Situated in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia boasts extraordinary natural features, a vast range of wildlife, and a captivating historical and cultural heritage. An increasing number of visitors are frequenting this treasure trove filled with unique attractions.
Popular attractions include: the medieval castles of Gondar; the walled city of Harar; and Lalibela, a pilgrimage site known for its ancient monolithic churches, hewn into the area’s steep rocky hillsides.
Ethiopia’s stunning natural landscapes are the real tourist drawcard. From the lush Simien Mountains to the sulphur vents of the Danakil Depression, the country’s outstanding natural environment is unforgettable. Bahir Dar, located on Lake Tana, is popular as a base from which to explore the fascinating monasteries situated on the numerous islands dotted around the lake, as well as the Blue Nile Falls, which are arguably the most spectacular falls in North Africa.
The Center for Disease Control maintains an excellent source of health information for travelers.
Ethiopia has 220 volt electricity, meaning unless your computer or appliance is dual voltage or designed for 220 volts, you will need a converter or transformer. The cycles (Hz) are 50 per second. The power sockets that are used are of type C / E / F / L. While adaptors are available in Ethiopia, buying one prior to leaving home is recommended to avoid the hassle of trying to find one when you arrive.
US Dollar (USD; symbol US$) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of US$100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1. Coins are in denominations of US$1 and 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 cents. Some coins are usual US cents and some are Ecuadorean centavos. They have the same value.
There are no restrictions on the import or export of local or foreign currency. However, amounts exceeding US$10,000 must be declared.
Foreign currencies can be exchanged at banks and at casas de cambio (exchange houses), the latter being generally the best option. It may be difficult to exchange money in the Oriente. The rate of commission varies between 1 to 4%, so it is worth shopping around.
Banking hours: Generally Mon-Fri 0830-1600/1700 and Saturday mornings.
Major credit/debit cards are accepted in most businesses. ATMs are available at most banks in urban areas. On the Galápagos Islands, currently only Mastercard is accepted.
ATMs are available at most banks in urban areas. Note that dirty or torn notes will not be accepted. Try to keep cash in smaller denominations; shopkeepers tend to refuse $50 and $100 bills as forgeries of these notes are common.
Traveller's cheques are generally accepted in the larger cities and can be exchanged into currency at most banks and casas de cambio.
The best time to visit Ethiopia is between January and March when clear, sunny days bring regular average daily temperatures of 25°C (77°F). This is Ethiopia's busiest time to visit, with wildlife spotting at its peak and the festivals of Timkat and Leddet drawing huge crowds.
The rainy season (April to September) brings soaring temperatures and humid conditions. Due to rain, from May to August some roads in the Lower Omo Valley become impassable. August is the hottest (and wettest) month with temperatures reaching 45°C (113°F) regularly in the lowlands. In the highlands temperatures are much more moderate but sightseeing is hampered by downpours of rain.
October to December is an excellent time to visit Ethiopia as the countryside is lushly pretty after all the rain, there are plenty of sunny days and historical sites and monuments are not overrun with tourists. Night time temperatures in highland areas often drop to between 5°C (41°F) and 10°C (50°F) during November and December so be sure to pack a warm clothing.
Due to vast altitude differences between highland and lowland areas, if you are intent on exploring Ethiopia fully you should prepare for a wide range of temperature differences.In general between seasons clothes and layers are appropriate. Bringing clothes that can be easily layered is the obvious choice. You will need lightweight clothing for the lowlands and mediumweight for the hill country. At least one warm jumper or pullover should be brought along to cope with dramatic temperature drops once the sun goes down.At higher altitudes, a warm or a coat are needed in the evenings. Travelers should take rain coat or other rainwear, particularly when visiting the country during the period from February to October. It is usually possible to have clothes laundered at or near hotels within a short period of time (frequently services are offered 24 hours a day).