Difference between revisions of "Ethiopia"
Revision as of 23:43, 10 July 2013
Ethiopia (Amharic: ኢትዮጵያ ʾĪtyōṗṗyā) is a fascinating country in the Horn of Africa and is the second-most populous nation in this continent (after Nigeria). It's bordered by Eritrea to the north, Djibouti to the northeast, Somalia to the east, Kenya to the south, and Sudan and South Sudan to the west.
Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa and the second-oldest official Christian nation in the world after Armenia. Ethiopia is also the place for the first Hijra (615 AD) in Islamic history where the Christian king of Ethiopia accepted Muslim refugees from Mecca sent by the prophet Mohamed.
Ethiopia is one of the oldest countries in the world. In the long and disturbed history of the African continent, Ethiopia remains the only country which has never been colonised. Ethiopia was a founding member of the UN and is home to the African Union's headquarters. Herodotus the Greek historian of the fifth century B.C. describes ancient Ethiopia in his writings. The Old Testament of the Bible records the Queen of Sheba's visit to Jerusalem. In fact, historians believe that Ethiopia may well be the beginning of mankind. The fossils of the oldest living mankind or "Lucy" was discovered in the the northern section of Ethiopia. The remains of the fossil is said to be 3.5 million years old.
After a long and difficult period under communist rulers, the country is now back on its feet. The long history assures that there are many historic sites in the country. The natural beauty, with high mountains, lakes, waterfalls as well as arid deserts are among the natural attractions of Ethiopia.
Highlights in Ethiopia include the cities of Harar, Addis Ababa as well as the churches of Lalibela in the North. Rafting on the Omo River is spectacular too. Beware of crocodiles.
Ethiopia is one of the oldest independent nations in the world. It has long been an intersection between the civilizations of North Africa, the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa. Unique among African countries, Ethiopia was never colonized, maintaining its independence throughout the "Scramble for Africa", except for five years (1936-41) when it was under Italian military occupation. During this period, the Italians occupied only a few key cities and major routes, and faced continuing native resistance until they were finally defeated during the Second World War by a joint Ethiopian-British alliance. Ethiopia has long been a member of international organizations: it became a member of the League of Nations, signed the Declaration by United Nations in 1942, founded the UN headquarters in Africa, was one of the 51 original members of the UN, and is the headquarters for and one of the founding members of the former OAU and current AU. In 1974, its monarchist government was deposed, and replaced with a pro-Soviet military junta, which ruled Ethiopia for 17 years until the end of the Cold War.
Ethiopia was historically called Abyssinia, derived from the Arabic form of the Ethiosemitic name ḤBŚT, modern Habesha. In some countries, Ethiopia is still called by names cognate with "Abyssinia", e.g., Turkish Habesistan, meaning land of the Habesha people. The English name "Ethiopia" is thought to be derived from the Greek word Αἰθιοπία Aithiopia, from Αἰθίοψ Aithiops "an Ethiopian", derived from Greek terms meaning "of burnt (αιθ-) visage (ὄψ)". However, this etymology is disputed, since the Book of Aksum, a Ge'ez chronicle first composed in the 15th century, states that the name is derived from 'Ityopp'is, a son (unmentioned in the Bible) of Cush, son of Ham who according to legend founded the city of Axum.
The predominant climate type is tropical monsoon, with wide topographic-induced variation. As a highland country, Ethiopia has a climate which is generally considerably cooler than other regions at similar proximity to the Equator. Most of the country's major cities are located at elevations of around 2,000-2,500 metres (6,600-8,200 ft) above sea level, including historic capitals such as Gondar and Axum.
The modern capital, Addis Ababa, is situated in the foothills of Mount Entoto at an elevation of around 2,400 m (8,000 ft), and experiences a healthy and pleasant climate year-round. With fairly uniform year-round temperatures, the seasons in Addis Ababa are largely defined by rainfall, with a dry season from Oct-Feb, a light rainy season from Mar-May, and a heavy rainy season from Jun-Sep. The average annual rainfall is around 1200 mm (47 in). There are on average 7 hours of sunshine per day, meaning it is sunny for around 60% of the available time. The dry season is the sunniest time of the year, though even at the height of the rainy season in July and August there are still usually several hours per day of bright sunshine.
