Ethiopia

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Ethiopia is the second-most populous nation on the continent. It is bordered by Eritrea to the north, Djibouti to the north-east, Somalia to the east, Kenya to the south, and Sudan and South Sudan to the west.

Fact File
Population:
86 million
Time zone: GMT+3
Plugs: Three-prong square
Dialling code: +251
Currency: Birr – $1=19ETB
Language: Amharic, Oromo, Tigrinya, Guragigna, Somali, Arabic, English

Background
Ethiopia’s economy is based on agriculture, which accounts for 46% of GDP and 85% of total employment. Coffee has been a major export crop. The agricultural sector suffers from poor cultivation practices and frequent drought, but recent joint efforts by the Ethiopian government and donors have strengthened Ethiopia’s agricultural resilience, contributing to a reduction in the number of Ethiopians threatened with starvation.

The banking, insurance, and micro-credit industries are restricted to domestic investors, but Ethiopia has attracted significant foreign investment in textiles, leather, commercial agriculture and manufacturing. Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa, is one of the biggest shopping cities in Africa.

Business Travel Activity
It was no surprise to see Ethiopian Airlines grow its route network in 2013.

The airline launched four weekly services to Niamey in the Republic of Niger and introduced flights to Blantyre (Malawi), Ndola (Zambia) and Enugu (Nigeria).

Further afield, Ethiopian Airlines further extended its footprint with the launch of flights to Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, through its second hub in Lomé (Togo).

Ethiopian Airlines also adjusted its Asian network, adding three new destinations — Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), Manila (Philippines) and Seoul Incheon (South Korea). The airline decided to delink Bangkok from its Addis Ababa-Hong Kong service, with Hong Kong now being served directly from Addis Ababa instead of four weekly flights routed through Bangkok.

Ethiopia’s national carrier also became the world’s first airline to resume flying Boeing’s Dreamliner, after the aircraft was grounded for nearly three months due to lithium-ion battery problems.

In terms of partnerships, Ethiopian Airlines signed a codeshare agreement with Oman Air, for flights between Muscat and Addis Ababa, whilst Qatar Airways began flights to Addis Ababa in September.

On the hotel front, Thailand hotel operator Centara Hotels & Resorts announced that it would open its first property on the African continent in Addis in 2017.

Airport
Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport is located six kilometres south-east of the city centre. International flights depart from Terminal 2, while domestic flights leave from Terminal 1. Taxis are plentiful at the airport, and are your best bet for getting into the city. Remember to negotiate and agree a fare upfront. Major hotels can also arrange pre-booked airport shuttles.

“Business Class and Sheba Miles lounges are in Terminal 2, plus restaurants and duty free shops, although there isn’t a huge selection,” says Chris Schuitmaker, Manager: Regional Business & Partner Management Africa for HRG Rennies. “The Obelisk Lounge is also available, but you have to pay to enter. If it’s a night flight, you should arrive at the airport at least three hours before departure, as a lot of flights depart in the evening.”

Hotels
There are three internationally-branded hotels in Addis, in the form of the Hilton, the Radisson Blu and the Sheraton.

“The Sheraton I would rate as 5-star plus,” says Schuitmaker. “The Hilton has been around since the 1960s – it’s branded 5-star, but it’s an old hotel that has only undergone facelifts. The Radisson Blu is the newest 5-star hotel in the city, whilst there’s also an Intercontinental which is no relation to the international hotel brand. It ranks itself as 5-star, but I would put it as 3.5 stars. Along with the Jupiter, the Harmony is close to airport as well as the nightlife and restaurants are in the area.”

Card Acceptance
Ethiopia is still primarily a cash economy. Dollars and some of the more popular travellers’ cheques can be changed at the airport and at some banks.

There are some ATM machines at the major hotels and commercial centres that accept international credit and debit cards, although connectivity problems sometimes limit their availability. While credit cards are gaining acceptance with some hotels, travel agencies and merchants, it is best to check ahead and ensure you have sufficient cash reserves.

