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Latest updates: Laws and culture - Ramadan 2019.
Ethiopia - Exercise a high degree of caution
Exercise a high degree of caution in Ethiopia due to the volatile security situation.
Borders with Sudan and South Sudan and the Gambella region - Avoid all travel
Avoid all travel to the following areas, due to intertribal clashes:
- within 10 km of the border with South Sudan
- within 20 km of the border with Sudan
- the Gambella region
Border with Eritrea, Somali region, Danakil Desert and Erta Ale Volcano - Avoid all travel
Avoid all travel to the following areas, due to military operations, armed insurgencies and banditry:
- within 10 km of the border with Eritrea
- the Danakil desert (including Dallol)
- areas around the Erta Ale Volcano in the Afar region
the Somali region
Safety and security
Safety and security
Border with Eritrea
The border between Eritrea and Ethiopia is closed due to recurring military tensions and an unsettled border dispute. Armed conflict could erupt in border areas that are part of a special and heavily militarized security corridor. The security situation is particularly unpredictable in the northern border regions of Afar and Tigray. Banditry and kidnapping occur.
Danakil Desert and Erta Ale volcano
Insurgents have attacked and kidnapped foreign tourists and locals in the area. On December 3, 2017, armed insurgents based at the border with Eritrea shot at a group of tourists visiting the Erta Ale volcano, killing a Western tourist and injuring another person.
Landmines are planted in less-travelled areas and explosions may cause injury or death.
There is a high risk of kidnapping and personal injury in the Somali region, which borders Somalia. Military operations against armed insurgent groups are ongoing in the Somali region. The security situation is extremely volatile and dangerous, and there have been civilian casualties. Rebel groups have attacked and abducted humanitarian, foreign aid and oil company workers, as well as well operators in the Somali region. Landmines in this region also pose a threat to safety.
Border with South Sudan and Sudan and the Gambella region
Tribal issues and sporadic violence have long affected part of the border area with South Sudan. Since January 2016, intertribal clashes in the city of Gambella and surrounding areas have caused casualties and, recently, have caused damage to foreign companies’ installations in the area.
Sporadic clashes have also occurred in the border areas with Sudan, particularly in the northwestern Amhara region within 20km of the Ethiopia–Sudan border.
Border with Kenya
Intertribal clashes, clan disputes and banditry are common occurrences near the border with Kenya. Ethiopian and Kenyan security forces regularly carry out military operations in the region, which periodically raises tensions. Cross-border violence also occurs. Armed groups hostile to the Government of Ethiopia also operate in several areas near the border.
Since August 2017, there have been inter-communal clashes on the border between the Somali and Oromia regions. Tensions are still high. Road travel might be disrupted in these areas. Exercise caution and follow the instructions of the local authorities.
Demonstrations and civil unrest
Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. They can also lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation.
- Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place.
- Follow the instructions of local authorities.
- Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations.
The state of emergency also prohibits public discussion of security issues. Refrain from writing on blogs or social media about political subjects, as it could lead to detention and arrest.
Amhara and Oromia regions
Demonstrations and violent clashes between residents and security forces have been occurring sporadically across Amhara and Oromia regions, leading to casualties and mass arrests. Residents have also randomly attacked cars and disrupted road travel. A security presence remains throughout the regions. Sporadic disturbances continue, and authorities may impose curfews in some areas. Be extremely vigilant, as the security situation could deteriorate without warning.
There is a threat of terrorism. Regional terror groups continue to threaten Western interests and other potential targets in Ethiopia. Domestic terror groups also pose a threat in some regions, including Somali, and parts of the Afar, Gambella and Oromo regions.
Targets could include:
- government buildings, including schools
- places of worship
- airports and other transportation hubs and networks
- public areas such as tourist attractions, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, shopping centres, markets, hotels and other sites frequented by foreigners
Always be aware of your surroundings when in public places.
There is a moderate level of crime in Ethiopia, including in Addis Ababa. Muggings, armed assaults and theft from parked cars happen. Street crime, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching, are prevalent in the capital. Pickpockets and thieves are active throughout the city, but particularly on Bole Road and in the Piazza, the Merkato (market), the Entoto and other areas frequented by tourists and foreigners. Crime significantly increases after dark.
