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Travel Security Advice for Ethiopia




The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is a developing country in East Africa.  It is comprised of nine states and two city administrations (Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa).  The capital is Addis Ababa.  Tourism facilities can be found in the most populous regions of Ethiopia, but infrastructure is basic.  The ruling EPRDF party and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi maintain strong control of the government and economy.  Despite several years of high economic growth, the country remains vulnerable to external economic shocks and recurring drought.  Read the Department of State Background Notes on Ethiopia for additional information.


U.S. citizens living or traveling in Ethiopia are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate at the Department of State’s travel registration page in order to obtain updated information on local travel and security.  U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency.

Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.

U.S. Embassy Ethiopia

Entoto Avenue, P.O. Box 1014, Addis Ababa
Telephone: 251-11-124-2424
Emergency after-hours telephone: 251-11-517-4000 ext. 0
Facsimile: 251-11-124-2435


To avoid possible confusion or delays, travelers are strongly advised to obtain a valid Ethiopian visa at the nearest Ethiopian Embassy prior to arrival, and must do so if entering across any land port-of-entry.  For example, travelers wishing to enter Ethiopia from Kenya at the land border at Moyale must obtain an Ethiopian visa first.  Ethiopian visas ARE NOT available at the border crossing point at Moyale.  Travelers should apply for Ethiopian visas at an Ethiopian embassy abroad.  Ethiopian tourist visas (one month or three month, single entry) may be available to U.S. citizens upon arrival at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa in some cases.  NOTE:  The Government of Ethiopia has recently issued a policy that travelers born in Eritrea, regardless of their current nationality, may not receive tourist visas at the airport.

The on-arrival visa process is available only at Bole International Airport and is not available at any other ports of entry in Ethiopia.  The visa fee at Bole International Airport is payable in U.S. dollars.  Such visas can be extended by applying at the Main Immigration Office in Addis Ababa.  Business visas of up to three months validity can also be obtained at Bole International Airport upon arrival if the traveler has a sponsoring organization in Ethiopia that has made prior arrangements for issuance through the Main Immigration Office in Addis Ababa.  In some cases, U.S. tourist and business travelers have not been permitted to receive visas at Bole International Airport or have been significantly delayed.  Therefore, it is strongly recommended that all travelers obtain a valid Ethiopian visa prior to arrival.  Travelers whose entry visa expires before they depart Ethiopia must obtain a visa extension and pay a monthly penalty fee of $20 USD per month.  Such travelers may also be required to pay a court fine of up to 4000 ETB (USD $435) before being permitted to depart from Ethiopia.  Travelers are required to pay the penalty fee before they will be able to obtain an exit visa (USD $20) permitting them to leave Ethiopia.

Individuals intending to stay in Ethiopia for a prolonged period of time are advised to contact the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington prior to traveling.  The Ethiopian Embassy is located at 3506 International Drive NW, Washington, DC 20008; telephone (202) 364-1200; fax (202) 587-0195.  For the most current visa information, visit the
Embassy of Ethiopia's website for the most current visa information.  Americans located overseas may also inquire at the nearest Ethiopian embassy or consulate.

HIV/AIDS restrictions:

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Ethiopia.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.


While Ethiopia is generally stable, domestic insurgent groups, extremists from Somalia, and the heavy military buildup along the northern border pose risks to safety and security, particularly along Ethiopia’s border areas and in the Somali region.  In the past year, there has been an increase in targeted bombings in Addis Ababa and in other parts of Ethiopia.  In November 2008, the Government of Ethiopia issued a warning to its citizens alerting them of the potential for terrorist attacks and subsequently increased security measures to unprecedented levels.

Throughout Ethiopia: Americans are strongly advised to review their personal safety and security posture, to remain vigilant and to be cautious when frequenting prominent public places and landmarks.  Targeted bombings in Addis Ababa and south eastern Ethiopia in 2008 resulted in numerous injuries and deaths.  Americans are advised to avoid public gatherings and public places, including hotels, if possible, and using public transportation and transportation hubs.  They are advised to beware of unattended baggage or packages left in any location, including in mini-buses and taxis.

Ethiopia/Eritrea Border Area: Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a peace agreement in December 2000 that ended their border war.  However, the border remains an issue of contention between the governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea.  The border area is a militarized zone where there exists the possibility of armed conflict between Ethiopian and Eritrean forces.  American citizens are advised to avoid travel in the areas along the Eritrean/Ethiopian border (within 50 km/30 miles of the Ethiopian/Eritrean border) because of the dangers posed by land mines and because of the possibility of conflict between Ethiopian and Eritrean defense forces.  Due to abductions and banditry, Americans are advised to avoid travel within 30 miles of the Ethiopian-Eritrean border west of Adigrat to the Sudanese border, with the exception of the town of Axum, and within 60 miles east of Adigrat to the Djiboutian border.  Embassy personnel are permitted to travel in these areas only on a case-by-case basis. Travel to the northern Afar Region towards the Eritrean border is also discouraged.  Embassy personnel are permitted to travel there only on a case-by-case basis.

