Ethiopia is one of the most peaceful countries in Africa and gaining popularity in recent years as a tourist destination. Situated in North-Eastern Africa, Ethiopia, which also goes by the name of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, borders Kenya, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, and Djibouti. It is a landlocked country with a population of over 100 million people. With this number of people, Ethiopia is one of the most populated landlocked countries in the world. Besides that, Ethiopia is a beautiful country that has a lot to offer its visitors. Below are the things you should know about Ethiopia before traveling there.
Like many other countries, you need a valid visa to get to Ethiopia. Visa application takes only twenty-four hours. Unlike many other countries, you do not need to visit the Ethiopian embassy or consulate for your visa application as and you can do it online. All you need is a debit or credit card, valid passport and a contact address, preferably a legitimate email address.
The only people that do not need a visa to travel to Ethiopia are those from Djibouti and Kenya. The passport you use should have a validity of six months from the date of travel. The country also issues tourist visas on arrival at the main Ethiopian international airport, Ababa Bole in Addis Ababa. The number of countries that get this privilege is 36 including the USA.
Places to visit
Ethiopia boasts of an incredible landscape with amazing scenic views. Many stunning world heritage attractions in Ethiopia make up the majority of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Africa. Some of the most amazing attractions in Ethiopia include the Danakil Depression, the Great Rift Valley, Simian Mountains, Gondar, the Blue Nile Falls, Lakes Chamo and Ziway, Bahar Dar, Babile Elephant Sanctuary, the Omo Valley, Tigray Churches, Lake Tana Monasteries, and many more. You can always arrange with local guides to show you around these and more places around the country.
Time and dates
One of the most confusing things, once you land in Ethiopia, is their calendar and time. The Ethiopian calendar is seven years behind and they measure time not from what the clock shows but from the time, the sun rises to when it sets. What this means is that if the sun rises at noon, which is the time the day starts in Ethiopia. With time, it gets easier to follow the trend.
One thing you are sure of is enjoying great tasting food in Ethiopia. You also have to be a lover of coffee because Ethiopians love coffee and take it all the time. The main dish in the country is injera that tastes incredibly good. Honey is also another specialty in the country. The main cities have great restaurants that serve local cuisine and a few international recipes.
If however, you go to a restaurant and find no menus, do not worry. All you need to do is to explain what you want and you will have it. The restaurants are also vegetarian-friendly, which is a big boost to those that do not do meat. When it comes to water, the best advice would be to carry filtered or bottled water, as the taps are not so reliable in providing water safe enough for drinking.
One of the main questions people traveling to Ethiopia ask is how safe the country is. Considering its turbulent past, the question is good to ask. Things have however changed and Ethiopia is currently one of the safest countries in Africa.
The Bole area is the major tourist attraction in the country and even though some tourists do not feel completely safe there, not many incidents of crimes are on record. You could also visit other places outside the capital without worrying about security.
The only internet provider in Ethiopia is ETC or Ethiopian Telecommunications Corp. One of the most difficult things to do in this country is buying a new sim card. You need the patience to do so as getting a sim card requires visiting an ETC office and it takes a while to get a card. The Internet is also slow compared to that of developed countries.
Accommodation in Ethiopia is affordable but this depends on seasons as sometimes the costs may skyrocket. The country has many guest rooms spread across many towns and cities in the country. Do not waste too much time looking for hostels because they are very few. Some of the biggest hotels also offer excellent accommodation facilities. Food and drinks are however cheap and remain so even when accommodation prices go up.
People and language
Another thing that will amaze you in Ethiopia is how friendly the people are. They love their visitors and take a genuine interest in knowing more about you. The locals go out of their way to ensure that their visitors are comfortable. They even extend invitations to their homes. You, however, have to watch out for a large number of children on the streets asking for alms from tourists.
The national Ethiopian language is Amharic, which is a cross between Hebrew and Arabic. In total, there are about 83 other languages spoken in the country. For English-speaking tourists, you do not have to worry because English is also a language widely used in the country.
The national Ethiopian currency is Birr and comes in denominations of 100, 50, 20, 10, and 5. Withdrawing your money in any part of the country is easy as there are ATMs everywhere. One thing you should note is that you may end up carrying huge chunks of money in Ethiopian currency, as 100 Birr is equivalent to slightly above $3 USD.
An exchange counter at the main international airport provides you with all the services of exchanging your leftover birr. It is, however, advisable to carry out your exchange before leaving for the airport.
Ethiopia enjoys both hot and cold weather. During the day, the weather can get extremely hot and very cold during the nights. Make sure to pack scarves, jackets, and long pants for the cold nights and light clothing for the hot days.
Wrapping it up
If you take note of all the above things to expect once in Ethiopia, you can pack your luggage expecting a fun-filled adventure. It is a safe interesting place to visit and you can always ask any questions you have on what is not on the above list.
* This post was made available by e-visa Ethiopia