Visas
Except for Kenyan and Djibouti nationals, visas are required for all visitors to Ethiopia. Visitors should obtain a visa from an Ethiopian embassy or consulate before departure. It is possible for certain citizens to obtain a tourist visa on arrival – for this, visitors require two passport photographs and $20. But be prepared to wait, as applications can take up to two hours to process.

Connectivity
Ethiopia uses GSM (as in Europe/Africa), operated by Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation, and limited 3G. There is decent coverage around the cities such as Addis.

Roaming charges are expensive, so a local SIM card is recommended. 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.

Health
A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for travellers coming from countries with risk of yellow fever.

It is also highly recommended to take precautions against prevalent diseases like typhoid fever; hepatitis E and B; meningococcal meningitis; rabies and malaria.

Healthcare facilities are limited, even in the big cities. Do not drink the tap water – bottled water for drinking is available almost everywhere.

The Experience
It’s important to note that 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 six o’clock. However, airline timetables are based on the 24-hour clock and use the Gregorian calendar.

It is acceptable to bargain with the hotel owner, for they usually tend to charge ‘faranji’ (foreigner) prices at first, which are often twenty times the local rate.

If a woman is with a man, ask the man’s permission to talk to her beforehand. For a man to avoid eye contact with a woman is considered a sign of respect. If you are a foreign woman and are in public with a man, do not be upset if Ethiopian men address all questions to him. They will do this not to slight, but to show respect. This will be the case on public transport and in restaurants. Likewise, if you are a foreign man, maintaining a formal distance from women will be seen as good manners.

Contacts
www.ethiopianembassy.org

Air Travel
Air Berlin – www.airberlin.com
EgyptAir – www.egyptair.com 
Emirates – www.emirates.com
Ethiopian – www.ethiopianairlines.com (see review here)
Gulf – www.gulfair.com
Kenya Airways – www.kenya-airways.com
Qatar – www.qatarairways.com
SAA – www.flysaa.com
Saudi Arabian – www.saudiairlines.com
Singapore – www.singaporeair.com
Sudan – www.sudanair.com
Turkish – www.turkishairlines.com
Yemenia Airways – www.yemenia.com

Hotels
Addis Ababa
Addis Regency – www.addisregency.com
Addisview – www.addisviewhotel.com
Adot-Tina – www.adottinahotel.com
Ag Palace – www.agpalacehotel.com
Atlas International – atlasinternationalhotel.com
Bole Ambassador – www.boleambassadorhotel.com
Churchill – www.churchillhoteladdis.com
Damu – www.damuhotelethiopia.com
Desalegn – www.desalegnhotel.com
Dessie – www.dessiehotel.com
Destiny – www.destinyaddis.com
Dimitri – www.dimitrihotel.com
Dreamliner – www.dreamlinerhotel.com
Edna – www.ednaaddis.com
Friendship – www.friendshiphotel.com.et
Global – www.globalhotel.com.et 
Harmony – www.harmonyhotelethiopia.com
Hilton Addis Ababa – www.hilton.com
Intercontinentaladdis – www.intercontinentaladdis.com
Jupiter – www.jupiterinternationalhotel.com
Kaleb – www.kalebhotel.com
KZ – www.kzfamilyhotel.com
Lion’s Den – www.thelionsdenhotel.com
Nexus – hotel-rn.com/hw/a417362 
Radisson Blu Addis Ababa – www.radissonblu.com
Ras – www.ras-hotels.com
Ras Amba – www.hotelrasamba.com
Semien – www.semienhotel.com
Sheraton Addis – www.sheratonaddis.com
Siyonat – www.siyonathoteladdisababa.com
Taitu – www.taituhotel.com
Tizeze – www.tizezehotel.com
Wassamar – www.wassamarhotel.com

Car Rental
Avis – www.avis.com

TMC
Access-to-Africa – www.access-to-africa.com
BCD – www.bcdtravel.com
CWT – www.carlsonwagonlit.com
HRG – www.hrgworldwide.com
XL Travel – www.xltravel.co.za