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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Ethiopia

Ethiopia - Consular Information Sheet
August 3, 2001

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is a developing east African country comprising 11 semi-autonomous administrative regions organized loosely along major ethnic lines. A border dispute between Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea erupted in May 1998 and escalated into full- scale conflict that continued through June 2000. On December 12, 2000, a peace treaty was signed between the two countries ending the conflict. Tourism facilities in Ethiopia are minimal.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport and a valid Ethiopian visa are required to enter or transit Ethiopia. Due to animosity stemming from the recent border conflict with Eritrea, U.S. citizens of Eritrean origin who travel to Ethiopia may experience delays in processing of their visa applications, as all such applications must be cleared through the main Ethiopian immigration office in Addis Ababa, the capital. Laptop computers must be declared upon arrival and departure. Tape recorders require special customs permits. Individuals intending prolonged stays should check, prior to travel, with the Ethiopian Embassy, 3506 International Dr., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008; telephone (202) 364-1200; fax (202) 686-9857; website http://www.ethiopianembassy.org. Inquiries overseas may be made at the nearest Ethiopian embassy or consulate.

DUAL NATIONALITY: Ethiopia does not recognize dual nationality. The Ethiopian Government may not recognize the Ethiopian citizenship of those Ethiopian citizens who have become naturalized U.S. citizens. Ethiopian citizens who attempt to conceal their U.S. citizenship from Ethiopian authorities may face difficulties. For additional information, see the Dual Nationality flyer.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: Although Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a peace treaty, American citizens should exercise caution if traveling to the northern Tigray and Afar regions (within 50km/30 miles of the Ethiopian/Eritrean border) because of land mines and unsettled conditions in the border area. As a result of the tensions, the Government of Ethiopia has occasionally deported some people of Eritrean origin, including U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens of all backgrounds should stay clear of security operations and should not try to intercede with police on behalf of Eritreans or anyone else.

Armed attacks apparently targeting foreigners have occurred in Ethiopia. In 1996, bombs at the government-owned Ghion and Wabe Shabelle Hotels in Addis Ababa killed five Ethiopians and wounded numerous Ethiopians and foreigners. Elsewhere in Addis Ababa, three coordinated grenade attacks in public places in April 1997 killed one Ethiopian and injured numerous people, including several foreigners. In May 2000, a large demonstration took place in front of the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa to protest U.S. policies relating to the Eritrean/Ethiopian conflict. The demonstration required police intervention and was finally dispersed after several hours. U.S. citizens throughout Ethiopia are advised to consider carefully security implications when visiting public places such as markets, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and hotel lobbies. It is advisable to lodge at larger hotels that offer better security.

Travel to the Ogaden region of Ethiopia is considered to be very dangerous due to incidents of clan fighting, armed banditry, threats of kidnapping and violence, all which may target foreigners. Travel in this region should not be attempted. U.S. citizens should exercise particular caution in the towns of Harar and Dire Dawa. Two foreigners were killed and one wounded in daylight shooting incidents in Dire Dawa in October 1996. A February 1997 grenade attack at a hotel in Harar wounded five foreign nationals. The attacks appear to have targeted foreigners. In addition, improvised explosive devices have been used as recently as the summer of 2000 to target hotels and other facilities in Dire Dawa and Nazret. Since the mid-1990's, there have also been several clashes between various opposition elements and Government forces around Harar and in the Somali Regional State, particularly near the border with Somalia. The Awash-Mile Road has been the site of shootings, apparently by bandits, at night or in the pre-dawn hours.

In southern Ethiopia along the Kenyan border, banditry and incidents involving ethnic conflicts are common.

In western Ethiopia, the western-most tip of the Gambella Region is subject to inter-ethnic conflict and to political violence originating from Sudan. Visitors should seek current guidance from the Embassy in Addis Ababa or local officials before traveling to other areas along the Sudan border.

Travel in Ethiopia via rail is also strongly discouraged due to episodes of sabotage and derailment as recently as the summer of 2000.

