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Country Overview: Ethiopia is situated in northeast Africa, bordered by Eritrea, Sudan, Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti. The major part of the country in the central area is a vast highland region of volcanic rock forming a watered, temperate zone surrounded by hot, arid, and fascinating desert.

Area: 1,133,380 sq km (437,600 sq miles).

Population: 74.2 million (UN, 2005).

Population Density: 65.5 per sq km. Capital Addis Ababa. Population: 2.4 million (1994 Census).

Best Time To Visit: Ethiopia can provide you with 13 months of sunshine or any kind of weather you like. It depends on the region that you want to visit and/or the activities you want to join.

Climate: Hot and humid in the lowlands, warm in the hill country and cool in the uplands. Most rainfall is from June to September.

Dress: The lightest possible clothing in lowland areas; medium- or lightweight in the hill country. Warm clothing may be needed at night to cope with the dramatic temperature change.

Natural Features: Highlands including the highest peak Ras Dashan in Simien mountain range. There are dissected plateaus divided by the Great Rift Valley, the dominant feature of the country is the Central plateau which contains a number of river systems like the Blue Nile.

Language: Amharic is the official language, although about 80 other native tongues are spoken. English is widely used and some Arabic, Italian and French are spoken.

Religion: Ethiopian Orthodox (Tewahido) and Coptic Church mainly in the north; Islam, mainly in the east and south. There are also significant Evangelical, Protestant and Roman Catholic Communities.

Time: GMT plus 3.

Electricity: 220 volts AC, 50Hz.

Communications: Telephone: IDD is available. Country code: 251. Outgoing international code: 00. Mobile telephone: The PTO, ETA provides a GSM 900 network. Coverage is limited. Fax: Facilities are available in major hotels. Telegram: International services from local offices and hotels in Addis Ababa. Internet: There are several Internet cafes in Addis Ababa. Some top-end hotels also offer services. The main ISP is the PTO ETC, although connections may be difficult.

Passport/Visa: USA citizens require visa to enter Ethiopia. Passports valid for three months. The cost is $62

Money: Currency: Ethiopian Birr (Birr) - 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of Birr100, 50, 10, 5 and 1. Coins are in denominations of 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 cents. Credit & debit cards: MasterCard and Diners Club are accepted on a very limited basis (only Hilton and Sheraton Hotels are certain to accept them). Check with your credit or debit card company for details of merchant acceptability and other services which may be available. Travelers cheques: To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travelers are advised to take travelers cheques in US Dollars or Pounds Sterling. Currency restrictions: The import of local currency is limited to Birr100. The export of local currency up to Birr100 is permitted, provided the traveler holds a re-entry permit. The import and export of foreign currency is unlimited, subject to declaration on arrival.

Duty Free: The following goods may be imported into Ethiopia without incurring customs duty: 100 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 225g of tobacco; 1l of alcoholic beverages; 2 bottles or 500ml of perfume; gifts up to the value of Birr10. Note: Export certificates are required for skins, hides and antiques.

Public Holidays:

Health: Special Precautions for: 1: A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travelers over one year of age coming from infected areas. Travelers arriving from non-endemic zones should note that vaccination is strongly recommended for travel outside the urban areas, even if an outbreak of the disease has not been reported and they would normally not require a vaccination certificate to enter the country. 2: Malaria risk, predominantly in the malignant falciparum form, exists throughout the year in all areas below 2000m. Highly chloroquine-resistant falciparum is reported. No malaria risk exists in Addis Ababa.

Food & drink: All water should be regarded as being potentially contaminated. Water used for drinking, brushing teeth or making ice should have first been boiled or otherwise sterilized. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish, preferably served hot. Pork, salad and mayonnaise may carry increased risk. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled.

Other risks: Avoid swimming and paddling in fresh water. Swimming pools which are well-chlorinated and maintained are safe. Onchocerciasis (river blindness) occurs. Visceral leishmaniasis may be found in the drier areas. Trachoma is widespread. Immunisation against diphtheria is also recommended. Rabies is present. For those at high risk, vaccination before arrival should be considered. If you are bitten, seek medical advice without delay.

