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XYZ Consular Info: Ethiopia

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XYZ Consular Info: Ethiopia

Ethiopia Consular Information Sheet
U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Washington, DC 20520
April 9, 2002
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is a developing east African country comprising 11 semi-autonomous administrative regions organized loosely along major ethnic lines. A border dispute between Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea erupted in May 1998 and escalated into full- scale conflict that continued through June 2000. On December 12, 2000, a peace treaty was signed between the two countries ending the conflict. Tourism facilities in Ethiopia are minimal. The capital is Addis Ababa.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: As of January 2002, citizens of the United States may obtain tourist/visitors visas upon arrival to Ethiopia. This service is only available at Bole International Airport, Ethiopia's main airport, in Addis Ababa. The fee of 315 birr (approximately $40 US) is payable only in Ethiopian currency. Travelers may exchange currency upon arrival. However, because of possible confusion or delays, travelers should obtain a valid Ethiopian visa prior to arrival whenever possible. An exit visa is required if your entry visa has expired by the time of departure. In such circumstances, an exit visa can only be obtained at the main immigration office in Addis Ababa and not at Bole International Airport.
Due to animosity stemming from the ongoing border dispute with Eritrea, U.S. citizens of Eritrean origin who travel to Ethiopia may experience delays in processing of their visa applications because all such applications must be cleared through the main Ethiopian immigration office in Addis Ababa. Laptop computers must be declared upon arrival and departure. Tape recorders require special customs permits. Prior to travel, individuals intending prolonged stays should direct their questions to the Ethiopian Embassy, 3506 International Dr., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008; telephone (202) 364-1200; fax (202) 686-9857; web site Ethiopian Embassy Inquiries overseas may be made at the nearest Ethiopian embassy or consulate.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry and departure.
DUAL NATIONALITY: Ethiopia does not recognize dual nationality. The Government of Ethiopia considers Ethiopians who have become naturalized U.S. citizens to be Americans. Such individuals are not subject to Ethiopian military service. The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry has stated that Ethiopian-Americans are given the same opportunity to invest in Ethiopia as Ethiopians. Eritrean-Americans are treated as U.S. citizens, although the Government of Ethiopia has arrested people of Eritrean origin who initially failed to disclose their U.S. citizenship. For additional information, please see the Bureau of Consular Affairs' web site at Bureau of Consular Affairs for our Dual Nationality flyer.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Although Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a peace treaty in December 2000, American citizens should exercise caution if traveling to the northern Tigray and Afar regions (within 50 km./30 miles of the Ethiopian/Eritrean border) because of land mines and unsettled conditions in the border area. There is a peacekeeping mission in the border area, but the border with Eritrea has not yet been defined. U.S. citizens of all backgrounds should stay clear of security operations and should not try to intercede with police on behalf of Eritreans or anyone else.
Armed attacks apparently targeting foreigners have occurred in Ethiopia. In 1996, bombs at the government-owned Ghion and Wabe Shabelle Hotels in Addis Ababa killed five Ethiopians and wounded numerous Ethiopians and foreigners. Elsewhere in Addis Ababa, three coordinated grenade attacks in public places in April 1997 killed one Ethiopian and injured numerous people, including several foreigners. In May 2000, a large demonstration took place in front of the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa to protest U.S. policies relating to the Eritrean/Ethiopian conflict. The demonstration required police intervention and was finally dispersed after several hours. U.S. citizens throughout Ethiopia are advised to consider carefully security implications when visiting public places such as markets, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and hotel lobbies. It is advisable to lodge at larger hotels that offer better security.
Travel to the Ogaden Region of Ethiopia is considered to be very dangerous due to incidents of clan fighting, armed banditry, threats of kidnapping, and violence. Foreigners, including Americans, have been targeted. Travel in this region should not be attempted. U.S. citizens should exercise particular caution in the towns of Harar and Dire Dawa. Two foreigners were killed and one wounded in daylight shooting incidents in Dire Dawa in October 1996. A February 1997 grenade attack at a hotel in Harar wounded five foreign nationals. In addition, improvised explosive devices have been used as recently as the summer of 2000 to target hotels and other facilities in Dire Dawa and Nazret. Since the mid-1990's, there have also been several clashes between various opposition elements and Government forces around Harar and in the Somali Regional State, particularly near the border with Somalia. The Awash-Mile Road has been the site of shootings, apparently by bandits, at night or in the pre-dawn hours. Somali groups affiliated with terrorist organizations may occasionally operate within the Somali, Oromiya, and Afar regions.
In southern Ethiopia along the Kenyan border, banditry and incidents involving ethnic conflicts are common.
In western Ethiopia, the western-most tip of the Gambella Region is subject to inter-ethnic conflict and to political violence originating from Sudan. Visitors should seek current guidance from the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa or local officials before traveling to this or other areas along the Sudan border.
There are recent reports of highway robberies by armed bandits throughout the country. Travelers are cautioned to limit road travel outside major towns or cities to daylight hours only and to use caution at all times when traveling on roads.
