

Border with South Sudan (Gambella Region):  

The security situation in the region is volatile. Sporadic inter-ethnic clashes are common along the western border area with South Sudan. Between February and May 2017, South Sudanese armed Murle tribesmen conducted cross-border attacks, kidnapped women and children, and raided cattle. The Ethiopian Federal Army was deployed to the area following the attack and imposed a curfew. Tensions remain high with the possibility of future incursions from South Sudan and ensuing clashes. Past tribal conflict between Anyuak, Nuer and Highlanders also resulted in numerous casualties. The number of refugees has significantly increased as conflict within the Republic of South Sudan has intensified. As with other border areas, landmines and criminal activity remain a concern.

Somali Region (eastern Ethiopia):

Civilians have been injured, killed, and displaced in ongoing Ethiopian military operations against armed groups in the volatile Somali Region which have resulted in casualties and internal displacement. Al-Shabaabmaintains a presence in Somali towns near the Ethiopian border, presenting risk of cross-border attacks and kidnapping. As with other border areas, landmines and criminal activity remain a concern.

Crime: Pick-pocketing, purse snatching, theft from vehicles and other petty crimes are common in Addis Ababa. Thieves are active throughout the city all times of day and night, but particularly on Bole Road, in the Piazza, the Merkato, and other areas frequented by tourists and foreigners. Violent robberies have also occurred in this area, with victims stabbed or beaten.

See the Department of State and the FBI pages for information on scams.

Victims of Crime: U.S. citizen victims of crime in Addis Ababa should contact the Addis Ababa Police at 011-111-0111 and the U.S. Embassy at 011-130-6000/6911.

Crimes occurring outside of Addis Ababa should be reported to the Ethiopian Federal Police at 011-551-8000.

Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crime.

See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.

We can:

  • help you find appropriate medical care
  • assist you in reporting a crime to the police and contact relatives or friends with your written consent
  • explain the local criminal justice process in general terms and provide a list of local attorneys
  • provide our information on victim compensation programs in the United States
  • provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution
  • help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
  • replace a stolen or lost passport

Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance.

For further information:

Local Laws & Special Circumstances

Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Convictions for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs result in long jail sentences and heavy fines. Furthermore, some laws are also prosecutable in the United States, regardless of local law. For examples, see our website on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice website.

Photography: It is illegal to take pictures of government buildings, military installations, police/military personnel and key infrastructure such as roads, bridges, dams, and airfields. If you are caught photographing prohibited sites, you could be fined, your photographic equipment could be confiscated, and you could be detained and/or arrested. As a general practice, it is always advisable to avoid taking pictures of individuals without their clear consent.

U.S. - Somali Dual Nationals: U.S.-Somali dual citizens have been detained by Ethiopian security services in Addis Ababa for extended periods without charges. You should prepare for this contingency by carrying copies of all important documents and contact information for the U.S. Embassy.

Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.

Phone Service: Cellular phones are the norm, as other telephone service is unreliable and landlines are nearly non-existent. Cell phones brought into Ethiopia must be registered with the Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority. Phones can be registered either at Bole International Airport or at any Ethio Telecom shop. SIM cards are available for local purchase from Ethio Telecom, but will only work with phones that have been registered. As noted, cell phone access may be cut off without warning.

Currency: The Ethiopian Birr (ETB) is the currency of Ethiopia and, with the exception of international hotel bills, payment for commercial transactions in any other currency is illegal. Credit cards are accepted at only a few outlets in Addis Ababa. Foreign currency may only be exchanged legally at banks.

Ethiopian Refugee Camps: All access to refugee camps must be preapproved by the UNHCR and Ethiopian government. You may be detained and deported if you attempt to gain access without proper permissions.

Calendar: The Julian calendar is used in Orthodox Christian areas in the highlands, and some Ethiopians set their clocks differently to standard practice elsewhere, resulting in significant time differences. Double check bookings and appointments to avoid confusion.

Faith-Based Travelers: See our following webpages for details:

LGBTI Travelers: Consensual same-sex sexual activity between adults is illegal and punishable by imprisonment under the law. There are some reports of violence against LGBTI individuals; reporting is limited due to fear of retribution, discrimination, or stigmatization. There is no law prohibiting discrimination against LGBTI persons. Ethiopians do not generally identify themselves as LGBTI due to severe societal stigma and the illegality of consensual same-sex sexual activity between adults.

