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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
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
Inquiries overseas may be made at the nearest Ethiopian embassy or
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.
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
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.
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,
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.
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
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
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)
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
For information on international adoption of children
and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet
or telephone 202-736-7000.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to register at
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:  (1) 550-666, extension 316/336; emergency
after-hours telephone:  (1) 552-558; Consular Section fax:  (1)
551-094; web site: Telecom
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet of January 16, 2002 to update
the sections on
Entry Requirements and Safety and Security.