Customs regulations and required documents
Personal effects import regulations
The traditional Ethiopian calendar is different from the Gregorian calendar that is widely used internationally. New Year is in September and there are 12 months of 30 days followed by a 13th month of 5 days (or 6 in a leap year). The Ethiopian calendar is 7-8 years behind the Gregorian calendar. If dealing with official documents, you can expect the date to be written in the Ethiopian calendar.
Time of day is also counted differently by traditional Ethiopian mechanisms. Daytime hours are counted beginning from what would be 0600 using a globally standard 24-hour clock, and nightime hours from 1800. “2am” on the Ethiopian clock is therefore equivalent to 0800. Most hotels and larger organisations’ documents, including all airline tickets, are expressed using the global clock rather than the traditional Ethiopian clock. But many individuals and smaller organisations continue to use the Ethiopian clock. If you are not sure the time of a meeting or an event check with your host which clock is being used (‘Ethiopian time’ or ‘Western time’).
Ethiopia is a religiously diverse and largely tolerant country. However, many believers are devout in their respective faiths and you should make sure to respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions. Be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend, especially during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious sites of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Outside Addis Ababa, particularly in rural areas, women may wish to dress modestly to avoid the possibility of causing offence. Modest dress is a must when visiting religious sites.
Ethiopian Orthodox Christians fast each Wednesday, Friday and in several other periods. In predominantly Orthodox areas, at these times only vegan dishes are likely to be available except in larger hotels and restaurants catering to foreigners.
Homosexual acts (applying to both sexes) are illegal, and carry penalties of between 1 and 15 years imprisonment. Be sensitive to local laws and customs and avoid public displays of affection. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
It’s illegal to carry more than 1000 birr in local currency when entering or leaving Ethiopia. If you’re found to be carrying in excess of that amount the money will be seized and a prison sentence is possible.
You must declare to customs officials on entry or exit any cash in excess of 3,000 US dollars (or the equivalent) in foreign currencies. Travellers leaving Ethiopia with more than USD$3,000 must present a bank advice notice if the currency was purchased from a local bank or a valid customs declaration form obtained at the point of entry. A bank advice notice or customs declaration form becomes invalid if 45 days or more have elapsed since the date of issue.
You will need an export certificate to take antiques out of the country, otherwise the items are likely to be confiscated and you may face prosecution.
Owning ivory is strictly prohibited. A number of British nationals found with ivory jewellery have had their items confiscated by authorities and fined between 5,000 and 25,000 birr.
Drug offences are treated seriously in Ethiopia. Don’t become involved with drugs of any kind. Khat is a legal drug in Ethiopia but it is an offence to take it out of the country. Bags are regularly searched at Addis Ababa Bole Airport and anyone found to be in possession of Khat is likely to face criminal prosecution.
Click here to view : Local laws and customs
Free import of max:
Prohibited: Firearms and bullets or parts thereof.
Import license required for hunting guns.
Cats and dogs must be accompanied by veterinarian good health certificate issued at point of origin.
Baggage is cleared at first airport of entry into Ethiopia.
Exempt: baggage of transit passengers with a destination outside of Ethiopia when the onward flight is within 24 hours.
Local currency (Ethiopian Birr-ETB): up to ETB 200.- per person.
Foreign currencies: for nationals of Ethiopia: not allowed. For other nationals: up to a max. of USD 3,000.- or equivalent, without bank permit.
Local currency (Ethiopian Birr-ETB) if passengers hold a re-entry permit: ETB 200.- per person.
Foreign currencies : up to the amounts imported and declared, if exceeded USD 3,000.- or equivalent.
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No airport tax is levied on passengers upon embarkation at the airport.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)
There are special measures in place at all borders when entering Ethiopia.
Proof of a negative COVID-19 RT PCR test result issued within the previous 120 hours (5 days), starting from the time the sample is given, is required for all air passengers over the age of 10 years entering Ethiopia. Arrivals must then complete 7 days mandatory self-quarantine.
You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test.
If you are planning to travel via Ethiopia to reach the UK, you should be aware that restrictions apply. Transit passengers are those with an onward ticket to another destination, who do not formally enter Ethiopia. Transiting passengers are exempt from the current quarantine restrictions for COVID-19. The maximum transit time is 72 hours.