Activists in the LGBTI community in Ethiopia have stated that they have been followed and at times fear for their safety. There have been periodic detentions and interrogations of some LGBTI persons, and alleged physical abuse. Outside the major international hotels, same-sex couples may be unable to share a room. See our LGBTI Travel Information page and section 6 of our Human Rights Report for further details.

Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: See The Ethiopian Center for Disability and Development guidebook with information on accessible hotel accommodations and transportation (including the new Addis Ababa metro). Persons with disabilities have limited access to transportation, communication, accommodations, and public buildings. There are few sidewalks and no curb-cuts, and most buildings lack functioning elevators. Landlords are required to give persons with disabilities preference for ground floor apartments.

Students: See our Students Abroad page and FBI travel tips

Women Travelers: Domestic violence, including spousal abuse, is a pervasive social problem. Domestic violence and rape cases often are delayed significantly and given low priority. Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is illegal, but the prohibition is not actively enforced. Many women and girls have undergone FGM/C. It is much less common in urban areas.

See our travel tips for Women Travelers.   

Earthquakes: Ethiopia is located in an active seismic zone.

Health

Consult the CDC website for Ethiopia prior to travel.

We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas.

Medical care is extremely limited and health care facilities are only adequate for stabilization and emergency care. There is a shortage of physicians and other qualified medical personnel. Emergency, ambulance services, and psychiatric services are also limited. Medications are in short supply. All care providers, both public and private, require payment or a cash deposit in Ethiopian birr before treatment is performed.

Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.

We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.

Medication: Carry prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription. If the quantity of drugs exceeds that which would be expected for personal use, a permit from the Ministry of Health is required.

Altitude: Addis Ababa is located more than 7,000 feet above sea level and many tourist areas are considerably higher. Altitude may cause problems for travelers in/transiting Ethiopia, particularly those who suffer from respiratory or heart conditions. Travelers may experience shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea, headaches, and sleep problems.

The following diseases are prevalent:

Vaccinations: All travelers should be up-to-date on vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Further health information:

Travel and Transportation

Road Conditions and Safety: Traffic accidents occur regularly in Addis Ababa and throughout the country and are sometimes fatal. Roads are ill maintained, inadequately marked, and poorly lit. Excessive speed, erratic driving habits, pedestrians, stray animals, and lack of vehicle maintenance pose other hazards. Travel with other vehicles outside of cities during daylight hours only, due to the threat of roadside bandits and be sure to carry additional fuel, a spare tire, and provisions. Professional roadside assistance service is not available.  

Traffic Laws: You will need an Ethiopian driver’s license to drive in Ethiopia. In order to obtain an Ethiopian’s driver’s license you will need an authenticated copy of your U.S. driver’s license. For more information on authentication, visit the Department of State’s Office of Authentications. Use of cell phones while driving is prohibited. Use of seat belts is required. It is illegal to give money to beggars who approach vehicles stopped in traffic.

Accidents: In the event of an automobile accident, remain inside the vehicle and wait for police. It is illegal to move your vehicle before a police officer arrives. If a hostile mob forms or you feel your safety is in danger, however, leave the scene and proceed directly to the nearest police station to report the incident.

Public Transportation: Avoid all travel by public transportation, and hire private transport from a reliable source. Any form of public transportation, except for the light rail system in Addis Ababa, is unregulated, unreliable, and unsafe. Buses are in poor mechanical condition and are often filled well beyond capacity.

While taxis are available in Ethiopia, most do not meet U.S. safety standards. In Addis Ababa, green and yellow metered taxis are generally newer and in better condition than other taxis.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Also, we suggest that you visit the website of Ethiopia’s national tourist office.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Ethiopia’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Ethiopia’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.

Last Updated: February 6, 2018
Travel Advisory Levels

Assistance for U.S. Citizens

U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa
Entoto Street
PO Box 1014
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Telephone
+251-11-130-6000
Emergency
011-130-6000
Fax
+251-11-124-2435 and +251-11-124-2419
Ethiopia Map