Visiting Ethiopia

Getting to know Ethiopia

Flag of Ethiopia
Official Name:The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE):The Federation is composed of Nine States (killil): Tigray, Afar, Amhara, Oromia, Somali, Benishangul-Gumuz, Southern Nations Nationalities and People Region (SNNPR), Gambella and Harari Regional States; and two Chartered Cities – Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa. The national regional states and the two city administrative councils are further divided into eight hundred woredas (districts) and around 15,000 kebeles (neighborhoods, the lowest level of elected administration). 
Government
Ethiopia is a multi-party federal democracy with legislative authority resting with the government headed by an executive prime minister and the elected House of Representatives (547 members) and the House of Federation (110 members). The Prime Minister is chosen by the party in power following multi-party democratic national and federal state elections which are held every five years. Parties can be registered at either the national or the federal state level. The President is elected by the members of the House of People’s Representatives.
Capital City
Addis Ababa, one of the two chartered cities in the Federation, is the seat of the Federal Government and is also the capital of the Oromia Regional State. It is the largest city in the country with a population of 2.7 million at the 2007 census (estimated at 3.2 million in 2011). It lies on the central plateau at an altitude of 2300-2400 meters, and with an average temperature of around 160C.Addis Ababa, founded in 1887, is host to the African Union (AU) and to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). Several other international organizations have theirhead quarters and offices there. It the seat of the Federal Government, the House of Representatives and the House of Federation, as well as country’s center of commerce and industry.CommunicationsThere are international airports at Addis Ababa (Bole International Airport), and at Dire Dawa, Bahr Dar, Gondar, Lalibela, Axum, Arba Minch, and Mekelle. The national carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, has an excellent international reputation and currently flies to 63 international destinations in America, Europe, Africa and Asia as well as 17 local flight destinations. It is now taking delivery of the latest Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” aircraft for its long haul flights.

The main entry points by road are at Moyale (from Kenya), Humera and Metema (from Sudan), Dewele (from Djibouti). All have full customs and immigration checks. Until Eritrea invaded Ethiopia in 1998, Humera, Rama, Zalembessa and Bure were entry points from Eritrea; in the absence of any effort by Eritrea to normalize relations, they remain closed.

Visas    

All visitors to Ethiopia, except citizens of Kenya, require a visa to enter the country. These should be obtained in advance from an Ethiopian Embassy, though single entry, one to three month, tourist visas can be obtained at Bole International Airport, Addis Ababa. For information about business visas or multiply entry tourist visas, contact a local Ethiopian Embassy which will provide the relevant forms. Visas issued by embassies are valid from the day of issue not from the date of arrival in Ethiopia.

Currency and Currency Regulations

The local currency is the Ethiopian birr, made up of 100 cents. Notes are issued in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, and 100 birr. There are six different coins: 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents, and 1 birr.

The exchange rate as of 24th April 2012: 

1 USD = 17.5 ETB

1 GBP = 28.1 ETB

1 Euro = 23.1 ETB

1 Renminbi – 2.8 ETB

There is no limit to the amount of foreign currency that can be imported into Ethiopia, but it must be declared on arrival, using a currency declaration form. Foreign currency may be changed only at authorized banks and hotels .The currency declaration form will be required by Customs on departure. Visitors may change back any excess birr into foreign currency at the air port before departure, but they are expected to produce receipts for all exchange transactions.

Credit cards 

These can be used in some of the larger hotels in Addis Ababa, and major credit cards can be used for flights by Ethiopian Airlines.  A number of banks and hotels have  ATM machines available and Visa cards can be used at some banks. The US dollar is the best foreign currency to bring into Ethiopia and it can be exchanged at banks and foreign exchange bureaus.

Driving

Drivers require a valid International Driving License, which can be obtained by exchanging your own local license at the Transport and Communications office on Haile Gebreselassie Road in Addis Ababa. Visitors can recover their original driving licenses a day or so prior to departure. Those with their own vehicles require a permit from the Ministry of Transport and Communication. Driving is on the right hand side of the road.

Energy (Power)

Ethiopia uses a 220 Volt and 50 Hz. System. It is sensible to bring a round, two-prong adapter and transformer if necessary.

Health Requirements

All visitors (including infants) are required to possess a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate if you have recently travelled to a country where it is present. Vaccination against cholera is also required for any person who has visited or been in transit through a cholera-infected area within six days prior to arrival to Ethiopia. Malaria is endemic in areas of Ethiopia below 2000 meters, and both chloroquine–resistant and falciparum strains are present.

Medical Services

Medical facilities are available in all major towns but facilities are often over-taxed. Tourists and non-citizen residents should go to private hospitals and clinics. Contact your Embassy for referral to recommended doctors. Air rescue services are available.

Calendar and time

Ethiopia uses its own calendar which divides the year into 12 months of 30 days each, with the remaining five (or six days in a leap year) constituting a short 13th month of Pagme.  The Ethiopian New Year commences on the 11th or 12th of September in the Gregorian calendar.

There is a 7 or 8 year difference from the Gregorian calendar, seven years from September to January 1, and eight years from January 1 until September 10/11. The current Ethiopian year is 2004, running from September 12, 2011 to September 10, 2012. Meskerem 1, New Year’s Day 2005, will fall on September 11th 2012.

  Ethiopia is in the GMT +3 time zone. Business hours vary according to the nature of the business. Normally government offices and most other office hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. from Monday through Thursday. Working hours on Friday are 8:30am to 11:30am and 1:30pm to 5:30pm.

Banks are open from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Monday through Thursday. Working hours on Friday are 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 3: 00 p.m. and Saturday 8:30 to 11a.m.

Ethiopians also use a 12-hour clock, with one cycle of 1 to 12 running from dawn (6am) to dusk (6pm) and the other cycle from dusk to dawn. The start of the day is dawn, rather than midnight. Thus, 7:00 AM in East Africa Time (EAT) corresponds to 1:00 daylight in local Ethiopian time; 12:00 noon EAT is 6:00 daylight hours; and 6:00 pm EAT is 12:00 local time.

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