CRIME: Pickpocketing and other petty crimes are prevalent in urban areas. There are occasional reports of thieves snatching jewelry. Visitors should exercise normal caution, not wear excessive jewelry or carry large sums of money, and keep wallets and other valuables where they will be less susceptible to pickpockets. Armed banditry can occur on roads outside major towns or cities and may be accompanied by violence.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The pamphlets A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa provide useful information on personal security while traveling abroad and on travel in the region. Both are available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov or from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Health facilities are extremely limited in Addis Ababa and completely inadequate outside the capital. Although physicians are generally well trained, even the best hospitals in Addis Ababa suffer from inadequate facilities, antiquated equipment and shortages of supplies (particularly medicine). Emergency assistance is limited. Travelers must bring their own supplies of prescription drugs and preventive medicines.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Ethiopia is a mountainous country in which the high altitude may cause health problems even for healthy travelers. Addis Ababa is located at an altitude of 8000 feet. Individuals may experience shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea, headaches, and inability to sleep.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international traveler's hotline at tel.: 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax: 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or by visiting the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Ethiopia is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

While travel on both paved and unpaved roads is generally considered safe, land mines and other anti-personnel devices can be encountered on isolated dirt roads that were targeted during various conflicts. Before undertaking any off-road travel, it is advisable to inquire with local authorities to ensure that the area has been cleared of mines. Excessive speed, unpredictable local driving habits, pedestrians and livestock in the roadway, and the lack of basic safety equipment on many vehicles are daily hazards on Ethiopian roads. In addition, road travel after dark outside Addis Ababa and other cities is dangerous due to broken-down vehicles left on the roads, people using the roads, stray animals, and the possibility of armed robbery in some locations. Road lighting in cities is inadequate at best and nonexistent outside of cities.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs website at http://travel.state.gov/Road_Safety.html.

AVIATION SAFETY: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Ethiopia's civil aviation authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Ethiopia's air carrier operations.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

The FAA has determined that Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa meets international standards for aviation security. There have been no hijackings of domestic or international flights since November 1996, when an Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa to Kenya was hijacked and crashed near the Comoros Islands.

The Ethiopian government has closed air routes near the border with Eritrea and has referred to the airspace as a "no-fly zone." The FAA currently prohibits U.S. aircraft and U.S. pilots from flying in Ethiopian airspace north of 12 degrees north latitude, the area along the country's northern border with Eritrea. For complete information on this flight prohibition, travelers may visit the FAA's website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/arm/sfar87.doc.

CUSTOMS RESTRICTIONS: Permits are required before either antiques or animal skins can be exported from Ethiopia. Antique religious artifacts, including "Ethiopian" crosses, require documentation from the National Museum in Addis Ababa for export. Laptop computers must be declared upon arrival and departure. Tape recorders require special customs permits.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Ethiopian laws, even unknowingly, may be arrested, imprisoned, or expelled. There are currently no agreements in place between the governments of Ethiopia and the U.S. requiring notification of the arrest of U.S. citizens. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs in Ethiopia are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

CURRENCY ISSUES: Visitors must declare foreign currency upon arrival and may be required to present this declaration when applying for an exit visa. Official and black market exchange rates are nearly the same. 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 and Sheraton Hotels in Addis Ababa. Foreigners are generally required to pay for hotel and car rental in foreign currency.

PHOTOGRAPHY RESTRICTIONS: Ethiopian law strictly prohibits the photographing of military installations, police/military personnel, industrial facilities, government buildings and infrastructure (roads, bridges, dams, airfields, etc.). Such sites are rarely clearly marked. Travel guides, police, and Ethiopian officials can advise if a particular site may be photographed. Photographing prohibited sites may result in the confiscation of film and camera.

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: In Ethiopia there is a high risk of earthquakes. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children, and international parental child abduction please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues or telephone 202-736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: U.S. citizens are encouraged to register at the U.S. Embassy and to obtain updated information on travel and security in Ethiopia. The U.S. Embassy is located at Entoto Avenue, P.O. Box 1014, in Addis Ababa, telephone: [251] (1) 550-666, extension 316/336; emergency after-hours telephone: [251] (1) 552-558; consular fax: [251] (1) 551-094; website: http://www.telecom.net.et/~usemb-et


This replaces the Consular Information Sheet of June 13, 2001 to update the section on Aviation Safety.

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