Passengers transiting for 24 hours or less can remain in the departure lounge of the airport. For transits over 24 hours, you will be taken to a designated transit hotel for the duration of your stay. On arrival in Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, you should report to the transit desk to confirm your hotel details. After health screening and immigration you will then need to present your hotel details and passport to the desk marked “transit shuttle bus” from where you will be taken to the hotel. You will not be able to leave the hotel during your transit. To the extent airline schedules allow, you should therefore minimise the duration of your transit in Addis Ababa.
Passengers transiting Addis Ababa Bole International Airport are subject to COVID-19 screening measures during transit. See below.
If you have any further questions, you should contact your airline.
Addis Ababa Bole International Airport (and other international airports) have put in place measures to screen passengers arriving, departing or transiting through Ethiopia. Arriving passengers are required to present a negative RT PCR COVID-19 test certificate prior to entry. Additional screening may include temperature measurements, completing a health screening questionnaire and answering questions from health officials. This will include checks on recent travel to affected areas and your accommodation details for your self-isolation (see Quarantine requirements below).
Anyone who is suspected of having COVID-19 will be taken to a government designated isolation centre where they will receive appropriate follow-up care and will be tested. Any person that tests positive for COVID-19 will be prohibited from entering Ethiopia.
Anyone with a pre-existing condition that requires regular medicines should bring sufficient amounts to cover a potential unplanned additional 2 week stay.
All passengers arriving into the country (except diplomats) are required to present a negative RT PCR COVID-19 test certificate, dated within the previous 120 hours (5 days) . Only RT 2PCR tests will be accepted. You may need to demonstrate you have such a test certificate before boarding your flight.
All passengers will be subject to 7 days mandatory self-isolation. You must provide the address for your self-isolation upon arrival.
Diplomats are encouraged to present a negative RT PCR COVID-19 test certificate. Where they do so, they will need to self-isolate at their residence for 7 days. Where they do not present a negative test certificate, they will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.
Measures are in place when arriving into the country across land borders.
Those crossing with a negative RT PCR COVID-19 test certificate dated within the previous 120 hours (5 days) will be screened for symptoms and required to self-isolate at home for 7 days. Those that do not present a negative test certificate will be screened and required to self-isolate for 14 days. Only PCR tests will be accepted.
Anyone who is suspected of having COVID-19 will be taken to a government designated isolation centre where they will receive appropriate follow-up care and a further test. The standard of isolation centres varies significantly around the country.
You should check for the latest information with local authorities before travelling to the border.
You will need a visa to enter Ethiopia.
E-visas can be purchased in advance from the Ethiopian E-Visa website. Visas on arrival are also available for tourists at Addis Ababa (Bole) International airport, at a cost of approximately $US50 for 1 month and $US75 for 3 months. It’s recommended that you bring US$ cash to pay for this.
All other categories of visitor must get a visa from the Ethiopian Embassy closest to their place of legal residence before travelling. The penalty for overstaying your tourist visa is $US10 per person per day. If you overstay you will have to pay your fine in full before you are able to leave Ethiopia.
To obtain a business visa for Ethiopia you may need prior approval from the Ethiopian Immigration, Nationality and Vital Events Agency office before submitting your application to the Ethiopian Embassy. You should check the latest instructions with your nearest Ethiopian Embassy
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Ethiopia. Make sure you have two blank pages in your passport on arrival.
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
If you’re visiting Ethiopia on a tourist visa, you will be unable to take employment, including voluntary employment. If visitors are caught in breach of their immigration status they may face severe fines or possible imprisonment.
Once you’re in Ethiopia you will not be able to change your immigration status. If you have any concerns about your immigration status in Ethiopia, you should contact the local immigration authorities.
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Ethiopia.
Addis Ababa and other major urban areas are comparatively safe compared to many African cities. However, the British Embassy has received increased reports of foreign nationals being targeted by groups of youths or scam artists. Petty theft and mugging is on the rise. There has been a smaller number of more serious incidents, including sexual harassment of women and robberies.
