a waterfall in the middle of a lush green valley
statue of man with wings
aerial photography of mountain

Is Ethiopia Safe?

Ethiopia has a heightened risk of civil unrest and ethnic violence, especially in border regions. Petty crime is common in cities, so remain vigilant. Terrorism is an ongoing threat, particularly in the Somali region. Health risks include insect-borne diseases like malaria, poor medical facilities outside Addis Ababa, and high air pollution levels. Adhere to cultural norms regarding dress and public conduct to avoid offense.

Download Vigilios

Your Pocket-Sized Travel Safety Guide

A phone displaying the Vigilios app and it's safety features.
App Store

Safety & Security

Ethiopia is generally considered safe for travelers, but there are some risks to be aware of. Petty crime like bag snatching and pickpocketing occurs in crowded areas, especially in Addis Ababa. Violent crime rates are relatively low, but robberies and disputes can happen. Scams targeting tourists are also common, so remain vigilant.

  • Civil Unrest: Ethnic tensions and anti-government protests have led to civil unrest and violence in some regions, particularly in Oromia and Amhara. Avoid protests and large gatherings.

  • Terrorism: While the risk is low, terrorist attacks by groups like Al-Shabaab cannot be ruled out, especially in border areas with Somalia, Sudan, and Eritrea.

  • Robbery: Armed robberies along roads in the Afar and Somali regions pose risks. Avoid remote areas and travel with a reputable tour company.

  • Disputes: Disputes over land and resources sometimes turn violent, particularly in Gambella and the Somali region. Avoid getting involved in local conflicts.

  • Scams: Common scams include taxi overcharging, fake tour guides, and people posing as officials demanding bribes. Only use registered taxis and guides.

Remain vigilant, avoid protests and isolated areas, and follow the advice of local authorities to minimize risks during your visit to Ethiopia.

Health & Medical

Travelers to Ethiopia should be aware of potential health risks and take necessary precautions. While the country has made progress in improving healthcare, medical facilities may be limited, especially in rural areas.

  • Vaccinations: Ensure routine vaccinations are up-to-date, and consider additional vaccines like hepatitis A, typhoid, and yellow fever, depending on your travel plans.
  • Malaria: Malaria is a risk in many parts of Ethiopia. Consult a healthcare provider about antimalarial medication and preventive measures.
  • Water and Food Safety: Drink only bottled or purified water and avoid undercooked or raw foods to prevent waterborne and foodborne illnesses.
  • Air Pollution: Major cities like Addis Ababa experience high levels of air pollution, which can exacerbate respiratory conditions.
  • Altitude Sickness: Many parts of Ethiopia are at high altitudes, increasing the risk of altitude sickness. Acclimatize properly and stay hydrated.

It's advisable to purchase comprehensive travel insurance, carry a medical kit, and research the nearest quality medical facilities at your destination. Exercising caution and seeking medical advice before and during your trip can help mitigate health risks in Ethiopia.

Natural Disasters

Ethiopia is prone to several natural disasters that travelers should be aware of. Droughts are a recurring issue, particularly in the lowland regions, which can lead to food and water shortages. Flooding is also a risk during the rainy seasons, especially in areas near rivers and lakes.

  • Earthquakes occur occasionally, with the potential for significant damage in urban areas. The country lies along the East African Rift Valley, an active seismic zone.
  • Volcanic Activity is another concern, as Ethiopia has several active volcanoes, including Erta Ale in the Afar region, which is one of the world's few permanent lava lakes.
  • Landslides and Mudslides can occur during heavy rains, particularly in mountainous areas or regions with deforestation.

While the risk of natural disasters cannot be eliminated, travelers should stay informed about current conditions, follow advice from local authorities, and consider travel insurance that covers natural disasters. Exercising caution and being prepared can help mitigate potential risks.


Transportation in Ethiopia can be challenging for travelers. While major cities have public transportation options like buses and taxis, services are often unreliable and road safety standards are lacking.

  • Road Conditions: Many roads, especially in rural areas, are poorly maintained and lack proper signage or lighting. Potholes, debris, and wandering livestock pose hazards.

  • Driving Culture: Aggressive driving, disregard for traffic laws, and overloaded vehicles are common. Pedestrians and animals frequently share the roads with vehicles.

  • Public Transportation: City buses are overcrowded and schedules are erratic. Taxis are readily available in cities but may lack proper licensing or insurance. Negotiate fares in advance.

