Customs & Excise
Besides personal effects, a visitor may import duty-free spirits (including liquors) or wine up to one litre, perfume and toilet water up to half a litre, and 250 grams (half a pound) of tobacco (up to 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars).
If you are carrying a video camera, laptop computer, or any other pieces of sophisticated electronic equipment, it is usually entered in your passport to ensure that you take it with you when you go and do not sell it while in the country. You do not need to declare still cameras, small shortwave radios, calculators, and similar small electronic devices. Professional journalists and photographers must report to the Ministry of Information to get a permit.
Permit is given for temporary import of certain articles – such as trade samples or professional articles – which must be produced on departure or duty will have to be paid.
Visitors may import up to Ethiopia birr 10 and an unlimited amount of foreign currency, providing declaration of such currency (on the appropriate blue-coloured form) is made to Customs on arrival. This currency declaration form will be required by Customs on departure.
Permit is required for export of antiques and wildlife products from the appropriate authorities.
Drivers require a valid International Driving Licence, which can be obtained by exchanging your local licence at the Transport and Communications office on Asmara Road in Addis Ababa.
Visitors can recover their original licences a day or so prior to departure. Vehicle owners will require the necessary permit from the Ministry of Transport and Communications. Driving is on the right.
Amharic is the official language of Ethiopia, although English, Italian, French, and Arabic are widely spoken. In areas outside of the larger cities and towns, indigenous languages are likely to be spoken – of which there are 83, with some 200 dialects. The most common of these are Orominya and Tigrinya.
Nearly half of the population of Ethiopia (45 per cent) subscribes to Christianity in the form of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, while a large 35 per cent are Sunni Muslims. Eleven per cent of Ethiopians, however, still adhere to traditional beliefs. The remainder subscribe to a variety of other faiths, including Judaism. Although most of the Falashas, or Ethiopian Jews, were airlifted out of the country at the time of the civil war, it is believed there is still a small remnant population.
Ethiopia is three hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. Time remains constant throughout the year. Ethiopians calculate time in a manner similar to that of many equatorial countries – in units of 12 hours. This means that the daytime 06.00, in fact, is midday and, vice-versa, the night time 06.00 is midnight.
Being relatively close to the Equator, there is an almost constant twelve hours of daylight. In Addis Ababa, the sunrise and sunset start at around 06.30 and 18.45 respectively.
Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar, which consists of 12 months of 30 days each and a 13th month of five days (six days on leap year). The calendar is seven years and eight months behind the Western (Gregorian) calendar.
Government offices remain open from 08.30 to 12.30 and 13.30 to 17.30 Monday through Thursday, and from 08.30 to 11.30 and 13.30 to 17.30 on Friday. Government offices are closed on public holidays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Most shops are open from 09.00 to 18.00 or 20.00 from Monday through Saturday with a lunch break from 13.00 to 15.00. Some shops or businesses close on Saturdays at 13.00. A few small all-purpose shops throughout the city open on Sunday mornings.
Despite its proximity to the equator, Ethiopia’s high altitude, averaging some 2,400 metres (7,800 feet), ensures a temperate, moderate, even cool climate – certainly not tropical. The highest daytime temperatures rarely exceed an average of 21 or 22°C (70 or 71°F) and for much of the year seldom rise above 16 or 18°C (61 or 64°F). Temperatures at night can drop to a chilly lOoC (50°F) or less.
There are two rainy seasons: the irregular short rains from late January to early March, and the long rains that stretch from June until mid-September. May is the warmest month and is usually a time of bright sunny days. Daytime temperatures in January run just as high, but the nights are chillier. June, July, and August are grey, wet, and cool.