Ethiopia is one of the most unique and fascinating countries in Africa. It has a rich history, diverse culture, and incredible natural attractions.
With breathtaking landscapes and vast plains filled with wildlife, it’s no surprise many people visit Ethiopia as a safari holiday destination. The country’s most famous sights include Simien Mountains National Park, Danakil Depression, and Bale Mountains National Park.
While most parts of the country are safe, you’ll still need to avoid high-risk situations. Below, we’ll round up our top safety tips to ensure an enjoyable stay in Ethiopia.
Is Ethiopia Safe to Visit?
Yes, there are no significant safety concerns for tourists in Ethiopia. However, as with any country, there are certain areas where visitors should exercise caution.
We strongly discourage going any further east beyond the city of Harar. Pickpocketing and mugging are common around major cities. There have been sporadic guerilla assaults launched by Somali separatist militias along the Ethiopia-Somalia border.
Most foreigners who frequent these regions are American military personnel working with the Ethiopian army’s anti-terrorism unit. Except for the periodic violence accompanying political transitions, Ethiopia is a very secure country.
Regrettably, dishonest politicians often drive the masses into chaos over minor issues. You may safely and confidently enjoy your time in Ethiopia, provided you keep your ear to the ground and avoid any political battlegrounds.
Crime in Ethiopia
The country has an average crime rate of 120 cases per 100,000 people. One of the prevalent crimes is abduction. The danger is greatest in the frontier zones separating Ethiopia from Eritrea and Somalia in the east.
There’re records of past kidnappings in these regions. There have also been allegations of highway robberies, including carjackings, committed by armed gangs outside major cities.
Terrorist attacks are likely to occur in Ethiopia. Al-Shabaab is a dangerous organization that operates across much of East Africa. The organization blames Ethiopian forces for attacks in the region, despite being based in Somalia.
The goal of Al-Shabaab is to create an Islamic Caliphate throughout a broader area, which includes a portion of Ethiopian territory. In addition, visitors are likely to be victims of scams whenever they travel.
Sellers might also overcharge you for a product or service in Ethiopia. You could get robbed if the locals notice you know nothing about their currency.
Here are some of the best tips for avoiding crimes while in Ethiopia:
- Know where to visit. Talk to your hotel’s tour guide or the front desk for tips about dangerous zones. You should also avoid going down dark alleys, venturing into neighborhoods with a terrible reputation, and going to isolated areas.
- Try to blend in. If you can’t act like a local, at least try to blend in as a savvy traveler.
- Be wary of your surroundings. Be aware of drivers who flag you down and tell you about a flat tire or other technical issues. It might be an attempt to persuade you to pull over so they can steal from you.
- Avoid being flashy. Don’t display expensive items such as jewelry or cameras in public.
- Avoid large crowds. During protests, avoid large gatherings, as they could quickly turn violent.
- Know the rules. Don’t take pictures of police stations or checkpoints, as it could get you into trouble.
- Avoid getting into arguments. Don’t debate religion or politics with strangers, as it could cause violence.
Avoiding Bad Neighborhoods
Ethiopians are widely known for being hospitable and friendly. There’re police officers permanently stationed throughout Ethiopian nature reserves and wildlife parks, making them reasonably safe for tourists. However, there are places that you should stay away from.
Pickpockets and bag snatchers are prevalent at Bole Addis Ababa International Airport, so be careful. Keep your belongings hidden and safe while you’re at the airport.
From the airport, you should only take the vans or taxis arranged for you by your accommodation or tour operator. If you must take a taxi, ride in a yellow cab instead of a white or blue one.
Bole Medhanealem, Bole Atlas, Meskel Square, Yeka Hills, and Entoto have an upsurge of crimes such as knifepoint robberies and strangling. You should avoid traveling through these places by yourself.
Be cautious if walking, particularly in unfamiliar areas or at night, and opt for motorized transit wherever available. Instead of fighting back when thieves threaten you, it’s advisable to surrender your possessions.
Tourists are encouraged to avoid north and south areas of Anseba in Afar town and along the town’s border with the Tigray regional state. Northern Ethiopia is constantly experiencing military confrontation.
The dispute may rapidly intensify and spread without any notice. Troops have been amassing in the western Afar Region because of rising tensions between Tigray and Ethiopia.
If traveling to the Danakil desert, be prepared for extreme heat and rugged terrain, especially near the Erta Ale Volcano. Danakil has the basic infrastructure, no tap water, and few medical alternatives.
Between 2007, 2012, and 2017 armed groups have repeatedly attempted to disrupt regional tourist activities. Only arrange tours to this region with reputable operators, and ensure they provide escort.
The authorities advise travelers to avoid the areas within 30 kilometers of the Tigray regional state and Sudanese border. People have reported armed persons attacking vehicles along the Addis Ababa-Bahir Dar Road.
These instances usually occur early in the morning when visibility is low. Rebel forces occasionally engage in violent battles in the Amhara region and areas surrounding the Oromia region, notably in urban centers.
Be careful when traveling around the Amhara region because these dangers can occur anywhere. It’s best to adhere to the directions of law enforcement officers stationed at roadblocks around Amhara. Don’t try to get by an unmanned checkpoint; instead, turn around.
Al-Shabaab militants raided Aato, Yeed, and Washaaqo towns along the Ethiopia-Somali border, on July 20. As al-Shabaab has stated its determination to continue operating in the area, more attacks are possible. Most embassies advise their citizens to maintain constant vigilance at all times.
Hiking at Treacherous Altitudes
Mountain ranges in Ethiopia are steep and rocky. The Danakil Depression is 485 feet below sea level, whereas Ras Dashen, its highest peak, is 15,157 feet above.
