- Normal precautions
- High degree of caution
- Avoid non-essential travel
- Do not travel
- Safety and Security
- Local Laws and Customs
- Natural Disasters and Climate
- Embassy Contact
High Degree of Caution
Travel to Ethiopia
A number of public health measures to counter the spread of COVID-19 are currently in effect. While you are in Ethiopia, you should monitor developments regularly and follow the advice of local authorities.
Irish citizens entering Ethiopia should ensure that they obtain the appropriate visa before they travel, as visa-on-arrival services are not available. Irish citizens entering Ethiopia should allow additional time for the processing of e-visa applications as there may be delays.
We advise against all travel to:
- Tigray region
- Northern Amhara region, within 50km of the border with Tigray regional state
- Northern Afar region, along border areas with Eritrea and within 100km of border areas with Tigray Regional State north of Semera town
- Benishangul-Gumuz region
- Gambella region
- Border areas with Sudan, South Sudan and Kenya (including all land border crossings)
- The border area with Somaliland, and within 100km of the border of Somalia (in Ethiopian Somali region)
- East and West Guji zones (Oromia) and Gedeo zone (SNNPR)
- Western Oromia, in particular West Wellega, East Wellega, Kelam Wellega and Horo Gudru Wellega zones.
We advise against all but essential travel to:
- Remaining areas of Amhara, Oromia, Sidama, Somali and SNNPR regions
Following almost two years of conflict between the Ethiopian National Defence Forces and armed forces in Tigray regional state, a Cessation of Hostilities Agreement was signed in November 2022. Although the active conflict has stopped, the security situation remains unpredictable.
This can result in road closures, disruption to phone and internet networks, closure of businesses and, in some cases, violence. If in any doubt, visitors should be ready to change their travel itinerary at short notice. Citizens are advised to monitor local media, exercise caution and avoid demonstrations and large gatherings.
Travel insurance, including international medical evacuation, is essential for visitors to Ethiopia as medical facilities are limited. It is essential that you check the terms of your travel insurance policy thoroughly before you travel. You should be aware that if you travel to areas of the country where the Department advises against all travel, your travel insurance is likely to be invalidated and the Embassy’s ability to provide consular assistance may be limited.
You can contact the emergency services in Ethiopia by dialling:
- Emergency: 911
- Police: 991
- Ambulance (in Addis Ababa): 907
Addis Ababa is currently calm. However, citizens should exercise a high degree of caution, monitor local media and avoid any signs of demonstration. Irish citizens should carry copies of identification at all times.
There has been an increase in petty crime in Addis Ababa, in particular street robbery and muggings. Ensure that you keep doors locked when driving, be wary of distraction techniques, and remain cautious when walking around the city, particularly if alone or after dark.
Festivals and celebrations are held frequently in Addis Ababa throughout the year. Large crowds can gather, particularly around the Meskel Square area. Exercise caution around large gatherings, as these events can be targets for opportunistic crime (particularly pickpocketing).
Due to border tensions between Tigray and Amhara Regional States, travel in Amhara within 50km of the border areas is not advised. There have been reports of armed attacks on vehicles along main roads after dark or when there is poor visibility. There also continue to be reports of clashes between armed groups within Amhara and in areas bordering Oromia region.
Only essential travel to Amhara region is advised at this time due to demonstrations in the region (including Debre Berhan, Gondar, Bahir Dar, Debre Tabor, Weldiya) from 10 April 2023. As a result night-time curfews as well as security and traffic restrictions have been imposed in and between a number of cities.
Travel to Northern Afar within 100km of the border areas with Tigray north of Semera town is not advised.
Tensions in the border zones between Afar and Somali regions can give rise to unrest and violence.
Due to clashes between armed groups and security forces, inter-communal violence and militia activity, all travel to western Oromia should be avoided, including Nekemte, West Wellega, East Wellega and Kelem Wellega zones. You should also avoid all travel to the East and West Guji and Gedeo zones (on the border between Oromia and SNNPR regions) due to civil unrest and armed clashes.
There have been reports of Al-Shabaab fighters in the Bale Mountains in Oromia. Travellers are advised against all but essential travel to this area.
Citizens planning to travel elsewhere within Oromia region should seek up-to-date security advice. Get in touch with local contacts in advance of travel, and minimise road transportation when possible due to risk of impromptu road blocks and checkpoints. Some sources also report an increased risk of kidnapping in restive parts of Oromia.
Sidama and SNNPR (Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region)
Some parts of SNNPR are subject to heightened security presence (e.g. Konso zone). Border areas with Kenya and South Sudan can be volatile and should be avoided. If travelling in SNNPR, you should exercise caution and follow the advice of local authorities.
