Who doesn’t like travelling? It not only is a great way to spend your time, but it’s an amazing remedy for your mind as well. Still, popular travelling locations like Paris probably seem too overrated to you, and you seek more unique experiences.
Africa could offer you the experiences that you looking for, in Ethiopia. When you hear about Africa, you’re probably thinking about nature and wildlife. Well, it’s not only about that. It’s something unique, and could offer you an escape from the daily routine, and let you have some time to enjoy your own company.
However, you may ask yourself “Is Ethiopia safe to visit?”. You’re not to blame for thinking about this. Ethiopia comes with a lot of risks. This shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the country’s benefits. You should be wary of what the risks could include and know what to expect and do in case of emergency.
This Ethiopia safety guide is meant to give you the knowledge you need in order to have a successful trip. Therefore, let’s begin exploring these Ethiopia safety travel tips!
Highest Risks You Expose Yourself to When Visiting Ethiopia
Overall Risks in Ethiopia: MEDIUM to HIGH
Ethiopia can be very dangerous from some point of views.
From instance, there have been civil unrest reports. Apparently, in some areas in the Ethiopian Somali Regional State, there were violent protests. In other areas like the town of Assosa, there were reports of gunfire. On 23 June, a rally in support of Ethiopian Prime Minister was disrupted by a grenade attack. Consequently, around 80 people were injured, some of them really bad.
Terrorist attacks are possible in Ethiopia, even in places frequented by tourists.
A German tourist was shot and killed on 3 December 2017. The area in which the incident occurred is now guarded by police and military.
Civil Unrest Risk: MEDIUM
Protests can take place in Ethiopia. Many times, they can turn violent. Many protests resulted in a number of deaths, and the authorities responded with violence. Grenade attacks have taken place in 2017 in the Amhara region. This is because grenades are readily available in this country, and are sometimes used in local disputes. The 2017 incident resulted in a number of casualties. Some of these include the Florida International Hotel in Gondor, the Gondaon Intasole Hotel and Longe du Chateau.
In the Gambella region, there were armed attacks and sporadic ethnic conflicts that resulted in deaths. Although foreigners weren’t a target, they could be collateral victims. This region is dangerous, and has the potential to become even more of a threat.
If you ask yourself “Is Ethiopia safe to visit?”, you want the answer to be “Yes.”. To ensure your safety, don’t join any demonstration, even if it’s peaceful. There could either be people who have other intentions, or violent authorities. It’s not something to toy with. You could easily get caught in an attack, and have your vacation ruined. Wouldn’t that be awful?
Pickpocketing and Theft Risk in Ethiopia: MEDIUM to HIGH
This particular crime can happen anywhere, even in your own country. Still, you may be an easier target because you’re a foreigner. Theft and mugging is a very common thing in Ethiopia, and it continues to grow.
There are records of violent assaults that took place in areas like Bole at night, or Entoto Hills during the day. There is a possibility to have your bag snatched at the traffic lights in Addis Ababa as well.
Incidents involving parked and unattended cars have been reported as well, so the possibility should not be excluded.
- How to avoid pickpocketing and theft in Ethiopia?
To make sure that you’re not suddenly robbed of all of your valuables, here are some Ethiopia safety travel tips to avoid being a theft victim.
Don’t walk alone in any of the high risk areas mentioned, especially at night. Hide any of your valuables to keep them safe. When you arrive, be especially careful at your luggage and/or handbag. If you can, keep your handbag in front of you for easier watching.
Don’t walk around with extravagant clothes that can draw unwanted attention to you. Evil people will notice that you’re not from there, and target you. So, any extra sparkle clothing piece should stay away. Same goes for jewellery – don’t wear any valuable object, if you want to still be its owner.
Avoid any crowded place, especially during religious gatherings. They can usually be a target for pickpocketers, so don’t adventure in a huge crowd.
If you are driving, ensure that you park the car in a well-guarded area with a lot of light. An anti-shatter film to every window of the vehicle should be considered, because you never know what to expect.
