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Travel Tips

When to Travel to Ethiopia

The best time to go to Ethiopia depends on what you are planning to do when you get there. Ethiopia is "the land of 13 months of sunshine", with a rainy season from June to September. The predominant climate type is tropical monsoon, with wide topographic-induced variation. As a highland country, Ethiopia has a climate which is generally considerably cooler than other regions at similar proximity to the Equator. Most of the country's major cities are located at elevations of around 2,000 - 2,500 metres (6,600 - 8,200 ft) above sea level, including historic capitals such as Gondar and Axum, and Addis Ababa - the highest capital city in Africa at 2,400 meters (8,000 feet).

Land

Ethiopia, covering and are of 1.14 million square km, is the tenth largest country in Africa. It is located in east Africa in the sub-region known as the horn of Africa, between the approximate latitudes of 4 and 14 degrees north. The south end of Ethiopia’s Danakil depression ends in neighboring Djibouti at the lowest place on the continent and is, perhaps, the most daring place to visit for adventure-loving tourists. At the opposite end of the elevation spectrum are the rugged simian mountains and Bale Mountains, home to different endemic animals, and in between, is the Great Rift Valley with its lakes and volcanic crater lakes.

Climate

There are two distinct seasons in Ethiopia. The dry season prevails from October through May; the west season runs from June to September, but there is also a short rainy season in March or April, especially toward southern Ethiopia, and rain can happen at any time of the year. However, even during the long rainy season, bright, warn sun usually breaks through the clouds at least once a day. The climate is mainly influenced by altitude and cloud cover rather than the time of the year. This is due to its proximity to the equator. Ethiopia has three different climate zones according to elevation:

  • Kolla (Tropical zone) - is below 1830 meters in elevation and has an average annual temperature of about 27 degree Celsius with annual rainfall about 510 millimeters. The Danakil Depression (Danakil Desert) is about 125 meters below sea level and the hottest region in Ethiopia where the temperature climbs up to 50 degree Celsius.
  • Woina dega (Subtropical zone) - includes the highlands areas of 1830 - 2440 meters in elevation has an average annual temperature of about 22 degree Celsius with annual rainfall between 510 and 1530 millimeters.
  • Dega (Cool zone) - is above 2440 meters in elevation with an average annual temperature of about 16 degree Celsius with annual rainfall between 1270 and 1280 millimeters.

The eastern and the northeastern lowlands have desert climates, while the lowlands on the western and southern margins are humid and tropical, with mean annual temperatures of 22 and 30 degrees c, respectively. Rainfall is heavier in the western half of the country, varying from 800mm per year in the northwest to over 2,200mm per year in the southwest. The northeastern and southeastern parts of Ethiopia, on the other hand, are drier with annual rainfalls ranging from 1,000mm to less than 200mm.

Topography

Ethiopia is a land of rugged mountains, broad savannah, and many lakes and rivers. The country is composed of an elevated central plateau generally varying in height from 2,000m and 3,000m. in the north and center of the country, there are up to 25 mountains whose peaks rise over 4,000m, the tallest being Ras Dejen (which means head guard), known as Ras Dashen, which is 4,543m in elevation. The most famous Ethiopia River is the Blue Nile (Abay), which runs a course of 1,450km from its source at lake Tana, to join the white Nile in Khartoum.

Time and Calander

Ethiopia uses the Ethiopian calendar, which dates back to the Coptic calendar 25 BC, and never adopted the Julian or Gregorian reforms. One Ethiopian 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 Ethiopian new year begins on September 11 or 12 during leap year (in the Gregorian calendar), and has accumulated 7-8 years lag behind the Gregorian calendar: thus, for the first eight months of 2016, the year will be 2008 according to the Ethiopian calendar. On 11 September 2016, Ethiopia celebrates New Year's Day (Enkutatesh) for 2009.

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.

Daylight: Being relatively close to the Equator, there is an almost constant twelve hours of daylight. In Addis Ababa, the sunrise and sunset starts at around 06:30 and 18:45 respectively.

Entry

All visitors require passport, with at least two full pages empty, valid for at least six months after the end of their stay. Visa is also required.

