Best time to travel to Ethiopia
Ethiopia can be visited at any time of year, but different seasons have different advantages. Conventional wisdom is that visitors should avoid the rainy season, which usually starts in june, but peaks over July and August in the central and northern highlands. Certainly, highland towns such as Gondar, Lalibela and Addis Ababa can be very damp and cool during the rains. That aside, however, recent improvements in the northern circuit's road network makes the rains far less of an obstacle to travel than would have been the case few years ago. The countryside is also very green and scenic during the rains, and you will encounter fewer tourists at popular stes such as Lalibela.
The late rainy season, from September through to early October, is a lovely time of year. There's a significant drop in precipitation over this period, but the countryside is very green, and punctuated bu yellow Meskel wild flowers. On 27 September (a day later in leap years), Ethiopia erupts into festival mode to celebrate Meskel, which commemorates the finding of the true Cross more than 1600 years ago
Arguably the optimum time to visit Ethiopia is from mid October to January, when the rains are over but the countryside is still quite green. This is also the peak tourist season, so facilities and sites of interest tend to be busier than at other times. It is well worth aiming to be in Lalibela or Gondar for Timkat (Ethiopian Epiphany), another wonderfully colourful celebration held on 19 January (except on leap years).
The late dry season, from February to May, is also a good time to visit, though the scenery tends to become dryer and browner towards the end of this period, except in the far south where the first rains often fall as early as April.
Wildlife can be observed throughout the year, but the European winter - November to March - is particularly rewarding for birders, as resident species are supplemented by large numbers of palearctic migrants.
Visa and Immigration
All visitors to Ethiopia require a visa. However, at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa,a tourist Visa on Arrival (VOA) is available to leisure visitors from the USA, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, New Zealand, Australia,South Africa, China, Japan, Korea, Israel, Russia, the UK and all other European Union nations. A one-month tourist VOA costs US$50 and three months costs US$70. Multiple-entry visas are not currently available on arrival, so should be obtained in advance at an embassy. Please note that visa on arrival is not available to visitors entering by land borders.
Business travelers, consultants and professionals working for NGO's need a Business visa. This should be obtained in advance from an Ethiopian Embassy. Visitors who have their residence in countries without an Ethiopian Embassy, or far from the capital where the Embassy is located, can get the support of the organization they are working for in Ethiopia to provide them with a document issued by the immigration authority allowing them to get a one-month single-entry visa on arrival.
Both tourist and business visas can be extended at the immigration Authority offices located in Churchill Road, near the post office, in Addis Ababa.
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 about 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 neighbors 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 centeral Addis Ababa but are not a serious cause for concern elsewhere in the country. It is advisable to avoid walking alone at night in urban areas.
Money & Banking
The Ethiopian birr is one of the strongest currencies in Africa, though it has devalued significantly in recent years. Banknotes come in denominations of birr 100, 50, 10, 5 and 1, and centime and 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 8:30am to 4pm Monday-Saturday). Local currency can be drawn from a countrywide network of 24-hour ATMs with international Visa and Master Cards.
Addis Ababa's offers a number of international standard properties, including several apartment hotels and branded hotels comprising of the Sheraton, Hilton, Radisson, Blue, GoldenTulip, Marriott and Ramada. Smaller hotels and cozy guest-houses are also available
Ethiopia's main tourism destinations provide a range of accommodation establishments, including urban hotels, smaller properties such as guest houses and lodges in national parks.
On the shores of the Langano and Hawassa lakes in the Rift valley there are a number of resort hotels with large gardens and beaches. The town of Bahir Dar on Lake Tana also has a variety of hotels, some of which are located on the edge of the lake.
Bishoftu, located 40km from Addis Ababa, has several resorts on the shores of volcanic lakes.
The town of Adama, located 90 km from Addis by express road, has a diverse range of hotels catering mainly to domestic events.
The national dish for most Ethiopians is injera, a flat, sour dough pancake make from a special grain called teff, which is served with either meat of vegetable sauces. When eating national food Ethiopians eat together, off one large circular plate. Visitors and guests will have choice morsels and pieces of meat placed in front of them, and when eating doro wot, chicken stew, the pieces of meat are eaten last, after one has filled up on injera and sauce.
Vegetarians should try “fasting food”, what Orthodox Christians eat during lent and other fasting periods, and which is free of meat and animal products. For those who find Ethiopian food too spicy, in Addis Ababa there are how Greek, Chinese, Armenian, Indian, Hong Kong, Arabic,French and Italian restaurants. Outside Addis Ababa, European style food, particularly spaghetti (pasta), is available in all the large hotels.
Tella, a traditional beer brewed from barely or corn and hops, is a local drink generally unavailable in modern hotels and restaurants. Fermented sorghum known as borde is a dual-purpose food- drink among Ethiopia’s lowland peoples and pastoralists. In Addition, there are bottled Ethiopian beers, local wine and mineral water that most find to their liking.
Visitors should take light, summer clothes for the day time and something warm for the evenings, like a sweater or jacket. The temperature drops quite rapidly towards sunset. Simian or Bale Mountains trekkers should bring warm clothes and water proofs for un seasonal rains. Shoes must always be removed before entering churches and mosques.
In the smaller towns the locals may expect a small payment in return for being photographed. Video photography in famous tourist attractions occasionally carries a small charge. Photography may be prohibited on the bridge and near military camps.
Telephone, Tele fax, Internet, e-mail and postal facilities are available in the country. Internet services are available in major cities and towns only. The international dialing code for Ethiopia is +251.
The national carrier Ethiopian Airlines ranks among the oldest and most respected airlines in Africa. It also offers the continent's most extensive flight network, with international routing connecting Addis Ababa to more than 90 cities outside Ethiopia, as well as more than 20 domestic destinations.