Triparound travel community

Holidays in Ethiopia

Understanding Ethiopia


Ethiopia is one of the oldest independent nations in the world It has long been an intersection between the civilizations of North Africa, the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa Unique among African countries, Ethiopia was never colonized, maintaining its independence throughout the Scramble for Africa onward, except for a five-year period 1936-41 when it was under Italian military occupation During this period, the Italians occupied only a few key cities and major routes, and faced continuing native resistance until they were finally defeated during the Second World War by a joint Ethiopian-British alliance Ethiopia has long been a member of international organizations: it became a member of the League of Nations, signed the Declaration by United Nations in 1942, founded the UN headquarters in Africa, was one of the 51 original members of the UN, and is the headquarters for and one of the founding members of the former OAU and current AU

Ethiopia was also historically called Abyssinia, derived from the Arabic form of the Ethiosemitic name "ḤBŚT," modern Habesha In some countries, Ethiopia is still called by names cognate with "Abyssinia," eg, Turkish Habesistan, meaning land of the Habesha people The English name "Ethiopia" is thought to be derived from the Greek word Αἰθιοπία Aithiopia, from Αἰθίοψ Aithiops ‘an Ethiopian’, derived from Greek terms meaning "of burnt αιθ- visage ὄψ"1 However, this etymology is disputed, since the Book of Aksum, a Ge'ez chronicle first composed in the 15th century, states that the name is derived from "'Ityopp'is", a son unmentioned in the Bible of Cush, son of Ham who according to legend founded the city of Axum


The predominant climate type is tropical monsoon, with wide topographic-induced variation As a highland country, Ethiopia has a climate which is generally considerably cooler than other regions at similar proximity to the Equator Most of the country's major cities are located at elevations of around 2,000-2,500 metres 6,600-8,200 ft above sea level, including historic capitals such as Gondar and Axum

The modern capital, Addis Ababa, is situated in the foothills of Mount Entoto at an elevation of around 2,400 m 8,000 ft, and experiences a healthy and pleasant climate year-round With fairly uniform year-round temperatures, the seasons in Addis Ababa are largely defined by rainfall, with a dry season from Oct-Feb, a light rainy season from Mar-May, and a heavy rainy season from Jun-Sep The average annual rainfall is around 1200 mm 47 in There are on average 7 hours of sunshine per day, meaning it is sunny for around 60% of the available time The dry season is the sunniest time of the year, though even at the height of the rainy season in July and August there are still usually several hours per day of bright sunshine

The average annual temperature in Addis Ababa is 16°C 61°F, with daily maximum temperatures averaging 20-25°C 68-77°F throughout the year, and overnight lows averaging 5-10°C 41-50°F A light jacket is recommended for the evenings, though many Ethiopians prefer to dress conservatively and will wear a light jacket even during the day

Most major cities and tourist sites in Ethiopia lie at a similar elevation to Addis Ababa and have comparable climates, though in less elevated regions, particularly the lower lying regions in the east of the country, the climate can be significantly hotter and drier The town of Dallol, in the Danakil Depression in this eastern zone, has the world's highest average annual temperature of 34°C 93°F


High plateau with central mountain range divided by Great Rift Valley

Elevation extremes 
lowest point: Denakil Depression -125 m -410 ft
highest point: Ras Dejen 4,620 m 15,157 ft
Natural hazards 
geologically active Great Rift Valley susceptible to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions; frequent droughts
Geography - note 
landlocked - entire coastline along the Red Sea was lost with the de jure independence of Eritrea on 24 May 1993; the Blue Nile, the chief headstream of the Nile, rises in T'ana Hayk Lake Tana in northwest Ethiopia; three major crops are believed to have originated in Ethiopia: coffee, grain sorghum, and castor bean

Time and calendar

Ethiopia uses the Ethiopian calendar, which dates back to the Coptic calendar 25 BC, and never adopted the Julian or Gregorian reforms One Ethiopian year consists of twelve months, each lasting thirty days, plus a thirteenth month of five or six days hence the "Thirteen Months of Sunshine" tourism slogan The Ethiopian new year begins on September 10 or 11 in the Gregorian calendar, and has accumulated 7-8 years lag behind the Gregorian calendar: thus, for the first nine months of 2007, the year will be 1999 according to the Ethiopian calendar On 11 September 2007, Ethiopia celebrated New Year's Day Enkutatesh for 2000

In Ethiopia, the 12-hour clock cycles do not begin at midnight and noon, but instead are offset six hours Thus, Ethiopians refer to midnight or noon as 6 o'clock