Somali Region: Since the mid-1990's the members of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) have clashed with Ethiopian government forces near the city of Harar and in the Somali regional state, particularly in the Ogaden zones.  In April 2007, the ONLF claimed responsibility for attacking a Chinese oil exploration installation south of Jijiga, in Ethiopia's Somali region.  The attack resulted in deaths, kidnappings and the wounding of dozens of Chinese and Ethiopian citizens.  In 2008, a hotel in the town of Jijiga was bombed and two hotels in the town of Negele Borena were bombed.

American citizens are reminded that the U.S. Embassy strongly discourages travel to Ethiopia's Somali region and that a Travel Warning for Somalia has been issued that advises against all travel to that country.  Armed insurgent groups operate within the Somali, Oromiya and Afar regions of Ethiopia.  In December 2006, the Ethiopian Government, at the invitation of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, began military operations against extremists in Somalia.  As of September 2009, military operations continue in Mogadishu, where an African Union peacekeeping force, AMISOM, is deployed.  In 2008, two staff members of a non-governmental organization (NGO) were abducted in the Somali region.  Armed extremists operating along the Ethiopia-Somali border have demonstrated a willingness and capability to target foreigners and NGO workers.

U.S. Embassy staff require advance permission to travel to Harar, Jijiga and the Somali state due to the tense security situation.  American citizens in those areas and the nearby East Hararge region have received increased scrutiny. 

Gambella Region:  Sporadic inter-ethnic clashes remain a concern throughout the Gambella region of western Ethiopia following outbursts of violence there in 2003 - 2004.  There is a heavy military and police presence in the town of Gambella.  While the security situation in the town of Gambella is calm, it remains unpredictable throughout the rest of the region, and violence could recur without warning.  Travel to this region is discouraged.

Travel in Ethiopia via rail is discouraged due to past episodes of derailment, sabotage, and bombings.  In southern Ethiopia along the Kenyan border, banditry and incidents involving ethnic conflicts are also common.  Travelers should exercise caution when traveling to any remote area of the country, including the borders with Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya and Sudan.  Ethiopian security forces do not have a widespread presence in those regions.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs' website, which contains current the Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. and Canada, or by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s extensive tips and advice on traveling safely abroad.


Pick-pocketing, “snatch and run” thefts, including from occupied vehicles, and other petty crimes are common in Addis Ababa.  These are generally crimes of opportunity rather than planned attacks.  Travelers should exercise caution in crowded areas and should avoid visiting the Mercato in Addis Ababa, a large open-air market.  Violence in the Mercato has been on the rise.  In 2008 an explosion in the Mercato killed several and wounded more than a dozen individuals.  Also in 2008, there was a shooting in the Mercato.  Travelers should limit the amount of cash they carry and leave valuables, such as passports, jewelry, and airline tickets in a hotel safe or other secure place.  Travelers should keep wallets and other valuables where they will be less susceptible to pick-pockets.

Travelers should be cautious at all times when traveling on roads in Ethiopia.  There have been reports of highway robbery, including carjacking, by armed bandits outside urban areas.  Some incidents have been accompanied by violence.  Travelers are cautioned to limit road travel outside major towns or cities to daylight hours and travel in convoys, if possible.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.  Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law.  In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.  .


If you are the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see end of this sheet or see the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates).  This includes the loss or theft of a U.S. passport.  The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds may be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

There is no local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Ethiopia.  Distress calls should be made to the local police station, the telephone number of which can be obtained by calling directory assistance at 997.  This is the number for directory assistance throughout Ethiopia.   In Addis Ababa, the number for police is 991, for the fire brigade 939, and for an ambulance 907.

Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.


While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States..

Persons violating Ethiopia's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.  Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Ethiopia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.


Ethiopia does not recognize dual nationality.  The government of Ethiopia considers Ethiopians who have become naturalized U.S. citizens to be Americans.  Such individuals are not subject to Ethiopian military service.  The Ethiopian government has stated that Ethiopian-Americans in almost all cases are given the same opportunity to invest in Ethiopia as Ethiopians.  Several years ago the government of Ethiopia arrested people of Eritrean origin who initially failed to disclose their U.S. citizenship.  However, this has not occurred in recent years.  Ethiopian officials have recently stated that Eritrean-Americans are treated as U.S. citizens and are not subject to arrest simply because of their ties to Eritrea although, as noted above, they are not permitted to receive tourist visas at the airport.  For additional information, see our dual nationality flyer.

Permits are required before exporting either antiques or animal skins from Ethiopia.  Antique religious artifacts, including "Ethiopian” crosses, require documentation from the National Museum in Addis Ababa for export.

Foreign currency should be exchanged in authorized banks, hotels and other legally authorized outlets and proper receipts should be obtained for the transactions.  Exchange receipts are required to convert unused Ethiopian currency back to the original foreign currency.  Penalties for exchanging money on the black market range from fines to imprisonment.  Credit cards are not accepted at most hotels, restaurants, shops, or other local facilities, although they are accepted at the Hilton and Sheraton Hotels in Addis Ababa.  Some hotels and car rental companies, particularly in Addis Ababa, may require foreigners to pay in foreign currency or show a receipt for the source of foreign exchange if paying in local currency.  However, many hotels or establishments are not permitted to accept foreign currency or may be reluctant to do so.

