What to know before travelling to Ethiopia

Travelling can be daunting when you don’t know what to expect. Especially when you are a female solo traveller, you care a lot about safety. Another essential piece of information is local currency and way of transportation. Read further to find out more before your travel to Ethiopia.

SAFETY in Ethiopia

Let’s start with safety. I had read a lot about safety before my travel. All information I found said that Ethiopia is one of the safest countries in Africa for solo travellers. Of course, like everywhere else, you have to behave reasonably and don’t go to the dark and empty alleys when it’s dark outside. Well, use common sense.

It is safe to walk on the streets alone. When a man tried to approach me and say how beautiful I was, I smiled or said thank you and walked away. They even stopped at my table as I was enjoying my food and handed me their phone numbers with a short note. Luckily, it ends there. If they see you are not interested, they are not pushy.

During my whole trip, I felt very safe.

What to pack

The list of what to pack for the trip can be endless. Here is my list of items I packed with me when I went to Ethiopia.

Bottle of water

Always carry a bottle of water. It is not recommended to drink tap water unless you want to ruin your vacation and spend your time on the toilet. The weather is always hot, and it is vital to stay hydrated. I always add one or two bottles of water to my backpack. I never know when I will be able to find a supermarket where I can buy some.

Mosquito net and mosquito spray

Malaria is widely spread in Africa, and Ethiopia is not an exception. All places I stayed in Ethiopia had a hook above the bed, where I could hang my mosquito net and sleep peacefully. I bought my net on Amazon.

While I was travelling, every time before I left my room, I always sprayed my clothes. Even if the temperature is high, I planned to visit some old houses where I expected some mosquitoes. Old and dark rooms are good hiding places for them. My favourite one is in the picture below.

sunscreen and mosquito spray


I always carry sunscreen with SFP 40+ for my face in my bag and apply it regularly when outside. It is important to check if it covers both UV-A and UV-B rays. However, I had trouble finding sunscreen in winter months, so I recommend planning ahead and buying them either online or several weeks before your travel.

Scarf or hat

Don’t forget to cover your head when you are outside. I have dark hair, so I must carry a hat or a scarf. The scarf can be handy when attending a service in Lalibela. I bought my white scarf there before I went to the morning mass.

Medicine and first aid

Don’t forget to pack your medicine. As there is no vaccine against malaria, and I wanted to visit coffee plantations in several regions, hence I decided to take the pills. On top of it, I packed medicine for upset stomach and diarrhoea.

Keeping all my medicine and first aid kit in a small bag is useful. I can grab it and put it into my luggage no matter where I go. I keep there:

  • Dettol spay to clear skin if it breaks
  • Lemsip, Strepsils and Otrivine spay in case I catch a flu or a cold
  • Smecta and diarrhoea tablets in case I eat or drink something I shouldn’t
  • gauze and bandages
My first aid kit
My first aid kit


A yellow fever vaccination certificate is a must for all travellers. The border force checked every passenger to see if they had it. Otherwise, they wouldn’t let us into the country.

The British NHS recommends considering Diphtheria; Hepatitis A; Poliomyelitis; Tetanus vaccines. Each country has its recommendation list, so check it with your health authority.

BIRR – Ethiopian Currency

It is impossible to find Ethiopian birr outside their country. I was told that there is a fine if tourists carry Ethiopian birrs outside the country.
ATM – yes, they exist, but it often happens that they are out of service, so many sure you always carry enough cash on you. Do you want to pay by card? Dream on, it’s possible only in the hotels, and only if their card terminals work. It happened to me that it didn’t work, and I had to pay in cash, and their ATM was not working at that time. Fun times, haha.

Birr – Ethipian currency


Ethiopian Airlines offer travellers, who fly into the country with them, a special discount for national flights. I found it faster and safer than taking a bus from one city to another. However, there are some disadvantages:
– they fly only to a few cities,
– sometimes the airport is pretty far from the city itself. It is better to check with your host/hotel where you stay, and ask if they offer a pickup service from/to the airport.

Tuk-tuks and taxis are popular in the cities and easy to use. It is always good to haggle about the price. When they see foreigners, they always increase the price. And for the more adventurous, there are wagons with donkeys or oxen. Don’t expect many cars. They are costly, and only a few people can afford them.

Various ways how to commute in Ethiopia

Coffee – buna

Ethiopians love coffee (buna) and drink it throughout the day. Only women prepare coffee, but in some cases, it can also be served by men. Coffee is served everywhere – in the coffee shops, on the street, in front of the restaurant or under the tree in the middle of a roundabout. It can cost from 3 birrs (0,05 GBP/0,06 EURO) to 20 birrs (0,35 GBP/0,38 EURO) or even more, depending on where you drink it and how friendly the staff is.

Ethiopians love their coffee and never drink it alone—the more, the merrier. It doesn’t matter that they don’t speak English, coffee is a common language in Ethiopia. More about coffee and coffee plantations in Ethiopia is in this blogpost.

Coffee drinking on the streets in Ethiopia
Coffee drinking on the streets

Like the article? Pin it!

Other blogposts about Ethiopia

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Like what you read? Sign up to the newsletter.