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Ethiopia Holidays

The birthplace of mankind and strikingly diverse, Ethiopia's geography, peoples and wildlife combine to form an enchanting, heady mix. Exceptional historical remains stand alongside churches and castles, mountains tower over the epic scenery of the Great Rift Valley, crocodiles and zebras inhabit the national parks and the ancient tribal villages of the Omo Valley remind the traveller that here Addis Ababa is the exception rather than the rule. Radiating north of the capital is a wealth of historic treasures including Aksum and Lalibela, Africa's 'Petra', a major pilgrimage centre and one of the greatest religious-historical sites of the Christian world. Further west visit Gonder, with its well preserved castles, and attractive Bahar Dar or explore Lake Tana and the thunderous Blue Nile Falls. Every holiday and tour to Ethiopia that we design is one-off, memorable and special.

Places to visit in Ethiopia

Addis Ababa is Ethiopia’s sprawling capital that’s a gateway to contrasting worlds – if you travel south towards the Rift Valley you will be greeted with areas of beautiful nature and habitats for a wide variety of birds and wildlife, in particular around Lake Langano and Mago National Park. As well, meet local tribes to learn about their unique cultures in Jinka and Omorate. North of Addis Ababa you will find ancient cities, historic and religious sites and mountainous landscapes. Visit Aksum, one of the oldest cities in Africa, Lalibela where the churches are cut into the bedrock of the town’s mountain location and Bahar Dar, the gateway to the Blue Nile Falls.

When to Visit ethiopia

Ethiopia is known as ‘the roof of Africa’ due to its elevation and the Ethiopian climate is cooler than you might think due to the altitude of the highland countryside. Temperatures are typically warm and balmy, though can vary greatly. Highland cities such as Addis Ababa average around 20°C to 25°C in the daytime whilst in the lowlands it can become very hot and humid with temperatures touching 40°C. In the Danakil Depression, temperatures can even approach 60°C. There are two seasons in Ethiopia, with the dry season prevailing from October through to May, and the wet season from June to September. In the west there tends to be a single rainfall in July and August, but towards the east there is often a brief wetter period in April and May followed by heavier rains in July and August.

Best Times
Good Times
This is a general overview suggesting when to travel in the country. Please note that this may not directly apply to any specific itinerary or region.

Essential Information

Capital: Addis Ababa

Main Language: Amharic

Time Zone: GMT + 3

Currency: Birr (ETB)

Ethiopia Travel Guide

Getting there

Ethiopian Airlines fly direct from London Heathrow to Addis Ababa and is one of the best and largest airlines in Africa. Emirates, Qatar Airways, Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines all offer connecting flights via their respective hubs.


Visa requirements

British Citizens require a visa to visit Ethiopia and these are issued on arrival in Addis Ababa. You will need to show proof of a return air ticket and further details on the visa requirements will be sent at the time of booking.


Do’s and Don’ts

Ethiopians are very proud of their culture, country and identity so avoid criticising their lifestyle or religion.

Avoid eating with your left hand. Food in Ethiopia is generally eaten without the use of cutlery, and eating with your left hand is considered a sign of disrespect.

For men, avoiding eye-contact with a woman is considered a sign of respect.

If you are a foreign woman in public with a man, do not be surprised if Ethiopian men speak only to your partner – this isn’t meant to upset, but is a sign of respect for you. Equally, if you are a man, maintaining a respectful distance from women will be considered good manners.



The currency of Ethiopia is the Birr (ETB) and it is issued in notes and coins of varying denominations. Foreign currency can be exchanged at any commercial bank, including branches located at larger hotels and at the airports. Exchange of Birr back to foreign currency is only allowed for visitors holding an onward ticket from Ethiopia. It is hard to exchange any Birr outside of Ethiopia. There are ATMs in Addis Ababa – there are few reliable ATMs in rural areas and smaller towns – and outside of the capital credit cards are accepted on a limited basis.



Tipping is not expected in Ethiopia but is considered polite if a tip is given in restaurants and bars. There is no fixed amount to leave, but you may find it appropriate to round up a bill for good service. A guideline for tipping your drivers and guides will be advised prior to travel.


