With a land area of 1,127,000 square kilometres, Ethiopia is a vast, landlocked country on the eastern side of the African continent. Kenya and Somalia lie to the south, Sudan to the west, whilst to the north and northeast, cutting off Ethiopia's access to the sea are Eritrea and Djibouti. Ethiopia includes some of the finest mountain scenery in Africa, notably in the Simien Mountains which have been designated a World Heritage Site. This highland area in the northern part of Ethiopia includes many summits over 4000 metres (13000ft.), the highest peak being Ras Deshen, at 4620 metres (15157ft.), the fourth highest mountain in Africa. Geographically, the Simien Mountains comprise several major plateaux, which are underlain by basalt lavas thousands of metres thick. It is the erosion of these lavas which has created the dramatic escarpments and freestanding pinnacles which are characteristic of the range and which are comparable in terms of spectacle to the Grand Canyon.
The time in Ethiopia is GMT + 3 hours.
The official language of Ethiopia is Amharic although there are several regional languages throughout the country. You will find that a lot of people in the cities speak some English, certainly enough for you to buy souvenirs, order in restaurants etc. In the countryside you are unlikely to find people who speak any more than just a few words of English. We do recommend that you take a pocket phrase book and learn some basics such as common greetings.
Ethiopia has a wet season from June to September and a dry season for the rest of the year. Following the wet season, the country is lush and green, with lots of flowers and growing crops. Thereafter, the country dries out progressively until the next rains. The climate of the Simien Mountains has been likened to the perfect English summer day. At altitudes of around 3000 metres (10,000 feet) and above, we can expect temperatures of around 15°C / 59°F to 20°C / 68°F, falling close to freezing point at night and with frosty mornings a possibility. In the lowlands you will find daytime temperatures of 25°C / 77°F to 35°C / 95°F.
The Ethiopian unit of currency is the birr. For up to date exchange rates visit: www.xe.com
It is not necessary to purchase local currency (Ethiopian birr) prior to travel and sterling, euros and US dollars are readily exchanged in Addis Ababa. We suggest you carry your travel money in the form of cash as it can be difficult to change travellers cheques in Addis Ababa and there are no bank ATMs currently in service. Credit cards can be used to purchase goods and services and it is a good idea to carry one in case of emergencies.
A valid passport (with at least 6 months remaining validity), and a visa are required. The easiest way to obtain your visa is on entry at Addis Aaba. You will need 2 passport photos, 20 US dollars, and will have to fill out a visa form. This facility is available to citizens of the UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, and most EU countries. Full details of visa requirements for Ethiopia will be sent with your booking confirmation.
You should attend your own doctor and dentist for a check-up. Your doctor will have access to the most up to date information on the required vaccinations for the country you are visiting. In general we recommend vaccinations against the following: Polio, Tetanus, Typhoid, & Hepatitis ‘A'. Malaria prophylaxis is not recommended for this trip.
A very good online resource is the NHS travel website at www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk
Additional Sources of Information
Guide to Ethiopia. Phillip Briggs
Ethiopia. The Bradt Travel Guide
Lonely Planet. Trekking in East Africa
In Ethiopia with a Mule. Dervla Murphy
The Sign & The Seal. Graham Hancock
Simen Mountains Trekking Map. 1.100,000. University of Berne.