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Quick Facts
CapitalAddis Ababa
Governmentfederal republic
Currencybirr (ETB)
Areatotal: 1,127,127 sq km
water: 7,444 sq km
land: 1,119,683 sq km
Population67,673,031 (July 2002 est.)
LanguageAmharic, Tigrinya, Oromigna, Guaragigna, Somali, Arabic, other local languages, English (major foreign language taught in schools)
ReligionMuslim 45%-50%, Ethiopian Orthodox 35%-40%, animist 12%, other 3%-8%

Ethiopia is a landlocked country in Eastern Africa that is surrounded by Eritrea to the north, Djibouti to the northeast, Somalia to the east, Kenya to the south, and Sudan to the west.


Administrative divisions 
9 ethnically-based states (kililoch, singular - kilil) and 2 self-governing administrations* (astedaderoch, singular - astedader); Addis Ababa*, Afar, Amhara, Binshangul Gumuz, Dire Dawa*, Gambela Hizboch (Gambela Peoples), Hareri Hizb (Harari People), Oromiya (Oromia), Sumale (Somali), Tigray, Ye Debub Biheroch Bihereseboch na Hizboch (Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples)


  • Adama - Capital of Oromiya region and popular weekend destination; also known as Nazareth (Nazret)
  • Addis Ababa - Capital of Ethiopia
  • Eritrea
  • Bahir Dar - Near the source of the Blue Nile
  • Gondar - Some of East Africa's only castles
  • Lalibela - Home to 11 rock-hewn churches
  • African National Parks



    Tropical monsoon with wide topographic-induced variation. The weather can be chilly in Addis and other areas where the elevation is high.


    High plateau with central mountain range divided by Great Rift Valley

    Elevation extremes 
    lowest point: Denakil Depression -125 m
    highest point: Ras Dejen 4,620 m
    Natural hazards 
    geologically active Great Rift Valley susceptible to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions; frequent droughts
    Geography - note 
    landlocked - entire coastline along the Red Sea was lost with the de jure independence of Eritrea on 24 May 1993; the Blue Nile, the chief headstream of the Nile, rises in T'ana Hayk (Lake Tana) in northwest Ethiopia; three major crops are believed to have originated in Ethiopia: coffee, grain sorghum, and castor bean


    Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa and one of the oldest in the world - at least 2,000 years

    Unique among African countries, the ancient Ethiopian monarchy maintained its freedom from colonial rule, one exception being the Italian occupation of 1936-41. In 1974 a military junta, the Derg, deposed Emperor Haile SELASSIE (who had ruled since 1930) and established a socialist state. Torn by bloody coups, uprisings, wide-scale drought, and massive refugee problems, the regime was finally toppled by a coalition of rebel forces, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), in 1991.

    National holiday 
    National Day (defeat of MENGISTU regime), 28 May (1991)
    ratified December 1994; effective 22 August 1995

    A constitution was adopted in 1994 and Ethiopia's first multiparty elections were held in 1995. A two and a half year border war with Eritrea ended with a peace treaty on 12 December 2000.

    Get in

    All visitors to Ethiopia (except for Kenyan and Djiboutian nationals) are required to obtain an entry visa. Since 2002, tourists from 33 countries (listed here (http://www.waltainfo.com/ennews/2002/jan/15jan02/jan15e10.htm)) are able to obtain entry visas upon their arrival at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, and at the airport in Dire Dawa.

    By plane

    Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa is the main hub for Ethiopian Airlines and also hosts Lufthansa, Sudan Airways, British Airways, and KLM. A new runway and international terminal opened in 2003.

    Arriving without a major currency such as Euros or American dollars is not recommended, especially if one has not obtained a visa prior to arrival. There is no ATM. One may be able to change traveller's cheques.

    Major hotels send vans to pick up pre-booked guests from the airport.

    There is also an international airport in Dire Dawa.

    By train

    A railroad links Addis Ababa with Djibouti. According to the U.S. State Department, "travel in Ethiopia via rail is strongly discouraged due to episodes of derailment, sabotage, and bombings as recently as February 2003."

    By car

    One way to get in from Sudan is via the border village of Metema. One way to get in from Kenya is via the border town of Moyale.

    By bus

    By boat

    Ethiopia is landlocked and currently uses the seaport in Djibouti.

    Get around

    By plane

    Ethiopian Airlines is reasonably priced and has fairly comprehensive domestic services.

    By train

    There is a (slow) train between Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa.

    By bus

    There is a comprehensive network of cheap buses along the major roads, although these are slow and basic. Buses generally leave whenever they have filled up with passengers (in practice, these means once an hour or so). Buses do not travel at night; they will stop before sundown in a town or village with accommodation for the passengers. Between some cities (e.g. Adama and Addis Ababa), minibuses will run after the larger buses have stopped for the night.

    By car

    A good way to tour Ethiopia is by car. You can take small airplanes to expedite your tour, but you will take in more of scenery if you travel by car. Two reasonable touring companies are NTO and Focus Tours Ethiopia. They can take you off the beaten track so you can see the beauty and attractions of Ethiopia.

    By bicycle

    Road conditions vary considerably around Ethiopia; many roads are smoothly sealed while others consist mostly of large stones. Accommodation is cheap and available in almost every village (although these "hotels" usually double as bars and brothels). Food and drink are also easily available. You will attract considerable attention (it is not uncommon for whole schools to empty out as the children chase you).


    Amharic, Tigrinya, Oromigna, Guaragigna, Somali, Arabic, other local languages, English (major foreign language taught in schools)

    Amharic-Selam-means Welcome Teanast´┐Żll´┐Żn-means Hello

    Tigrinya-Subax wanaagsan-means Good Morning


    Time and calendar

    In Ethiopia, the 12-hour clock cycles do not begin at midnight and noon, but instead are offset six hours. Thus, Ethiopians refer to midnight (or noon) as 6 o'clock.

