Travel.State.Gov > International Travel > Learn About Your Destination > Ethiopia International Travel Information
Please visit the Embassy's COVID-19 page more information on entry/ exit requirements related to COVID-19 in Ethiopia.
Requirements for Entry:
Visas: All U.S. citizens are required to obtain a visa to legally enter Ethiopia. Do not travel to Ethiopia unless you have an approved e-Visa. Travelers without a valid visa will be denied entry. To avoid any disruption to your travel print and carry a copy of your e-Visa with you. Please, visit https://www.evisa.gov.et/visa/apply to apply for an e-Visa before traveling to Ethiopia. Contact the Embassy of Ethiopia for the most current visa information. Overseas inquiries about visas should be made at the nearest Ethiopian embassy or consulate.
The Ethiopian Immigration and Citizenship Service strictly enforces immigration regulations and expects all foreign nationals to be in the country under legal status. There is a daily fine if you overstay your visa. This fine must be paid in full in U.S. dollars at immigration in order to obtain an exit visa and be permitted to depart the country.
Foreign Currency Restrictions:
Ivory, Animal Skins, Souvenirs, Precious Stones and Minerals, Antiques/Artifacts:
HIV/AIDS: The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Ethiopia. Please verify this with the Ethiopian Embassy before you travel.
Terrorism: Al-Qa’ida and its regional affiliate, Somalia-based al-Shabaab, maintain a presence throughout East Africa. In late 2020, Ethiopian security officials announced the arrest of al-Shabaab and ISIS members who were accused of planning attacks in Addis Ababa and other parts of Ethiopia. Current information indicates that terrorist organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens and Western targets and interests in East Africa, as well as against high-profile targets within those countries that contribute troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia, including Ethiopia.
Terrorist groups and those inspired by such organizations are intent on attacking U.S. citizens abroad. Terrorists are increasingly using less sophisticated methods of attack – including knives, firearms, and vehicles – to more effectively target crowds. Frequently, their aim is unprotected or vulnerable targets, such as:
For more information, see our Terrorism page.
Civil Unrest: Ethiopia has experienced sporadic and spontaneous civil unrest throughout the country, some of which has ended in violence. During such episodes, the Ethiopian government often curtails or limits mobile telecommunications, internet access, and social media. If this happens, you may be unable to contact family and friends or emergency services. The U.S. Embassy does not provide internet access to private individuals.
U.S. government personnel must request permission for personal and official travel outside of Addis Ababa and are required to carry personnel tracking devices and, in some cases, satellite phones.
U.S. government personnel may not take personal trips to:
U.S. government personnel may only travel to Gambella City and Assosa City by plane.
Western areas of Oromia: Wollega zones that include Kellem Wollega, West Wollega, Horro-Guduru Wollega and parts of East Wollega have reported civil unrest including fighting involving armed groups.
Southern areas of Oromia: West Guji zone has reported civil unrest including fighting involving armed groups.
Ethiopia’s Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR): Civil unrest in the region, particularly in Bench Sheko Zone and Konso Special Woreda, has resulted in deaths, looting, and the burning of buildings.
Border with Kenya: There have been numerous incidents of inter-ethnic conflict reported near the border areas with Kenya, as well as attacks attributed to the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA or OLF-Shane). Criminal activity in this border area remains a concern.
Tigray and Border with Eritrea: Due to conflict in the region, Tigray and the border with Eritrea are currently off-limits for U.S. government personnel. Due to the current situation in Tigray, the border roads with Eritrea are closed. Conditions at the border may change with no warning.
Border with South Sudan (Gambella Region): The security situation in the region is volatile. Sporadic inter-ethnic clashes are common along the western border area with South Sudan. Past tribal conflict between Anyuak, Nuer, and Highlanders resulted in numerous casualties. As with other border areas, landmines and criminal activity remain a concern.
Border with Sudan: There have been numerous incidents of armed clashes reported near the border area between Sudan and Ethiopia over disputed land.
Somali Region (eastern Ethiopia): Al-Shabaab maintains a presence in Somali towns near the Ethiopian border, presenting risk of cross-border attacks and kidnapping. As with other border areas, landmines and criminal activity remain a concern. U.S. government personnel may not take personal trips to the Somali region.
Afar: Violent crime, including the armed assault of foreigners, has occurred in the Danakil Depression in Afar. While recent reports may indicate the Danakil Depression area is safe for tourism, please note that tourism was previously targeted for attacks in 2007, 2012, and 2017. It is not recommended to use the Mekelle route to this or other tourist sites in the Afar region due to the current situation in the Tigray region. Travelers should remain alert for changing conditions and the potential for criminal activity in these areas. Travel to areas bordering Tigray is not recommended due to conflict in that region. Additionally, ethnic conflicts between Afar and Somalis in the southern border areas of Afar have been reported.
