The horn of Africa, the last frontier for backpackers. For all those planning to travel solo to Ethiopia, here is all you need to know.
- Ethiopia is generally safe compared to most African and western countries.
- The areas to avoid when visiting Ethiopia are the Ethiopia-Kenya and the Ethiopia-Somalia borders due to the ongoing unrest in those areas.
- Petty theft is very common in major cities such as Addis Ababa and therefore you should be on high alert when roaming around the streets.
- Never roam the streets with valuables in your bag. Leave your travel documents, laptop and other valuables in your room.
- In less populated towns, pickpockets are usually located at marketplaces and bus stops. Always be alert when in these places.
- Women are highly respected in Ethiopian communities and cases of gender-based violence against women are few.
- Break out of hygiene-related illnesses such as cholera and diarrhea are very frequent, it's advisable to keep off street delicacies unless the hygiene of the vendor is commendable.
Adhere to the expected
- Ethiopians have a moral code that is expected to be adhered to by everyone. It is important to respect the culture of the locals.
- Ladies who show lots of skin especially if black are considered to be women of the night. To avoid sending the wrong signal ladies should cover up.
- Ensure you carry warm clothing as Addis Ababa is located in a highland region and it gets really cold in the city.
- Homosexuality is a crime in Ethiopia and attracts a very severe sentence irrespective of whether you're a local or a tourist.
- Most towns in Ethiopia are served by public transport minibusses and taxis.
- The public transport minibusses are painted white and blue. NEVER board a minibus that isn't painted those colors. This is how the vehicles look.
- Find a personal taxi driver who will ferry you around. This may be expensive compared to using public transport.
- In case you opt for public transport board buses which approach the bus stop while touts shout their destination, those are safer than buses whose touts don't mention their destinations as they could be criminals posing as bus service providers. This also ensures that you board the right bus based on the place you want to go.
- The only means of transport available for backpackers who want to move to northern Ethiopia is bus travel . However if you're not on a tight budget you can take a flight from Addis Ababa to Harar then connect to the Danakil depression by bus.
- Most hotels that charge very low rates especially in substandard neighborhoods also serve as brothels. Try to find a nice room that goes at a fair price.
- Accommodation is not a challenge as there are very many hotels in Ethiopia. However it's advisable to make prior accommodation arrangements as Ethiopia, being home to the African Union, tends to host many diplomatic events hence the demand for hotels is always high.
- In remote places hotels are scarce and most tourists usually sleep in temporary tents while there.
- In case you need to shop make a point of getting hard cash as most traders don't accept credit cards.
- Internet connectivity is still a challenge in most areas. Purchase enough airtime before going to remote areas and make a point of getting a MiFi router just in case you need to access the internet.
- Enjoy Ethiopian dishes but ensure to buy food only from authorized vendors.
- Ethiopia is a very beautiful country with many wonderful sites to visit from the Omo valley to the Danakil depression to the Babilie camel market, the largest camel market globally, and historical monuments. Make sure you explore and enjoy your stay in Ethiopia!