Scam Risk in Ethiopia: MEDIUM
Scams are something that are very possible to happen to tourists anywhere. In Ethiopia, you could for example be overcharged for something you order. Thinking that you don’t know the money there, you may end up being tricked and “robbed”.
Another trick used by some locals is bumping into you “by mistake” to distract you. Chances may be that you’ll be offered goods, but it’s only a distraction tactic, until one accomplice of this person comes behind your back and steals your belongings.
Some other people may try a different approach. They wait for freshly arrived tourists and offer them hotel rooms or similar things. They will usually pretend to be guides, or workers at the hotel you’re staying, and offer you rooms in exchange for money.
- How to avoid getting scammed in Ethiopia?
To properly avoid scams, you only need some preparation and attention to everything that surrounds you.
First of all, don’t keep your valuables somewhere visible, and hold your handbag somewhere safe. Be suspicious of any person doing any of the things mentioned above, and don’t trust anyone. Pay attention to what you order when going for a drink, and speak up if you notice a higher price.
For better preparation, ensure you know the money they use.
Kidnapping Risk in Ethiopia: MEDIUM to HIGH
If how safe is Ethiopia for tourists when it comes to kidnapping, you’re about to find out.
The threat of kidnapping is high. It has the highest risk in the border regions of eastern Ethiopia, Ethiopia’s Somali region and along the border with Eritrea. Apparently, there have been records of kidnappings in these areas in the past.
As a safety measure, avoid going to any of these places. Although these areas are the most dangerous, it doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen anywhere else. Be aware of your surroundings.
However, don’t let this make you think that you are certainly going to be kidnapped. If you think about it, you could be kidnapped in your home country as well.
- How to avoid getting kidnapped in Ethiopia?
As mentioned above, it is important that you know which areas you should avoid. In this respect, you can consult with your tour guide or even with the front desk of your accommodation, as they may give you vital information, so to speak. Other than that, you should also do your best to stay away from any areas that look dangerous, such as poorly lit streets, bad-reputed neighborhoods, remote places, and so on.
If you stay close to the city center and to the area where your accommodation is located, you shouldn’t have to face such scenarios. However, be cautious at all times and keep an eye on your surroundings. It is better to be safe than sorry.
Terrorism Risk in Ethiopia: MEDIUM to HIGH
There is very likely that terrorist attacks take place in Ethiopia. Across the East Africa region, the group Al-Shabaab poses a great threat. Even though it’s based in Somalia, this group keeps linking attacks in the region to Ethiopia’s military presence. Moreover, it continues threatening countries with military forces in Somalia.
Al-Shabaab’s aim is to establish Islamic Caliphate in a wider area, including some parts of Ethiopia. In the last 4 years, the terrorist group has claimed responsibility for attacks in Kenya, Uganda and Djibouti.
The authorities have thankfully disrupted some planned attacks and arrested people. Eight Somali nationals were discovered to have wanted to carry out attacks in public areas in Addis Ababa. They were found in 2016, and then jailed for nine years.
Many attacks are against the Ethiopian government, conducted by ethnic Somali groups and indigenous Ethiopian groups. They operate in Ethiopia, and their highest activity is centered on the Ogaden region.
- How to avoid terrorism in Ethiopia?
There are some things you could do to avoid being a victim of terrorist attacks. First of all, make sure you’re not going to any of the high risk areas. Although attacks can happen in other places as well, it’s better to be sure.
Be vigilant at all times, and stay away from people who seem suspicious or like they have evil thoughts. Whenever there are religious events, stay away from the crowds. Crowded areas can be a target to terrorists, and they don’t care if you’re in vacation or not. All they care about is their aim, not collateral victims.
Risks for Women Traveling Alone in Ethiopia: MEDIUM
If you’re a woman who likes to travel by herself, you may wonder “Is Ethiopia safe for solo women travelers?”. Thinking about things like this isn’t wrong, as it’s usual to worry about your safety.
Ethiopia is not so dangerous for solo female travelers. The risk of rapes or serious assaults is lower compared to other countries.