Whether planning a day trip or a multi-day excursion, it’s crucial to be well-equipped for the environment in Ethiopia. You need a trained guide and armed guard to walk in Simien Mountains National Park.
That implies you can’t strike out on a solo trekking adventure. Different treks might take anything from 2 days to 2 weeks to finish. So, consider that when choosing the perfect hike for your muscle strength.
Health Risks in Ethiopia
The country’s capital is home to numerous hospitals. However, you can only get adequate care at private facilities. Addis Ababa has a well-known shortage of ambulance services.
When you travel to rural areas, the local hospitals are in a poor state and won’t meet your basic healthcare needs. Long-distance travel necessitates packing a first-aid kit in case of injury or illness.
Make sure you pack the medication you believe you require because it might not be easy to find in local pharmacies. The most common infections in Ethiopia include bilharzia and malaria.
Best Time to Go to Ethiopia
Most people prefer visiting Ethiopia from late September through January. The weather is ideal during this time, with most of the country’s region receiving minimal rainfall.
The rainy season runs from June to September, but your travel arrangements shouldn’t be too disruptive. During the colder months, you’ll encounter fewer tourists, and the scenery will be more verdant.
If you wish to go hiking in the Simien Mountains, you should avoid visiting in June and July. That’s when it rains the most, particularly in the northern part of the country.
The weather at higher elevations is usually cooler than on plains. The country’s lowlands have warmer temperatures. Bring clothes suitable for both hot and cold weather to be safe.
Natural Disasters in Ethiopia
Ethiopia frequently experiences natural calamities, the most common being floods, droughts, and fires. It’s essential to stock up on water if you travel in a region experiencing flooding rather than the dry weather you were hoping for.
Before departing from your lodging, you should have a quick preview of the local press reports and weather forecast. You may also review the country’s yearly weather and catastrophe reports to learn when such occurrences occur.
You can’t stop every catastrophic event from happening, but you can be ready for the inevitable ones. You should always have a first aid kit on hand if you’re going on a lengthy trip. In addition, you should also have somebody who knows what your excursion schedule entails.
What Vaccines Do I Need to Travel to Ethiopia?
Talking to your doctor about your impending trip to Ethiopia is essential. Meningitis and other mosquito-borne diseases pose a threat to this country. Your doctor may recommend certain vaccinations, including:
- Yellow Fever
Due to rampant careless driving in Ethiopia, accidents are quite common and might be fatal. The country’s traffic laws impose severe penalties on drivers responsible for car collisions.
They may be subject to imprisonment or fines for their actions. Addis Ababa has more accidents record than other parts of the country. Avoid getting out of the car if something horrible happens.
Don’t confront the driver; instead, call the police and give them a chance to handle things. Furthermore, avoid driving at night in remote locations. Besides the possible presence of livestock, some vehicles have no functional lights in these areas.
Night-Clubs Risks in Ethiopia
There are no cases of reported violence or criminal activity at nightclubs, meaning they’re secure or tourists don’t frequent them. Although you could be safe in such a place, you should take extra precautions when getting in and returning to your lodging.
If you depart late at night, you risk being mugged or pickpocketed. It helps to have a trustworthy taxi driver waiting outside the premises. Visiting your lodging’s indoor pub is a better bet if you want to be safe.
You can drink to your heart’s content and retreat to your room when you feel dizzy. However, it’s not a good idea to overindulge in alcohol while away from home.
Is Ethiopia Safe for Solo Women Travelers?
The country is safe for lone-women travelers. It has a lower rape and assault rate than other African countries. Remember, you don’t fit the stereotypical appearance of an Ethiopian woman.
That alone will get you noticed, but flashy clothes will worsen things. Don’t go overboard with cosmetics, either. Ethiopians believe that decent women should not partake in activities such as drinking alcohol.
Because the locals view that as inappropriate behavior for women, it’s best to avoid going to a pub alone. Moreover, be wary when you’re conversing with men.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the most common questions people traveling to Ethiopia ask:
Is there a threat of kidnapping in Ethiopia?
The risk of abduction is high on the Ethiopia-Somali border and the southern border with Kenya, especially in the eastern regions.
How safe is Ethiopia for tourists?
The rate of crime in Ethiopia is relatively low. Theft, assaults, vehicle theft, pickpocketing, terrorism, and mugging are the most common issues.
Is it safe to drink water in Ethiopia?
Ethiopia’s tap water is unsafe for consumption. Drought and political instability are two main reasons the country suffers from a lack of safe drinking water.
What’s the weather like in Ethiopia?
Ethiopia’s best weather is between mid-October to April. The temperature hardly changes, and the climate is consistently pleasant throughout the year. But there is a high possibility of a downpour for almost half the year.
Is Ethiopia safe for LGBTQ travelers?
Although Ethiopians are against same-gender relationships, LGBTQ travelers do frequent the country. However, you should avoid expressing your sexual identity in public. The locals will view any comments on the practice as disrespectful.
What should you wear in Ethiopia?
The standard attire for men consists of long trousers and a shirt or T-shirt covering the shoulders.
Is Uber safe in Ethiopia?
There is currently no Uber in Ethiopia, but you can find comparable ones like ZayRide. If the service has the appropriate licensing, you are free to utilize it.
So, Is Ethiopia Safe to Visit?
Yes, Ethiopia is generally safe for tourists. It’s one of the best African countries to visit if you want a memorable adventure. However, you must be cautious while exploring the country’s scenic landscapes.
While it’s not without dangers, you can lessen them if you follow the authorities’ guidelines. If you pay attention to your surroundings, you will have a memorable stay in Ethiopia. Happy travels!