How to Enter Ethiopia

Do I need a passport or visa to enter?

To avoid possible confusion or delays, travelers are strongly advised to obtain a valid Ethiopian visa at the nearest Ethiopian Embassy prior to arrival. This is a necessary step if you plan to enter Ethiopia by any land port-of-entry. For example: travelers wishing to enter Ethiopia from Kenya at the land border at Moyale must obtain an Ethiopian visa first. Ethiopian visas ARE NOT available at the border crossing point at Moyale or at any other land border in Ethiopia. Ethiopian tourist visas (one month or three month, single entry) may be available to U.S. citizens upon arrival at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa in some cases. NOTE: A Government of Ethiopia policy prevents travelers born in Eritrea, regardless of their current nationality, from receiving tourist visas at the airport. The on-arrival visa process is available only at Bole International Airport and is not available at any of the other airports in Ethiopia. The visa fee at Bole International Airport is payable in U.S. dollars. Business visas of up to three months validity can also be obtained at Bole International Airport upon arrival, but only if the traveler has a sponsoring organization in Ethiopia that has made prior arrangements for issuance through the Main Immigration Office in Addis Ababa. In some cases, U.S. tourist and business travelers have not been permitted to receive visas at Bole International Airport or have been significantly delayed.

Travelers whose entry visa expires before they depart Ethiopia must obtain a visa extension through the Main Immigration Office in Addis Ababa and pay a monthly penalty fee of $20 USD per month. Such travelers may also be required to pay a court fine of up to 4000 ETB (USD $300) before being permitted to depart Ethiopia. Court fees must be paid in Ethiopian Birr. Travelers may be detained by immigration officials and/or required to appear in immigration court, and are required to pay the penalty fee before they will be able to obtain an exit visa (USD $20, payable in dollars) permitting them to leave Ethiopia.

Business travelers or employees of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who intend to stay for 90 days or more must apply for a residence card/work permit in order to continue working and living in Ethiopia. Travelers must apply for this permit within the first 30 days of their stay in Ethiopia and must not work until this permit is approved.

Travelers should check with their sponsoring organization to ensure they have the correct documentation in place, or risk penalties, including detention, fines, and deportation. The Government of Ethiopia’s regulations also allow for similar penalties for those who assist others to reside illegally in Ethiopia.

If you plan to stay in Ethiopia for a prolonged period of time, you are advised to contact the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington prior to traveling. Some long-term visitors may be eligible to apply for a residence permit before they depart for Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Embassy is located at 3506 International Drive NW, Washington, DC 20008; telephone (202) 364-1200; fax (202) 587-0195.

Requirement: A vaccination certificate is required for travelers over one (1) year of age coming from countries with risk of Yellow Fever transmission.

Recommendation: Recommended for travelers over nine (9) months of age: All areas (including Addis Ababa) except the provinces of Afar and Somali. Daytime insect precautions are essential for unvaccinated travelers.

Not recommended except for highly risk-adverse travelers and long-term travelers: Itineraries limited to the provinces of Afar or Somali. No human or non-human primate cases of Yellow Fever have ever been reported from these areas. Data indicate that the only historical evidence for Yellow Fever virus transmission is from serosurveys conducted over 40 years ago that demonstrated very low rates of possible exposure.

CUSTOMS REQUIREMENTS: Non-residents traveling to Ethiopia must declare any/all foreign currency in excess of 3000 USD (or its equivalent). Non-residents departing Ethiopia may carry a maximum of 3000 USD (or its equivalent), unless they can produce a customs declaration, bank slip showing the purchase of foreign currency, or letter confirming that they were paid by an embassy or foreign organization in Ethiopia. Residents of Ethiopia must produce a bank slip showing the purchase of foreign currency, or customs declaration that is not more than 45 days old, in order to carry any foreign currency out of Ethiopia.

Any traveler entering or exiting Ethiopia may carry a maximum of 200 Ethiopian Birr on their person or in their luggage. Ethiopian customs rules limit the amount of precious metals or minerals imported or exported for personal use to a) 100 grams for gold and other precious metals; b) 30 grams for precious stones; c) 100 grams for semi-precious stones.

