ETHIOPIA - Exercise a high degree of caution
There is no nationwide advisory in effect for Ethiopia. However, exercise a high degree of caution due to the volatile security situation.
Regional Advisory for the borders with Eritrea (including the Danakil Desert), Sudan and South Sudan, as well as the Somali region
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada advises against all travel within 10 km of the borders with Eritrea and South Sudan, as well as to the Somali region and the Danakil Desert. Avoid all travel within 20 km of the border with Sudan. Consult the Security tab for more information.
Regional Advisory for the border with Kenya
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada advises against non-essential travel within 10 km of the border with Kenya due to inter-tribal clashes and banditry. Consult the Security tab for more information.
The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice. In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location. The Government of Canada will assist you in leaving a country or a region as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at your personal expense. Situations vary from one location to another, and there may be constraints on government resources that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries or regions where the potential for violent conflict or political instability is high.
You are advised to exercise a high degree of caution in the country and to maintain security awareness at all times.
Border with Eritrea, including the Danakil Desert (see Advisory)
You are advised against all travel within 10 km of the Eritrean border in the Tigray and Afar regions. The border between Eritrea and Ethiopia is closed due to recurring military tensions and an unsettled border dispute, as demonstrated on March 15, 2012 when the Ethiopian military attacked targets in Eritrea. Adjacent areas are part of a special and heavily militarized security corridor where armed conflict could erupt. The security situation is particularly unpredictable in the northern regions of Tigray and Afar. Banditry and the threat of kidnapping are also a concern.
There is an ongoing threat of armed assaults and kidnappings against tourists and convoys in the Danakil Desert (northern Afar region). In January 2012, a group of foreign tourists was attacked by gunmen approximately 30 kilometers from the Ethiopian-Eritrean border, near the site of the Erta Ale Volcano. The attack resulted in the death of five people, with others injured and kidnapped. Avoid all travel to the Danakil Desert area, bounded by the Ethio-Eritrean border and the roads between the towns of Dessie and Adigrat and Dessie and the Galafi border crossing with Djibouti.
The presence of landmines poses a serious threat to visitors not travelling with a trusted tour company in the Danakil Desert. Explosions off the beaten path may cause injuries and death.
Somali region (see Advisory)
There is a high risk of kidnapping. Ongoing military operations against armed insurgent groups in the Somali region of Ethiopia and in the Ogaden and Hararge areas, toward the Somali border, have created an extremely volatile and dangerous security situation in which civilians have been killed and injured. Humanitarian missions, foreign aid workers as well as oil company workers and well operators in the Somali region have been subject to attacks and abductions by rebel groups including the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). The presence of landmines in this region poses an additional threat to safety.
Border with South Sudan and Sudan (see Advisory)
Tribal issues and sporadic incidents of violence have long affected part of the border area with South Sudan. In March 2012, a bus was ambushed by gunmen in the Gambella region, 22 km north of the city of Gambella on the road to Addis Ababa. Nineteen people were killed, and others were wounded or kidnapped. In April 2012, an agricultural site 90 km south of the city of Gambella was attacked by gunmen, killing five and injuring nine. Although foreigners do not appear to be targeted, tensions are high and concerns regarding ethnic clashes and road banditry remain. Tensions remain high in western Oromia as well. Avoid non-essential travel to the city of Gambella where the security situation is generally more stable.
Sporadic clashes have also occurred in the border areas with Sudan, particularly in thenorthwestern Amhara regions within 20km of the border with Sudan.
Border with Kenya (see Advisory)
Intertribal clashes, clan disputes, and banditry are common in this region and are fought by both Ethiopian and Kenyan security forces. This periodically raises tensions and cross-border violence has been reported. Armed groups hostile to the Government of Ethiopia operate in several areas near the border with Kenya.
Regional terror groups, including those associated with al Qaeda and al-Shabaab, continue to threaten Western interests and other potential targets in Ethiopia. The September 21, 2013 attack on an upscale Nairobi mall illustrates the threat of attacks on civilians in East Africa. On October 13, 2013, a bomb exploded in the Bole neighbourhood of Addis Ababa, killing two people.
On November 5, 2013, Ethiopian authorities indicated that they had “found tangible and reliable evidence that shows that the terrorists had plans to carry out attacks in Addis Ababa and in other parts of the country”. Be vigilant in crowded places and monitor local media. In addition, domestic terrorist groups pose threats in certain regions, including in the Somali region, and parts of the Afar, Oromo, and Gambella regions.
