Travel Tips

The federal republic of Ethiopia is a land-locked republic in north east Africa or the horn of Africa, lying between 3.5 to 15 degrees north and 33 to 48 degree east. Ethiopia shares its longest border, of more than 1,600km, with Somalia to the east, 910km with Eritrea, 340km with Djibouti, 830km with Kenya and 1,600km with Sudan

Ethiopia covers an area of 1,104,300 square kilo meters, making it the tenth largest country in Africa.

According to Ethiopian statistical agency the population of Ethiopia is 84,221000. There are about 86 different ethnic groups with their own culture, custom, and 86 different languages with 200 different dialects.

Ethiopia shows a wide climatic variation, ranging from the peak which receives periodic snowfall, to regular day time temperature of over 50°c in the Danakil Desert. However, the central high lands have a temperate climate and average day time temperature of 16°c.

Every nation needs a visa to enter Ethiopia. Single-entry 1 -3 month tourist visas can be issued upon arrival at the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa for most European, US, Australian and Canadian nationals

High Altitude
Addis Ababa and Ethiopia's highlands (which you'll be visiting if you're planning on doing the historical circuit) are at high elevations. High altitude can affect healthy individuals in a number of ways including: dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, fatigue and headaches.

For the most part traveling in Ethiopia is safe, but you should take the same precautions as you would travel in any country.

Currency and Money Matters
Foreign currency is rarely used in Ethiopia; instead you will make your payment in Birr. 1 Birr is divided into 100 cents. There are 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100 Birr notes. The Birr is very stable and there is no significant difference between the official rate and black market rate.

Cash, Credit Cards and ATM's
The US Dollar and Euro are the best foreign currency to bring with you to Ethiopia and it can be exchanged at banks and foreign exchange bureaus. They can be carried in cash or travelers cheques.

Major credit cards can be used to pay for flights with Ethiopian Airlines and to the big hotels in Addis Ababa - but that's about the extent of their usefulness. It's best to bring cash. It is also possible to use ATM machines in big towns.

Getting to Ethiopia
Most people will arrive in Ethiopia by air at the Bole International Airport. Taxis are available as well as a regular minibuses and coaches to and from the city center. The airport lies 5 miles (8 km) southeast of the city center Piasa.
By Air:
Ethiopian Airlines is one of Africa's best airlines with many destinations both regionally and overseas. Ethiopian has a direct flight to and from the US (Dulles International Airport inWashington DC). There's a brief stop in Rome for a change of crew, but passengers don't disembark.
Scheduled flights include all destinations on the historical route -- Axum, Bahr Dar, Gondarand Lalibela. You can fly in between these destinations rather than heading back to Addis Ababa for a connection. Most other domestic flights originate from Addis Ababa and include the following destinations: Arba Minch, Gambela, Dire Dawa, Jijiga, Mekele, Jimma and Asosa.
By Road
Given the security situation along much of Ethiopia's borders, it is advisable to check with your Embassy and find out which borders can be safely crossed.
The border between Ethiopia and Eritrea is still closed at this time (2007). If you wish to travel to Eritrea from Ethiopia (or vice versa) you will have to go through Djibouti, by land or air
You have to get a visa before you enter Ethiopia by land -- border officials do not issue visas.
From Kenya
The official border post between Ethiopia and Kenya is at Moyale. Getting from the border to Addis Ababa is no problem, since buses travel the route quite frequently. Getting to this border post in Kenya can be quite harrowing.
From Djibouti
Dewele is the official border post between Djibouti and Ethiopia. Daily buses link DjiboutiCity to Dire Dawa (Ethiopia) and the journey usually takes about 12 hours. You change buses at the border. It is advisable to get a ticket a day in advance.
From Sudan
Sudan has border controls to Ethiopia at Humera and Metema. The crossing through Metema (Ethiopia) is the most popular and from there you can catch a bus to Gonder. InSudan, travel to Gedaref and get an early morning start to the border town of Gallabat.
From Somaliland
The route between Ethiopia and Somaliland is becoming more popular. The border town of Wajaale in Somaliland has several buses running to Jijiga in Ethiopia. From Jijiga you can get transport to Harar.

By Bus
There are many bus companies in Ethiopia and between them they cover all the major towns.
It is illegal for passengers to stand in the aisles of the long-distance buses in Ethiopia, which makes for a relatively civilized bus experience. Buses also do not run at night which makes travel safer.
All the long-distance buses will leave early in the morning. Plan to get to the bus station by 6am. You can book your tickets in advance on most of the longer journeys. Otherwise, you can get your tickets on the day of departure.

Minibuses and Taxis
Minibuses and taxis basically cover your transport within the bigger cities and towns, or for short distances between towns.
Taxis are not metered and you'll have to bargain for the right fare.
Minibuses between towns can usually be caught at the bus station, but they can also be flagged down. They are a little more expensive than buses, but should get you to your destination quicker. The conductor (woyola) will shout out the final destination. You can recognize minibus taxis by their blue and white coloring scheme.

By Car
Touring Ethiopia by car eliminates the lengthy bus journeys somewhat, and allows you to see the beautiful scenery which you miss when you fly. Currently, you cannot hire a car without a driver in Ethiopia. You can rent a 4 wheel-drive vehicle, Mini bus and coaster bus. Access Tours-Ethiopia can arrange car-hire for you.

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The people and culture of Ethiopia

Ethiopia has been called a rich cultural mosaic due to the eighty different languages and dialects.

The North and the center part of the country has got different Semitic languages like Tigrinya, Guraginya and the official national language Amharic are spoken.

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Christmas is also one of the biggest ceremonies which fall on 7 January.The celebration of Timket or Epiphany, on the 19 January is probably the biggest festival of the year. On the eve of Timket, with great ceremony the sacred tabot (the replica of the ark of the covenant) is taken from each church by the priests up to the central area where the ceremony twill take place.