Note: Airline timetables are based on the 24-hour clock and use the Gregorian calendar

Talking in Ethiopia

See also: Amharic phrasebook

Amharic is the official language of Ethiopia The language is a Semitic language related to Hebrew and Arabic, and if you know either one you'll recognize some cognates In all parts of the country everyone speaks Amharic to some extent, no matter what their first language may be The language is written in the Ge'ez script

In big cities, most people under 40 speak some English English is the primary foreign language taught in schools In rural areas, find local school children to translate for you for a fee that could be next to nothing Ethiopians have a distinct way of speaking English Because it is heavily accented, it might be a bit difficult to understand it at the beginning However, when you get used to the way they pronounce some English words, it will become fairly understandable

Up north in Tigray, Tigrinya is the primary language, and it's also written in Ge'ez However, Amharic is widely understood

In the middle regions, Oromo is widely spoken Oromo language uses a Latin alphabet

Buying stuff in Ethiopia

The official currency is the Ethiopian Birr ETB You are only supposed to import and export 100 birr Usually hotel and car rental bills must be paid in cash

1 USD is about 1264 ETB, 1 EUR is about 1785 ETB and 1 GBP is about 2061 ETB as of January 2010 Coins are valued at 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents, and banknotes come in values of 1, 5, 10, 50, and 100 birr

CASH MACHINES are still rare There are many cash machines in Addis Ababa and they only work Sept 07 on VISA DEBIT CARDS There are about 50 cash machines in Addis Ababa

Nov 08 Dashen Bank has already 19 ATM locations in Addis Ababa Dashen banks with ATM cash machines allow one to make cash advances with a VISA credit card May 2009 Most reliable ones are located at Sheraton Hotel and Dembel Shopping Center There is also ATM at the Hilton Addis Ababa, as well as at the DH Geda building on Bole Rd Some Dashen banks that do not have ATMs will also provide a cash advance with a VISA credit card

CHANGING CASH and Travellers Cheques

Any commercial bank in Ethiopia can change cash and travellers cheques The rates are the same everywhere There are dozens of commercial banks in Addis, including in the Sheraton and Hilton hotels, and in the corner of the baggage claim hall at the airport Most cities and towns that tourists visit will have at least one commercial bank, except for villages in the Omo valley US Dollars, Euros, or British pounds are the best currencies to carry

It is illegal to change money on the black market and the rates aren't much better than what you can get from the banks

US Dollar

In cites like Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa little accpeted in Dire Dawa, not like Addis the US-dollar is mostly accepted In some shops in Addis Ababa the prices will be written in ETB+USD Also some ATM in Addis Ababa gives out both US Dollar and birr Most of the hotel in Addis Ababa accepts US-dollar All airports in Ethiopia accepts US Dollar


Comparing to the other African countries is Ethiopia an expensive country But Ethiopia is not a very expensive country for tourists

To stay at a 5-star hotel in Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa, Nazret, Bahir Dar, Gondar and Awasa costs on average 1500 birr/per night

Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa and Adama/Nazret has the most expensive prices in the country For example a 32 in 81 cm LCD TV costs around 15 000 birr Food is also expensive if you buy it in the downtown

You need about 400 birr per day for hotel, fuel, food, lodging and transport In Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa you can need 600 birr per day

Food and eating in Ethiopia

"Here is a guide, what you can get for the money Food and Drinks:"

  • 3 ETB - Black Coffee with milk
  • 4-5 ETB - Soft Drink: Coca Cola, Fanta, Sprite, Seven up, Mirinda and Pepsi
  • 8 ETB - Juice
  • 10-15 ETB - Dessert
  • 15-20 ETB - Breakfast
  • 30-50 ETB - Coffee 1 k
  • 40 ETB - Pizza, Hamburger, Fish 'n chips and Spaghetti
  • 50 ETB - Asian Restaurant or African Restaurant
  • 60 ETB - Injera with all kind of wot
  • 80-200 ETB - Cake
  • 150 ETB and upper - You can get the most elegant and luxury Restaurants for this price level

Injera is Ethiopia's national dish Injera is a spongy, tangy tasting bread made from the grain teff, which grows in the highlands of Ethiopia It is eaten with wot or wat, the traditional stews made with spices and meat or legumes Some popular wats: Doro chicken wat, Key lamb wat and Asa fish wat Another popular dish is Tibbs, spicy beef fried in butter It can be either really bad burnt to a crisp and resembling petrified wood or juicy and delicious in more fancy restaurants The Holiday Hotel in Addis serves delicious Tibbs

