Travel.State.Gov > International Travel > Country Information > Ethiopia International Travel Information
Requirements for Entry:
Foreign Currency Restrictions:
Ivory, Animal Skins, Souvenirs, Precious Stones and Minerals, Antiques/Artifacts:
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.
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.
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.
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance.
For further information:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.