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When is the best time to come to Ethiopia?
Ethiopia’s main holidays
Getting there and around – do I need a visa?
What kind of accommodation and food can I expect?
How are security issues in Ethiopia?
How should I prepare myself in health terms?
What to pack, what to bring?
Money matters?
Some useful Amharic words and phrases to end with…
When is the best time to come to Ethiopia?

Most parts of Ethiopia are accessible by land or air all year round . However, the ideal time to visit Ethiopia is probably between October and January, when the rainy season is over but the countryside is still green. You might want your trip to coincide with one of Ethiopia’s important religious festivals, particularly Meskel (September) or Timkat (January) – please find a list of the most interesting holidays further down.

- Visiting the historical sites in the north and the east of the country is possible during all seasons, even during the light rains in March-April and the rainy season from mid-June to September. However, we recommend bringing rain coats, umbrellas and waterproof shoes if you choose to come during the rainy season(s).

- The rainy season in most southern regions of Ethiopia (e.g. the Omo Valley) usually starts around April and ends in May - June, which can make some roads rather difficult during this time. Some of the most fascinating ethnic rituals like the “Jumping of the Bulls” and the “Evangadi Moon Light Dance” of the Hamer or the stick-fighting of the Mursi and Surma take place mainly during the harvest season from August to October.

- The best time for travelling to the Danakil Depression (Dallol) in the north-eastern Afar region, home to active volcanoes, hot springs, colourful minerals, salt lakes and caravans, is from end of November to March, when the temperatures cool down.
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Ethiopia’s main holidays

Please note that Ethiopia’s calendar is based on the Julian system. As a consequence, Ethiopia is seven years and eight months “behind” the Western Gregorian calendar. The Ethiopian calendar is made up of 12 months of 30 days each and an extra month of five days duration (six days in leap years). The first month of the Ethiopian year, Meskerem, more or less coincides with the month of September. Therefore, Enkutatash, the Ethiopian New Year, is celebrated on September 11 (September 12 in leap years like 2007/ 2008). This September, Ethiopians celebrated their new Millennium 2000!

As religion plays an integral part in daily life, there are numerous religious holidays (both Christian and Islamic ones) all year around. The most significant and lively Christian Orthodox ones are the following:

- Meskel is the celebration of the finding of the true Cross by Empress Eleni, queen Helena , the mother of the righteous king constantine. The focus of the festival is a bonfire topped with a cross (meskel), which the heads of the Orthodox Church bless before the fire is lit. This festival coincides with the mass blooming of the yellow Meskel daisies and takes place on September 27 ( September 28 in 2008 ). The finest places to experience the Meskel celebrations are Addis Ababa, Gondar and Axum.

- Gena, the Ethiopian Christmas, falls on January 7 (January 8 in 2008), coinciding with the birthday of King Lalibela. Therefore Gena is most enthusiastically celebrated in the historic town of Lalibela. Traditionally, on this day, young men play Gena, a game similar to hockey.

- Timkat (Epiphany), the commemoration of Christ’s baptism, is the most colourful event in the year when churches parade their tabots (replica of the Ark of the Covenant) to nearby bodies of water. Timkat takes place on January 19 (January 20 in 2008). Gondar and Addis Ababa are the best places to be for Timkat.

- Fasika, the Orthodox Easter, follows a fasting period of 55 days, during which no animal product is eaten. In the service on Easter Sunday drums are beaten, while the faithful chant and cheer to honour the resurrection of Christ. Services are held in all major towns around the country. The date varies (Fasika 2008 falls on April 27).

Islamic holidays are less prominent in Ethiopia but they are important events for the Muslim population. Festivals include Ras as-Sana, Mawlid an-Nabi (Birthday of the Prophet), Lailat al-Mira’ji (Ascension of the Prophet Mohammed), Eid al-Fitr , Eid al-Adha and Al-Ashura. The dates move forward from year to year, as they depend on the Islamic calendar, which is 10 or 11 days shorter than the Julian calendar.
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Getting there and around – do I need a visa?

Getting there

A number of major international airlines currently serve Ethiopia. Among them are: British Airways, Egypt Air, Emirates Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, and Yemenia Airways.

Do I need a visa?

Currently, all visitors except Djiboutian, Kenyan and Sudanese require visas to visit Ethiopia. Nationals of most European countries, the USA, Canada, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Kuwait, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa can easily obtain tourist visas (20 USD) on arrival at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa. Nationals of the countries mentioned can apply for visas at the Ethiopian Embassy/ Consulate in their country.

Be aware that visa regulations can change. The Ethiopian embassy in your home country is the best source of up-to-date information!


Getting around

Depending on your time and preferences we plan your trip on the basis of air and/ or overland transportation.

