Ethiopia - Omo Valley Explorer
Ethiopia - Omo Valley Explorer
Group Tour Essentials
Most nationals, including those from the UK, EU and US require a visa for entry into Ethiopia. These These can be obtained before travel, but it is also now possible to obtain a visa on arrival for many nationalities, at a cost of $50. The embassy website also states that you should have two photos with you although a photo is taken by Immigration officials in Addis Ababa. Regulations do frequently change though, so we advise that you check the current requirements with your nearest embassy.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, valid for at least six months after the date of return to the UK. We strongly advise that your passport contains a minimum of two blank pages, as this may be a requirement of the local immigration authorities. In addition certain countries will stipulate that the two blank pages are opposite each other. If you are unable to meet these requirements you may be refused boarding by your airline or denied entry by the immigration authorities.
For specific information about the requirements for your destination please check with the country’s embassy or consulate. Alternatively UK citizens can visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice
There is currently no airport tax for Ethiopia.
Health and Immunisations
As with travel to most parts of Africa, we strongly recommend that you contact your doctor’s surgery or a specialist travel clinic for up-to-date information, advice and the necessary vaccinations. For a visit of less than one month, almost certainly you will be advised to have immunisations against the following: Diphtheria and Tetanus, Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Meningitis. Anti-malaria medication may also be required and the use of a DEET-containing insect repellent is highly recommended. Please note that the risk of malaria on our Historic Ethiopia tour is minimal – it is more significant on our Omo Valley tour.
- What should my travel insurance policy cover?
- medical and health cover for an injury or sudden illness abroad
- 24 hour emergency service and assistance
- personal liability cover in case you’re sued for causing injury or damaging property
- lost and stolen possessions cover
- cancellation and curtailment (cutting short your trip) cover
- Extra cover for activities that are commonly excluded from standard policies, such as certain sports
The policy should cover the whole time that you are away.
Your policy may also have:
- personal accident cover
Common travel insurance policy exclusions
Always check the conditions and exclusions of your policy:
- most policies will not cover drink or drug-related incidents
You must take reasonable care of your possessions or your policy will not cover you.
Please note that due to security procedures at Addis Ababa airport, access to the arrivals area may be restricted. If you do not see any one inside the terminal with an “UNDISCOVERED DESTINATIONS” placard, you should be aware that the guide will be waiting for you in the parking lot. The parking lot is located immediately in-front of the terminal, which is close to the exit. Clients need to go outside and walk towards the parking lot and the guide will be there with a placard.
The currency is the birr (ETB). For current exchange rates visit www.xe.com.
Where currency can be exchanged
It’s relatively easy to exchange money in Ethiopia – either at the airport on arrival or in one of the many banks. Sterling, Euros and US Dollars are all easy to change. However please note that smaller towns often have very limited or no exchange facilities.
Credit cards and travellers cheques
Travellers’ cheques are difficult to exchange in Ethiopia and credit cards are not widely accepted. We recommend that you bring cash but there are a growing number of ATM machines across the country. US dollars are generally the best currency to bring and are accepted in many larger establishments.
Best time to go
Most of Ethiopia is blessed with a fairly pleasant temperature year round, but like much of Africa it has wet and dry seasons. In the north most of the rain falls between June and early October, while in the Omo Valley the rains typically arrive between March and June but climate change is making the weather more difficult to predict.(The improved condition of the roads used in this area means that tours are not affected by this.) The temperature in the south, including the Omo Valley, can be quite hot, while the altitude of the north means that temperatures are typically more moderate and can be cold in the mountains at night.
Ethiopia’s official language is Amharic, although there are an incredible number of different dialects spoken by various ethnic groups. English is not that widely spoken.
Ethiopia is home to both Islam and their own brand of Christianity, Ethiopian Orthodox. Most of the Moslem population is concentrated in the east of the country. In addition to this many of the ethnic groups in the south followed traditional animistic practices.
Food and drink
Meals in Ethiopia are normally fairly simple affairs, usually consisting of some form of wat (stew), accompanied by injara, Ethiopian bread. Injara is a unique type of bread, which looks rather like a pancake and is made from tef, a type of cereal found only in Ethiopia, and is very different from any other bread you will have tried! Most dishes are meat based, and the main types of meat found here are lamb and beef. However, vegetarians need not despair – restaurants will also serve vegetarian dishes, although the choice may be limited – a common dish is shiro, which is a type of chickpea dhal and very tasty, and pasta or spaghetti dishes are also commonly available. In hotels the choice is likely to be more extensive and western dishes may also be served.
On Wednesdays and Fridays however, the tables are turned. These are traditional fasting days, and restaurants will usually only serve vegetable dishes on these days. The choice on these days is much more extensive than during the rest of the week.
A popular Ethiopian dish is kitfo, which is minced meat that has been warmed – but not cooked. This is considered a delicacy in Ethiopia, but may not suit Western stomachs!
If you have any special dietary requirements you must notify us at the time of booking. While we will make every effort to cater for you, we cannot guarantee that this will be possible.
Generally not a lot of money is needed for to cover these costs. A cup of coffee costs around $0.50, a bottle of water costs $1, and a three course meal at a typical restaurant costs around $5-6.
Our tours in Ethiopia use mini-vans and sometimes 4WD vehicles or private buses. The Historic Ethiopia tour uses mini-vans and on occasions buses may be used. In the Omo Valley it is mainly mini-vans with the occasional 4WD vehicle when required.
On our Historic Ethiopia tour we take internal flights, operated by Ethiopian Air, between some of the major towns.