The injera sits directly on a large round plate or tray and is covered with wat placed symmetrically around a central item The various wats are eaten with other pieces of injera, which are served on a side plate Injera is eaten with the right hand - rip a large piece of injera from the side plate and use it to pick up one of the various flavors of wat on the main platter Do not eat with your left hand! In Ethiopia food is a respected gift from God and eating with your left hand is a sign of disrespect

Another popular injera dish is firfir: fried,shredded injera It can be served with or without meat or with all sorts of veggies

If you prefer vegetarian foods, try the 'shiro wat' which is a vegetable stew served with injera, most of the times you have to specifically ask for it as it doesn't come with most of the combinations as ethiopians prefer meat

Kitfo is minced meat, spiced with chili You can have it raw the locally preferred way, but there's a risk of getting the tape worm, 'leb-leb' lightly cooked or fully cooked It comes with a local cheese 'ayeb' and a spinach

For the pickier traveler, almost every place in Ethiopia also serves spaghetti thanks to the short lived Italian occupation In nice restaurants in Addis you can find excellent spaghetti and lasagna try the Blue Tops or Top View restaurants, and in the more peripheral places you will usually find it overcooked with bland tomato paste as sauce

Drinking in Ethiopia

The coffee ceremony involves drinking a minimum of three cups of coffee and eating popcorn It is a special honor, or mark of respect to be invited into somebody's home for the coffee ceremony

In preparation for the ceremony the coffee beans are roasted in a flat pan over charcoal The beans are then ground using pestle and mortar The coffee is brewed with water in a clay coffee pot and is considered ready when it starts to boil Coffee in Ethiopia is served black with sugar

Tej is a honey wine, similar to mead, that is frequently drunk in bars in particular, in a tejbeit

A variety of Ethiopian beers are available, all of which are quite drinkable, also Ethiopian wine - both red and white - which would not win any prizes but are drinkable

Accommodation in Ethiopia

There is a wide range of accommodation in Ethiopia There is a luxurious Sheraton hotel in Addis Ababa At the same time, you can find a "hotel" nothing more than a small room with a tiny bed, and no running water in the border town of Moyale

Staying in tourist areas generally results in a broader range of choices, but watch out for tourist prices It is acceptable to bargain with the hotel owner, for they usually tend to charge you "faranji" foreigner prices at first, which are often twenty times the local rate You won't be able to bargain down to local prices close to nothing but you can bargain down a lot This is NOT true at the government run "Ghion" chain, and the fancier private chains as well, where prices for foreigners are fixed Bekale Mola, for example

Addis: Addis is full of cheap hotels Most tourists stay in the piazza area, where there are many hotels ranging from very cheap to moderately cheap Except for the cheapest most of them have running hot water, and fairly clean Park Hotel starts at 20 Birr a single and 30 Birr a double Two big ones are Taitu hotel and Wutma hotel Also if you want a taste of fame, contact athlete Haile Gebre Selassie's sister Azalitch Gebre Selassie She arranges a good welcome for guests here in Ethiopia She arranges accommodation Her number is +251 911 627898 She is perfectly happy to help out when she is free

The two biggest hotels in Addis are the Sheraton, referred to by expats as "The Sheza", and the Hilton Both are enormous They are also very expensive Both have swimming pools, good restaurants, souvenir shops and bakeries: the rooms are comfortable If you cannot afford these two hotels, visit them and chat up the expats especially at lunch time when they take their break by the pool and if your accommodation needs to be improved, they might be able to help out You also could have a glimpse of a rich or famous celebrity or high powered world politician, who are in Addis to do some charity work or to deal with some sort of African politics

Outside Addis: up north, in every one of the cities Axum, Lalibella, Bahir Dar, Gondar one can find hotels overpriced such as the government-run Ghion chain hotels to cheaper ones But also in smaller places on the major roads offer cheap places if you do not mind the most basic rooms A tourist town like Debark that serves for trekking the Simien Mountains also offers a range of rooms, with the most popular being the Simien Park Hotel 25/30 Birr, where you could also pitch a tent for 20 It meets the normal standards for food, electricity, water, cleanliness and hygiene

In the south, all of the cities Shashemane, Wondo Genet, Awasa, Arba Minch, Jinka have decent, cheap hotels The most basic rooms start at 15 Birr for a single and 20 Birr for a double Many of them don't have hot water and electricity all hours of the day, so you should schedule time for a shower in advance There are also three fairly expensive resort hotels on the shore of Lake Langano In the smaller villages in and around the Omo valley Weyto, Turmi, Key Afar, Dimeka, Konso, etc there are usually few very basic or no hotels, but if you are travelling through the valley to see the tribes, there is always a campground or a restaurant that offers beds If you camp out at one of these villages, you should hire a guard to watch over your stuff overnight