The average annual temperature in Addis Ababa is 16°C (61°F), with daily maximum temperatures averaging 20-25°C (68-77°F) throughout the year, and overnight lows averaging 5-10°C (41-50°F). A light jacket is recommended for the evenings, though many Ethiopians prefer to dress conservatively and will wear a light jacket even during the day.
Most major cities and tourist sites in Ethiopia lie at a similar elevation to Addis Ababa and have comparable climates, though in less elevated regions, particularly the lower lying regions in the east of the country, the climate can be significantly hotter and drier. The town of Dallol, in the Danakil Depression in this eastern zone, has the world's highest average annual temperature of 34°C (93°F).
High plateau with central mountain range divided by Great Rift Valley, low lands in the eastern and westernmost of the country
Time and calendar
Ethiopia uses the Ethiopian calendar, which dates back to the Coptic calendar 25 BC, and never adopted the Julian or Gregorian reforms. One Ethiopian year consists of twelve months, each lasting thirty days, plus a thirteenth month of five or six days (hence the "Thirteen Months of Sunshine" tourism slogan). The Ethiopian new year begins on September 10 or 11 (in the Gregorian calendar), and has accumulated 7-8 years lag behind the Gregorian calendar: thus, for the first nine months of 2007, the year will be 1999 according to the Ethiopian calendar. On 11 September 2007, Ethiopia celebrated New Year's Day (Enkutatesh) for 2000.
In Ethiopia, the 12-hour clock cycles do not begin at midnight and noon, but instead are offset six hours. Thus, Ethiopians refer to midnight (or noon) as 6 o'clock.
Note: Airline timetables are based on the 24-hour clock and use the Gregorian calendar.
Ethiopia is ranked with the other African countries of Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia for preserving and maintaining national parks as tourist attractions. The southern and south-western part of the country has a stunning natural beauty with a huge potential of becoming a unique resort.
All visitors to Ethiopia (except for Kenyan and Djiboutian nationals) must obtain an entry visa. Since 2002, tourists from 33 countries (listed here:  with additional information) are able to obtain entry visas upon their arrival at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, and at the airport in Dire Dawa. In July 2012, the fees for visa-upon-arrival was US$20 or EUR 17, regardless of whether one is applying for a Tourist, Business or Transit Visa. The procedure is relatively quick and painless; just look for a door with a sign "Visa" on the left hand before the immigration counters.
Those entering by land will face EXTREME DIFFICULTY in obtaining a visa at an overseas consulate (e.g. Kampala, Cairo) as there is a backwards policy (similar to how European countries treat passport holders needing Schengen visas) of not granting visas to non-residents. Obtaining a visa at Tel Aviv embassy is very easy though; it takes around 15 minutes and costs 100NIS for a 1 month visa and 150NIS for a 3 month visa. You can request a multiple entry visa at the same price if needed. Thus, the only true way to gain a visa if in Africa is by flying in, or posting your passport back to your home consulate. Be warned, that Ethiopian consulates are currently upholding this policy with no negotiation.
As of July 2012, the Ethiopian visa in Khartoum was easy to obtain for US$20 - a filled in form and 2 photos dropped in the morning was enough to get the visa on the same afternoon. These are sometimes for one month and sometimes for two, depending on the mood of the consular officials. Extending a visa in Addis Ababa is a day-long tedious process so bear it in mind if you are planning to stay for more than 4 weeks.
Ethiopian Airlines is one of the most successful and reputable airlines in Africa. Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa is the main hub for Ethiopian Airlines and also hosts Lufthansa, Sudan Airways, Kenya Airways, British Airways, KLM, Turkish Airways, Emirates, Gulf Air, Egypt Air and Fly Dubai. A new runway and international terminal, which was said to be the largest in Africa, opened in 2003.