Serious confrontations between ethnic groups have taken place along the Oromia-Somali and Afar-Somali borders, resulting in the mass displacement of people. All travel to the international border with Somalia should be avoided.
On July 20 2022 Al-Shabaab fighters attacked the towns of Aato, Yeed and Washaaqo near to the border between Somalia and Ethiopia. Al-Shabaab has indicated its intention to commit further attacks in the area and there maybe further fighting. Travellers to Somali regional state should remain vigilant at all times and are advised to seek specific advice in advance of travel.
All travel to Tigray should be avoided until further notice. While a Cessation of Hostilities Agreement signed in November 2022 has stopped the fighting, the security situation remains unpredictable.
While commercial flights into and out of Tigray have restarted travel into and out of Tigray regional state continues to be restricted. Domestic and international land borders may be tightly controlled. Telecommunications and banking services are gradually being restored.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Ethiopian Committee of the Red Cross (ECRC) has set up a service to ‘restore family links’ across Tigray. You can get in touch on +251 (0) 94 312 2207 or 251 (0) 11 552 7110, email email@example.com, or online.
There are no COVID-19 restrictions in place for travel to Ethiopia from Ireland. There is no requirement to present certificates of vaccination/testing for COVID-19, or to complete a Passenger Locator Form.
Please note that COVID-19 continues to circulate in the country. You are encouraged to monitor news sources for updates should new restrictions be introduced.
COVID-19 positive persons must isolate themselves either at home or at a health facility, according to the severity of the illness, until declared recovered by a health professional. Private healthcare facilities with the capability to respond to COVID-19 cases exist, but capacity is limited. You should be aware during a significant COVID-19 outbreak in Ethiopia, the ability to access treatment for other ailments is likely to be limited.
Current information is available from the Ethiopian Public Health Institute and Ministry of Health.
If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms while in Ethiopia, you can call the Ethiopian COVID-19 helplines on 8335 or 952 for advice.
Safety and Security
Safety and Security
Safety and security
There is a threat from terrorism in Ethiopia and security is tight in most hotels, shopping centres, and other public places. Irish citizens are reminded to maintain a high level of security awareness at all times: avoid crowds, review your personal safety, remain vigilant and be cautious when frequenting prominent public places and landmarks.
Crime remains relatively low in Ethiopia but muggings and armed assaults are reportedly on the rise especially in Addis Ababa. While violent crime, particularly against foreigners, is unusual, it is not unheard of. Crime increases significantly after dark and its best not to walk unaccompanied in Addis Ababa or elsewhere after nightfall. Please take sensible precautions:
- Don't carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place
- Don't carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home
- Avoid showing large sums of money in public and don't use ATMs after dark, especially if you're alone. Check no one has followed you after conducting your business
- Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, and arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible
- Keep a close eye on your personal belongings and hold on to them in public places such as internet cafés, train and bus stations
- Keep your vehicle doors locked and your bags out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag snatching from vehicles stopped at traffic lights
- Be alert when calling or texting on your mobile phone – it's best not to do this on the street. Violent muggings have occurred over mobile phones worth less than €20 in Ireland
Bag snatching and pick pocketing are most common in areas frequented by foreigners such as the Piazza, Mercato, Bole and Churchill Road areas of Addis Ababa. Be especially watchful for pickpockets when getting out of taxis in these areas. Be aware of groups attempting to distract you while others pick your pockets.
If you are a victim of a crime while in Ethiopia, report it to the local police immediately. And you can contact us at the Irish Embassy in Addis Ababa if you need help
The Ethiopian authorities have suspended visa on arrival services. All visitors must apply for an e-visa prior to travelling.
Travellers who transit through Bole International Airport do not require a transit visa if they remain in the permitted transit area and depart within 12 hours.
Homosexual activity is illegal and the subject is taboo for the majority of Ethiopians.
The political situation across Ethiopia can be volatile. Public and civil protests are frequent and can turn violent without warning. Universities can be hotspots for ethnically motivated violence. If you intend to visit a university during your stay, please seek the advice of your university contacts.
We advise you to avoid demonstrations and public gatherings, which can sometimes turn confrontational. Always keep yourself informed by monitoring local media and staying in contact with your hotel or tour organiser.
If you are planning to drive in Ethiopia, be aware that road safety standards are low and you need to be extremely careful while driving or walking on roads. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Ethiopia has the highest rate of traffic fatalities per vehicle in the world. We advise against travelling by road outside towns and cities after dark, due to the increased risk of road accidents and reports of targeting of vehicles by armed groups in some parts of the country.