Amhara: As a result of the Tigray conflict, tensions continue to exist along the Amhara-Tigray regional border, with occasional clashes including gunfire. Ethnic violence has been reported. While attacks are mostly related to inter-ethnic disputes and foreigners have not been targeted, attacks can occur at any time with the risk of being caught in violence. If you are travelling in the area, monitor local media and follow the advice of local authorities.
Crime in Addis Ababa: Pickpocketing, purse snatching, theft from vehicles and other petty crimes are common in Addis Ababa. Theft of passports is common in Bole International Airport, including inside the airport terminal and during airport transfers. Thieves are active throughout the city at all times, particularly on Bole Road, in the Piazza, the Merkato, and other areas frequented by tourists and foreigners. Violent robberies have also occurred in this area, with victims stabbed or beaten. Further, a number of violent robberies on hikers in Entoto Park, Yeka Park (behind the British Embassy), and the Guellele Botanical Gardens in Addis Ababa have been reported.
Demonstrations occur frequently. They may take place in response to political or economic issues, on politically significant holidays, and during international events.
Victims of Crime: U.S. citizen victims of crime in Addis Ababa should contact the Addis Ababa Police at 011-111-1011 or 991 from your local cell phone and may call the U.S. Embassy at 011-130-6000/6911. Crimes occurring outside of Addis Ababa should be reported to the Ethiopian Federal Police at 011-126-4359/4377. Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crime.
See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence are encouraged to contact the Embassy for assistance.
Tourism: The tourism industry is unevenly regulated, and safety inspections for equipment and facilities do not commonly occur. Hazardous areas/activities are not always identified with appropriate signage, and staff may not be trained or certified either by the host government or by recognized authorities in the field. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is typically available only in/near major cities. First responders are generally unable to access areas outside of major cities and to provide urgent medical treatment. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Please note that in the event you are arrested and then released on bail, standard practice is that the police will retain foreign passports pending a final hearing. Individuals establishing a business or practicing a profession that requires additional permits or licensing should seek information from the competent local authorities, prior to practicing or operating a business.
Photography: It is illegal to take pictures of government buildings, military installations, police/military personnel, and key infrastructure such as roads, bridges, dams, and airfields. If you are caught photographing prohibited sites, you could be fined, your photographic equipment could be confiscated, and you could be detained and/or arrested. As a general practice, you should avoid taking pictures of individuals without their clear consent.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.
Phone Service: Cellular phones are the main method of communication in Ethiopia; other telephone service is unreliable, and landlines are nearly non-existent. Cell phones brought into Ethiopia must be registered with the Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority. Phones can be registered either at Bole International Airport or at any Ethio Telecom shop. SIM cards are available for local purchase from Ethio Telecom, but will only work with phones that have been registered. As noted, cell phone access may be cut off without warning.
Currency: The Ethiopian Birr (ETB) is the currency of Ethiopia and, with the exception of international hotel bills, payment for commercial transactions in any other currency is illegal. Credit cards are accepted at only a few outlets in Addis Ababa. Foreign currency may only be exchanged legally at banks.
Ethiopian Refugee Camps: All access to refugee camps must be preapproved by the UNHCR and Ethiopian government. You may be detained and deported if you attempt to gain access without proper permissions.
Calendar: The Ethiopian calendar is the principal calendar used in Ethiopia. Some Ethiopians set their clocks differently than is standard practice elsewhere, resulting in significant time differences. Double check bookings and appointments to avoid confusion.
Faith-Based Travelers: See the following webpages for details:
LGBTI Travelers: Consensual same-sex sexual activity between adults is illegal and punishable by imprisonment under the law. There have been periodic detentions and interrogations of some LGBTI persons, and alleged physical abuse. Ethiopians do not generally publicly identify themselves as LGBTI due to severe societal stigma. There are some reports of violence against LGBTI individuals; reporting is limited due to fear of retribution, discrimination, or stigmatization. There is no law prohibiting discrimination against LGBTI persons and some LGBTI activists have reported being followed and at times fearing for their safety. Outside the major international hotels, same-sex couples may be unable to share a room. See our LGBTI Travel Information page and section 6 of our Human Rights Report for further details.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: See The Ethiopian Center for Disability and Development guidebook with information on accessible hotel accommodations and transportation (including the new Addis Ababa metro). Persons with disabilities have limited access to transportation, communication, accommodations, and public buildings. There are few sidewalks and no curb-cuts, and most buildings lack functioning elevators. Landlords are required to give persons with disabilities preference for ground floor apartments.
