Visas and Immigration
All visitors to Ethiopia require a visa. However, at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, a tourist Visa on Arrival (VOA) is available to leisure visitors from the USA, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, China, Japan, Korea, Israel, Russia, the UK and all other European Union nations. A one-month tourist VOA costs US$50 and three months costs US$70. Multiple-entry visas are not currently available on arrival, so should be obtained in advance at an embassy. Please note that visa on arrival is not available to visitors entering by land borders.
Business travellers, consultants and professionals working for NGOs need a Business Visa. This should be obtained in advance from an Ethiopian Embassy. Visitors who have their residence in countries without an Ethiopian Embassy, or far from the capital where the Embassy is located, can get the support of the organisation they are working for in Ethiopia to provide them with a document issued by the Immigration Authority allowing them to get a one-month single-entry visa on arrival.
Both tourist and business visas can be extended at the Immigration Authority offices located in Churchill Road, near the Post Office, in Addis Ababa.
Banking and Money
The Ethiopian birr is one of the strongest currencies in Africa, though it has devalued significantly in recent years. Banknotes come in denominations of birr 100, 50, 10, 5 and 1, and centime and birr 1 coins are also minted. Foreign currency, in particular US dollars, pounds sterling and euros, can be changed into birr at private ‘forex bureaux’, as well as at most banks during banking hours (usually 8.30am to 4pm Monday–Saturday). Local currency can be drawn from a countrywide network of 24-hour ATMs with international Visa and MasterCards.
Retail Opening Hours
Shop opening hours tend to be less fixed and more whimsical than in Europe or North America. However, most places operate to core opening hours of around 8am to 5pm Monday–Saturday, but some might stay open until as late as 9pm or 10pm, and many also open on Sundays and public holidays.
Electricity is 220 volts at 50 cycles. Power cuts are frequent although the largest hotels and restaurants serving international visitors usually have generators. In any case it is a good idea to bring a torch as some streets in Addis can be dark at night. A torch will also be useful if you are planning to visit remote locations. Plug standards vary but the Type C (European two-pin) and Type L (Italian three-pin) sockets are most common.
The international dialling code is +251. As is the case elsewhere, mobile phones are now more popular than land lines. The only provider is Ethio Telecom (www.ethiotelecom.et), which sells cheap local SIM cards at its stores in Addis Ababa and elsewhere. All phone numbers are now 10 numerals long, and mobile numbers can easily be recognised because they all start with ‘09’.