Many hotels will offer free pickup - be sure it inquire in advance.
CAUTION: Arriving in the country without a major currency such as euros or US dollars is not recommended, especially if one has not obtained a visa prior to arrival. Travellers cheques and cash can be exchanged at the airport.
One way to get in from Sudan is via the border village of Metema.
One way to get in from Kenya is via the border town of Moyale. The road from Kenya to Ethiopia through the town of Moyale is much better and well maintained. On the Kenyan side of Moyale the road is horrible and is known for banditry so be careful and make sure you have plenty of time, at least 24 hours, to travel from Moyale to Nairobi.
There are no longer any train services to Ethiopia. Formerly there were services from Djibouti to Addis Ababa. First the services from Dire Dawa to Addis Ababa ceased, then also the services from Djibouti to Dire Dawa.
Ethiopian Airlines  is reasonably priced and has fairly comprehensive domestic services. Flights are often overbooked, so it is essential to reconfirm your tickets at least a day in advance and show up at the airport on time. If you forget to reconfirm, they will assume you aren't going to show up and may give away your seats.
Tip: Booking tickets for Ethiopian Airlines online can be very expensive when compared with booking at their office in Addis Ababa. For example, the route Addis -> Gonder -> Lallibella -> Addis was quoted online for $450 whereas at their booking office (at the Hilton in Addis) the ticket cost only $150. As of May2013 this was not the case - R/T flight from Addis/Lalibela was quite expensive at $330pp, regardless of whether you booked online or at the office in person.
There is a comprehensive network of cheap buses along the major roads, although these are slow and basic. Buses travelling shorter distances generally leave whenever they have filled up with passengers (in practice, this means once an hour or so); nearly all long-distance buses leave at dawn (06:00 Central European time, and 12:00 Ethiopian time). Buses do not travel at night; they will stop before sundown in a town or village with accommodation for the passengers, or, between Dire Dawa and Djibouti, by the roadside in the country. Between some cities (e.g. Adama and Addis Ababa), minibuses will run after the larger buses have stopped for the night. Everyone on the bus must have a seat by law -- this prevents overcrowding, but often makes it difficult to catch a bus from an intermediate point on a route. If planning to travel by bus, keep in mind that the vehicles are old and very dusty and the roads are bad. Ethiopians do not like opening the bus windows, so it gets hot and stuffy inside by afternoon. If you like fresh air, sit as close to the driver or one of the doors as possible as the driver keeps his window open and the conductor and his assistant often have the door windows open.
The bus stations usually open somewhere around 05:00. If you are catching an early morning bus, you should get to the station at 05:00. They are very chaotic first thing in the morning, and many buses will sell out of seats before they leave at 06:00. To make things easier and less stressful, you can often buy a ticket in advance. In Addis, find the correct window at the bus station the day before you wish to travel and buy your ticket there. (You will need help finding the window unless you can read Amharic, but there are usually people around who will help if you ask.) The ticket will be in Amharic, but there will be a legible bus number written on it somewhere. Simply find that bus the next morning at the bus station. In smaller cities, you can often buy your ticket from the conductor when the bus arrives from its previous trip the afternoon before you travel. Even if you already have a ticket, arrive early and claim a seat as soon as possible. If you don't have a ticket, you will have to ask people to show you the correct bus, unless you can read Amharic. In this case, don't waste time trying to buy a ticket from the window or from the bus conductor -- push your way on board the bus and claim a seat! The conductor will sell you a ticket later. Medium sized backpacks can usually be squeezed under the seats, but large packs and most luggage will have to go up on the roof. Claim your seat before you worry about your luggage. Anyone assisting you with your luggage, including the person passing it up to the conductor's assistant on the roof, will expect a small tip (around 2-3 birr).
On several routes (Addis - Dire Dawa, Bahardar - Addis) you may find informal traveler cars with no fixed departure; when looking around at a bus station you may be approached by somebody who offers you a faster connection via private car; this is more expensive than the normal bus but also much faster. You'll be handed a cell phone number to call to make an appointment. These cars may leave before sundown or travel even at night.
