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Ethiopia FAQs

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1. When is the best time to go to Ethiopia?

Travelers can visit Ethiopia any time of the year, as it is considered a year-round destination. Variations in climate are widely due to the dramatically diverse landscape. Snow can be seen in the Bale mountains, whereby the Danakil Depression can regularly reach temperatures of 120 F.  It is best to avoid the rainy season however, from June through October in most of the country. Read up on more details based on regional destinations to choose your Best time to visit Ethiopia.

2. What are the accommodations like?

Accommodation options really run the gamut in Ethiopia, with main chain hotels used in some areas, and smaller locally owned charming accommodations in other locations. Some family homestays are possible, tent camping, and mountain lodges are also options. Where possible, we strive to use hotels that offer private bathrooms with hot water with clean and comfortable rooms. Location is important to us, and we strive to use hotels that are ideally situated for the main destinations of the area. To see examples of our accommodations, see the Ethiopia Lodging page.

3. Do I need a converter/adapter for the electricity?

Ethiopia uses 220-240 Volts, 50Hz electricity. They use types C, E, F, and L power sockets, similar to those used in most of Europe. It is recommended to bring a converter or to purchase one upon arrival.

4. Are meals included?

We have tried to balance flexibility and convenience regarding meal options. For this reason, we include meals on any of our tour days when you are traveling off the beaten path where restaurant choices are limited. In cities, where there are a wide variety of restaurants, we generally do not include meals, to allow our travelers the flexibility of choosing their own food preferences. Your hotel will typically provide a light continental breakfast on these days.

5. What are the tour guides like?

Our tour leaders are exceptional! A national tour leader will typically accompany you throughout your Ethiopia tour, or a regional guide will escort you on shorter extension trips. This leaders speak English, are well trained, and work in conjunction with local, regional guides throughout your trip. All of our tour leaders treat our travelers like friends, showing visitors both the major highlights and the local treasures.

6. What type of transportation is used?

In Ethiopia a variety of transport is used from public buses, to trains, to private taxis and your own two feet! Internal flights may be used to cut down on travel time. Each tour itinerary page has a description of the transportation included on that tour. If you have additional questions, just ask!

7. What type of food is typical of Ethiopia?

Staple foods in Ethiopia are typically created in the form of a wat, or a thick stew. Oftentimes meats (such as chicken, lamb, beef, or fish) are created in a thick stew that is eaten using a sourdough bread made from teff called injera to dip into as a spoon. Food is often eaten using the hands and not utensils. Many Ethiopians are orthodox Christian and follow strict fasting guidelines that may restrict them to vegetables wat only for a time. The coffee ceremony is also an important part of daily life. This process involves about an hour long ceremony where coffee is roasted, ground and brewed by hand and served up to three times together.

8. Are these trips suitable for kids?

Not typically. If your children enjoy learning about other cultures, and meeting new people, Ethiopia may be a great choice. Keep in mind that US food, video games, television, etc. may not be readily available so prepare your kids ahead of time so that they will have reasonable expectations. Most of the type of touring done in Ethiopia is very historical in nature and may be hard to appreciate for children who cannot understand the history behind what they are viewing. We realize that you know your kids best so we will be happy to answer all of your questions and try to give you the most accurate impression of what to expect. However, please remember that these are adventure tours and flexibility is essential! Some hotels and lodges cater to younger children better than others and we are happy to give you specific advice.  

9. What is the typical age range on the Ethiopia tours?

Typically, ages range from 25 to 65, however we have seen children as young as 6 and the "young at heart" as old as 90 on our trips!

10. Are these trips a good choice for solo travelers?

Absolutely if your dates are flexible! Our Ethiopia tours operate best when we are able to join other Adventure Life travelers together on a set departure date. Most tours require a minimum of 2 people to guarantee the departure date, so if you are able to flex your dates, we may be able to find just the fit for you. We are also happy to try and arrange for room sharing with other solos if it becomes available. Solo travelers should also take a look at our exclusive Solo Traveler Departures.