Visas

Visitors are required to carry a valid passport and sufficient funds to facilitate their stay. Visas are required for all foreign visitors to Ethiopia, with the exception of nationals of Djibouti and Kenya. A visa application may be obtained at Ethiopia’s diplomatic missions overseas where visas are readily available. However, nationals of 37 countries are now allowed to receive their tourist visas upon arrival in Ethiopia at the regular charge. Check at your nearest Ethiopian embassy for the rest.

Domestic airports

There are 19 airports for domestic flights in AddisAbaba, Arbamich, Assosa, Axum, BahirDar. DireDawa, Gambella, Gode, Gondar, Humera, Jijiga, Jimma, Kmobolcha, Lalibela, Mekelle, Pawe(no scheduled flights yet), Semera and Shire.

Economy

Ethiopia is predominantly an agricultural country where it accounts for about 42.9% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), more than 90% of total exports, and at least 85% of employment. The principal exports from this sector are coffee, finished leather products, oilseeds, pulses, khat, flowers, vegetables, and foodstuffs for animals. There is also a thriving livestock sector, exporting cattle on the hoof. Recently, gold was the second largest export.

People and culture

Ethiopia, with a population of up to 93.8 million by some estimates, is the second most populous nation in Africa. The Ethiopian people are composed of different ethnic, religious, and linguistic backgrounds ranging from Cushitic and Nilotic, like other east African countries, to Semitic like those found in the Middle East. The population is composed of more than 80 ethnic groups. The Oromo and the Amhara are the largest groups.

Courtesy and hospitality are virtues that have transcended time and generations in Ethiopia, inviting visitors to truly feel welcome. A few words of a local language, no matter how broken they may be, will go a long way in the kind hearts of the people. The day-to-day rituals of the diverse culures, the traditional ways of eating delicious spicy sauces by had with enjera flatbread, and the wholesome aromas of Ethiopian coffee ceremony can only be fully experienced by indulging oneself in these delights.

Language

A country of up to 90 languages and more than 200 dialects, Ethiopia is a multiethnic state with a great variety of languages spoken in one country. The official working language of Ethiopia is Amharic, with its own distinctive writing system, while Tigrinya, Guraghegnya, Sidama, Somali, and especially Oromiffa are widely spoken, not to mention English, especially among the capital’s younger generations. English is understood in most hotels and major towns. It is also the medium of instruction in secondary and higher education institutions

Predominant Religions

The peaceful existence of Christianity and Islam, the two major religions in Ethiopia, which entered the country near their times of founding, demonstrates the hospitality of the country. Both entered Ethiopia in what is now Tigrai regional state. Axum hosts the famous Ark of the Covenant brought from Jerusalem, and Negash hosts the location of the oldest mosque in Africa where the prophet Mohammed (PBUH) sent his followers to seek protection from hostilities in Arabia in the form of temporary asylum from the then-king or Nejashi of Axum, which may have been Armha.

Banking Hours

There are a number of banks with easy reach banking hours are generally from 8:00am until at least 4:30pm, Monday through Saturday. Most bands work through lunchtime. However, foreign exchange services are closed during lunch hours (12:00 noon to 1:00pm).

ATM

Cash may be withdrawn from automated teller machines in major cities using VISA. MasterCard, and Union pay debit cards, but it is best not to rely on these outside of AddisAbeba. Us traveler’s checks are recommended.

Public Holidays

  • January 07 : Ethiopian Christmas (Gena)
  • January 19 : Timket (Epiphany)
  • March 02 : Victory of Adowa
  • April 10 : Ethiopian Good Friday
  • April 12 : Ethiopian Easter (Fasika)
  • May 01 : Labour Day
  • May 05 : Patriots Victory Day
  • May 28 : Downfall of the Dergue (Derg Downfall Day)
  • September 11 : Ethiopian New Year (Enkutatash)
  • September 27 : Finding of the True Cross (Meskel)

Other public holidays include the following Muslim holidays which are timed according to local sightings of various phases of the moon and therefore the date’s changes from year to year.

  • Dec 24 : Mawlid al-Nabi (Birth of the Prophet)
  • September 17 : Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
  • September 23 : Eid-al Adha (Arafat)