Working in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has one of the lowest unemployment rate in Africa The unemployment rate is 5% 2005 9 Notice that the average income is about 120 US-dollar/month per inhabitant But in the capital Addis Ababa you can make over 400 US-dollar/month by IT works

The country's economy is based on agriculture 69% of the people lead an agrarian lifestyle CCO However, in the big cities, especially in Addis-Ababa,

  • There is a high demand of IT professionals
  • Many start-up companies search for individuals with computer networking and consulting backgrounds
  • Addis-Ababa has the highest number of NGOs in Africa, and possibly among all third world countries They are reputed for providing generous salaries to their employees
  • Many expatriates work in NGOs and small start-up IT companies
  • Compared with other African cities, Addis-Ababa has a high number of big, medium and small sized computer training schools, and governmental and private learning institutions Many students who attend hope to obtain an IT or consulting job, in the very scarce job market of the city

There are many opportunities to volunteer in Addis Ababa Projects Abroad 10 is an organisation that organises a range of volunteer projects including teaching English, journalism, caring for children and healthcare

Cities in Ethiopia

abomsa  addis abeba  addis zemen  adet  adwa  agaro  aksum  areka  asasa  asayita  asbe teferi  asosa  assela  awash  awassa  bahir dar  bako  bati  bedele  bedesa  bichena  boditi  bonga  bure  butajira  dabat  debre birhan  debre sina  debre tabor  debre zeyit  deder  dejen  dembi dolo  dese  dilla  dire dawa  dodola  dubti  fiche  finote selam  gambela  gebre guracha  gedo  gelemso  gewane  gidole  gimbi  ginir  giyon  goba  gondar  gore  guder  hagere hiywet  hagere selam  harer  hirna  huruta  jijiga  jimma  jinka  kembolcha  kemise  kibre mengist  kofele  korem  lalibela  leku  mega  mendi  metehara  metu  mizan teferi  mojo  moyale  nazret  nedjo  negele  negele  robe  sebeta  sendafa  shakiso  shambu  sire  tulu bolo  wendo  were ilu  werota  wonji  yabelo  ziway  

What do you think about Ethiopia?

How expensive is Ethiopia?
Meal in inexpensive restaurant4.18 USD
3-course meal in restaurant (for 2)13.28 USD
McDonalds meal6.62 USD
Local beer (0.5 draft)1.11 USD
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 2.2 USD
Cappuccino0.63 USD
Pepsi/Coke (0.33 bottle)0.68 USD
Water (0.33 bottle)0.58 USD
Milk (1l)1.04 USD
Fresh bread (500g)0.7 USD
White Rice (1kg)1.01 USD
Eggs (12) 1.6 USD
Local Cheese (1kg) 6.04 USD
Chicken Breast (1kg) 8.35 USD
Apples (1kg) 4.93 USD
Oranges (1kg) 1.32 USD
Tomato (1kg) 0.97 USD
Potato (1kg) 0.69 USD
Lettuce (1 head) 0.57 USD
Water (1.5l)0.86 USD
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range) 3.04 USD
Domestic Beer (0.5 bottle)1.12 USD
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 2.61 USD
Cigarettes1.94 USD
One way local bus ticket0.24 USD
Monthly pass for bus11.05 USD
Taxi start1.17 USD
Taxi 1km3.43 USD
Taxi 1hour waiting10 USD
Gasoline (1 liter) 0.95 USD
Utilities for a "normal" apartment16.1 USD
Tennis Court Rent (1 Hour on Weekend) 14.68 USD
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre 242.14 USD
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre 110.9 USD
Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre 620.74 USD, your travel companion

We all like to travel. I created for you and me and others like us, people who are always looking for somewhere to travel. Be it a country you've never been to before, or a country you've visited for seven times already. Create your travel profile and share your travel updates with friends, find the perfect cheap flight tickets and book the cheapest hotels around the world. In case of any problems, just drop me a line!

Where to start?

The best place to start, obviously, would be to create register (for free) and create your own traveller profile and start sharing your travel updates with friends. And of course, any time you start thinking of going travelling, use to search for flights, cheap hotels and rooms as well as things to do while travelling.


Please note that we really do recommend the sites we share with you, be it for hotels, flights or anything else. We use them ourselves as well. In case of some links our affiliates codes have been embedded, just to help us keep working on this site.