Be vigilant if approached by strangers seeking assistance – criminal gangs are known to use distraction techniques including begging or feigning illness. Take particular care when visiting crowded public places, especially at night. There has been an increase in violent robberies at parks and walking sites in Addis Ababa. If threatened, hand over your valuables without resistance.
Keep belongings on your person while travelling in taxis, and keep valuables like cameras and passports out of sight. Be aware of the risk of pickpocketing, bag and jewellery snatching including from vehicles stopped at traffic lights in Addis Ababa. Keep car doors locked whilst in your vehicle, and when parking leave your car in a well-lit and guarded area. Consider fitting anti-shatter film to all windows on your vehicle.
Large crowds are common on key national and religious dates. These include Ethiopian Christmas on 7 January, Epiphany/’Timket’ in January, Victory of Adawa on 2 March, Ethiopian Patriots’ Victory Day on 5 May, Downfall of the Derg on 28 May, Ethiopian New Year on 11-12 September and The Finding of the True Cross/’Meskel’ in September. Large crowds also gather on Ethiopian (Orthodox) Easter; Eid Al Fitr; Eid Al Arafa and the Birthday of the Prophet Mohammed. Various parts of the country also have local festivals which can lead to large gatherings, often celebrating Saints days.
There have been a small number of cases of arbitrary detention of British nationals in Ethiopia in recent years. There’s a risk that this could reoccur – particularly where tensions are heightened (for example around major events, or in locations that might be deemed sensitive for security reasons). You should carry copies of your passport and the contact details of the British Embassy Addis Ababa at all times. This may help if you’re questioned or detained. However, you should be aware that the Ethiopian authorities will not necessarily notify embassies when foreign nationals are detained. Even if requested, adequate consular access is not always granted.
Health and safety precautions like life jackets in boats or protective railings at historical sites are rarely in place in Ethiopia.
Driving standards and vehicle maintenance are often poor and traffic accidents are a regular occurrence in Ethiopia, especially in Addis Ababa and on the Addis Ababa-Djibouti road. In Addis Ababa, British Embassy staff are advised to use only the metered yellow taxis as these generally have higher standards of maintenance than the blue and white taxis.
Under Ethiopian law, drivers involved in car accidents can face severe punishments, including custodial sentences and fines. You should be very careful when travelling by car. If you’re involved in a traffic accident you should remain in your vehicle and call the local police. You should avoid confrontation and await their arrival to resolve the matter.
In the past some localised demonstrations have led to temporary closures of roads or the targeting of public transport. However, not all reports on social media channels of such disruptions are accurate. If you’re unsure, you should contact local authorities or reputable tour operators in the areas you’re travelling to.
If you encounter a roadblock you should follow the advice of local authorities at the road block if they are present. If you encounter an unattended roadblock, turn around and don’t attempt to pass it.
When travelling outside Addis Ababa, you should avoid driving after dark in rural areas: vehicles often have no lights and livestock may be roaming on the roads. There have been instances where buses from one region have been attacked when passing through another. Medical facilities outside the capital are extremely limited so carry a comprehensive medical pack. You should also consider communications – whilst mobile telephone services are increasingly widespread, connectivity cannot be guaranteed, and there have been multiple examples of mobile internet being closed down with no notice. You may wish to consider travelling in a party and leaving details of your travel itinerary with a reliable person.
The Ethiopian authorities have introduced new measures in relation to coronavirus. See Coronavirus.
There are frequent incidences of civil unrest in Ethiopia, including protests and strikes. Some of these can cause temporary closure of roads or disruption to local business and transport, and in the past some have escalated into serious violence. Internet and mobile networks may be closed or disrupted during civil unrest. These incidents are often limited in duration and localised. Where they occur, the British Embassy will advise staff to reconsider any travel plans they have to the specified area and not to travel until the situation has calmed. This travel advice will flag incidents of concern, where British Embassy staff have received specific advice, but as unrest can occur with little or no notice you are also advised to monitor local news and reconsider travel plans to areas where disturbances are reported. If you’re unsure, contact local authorities or reputable tour operators in the areas you’re travelling to.
