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Traveling to Ethiopia Tips

Historic routes: the central highlands have a temperate climate with an average temperature of 20-27oc. and possible to be reached either by daily flight or drive from Addis Ababa.

Simien and Bale National Parks: generally quite cool at day times and often very cold in early morning and night times. Mostly the temperature ranges from 20oc at the time to negative (-) 3oc during the early morning &night time.

Southern Ethiopia: the eastern lowlands and the far south are generally hot and dry. They have an average temperature of 25-32oc. Ethiopian Airlines provides flights to and from Arba Minch three or two times weekly. All the other southern destinations can be reached by comfortable 4WDs as most of the roads are mixed roads (Asphalt and paved road).

Afar: in some of the lower-lying areas it can get considerably hotter. Places like Danakil Depression, being 116m below sea level, is officially listed as the hottest place on earth, with an average temperature of 30-35 c.

Clothing: Because of the elevation, temperatures rarely exceed 25oC in most of the country.

Pack light clothes for the daytime a jacket or sweater for the evenings, and a good pair of walking shoes even if you are not going trekking – pathways around historic sites are usually uneven and stony. Trekkers in the Simien and Bale Mountains will need warm clothes and waterproof sleeping bags. On a cultural note – Ethiopians are generally modest dressers, and visitors should be sensitive about going underdressed (in shorts, tank tops, and bare-backed) into places of worship. Shoes must always be removed before entering churches and mosques – for getting around sites like Lalibela with its many churches airline socks are very useful.

When to come: This can depend on where you are going. In most of the country, the main rainy season runs from June to the end of September, with short rains in March. In the Omo and Mago parks, however, in Southern Ethiopia, the seasons are different with the main rains from March to June and shorter rains in November. (However, in a time of changing global weather patterns it is no longer possible to be absolutely definitive about the rains – in recent years unseasonal rains have made sections of the Omo impassable, for example.)

With the upgrading of the airports along the Historic Route (Axum, Lalibela, Gondar and Bahir Dar), it is now possible to visit the north even in the rainy season. For travelers who do not mind waiting out a downpour (usually followed by brilliant sunshine) there are certain rewards – a green countryside full of crops and flowers and the sites.

Major festivals: 11th September- New Year, 27th September- Meskel (the finding of the true cross), 20thSeptember- Id ul Fitr (Ramadhan), 27th November- Id ul Ahda, 07th January Genna – Ethiopian /Christmas, 19thJanuary – Ethiopian epiphany, 02nd March – victory of Adwa, 09th March – Birth of Prophet Mohammed (Mauwlid), 25th April Ethiopian Good Friday,   27th April – Ethiopian Easter, 01st May – International Labour day, 28th May – downfall of the Dergue Regime.

Electric supply: Ethiopia uses 220 volts 50 cycles AC. plugs are of the two pin variety.

Charter flights: Ethiopian Airlines, Abyssinian flight services, Air Ethiopia and more are coming up.

Money Matters: It is no longer obligatory for visitors to declare currency in their possession on arrival, but should visitors wish to change money back on departure, it will be necessary to produce receipts from banks and authorized foreign exchange dealers. The Ethiopian currency is the birr and Ethiopian Birr has; 1, 5, 10, 50 & 100 notes and denomination and coins of 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 cents.  The rate of which against the US dollar is fixed in weekly auctions, the current exchange rate (May 03/2012) is US$1=ETB17.48

Credit card acceptance is now growing throughout the country, Banks like Dashen Bank, Commercial bank, Zemen bank &Wogagen bank can issue cash on cards and have branches in main cities like Bahir Dar, Gondar, Axum, Mekelle, Awassa, Dessie, Arba  Minch, Sodo and the like.

Hotels: Addis Ababa has hotels that cater for all pockets, from luxurious Sheraton, Rassison Blu & Hilton (5 star plus) – intercontinental, Jupiter, Kaleb, Global and Ghion hotel to the four and three star tourist – class hotels and cozy guest houses.  Almost all resorts offer a choice of modern hotels. Standards vary outside the capital, but apart from the Omo and Mago areas where camping is unavoidable it is generally possible to get relatively clean rooms with en suite toilet and shower. Village Ethiopia and other companies have started to construct eco-tourist lodges, and is it is expected that others will follow.

Health and Medical: The possession of a valid Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is no longer mandatory but visitors coming from countries where Yellow Fever has been reported may be asked. Immunization for Hepatitis A and B, Tetanus, Typhoid and Polio is recommended.

Malaria: in many sites malaria is not a problem because of the elevation – this is true of Axum, Gondar and Lalibela for example, but it can occur in Bahir Dar at the end of the rainy season and after unseasonable rains. Lowland areas along the Awash River, the Omo Valley, Rift Valley and Gambella are subject to malaria outbreaks. Chloroquine resistant strains have been identified in most areas so you should consult your doctor about the prescription. Alternatively, you can keep mosquitoes and other insects at bay with repellent creams and sprays. (Climatic changes and phenomena such as el-Nino has meant the appearance of malaria at unseasonable times, and its spread to areas previously malaria free.)

Visitors should take a simple first aid pack, which would include: different size plasters, antiseptic cream, anti-histamine cream and/or tablets for insect bites, sun barrier cream (while temperatures are moderate the sun is strong) and anti-diarrhea tablets such as Imodium for emergencies (they will not cure the problem but will control the symptoms).

Generally, visitors should take out standard holiday health insurance in their home countries.

Visa: Visa application may be obtained at Ethiopian’s diplomatic missions overseas.

Souvenirs: Most old and antiques items cannot be exported and are confiscated if found in airport searches.