Ethiopia ~ Travel pictures & Travel information
Addis to Bahir Dar to Aksum travel tips
Ethiopia: I traveled here to join friends (see Travel in Ethiopia) living and working in Addis. We flew from Addis Ababa to Bahir Dar on Lake Tana, where we hired a Land Cruiser with driver. In Bahir Dar, we took a side trip to the Blue Nile Falls.
From Bahir Dar, we drove to Gonder, then west to the Simien Mountains National Park and Debark, where we saw fields full of gelada baboons (videos this page). We then drove north to Aksum (Axum) to see the Aksum stele before taking a flight back to Addis Ababa, where we were treated to an Ethiopian coffee ceremony.
Ethiopian Travel can be a Challenge: During our travels, we encountered fleas, roaches and bed bugs, were covered in copious amounts of fine red dust, felt at times the effects of the high altitude (8,700 feet or 2,400 metres), and has to bundle up on chilly nights and sweltered during the hot days.
This trip to Ethiopia, despite the challenges, will remain one of my most memorable journeys ever for the scenery, the food, and the friendly people.
Ethiopia Travel Information & Tips Language, Money, Safety
What Language do they speak in Ethiopia? The Official language in Ethiopia is Amharic; hotel staff at larger hotels will speak some English. If you don't speak Amharic, I recommend you join one of the many organized Ethiopia tours. Or perhaps hire a guide and driver, and set your own itinerary. You can get an Amharic phrasebook to carry with you just in case you wind up on your own at some time.
Do I Need a Visa for Ethiopia? Yes: Americans and Canadians are pre-set on the search box, click for more details. Other nationalities, change citizenship in FROM and click.
Airline in Ethiopia Check Ethiopian Airlines for domestic flight schedules. Connect through Europe gateways and all major carriers. Check also British Airways and other European carriers. Emirates Airlines connects via Dubai.
Peak Travel Season / Best time to travel to Ethiopia If you are planning to travel to Ethiopia in December and early January, reserve your flights (including domestic flights), well in advance. December is prime time for tourists as well as holiday homecoming for Ethiopians living abroad.
Just so you know: With a lack of good roads, great distance between towns, and the rugged terrain, the best way for Ethiopians to travel within their own country is by air, and the government subsidizes the costs of flights for residents.
Public Holidays in EthiopiaEthiopian residents are charged lower fees for admission to museums, parks, etc., as well as for airline flights, so try to avoid traveling over public holidays if possible, for that's when flights are full, or people are off work and shops closed. In January, during Timket, all the churches hold mass marches in the streets carrying crosses and Arks. In our year 2007, Ethiopia marked its Year 2000, on September 12. Many Ethiopians living abroad come home for this special New Year. See list of Ethiopia's public holidays.
What money do they use in Ethiopia? The Currency is the Ethiopian Birr (ETB)1 ETB, and the exchange rate is about 1 ETB = 11 US cents OR $1USD = 9 ETB. Credit cards are not widely used except at hotels in Addis Ababa and Aksum. For the other cities, we paid in Ethiopian birr. Local banks changed travelers checks, U.S. dollars, GBP pounds and euros into birr. At Bole Internatinal Airport, in Addis Ababa, where international flights arrive, the security, staff and expansive hours of operation were commendable. I was able to change travellers checks when I arrived at 3 a.m. from London Heathrow, and the coffee shop opened around 6 a.m. in the airport in Addis. See travel currency tips page.
Travel Health / Shots (Vaccinations) for Ethiopia Consult a travel health clinic for current information. Ethiopia requires proof of yellow fever vaccination to enter the country. If you will be in the countryside you may want to check information on rabies. Malaria can be a concern around Lake Tana and Bahir Dar, and in the lowlands. Schistosomiasis is prevalent. Hotels can refer you to or contact a doctor who speaks English. See also Travel packing medications tips page and travel documents tips
Is it safe to travel to Ethiopia? Conditons change rapidly at times so check page with government travel advisories. We were safe, but we did pay attention to what we were doing. In Addis Ababa, pickpockets can be a problem.
What Language do they speak in Ethiopia? In Ethiopia the official language is Amharic. Get an Amharic phrasebook to help you out. A travel guide book is a good idea -- see Lonely Planet Ethiopia and Eritrea. There are also some Amharic language course materials available. See some of the recommended books about Ethiopia listed at Books.
What should I wear in Ethiopia? Expect much dust when it's dry, and mud when it's wet, so consider packing clothes that won't show dirt. At night, it can get quite chilly in the Highlands, and you'll want a jacket. During the day, the sun will have you sweltering, so plan travel clothes that you can layer. I found that my basic travel wardrobe worked well. Note Ethiopia actively practices its religions, chiefly Christianity and Islam, and ladies should dress modestly, including covering shoulders. We were told that ladies wearing pants were frowned upon, but this proved to be incorrect.
Can I drink the water / Is the water safe to drink in Ethiopia? No. Buy bottled water. Beer and wine are available, too, and the coffee is generally very good. TIP If you want milk in your coffee, ask for hot milk (so it's scalded first), and served in a separate pitcher. Be careful around bodies of water, too, like on boat rides, swimming, etc. Fresh water can have a wealth of 'bugs' like schistosomiasis and parasites, so try not to get any splashed into your mouth. See Haiti packing link above.