Roads in Ethiopia are poorly maintained, inadequately marked and poorly lit. Road travel after dark outside Addis Ababa and other cities is dangerous and discouraged due to hazards posed by broken-down vehicles left in the road, pedestrians walking in the road, stray animals, and the possibility of armed robbery. Excessive speed, unpredictable local driving habits, pedestrians and livestock in the roadway, and the lack of adherence to basic safety standards for vehicles are daily hazards on Ethiopian roads.
If travelling by taxi, it is advised to only use the yellow metered taxis, as these generally have higher standards of maintenance than the blue and white taxis. Please ensure to always wear a seat belt when travelling in a taxi.
It is unlawful to use a cell phone or other electronic communications device while driving in Ethiopia (even if it has a hands-free feature), and use of seat belts is required. Be sure to carry your valid driver's license with you, as well as proof of comprehensive local insurance coverage. While in a vehicle, keep your doors locked and the windows rolled up at all times. Keep bags, purses, and valuables out of sight — in the trunk, on the floor, or in the glove compartment. Do not carry unnecessary items in your bag; leave your credit cards, social security card, etc., at home. Do not open your doors or windows to give to beggars. Police can fine people for giving money to beggars.
If you want to drive:
- Bring your international driving license and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance. If you intend to use your Irish driving licence to apply for an Ethiopian driving licence, you should have your driving licence authenticated by a notary public/ the National Driver Licence Service and the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin before travelling.
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law and you risk being detained, fined or banned from driving if caught
- Be aware of Ethiopia's traffic laws, such as speed limits
- Wear your seatbelts at all times
- Keep your vehicle doors locked and your bags kept out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag-snatching if you're stopped at traffic lights
- If you encounter roadblocks or checkpoints while driving, you should follow the advice of the local authorities present. If the roadblock or checkpoint is unattended, you should turn around and not attempt to pass it.
If your vehicle comes into contact with another, make sure that your valuables are secure before getting out of the vehicle and lock doors to prevent theft while you're not in the vehicle. . The Traffic Police will come to assess the scene and mark the location of the incident.
If there is a dispute at the scene, try to remain calm, don't engage physically, and try to take note of the other driver's name, licence plate, description, etc. . If a crowd assembles, stay in your car and wait for the police to arrive.
If you are hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you're allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.
Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).
Local Laws and Customs
Local Laws and Customs
Local laws and customs
Remember, local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or may even be illegal.
Entry requirements (visa/passport)
The Ethiopian authorities have temporarily suspended visa on arrival services. All visitors must get an e-visa or a visa from the Ethiopian Embassy closest to their place of legal residence before travelling.
Travelers who transit through Bole international Airport do not require a transit visa if they remain in the permitted transit area and depart within 12 hours.
Current visa extension fees are 100% of the initial visa fee for a first time one-month extension, 150% of the initial visa fee for a second time 15 day extension, and 200% for a third time 10 day extension. Full details on visa extensions can be found here. Travellers whose entry visa expires before they depart Ethiopia must obtain a visa extension through the Main Immigration Office in Addis Ababa. Currently, there is an overstay penalty fee of $10 a day, which must be paid before you can leave Ethiopia. Travellers overstaying their visas may be detained by immigration officials and/or required to appear in immigration court, and may be subject to additional fines.
Currently, Ethiopian authorities published a notice regarding registration of foreign nationals. Specifically, foreign nationals with expired visas, expired residence permits or those in country without a visa or permit are requested to register with the Immigration and Citizenship Services between now and 1 August 2022. Registration can be completed at any vital events registration office or with the Immigration and Citizenship Services in Piassa, Addis Ababa.
Muslim and Christian society
Both Muslim and Christian Ethiopians generally dress in a conservative manner. Women usually keep their shoulders and knees covered, and in some areas they may wear more conservative clothing. Be aware that wearing sleeveless clothing or clothing which does not cover the knee may cause offence, particularly outside Addis Ababa. In most, but not all, Ethiopian Orthodox churches there are restrictions on full or partial access for women - notices are usually posted in English at the entrances of the main churches that tourists frequent.
Illegal drug use (no matter what the drug) carries stiff penalties, including fines and long prison terms.
Western and Julian calendars
The Western and Julian calendars are used in Ethiopia. The year 2023 in the Western calendar is 2015-2016 in the Julian calendar. Christmas is celebrated on 7 January and New Year on 11 September.
Similarly, two systems of time are used. Ethiopian time is measured as a 12-hour day starting at 6am. Western 7am is referred to by many as one o’clock. Many Ethiopians are aware of this difference and will often convert times when speaking to foreigners.
You must get a permit to export antiques from Ethiopia. To avoid confusion on departure, you should keep receipts for any souvenirs you’ve bought, including crosses, which could be mistaken for valuable cultural artefacts.
In Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, you can fill in the customs declaration form in the baggage hall.
