Ethiopia

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Thursday, 16 October 2014.   This advice contains new information in the Summary and under Safety and security (the US Embassy in Ethiopia issued a message to US citizens on 14 October 2014 advising of a possible terrorist threat to Bole area of Addis Ababa). We continue to advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Ethiopia, including Addis Ababa, due to the threat of terrorist attack against Western interests and ongoing tensions.

Ethiopia overall

Border areas with Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Eritrea, the Gambella region and Ogaden area

Summary

  • We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Ethiopia, including Addis Ababa, at this time due to the threat of terrorist attack against Western interests and ongoing tensions.
  • The Australian Embassy in Addis Ababa has relocated to the Turkish Compound (off Cape Verde street), Bole Subcity, Woreda 3. The new telephone number is +251 11 667 2678 and the new consular email address is adba.consular@dfat.gov.au.
  • In November 2013, the Ethiopian National Intelligence and Security Service and Federal Police Joint Anti-Terrorism Task Force, issued a statement that they had “tangible and reliable evidence” of extremist plans to conduct attacks in Addis Ababa and in other parts of the country.
  • The US Embassy in Ethiopia issued a message to US citizens on 14 October 2014 advising US nationals in Addis Ababa “to avoid large crowds and places where both Ethiopians and westerners frequent. The Embassy has received threat reports of al-Shabaab’s intent to target the Bole area. Restaurants, hotels, bars, places of worship, supermarkets, and shopping malls in the Bole area should be avoided until further notice because they are possible targets for a potential imminent terrorist attack. While the exact location of this planned terrorist attack is not known, U.S. citizens should continue to maintain heightened personal security awareness.” We advise Australians in Ethiopia to heed this warning.
  • If you do decide to travel to Ethiopia, you should exercise extreme caution.
  • In May 2014 protests at university campuses across Oromia turned violent leading to 15 deaths and many injuries. The situation in Oromia remains unstable and may deteriorate with little or no warning.
  • We advise you to avoid large gatherings throughout the country as they have the potential to turn violent. You should monitor the media and other local news sources for safety information. The Australian Embassy suggests that all Australians in Ethiopia be alert to possible unrest and take sensible precautions including stocking up on provisions.
  • The outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in west Africa is the most serious in recorded history. In an effort to prevent the spread of the disease into Ethiopia, authorities have introduced additional health screening and information requirements for travellers arriving by air and land. Travellers who register a high temperature during screening may be quarantined. For more information on the outbreak and other travel restrictions and preventative measures, see the Ebola outbreak in West Africa travel bulletin.
  • On 5 May 2014 the World Health Organisation declared the recent international spread of wild poliovirus a “public health emergency of international concern” and has issued temporary recommendations that may affect your travel to Ethiopia.
  • The 21 September 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi, Kenya, underscores the ongoing threat posed by Somali-based militants across neighbouring countries, including Ethiopia. We continue to receive reports that terrorists are planning attacks against a range of targets, including places frequented by foreigners.
  • In October 2013, a bomb blast in the Bole district of Addis Ababa killed two people. Somali-based militants have claimed responsibility.
  • Credible reporting indicates that militants may be planning to conduct attacks, including cross-border kidnappings, in eastern Ethiopia. The US Government warned on two occasions in 2013 that it continued to receive information indicating a kidnapping threat to Westerners along Ethiopia’s border with Somalia.
  • We strongly advise you not to travel to the border areas with Kenya, Somalia (in particular the Ogaden area in the Somalia Region in eastern Ethiopia) and Sudan, including the Gambella Region, or to the disputed border area between Eritrea and Ethiopia, including the Danakil desert area in eastern Ethiopia, because of the extremely dangerous security situation in these areas.
  • In 2012, five Western tourists were killed and two kidnapped by gunmen in the Danakil desert area. We continue to advise Australians not to travel to the Danakil desert area.
  • Conflict in neighbouring countries could spill over into Ethiopia, particularly along the border with Somalia. There is also a possibility of attacks against symbols and buildings of the Government.
  • From late February 2011, the ongoing conflict along the border with Somalia has intensified. Heavy fighting has been reported on the Ethiopia-Somalia border and the Kenya-Somalia border. The risk of violent attacks and terrorist acts has increased.
  • Because of the dangerous security situation, we strongly recommend that you register your travel and contact details, so we can contact you in an emergency.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
    • organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy
    • subscribe to this travel advice to receive free email updates each time it's reissued.
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia for the most up-to-date information.