There is a moderate level of crime in Ethiopia, including in the capital. Muggings, armed assaults and theft from parked cars happen. Crimes of opportunity, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching, are prevalent in Addis Ababa. Pickpockets and thieves are active throughout the city, but particularly on Bole Road and in the Piazza, the Merkato, and other areas frequented by tourists and foreigners. Crime significantly increases after dark, and foreigners should avoid walking alone after sundown. Similarly, driving outside of Addis Ababa after sundown is not advised due to banditry.
In the last few years, small bombings and explosions have occurred in Addis Ababa. Targets have included government buildings, public transit, and local restaurants and cafés. If travelling in the capital, you should monitor local developments and remain in regular contact with the Embassy of Canada in Addis Ababa. Be vigilant and aware of your surroundings at all times.
Politically and socially motivated demonstrations occur regularly and are often initiated with little or no advance notice. Some have escalated and turned violent in the past. Exercise caution and avoid public gatherings and demonstrations.
Apart from major arteries, roads are generally in poor condition and often unpaved. However, in recent years, the road network has significantly improved, particularly in and around Addis Ababa. Excessive speed, local driving habits, pedestrians, roaming animals, and poorly maintained vehicles pose hazards. Outside of Addis Ababa, overland travel should be undertaken during daylight hours only and in convoys if possible. Periodic fuel shortages can disrupt road travel.
It is common for vehicles to be approached by beggars or vendors. It is illegal to give money to, or purchase something from, people who approach vehicles stopped in traffic. If caught, both the beggar/vendor and the vehicle operator may be fined. However, it is common for people, particularly children, to throw rocks at vehicles if their plea for money is ignored.
Beware of individuals who appear to be offering assistance by signaling that there is a problem with your vehicle, as bandits frequently use this tactic to lure drivers out of their vehicles.
Overland travel to the areas bordering Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan is generally unsafe as banditry, including armed robbery and carjacking, is common. Landmines remain a hazard, particularly in the conflict zones of northern Ethiopia and near the areas bordering Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia.
Traffic accidents occur regularly in Addis Ababa and throughout Ethiopia. Drivers should use extra caution as traffic moves unpredictably and rules of the road are not respected. If an accident occurs, it is illegal to move your vehicle before a police officer arrives. However, if the driver or passenger feels the situation is unsafe, he or she should leave immediately and report the incident to the nearest police station. Drivers should always carry a first-aid kit as medical facilities are often undersupplied.
Upon entering the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, all bags are scanned, without exception, including checked-in luggage. Suitcases may also be searched manually. Baggage tags must be retained, as they must be presented upon exit from the airport baggage claim area, without exception.
Consult our Transportation FAQ in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.
General safety information
Tourist facilities are limited outside Addis Ababa, and any travel outside the capital, especially in rural areas, should be carefully planned.
Power outages are frequent, particularly during the dry season (November to June). Not all buildings have generators, so outages can result in lack of street lighting, restaurants and supermarkets without adequate refrigeration, and gas stations unable to supply fuel. Carry flashlights and backup supplies.
Carry identification at all times and safely store certified photocopies of passports, visas and other travel documents.
Remain discreet and avoid displaying any signs of affluence in public. Valuables or bags should not be left unattended.
Although coverage can be poor outside urban centres, it is improving and it is still advisable to carry a cellular phone in case of emergency. In an emergency, call 991 for police, fire department or ambulance services.
It is the sole prerogative of each country or region to determine who is allowed to enter. Canadian consular officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry requirements. The following information on entry and exit requirements has been obtained from the Ethiopian authorities. However, these requirements are subject to change at any time. It is your responsibility to check with the Consulate of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia for up-to-date information.
Official (special and diplomatic) passport holders must consult the Official Travel page, as they may be subject to different entry requirements.
A valid Canadian passport is required for Canadians intending to visit Ethiopia. The passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the date of your expected departure from Ethiopia.
Canadians must be in possession of a valid visa. The current policy is that tourist visas can be obtained on arrival at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, but this is likely to change in the near future and without warning. Everyone entering Ethiopia should therefore be in possession of a visa before arrival to avoid possible complications. Canadians arriving over a land border must already be in possession of a valid visa or they risk being denied entry. Visa expiry dates should be checked carefully because Ethiopian immigration authorities have become very strict in their treatment of people who overstay their visas. An overstay results in fees, and in some instances, court appearances and/or jail time. The type of visa is also carefully monitored, and a “tourist” visa means just that. Conducting any form of business, even volunteering, may be considered illegal, and fees and/or jail time may be ordered.
Tourist visa: Required
Business visa: Required
Transit visa: Required
There is currently no departure tax for Ethiopia. However, check before travelling, as rules change frequently and without notice.
Overland entry requirements
If you enter Ethiopia by vehicle over certain borders, you could experience delays and requests for out-of-the-ordinary documents. Contact the Embassy of Canada in Addis Ababa to determine specific entry requirements for road travel.