If your time in Ethiopia is limited, flying is the most efficient way to get around. (Remember that Ethiopia is 5 times the size of the United Kingdom!) Ethiopian Airlines is a prestigious and reliable air carrier running a good network of domestic flights connecting Addis Ababa to most major tourist attractions like Axum, Bahirdar, Gondar, Lalibela, Mekelle, Dire Dawa, Arba Minch, Jinka, and Jimma. If you choose Ethiopian Airlines as your international carrier, you will get a discount on flights if you visit all of the sites of the Historic Route (Axum, Bahirdar, Gondar, Lalibela).

If you have enough time, prefer to see more of the country and to stop at additional sights on the route, we suggest a trip with our 4WD Land Cruisers, Mini and Coaster Buses.

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What kind of accommodation and food can I expect?

There are a number of hotels in all major sites, varying from high class to fairly simple standard accommodation. In general, we book accommodation according to your budget and preferences. However, please keep in mind that Ethiopia’s tourist industry is still evolving and that accommodation outside of Addis Ababa and the main towns can be limited in range. Most meals during your trip will be taken in your hotels or in the best available restaurants in town, offering a good choice of local and international dishes.

Exceptions are most national parks and remote areas like the Omo Valley, where part of your accommodation will be in our own tents and your food will be prepared by our professional cooks.

It is definitely worth trying the traditional Ethiopian food, which is truly “endemic”. Injera, a large sour pancake, is the national staple food and literally comes with every meal. A huge and delicious variety of so-called spicy wot’ (sauce), tibs (pieces of roasted meat) or even t’rey siga and kit’fo (chunks of raw meat and raw minced meat) is usually served on top of one big injera, on a communal tray. You will have plenty of opportunity to indulge in the many flavors of Ethiopian traditional food. Particularly as at least one dinner during your trip will be held at a traditional restaurant, with traditional food, drinks, music and dances from various parts of the country.

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How are security issues in Ethiopia?

Crime

Ethiopia is a remarkably safe country to visit, especially when compared with other African countries. While serious or violent crime is rare, pick pocketing and casual theft do occur in Addis Ababa and to some extent in other large towns. Yet you will be just fine if you take the usual precautions and keep a close eye on your belongings, keep hand/ money bags and cameras close at hand in crowded places, avoid carrying large amounts of money and leave particularly valuable items with hotel reception.

Ethiopia’s political situation is stable; but if you are concerned about general security issues, check your government’s latest security reports on Ethiopia.


Annoyances

One of the first “Ethiopian” words you will probably hear is “ferenji”, meaning foreigner, meaning “You! You!”. Wherever you go, however hard you try to disguise as a non-tourist, most probably you will be accompanied by staring, giggling, overt comments, and shouting, and are most likely to be followed by a good crowd of Ethiopian children and adults alike. Don’t take this “ferenji frenzy” personal! You better get used to it quickly, ignore it or, even better, react with humor. Otherwise you might loose yourself in feeling annoyed and distressed.

Another very common hassle is the high number of beggars in Ethiopia, especially in Addis Ababa and at tourist sights. Foreigners are considered to be wealthy and are somehow expected to give to those in need. However, it is difficult to know when to give, to whom and how much. Not a bad rule of thumb is to give to those who can’t earn a living, such as the disabled, the ill, and the elderly.

Our tour guides will be happy to advice you on how to deal with beggars on the spot. In general, we believe that a good way to help is a donation to a local charity or the purchase of souvenirs in one of the gift shops of various social projects around the country, where the money directly benefits the community in need.

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How should I prepare myself in health terms?

As medical and laboratory facilities are limited in most places outside of Addis Ababa and the bigger cities, we strongly recommend coming well-prepared to Ethiopia, being adequately immunized (e.g. tetanus, typhoid, meningitis, polio, hepatitis A) and bringing sufficient supplies of prescription drugs, medical kit (e.g. malaria tablets, aspirin/ paracetamol, plasters, antiseptic, iodine, sunblock, insect repellent, condomsand re-hydration

There are no compulsory vaccinations required at this time but must seek medical advice from your doctor at least six weeks before your departure - particularly with regard to immunization against (e.g. tetanus, typhoid, meningitis, polio, hepatitis A) and malaria medication.

Please be advised that fleas are quite common around the country – especially in churches, where you will be asked to take off your shoes. Prepare yourself by using sufficient insect repellent and bring plenty of clean socks!
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What to pack, what to bring?

Depending on your international air carrier, you might be allowed luggage exceeding 20 kg. However, while packing, please keep in mind that the maximum weight is 20 kg on domestic flights as well as the space limitation in our 4 Wheel Drives in mind.