- Avoid walking alone after sundown.
- Ensure that your personal belongings, including your passport and other travel documents, are secure at all times.
- Avoid displaying any signs of affluence in public.
Women travelling alone may be subject to some forms of harassment and verbal abuse.
Apart from major arteries, roads are generally in poor condition and often unpaved. In recent years, however, the road network has significantly improved, particularly in and around Addis Ababa. Drivers often speed and drive recklessly. Animals also tend to roam the roads. Poorly maintained vehicles also pose hazards.
Overland travel to the areas bordering Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and 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 Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan.
Bandits frequently signal to drivers that there is a problem with their vehicle to lure drivers out.
Beggars and vendors regularly approach vehicles. If ignored, they may throw rocks at vehicles. It is illegal to give money to, or purchase something from, such individuals. See Laws and culture for more information.
Traffic accidents occur regularly throughout Ethiopia. Traffic moves unpredictably and drivers do not respect the rules of the road. If an accident occurs, it is illegal to move your vehicle before a police officer arrives. Should you feel unsafe, leave immediately and report the incident to the nearest police station. Always carry a first-aid kit, as medical facilities are often undersupplied.
Most public transport is unregulated and unsafe. If you use public transport, avoid minibuses and large buses. Only use metred taxis, and make sure you are the only passenger in the vehicle.
A light rail system serves Addis Ababa. The Addis Ababa–Djibouti railway passes through towns in the east.
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
Authorities will scan all your bags, including checked-in luggage, when you enter the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport. They may also search bags by hand. You must present your baggage tags before you leave the airport baggage claim area.
General safety information
Tourist facilities are improving but somewhat limited outside Addis Ababa. Plan any travel outside the capital very carefully.
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. Periodic fuel shortages also occur. Carry flashlights and backup supplies.
Cellular coverage is poor but improving outside urban centres. Carry a cellular phone in case of emergency.
Difficult terrain and volcanic activity make travel in some areas unsafe, particularly near the Erta Ale volcano. Extremely high temperatures and the lack of infrastructure such as running water and medical services further increase those risks.
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.
We have obtained the information on this page from the Ethiopian authorities. It can, however, change at any time.
Verify this information with foreign diplomatic missions and consulates in Canada.
Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.
Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.
Regular Canadian passport
Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the date you expect to leave Ethiopia.
Passport for official travel
Different entry rules may apply.
Other travel documents
Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest diplomatic mission for your destination.
Tourist visa: Required
Business visa: Required
Transit visa: Required
Canadians must have a valid visa to enter the country. You may obtain a visa online or on arrival at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport. This is subject to change without warning. Obtain a visa before arrival to avoid possible complications.
Verify carefully that your visa is valid. If you overstay your visa, you may face daily fines and imprisonment. Ensure that your activities in the country adhere to the type of visa you have obtained. Authorities will consider any business activity, even volunteering, illegal, and may impose fees and jail time.
To obtain an Ethiopian evisa – Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Land border entry requirements
Canadians arriving through a land border may be denied entry if they do not have a valid visa. Authorities may request additional documents if you attempt to enter Ethiopia by vehicle at certain border crossings. Contact the Embassy of Canada in Addis Ababa to determine specific entry requirements at land borders.
Children and travel
Learn about travel with children.
Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).
Posted: January 26, 2018
Risk of a Large Outbreak of Meningococcal Disease in Africa
The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that countries in Africa's meningitis belt (see country list below) and neighbouring countries are at a high risk for a large outbreak of meningoccocal disease (commonly called meningitis).
There is a high risk of a large outbreak in the area because the strain of meningitis that is currently circulating is a new hyper-invasive strain of serogroup C and there is a shortage of meningitis C-containing vaccine.
If you plan to travel to any country in Africa's meningitis belt or a neighbouring country, it is recommended that you get vaccinated against meningococcal disease with a conjugate serogroup C-containing vaccine.
For more information, see the WHO Situation update on meningitis C epidemic risk.