Health care: The high altitude and low oxygen level of much of Ethiopia needs time to be acclimatized to. Those who suffer from heart ailments or high blood pressure should consult a doctor before traveling. Health insurance is strongly advised.

International: AIR: The national carrier is Ethiopian Airlines. It is one of the most efficient airlines in Africa. It has offices in 54 cities around the world. Indication flight times: From Addis Ababa to London is 10 hours. International airports: Addis Ababa (ADD) (Bole International) which new terminal will be opened beginning of 2003 is 8km (5 miles) southeast of the city (travel time , 25 minutes). A coach service departs regularly to the city. Airport facilities include duty-free, car hire, banks, bureaux de change (0500-1300), left luggage, post office, first aid facilities, restaurant and bar.

Departure tax: US$20, payable in US Dollars only. Exact amount only. Transit passengers not leaving the airport are exempt.

Internal:AIR: Ethiopian Airlines runs internal flights to over 40 towns, although services may be infrequent. Airports throughout Ethiopia are currently being upgraded in a step to encourage tourism.

Airport tax: Birr 10. RAIL: The only operative line runs between Addis Ababa and Djibouti, via Dire Dawa and Harar. Travelers should be prepared for occasional delays.

ROAD: A good network of all-weather roads exists to most business and tourist centers. Otherwise, four-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended. Frequent fuel shortages can make travel outside Addis Ababa very difficult. Vehicle travel after dark outside Addis Ababa is risky. Traffic drives on the right. Bus: Services are run by the Government as well as private companies and they operate throughout the country. The bus terminus can provide schedules and tickets, although it is unusual for tourists to attempt to use this service. Bus trips can be slow as there is often a lengthy wait to assemble a convoy. Taxi: Available in Addis Ababa and other major towns. Painted blue and white, they sometimes offer service on a shared basis. Fares should be negotiated before traveling. There are also minibus taxis which offer cheap and frequent shared travel in Addis Ababa. Documentation: A British driving license is valid for up to one month, otherwise the visitor needs to obtain a temporary Ethiopian driving license on arrival.

Accommodation: Good hotels are in Addis Ababa and other main centers, although they tend to be better in the north than in the south.

Food & Drink: Menus in the best hotels offer international food and Addis Ababa also has a number of good Chinese, Italian and Indian restaurants. Ethiopian food is based on dishes called we’t (meat, chicken or vegetables, cooked in a hot pepper sauce) served with or on injera (a flat spongy bread). Dishes include shiro and misir (chick peas and lentils, Ethiopian style) and tibs (crispy fried steak). There is a wide choice of fish including sole, Red Sea snapper, lake fish, trout and prawns. Traditional restaurants in larger cities serve food in a grand manner around a brightly colored basket-weave table called a masob. Before beginning the meal guests will be given soap, water and a clean towel, as the right hand is used to break off pieces of injera with which the we’t is gathered up.

Ethiopian coffee from the province of Kaffa, with a little rue added for extra aroma, is called ‘health of Adam’. Local red and dry white wines are worth trying. Talla (Ethiopian beer) has a unique taste and European-style lager is widely available. Kaitaka (a pure grain alcohol), cognac (a local brandy) and tej (an alcoholic drink based on fermented honey) are unique.

Shopping: Special purchases include local jeweler (sold by the actual weight of gold or silver), woodcarvings, illuminated manuscripts and prayer scrolls, wood and metal crosses, leather shields, spears, drums and carpets. In marketplaces a certain amount of bargaining is expected, but prices at shops in towns are fixed.

Shopping hours: Mon-Fri 0800-1230 and 1530-1930; Sat 0900-1300 and 1500-1900 (with local variations). Tipping: In most hotels and restaurants a ten per cent service charge is added to the bill.

Tipping is a fairly frequent custom, but amounts are small.

Photography: While the scenic beauty of Ethiopia makes it a photographer’s paradise, photographs should not be taken of military or strategic buildings. These include airports. Before photographing any person, religious festival or rural homestead it is courteous to ask permission. While film is readily available in most towns, we recommend that visitors bring plenty of film with them. Commercial photographers require a permit from the Ministry of Information. Certain tourist sites charge for video photography.

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