Ethiopia Travel Advice
Security travel advice for Ethiopia
How safe is Ethiopia?
Threat level: Medium - High
Ethiopia has declared a state of emergency in the regional state of Tigray due to military clashes and air strikes taking place in the region over tensions between the central government and Tigray's local administration. As a result of this, travellers should avoid travelling to the region and monitor local media.
COVID-19 Situation in Ethiopia
There are reported cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Ethiopia and as a result of this, the country had declared in March a 5-month state of emergency in an effort to limit the spread of the virus. To tackle the spread of the virus, Ethiopia has implemented a series of measures including the compulsory use of face masks in all public places and the obligation to maintain social distancing. Commercial flights have resumed and international travellers are allowed entry to Ethiopia on the condition that they provide a negative COVID-19 test result issued within the previous 120 hours (5 days) and that they self-isolate on their arrival for 14 days. See our healthcare section for more information about preventive measures to follow against the virus.
Travelling to Ethiopia poses a significantly high risk due to the fact that there is very high terror threat and many areas suffer from increasing rates of serious crime, including armed banditry. 10 km within the border with South Sudan and 100 km of the Ethiopian border with Somalia and Kenya in the Afder and Liben zones of Ethiopia’s Somali region are no go zones for foreign nationals.
The terrorist group Al Shabaab operate freely in many areas of Somalia which poses a threat across the East Africa region including Ethiopia. The capital city Addis Ababa is at high risk from Al Shabaab attacks.
The general travel advice for Ethiopia is that it is strongly recommended that you only travel to Ethiopia if it is absolutely necessary, and with a Close Protection team should you choose to do so. If you are travelling to the region for business purposes, it is your employer’s duty of care to ensure the correct security measures are in place.
Recent Security Risk Events
On the 22nd of June 2019, a military coup was attempted by the army's chef of staff against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and failed. The army's chef was shot dead by his own bodyguard.
Protesters took to streets across the country in August 2016 over concerns of human rights abuses amongst other issues. Dozens of citizens across cities in the country have been beaten or shot, many of them fatally. Civil unrest continues despite the government putting a ban on demonstrations and blocking forms of social media.
There have been widespread riots across the Oromia Region in 2016, many of which turned violent and resulted in several fatalities. Further riots have caused severe disruption to logistics across the whole country. You should avoid any large gatherings and monitor the local media as often as possible.
The Mejenger Zone has experienced recent armed conflicts between inter-ethnic communities that have resulted in hundreds of deaths. There have also been conflicts in the Tigray and Afar regions. It is highly advised not to travel to these areas.
The Sudan, South Sudan and Kenya borders all experience high rates of armed banditry where foreign nationals are primary targets. Travel by road across these borders is highly advised against and you should only fly if possible.
Petty crimes such as mugging and pick pocketing are very common in Addis Ababa. Foreign nationals are prime targets for opportunistic criminals and you should exercise extreme caution in all areas of the country. Avoid walking alone and do not have expensive jewellery on display.
Theft from cars and hijackings are also common, even in urban areas. Be extremely cautious in busy traffic as cars have been attacked while stopping at traffic lights. Don’t display valuables on show inside your car and only park in secure, guarded car parks.
Ethiopia's International Relations
Ethiopia has many well-established relations with western and African countries. Its capital Addis Ababa also serves as the headquarters of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the African Union, as well as many other international organizations.
A strategic partner with the United States in the Global War on Terrorism, the two countries work closely together in dealing with threats from terror groups such as Al Shaabab.
Travelling around Ethiopia
You can drive in Ethiopia with most national driving licences from the UK, US and EU. Driving standards are poor and road users often do not take into consideration the safety of others when driving. Roads are mostly poor quality also, so you should exercise extreme caution when travelling on the roads. Avoid using taxis or other public transport.
The best travel advice for Ethiopia is not to travel outside the main cities after dark and to drive in a convoy when possible. Many roads are impassable without four wheel drive especially during the wet season (June to September).
Commercial Travel Risk Services
Intelligent Protection International Limited provides companies and organisations with Commercial Travel Risk Services designed to mitigate risks of staff when they travel for business. If you are interested in these services, please see: Commercial Travel Risk Services.
Emergency Services in Ethiopia
All emergency services: 911
Religion: Christianity and Islam
Currency: Birr (ETB)
Time now in Addis Ababa:
Consular information for Ethiopia
U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa
P.O. Box 1014,
Telephone: +251 11130 6000
Telephone: + 251 11130 6911 (Out of hours)
British Embassy Addis Ababa
Telephone: +251 92934 6094
Telephone: +251 91250 1107 (Out of hours)
Visa requirements for Ethiopia
To enter Ethiopia, a passport valid for six months is required by all nationals. A visa is also required by most and this can be issued on arrival at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport. The cost of a visa is usually around $50 USD. A return ticket may be required as proof of departure from the country.
Healthcare and Immunisations
It is advised that visitors to Ethiopia are up-to-date with primary boosters such as MMR. It is recommended for most travellers to also get a Tetanus, Hepatitis A, Polio and Typhoid vaccinations.
You may also want to consider the vaccination for Yellow Fever if travelling to some parts of the country, including the capital, Addis Ababa, as there is a small risk of transmission. You should, however, check with your local practitioner prior to departure if you are unsure as the vaccination is not suitable for all travellers or all areas of Ethiopia and there can be some unpleasant side effects.
Cholera and malaria are both present in Ethiopia and you may want to consider precautions to prevent contraction. Malaria is frequent in areas below 2000m. If you plan to stay only in the capital city you should be fine as it is elevated at 2400m.
There is currently an outbreak of Chikungunya fever in Dire Dawa, so it is recommended to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
COVID-19 cases have been reported in Ethiopia. There is no vaccination against the disease, protection is through preventive measures. To avoid contracting the disease, self-isolate, wear a face mask in public, apply good hygiene practices, maintain social distancing, avoid unnecessary travel and gatherings
Many medical facilities are poor quality in Ethiopia and wherever possible, you should visit private practitioners as the quality of care will be better. It is recommended you purchase adequate travel health insurance as in most serious medical emergencies you will have to be evacuated.