Countries in Africa's meningitis belt include: Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Sudan, Sudan, Togo, Uganda, and United Republic of Tanzania.
Be sure that your routine vaccines, as per your province or territory, are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Some of these vaccines include: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread through contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease and is common in most parts of the world.
Be sure your measles vaccination is up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
This country is in the African Meningitis Belt, an area where there are many cases of meningococcal disease. Meningococcal disease is a serious and sometimes fatal infection. Travellers who may be at high risk should consider getting vaccinated. High-risk travellers include those living or working with the local population (e.g., health care workers) or those travelling to crowded areas or taking part in large gatherings.
There is a risk of polio in this country.
- Be sure that your vaccination against polio is up to date. Polio is part of the routine vaccine schedule for children in Canada.
- One booster dose of the polio vaccine is recommended as an adult.
Rabies is a deadly illness spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from an infected animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).
Yellow Fever - Country Entry Requirements
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
- There is a risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
- Proof of vaccination is required if you are coming from or have transited through an airport of a country where yellow fever occurs.
- Vaccination is recommended depending on your itinerary.
- There is currently a shortage of the yellow fever vaccine in Canada. It is important for travellers to contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre well in advance of their trip to ensure that the vaccine is available.
- Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites.
About Yellow Fever
Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres in Canada
* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Food and Water-borne Diseases
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
In some areas in East Africa, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in East Africa. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
Cholera is a risk in parts of this country. Most travellers are at very low risk.
For protection of cholera
All travellers should practise safe food and water precautions.
Travellers at higher risk should discuss with a health care provider the benefits of getting vaccinated.
Travellers at higher risk include those:
- visiting, working or living in areas with limited access to safe food, water and proper sanitation
- visiting areas where outbreaks are occurring.
Schistosomiasis can be spread to humans through freshwater sources contaminated by blood flukes (tiny worms). The eggs of the worms can cause stomach illnesses like diarrhea and cramps or urinary problems. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Avoid swimming in freshwater sources (lakes, rivers, ponds). There is no vaccine available for schistosomiasis.
- Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
- Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
- The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among pediatric travellers, travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives or travelling for a long period of time. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care provider about vaccination.
Insects and Illness
In some areas in East Africa, certain insects carry and spread diseases like African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, malaria, onchocerciasis (river blindness), Rift Valley fever, West Nile virus and yellow fever.
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
- Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.
- The risk of dengue is higher during the daytime, particularly at sunrise and sunset.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against dengue fever.
Visceral leishmaniasis (or kala azar) affects the bone marrow and internal organs. It is caused by a parasite spread through the bite of a female sandfly. It can also be transmitted by blood transfusion or sharing contaminated needles. If left untreated it can cause death. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from sandfly bites, which typically occur after sunset in rural and forested areas and in some urban centres. There is no vaccine or medication to protect against leishmaniasis.
Lymphatic filariasis, also known as elephantiasis, is caused by filariae (tiny worms) spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. It can cause a range of illnesses. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine available for lymphatic filariasis although drug treatments exist.
Onchocerciasis (river blindness) is an eye and skin disease caused by a parasite spread through the bite of an infected female blackfly. Onchocerciasis often leads to blindness if left untreated. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from blackfly bites, which are most common close to fast-flowing rivers and streams. There is no vaccine available for onchocerciasis although drug treatments exist.
Zika virus infection
Zika virus infection is a risk in this country. The mosquito that spreads the virus is found here.
All travellers should protect themselves from mosquito bites and other diseases spread by insects.
- There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
- Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no vaccine against malaria.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in enclosed air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider pre-treating clothing and travel gear with insecticides and sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet.
- Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.
Animals and Illness
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in East Africa, like avian influenza, ebola, and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks and impairs the immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).
High risk activities include anything which puts you in contact with blood or body fluids, such as unprotected sex and exposure to unsterilized needles for medications or other substances (for example, steroids and drugs), tattooing, body-piercing or acupuncture.
Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.
For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.
Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.
High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.
Medical services and facilities
Good health care is limited in availability in Addis Ababa. Facilities outside of the capital are not up to Canadian standards. Shortages of medicine occur. Emergency assistance is limited.