A good way to tour Ethiopia is by car. You can take small airplanes to expedite your tour, but you will take in more of scenery if you travel by car. Reasonable touring companies include Galaxy Express Services  NTO [www.south-expedition.com], Dinknesh  and Focus Tours Ethiopia . as well as Ethiopia Safaris and Journeys Abyssinia with Zawdu. [www.ethiopiatjazz.com]. They can take you off the beaten track so you can see the beauty and attractions of Ethiopia. Nevertheless, hiring a car is quite expensive (starting from 600-900 depending on condition and quality of model.600 Birr for cheap car with driver). But if you want a car for at least 8 persons it costs from 1000-3000 Birr per day. Prices will vary due to inflation. Drivers pass on their costs for spare parts and need to increase the price if fuel rises. A driver guide's credentials should be checked such as tourism license, insurance, engine (external and internal). Before accepting a contract, it is also a good idea to quiz the driver-guide about tourism routes via your own travel guide book (ie Lonely planet and Bradt Guide) but you must also accept that this information could be out of date. When driving to the "deep south" of Ethiopia also check the license plates, because the authorities in the south check in and log "3" plate tourism cars, take the names of the passengers and passport number. They need a letter from the tour company to show the agent is bona fide on some routes and parks. Gas comes at 21 ETB a liter. Make sure to always check how much gas is bought and to get a receipt after filling up the gas, or you might be overcharged.
There are a several highways in Ethiopia, majority of the roads in Ethiopia are in good condition:
Road 1: Addis Ababa-Asmara via Dessie and Mekelle
Road 3: Addis Ababa-Axum via Bahir Dar and Gonder
Road 4: Addis Ababa-Djibouti via Nazret (Adama), Awash and Dire Dawa
Road 5: Addis Ababa-Gambela via Alem Zena and Nekemte
Road 6: Addis Ababa-Jimma via Giyon
Road 48: Nekemte-Gambela National Park via Gambela
TAH 6 to the east: Djibouti via Dessie
TAH 6 to the west: Ndjamena via Darfur
Road conditions vary considerably around Ethiopia; some roads are smoothly sealed while others consist mostly of large stones. Accommodation is cheap and available in almost every village (although these "hotels" usually double as bars and brothels). Food and drink are also easily available. You will attract considerable attention (it is not uncommon for whole schools to empty out as the children chase you).
There are no longer any train services in Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian Railway Corporation (ERC) is building a light rail network in Addis Ababa. The project is expected to transport 20,000 passengers per day and will assist in solving Addis Ababa’s transportation problems.
In September 2010 construction commenced on a new freight rail network. The project is planned to provide a 5,000 km network, radiating from Addis Ababa.
Amharic is the first official language of Ethiopia. The language is a Semitic language related to Hebrew and Arabic, and if you know either one you'll recognize some cognates. In all parts of the country everyone speaks Amharic to some extent, no matter what their first language may be. The language is written in the Ge'ez script.
In big cities, most people under 40 speak some English. (English is the primary foreign language taught in schools.) In rural areas, find local school children to translate for you for a fee that could be next to nothing. (Ethiopians have a distinct way of speaking English. Because it is heavily accented, it might be a bit difficult to understand it at the beginning. However, when you get used to the way they pronounce some English words, it will become fairly understandable.)
Up north in Tigray, Tigrinya is the primary language, and it's also written in Ge'ez. However, Amharic is widely understood.
Go trekking in Dodolla and Bale Siemien Mountains National Park. Enjoy bird watching at the Rift Valley lakes and white water rafting on the Omo River. See the Azmari-bet(traditional dance); attend the traditional coffee ceremony.
There are many opportunities to volunteer in and around Addis Ababa. Organizations such as Love Volunteers  and Projects Abroad  offer a range of volunteer projects including teaching English, caring for children and healthcare.