11. Do tour rates include international flights?

Tour rates do not include international flights. We find that it is usually less expensive for travelers to book these separately and this also allows you the flexibility to choose the schedule and routing that is most convenient for you. You can purchase international flights on your own, or we can certainly help you arrange these flights with an airfare consolidator who specializes in international flights.

12. How do I get to the hotel from the airport when I arrive?

This depends on your first destination. If you are staying at an all-inclusive lodge, typically their shuttle will plan to pick you up when your flight arrives for the transfer directly to the lodge. If you are staying in your arrival city for an overnight first, then we can either arrange a pickup for you at an additional cost, or you can take a local taxi.  We typically recommend this first international arrival transfer be included and have already rolled it into the cost on most Ethiopia tours.

13. Are there any discounts available?

Absolutely! We offer select trip discounts periodically throughout the year. Check out our Travel Discounts page for the latest offers and on-going discounts.

14. How much should I budget for tips?

Tips are not required on any of our tours. However, it is customary to offer a small tip for exceptional service. Tipping amounts vary widely, but we recommend $5-$7 per day for your guide and $2-$3 per day for a driver for a full day tour. Other travelers opt to bring small gifts from their home to give to service providers along the way.

15. How far in advance should I book?

You can book your Ethiopia tour at any time and generally the earlier you book, the better. Further, we usually recommend that you wait to book your international flights until after your tour is confirmed. The sooner that we arrange your tour, the sooner that you can take advantage of flight deals as they become available. We are often able to accommodate last minute travelers as well (some even departing in less than one week!!), so give us a call and we will do our best! For last minute bookings, it helps to be flexible and organized. Your first choice hotel may not be available for your selected dates, but your trip planner can recommend some similar options that would be equally interesting!

16. Are tour dates flexible?

YES. Please contact us if you are not able to travel on the set departure dates listed online. Most tours can be arranged on alternative departure dates for a minimum of two travelers as long as hotels and a guide are available.

17. Can I extend or change my stay?

Absolutely! Give us a call for suggestions in the region. We can easily arrange for extensions to other Africa destinations such as Uganda, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, or Zimbabwe. Let us know how you would like to customize your trip and we will do our best to accommodate you.

18. What should I pack?

You will receive a detailed packing list after you book your tour. Since the climate varies depending upon altitudes and season, it is difficult to offer many generalizations. Comfort is the rule and fancy clothes are not necessary for any of our Ethiopia tours.

19. How concerned should I be about the altitude?

Depending on the trip you are choosing in Ethiopia, you may need to consult with your physician if you will be at a high altitude for one or more days. Those with high blood pressure or other similar ailments will need to obtain a doctor’s approval to travel on certain high-altitude tours in Ethiopia. Your physician should also be able to instruct you regarding precautionary altitude medications.

20. How safe is Ethiopia?

Ethiopia is a relatively safe country for visitors and is generally quite used to hosting westerners, particularly in the most popular historic route areas. As always, travelers need to be aware of their surroundings and use common sense when venturing out at night. Should any local political riots break out, these are typically non-violent and dissolve fairly quickly. Westerners would be wise to stay away and contact the local embassy for any specific instructions.Likewise your tour leader will be advised on how best to help steer your clear of the situation while on your trip. The most common issue reported are pickpockets when visiting crowded marketplaces or shopping areas. Be wise and keep your possessions hidden under your top layer of clothing to prevent anything from being stolen.

21. Is the water safe to drink?

The tap water is generally NOT safe to drink anywhere in Ethiopia. Bottled water or filtered water is readily available at tourist sites, hotels, safari camps & restaurants, and hot water (boiled to make it safe) or hot tea is generally offered with a meal at a restaurant. Travelers can also use bottled water when brushing your teeth to be extra cautious.