The website of the Government of Ethiopia lists Australia as a country whose nationals may now obtain a visa on arrival. However, in practice this only applies to visitors arriving at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a serious and potentially fatal disease preventable by vaccination. We strongly recommend that all travellers be vaccinated for yellow fever before travelling to Ethiopia (see Health section). If you are arriving from another country infected with Yellow Fever, you will be required to present a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate to be allowed entry into Ethiopia. For more information about yellow fever, including Australian re-entry requirements, see the Department of Health website.

The outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in west Africa is the most serious in recorded history. In an effort to prevent the spread of the disease into Ethiopia, authorities have introduced additional health screening and information requirements for travellers arriving by air and land. Travellers who register a high temperature during screening may be quarantined. For more information on the outbreak and other travel restrictions and preventative measures, see the Ebola outbreak in West Africa travel bulletin.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Ethiopia, including Addis Ababa, because of the threat of terrorist attack against Western interests and ongoing political tensions. If you do decide to travel to Ethiopia, you should exercise extreme caution and avoid public places and crowded areas.

The US Embassy in Ethiopia issued a message to US citizens on 14 October 2014 advising US nationals in Addis Ababa “to avoid large crowds and places where both Ethiopians and westerners frequent. The Embassy has received threat reports of al-Shabaab’s intent to target the Bole area. Restaurants, hotels, bars, places of worship, supermarkets, and shopping malls in the Bole area should be avoided until further notice because they are possible targets for a potential imminent terrorist attack. While the exact location of this planned terrorist attack is not known, U.S. citizens should continue to maintain heightened personal security awareness.” We advise Australians in Ethiopia to heed this warning.

In November 2013 the Ethiopian National Intelligence and Security Service and Federal Police Joint Anti-Terrorism Task Force, issued a statement that they had “tangible and reliable evidence” of extremist plans to conduct attacks in Addis Ababa and in other parts of the country.

The 21 September 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi, Kenya, underscores the ongoing threat posed by Somali-based militants across neighbouring countries, including Ethiopia.

We continue to receive reports that terrorists are planning attacks against a range of targets, including commercial and public places frequented by foreigners. In planning your activities consider the kind of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided. These include clubs, hotels, resorts, restaurants, bars, schools, places of worship, landmarks, markets and marketplaces, shopping centres and malls, political and sporting events, public gatherings (including large religious festivals and concerts), outdoor recreation events, embassies, Ethiopian government buildings and tourist areas. Aircraft, airports, petrol stations, buses and bus terminals, railways and other transport infrastructure are also possible terrorist targets.

Some local hotels, including the Hilton and the Ghion, have received bomb threats in the past.

Terrorist incidents include:

  • On 13 October 2013, a bomb blast in the Bole district of Addis Ababa killed two people. Somali-based militants claimed responsibility.
  • On 20 May 2012, tourists travelling by vehicle between the towns of El Dima and Kibbish, West Omo, were fired upon by a gunman.
  • In January 2012, five foreign tourists were killed and two kidnapped from the Afar region (Danakil Desert area). The kidnapped tourists were released in March 2012.
  • In March 2007, a group of Western nationals, including some members of staff from the British Embassy in Addis Ababa, were kidnapped in the Afar region (Danakil Desert area), north east Ethiopia. Media reports suggest that the rebels who claimed responsibility for the kidnappings had said they would abduct other foreigners who entered their territory.

You should be particularly vigilant in the lead up to and on days of national or religious significance, or international meetings in Addis Ababa, as militants may use these occasions to mount attacks.

Ogaden area in the Somali Region of eastern Ethiopia: We strongly advise you not to travel to the Ogaden area in the Somali Region of eastern Ethiopia due to extremely dangerous security situation due to ongoing conflict, the threat of terrorist attack and the persistent high threat of kidnapping.

Credible reporting indicates that militants may be planning to conduct attacks, including cross-border kidnappings, in eastern Ethiopia. In 2013, the US Government warned that it continued to receive information indicating a kidnapping threat to Westerners along Ethiopia’s border with Somalia and the eastern portion of the Somali Region State of Ethiopia.

The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers that paying a ransom increases the risk of further kidnappings, including of other Australians. If you do decide to travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping, you should ensure you have personal security measures in place, seek professional security advice and take out kidnapping insurance. For more information about kidnapping, see our Kidnapping Threat travel bulletin.

From late February 2011, the ongoing conflict along the border with Somalia has intensified. Heavy fighting has been reported on the Ethiopia-Somalia border and the Kenya-Somalia border. The risk of violent attacks and terrorist acts has increased.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

Civil unrest/political tension

In May 2014 protests at university campuses across Oromia turned violent leading to 15 deaths and many injuries. The situation in Oromia remains unstable and may deteriorate with little or no warning.

We advise you to avoid demonstrations and large gatherings throughout the country as they have the potential to turn violent. International events and political developments may trigger large demonstrations. You should monitor the media and other local news sources for safety information.