Make sure you get travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation and hospital stays.
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws and culture
Laws & culture
You must abide by local laws.
Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad.
Illegal and/or restricted activities
All illicit drugs are illegal except khat, a local stimulant. Do not attempt to export it.
It is illegal to carry a firearm in Ethiopia.
It is illegal to own any quantity of ivory, including in jewelry.
It is strictly prohibited to photograph:
- military installations
- police and military personnel
- industrial facilities
- government buildings and infrastructure, including roads, bridges, dams and airfields
Never stop near a restricted area, no matter the reason, on foot or in a vehicle.
Writing on blogs or social media about political subjects could lead to detention and arrest.
Antiques or religious paraphernalia
You may not export real antiques or religious items. Tourist souvenirs are often copies of Ethiopian antiques or religious paraphernalia. Keep a receipt that clearly indicates that a purchased item is a souvenir and not authentic. Even if you show a receipt, authorities may confiscate items purchased for export, especially ceremonial knives.
Ethiopian law prohibits sexual acts between individuals of the same sex. Those convicted can face up to 15 years in prison. LGBTQ2 travellers should carefully consider the risks of travelling to Ethiopia.
You must have a local driver’s licence to drive in Ethiopia. You must present your valid Canadian driver’s licence or an International Driving Permit to obtain one.
It is illegal to give money to, or purchase something from, people who approach vehicles stopped in traffic, including children. If caught, both the beggar/vendor and the vehicle operator face fines.
During the lunar month of Ramadan (the ninth month of the Muslim calendar), use discretion when drinking, eating, and smoking in public between sunrise and sunset. In 2019, Ramadan is expected to begin on or around May 5.
The Ethiopian highlands populace is predominantly Orthodox Christian. There is fasting in this region every 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.
Unlike the convention in most countries, the start of the day is dawn, not midnight. As a result, there is a different convention for the hours of the day; for example, the time at one hour after dawn is 1 a.m.
Dual citizenship is not legally recognized in Ethiopia.
If local authorities consider you a citizen of Ethiopia, they may refuse to grant you access to Canadian consular services. This will prevent us from providing you with those services.
You must carry photo identification, as local authorities can ask you to prove your identity. Keep a photocopy of your passport in a safe place, in case it is lost or confiscated.
You must declare all laptop computers and video equipment other than those for personal use upon arrival and departure. Some recording devices may require special customs permits. If you will be using these items for work, obtain permission to bring them into the country from the Embassy of Ethiopia in Ottawa or the Consulate of Ethiopia in Toronto.
You can use one cell phone or tablet on the network of the sole, state-owned telecommunications provider, Ethio Telecom for the price of a small activation fee. Additional devices are subject to a customs fee of 10% of the total cost of the device, as well as the activation fee.
The currency is the birr (ETB). It is illegal to enter or exit Ethiopia with more than 3,000 birr. You can enter Ethiopia with US$3,000 (or its equivalent in any convertible foreign currency). If you enter with more, you must declare the funds upon arrival. You may exit Ethiopia with more than US$3,000 (or its equivalent in any convertible foreign currency) if you have a bank document certifying the purchase of the foreign currency and approving travel with the funds, or if you had completed a customs declaration form upon entry. Even the provision of such documents may not safeguard you against confiscation of the extra funds, imprisonment or fines. Policies may change at any time without notice.
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 a Canadian bank debit card suitable for international use.
Natural disasters and climate
Natural disasters & climate
Due to below-average rainfall over the last five years, Ethiopia, like many regions of eastern Africa, is experiencing 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.
In case of emergency, dial:
- police: 991
- medical assistance: 907
- firefighters: 939
Addis Ababa - Embassy of Canada
For emergency consular assistance, call the Embassy of Canada in Addis Ababa and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad.
The content on this page is provided for information only. While we make every effort to give you correct information, it is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, express or implied. The Government of Canada does not assume responsibility and will not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided.
If you need consular assistance while abroad, we will make every effort to help you. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
Learn more about consular services.
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