Customs regulations for your trip to Ethiopia

Last modified: July 26, 2023
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Customs 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

Used Household Goods and Personal Effects

Documents Required

  • Copy of passport (the original is required for non-diplomats and workers of schools, private organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), etc.
  • Duty-free privilege document issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Copy of ID issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (diplomats, semi-diplomats)
  • Letter of guarantee issued and sealed by the diplomatic organization (diplomats, semi-diplomats)
  • Letter of support (non-diplomats, workers of schools, private organizations, NGOs, etc.)
  • Letter from embassy legalized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at arrival (returning citizens)
  • Certificate of origin (citizens currently residing in Ethiopia)
  • Bank permit with import license (citizens currently residing in Ethiopia)
  • Proof of insurance from a local company (citizens currently residing in Ethiopia)
  • Purchase invoices (citizens currently residing in Ethiopia)
  • Freight receipt from origin steamship (SS) line (citizens currently residing in Ethiopia)
  • Import permit from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (diplomats, semi-diplomats)
  • Import permit from the Ministry of Revenue (returning citizens)
  • Work permit from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (issued to the owner of the goods by the employer or diplomatic organization)
  • Original bill of lading (OBL) / air waybill (AWB)
  • Packing list
  • Detailed and valued inventory in USD or EURO

Specific Regulations

  • Owners of the goods must be present at the time of arrival of the shipment with an original passport and work permit or diplomatic exemption for Customs clearance (work permits take approximately 3-6 weeks to obtain).
  • Work permits are issued for non-diplomats and non-citizens.
  • Express / telex releases are not accepted; only the OBL is accepted.
  • Documents should be express mailed at least 15 days prior to shipment arrival at the port in Djibouti for the employer to obtain a privilege document / import permit.
  • All containers are subject to inspection (except those for diplomat and semi-diplomat shipments).
  • Diplomatic and semi-diplomatic shipments are tax exempt.
  • Duty free privilege refers to the general franchise document that diplomats receive from the local Ministry Foreign Affairs as soon as they resume work and after processing their diplomatic ID.
  • Non-diplomatic shipments are subject to a duty payment.
  • The recommended port of entry (POE) for sea shipments into Ethiopia is Djibouti.
  • A general inventory list with goods to be imported without stipulating the number of items but only the value of each item (diplomats, semi-diplomats) is recommended.
  • For consolidated shipments, details of type of shipments, and quantity should be clearly identified in the body of the bill of lading.
  • It is advised to only consolidate 2 shipments of the same nature (owners of the goods sharing the container should either both be diplomats or non-diplomats).
    • In the event, two different status shipments are consolidated together ,delays in clearance and violation of the diplomatic immunity of the diplomatic shipment will take place.
  • Container deposits must be made with the Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority Export and Other Goods Facilitation Branch Office by the owner of the goods.

Dutiable Items

  • All electronic items including DVD Players, recorders, computers and cell phones must be declared upon entering and leaving the country.
  • Dogs and other animals will require a veterinarian good health certificate before being allowed entry into the country.
  • Visitors to Ethiopia must complete a customs declaration form if bringing in large sums of cash. Travellers departing Ethiopia in possession of more than $3000 or equivalent in foreign currency must present a bank advice notice to customs officials if the currency was purchased from a local bank.

Free import of max:

  • 400 cigarettes or 250 grams of tobacco (only for passengers of 18 years and older);
  • 2 liters of alcoholic beverages (only for passengers of 18 years and older);
  • 600 milliliters of perfume;
  • goods for personal use.

Prohibited Items

  • Narcotics and illegal drugs of any kind
  • Pornographic materials
  • Subversive materials (books, magazines, photograph, etc.)
  • Firearms and ammunitions
  • Weapons
  • Explosives

Miscellaneous (Pets, Motors, and others.)

Motor Vehicles

Documents Required

  • OBL
  • Vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • Vehicle documents (must include engine number, chassis number, make, model, year of manufacture, number of cc, etc.)
  • Commercial invoice with VIN number
  • Packing list
  • Owner’s manual
  • Import authorization from Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) and Road Transport Authorities (RTA)  both addressed to Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority Addis Ababa Kaliti Customs Branch to be processed by the diplomatic organization (diplomats and semi-diplomats
  • Ethiopian embassy’s letter from country of origin
  • Authorization of the RTA and Communication Ministry (issued to the owner of the goods by an organization or diplomatic organization)
  • Letter of support (non-diplomats, schools, private organizations, NGOs, etc.)

Specific Regulations

  • Only left-hand drive vehicles can be imported.
  • Vehicles with tinted windows cannot be imported.
  • Vehicles are subject to taxes.
  • Current Ethiopian residents cannot import vehicles.
  • In the case of non-diplomatic shipment owner of the goods needs to acquire vehicle import authorization from RTA.
  • Ethiopian embassy’s letter from country of origin is a pre-requisite for returning nationals (this letter needs to be legalized by MoFA).

Pets

Documents Required

  • Copy of passport
  • Health certificate / carnet / booklet / birth certificate
  • Letter / certificate of Ministry of Agriculture from origin country / state

Specific Regulations

  • Both diplomats and non-diplomats can import pets to Ethiopia provided that they present the required document.
  • Non-diplomats are not required to process their request via the MoFA, they can place their request directly towards the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
  • The diplomatic organization (embassy) in Ethiopia will provide written notification to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that an employee will be arriving with a pet and provide a copy of all documents relative to the identity and health of the pet.
  • Upon receipt of the letter, the Ministry of Foreign affairs will inform the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, which will request that the embassy provide it with any additional necessary documents.
  • The Ministry of Agriculture will inform the Customs Authority and provide the owner of the pet with the necessary documents permitting entry in Ethiopia.
  • It takes approximately 1-1/2 to 2 months to obtain the required documents for the importation of pets into Ethiopia.

Arms and Ammunition regulations:

Prohibited: Firearms and bullets or parts thereof.
Import license required for hunting guns.

Pets:

Cats and dogs must be accompanied by veterinarian good health certificate issued at point of origin.

Baggage Clearance regulations:

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.

Currency

Currency Import regulations:

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.

Currency Export regulations:

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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