Conflict in neighbouring countries could spill over into Ethiopia, particularly along the border with Somalia. Ethiopian and Somali government forces have been fighting militant groups and, although the fighting has been only in Somalia, there is potential for insurgent attacks to be directed at Ethiopia.

In the past, explosions in Addis Ababa targeted government institutions, public areas, public transportation, restaurants and cafes resulting in death and injury.

Ethiopian security forces do not have a widespread presence in the country and may not have the capacity to respond to incidents.

Border with Kenya: We strongly advise you not to travel to the areas bordering Kenya due to the presence of armed groups and landmines. Cross-border violence occurs, including kidnapping, armed banditry, and violent tribal and clan disputes.

Border with Somalia: We strongly advise you not to travel to the areas bordering Somalia due to violent clashes between government forces and insurgents. Ethiopian troops are in Somalia and tensions in the border region remain extremely high. Somali and Ethiopian government troops have been involved in violent clashes with militant insurgents since December 2006. Firearm, grenade and landmine attacks on security forces are common. Civilians have been killed and injured. All travel to the Ogaden area of the Somali Region should also be avoided due to the dangerous security situation.

From late February 2011, the ongoing conflict along the border with Somalia has intensified. Heavy fighting has been reported on the Ethiopia-Somalia border and the Kenya-Somalia border. The risk of violent attacks and terrorist acts has increased.

Border with Sudan and South Sudan, including the Gambella Region: We strongly advise you not to travel to the areas bordering Sudan and South Sudan, including the Gambella Region, due to the presence of armed groups, inter-tribal clashes and landmines and the risk of banditry and kidnapping. The security situation in these areas is extremely dangerous and there is a high risk of violent crime and civil unrest. Continuing unrest and sporadic violence in this region has led to the deaths of many people, including a number of UN personnel. The security situation remains volatile and could escalate without warning.

Border with Eritrea: We also strongly advise you not to travel to the disputed border area between Ethiopia and Eritrea due to the extremely dangerous security situation and the presence of landmines. This includes the Danakil desert area bounded by the Dessie-Adigrat road, the Dessie-Djbouti road and the Ethiopia-Eritrea border. In January 2012, five Western tourists were killed and two kidnapped by gunmen in the Danakil desert area. The kidnapped tourists were released in March 2012. In April 2009, two Ethiopians were killed and a foreign tourist injured when a landmine exploded in the Danakil desert area. In 2007, three British nationals were kidnapped in the same region, they were released after being held for several months.

A peace agreement signed between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 2000 is yet to be fully implemented and the border is heavily militarised and remains closed. Both sides are on heightened alert and political tensions remain high. Hostilities could escalate at any time. In March 2012, Ethiopian military forces attacked military bases inside Eritrea. In March 2008, eight people were killed and 11 injured when a bus exploded as it left a bus station in the border town of Humera. There are no direct flights between the two countries. See also our travel advice for Eritrea.

Crime

There has been an increase in violent assaults against foreigners in Addis Ababa, including in areas around the Hilton and Sheraton Hotels and the Bole Road.

Pickpocketing, bag and jewellery snatching and other petty crimes are common in crowded areas, especially in the Mercato open air market, Piazza areas, and tourist areas near the main post office of Addis Ababa. These crimes are often carried out by groups of young children. Visitors should avoid walking alone at night. A number of recent robbery victims have been assaulted after refusing to hand over their property.

Highway banditry and armed carjacking have been reported outside the main urban centres. When driving you should ensure that car doors are locked, windows are up and that valuables are kept out of sight. When parked, you should ensure that valuables are kept out of sight.

Due to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical assistance.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out whether your ATM card will work overseas. Australian dollars cannot be changed in Ethiopia. US dollars can be changed in most banks. There are limited ATMs in Addis Ababa; mostly in large hotels.

Currency controls are strict in Ethiopia. Foreign currency cash notes exceeding US$3000 or equivalent in any other convertible currency must be declared on arrival and departure, this includes transit travellers staying in Ethiopia for more than 24 hours. You may export up to 200 birr.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local Travel

Landmines are a hazard in the border areas with Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia. If travel to these regions is essential, travellers should remain on well-travelled roads.

In the past, buses have been attacked outside Addis Ababa.

Driving in Ethiopia can be hazardous due to poor road conditions, poorly maintained vehicles local driving practices and inadequate lighting. Pedestrians and livestock, particularly camels, are additional safety hazards. For further advice, see our road travel page.

Airline safety

Please refer to our air travel page for information about aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Ethiopia, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Australians who might engage in activities that involve local legal matters, particularly with regard to family law (divorce, child custody and child support), are strongly advised to seek professional advice and ensure they are aware of their rights and responsibilities.

