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Ethiopia Travel Facts

Full Name of the Country: Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Capital City
Addis Ababa


Ethiopia, as large as France and Spain combined, has an area of  1.14 million square kilometers (944,000 square miles). About 65 percent of the land is arable, with 15 percent presently  cultivated. From the north and running down the centre are the Abyssinian highlands, to the west of the chain the land drops to the grasslands of Sudan, to the east to the deserts of the Afar. South of Addis Ababa the land is dominated by the Rift Valley Lakes. The main rivers are the Blue Nile, the Tekezze, the Awash, the Wabe Shabele, the Omo, and the Baro.



The current population is about 90 million, making it the second most populated country in Africa. Over 50 percent of whom are under 20 years old. The average number of inhabitants per square kilometre is 49. The ancient  Ethiopians were of Hamitic stock who later intermingled with Sematic  immigrants from southern Arabia.



Ethiopia is a  multi-ethnic state with a great variety of languages spoken in the country, of which there are 83 with 200 dialects. The main three languages are Amharic, Tigrigna and Oromigna. English is also widely spoken.



There are two  seasons: the dry season prevails from October through May; the wet season  runs from June to September. Temperatures are determined by altitude, with highlands (including Addis Ababa) rarely exceeding 25º C. In the lowlands it can get considerably hotter exceeding 40ºC, while in the Danakil Depression it can approach 60ºC.


Ethiopia has an  elevated central plateau varying in height between 2,000 and 3,000 meters.  In the north and centre of the country there are some 25 mountains whose  peaks rise over 4,000 meters. The most famous Ethiopian river is the Blue  Nile (or Abbay), which runs a distance of 1,450 kilometres from its source in Lake Tana, to join the White Nile at Khartoum.


Flora and Fauna

Ethiopia has a large variety of indigenous plant and animal species. In some areas, the mountains are covered with shrubs such as pyracantha, jasmine, poinsettia, and a varied assortment of evergreens. Caraway, carcade, cardamom, chat, coriander, incense, myrrh, and red pepper are common. The lakes in the Great Rift Valley region abound with numerous species of birds, and wild animals are found in every region. Among the latter are the lion, civet and serval cats, elephant, bush pig, gazelle, antelope, ibex, kudu, dik-dik, oribi, reed buck, wild ass, zebra, hyena, baboon, and numerous species of monkey. As of 2002, there were at least 277 species of mammals, 262 species of birds, and over 6,600 species of plants throughout the country.


Roads : There are some 4,100 kilometres of asphalt roads with a further 19,000 kilometres of gravel and dry-weather  roads.
Railway : A 778-kilometre long railway line links Addis Ababa with Djibouti, and carries both freight and passengers.
Air:  Ethiopian Airlines has an extensive domestic network flying to 43 airfields  and an additional 21 landing strips.



Ethiopia is a Federal Democratic Republic made up of 9 regions, mainly based on ethnicity. The present government was reelected in May 2005 for a 5-year term.


About 85 percent of  the population earn their living from the land, mainly as subsistence  farmers. Agriculture is the backbone of the national economy and the principal exports from this sector are coffee, oil seeds, pulses, flowers,  vegetables, sugar and foodstuffs for animals. There is also a thriving livestock sector (Ethiopia has the largest domestic livestock population in Africa), exporting cattle on the hoof and hides and skins.

The export of  chat, oilseeds, pulses and animal feed makes up the rest of Ethiopia’s foreign currency earnings, with tourism set to make an increasingly important contribution.

The opening up of the economy since the coming of the present government in 1991, has created more favourable grounds for development of Ethiopia’s rich resource base. Ethiopia is the “water tower” of the region (the Blue Nile contributes to 85% of the main Nile flow) and projects are now being implemented to better exploit the country’s water resources both for power generation as well as to boost agricultural production through irrigation schemes. Mineral exploration has stepped up in recent years - there are reserves of oil, natural gas, coal, gold, copper, tantalum, potash, zinc, iron ore, nickel, marble, precious and semi-precious stones. Thermal power generation schemes are already operational in Afar and Oromo



Electric supply

Ethiopia uses 220  volts 50 cycles AC.


Ethiopia is in the GMT + 3 hours time zone. Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar, which consists of twelve months of 30 days each and a thirteenth month of five or  six days.


Excursions within  Ethiopia, whether for a day or for a month, may be organized for you by any  of the travel agencies or by the National Tour Operation.