- How to avoid crime as a solo woman traveler in Ethiopia?
However, this doesn’t give you a free pass to do whatever you want and dress just anyhow. As a foreigner, you probably look different than usual Ethiopian women. This is enough to draw attention to yourself – extravagant clothing will only add to the attention. Additionally, make sure you’re not weary excessive make-up.
Other things you should pay attention to is the way you act. Drinking alcohol is not something that “proper” women should do, according to Ethiopians. Avoid going to a bar alone.
Be careful when talking to Ethiopian men. You don’t have to be rude, but accepting any invitation to an unmarried man’s house may be taken out of context. Adultery is not uncommon in Ethiopian families, for both women and men. Therefore, your wedding ring may mean nothing in Ethiopia.
Rape Risk in Ethiopia: LOW to MEDIUM
As mentioned above, the risk of rape in Ethiopia is lower than in any other of its neighboring countries. Given this, there are little to no reports of such incidents occurring within the country – also, none of the recent ones involved foreign nationals/ tourists. Therefore, the only things you should worry about are the local laws and customs – which you should read and make sure you understand before you do anything that might put you in danger.
- How to avoid getting raped in Ethiopia?
With a low rate of such incidents, the only thing you need to avoid getting raped in Ethiopia is common sense. If you avoid any remote or dangerous areas, make sure to always travel accompanied by someone you trust, and don’t trust every local that approaches you, there’s nothing bad that should happen to you.
Naturally, you might want to also avoid any night-clubs or bars – or at least stick to those close to the city center or to your accommodation. In short, all you have to do is behave in a decent manner and take the same safety measures you would take back home.
Risks for People Traveling with Children in Ethiopia: LOW to MEDIUM
“Is Ethiopia safe to visit with children?” you may wonder. Well, it’s not the most child-friendly place.
Distances between places are very long, and the country doesn’t have many places that appeal to children.
Also, you need to be careful, because you may be exposing your child to risks. For instance, they can contact viruses from mosquitoes. Not only that, but the occasional violence that may occur is even more dangerous with children nearby. It’s important to know these things before going to Ethiopia.
- How to avoid unwanted scenarios?
Other than looking out for yourself and keeping an eye on your surroundings, keep in mind that, if you bring your children with you, you will have to look after them as well. Depending on the purpose and length of your trip, you might either want to leave them back home, reconsider your destination, or have a larger group of people traveling with you. Given that this country is a bit dangerous, it is quite recommended for you to bring family or friends with you.
Doing so will not only better ensure your safety but will also make more people available in terms of taking care of the little ones. As mentioned above, they will have to be kept under surveillance, so to speak, at all times so that they don’t get in danger or, worse, lost in the crowd.
Also, make sure that you pack a first-aid kit and enough medicine to prevent the various diseases within this country. The medicine you bring should also include head, tummy, and pain relief pills. In short, make sure that no matter what happens to your children, you will have a solution for the issue and solve it as fast as possible.
Natural Disaster Risks in Ethiopia: MEDIUM
In terms of natural disasters, Ethiopia is usually facing drought, fire, flood, and landslide. Drought comes with the highest mortality rate, of 48.8%, followed by flood, with 38.9%. However, the most frequent natural disaster seems to be flood, with a percentage of 73.7%, followed by drought, with 15.8%.
Therefore, while you may prepare your water supplies for your trip, you may instead be faced with floods, depending on the areas you want to visit. In this respect, it is strongly recommended that you check the local weather and news reports before leaving your accommodation. You might also want to check the annual disaster/ weather reports and see when such events are likely to happen.
As you know, you can’t quite prevent a natural disaster, so the best thing you can do is properly prepare yourself for it. Make sure you have a first-aid kit with you at all times and, if you travel over long distances, have someone you trust know your itinerary at all times.
Transportation Risks in Ethiopia: HIGH
Sometimes, unauthorized and official roadblocks can appear without warning. In case of roadblocks, make sure you listen to the local authorities and do what they say. If it’s unmanned, don’t attempt to pass it – it would be better to turn around.