The official currency is the Ethiopian birr (ETB). You are only supposed to import and export 100 birr. Usually hotel and car rental bills must be paid in cash.
€1 is about 22.30 ETB, £1 is about 27.65 ETB, and 1 US$ is about 17.66 ETB as of June 2012. Coins are valued at 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents, and banknotes come in values of 1, 5, 10, 50, and 100 birr.
As of 2012 there are many ATMs provided in all bigger cities in Ethiopia, and more to come. Finding an ATM should with other words be no problem as long as you keep to the bigger cities. Notice that Lalibela does not have an ATM yet but there is a western union office to be found. VISA is the most reliable provider in Ethiopia, few places accepts other providers.
Changing cash and travellers cheques
Any commercial bank in Ethiopia can change cash and travellers cheques. The rates are the same everywhere. There are dozens of commercial banks in Addis, including in the Sheraton and Hilton hotels, and in the corner of the baggage claim hall at the airport. Most cities and towns that tourists visit will have at least one commercial bank, except for villages in the Omo valley. U.S. dollars, euros, or British pounds are the best currencies to carry.
It is illegal to change money on the black market and the rates aren't much better than what you can get from the banks.
Dashen bank is the only bank that accepts foreign bank cards in Ethiopia. In cities like Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa (little accepted in Dire Dawa, not like Addis) the US dollar is mostly accepted. In some shops in Addis Ababa the prices will be written in ETB+US$. Some ATMs in Addis Ababa give out both U.S. dollars and birr. Most hotels in Addis Ababa accept US dollars. All airports in Ethiopia accept US dollars.
You cannot obtain US dollars in Ethiopia through legal means unless you have a flight ticket to leave the country. This means that if you need dollars (e.g. to get a Djibouti visa) and don't have a flight ticket to leave Ethiopia you will need to either change money on the black market or ensure that you have enough US dollars on you.
Ethiopia is relatively cheap for tourists, compared to other African countries.
To stay at a 5 star hotel in Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa, Nazret, Bahir Dar, Gondar and Awasa costs on average 1500 birr per night.
Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa and Adama/Nazret have the most expensive prices in the country. For example a 32 inch (81 cm) LCD TV costs around 15,000 birr. Food is also expensive if you buy it in the downtown.
You need about 400 birr per day for hotel, fuel, food, lodging and transport. In Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa you can need 600 birr per day.
The injera sits directly on a large round plate or tray and is covered with wat placed symmetrically around a central item. The various wats are eaten with other pieces of injera, which are served on a side plate. Injera is eaten with the right hand - rip a large piece of injera from the side plate and use it to pick up one of the various flavors of wat on the main platter.
Do not eat with your left hand! In Ethiopia food is a respected gift from God and eating with your left hand is a sign of disrespect.
Another popular injera dish is firfir: fried, shredded injera. It can be served with or without meat or with all sorts of veggies.
If you prefer vegetarian foods, try the shiro wat, which is a vegetable stew served with injera. Most times you have to specifically ask for it as it doesn't come with most of the combinations, as Ethiopians prefer meat.
Another popular dish is tibbs or tibs, spicy beef fried in butter. It can be either really bad (burnt to a crisp and resembling petrified wood) or juicy and delicious in more fancy restaurants. (The Holiday Hotel in Addis serves delicious tibbs).
Kitfo is minced meat, spiced with chili. You can have it raw (the locally preferred way, but there's a risk of getting tape worm), leb-leb (lightly cooked) or fully cooked. It comes with a local cheese ayeb and a spinach.
For the pickier traveler, almost every place in Ethiopia also serves spaghetti (thanks to the short lived Italian occupation). In nice restaurants in Addis you can find excellent spaghetti and lasagna (try the Blue Tops or Top View restaurants), and in the more peripheral places you will usually find it overcooked with bland tomato paste as sauce.
The coffee ceremony involves drinking a minimum of three cups of coffee and eating popcorn. It is a special honor, or mark of respect to be invited into somebody's home for the coffee ceremony.