Resident and non-resident travelers can carry $3,000 in foreign currency in and out of Ethiopia with proper evidence of its source.  Employees of embassies and foreign organizations or individuals entering into the country through embassies or foreign organizations on temporary employment (e.g., to attend seminars, to give training) may leave the country carrying more than $3,000 in cash only when they can produce evidence that they were paid directly from a bank.  Residents may carry foreign currency upon departure, but only by producing evidence that the currency was purchased from a bank, or by producing a customs declaration not more than 45 days after it was issued.  Travelers can only carry up to 200 Ethiopian Birr out of the country.

Ethiopian institutions have on occasion refused to accept 1996 series U.S. currency, although official policy is that such currency should be treated as legal tender.

Ethiopian law strictly prohibits the photographing of military installations, police/military personnel, industrial facilities, government buildings, and infrastructure (roads, bridges, dams, airfields, etc.).  Such sites are rarely marked clearly.  Travel guides, police, and Ethiopian officials can advise if a particular site may be photographed.  Photographing prohibited sites may result in the confiscation of film and camera.

There is a risk of earthquakes in Ethiopia.  Buildings may collapse due to strong tremors.  General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).


Health facilities in Addis Ababa are very limited and are generally inadequate outside the capital.  Even the best hospitals in Addis Ababa suffer from inadequate facilities, antiquated equipment, and shortages of supplies (particularly medicines).  There is a shortage of physicians.  Emergency assistance is limited.  Psychiatric services and medications are practically nonexistent.  Serious illnesses and injuries often require travelers to be medically evacuated from Ethiopia to a location where adequate medical attention is available.  Such “medevac” services are very expensive and are generally available only to travelers who either have travel insurance that covers medevac services or who are able to pay in advance the considerable cost of such services (often in excess of USD 40,000).  See Medical Insurance below.  Travelers must carry their own supplies of prescription drugs and preventive medicines, as well as a doctor's note describing the medication.  If the quantity of drugs exceeds that which would be expected for personal use, a permit from the Ministry of Health is required.

Malaria is prevalent in Ethiopia outside of the highland areas.  Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention and explain to the health care provider their travel history and which anti-malarials they have been taking.  For additional information on malaria, protection from insect bites, and anti-malarial drugs, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention malaria website.

Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Ethiopia.  For further information, please consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tuberculosis website.

Ethiopia is a mountainous country and the high altitude may cause health problems, even for healthy travelers.  Addis Ababa is located at an altitude of 8,300 feet.  Travelers may experience shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea, headaches, and inability to sleep.  Individuals with respiratory (including asthma) or heart conditions should consult with a health care professional before traveling to Ethiopia.  Travelers to Ethiopia should also avoid swimming in any lakes, rivers, or still bodies of water.  Most bodies of water have been found to contain parasites.  Travelers should be aware that Ethiopia has a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS.

Ethiopia has had outbreaks of acute watery diarrhea, possible cholera, typhoid, or other bacterial diarrhea in the recent past, and the conditions for reoccurrences continue to exist in both urban and rural settings.  Further information on prevention and treatment of cholera and other diarrheal diseases can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Foodborne, Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases webpage.

Ethiopian authorities are monitoring the possibility of avian influenza following the deaths of poultry and birds; preliminary results are negative.  For additional information on avian flu please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Avian Influenza website.

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) websiteThe WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.


The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to determine whether the policy applies overseas and whether it covers emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.


While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning Ethiopia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Ethiopia has the highest rate of traffic fatalities per vehicle in the world.  Roads in Ethiopia are poorly maintained, inadequately marked, and poorly lighted.  Road travel after dark outside Addis Ababa and other cities is dangerous and discouraged due to hazards posed by broken-down vehicles left in the road, pedestrians walking in the road, stray animals, and the possibility of armed robbery.  Road lighting in cities is inadequate at best and nonexistent outside of cities.   Excessive speed, unpredictable local driving habits, pedestrians and livestock in the roadway, and the lack of basic safety equipment on many vehicles are daily hazards on Ethiopian roads.

While travel during daylight hours on both paved and unpaved roads is generally considered safe, land mines and other anti-personnel devices can be encountered on isolated dirt roads that were targeted during various conflicts.  Before undertaking any off-road travel, it is advisable to inquire of local authorities to ensure that the area has been cleared of mines.  Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.


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.


Please see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

This replaces the Country Specific Information for Ethiopia dated November 26, 2008, to update sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Threats to Safety and Security, Crime, Special Circumstances, and Medical Facilities and Health Information.



The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding Ethiopia HERE.....

There are areas of Ethiopia with Malaria, please check the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention Malaria Map HERE....

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out the World Wide Embassy Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens)........


The SW Team......


Direct Gov Travel News and Alerts