Travel in Ethiopia via rail is also strongly discouraged due to episodes of sabotage and derailment as recently as the summer of 2000.
CRIME INFORMATION: Pickpocketing and other petty crimes are prevalent in urban areas. There are occasional reports of thieves' snatching jewelry. Visitors should exercise normal caution, not wear excessive jewelry or carry large sums of money, and keep wallets and other valuables where they will be less susceptible to pick-pockets. Crime is a growing problem in Addis Ababa, and the lack of immediate police support aggravates this situation. Armed banditry can occur on roads outside major towns or cities and may be accompanied by violence.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The pamphlets, "A Safe Trip Abroad" and "Tips for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa," provide useful information on personal security while traveling abroad and on travel in the region. Both are available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at Bureau of Consular Affairs' web site at Bureau of Consular Affairs or from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Health facilities are extremely limited in Addis Ababa and completely inadequate outside the capital. Although physicians are generally well trained, even the best hospitals in Addis Ababa suffer from inadequate facilities, antiquated equipment, and shortages of supplies (particularly medicine). Emergency assistance is limited. Travelers must bring their own supplies of prescription drugs and preventive medicines, as well as a doctor's note describing the medication. If the quantity of drugs exceeds that which would be expected for personal use, a permit from the Ministry of Health is required.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations.
When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the United States may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad," available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at Bureau of Consular Affairs or autofax: (202) 647-3000.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Ethiopia is a mountainous country in which the high altitude may cause health problems even for healthy travelers. Addis Ababa is located at an altitude of 8,000 feet. Individuals may experience shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea, headaches, and inability to sleep.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international traveler's hotline at tel. 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or by visiting the CDC's web site at CDC
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Ethiopia is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
While travel on both paved and unpaved roads is generally considered safe, land mines and other anti-personnel devices can be encountered on isolated dirt roads that were targeted during various conflicts. Before undertaking any off-road travel, it is advisable to inquire with local authorities to ensure that the area has been cleared of mines. Excessive speed, unpredictable local driving habits, pedestrians and livestock in the roadway, and the lack of basic safety equipment on many vehicles are daily hazards on Ethiopian roads. In addition, road travel after dark outside Addis Ababa and other cities is dangerous and discouraged due to broken-down vehicles left on the roads, people using the roads, stray animals, and the possibility of armed robbery. Road lighting in cities is inadequate at best and nonexistent outside of cities.
For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs web site at Road Safety
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Ethiopia's civil aviation authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Ethiopia's air carrier operations.
For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet web site FAA The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at telephone (618) 229-4801.
The FAA has determined that Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa meets international standards for aviation security. The Ethiopian government has closed air routes near the border with Eritrea and has referred to the airspace as a "no-fly zone." The FAA currently prohibits U.S. aircraft and U.S. pilots from flying in Ethiopian airspace north of 12 degrees north latitude, the area along the country's northern border with Eritrea. For complete information on this flight prohibition, travelers may visit the FAA's web site at FAA
CUSTOMS RESTRICTIONS: Permits are required before either antiques or animal skins can be exported from Ethiopia. Antique religious artifacts, including "Ethiopian" crosses, require documentation from the National Museum in Addis Ababa for export. Laptop computers must be declared upon arrival and departure. Tape recorders require special customs permits.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Ethiopian laws, even unknowingly, may be arrested, imprisoned, or expelled. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs in Ethiopia are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. The use of the mild stimulant "khat" is legal in Ethiopia, but it is considered an illegal substance in many other countries, including the United States.
CURRENCY ISSUES: Visitors must declare foreign currency upon arrival and may be required to present this declaration when applying for an exit visa. Official and black market exchange rates are nearly the same. Penalties for exchanging money on the black market range from fines to imprisonment. Credit cards are not accepted at most hotels, restaurants, shops, or other local facilities, although they are accepted at the Hilton and Sheraton Hotels in Addis Ababa. Foreigners are generally required to pay for hotel and car rental in foreign currency.
PHOTOGRAPHY RESTRICTIONS: Ethiopian law strictly prohibits the photographing of military installations, police/military personnel, industrial facilities, government buildings and infrastructure (roads, bridges, dams, airfields, etc.). Such sites are rarely marked clearly. Travel guides, police, and Ethiopian officials can advise if a particular site may be photographed. Photographing prohibited sites may result in the confiscation of film and camera.
DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: There is a high risk of earthquakes in Ethiopia. Buildings may be subject to collapse due to strong tremors. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at Children's Issues or telephone 202-736-7000.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: U.S. citizens are encouraged to register at the U.S. Embassy and to obtain updated information on travel and security in Ethiopia. The U.S. Embassy is located at Entoto Avenue, P.O. Box 1014, in Addis Ababa, telephone: [251] (1) 550-666, extension 316/336; emergency after-hours telephone: [251] (1) 552-558; Consular Section fax: [251] (1) 551-094; web site: Telecom
Special Notes
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet of January 16, 2002 to update the sections on Entry Requirements and Safety and Security.