As tourism grows in Ethiopia and more and more international travelers are attracted to the African nation because of its natural wonders and archaeological sites, Ethiopia is experiencing the largest tourism economy growth in the world.
And it’s not by chance. The government has implemented a series of measures to make the country more welcoming and accommodating for foreigners — including the online visa that can be applied for online in just a few minutes.
Many decide to come to Ethiopia traveling solo, others bring their families or partner along. Either way, international tourists always worry about safety and security before making any travel plans.
On this page, you’ll find important information for tourists regarding:
- Safety and crime in Ethiopia
- Traveling solo to the country as a female traveler
- Safety advice for Ethiopia.
Is Ethiopia Safe?
Whether they apply for an Ethiopian visa for a 5-star experience in a luxury resort, trekking in the Ethiopian nature, or volunteering during their holidays, the number 1 priority of tourists is and always should be safety.
Ethiopia is overall a very safe country, in fact, one of the safest in the area. Violent and serious crime rates are much lower than in neighboring countries and these offences are extremely rarely committed against foreigners.
Even petty crime like pickpocketing and scams against tourists are very rare outside the capital Addis Ababa and can be easily avoided by taking standard safety measures.
Ethiopia is politically stable — it’s very unlikely that you will witness protests or civil unrest. In general, there are just a few remote regions that may experience the occasional trouble, and these are far from the areas frequented by tourists. Areas that you might want to avoid are border regions and the Ogaden region.
What Should I Watch Out for while in Ethiopia?
Again, international travelers usually spend time in Ethiopia without an issue. The following are annoyances that some tourists may experience, but that are also decreasing in frequency:
- Faranji fenzi. This is a particular form of bullying carried out by children — sometimes, against tourists. Kids will start chanting ‘you, you, you’ while they stare at their victim. Ignoring it and treating it with humour are the best way to ensure it doesn’t affect you.
- Scams. These are very rare and usually easy to recognize, like the classic ‘notebook scam’ (a child asks a foreigner to buy them pens and books for school. As soon as the tourist leaves, the stationary is taken back to the shop and exchanged for money). Some people may approach you asking for sponsorship to travel abroad for their studies or medical care. Although most stories are untrue, some are real. Treating everyone with respect is the best move.
- Self-appointed guides. People who are experiencing unemployment and financial hardship may approach you to act as a self-appointed or unofficial guide. Usually, they wait for tourists at bus stations, walk with them for a while and give them information and travel tips that were not asked for. They will then proceed to charge the tourist. If someone you don’t know approaches you, simply keep calm and refuse politely but firmly.
- Pickpocketing. Theft and pickpocketing mostly occur in crowded areas of Addis Ababa and other major towns. Keep an eye on your belongings at all times, don’t wear flashy jewelry and other valuables and refuse is someone offers you to take care of your bag at a bus station.
Is Ethiopia Safe for Female Travelers?
Female tourists usually feel safe on Ethiopian streets, even when traveling alone. Foreigners usually have no issues walking alone (even in the evening) and taking public transport.
Solo Western travelers may attract the attention of local young men, who usually try to start a conversation with them by calling them ‘sister’. However, they easily desist and the best way to avoid the annoyance is just to ignore them.
Ethiopian women in the capital and major urban centers wear all sorts of clothing. You’ll find designer and catwalk clothes alongside traditional Ethiopian dresses and it will be pretty easy to blend in.
In rural areas, the dress code tends to be more conservative and it may be preferable to wear knee-length skirts to avoid unwanted attention.
Ethiopia Safety Travel Advice for Foreigners
There’s no specific travel advice for tourists visiting Ethiopia that doesn’t apply to other tourist destinations too. In general, try to follow common sense and by just taking a few steps, you’ll be able to enjoy your Ethiopian holiday hassle-free.
Here is the Ethiopia travel advice issued by the US Department of State:
- Monitor local media for breaking events and be prepared to adjust your plans
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Stay alert in crowded places
- Carry a copy of your passport and tourist visa and leave the originals in your hotel safe
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Review the Crime and Safety Report for Ethiopia.
- U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations.