Staying Smart While Getting Around: Traveling to Ethiopia on Business
Ethiopia has made big strides in the last few years, and it’s capital, Addis Ababa, is rapidly gaining importance for those looking to do business in Africa. A trend that has been highlighted by the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the African Union’s decisions to choose the city for their headquarters. Reason enough for us to feature the country in the last part of our series about tips for business travelers.
Before Getting to Ethiopia
Obtaining a visa as a tourist for Ethiopia is relatively easy. All you have to do is enter the country through Bole International Airport and be prepared to pay the fee for a one-month or three-month permit. If you want to visit the country for business purposes, however, you will need to arrange for an organization in Ethiopia to sponsor you. You can still get your business visa at the Airport, but if your sponsor has not made the necessary arrangements with the Ethiopian Main Department for Immigration & Nationality, you might run into trouble. The U.S. embassy in Ethiopia warns that in some instances, U.S. tourists and business travelers were not permitted to receive visas or were significantly delayed during the process at the airport.
The embassy also strongly encourages U.S. citizen to register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). If you do so, you’ll give the U.S. State Department a chance to contact you with the most recent travel updates regarding Ethiopia and it will be better able to assist you in case of an emergency.
Once You Are in the Country
Addis Ababa features a host of high-end business hotels as well as more modest choices, most of them in close proximity to the business district with its embassies and international headquarters. If you decide to venture out a bit, you’ll find a relatively safe travel environment as long as you take the typical precautions when roaming a big city. You might want to avoid public places where lots a jewelry is sold as those areas are havens for pick-pockets and other individuals who might be up to no good.
If you set out to dig deeper into Ethiopia’s rich history — after all the country is the place where some of the oldest evidence for anatomically modern humans have been found and also features no less than nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites — you should not travel too close to any of the border regions. Especially those shared with Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, as well as Somalia as these are considered highly unstable and dangerous for U.S. citizens. You might want to check the State Department’s travel updates for the latest on Ethiopia before you finalize your travel plans.
What Else to Look Out For
As in many countries outside the U.S., places where credit cards are accepted will be few and far between once you leave Addis Ababa’s business district. You should make sure that you have sufficient funds in the local currency, birr (ETB), on hand. Also, keep in mind that you are not allowed to bring more than $3,000 in cash into the country undeclared. You should resist any urge to buy counterfeit and pirated goods, which are widely available. These bootlegs are not only illegal in the U.S., you can also get in trouble with local laws.
When you go to Ethiopia, you might want to avoid seasons with light to heavy rains. While the country is dominated by a tropical monsoon type of climate, Addis Ababa with an elevation of 7,900 feet has a relatively mild climate year around. Going there from October to March, when it does not rain, will make your experience more pleasant nevertheless.
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