Food and drink

Ethiopian food is certainly unique and the cuisine is different from both the food found in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. Traditional mealtimes are based around injera, a special bread which is pancake-thin and slightly sour. Food is placed on the injera in lieu of a plate and the bread is then also used in place of cutlery to eat. Wat, a spicy stew made from meat, chicken or vegetables is also a popular dish. Traditional Ethiopian food does not use pork because most Ethiopians are Muslim or Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. In most large towns you will also find restaurants offering Ethiopian versions of Italian food, and in Addis Ababa in particular there are many restaurants serving more international cuisine.

The Ethiopians drink plenty of coffee – the Ethiopian province of Kaffa is said to be the home of coffee and it is traditionally served thick and sweet. Locally produced Ethiopian beer and red and white wines are worth trying, or you could indulge in some Tej (a fermented honey drink), Talla (a barley beer) or even some Kaitaka (pure grain alcohol).

Time zone

Ethiopia is +3 hours ahead of GMT.


Flying times from UK

Direct flights to Addis Ababa take between 7 and 8 hours from the UK.


Holidays, festivals and celebrations

The Ethiopian calendar does not use the traditional Gregorian calendar and is eight years behind as there are 13 months to a year. Important holidays include Timket – the annual festival of Ethiopian epiphany on January 6th, Ethiopian Christmas which falls on January 7th, and Ethiopian New Year on September 11th. Dates for religious holidays tend to change as they are timed with the lunar calendar. It is also worth noting that every Wednesday and Friday (and during the 55 days of Orthodox Christian Lent), meat is not eaten by the majority of practising Orthodox Christians. Larger traditional restaurants in major towns and cities often have a 'fasting food' option seven days a week.



Shopping in Ethiopia centres of the country’s numerous bustling marketplaces. Addis Ababa’s main market, the merkado, is one of the largest in Africa and an atmospheric place to explore. Most of the art and artefacts found in Addis Ababa reflect the country’s Christian Orthodox tradition with items such as silver crosses or icons commonly found. Aside from this, silver jewellery, basket work and carvings, woollen carpets, amber and coffee are available in most towns.


Suggested reading

Footprint, Rough Guides, Lonely Planet and Bradt have excellent guide books on Ethiopia. There is also a wide range of literature on Ethiopia including:

‘Beneath the Lion's Gaze’, by Maaza Mengiste

‘Cutting for Stone’, by Abraham Verghese

‘Notes from the Hyena’s Belly’, by Nega Mezlekia

‘Greater Ethiopia: The Evolution of a Multi-ethnic Society’, by Donald N. Levine

‘In Ethiopia’, by Bernd Bierbaum



Your doctor is the best person to advise you on staying healthy whilst abroad but current recommended vaccinations are Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Tetanus and Diphtheria. Yellow Fever is compulsory, but only if you have visited an affected Yellow Fever area within 5 days prior to your arrival. In some instances anti-malarial tablets may also be needed. For current information on health advice you may wish to visit the Medical Advisory Services for Travellers Abroad (MASTA) Web Site on The NHS ‘Fit for Travel’ website ( is also a useful resource.


Travel advice

For current information on Ethiopia the best resource is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office ( which is a comprehensive resource and updated regularly. We would also recommend visiting the Safer Tourism Foundation website ( before you travel and will be happy to address any questions or concerns you may have.

Explore Ethiopia

Ethiopia Holiday Review

“This is just a note to thank you for organising a splendid holiday in Ethiopia. We had an excellent time and would recommend the driver, Johnny, as a safe and responsible driver/ guide who had the confidence to adapt the given programme as appropriate.”

SD - Ethiopia - March 2015

Accommodation in Ethiopia

Ethiopia offers a range of accommodation, with good standards in Addis Ababa and most of the other main towns and cities, however, in rural areas hotels tend to be smaller and considerably more basic. On the whole, hotels are clean and comfortable but, even in the better hotels, facilities and amenities are limited. Rural hotels or those in smaller towns tend to be locally run with lodge accommodation common in the Rift Valley.

Head Office: 8-9 Orchard Business Centre, North Farm Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells Kent, TN2 3XF

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