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Souvenirs from the Hamer people in Omo Valley

Ethiopia Tours & Adventures

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Take one of our Ethiopia tours to experience some of the tallest peaks in Africa, the Simien Mountains, or venture to the desert and the Danakil Depression, one of the lowest points of elevation on land in the world. Take a tour of the Historic Route and tour medieval rock-hewn churches in Lalibela and learn about the impact of the crusades on this nation. Tour the ruins of Aksum, Fasilides Castle in Gondar, or travel south to the Omo Valley region for a cultural encounter with the native tribes who inhabit the valley. The Bale Mountains also invite guests to explore majestic peaks. Ethiopia welcomes its visitors with open arms to come and explore this culturally rich nation and her historic treasures. Contact one of our Ethiopia travel specialists to help you build your dream trip to Ethiopia.

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Ethiopia Travel Tips & Guide

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Ethiopia Fast Facts:
Population: 102.3 million

Language: Oromo (official working language in the State of Oromiya) 33.8%, Amharic (official national language) 29.3%, Somali (official working language of the State of Sumale) 6.2%, Tigrigna (Tigrinya) (official working language of the State of Tigray) 5.9%, Sidamo 4%, Wolaytta 2.2%, Gurage 2%, Afar (official working language of the State of Afar) 1.7%, Hadiyya 1.7%, Gamo 1.5%, Gedeo 1.3%, Opuuo 1.2%, Kafa 1.1%, other 8.1%, English (major foreign language taught in schools), Arabic (2007 est.)

Religion: Ethiopian Orthodox 43.5%, Muslim 33.9%, Protestant 18.5%, traditional 2.7%, Catholic 0.7%.

Literacy Rate: 49% (57% male, 41% female)

President: Mulatu Teshome Wirtu (since 7 October 2013)

Currency: Ethiopian birr



 
Ethiopia FAQs
Do I need a visa to travel to Ethiopia?
You will need a passport with 6 months of validity, a tourist visa (which you can purchase upon arrival in the airport for $50-$70) and a World Health Organization Card with a Yellow Fever Vaccination.

Is tipping customary in Ethiopia?
Tips are definitely not an expectation in Ethiopia, but if you experience great service in a place, you can leave a few dollars or up to 10%. Otherwise it's not necessary.

What is internet access like in Ethiopia?
Don't count on accessing the internet while on your trip. You might find a hotel or café with internet access in the more developed areas, but it's not likely since our tours tend to stay in the more remote parts of Ethiopia.

Can I use my cell phone while in Ethiopia?
Realistically, you won't be within range of the towers to get a good signal on your phone. In the event of an emergency, there are ways to contact home or other areas.

Do I need power adapters?
In Ethiopia, you will find types C, E, F, and L throughout the country, with 220-240v power, meaning you will definitely need plug adapters and for devices that can only support 110v, you will need a step down converter as well.

What are the toilets like in Ethiopia?
While there are many places throughout Ethiopia that have squat toilets, all of our featured hotels have western style bowl toilets. Make sure to throw the used toilet paper in the waste basket next to the toilet rather than in the bowl.

Can I drink the water in Ethiopia?
The tap water in Ethiopia is not safe to drink, so stick to the free bottled or filtered water provided by your tour operator.

Are credit cards accepted in Ethiopia? Will I be able to find ATMs?
Credit cards and ATMs aren't particularly accessible in Ethiopia, especially on our tours since we visit such isolated parts of the country, so we recommend withdrawing enough cash for souvenirs and tips when you get to the airport and enjoying the all-inclusive nature of your Adventure Life trip.

Should I purchase travel insurance?
You should always purchase insurance before going on vacation, just in case. We offer some great promotions via TravelGuard on our Once You're Booked page.
 
Ethiopia Travel Guide
Ethiopia is a land steeped in history and tradition, with modern cities and tiny villages, each with its own unique customs and traditions. An Ethiopia tour might include visits to:
  • Axum - Ethiopia's most ancient city and once capital of the great Aksumite Empire.
  • St. Mary's Church - Where the Ark of the Covenant is said to be housed.
  • Lalibela - Magnificent rock-hewn churches which were built by hand between 800 and 1200 AD and are still active worship places.
  • Addis Ababa - With a population well over 3 million people, Ethiopia's capital city is full of museums and top destinations for Africa explorers.
  • Bale Mountain National Park - An excellent destination for wildlife enthusiasts, this is home to the Ethiopian wolf, Bale monkey, and Harenna chameleon, and considered one of the top birding destinations in all of Africa.

Ethiopia FAQ's

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 leading 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 essential 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. These 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 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 vegetable wat only for a time. The coffee ceremony is also an important part of daily life. This process involves 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 homes 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. Click here for more information from the U.S. State Department about travel warnings in Ethiopia. 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 you're clear of the situation while on your trip. The most common issue reported is 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 a must. A 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 ATM's 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 ATM's will accept cards. Travelers should check with their card company before they travel to inquire about any per-day maximum limitations. Plan to bring the 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 wi-fi 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. 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 website.

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 travel insurance company that provides reasonably priced insurance for trip cancellation, medical expenses, medical evacuation, lost bags, etc. Check out more details at  www.adventure-life.com/insurance

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