22. What should I pack?

You must be careful what to pack, as international flights restrict luggage weight to 20 kg (about 44lbs) and domestic flights restrict the total of your hand baggage and luggage to only 15 kgs, so you need to pack light. Relaxed clothing is best, as is cotton. Layers are advised particularly if you will be trekking at high altitudes where the nighttime temperatures can drop significantly, or if you intend to visit the Danakil Depression which can reach temperatures of 120 F. It is best to bring 3-4 outfits and use the readily available laundry services at most hotels. Underwear however should be packed for your entire time, as due to local traditions, laundry service may not be offered for these garments. Clothing that covers most of your body is also best, to help protect from the sun as well as mosquitoes. Comfortable walking shoes are also must. A more complete packing list will be sent to you after confirming your exact itinerary. 

23. Can I use US dollars or do I need local currency? What is the local currency, exchange rate, etc.?

The Ethiopian Birr (ETB) is the official currency, however smaller denominations of a variety of common foreign currency is often accepted throughout the country (Euros, USD, etc). It's a good idea to arrive with a few small denominations US dollars. Ethiopian Birr should be acquired and used when outside larger cities for any meals not included, incidentals and gratuities, etc.

24. Should I bring cash or Traveler's checks? Are ATMs available? Can I use credit cards?

Credit cards (Visa & sometimes MasterCard) are accepted in major hotels and some malls in Addis Ababa only and are not readily used or accepted outside of larger tourist areas. Ethiopia is predominantly a cash-based society outside of the larger urban areas. Most well-established hotels, and a few bank ATMs will accept cards. Travelers should check with their card company before they travel to inquire about any per-day maximum limitations. Plan to bring exchange to enough local cash with you for the majority of your trip, preferably in small bills as change for larger bills is not generally available. Traveler’s checks are not typically used. 

25. Can I use my cell phone?

Depending on your provider, some mobile phones will receive a signal in some towns and safari camps near larger towns when using the local provider. You should contact your phone carrier to find out if your phone will work properly. Another option is to buy a local SIM card once you are in Addis Ababa if you do have an unlocked phone. It is advised to also double check your international calling rates with your provider. Services for making international phone calls are widely available in tourist areas. Many hotels do offer a communal wifi signal, however keep in mind the internet connection is much slower than what you are used to at home and video-chat may be frustrating. It is best that you plan to be ‘unplugged’ while in the country.

26. Do I need a visa/passport?

To travel to Ethiopia, all travelers will all need a passport valid for at least 6 months after they depart and two blank pages in their passport. Currently, citizens from the US do not need a visa, and will receive a Visa on Arrival valid for one month. Travelers from other nationalities should check with the local consulate for visa information. Entry requirements change with surprising frequency. It is each traveler's responsibility to check with the consulate for the most up-to-date visa information.

27. What immunizations are recommended/required?

No immunizations are currently required for visiting Ethiopia. Hepatitis A, and Typhoid medications are highly recommended. Hepatitis B, Rabies, malaria, meningitis, and yellow fever preventatives are also loosely recommended depending on where you plan to travel in Ethiopia. Travelers should consult a physician about the current health risk before traveling. A yellow fever and/or cholera vaccination is required if you are arriving from another country with risk of yellow fever/cholera. The yellow fever vaccination, which is valid for 10 years, must be administered at least 10 days before your arrival in the destination with yellow fever risk. Travelers must bring along their International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP) as proof of vaccination.  For the most current information, please consult your doctor and/or check out the Center for Disease Control web-site.

28. What time zone is Ethiopia?

Ethiopia is in the East Africa Time Zone, or UTC+03:00.

29. Is travel insurance recommended?

Absolutely!!! In fact many camps require it. We work with a company called TravelGuard that provides reasonably priced insurance for trip cancellation, medical expenses, medical evacuation, lost bags, etc. They have two different types of insurance available, depending upon whether or not you will need the cancellation coverage. Check out our Once You're Booked page for more information.

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