In general between seasons clothes are appropriate. At higher altitudes, woolen clothes or a coat are needed in the evenings. Travelers should take rain coat or other rainwear, particularly when visiting the country during the period from February to October. It is usually possible to have clothes laundered at or near hotels within a short period of time (frequently services are offered 24 hours a day).

Addis Ababa has hotels that cater for all pockets, from the  luxurious Sheraton and Hilton  hotels to the tourist-class hotels such as the Ghion, The Ethiopia and the  Wabi Shebelle. All tourist resorts offer a choice of Modern hotels

Banking Hours
Banking hours are usually from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm from Monday to Friday and from 8:00 am – 11:00 am on Saturdays. Closing times may be an hour longer in some private banks. Most banks work through lunchtime; however foreign exchange services are closed during lunch hours (12:00 noon – 1:00 pm).

Shopping Hours
Shops are open Monday to Friday 8:00am-12:00pm and 1:00pm-very flexible, often longer opening hours; some shops are also open on Saturday. These days a few supermarkets and beauty salons in the capital are working 24 hours.

Telephone, fax and Internet access is available in Addis Ababa in most hotels, at the Ethiopian Telecommunications Authority main office and at private Internet service centers situated around the city.

Courier and Money Transfer Services
Money transfers can be made through Western Union and Money Gram. Both have representative branches in Addis Ababa and also make their services available from private and national banks.

Four courier service providers DHL, FedEx, UPS, TNT and EMS have offices in Addis Ababa.

Visa requirements
All foreign nationals, except those of Kenya and Djibouti, cannot enter Ethiopia without a valid visa. However, nationals of the following countries can obtain their visas at the airport of entry on arrival: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea Republic, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russian Federation, Slovak Republic, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States of America. All other foreign nationals will have to obtain their valid visas from Ethiopian diplomatic missions accessible to them. Passengers in transit in Ethiopia, holding confirmed onward bookings, can obtain transit visas within 72 hours.

The local currency is the Ethiopian Birr (ETB), made up of 100 cents. Birr notes are available in denominations of 5, 10, 50 and 100. Visitors may import an unlimited amount of foreign currency but this must be declared on arrival to the customs authorities on the appropriate blue-colored form.

Foreign currency may only be exchanged at authorized banks and hotels, and a receipt must be obtained. The currency declaration form must be retained as this will be required by customs on departure. Visitors may change back any surplus Ethiopian Birr to cash at the airport before departure.

In addition to any Ethiopian Birr, along with the currency exchange form you must bring with you all receipts for exchange transactions.

Currency Importing:
Local currency (ETB) up to ETB 10.00 per person. Foreign currencies unlimited, provided declaration is made to the customs on arrival.

Currency Exporting:
Allowed; local currency (ETB), provided passengers holds a re-entry permit ETB 10.00 per person. Foreign currencies up to the amounts imported and declared.

All visitors should declare electronic goods, and mobile apparatus. They will be required to show the declaration paper upon departure, in order for them to take back their equipments.

Duty-free import is permitted up to:

a) 200 cigarettes, or 50 cigars, or ½ lb of tobacco
b) 2 litre of alcoholic beverages
c) ½ litre, or two bottles, of perfumes.
Visitors may export souvenirs, although some Articles (such as animal skins and antiques) require an export permit.

Health requirements
Prior to entry, visitors should be in possession of a valid health certificate for yellow fever. Vaccination against cholera is also required for any person who has visited or transited a cholera-infected area within six days prior to arrival in Ethiopia.

Malaria: lower lying areas of Addis Ababa (around 2000 meters) are now said to be potentially malarial, but essentially the city is malaria free, although non-malarial mosquitoes can be nuisance in some areas at night. For traveling outside Addis Ababa it is advisable to consult travel agencies on malarial protection for specific areas. Also it is always good to take a simple first aid pack. In most of the larger towns there are now private clinics, but these and local pharmacies may be short of drugs and medical supplies. In Addis Ababa there is range of private hospitals and clinics.5

Altitude sickness: Addis Ababa lying between 2200-2500 meters above sea level is the third highest capital in the world, and new visitors may experience discomfort until they adjust to the altitude – symptoms can include shortness of breath, fatigue and insomnia.


Ethiopia is generally a safe country, and Addis Ababa a safe capital city, but one should still take the normal precautions, avoiding unfamiliar areas at night and not carrying large sums of money in accessible pockets. It is advisable to beware of pickpockets operating in certain areas, skilled at
identifying new arrivals, other than that violent robbery and muggings are rare and generally visitors can tour the city day and night in safety.

Source Selamta Magazine

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