While daytime temperatures vary between 16 and above 35 degree Celsius, depending on the area you are visiting and on whether you travel in the highlands or lowlands of Ethiopia (remember Ethiopia’s proximity to the equator), it can get rather chilly once the sun sets. We therefore recommend bringing comfortable and light clothes as well as a few warmer items like a fleece jumper or a jacket. If you booked a trip to the Omo Valley, be advised that it might get very hot and dusty; please pack accordingly. If you visit Ethiopia during the rainy season (June-September) make sure you do not forget umbrella and raincoat.

Walking/ hiking shoes are a must for any trekking tour and a general asset for all itineraries.

Binoculars are essential if you want to get a good look at birds and other animals. So are sunglasses against the strong sun and torches/ flashlights for the many underground tunnels and churches at the historic sights (like Lalibela and Axum).

And finally, what would a trip to a fascinating and colourful travel destination like Ethiopia be without your camera equipment?

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Money matters?

It is advisable to bring whatever money you need in the form of cash or traveler’s cheques with you. In theory, money transfers should not take more than a few working days, but in practice it will often take much longer. Outside Addis Ababa, very few places accept travelers’ cheques or credit cards. You will have to rely on cash.

Budgeting is a personal thing and very much depends on your travel arrangements (e.g. Have you booked a tour throughout? Is the tour on full or half-board basis?), on how much time you are spending in Ethiopia and on what you are doing while you are in the country. How many and what kind of souvenirs are you intending to take home? Are you going to bring a video camera? (There are video camera fees in most places.) These and other thoughts should be considered when planning your budget.
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Some useful Amharic words and phrases to end with…

FOREIGNER
OK
YES
NO
HOW MUCH/ MANY?
SORRY/ EXCUSE ME
NO PROBLEM
ENOUGH
PLEASE (M)
PLEASE (F)
THANK YOU
YOU’RE WELCOME
HOW DO YOU DO?
HOW ARE YOU? (M) (F) (PL)
FINE.
I DON’T SPEAK AMHARIC
WHERE IS THE TOILET?
WHERE IS…?
WHICH WAY IS IT?
THIS WAY
GO (AWAY) (M)
GO (AWAY) (F)
GO (AWAY) (PL)
IT IS CLOSE/ NEAR BY
IT IS NOT FAR
BY CAR
BY FOOT
IS THERE (BREAD)?
THERE IS (COFFEE)
THERE IS NO (TEA)
DO YOU HAVE (WATER)? (M)
DO YOU HAVE (CHANGE)? (F)
I HAVE…/ I DON’T HAVE…
MAY GOD GIVE YOU/ THANK YOU
WHAT DO YOU WANT? (M)
WHAT DO YOU WANT? (F)
I WANT/ WOULD LIKE…
I DON’T WANT…
TAXI
STOP (TAXI, BUS)
WHAT IS THE PRICE?
BILL
HOW MUCH IS THE BILL?
IT IS…
IT IS NOT…
BIG, LARGE
SMALL, LITTLE
VERY SMALL
A LOT, MANY, MUCH
IT IS NICE/ BEAUTIFUL
IT IS NOT GOOD
VERY GOOD
LET’S GO
WHAT IS YOUR NAME? (M) (F)
MY NAME IS…

FERENJI
ISHEE AAO
AAY
SINT NOUW?
YIK’IRTA
CHIGGIR YELLEM
BEK’K’A
IBAKKIH
IBAKKISH
AMESEGINALLEHOO
MINIM AYDELLEM
T’EYNA YIST’ILLIGN
DEHNA NEH/ NESH/ NACHIHOO?
DEHNA!
AMARIGNA ALAWK’IM
SHINT BEYT YET NOUW?
YET NOUW?
WEDEUT NOUW?
BEZZEEH BEKKOOL
HEED
HEEJEE
HEEDO
K’IRB NOUW
ROOK’ AYDELLEM
BEMEKEENA
BE’IGIR
(DABBO) ALLE?
(BOONA) ALLE
(SHAY) YELLEM
(WOOHA) ALLEH?
(ZIRZIR) ALLESH?
ALLEGN/ … YELLEGNIM
IGZEYR YIST/ILLIGN
MIN TIFELLIGALLEH?
MIN TIFELLIGEEYALLESH?
IFELLIGALLEHOO
ALFELLIGIM
TAKSEE
WERAJ
WAGAW SINT NOUW?
HEESAB
HEESAB SINT NOUW?
NOUW
AYDELLEM
TILLIK’
TINNISH
BET’AM TINNISH
BIZOO
K’ONJO NOUW
T’ROO AYDELLEM
BET’AM T’ROO
INNIHEED
SIMIH/ SIMISH MAN NOUW?
SIMEY… NOUW
AND
HOOLET
SOST
ARAT
AMMIST
SIDDIST
SEBAT
SIMMINT
ZET’EGN
ASSIR

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