Ethiopian law strictly prohibits the photographing of military installations, police/military personnel, industrial facilities, government buildings, and infrastructure (roads, bridges, dams, airfields, etc.). Such sites are rarely marked clearly. Travel guides, police, and Ethiopian officials can advise if a particular site may be photographed. Photographing prohibited sites may result in the confiscation of film/camera and arrest.
Ethiopia is primarily a cash economy. Dollars and some of the more popular travellers’ checks can be changed at the airport, and at some banks.
There are some ATM machines at the major hotels and commercial centres that accept major international credit and debit cards, although connectivity problems sometimes limit their availability. While credit cards are gaining acceptance with some hotels, travel agencies, and merchants (Visa is much more widely accepted than Mastercard), it is best to check ahead and ensure you have sufficient cash reserves. Bear in mind that travellers’ cheques are not generally accepted outside Addis Ababa.
There are strict rules about taking foreign currency and Ethiopian Birr out of Ethiopia.
You cannot take more than USD$3,000 (or equivalent in foreign currency) out of Ethiopia, unless you declared the amount when you arrived in the country or you have an Ethiopian bank advice certifying the purchase of the foreign currency. You cannot take more than 300 Ethiopian Birr in to or out of the country.
Amounts over 300 Ethiopian Birr, or undeclared amounts over USD$3,000 may be confiscated by the Ethiopian authorities.
In case of emergency, Western Union have offices in Ethiopia, which can facilitate money transfers.
Natural Disasters and Climate
Natural Disasters and Climate
Natural disasters and climate
- If you’re travelling to Ethiopia, make sure you know what to expect – then plan and pack so that you’re prepared
- Get local advice on how to manage in the case of a serious incident or dangerous conditions
- Co-operate with local authorities and emergency services in the case of serious incidents
- The rainy season in Ethiopia lasts from May to September. During this time, some areas, particularly in the Southern Region, can be prone to mudslides. Check with local contacts in advance of travel.
Some people find it hard to adjust to the altitude in the Ethiopian highlands and need to avoid over-exertion.
Check with your doctor well in advance of travelling to see if you need any vaccinations for Ethiopia.
Although there are hospitals in all major towns in Ethiopia, facilities and the supply of medicines are extremely poor even in the larger towns outside Addis Ababa. Make sure you have adequate medical insurance, which covers medical evacuation by air ambulance, before your arrival.
Almost all regional hospitals will be unable to treat serious injuries or illnesses adequately. In the most serious cases, even the medical facilities in Addis Ababa may not be adequate. It may be worthwhile to carry a comprehensive medical pack if travelling or living outside Addis Ababa for an extended period.
Polio vaccination is recommended for all travellers from Ireland to countries where polio transmission is a risk.
Before travelling to areas where poliomyelitis cases are still occurring, travellers should ensure that they have completed the recommended age-appropriate polio vaccine schedule and have received a booster dose, if necessary. More information is available on the Health Protection and Surveillance Centre website.
In February 2013, the Ethiopian Government and the World Health Organisation reported an outbreak of meningococcal meningitis around Arba Minch and Shebdino, in southern Ethiopia, with a number of deaths reported in the Arba Minch area.
If you’re travelling to the Southern Region, in particular Awassa, Shebdino and Arba Minch, familiarise yourself with the symptoms of meningitis and seek medical attention swiftly if you experience them.
Waterborne diseases are common in Ethiopia and you should either boil water before drinking, or use bottled water. Since water boils at temperatures below 100 degrees centigrade at high altitudes, boiling may not be adequate to ensure sterilisation in some places. Bilharzia is common in most lakes in Ethiopia; you should check before going swimming.
Malaria is common in areas of the country below 1,800 metres or so. In the northern tourist circuit, most towns are well above this altitude. However, Bahir Dar is at an altitude of 1850 metres, and does experience cases of malaria.
Before travelling, get up-to-date medical advice as to whether you will need anti-malarial medication. When you arrive, take adequate precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes. You should also be aware that the full range of anti-malarial medications, which can be purchased in Ireland, is not available in Ethiopia.
An outbreak of Chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus, has been reported in Dire Dawa by the Ethiopian Ministry of Health as of September 2019. Travellers to this area should take steps to avoid mosquito bites.
Stray dogs are common in Addis Ababa and across Ethiopia. We recommend seeking advice from your doctor on rabies vaccination.
In case of emergency, please contact the Embassy by telephone: +251 11 518 0500.
Embassy of Ireland
Guinea Conakry Street
Tel: +251 (11) 518 0500
Fax: +251 (11) 552 3032
Monday - Thursday 8.30am to 12.30pm and 1.30pm to 5.00pm; Friday 8.30am to 12.30pm
Get travel and medical insurance
Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.