Women Travelers: Domestic violence, including spousal abuse, is pervasive. Domestic violence and rape cases often are delayed significantly and given low priority. Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is illegal, but the prohibition is not actively enforced. Many women and girls have undergone FGM/C. It is much less common in urban areas. See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
Natural Disasters: Ethiopia’s geographic location in the western escarpment of the Great Rift Valley and the Horn of Africa increases its vulnerability to natural disasters, including flooding (and related landslides) during the summer rainy season, drought, and seismic events.
Consult the CDC website for Ethiopia prior to travel.
For emergency services in Ethiopia, dial the following numbers:
Medical care is extremely limited and health care facilities are only adequate for stabilization and emergency care. There is a shortage of physicians and other qualified medical personnel, as well as medical supplies, including, but not limited to, respirators, oxygen, and medications. Emergency, ambulance, and psychiatric services are also limited. All care providers, both public and private, require payment or a cash deposit in Ethiopian birr before treatment is performed.
Ambulance services are not present throughout the country or are unreliable in most areas except Addis Ababa. Ambulances are also not generally staffed with trained paramedics and often have little or no medical equipment. Injured or seriously ill travelers may prefer to take a taxi or private vehicle to the nearest major hospital rather than wait for an ambulance.
The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa will not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare/Medicaid does not apply overseas. Most hospitals and doctors overseas do not accept U.S. health insurance. Some clinics will require payment prior to service or prior to checkout.
Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See the Embassy webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage. Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information on the type of insurance you should consider before you travel overseas. It is strongly recommended that you obtain supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.
Always carry your prescription medication in its original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription. If the quantity of drugs exceeds that which would be expected for personal use, a permit from the Ministry of Health is required. Check with the Ethiopian Food and Drug Administration (EFDA) at +251-11-552-41-22 or *8484* to ensure the medication is legal in Ethiopia.
Altitude: Many cities in Ethiopia, including Addis Ababa, are at high altitude. Be aware of the symptoms of altitude sickness and take precautions before you travel. Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information about travel to high altitude locations.
The following diseases are prevalent in Ethiopia:
Vaccinations: Ensure you are up to date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Note that when traveling to certain other countries from Ethiopia, proof of Yellow Fever vaccination may be required.
Further health information:
Air Quality: Visit AirNow Department of State for information on air quality at U.S. Embassies and Consulates.
The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of doctors and hospitals but does not endorse or recommend any specific medical provider or clinic.
U.S. government officials and their families are advised to travel between major cities by air. They are prohibited from using inter- or intra-city bus transportation and travelling by road outside urban areas at night.
Road Conditions and Safety: Traffic accidents occur regularly in Addis Ababa and throughout the country. Roads are ill maintained, inadequately marked, and poorly lit. Excessive speed, erratic driving habits, pedestrians, stray animals, and lack of vehicle maintenance pose other hazards. Travel with other vehicles outside of cities during daylight hours only, due to the threat of roadside bandits, and be sure to carry additional fuel, a spare tire, and provisions. Professional roadside assistance service is not available.
Traffic Laws: You will need an Ethiopian driver’s license to drive in Ethiopia. In order to obtain an Ethiopian’s driver’s license, you will need an authenticated copy of your U.S. driver’s license. For more information on authentication, visit the Department of State’s Office of Authentications. The Embassy does not authenticate U.S. driver’s licenses. Use of cell phones while driving is prohibited. Use of seat belts is required. It is illegal to give money to beggars who approach vehicles stopped in traffic.
Accidents: In the event of an automobile accident, remain inside the vehicle and wait for police. It is illegal to move your vehicle before a police officer arrives. If a hostile mob forms or you feel your safety is in danger, however, leave the scene and proceed directly to the nearest police station to report the incident.
Public Transportation: Public transport is unregulated and unsafe. Avoid all travel by public transportation and hire private transport from a reliable source. Buses are in poor mechanical condition and are often filled well beyond capacity.
While taxis are available in Ethiopia, most do not meet U.S. safety standards. In Addis Ababa, green and yellow metered taxis are generally newer and in better condition than other taxis. The hiring of private transportation from a reliable source and/or use of hotel provided transportation is recommended.
See our Road Safety page for more information.
Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Ethiopia’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Ethiopia’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.