There are poor driving standards, so accidents are very common and could be deadly. Traveling by car is very dangerous, so you should pay attention. The laws in Ethiopia give harsh punishments to drivers involved in car accidents. They can be forced to face custodial sentences and fines.
Accidents are happening a lot, especially in Addis Ababa. In case of unexpected situations, don’t get out of the vehicle. Stay in your car and call the authorities. Confrontation should be avoided at all costs, so do your best to wait for the police, and they will be able to resolve the problem.
Additionally, make sure that you’re not driving in rural areas after dark. Cars usually have no lights, and livestock might be on the roads.
Night-Clubs, Pubs, and Bar Risks in Ethiopia: LOW to MEDIUM
There are no reports of dangerous, crime-related incidents taking place in night-club, pubs, or bars. This means that they are either well guarded or that foreigners/ tourists don’t actually visit them. While you may be safe within such a location, you should be really careful on your way to it, as well as when you return to your accommodation.
As you leave, you may be approached by muggers or pickpocketed, especially if you leave late in the night. You should either be accompanied or have a taxi from a reputed company wait for you right outside the facility you are in. If you want to be even safer, then we recommend you rely on the bar/ club your accommodation hosts – you are only steps away from your room and you could drink as much as you want, knowing that you can go to your room when you get dizzy. However, we do not recommend consuming a lot of alcohol while you are abroad, for obvious reasons.
Just like with most abroad scenarios, so to call them, if you treat things with a bit of common sense and keep an eye out on your surroundings, you shouldn’t get into any trouble. However, being abroad also means being able to avoid pickpockets and muggers – so think twice before deciding over a route or travel location.
Health Risks in Ethiopia
Even though there are several hospitals in Addis Ababa, only the private ones come with reasonable medical care – and that for minor health problems only. The ambulance services are known to be quite limited here, as well as dentistry options. When it comes to any areas outside the capital city, the medical facilities there are in poor conditions and can provide you with little to no care/ treatment.
Therefore, it goes without saying that, if you plan any long-distance trips, you should have a first-aid kit with you. Beside the basic materials needed for tending wounds, you should also have with you a generous amount of medicine that you think you may need. As drug stores and such might be hard to find, it is better to just have the pill you may need with you at all times.
Among the diseases and illnesses that are common in Ethiopia, we mention malaria, water-borne diseases, as well as bilharzia. Moreover, the country has also been classified as having a Zika virus transmission risk that should be taken into account by all those that travel there.
Before departing, make sure that you have proper travel health insurance and enough funds with you to cover the costs of any medicine, treatment, or medical emergency transport that you may require. Make sure that, if something bad happens, you have the money and the people you can rely on to get yourself to safety, taken care of, and treated in a proper medical facility.
List of Vaccines You Need in Ethiopia
It’s essential to talk to your doctor weeks before going to Ethiopia. This area of Africa is at risk of spreading meningitis or mosquito-borne diseases. The doctor may tell you what vaccines you need before leaving to this new land.
To have some knowledge, here is a list of vaccines you may need before going to Ethiopia:
- Yellow Fever
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
Most Dangerous Areas in Ethiopia
- Yeka and Bolle hills areas, located in Addis Ababa
- The road from Addis Ababa to Djibouti – reportedly, road accidents are common on this route
- Afar Region
- 10km of the border with Eritrea
- Danakil desert area – you risk being exposed to excessive heat, difficult terrain; there are only basic facilities in the surrounding areas, with no running water, and little to no medical options.
- Amhara Region – 10km of the border with Sudan; districts of Mirab Armacho, Tsegede, Tach Armado.
Concluding Remarks: Is Ethiopia Safe to Visit?
Ethiopia is a great country, and a destination that is not chosen by so many people. Not only you get to take pictures in less mainstream places, but you’ll also have the advantage of experiencing unique things. It has its risks, as you could see in this Ethiopia safety guide. Still, with some preparation, incidents can be avoided, and your vacation will remain a beautiful memory.