TRAVEL IN ETHIOPIA
Ethiopia is located in the Horn of Africa between the tropic of Cancer and the Equator. The country covers an area of 1,251,000 square kilometres and has about 95 million inhabitants. In contrast to most African countries, Ethiopia was never colonised and has long enjoyed its independence. This meant that the country has taken on a prestigious role in the context of Africa as a whole: in fact the African Union has its headquarters in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.
There are two seasons on the Ethiopian Plateau: the dry season from October to May and the rainy season from July to September. In the south and the Omo region, the rainy season is concentrated between March and May, while the rest of the year experiences occasional rain. Average temperatures range from 18 to 30°C.
Ethiopia is a multi-ethnic country with 83 languages and 200 dialects.
The official language is Amharic. English is widely spoken.
Meskel (Finding of the True Cross): 26/27 September
Genna (Christmas): 6/7 January
Timket (Epiphany): 18/19 January
Fasika (Easter): date varies
Hidar Zion (Axum): November 29/30
Palm Sunday (Axum): one week prior to Easter
Gishen Mariam: 1st October
– The Royal Enclosure in Gondar
– Simien Mountains National Park
– Tiya Stele Park
– The fortified historic town of Harar Jugol
– Omo National Park
– Awash River Park
– Konso Cultural Landscape
Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar, which has thirteen months: 12 months of 30 days and one month lasting just six days.
Ethiopia is three hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.
Visas may be obtained directly upon arrival to the international airport of Bole. The cost: $50 or 47€ for a normal visa.
The visa for Gibuti can be obtained at the cosulate in Addis Ababa, you need two photos and the cost is 30 usd.
The visa for Somaliland can be obtained at the consulate in Addis Ababa, you need two photos and the cost is 40 usd.
Ethiopian currency is birr. At the moment 1€=24 birr and 1$ = 21.4 birr. For updated information please check http://www.combanketh.et/
Credit cards can be used just in the best hotels, in Ethiopian Airlines offices and Dashen Bank. We suggest you to bring cash and change it little by little, according to your needs. Please consider that change back the birr to € or $ is almost impossible, as several days and long bureaucracy are needed.
It is possible to change the currency in any banks, the exchange rate does not vary much, there is also a foreign exchange window at the airport, straight after the visa office and before passports check.
Medir Tour is unable to receive payments by credit card, so please make sure you pay by cash or bank transfer.
The security at Bole airport is very strict regarding the access in the building for Ethiopian personnel, therefore our guide is unable to access the arrival area, and he will wait for you in the parking area just outside the airport, with a welcoming paper.
Unless differently agreed, Medir Tour always provides private transfer from the airport to the hotel, therefore if you are unable to locate our staff, please contact us at the emergency number indicated below.
Even if in Ethiopia malfunctioning and service interruptions are common, even for several days, internet is usually available in the main hotels in Addis Ababa, in the main locations in the North, Rift Valley and Harar, while it can be difficult or impossible to connect in the Omo Valley,West Ethiopia and Danakil. The speed of the connection can vary a lot from place to place, but it is usually much slower than Europe.
Mobile cells network
The network is enabled for international roaming with GSM 900, therefore it is usually possible to use your own mobile to receive phone calls and call. However, for the travelers that need to be always reachable, it is advisable to buy and Ethiopian Sim card at Ethio Telecom shops. Photo and copy of passport are needed.
Water and light
Basic services in Ethiopia are still developing, therefore sometimes water and lights can be interrupted. Medir Tour chooses accommodations that are usually willing to supply these interruptions; however we cannot confirm that there will not be problems with these basic services, and Medir Tour cannot be considered responsible for them.
Ethiopian food is based on a kind of pancake, injera, made by a local grain, called teff, that is served with different stews of meat and vegetables. In hotels also international food is served.
There are no mandatory vaccinations; however it can be advisable malaria preventive care for the tours in the South and West.
Also in Ethiopia the effects of the climate change are becoming visible, however the rainy seasons are quite defined, but they change according to the areas and altitudes.
June-August: it is the season of the great rains in the North. Even if one rain per day is very common, especially in the late afternoon, the visits can be done without big problems. The visit at Simien Mountains National Park is the only not recommended visit.
In the South it can rain, but shortly and not very intensively.
April-May: the season of the big rains in the South, Rift Valley and Omo Valley. Some roads can be interrupted.
The agency provides igloo tents Ferrino, Nova or Bertoni, with mattress and cover, shower tent, tables and camping chairs. We do not provide sleeping bags. During the expeditions we provide cold meals at lunch time and cooked meals in the evening, prepared by our cook. The water is purified or mineral.
Payments for pictures and donations
It is always advisable to ask permission to take a picture. In some areas, especially for the tribe in the South, they ask for money for each picture taken, and the payment needs to be agreed with the person. We suggest not to pay when money is not asked and not to give candies or clothes to the kids on the street or in the country side, to not unsettle their daily life (they often leave school to follow the tourists).
Please talk to our guide if you wish to make donations to schools or other organizations.
It is usually possible to take pictures of the celebration of Ethiopian Orthodox church, but we believe that it is good to keep a respectful distance.
This is also valid for Muslim celebrations.
In Ethiopia expecting a tip for a service provided is a common habit, but it is advisable to follow a criteria for the amount given, because this will influence the expectation towards the tourists that will come after you. We suggest you to talk to your guide for the tips to give for a small services, such as porters, waiters and similar. In case of big groups it is easier to collect some money to give to the guide that will take care of it.
Also our staff expects a tip at the end of the tour; but of course it is a personal choice of our clients, if you wish to have an approximate amount of the usual tips please do not hesitate to contact us.
Casual and light clothes and comfortable shoes, hat and sunglasses. Something warm for the night and a rainy jacket.
We suggest you to bring an extra pair of socks to be used in the churches, where it is mandatory to remove the shoes to get in. It is advisable to enter in the churches with appropriate clothes, especially during ceremonies.
It is useful to bring a small torch for camping but also to see better the paintings in the churches that are usually quite dark.
In the Orthodox church removing the shoes is mandatory. To reduce the risk to catch fleas or other bugs it is advisable to use an extra pair of socks or repellents.