Dual nationality is not legally recognized in Ethiopia, which may limit the ability of Canadian officials to provide consular services. You should travel using your Canadian passport and present yourself as Canadian to foreign authorities at all times. Consult our publication entitled Dual Citizenship: What You Need to Know for more information.
Children and travel
Children need special documentation to visit certain countries. Please consult our Children page for more information.
Some countries require proof of yellow fever vaccination before allowing entry. Consult the World Health Organization’s country list to obtain information on this country’s requirements.
The Agency strongly recommends that you consult with a travel medicine clinic or health care provider preferably six weeks before departure.
The Agency publishes travel health advice for Ethiopia.
Health facilities are very limited in Addis Ababa and completely inadequate outside the capital. Physicians are generally well trained, but hospital resources remain a constant problem. Bring adequate supplies of all medications in their original containers, clearly labelled, as shortages of medicine occur. Emergency assistance is limited. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation would be necessary. Medical evacuation by commercial flight can be coordinated with the assistance of the Embassy and is subject to approval by the airline. Air ambulance services from any airport in Ethiopia, including Addis Ababa, are very expensive and are available through an often lengthy process resulting in delays.
The country is mountainous and high altitudes may cause health problems, including shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea, headaches and inability to sleep.
Laws & Culture
You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention FAQ for more information.
Illegal and/or restricted activities
All illicit drugs are illegal except khat, a local stimulant. Khat is illegal in Canada.
Although weaponry is relatively easy to acquire, it is illegal to carry a firearm in Ethiopia.
It is illegal to own any quantity of ivory, including in jewelry.
Homosexual activity is illegal for both genders, and is punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment.
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 Consulate of Ethiopia in Toronto for permission to bring them into the country. Each visitor is only permitted to bring one of each device, such as a laptop, cell phone, projector, etc.
It is strictly prohibited to photograph military installations, police and military personnel, industrial facilities, and government buildings and infrastructure, including roads, bridges, dams and airfields. It is extremely dangerous to stop either on foot or in a vehicle near a restricted area, no matter the reason.
Tourist souvenirs are often copies of Ethiopian antiques or religious paraphernalia. It is important to have a proper receipt that clearly indicates that a purchased item is a souvenir and not authentic, as the exportation of real antiques or religious items is not permitted. Receipts should be carried on your person when travelling. It should be noted, however, that even upon presenting such documents, items purchased for exportation may still be confiscated, no matter how small or seemingly trivial they are.
A local driver's licence is required to drive in Ethiopia. Travellers must present their valid Canadian driver's licence or their International Driving Permit (IDP) to obtain one.
Ethiopia operates within both the Western and the Julian time and calendar systems. Time is usually measured as a 12-hour day starting at 6 a.m. (e.g. 9 a.m. Western time is referred to as 3 a.m. Julian time).
The Ethiopian highlands are predominantly Orthodox Christian. There is fasting in this region each Wednesday and Friday, and during Lent. Primarily vegetarian dishes are available during this period (except in large hotels).
Always obtain permission from religious authorities before visiting churches.
The currency is the birr (ETB). It is illegal to enter or exit Ethiopia while carrying more than 200 birr. It is also illegal to travel in or out of Ethiopia with more than US$3,000 (or its equivalent in any convertible foreign currency) unless also carrying a bank advice certifying the purchase of the foreign currency or a customs declaration form completed upon entry. Even the provision of such documents may not safeguard you against confiscation of the extra funds, imprisonment or fines. You must declare foreign currencies upon arrival and may be required to present this declaration when applying for an exit visa.
Exchange foreign currency at banks or official foreign exchange offices only, as penalties for exchanging money on the black market range from fines to imprisonment. Official exchange rates are close to black-market rates.
Credit cards are not widely accepted except by large hotels, travel agencies, and a few shops and restaurants in Addis Ababa. Take hard-currency cash or traveller's cheques to Ethiopia. Traveller’s cheques can be cashed at the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia or at any privately owned bank.
Natural Disasters & Climate
Due to below-average rainfall over the last five years, many regions of eastern Africa, including Ethiopia, are currently afflicted by severe drought. You may encounter difficulties travelling overland. Local services and the availability of water and basic food may be affected.
The rainy season normally extends from June to September. Some roads may become impassable during this period due to flooding. Keep informed of regional weather forecasts and plan accordingly.
Ethiopia is located in an active seismic zone. You should know the address and telephone number of the Embassy of Canada in Addis Ababa in the event of an emergency, and make sure that your registration with the Registration of Canadians Abroad is as accurate and complete as possible.
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