Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Three-pin plugs
are used. Even in Addis, electricity supply is irregular and
blackouts are common.
Amharic is the official language, although over 80 local
languages are also spoken. English and Arabic are widely spoken as
well as some French and Italian.
Tourist hotels and restaurants usually add a 10% service charge
to the bill. Otherwise tipping is fairly common, but only small
amounts are customary.
Visitors are cautioned to avoid all public demonstrations and
large crowds, particularly in Addis Ababa, and to keep a low
profile in public places. Travel to the Gambella region near the
southern Sudanese border, as well as to within 12 miles (20km) of
the Eritrean border in the Tigray and Afar regions (military
zones), should be avoided due to violent unrest and an unstable
security situation. The border between Eritrea and Ethiopia is
closed. Travelling to Somalia by road should also be avoided, as
well as all travel east of Harar. There have been several recent
explosions in Jijiga. Overland travel to Sudan or Kenya is
dangerous due to armed bandits, and should only be attempted in a
convoy. There is a high threat from local terrorism in the country,
and although not directed at foreigners, visitors need to be
cautious in public places. Flooding often affects Ethiopia between
June and September each year, killing hundreds of people in flash
floods in low-lying areas.
The Ethiopian Highlands are mainly Orthodox Christian and
restaurants do not serve meat dishes on Wednesdays, Fridays and
during Lent. Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar, which consists
of 13 months (12 months of 30 days, the thirteenth month has five
or six days), and in 2008 the year is 2000/2001 in Ethiopia. There
is a six-hour difference between Ethiopian time and Western time,
so 3am in Western time will be 9am Ethiopian time (add six hours to
the time). Homosexuality is illegal. Shoes should be removed before
entering mosques and churches. Photographs should not be taken of
military buildings and airports, and permission should be asked
before photographing religious festivals and people.
Etiquette is very important in Ethiopia, both socially and in
business. Formal attire is expected of men and women. Greetings are
very important and the shaking of hands is the norm for first
meetings. Ethiopians like to establish good relations with one
another and personal relationships are the cornerstone of business.
English is understood by most businessmen in Addis Ababa, as well
as some French and Italian. Ethiopians respect their elders and
visitors should show the same courtesy. Business hours are
generally 8.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday with an hour taken at
lunch, but may vary according to individual businesses.
The international dialling code for Ethiopia is +251. The
outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g.
0027 for South Africa). The area code for Addis Ababa is (0)1.
Telephone, fax and postal facilities are available in most main
towns. IDD is available. There are Internet cafes in Addis Ababa
and Internet services may be available in upmarket hotels in other
areas. A GSM 900 network is provided, but coverage is limited to
Addis Ababa and a few other parts of the country.
Travellers to Ethiopia over the age of 18 years do not have to
pay customs duty on 100 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 227g of tobacco;
1 litre of alcoholic beverages; 2 bottles or 500ml of perfume; and
gifts to the value of Br10.