Due to the ongoing State of Emergency in Tigray, there are reports that ethnic Tigrayans have been prevented from boarding flights at Bole International Airport and have been detained in Addis Ababa. You should comply with the instructions of the authorities and monitor local media for further information.
You should be alert to petty theft around Bole Addis Ababa International Airport, particularly pickpockets and bag snatches. When in or around the airport, keep valuables secure and out of sight. Only use buses or taxis from the airport that have been organised by your hotel or travel company, or choose yellow taxis rather than the blue and white ones.
There has been an increase in the level of reported crime against both expats and Ethiopian nationals in the Bole Medhanealem, Bole Atlas, Meskel Square, Yeka Hills and Entoto areas of Addis Ababa. These have included robberies at knife point and the choking unconscious of victims by their attackers. Don’t travel alone in these areas if possible. You should exercise caution if travelling on foot, and consider using road transportation where possible, both during the daytime and especially after dark. If threatened, hand over your valuables without resistance.
The FCDO advises against all travel within 30km of the border between Afar and Tigray Regional States. The Ethiopian Federal Government have declared a State of Emergency in Tigray Regional State, following military clashes in Tigray and northern Amhara. There may be further military activity on the border with Afar Regional State. Some flights across northern Ethiopia remain suspended.
The FCDO advises against all but essential travel within 10km of the border with Eritrea, with the exception of the border crossing at Burre (Debay Sima).
If you’re planning to visit the Danakil desert area, you should be aware of the risk of excessive heat and the difficult terrain in some areas, notably around the volcano of Erta Ale. Facilities are basic in Danakil; there is no running water and medical options are very limited.
Tourism in the area has previously been targeted by armed groups in 2007, 2012 and 2017. You should only travel to this area with a recognised tour company and when booking check that your group will be supported by an armed police or military escort.
The FCDO advise against all travel within 30km of the border between Amhara and Tigray Regional States. The Ethiopian Federal Government have declared a State of Emergency in Tigray Regional State, following military clashes in Tigray and northern Amhara. Domestic and international land borders may remain closed. Mobile networks and internet connections may be disrupted. You should monitor local media for further information.
The FCDO advise against all travel within 10km of the border with Sudan, except for the principal road to the Metema crossing point. The FCDO advise against all but essential travel to the woredas (districts) of Tsegede, Mirab Armacho and Tach Armacho where political disputes have in the past turned violent. Amhara Region’s major tourist sites of Lalibela, Bahir Dar, Gonder town and the Simien Mountains are not within these areas.
Violent clashes have previously occurred around Chilga Woreda, Central Gondar Zone, with reports of fatalities, including civilians. While attacks are mostly related to inter-ethnic disputes and foreigners have not been targeted, attacks can occur at any time with significant risk of being caught up in violence. If you’re travelling in the area, monitor local media and follow the advice of local authorities and your tour operator.
There has been an increase in roadblocks across Amhara Regional State recently. If you encounter a roadblock you should follow the advice of local authorities at the roadblock if they are present. If you encounter an unattended roadblock, turn around and don’t attempt to pass it.
Tensions exist along the Amhara-Tigray regional border, with occasional clashes including gunfire. If you are in the area you should exercise caution and follow the advice of local authorities.
The FCDO advise against all travel to the Jore woreda of the Agnuak zone and the four woredas (districts) (Akobo, Wantawo, Jikawo and Lare) of the Nuer zone, and against all but essential travel to the rest of Gambella Region.
Incidents of large-scale violence, inter-communal clashes and armed attacks occur regularly in the Gambella region. While foreigners have not been targeted, there’s a significant risk of being caught up in violence.
The FCDO advise against all travel to within 10km of the Kenyan border with the exception of major towns and crossing points.
The FCDO advise against all travel to West Wollega zone, including the main Addis Ababa to Gambella road, and to Nekemte town in East Wollega. There have been repeated and serious instances of violence in these areas including clashes between armed groups and security forces, violent crime and roadside attacks.
The FCDO advise against all but essential travel to Qellem Wollega zone, which has also seen instances of violence, clashes between armed groups and security forces, and violent crime and roadside attacks. There continue to be increased tensions and violence between armed groups and the security forces across Oromia, particularly Shewa, Haraghe and Guji zones. You should avoid military, police and security installations, exercise extreme caution and follow the advice of local authorities.
