Tourism – General Practicalities

Banking and Money

The Ethiopian birr is one of the relatively strongest currencies in Africa, though it has devalued significantly in recent years. Banknotes come in denominations of birr 200,100, 50, 10, 5, and 1, and centime and birr 1 coins are also minted. Foreign currency, in particular US dollars, pounds sterling, and euros, can be changed into birr at private ‘forex bureaux’, as well as at most banks during banking hours (usually 8.30 am to 4 pm Monday–Saturday).  Local currency can be drawn from a countrywide network of 24-hour ATMs with international Visa and MasterCards.

Retail Opening Hours

Shop opening hours tend to be less fixed and more whimsical than in Europe or North America. However, most places operate to core opening hours of around 8am to 5pm Monday–Saturday, but some might stay open until as late as 9pm or 10pm, and many also open on Sundays and public holidays.

Power Supply

Electricity is 220 volts at 50 cycles. Power cuts are frequent although the largest hotels and restaurants serving international visitors usually have generators. In any case it is a good idea to bring a torch as some streets in Addis can be dark at night. A torch will also be useful if you are planning to visit remote locations. Plug standards vary but the Type C (European two-pin) and Type L (Italian three-pin) sockets are most common.


The international dialing code is +251. As is the case elsewhere, mobile phones are now more popular than landlines. The only provider is Ethio Telecom (, which sells cheap local SIM cards at its stores in Addis Ababa and elsewhere. All phone numbers are now 10 numerals long, and mobile numbers can easily be recognized because they all start with ‘09’.

Health and safety

Ethiopia is a safe and reasonably healthy country provided you take a few common sense precautions.

Ensure your inoculations for typhoid, tetanus, polio and hepatitis A are up to date, mainly if you are traveling out of the capital or you will stay away from the largest hotels.

Anti-malarial prophylactics should be taken if you’ll be visiting low-lying moist regions such as the southern Rift Valley and South Omo. There is also a small risk of malaria, especially during the rainy season, at mid-altitude sites such as Bahir Dar and Harar. Malaria is all but absent above 2000m, for instance in Addis Ababa, Gondar, Lalibela and the Bale and Simien mountains.

Avoid drinking or brushing your teeth with tap water. Bottled water is safe and widely available.

Its a good idea to carry a few packs of antiseptic wet wipes to wash your hands after toilet stops or before meals in more remote areas where running water may not be available.

Ethiopia is a safe and politically stable country, though there may be some risk attached to travel in remote border areas with more volatile neighbours such as Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan. None of these areas is likely to be visited on a normal tour.

Pickpockets and con artists proliferate in central Addis Ababa but are not a serious cause for concern elsewhere in the country.