    The Ethiopian calendar starts on September 11 according to the Gregorian calendar. One year consists of twelve months, each lasting thirty days, plus a thirteenth month of five or six days (hence the "Thirteen Months of Sunshine" tourism slogan). The year number is eight years less than the year on the Gregorian calendar until September 10 or 11, after which it is seven years less. For example, for most of 2005, it will be 1997 in Ethiopia. On September 11, 2005, Ethiopia will celebrate New Year's Day (Enkutatesh) for 1998.

    Note that airline timetables are based on the 24-hour clock and use the Gregorian calendar.




    Injera is Ethiopia's national dish. Injera is a spongy, tangy tasting bread made from the grain teff, which grows in the highlands of Ethiopia. It is eaten with wot (or wat), the traditional stews made with spices and meat or legumes.

    The injera sits directly on a large round plate or tray and is covered with wot placed symmetrically around a central item. The various wots are eaten with other pieces of injera, which are served on a side plate. Injera is eaten with the right hand - rip a large piece of injera from the side plate and use it to pick up one of the various flavors of wat on the main platter.


    The coffee ceremony involves drinking a minimum of three cups of coffee and eating popcorn. It is a special honour, or mark of respect to be invited into somebody's home for the coffee ceremony.

    In preparation for the ceremony the coffee beans are roasted in a flat pan over charcoal. The beans are then ground using pestle and mortar. The coffee is brewed with water in a clay coffee pot and is considered ready when it starts to boil. Coffee in Ethiopia is served black with sugar.


    There is a wide range of accommodation in Ethiopia. There is a luxurious Sheraton hotel in Addis Ababa, but nothing more than small insect-infested rooms with no running water in the border town of Moyale.

    Staying in tourist areas generally results in a broader range of choices, but watch out for tourist prices. It is acceptable to bargain with the hotel owner, for they usually tend to charge you "faranji" (foreigner) prices at first. You won't be able to bargain down to local prices (close to nothing) but you can bargain down a lot. This is NOT true at the government run "Ghion" chain, and usually untrue for other big chains as well (Bekale Mola, for example).

    Outside Addis: In every one of the cities up north (Axum, Lalibella, Bahir Dar, Gondar) on can find hotels ranging from the overpriced 50 USD a night government run Ghion chain hotels to cheaper hotels ranging from 4-20 USD. Most have running water, some have running hot water, and some of them only have electricity part of the day. Even Debark, the small town where treks to the Simien Mountains start from, has a variety of cheap hotels, although the only one meeting normal standards for food, electricity, water, cleanliness and hygiene is the "Simien Park Hotel" (most tourists stay there).
    In the south, all of the cities (Shashemane, Wondo Genet, Awasa, Arba Minch, Jinka...) have descent, cheap hotels. Many of them don't have hot water and electricity all hours of the day, so you should schedule time for a shower in advance. There are also three (fairly expensive) resort hotels on the shore of Lake Langano. In the smaller villages in and around the Omo valley (Weyto, Turmi, Key Afar, Dimeka, Konso, etc.) there are usually few (very basic) or no hotels, but if you are travelling through the valley to see the tribes, there is always a campground or a restaurant that offers beds. If you camp out at one of these villages, you should hire a guard to watch over your stuff overnight (Especially in Mursi territory).

    Addis: Currently, there are two big hotels in Addis: the Sheration, referred to by expats as "The Sheza", and the Hilton. Both are enormous and really lovely from a western point of view. They are also very expensive and charge over 100 USD a night. Both have swimming pools, good restaurants, souvenir shops and bekeries: the rooms are comfortable. If you cannot afford these two hotels, visit them and chat up the expats around the pools (especially at lunch time when they take their break by the pool) and if your accommodation needs to be improved, they might be able to help out. Aside from these two hotels, Addis is full of cheaper, less grandiose hotels. Many tourists prefer to stay in the piazza area, where there are many hotels ranging from very cheap (4 USD) to moderately cheap ($12USD). Most of them have running hot water, and some of them are clean. You should check a few out before choosing. Two big ones are Taitu hotel and Wutma hotel.



    Stay healthy

    Take anti-Malaria pills.



    Food is eaten using one's right hand. When visiting someone's home, guests will invariably be offered something to eat, and are expected to accept the offer.


    Western-style clothing is common in larger cities. Clothing in general tends to be modest, moreso in predominantly Muslim areas. When visiting churches, women should cover their hair with a cloth (shash), and both men and women should wear clothing that completely covers the legs and the shoulders (in spite of depictions on the Amazing Race television program). A natella, a large cloth wrapped about the shoulders, is recommended for anyone visiting a church.



    The country code for calling Ethiopia is 251. The Ethiopian dialing plan changed on September 17, 2005, such that the two-digit city code changed to three digits (or, from outside the country, one to two digits) and six-digit telephone numbers changed to seven digits. The city code for Addis Ababa, as of Sept. 17, 2005, is 011 (or 11 from outside Ethiopia). An on-line telephone number converter, which will convert an old number to the new number, is available here (http://www.ethioindex.com/convert/).


    There are numerous internet cafes in Addis Ababa and other cities, though internet access is often made using a dial-up connection. Within Addis Ababa, dial-up speeds are more than adequate for performing tasks such as checking one's e-mail. In Adama, dial-up speeds are slow enough to make internet usage impracticable. As of 2005, the Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (http://www.telecom.net.et/) is expanding broadband internet access throughout the country.

    External links