In preparation for the ceremony the coffee beans are roasted in a flat pan over charcoal. The beans are then ground using pestle and mortar. The coffee is brewed with water in a clay coffee pot and is considered ready when it starts to boil. Coffee in Ethiopia is served black with sugar.
Tej is a honey wine, similar to mead, that is frequently drunk in bars, in particular, in a tejbeit (tej bar).
A variety of Ethiopian beers are available, all of which are quite drinkable; also Ethiopian wines, both red and white, which would not win any prizes but are drinkable.
There is a wide range of accommodation in Ethiopia. There is a luxurious Sheraton hotel in Addis Ababa. You can also find a "hotel" that is nothing more than a small room with a tiny bed, and no running water, in the border town of Moyale.
Staying in tourist areas generally results in a broader range of choices, but watch out for tourist prices. It is acceptable to bargain with the hotel owner, for they usually tend to charge you "faranji" (foreigner) prices at first, which are often twenty times the local rate. You won't be able to bargain down to local prices (close to nothing) but you can bargain down a lot. This is not true at the government run "Ghion" chain, and the fancier private chains as well, where prices for foreigners are fixed. (Bekale Mola, for example).
Addis: Addis is full of cheap hotels. Most tourists stay in the piazza area, where there are many hotels ranging from very cheap to moderately cheap. Except for the cheapest, most of them have running hot water, and are fairly clean. Park Hotel starts at 20 birr a single and 30 birr a double. Two big ones are Taitu hotel and Wutma hotel. The two biggest hotels in Addis are the Sheraton, referred to by expats as "The Sheza", and the Hilton. Both are enormous and very expensive. Both have swimming pools, good restaurants, souvenir shops and bakeries: the rooms are comfortable. If you cannot afford these two hotels, visit them and chat up the expats (especially at lunch time when they take their break by the pool) and if your accommodation needs to be improved, they might be able to help out. You might also catch a glimpse of a rich or famous celebrity or high powered world politician, who is in Addis to do some charity work or to deal with some sort of African politics. To escape from the busy capital, many foreign residents escape now in the weekend to Debre Zeit, at only 50 km. With 7 craterlakes and a nice climat, by which you can sit outside, day and night, the whole year, Debre Zeit gets the place to be. The new highway from the Addis will link Debre Zeit in 25 minutes. Most scenic are Babogaya Lake and the Green crater Lake. At Babogaya Lake, Viewpoint Lodge offers an amazing view, very good value, and the lake water is used for swimming by many people. Green crater lake, behind the militairy airport, offers a deep hole of 150 m, in which you can go down.
In the north, in every city (Axum, Lalibella, Bahir Dar, Gondar) one can find hotels, from overpriced ones such as the government-run Ghion chain hotels to cheaper ones. Smaller places on the major roads offer cheap places if you do not mind the most basic rooms. A tourist town like Debark that serves for trekking the Simien Mountains also offers a range of rooms, with the most popular being the Simien Park Hotel (25/30 birr), where you could also pitch a tent for 20. It meets the normal standards for food, electricity, water, cleanliness and hygiene.
In the south, all the cities (Shashemane, Wondo Genet, Awasa, Arba Minch, Jinka...) have decent, cheap hotels. The most basic rooms start at 15 birr for a single and 20 birr for a double. Many of them don't have hot water and electricity all hours of the day, so you should schedule time for a shower in advance. There are also three fairly expensive resort hotels on the shore of Lake Langano. In the smaller villages in and around the Omo valley (Weyto, Turmi, Key Afar, Dimeka, Konso, etc.) there are usually few (very basic) or no hotels, but if you are travelling through the valley to see the tribes, there is always a campground or a restaurant that offers beds. If you camp out at one of these villages, you should hire a guard to watch over your stuff overnight.
These are some colleges and universities in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia has one of the lowest unemployment rate in Africa. The unemployment rate is 5% (2005).  Notice that the average income is about 120 US-dollar/month per inhabitant.