The death penalty may be imposed for serious crimes, such as aggravated murder.

Penalties for drug offences are severe in Ethiopia and include long jail sentences and heavy fines.

Homosexual behaviour is illegal and penalties include imprisonment. See our LGBTI travellers page.

Permits are required for the purchase or removal of Ethiopian antiquities or animal skins and other cultural artefacts. These may include Ethiopian crosses. Permits can be processed by the export section of the Airport Customs Office.

There are limits on the amount of precious stones and minerals that can be exported for personal use. Check with local authorities if in doubt.

Owning ivory is illegal in Ethiopia and penalties may include confiscation of the ivory, fines or detention.

Photography around military zones, assets and personnel is illegal and may result in arrest and detention. You should obey signs prohibiting photography and refrain from taking photos if the location or infrastructure may be considered sensitive. The area around the Presidential Palace in Addis Ababa should not be photographed.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Australia has strengthened legislation relating to female genital mutilation and forced marriage to protect Australian residents from being taken overseas for these purposes. The new criminal offences carry significant penalties ranging up to 25 years imprisonment. For more information about these crimes please refer to the Forced marriage and Female genital mutilation pages.

Local customs

There are conservative standards of behaviour and dress in Ethiopia. You should take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.

The Julian calendar is used in Orthodox Christian areas in the highlands, and some Ethiopians set their clocks differently to what is customary elsewhere, resulting in significant time differences. To avoid confusion, always check bookings and appointments.

Information for Dual Nationals

Ethiopia does not recognise dual nationality. This may limit our ability to provide consular assistance to Australian/Ethiopian dual nationals who are arrested or detained.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Health facilities are limited in Addis Ababa and inadequate in rural areas. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation to a destination with appropriate facilities would be necessary. Medical evacuation costs would be considerable.

Ethiopia is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a potentially fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, which is preventable by vaccination. We strongly recommend that you are vaccinated against yellow fever before travelling to Ethiopia. See the Entry and Exit section for important information about vaccination certificate requirements. For more information about yellow fever, see the Department of Health website.

Malaria is prevalent in Ethiopia, except for the capital Addis Ababa and areas above 2000 metres. Chloroquine resistant strains are prevalent in some areas. Other insect-borne diseases (including dengue fever, leishmaniasis, filariasis and African sleeping sickness) also occur. We encourage you to take prophylaxis against malaria where necessary and take measures to avoid insect bites, including using an insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including acute diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, measles, tuberculosis, brucellosis and meningitis) are also prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time.

We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water borne diseases such as bilharzia (schistosomiasis). Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

On 5 May 2014 the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the recent international spread of wild poliovirus a “public health emergency of international concern” and has issued temporary recommendations that may affect your travel to Ethiopia.

It is recommended that Australians travelling to Ethiopia are up to date with routinely recommended vaccinations against polio, including a booster dose, as per the Australian Immunisation Handbook, prior to departure.

Australian travellers planning to visit Ethiopia, and staying for periods greater than 4 weeks, are encouraged to carry documented evidence of having received a dose of polio vaccine within 12 months prior to departure from Ethiopia. If you do not have documented evidence of polio vaccination within this 12 month period, you may be encouraged to be vaccinated prior to departure from Ethiopia.

Please see your doctor to discuss your vaccination requirements. Further information is available from the Australian Department of Health polio website.

The altitude in the mountainous regions of Ethiopia can cause problems for travellers, particularly those who suffer from lung, heart or chest problems. Healthy travellers may also feel the effects of the lack of oxygen.

The outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in west Africa is the most serious in recorded history. In an effort to prevent the spread of the disease into Ethiopia, authorities have introduced additional health screening and information requirements for travellers arriving by air and land. Travellers who register a high temperature during screening may be quarantined. For more information on the outbreak and other travel restrictions and preventative measures, see the Ebola outbreak in West Africa travel bulletin.

Where to get help

Australia has an Embassy in Addis Ababa which can provide consular assistance. The address is:

Australian Embassy, Addis Ababa

Turkish compound (off Cape Verde street)
Bole Subcity, Woreda 3

PO Box 3715
Addis Ababa, ETHIOPIA

Telephone: +251 11 667 2678
Facsimile: +251 11 667 2868
Email: adba.consular@dfat.gov.au
Website: www.ethiopia.embassy.gov.au

If you are travelling to Ethiopia, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the above mission, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Some areas of Ethiopia are experiencing severe drought after four years of below average rainfall. Local services and the availability of water and basic food may be affected. An increase in disease has also been reported.

Ethiopia is in an active earthquake and volcanic zone.

The rainy season is from July to September when flooding may occur and some roads can become impassable.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with Children page.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.