  • Long-Distance Travel: For travel between cities, tourist shuttle services or domestic flights are generally safer options than public buses or trains. However, domestic air travel can be subject to delays or cancellations.

  • Self-Driving: Renting a vehicle with a driver is advisable, as navigating roads and traffic patterns can be difficult for foreign travelers. Ensure rental companies are reputable.

Exercising heightened caution, allowing ample travel time, and utilizing private transportation services can help mitigate risks when getting around Ethiopia.

Cultural Norms

Ethiopia is a country with a rich cultural heritage and diverse ethnic groups. Respecting local customs and traditions is essential for travelers to have a rewarding experience. Here are some important tips:

  • Dress Modestly: Ethiopians are generally conservative in their dress. Avoid revealing clothing, especially when visiting religious sites or rural areas. Cover your shoulders and knees.

  • Greetings: Handshakes are common, but avoid using your left hand as it is considered impolite. Greet elders and those in authority with respect.

  • Religious Sensitivity: Ethiopia has a significant Christian and Muslim population. Respect religious practices, avoid public displays of affection, and seek permission before entering places of worship or taking photographs.

  • Hospitality: Ethiopians are known for their hospitality. Accept offers of food or drink graciously, even if you cannot finish it.

  • Photography: Ask for permission before taking photographs of people, especially in rural areas or religious sites.

  • Gestures: Avoid pointing with your finger or making gestures that could be considered offensive.

  • Local Customs: Observe local customs, such as removing shoes before entering homes or religious sites, and respecting elders and authority figures.

Embracing and respecting Ethiopia's rich cultural heritage will not only enhance your travel experience but also foster understanding and goodwill between visitors and locals.

Emergency Services

Emergency services in Ethiopia can be limited and unreliable, especially outside major cities. Travelers should exercise caution and be prepared for potential delays or lack of adequate medical care.

  • Ambulance Services are generally understaffed and ill-equipped, with response times often being slow, particularly in rural areas.

  • Police and Fire Services may also have limited resources and capabilities, especially in remote regions. Response times can be lengthy, and services may not meet Western standards.

  • Medical Facilities in major cities like Addis Ababa offer better care, but facilities in rural areas are often basic and lacking in resources. Many travelers opt for medical evacuation to neighboring countries in case of serious illness or injury.

  • Tourist Police units exist in some areas frequented by visitors, but their presence is limited. Travelers should not solely rely on these services for assistance.

  • Travel Insurance with emergency medical evacuation coverage is highly recommended, as quality medical care may require leaving the country.

Frequently Asked Questions

A colorful illustration with three people and the letters "FAQ" representing a Frequently Asked Questions section

Is Ethiopia safe for tourists?

Ethiopia is generally safe for tourists, but caution is advised. Avoid border areas, protests, and travel at night. Petty crime occurs in cities. Register with your embassy, use authorized guides and drivers, and stay alert.

Is Ethiopia safe for solo female travelers?

Solo female travelers should exercise caution in Ethiopia. Dress modestly, avoid isolated areas, and don't walk alone at night. Harassment may occur. Arrange trusted guides and drivers. Follow your instincts and be aware of your surroundings.

Is Ethiopia safe for families?

Ethiopia is a family-friendly destination with a rich culture. However, be cautious with food and water for children. Avoid remote areas and protests. Arrange trusted guides and drivers. Bring necessary medications and baby supplies.

Is Ethiopia LGBTQ+ friendly?

Same-sex relationships are illegal in Ethiopia. The LGBTQ+ community faces discrimination and stigma. Public displays of affection may lead to harassment or arrest. Exercise caution and discretion. Same-sex marriage is not recognized.

Do you need a visa to go to Ethiopia?

Most visitors require a visa to enter Ethiopia. U.S., Canadian, and EU citizens can obtain a tourist visa on arrival or e-visa. Visa-free travel is limited to a few countries. A valid passport is mandatory.

Can you drink tap water in Ethiopia?

Tap water is not safe to drink in Ethiopia. Drink only bottled or purified water. Avoid ice cubes and raw foods washed with tap water. Bottled water is widely available and affordable.

What is the currency in Ethiopia?

The official currency in Ethiopia is the Ethiopian Birr (ETB). Credit cards are accepted in major cities and hotels, but cash is preferred. ATMs are available but may be unreliable. Carry cash in small denominations.

Download the App

Map, Insights & Support - Vigilios is your Personal Safety Companion

A phone displaying the Vigilios app and it's safety features.
App Store QR LinkApp Store
Google Play QR Link
Coming soon to Android
Google Play