There has been an increase in roadblocks across Oromia Regional State recently. If you encounter a roadblock you should follow the advice of local authorities at the roadblock if they are present. If you encounter an unattended roadblock, turn around and don’t attempt to pass it.
Protests and demonstrations occur periodically in a range of towns across the Oromia region. These were at their height in 2016 but have continued more sporadically since that time with some turning violent, most recently in June 2020. Towns in the Wellega and Shewa zones, and West Arsi zone, including Ambo, Wolissa, Nekemte and Shashemene, have been particularly affected. Demonstrations have also been witnessed elsewhere including in the Bale zone to the south-east. Some protests have turned violent and resulted in casualties; others caused severe disruption to road travel including major roads to and from Addis Ababa.
In some instances international investors have been threatened, although the British Embassy is not aware of foreign tourists having been targeted. You should familiarise yourself with the advice above about avoiding large gatherings, and should follow the advice of local authorities and your tour operator.
The FCDO advise against all travel to the Nogob (previously Fik), Jarar (previously Degehabur), Shabelle (previously Gode), Korahe and Dollo (previously Warder) zones of the Somali Region and to within 100km of the Kenyan and Somali borders in the Afder and Liben zones. The FCDO advise against all but essential travel to all other areas of the Somali Regional State, with the exception of the main road and railway to Djibouti through Fafan zone.
There is local instability, lawlessness, military activity and a general risk of banditry in the Somali Region. Since the mid-1990s, insurgent groups, some affiliated with terrorist organisations, have clashed with government forces. Foreigners have been caught up in the violence or targeted. There have also been attacks on staff working for international NGOs.
The FCDO advise against all travel to within 10km of the borders with South Sudan and Kenya.
Tensions are raised in western parts of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR) following armed clashes in Konso Zone and surrounding areas. The clashes have led to a number of deaths. Although there are no reports of foreign nationals being targeted, you should exercise extreme caution and follow the advice of local authorities.
There have been some instances of civil unrest in towns in the Sidama zone, including Hawassa, and clashes along stretches of the internal border with the Oromia region, especially in the Gedeo Zone. Whilst such disturbances have been less frequent than in several other areas of Ethiopia, a number have turned violent at short notice. You should familiarise yourself with the advice above about avoiding large gatherings, and should follow the advice of local authorities and your tour operator.
The FCDO advise against all travel to the whole of Tigray regional state and within 30km of its borders with Amhara and Afar regional states. The Ethiopian Federal Government have declared a State of Emergency in Tigray Regional State, and there are ongoing military clashes across Tigray. In addition to enabling the Federal Government to take military action, the State of Emergency allows for a curfew, restrictions on movement and transport, the banning of weapons and the imposition of stop and search powers. You should exercise extreme caution in Tigray, stay indoors and remain alert to developments that would enable you to leave safely. Domestic and international land borders may be closed. Flights to Mekelle have now resumed, but other destinations across Tigray remain suspended. You should contact your airline for more information. Some mobile and internet networks have been restored including Mekelle, but large areas remain disconnected. Families should continue to share details with the British Embassy to enable us to locate British nationals in Tigray. If you are in the Tigray region and are able to, you should call: +251 11 617 01 00. If you are calling from the United Kingdom about family or friends you should call 020 7008 5000.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Ethiopia Committee of the Red Cross (ECRC) has set up a service to ‘restore family links’ across Tigray. You can contact them by phone +251 (0) 94 312 2207 or 251 (0) 11 552 7110, email [email protected], or online. You should monitor local media for further information.
There may be restrictions on travel between towns and cities in Tigray Regional State.
The FCDO advise against all travel to within 10km of the border with Sudan. We advise against all travel to the Pawe, Guba, Dangur, Dibati, Bulen woredas in Metekel zone, and against all but essential travel to the rest of Metekel zone.
Local tensions have led to ongoing violent clashes, including reported abductions and fatalities. Clashes remain frequent and unpredictable.
There have been occasional instances of civil unrest in and around Assosa. You should familiarise yourself with the advice above about avoiding large gatherings, and should follow the advice of local authorities and your tour operator.