Is Ethiopia Safe for Travel? Safety tips and some areas to avoid

Ethiopia is one of the African countries whose long history and culture compares favorably with that Ancient Egypt. Unlike Egypt, Ethiopia managed to resist colonization and thus still holds a very distinct and unchanged language, culture, and cuisine.

lalibela rock church Ethiopia

Whether you want to explore its beautiful landscapes, the culture or just to have a fresh cup of coffee from the birthplace of coffee, Ethiopia has so many incredible things to surprise you and make your trip life-changing.

Before you can go, you - like many others might have questions on safety. Is Ethiopia safe or dangerous to visit? Well, that is what we are looking at in this article.

Is Ethiopia Safe to visit

With the exception of border regions, Ethiopia is relatively safe for travelers who want to visit. Because of internal tribal rivalries, Ethiopia's internal safety situation rarely stabilizes for a prolonged period. It is advisable that you keep a keen eye on what is happening - through the news.

As of writing this (March 2021), there is still violence in the Tigray region that borders Eritrea. This fight between the central government in Adis Ababa and the region has been going on since November of 2020. This has of course affected so many people and made the whole region unsafe for visitors.

While this conflict is ongoing, you obviously should keep your travel to the other areas that are not having any conflict. 

To give some comparison, the 2019 Global Peace Index ranks Ethiopia higher than the Philippines and India. Equally impressive is the fact that Ethiopia's tourism revenues have grown from 1.18 Billion USD in 2008 to 3.54 Billion USD in 2018.

These numbers go to illustrate that tourism is happening and people are welcoming, but events like the above mentioned mean you have to keep up and be ready to adjust your itinerary.

Is Ethiopia Safe for Solo Female Travelers

While Ethiopia's politics make anyone slightly nervous, most of the visitors who go there come back with heaps of praise. That being said, the number of solo female traveller going to Ethiopia is not big.

Many solo female travellers who have visited Ethiopia say that the place is safe as long as you follow some simple common-sense tips of travelling alone to a  foreign country. Here are some things to take note of.

The dress code is conservative because Ethiopians are highly religious people. You will hardly see anyone with clothing that goes above the knee. This applies to men as well. To avoid standing out, carry longer clothing.

As a solo female, you will get some attention from the males.This is pretty common in many African countries. Expressing your disinterest is always enough for people to respectfully leave you alone.

Besides these 2 points, the rest cuts across for all males and females. Common sense for safety especially against scams, bad areas and such.

Is Ethiopia Safe for LGBTQ+

Like many parts of Africa, Ethiopia's law doesn't recognize or protect the rights of LGBT persons. This means that it might not be the easiest place for  a destination wedding or honeymoon.

Given that one's sexuality is not a requirement before entry, one could still visit Ethiopia since the person's sexuality is their private business. This means that public displays of Affection (PDA) are not advised, but that ring true even for heterosexual relationships since the people are deeply religious.

Your can find a trustworthy and openminded tour operator who will help you plan and enjoy your trip, worry-free.

Parts of Ethiopia to Avoid

As mentioned Ethiopia's border areas are not very stable and you should generally stay from the border areas. According to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) of the United Kingdom, these are the areas where you should avoid all travel to.

  1. The Whole of Tigray regional state & with 30km of the borders with Amhara and Afar.
  2. The Nogob, Jarar, Shabelle, Korahe, and Dollo zones near the border with Somalia
  3. With 10km of the borders with Kenya, South Sudan, and Sudan
  4. The 4 districts of the Nuer zone and the Jore woreda of the Agnuak zone in the Gambella region
  5. West of Wollega zone, and Nekemte town in East Wollega in the Oromia region.
  6. The Pawe, Guba, Dangur, Dibati, Bulen woderas (districts) in the Benishagil Gumuz region
fco ethiopia travel advice map

Read the FCDO article on Ethiopia - especially if you are from the UK and follow up for their regular updates.

Ethiopia Safety Tips

While in Ethiopia, keep some of these safety tips in mind. They are some common-sense tips to keep you safe, healthy, and focused on your trip.

  • Avoid areas that are experiencing a period of internal conflict by keeping up to date with the news
  • Don't be flashy with your valuables, and leave expensive jewelry at home or hotel safe.
  • Avoid large crowds of protestors, and they could get broken down with armed force.
  • Carry a copy of your travel documents and leave the originals at the hotels
  • Follow the advice of your guide
  • Carry sunscreen to protect against the hot sun
  • Carry your regular medication - with advice from your doctor
  • Consult your doctor about anti-malarial drugs, and other vaccinations.
  • Be careful with street food - especially if your stomach is tender.

Final Thoughts.

While Ethiopia's political situation is very unstable and likely to deter you from visiting this place who culture has stayed untouched by time for centuries, we do think that the country is a wonderful destination.

The fact that you have to avoid some areas and keep watch of the current events isn't very ideal for many people. However, if you can plan your holiday with a trusted tour operator, and plan some flexibility, you will defintely enjoy the birthplace of coffee and rock-hewn churches.

Since security is a situation that is always changing, we'll keep an eye out for those breaking events - while hoping for a good turn. We'll keep this article up to date, as much as we can but don't be afraid to reach out and ask us.