Many intrepid travelers from around the world dream of visiting Ethiopia to admire the incredible nature, learn more about the country’s culture, and see the landmarks and heritage of ancient civilizations that once lived here.
In fact, Ethiopia is a fascinating country that is sure to appeal to any tourist. Travelers who love nature will love going on a safari and seeing the variety of flora and fauna, while fans of history will be intrigued by the ancient underground churches.
Although Ethiopia is one of the most visited countries in Africa, there are still some travel tips that tourists should know before coming to see this country.
This post will cover everything you need to know before traveling to Ethiopia, including general safety, common tourist scams, which regions to avoid, and even the current COVID-19 situation.
Finally, be sure to check if you need an Ethiopia visa in advance, and keep these tips in mind for a stress-free vacation.
Ethiopia is a popular destination in Africa that was visited by more than 800,000 tourists in 2019. However, it is crucial to keep some rules in mind when traveling through Ethiopia, just like any country.
First and foremost, it is best not to take any valuables with you when you go out, especially at night. Travelers who dress plainly will not attract any attention from pickpockets, which are often found in busy areas and near tourist attractions.
Likewise, keep all valuables and documents (such as your passport and driver's license) in the hotel safe.
Finally, be sure to stick to typical tourist routes and avoid visiting rural areas of big cities, as there is often a lack of police patrolling these ‘non-central areas.’
Scams in Ethiopia
While there are no major scams in Ethiopia, there are some common tourist traps. By knowing more about them, you can easily spot and avoid any potential problems. Here are the most common:
In popular tourist areas, a ‘guide’ will usually come up to you and start telling you about the attraction, its history, and other interesting facts. Many tourists think this is a friendly local who just wants to talk about their country, but this is not the case. After the short ‘tour’ is over, the ‘guide’ will start to demand money — often to the confusion of the tourists.
The best way to get rid of intrusive guides is to immediately and firmly say no, or just ignore them and move on.
Travelers should also be careful when taking taxis, as some unscrupulous drivers may try to raise the price when they see that you are a tourist. Be sure to agree on a price before getting into the car and, just in case, meticulously count the change at the end of the trip. Another good option is to ask your hotel’s concierge or front desk to call an official taxi.
Be extra cautious if you plan to use public transportation or go on a train trip (especially the famous Addis Ababa–Djibouti route).
On the bus, give money only to the driver, and on the train, buy tickets only at the box office or at the station. There have been cases when locals approach tourists at a bus stop or train station and offer to buy them discounted tickets, which do not actually exist.
Finally, another popular tourist scam involves a local inviting you to an event, such as a wedding or national holiday celebration. You will be treated to drinks and food for ‘free,’ but at the end, the scammer will start demanding money from you. As always, ignore these scammers and you won't get into trouble.
Although most of Ethiopia is safe and tourist-friendly, there are a few regions that visitors should avoid due to recent issues around political instability.
Travelers are advised not to visit the border areas with Somalia, Sudan, Kenya, and Eritrea due to the unstable situation and conflicts between local groups.
On a similar note, it is not advisable to be an independent traveler or rent a car to not accidentally enter unsafe regions. If you wish to visit a specific part of the country, it is best to hire a local guide, who will take you to all the sights safely.
Also, don't go hiking alone, as you may unexpectedly run into wildlife. The best option is to book a tour in advance or find a local guide with good reviews.
Current COVID-19 Situation in Ethiopia
Although the coronavirus pandemic was previously a threat to many African countries, it is now safe to travel to Ethiopia. The number of daily cases in Ethiopia has fallen dramatically and now averages around 30 to 50 new cases per day.
Likewise, about 1 in 5 people have been fully vaccinated, and face masks must be worn in public transport and closed spaces.