The country's economy is based on agriculture. 69% of the people lead an agrarian lifestyle (CCO). However, in the big cities, especially in Addis-Ababa,
There are many opportunities to volunteer in and around Addis Ababa. Organizations such as Love Volunteers  and Projects Abroad  offer a range of volunteer projects including teaching English, caring for children and healthcare.
Be careful of the food you eat, and don't stay in the sun too long. If you get sick, go to one of the big private hospitals, eg, Korean, Hayat, St Gabriels.
Do not drink tap water. Bottled water for drinking is available almost everywhere in small, medium and big bottles. Addis tap water is better than in many other cities, but even there hotels generally recommend guests not to drink it, nor to eat salads and uncooked foodstuffs that are commonly washed in tap water. Make sure you drink enough water, especially when the weather is hot.
Consult a doctor before going to Ethiopia and stock up on prescription drugs you require. The risk of malaria is low in the capital and the highlands, but high in the lake regions and lowlands. Doxycycline for malaria prevention is cheap in Addis.
The country code for calling Ethiopia is 251. The Ethiopian dialing plan changed on September 17, 2005, such that the two-digit city code changed to three digits (or, from outside the country, one to two digits) and six-digit telephone numbers changed to seven digits. The city code for Addis Ababa, as of 17 Sep 2005, is 011 (or 11 from outside Ethiopia). An on-line telephone number converter, which will convert an old number to the new number, is available here: .
Ethiopia uses GSM (as in Europe/Africa), operated by Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC) and limited 3G. Currently there are decent coverage around big cities such as Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa, Adama, Bahir Dar, Awasa, Harar, Dese, Gonder, Mekele, and Nekemete. It is expanding into small cities. For all travelers, having a mobile phone is a must. It is cheap and easily available.
There are only few stores rent SIM cards: you can rent SIM card and phone inside Addis Ababa Sheraton hotel but is it very expensive. Your best option is to a rent SIM card and mobile phone from a local store. You can also buy a SIM card from many local stores (try anywhere that sells phones). You will have to give the seller a copy of your passport ID page, 2 passport style pictures, and 40 birr (as of 20/03/2010). You'll have to sign an agreement that you will not commit any crimes with your phone. All local stores will have calling cards you can purchase to call internationally. Other places to rent SIM cards or phones include ArifMobile which offers additional services with their SIMs.
Roaming charges are very steep. For a short visit, your best option for mobile access is to rent a SIM card with a phone . While roaming arrangements are said to be in place in practice you may find it impossible to get a connection that works reliably, or at all.
There are numerous internet cafes in Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa, Nazret, Bahir Dar, Gonder, Awasa and other cities. In Addis Ababa, connection speeds are more than adequate for performing tasks such as checking e-mail most of the time. A typical internet cafe will have a dozen computers using one broadband (usually starts from 128kbps) connection. Ethiopia's international connection is unstable: On bad days, even a broadband connection will only deliver dial-up speed, because the whole country's traffic is running via an undersized backup satellite connection.
To use the internet costs between 25-35 Ethiopian cents/per min in the bigger cities but outside the cities it usually costs more than 1 birr/per minutes.
Most of the computers have USB, so maybe you'll be interested in using a portable e-mail program (like Thunderbird portable) from an usb-stick. Take care of computer viruses! Most computers or flash disks in use are infected.
Outside of bigger towns, it is harder to find a working Internet connection and the charge per minute is often much higher than in bigger towns.
Ethiopia is currently in the process of deploying an internet filter, to access blocked sites, use a VPN or use the free, open-source TOR Project. Following an international outcry, a new law that appeared to ban the use of Skype and other VOIP services has been replaced. Personal use of VoIP services such as Skype has been legalised as of July 2012.
Ethiopia has one of the most efficient postal services in Africa. Many attribute this success to the extensive network of Ethiopian Airlines. However, mail does not get delivered to your address. You are required to buy a post office box. Once you get a post office box, the flow of your mail will be consistent. Post cards to Europe are at 2 ETB; North America 5 ETB. (2007)