Travelling in the destinations that we visit requires a good deal of understanding that often standards simply won’t be as they are at home. While we aim to make your trip as comfortable as possible, please be aware that we are often visiting remote or less developed regions that may have little infrastructure. While we aim to make your trip run as smoothly as possible there may be times when we need to ask for your patience while we rectify any problems.
What to take with you
First Aid Kit
The first thing on your list should be a first aid kit. Whilst there is no undue cause for alarm, travellers are best advised to travel well-prepared: adequately immunized, with sufficient supplies of prescription drugs, along with a medical kit.
When it comes to clothing it is usually recommended that lighter clothes are worn through the day, and warmer ones at night. A hat is also advised to be worn through the day to protect from the sun, along with at least one piece of waterproof clothing for any days that the weather may be wet or windy. If you are travelling on our Historic Ethiopia tour, we recommend that you bring a fleece for time spent in the mountains.
Footwear is a main priority on this tour. Comfortable walking shoes/boots are recommended.
Your luggage should not exceed 20kgs (44lbs). One large suitcase/rucksack, and one small hand luggage rucksack is acceptable.
Suncream/sunblock is a must. Insect repellent, including a bite spray will also be useful to have. It is advisable to take a torch, as the electricity supply can be erratic, especially in the Omo Valley
If you will be using a camera which needs film, it is recommended that a supply is taken with you, as it is not always available in Ethiopia. For those with digital cameras, we would advise you to take a spare battery if you are travelling to the Omo Valley, as recharging can sometimes be difficult.
Honey is a popular purchase in the north of Ethiopia but the containers in which it is sold are not efficiently sealed. If you are considering purchasing some you may wish to take a container with you.
This tour does not require any special degree of fitness but you will find it more enjoyable if you are reasonably fit.
Cultural and environmental guidelines
Please follow the guidelines with respect to dress and behaviour when entering churches – both men and women should dress respectfully at religious sites. You may find that some monasteries will not allow women to enter – please respect this.
You are likely to come across beggars while on tour in Ethiopia. Every traveller has different perspectives on this and ultimately the choice is up to you. Many sources recommend that you watch to see if local people give, and then follow their lead with genuine beggars. We do not recommend giving money, sweets, pens etc to children as this can encourage a begging mentality and can lead to children choosing to beg rather than go to school.
Haggling is a way of life in Africa when making many purchases, especially with tourist souvenirs. Usually, but not always, the vendor will start with a price that is higher than they are prepared to accept, and the buyer is expected to haggle. There are no hard and fast rules with this – some vendors may initially quote a vastly overinflated price, others may start with a price close to the true value, while others may just present you with one price and not be prepared to discuss it. Although many tourists may feel uncomfortable with this, it’s important to remember that this is best entered into in a relaxed manner. Once you have agreed upon a price, it is extremely bad form to then not pay this. Please also bear in mind that a small amount of money to you can be a relatively large amount for the vendor, and that it is not necessarily best practice to ‘beat the vendor down’ to the lowest possible price. Remember that they also have a living to make.
Please make sure that you take any rubbish back to the hotels with you where it can be properly disposed of – this includes cigarette butts as well.
Please do not buy any products made from endangered species – this is not sustainable and hastens the species’ decline.
You should always ask permission before taking anyone's photograph and respect their decision if they say no. In more remote areas manypeople often do not want to be photographed and you may be asked for payment in return for a photo. Taking photos of military installations, state buildings, and airports can lead to problems with local authorities. If you are unsure about whether it is acceptable to take a photo, please ask your tour leader or guide.
This is especially pertinent in the Omo Valley. Many tribes in the valley are sensitive towards photography, and will certainly request payment for each photograph taken – their way of obtaining some material benefit from your visit. This is sometimes rigorously enforced, and many visitors can feel that it has a somewhat mercenary character. However, this has become the norm in many villages and refusal to pay could result in difficulties for you and your group. Again, if you need advice on this then please ask your guide.
Tipping is common practise in Africa. If your local guide has been helpful then you could think about tipping. This amount can obviously be left to you. When tipping a driver, a guide or hotel staff a few dollars will always be gratefully received.
Foreign Office Advice
We constantly monitor the advice posted by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). In particular we will always advise clients of any travel warnings. At the time of writing the Foreign and Commonwealth Office does not advise against travel to any of the areas within Ethiopia that we visit on our tours. Please feel free to contact us should you have any specific concerns or if would like to know in detail what measures are being taken to ensure visits remain trouble free and without incident.
It should be noted that this information applies to British citizens. Other nationals are asked to check the current position of their respective government.
Public Holidays in Ethiopia:
January 7th Ethiopian Christmas
January 19th Epiphany
March 2nd Battle of Adowa
April 6th Victory Day
May 6th May Day
September 11th New Year’s Day
In addition to these are the holidays associated with Ramadan, which follow a lunar calendar and vary annually.
Dates are for guidance only and may vary year to year
Electrical supply is 220V/50 Hz and plugs usually have two round pins.
Ethiopia – The Bradt Guide
In Ethiopia with a Mule
The Barefoot Emperor
IMPORTANT NOTES – PLEASE READ
Please note that the information provided is correct at the time of writing but may change. It is intended as a guide only. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health visit www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk or contact your local healthcare provider.
In addition we strongly advise you to check the information and any travel advice provided by your government. For British citizens you should visit the Foreign Office website www.fco.gov.uk.
Furthermore, you should be aware that any travel warnings or advisories may affect the validity of your travel insurance. Therefore, at the time of booking your tour it is essential you check any restrictions on cover with your insurance provider.
Issue Date – 04/11/15 LM
For possible changes to this dossier please visit www.undiscovered-destinations.com or call +44 (0)191 296 2674