Permits are required before exporting either antiques or animal skins from Ethiopia. Antique religious artifacts, including "Ethiopian” crosses, require a permit for export. These permits can be processed by the Export Section of the Airport customs office. Even tourist souvenirs, especially crosses, may require such documentation if customs authorities deem it necessary, and/or may be confiscated by customs authorities if in excess of the allowable limit of precious metals as noted above. Animal skins must have an export permit, which can be obtained from the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority. Please also note that large Ethiopian crosses may not be taken on aircraft as hand luggage, as some airlines consider them to be potential weapons.

The ivory trade is banned in Ethiopia. Recently, travelers wearing ivory jewelry have been detained, even if the jewelry pre-dates the ivory ban. Jewelry has been confiscated and fines imposed for violating this ban.

Travelers found violating any of the above customs rules have been detained at the airport and in some cases have been sentenced to prison terms of three months or more.For the most current visa and travel information, visit the Ethiopian Embassy website or the Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority website. U.S. citizens located overseas may also inquire at the nearest Ethiopian embassy or consulate.

Special Travel Circumstances in Ethiopia

Ethiopia does not recognize dual nationality. The government of Ethiopia considers Ethiopians who have naturalized as U.S. citizens to be U.S. citizens only. Such individuals are not subject to Ethiopian military service. The Ethiopian government has stated that Ethiopian-U.S. citizens in almost all cases are given the same opportunity to invest in Ethiopia as Ethiopians. Ethiopian officials have stated that Eritrean-U.S. citizens are treated as U.S. citizens and are not subject to arrest simply because of their ties to Eritrea although, as noted above, they are not permitted to receive tourist visas at the airport. For additional information, see our dual nationality flyer.

Currency: Ethiopia is still primarily a cash economy. Dollars and some of the more popular travelers checks can be changed at the airport, and at some banks. There are some ATM machines at the major hotels and commercial centers that accept the major international credit and debit cards, although connectivity problems sometimes limit their availability. While credit cards are gaining acceptance with some hotels, travel agencies, and merchants, it is best to check ahead and ensure you have sufficient cash reserves.

Foreign currency should be exchanged in authorized banks, hotels, and other legally authorized outlets and proper receipts should be obtained for the transactions. Exchange receipts are required to convert unused Ethiopian currency back to the original foreign currency. Penalties for exchanging money on the black market range from fines to imprisonment. Credit cards are not accepted at most hotels, restaurants, shops, or other local facilities, although they are accepted at the Hilton, Sheraton, and Radisson Hotels in Addis Ababa. Some hotels and car rental companies, particularly in Addis Ababa, may require foreigners to pay in foreign currency or show a receipt for the source of foreign exchange if paying in local currency. Many hotels and establishments, however, are not permitted to accept foreign currency or may be reluctant to do so.

All travelers are permitted to carry $3,000 in foreign currency in and out of Ethiopia with proper evidence of its source. Employees of embassies and foreign organizations or individuals entering into the country through embassies or foreign organizations on temporary employment (e.g., to attend seminars, to give training) may leave the country carrying more than $3,000 in cash only when they can produce evidence that they were paid directly from a bank. Residents may carry foreign currency upon departure, but only by producing evidence that the currency was purchased from a bank, or by producing a customs declaration not more than 45 days after it was issued. Travelers can only carry up to 200 Ethiopian Birr out of the country.

Ethiopian institutions have on occasion refused to accept 1996 series U.S. currency, although official policy is that such currency should be treated as legal tender.

Residence permit: Business travelers or employees of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who intend to stay for 90 days or more must apply for a residence card/work permit in order to continue working and living in Ethiopia. Travelers must apply for this permit within the first 30 days of their stay in Ethiopia and may not work until this permit is approved.

Travelers should check with their sponsoring organization to ensure they have the correct documentation in place, or risk penalties, including detention, fines, and deportation. The Government of Ethiopia’s regulations also allow for similar penalties for those who assist others to reside illegally in Ethiopia.


You are responsible for ensuring that you meet and comply with foreign entry requirements, health requirements and that you possess the appropriate travel documents. Information provided is subject to change without notice. One should confirm content prior to traveling from other reliable sources. Information published on this website may contain errors. You travel at your own risk and no warranties or guarantees are provided by us.

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