Archive for the ‘visas’ Category

Thanks to Pawel for the following important news (which I have expanded slightly)

It is no longer possible to get an Ethiopian visa in Somaliland. The Ethiopian representative office in Hargeisa is not issuing them anymore. So if you plan on visiting Somaliland from Ethiopia, you either need a multiple-entry visa for Ethiopia, or you will have fly back to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with Ethiopian Airlines (which costs upwards of US$200 one-way) and then buy a visa on arrival at Bole International Airport.


Having had my passport stolen in Ethiopia, I would like to add something to the information on passports and visa. In my country of origin I am an attorney specialized in immigration law. Let’s put it this way: now I am also one specialized in Ethiopian immigration law. The procedure to obtain an emergency-passport and an exit visa is quite an adventure.

The first thing you need to do is report the theft (or loss). Preferably this has to be done with the local police of the area the theft has taken place. However, the local police can be very helpful, but not very forthcoming to write an official report. In our case we had to write it ourself. These kind of reports will never be accepted by your embassy or by the immigration service. If the local police is not willing to give a typed, stamped and signed report, go to the regional police. Ask them kindly to write the report in Amharic, with your name, nationality and passport-number in English.

After this you need to translate the report into English as this is required by your embassy. The translation can be performed by official translation bureaus, which can be found in Addis Ababa near the Stadium. When you have obtained the translation, you have to authenticate the translation at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. After this you have to legalize the documents (the report and the translation) at the Ministry of Forreign Affairs.

Equipped with the authenticated and legalized documents you can apply for the emergency passport at your embassy. Take two passport photo’s and a copy of your old passport. The issuance of the emergency-passport should normally take 24 hours.

Having obtained the emergency passport you can apply for the exit visa. This visa is required to leave the country and can not be obtained at Bole airport. The exit visa needs to be applied for at the Ethiopian Immigration service. The process itself can take a whole day, as you need to pass about six or seven rooms. When you have paid, it takes about 24 hours for the exit visa to be issued. When you explain what has happened and emphasize that there is an emergency, it might help to get the visa the same day.


We were very lucky to have a driver (with car) who spoke Amharic. He helped us through the whole process. My advise would be to take someone with you that speaks Amharic. He or she will be able to get you in front of the rows and explain that there is an emergency. The keyword in the process is: respect. Treat all the civil servants with respect and just kindly explain that you need to leave the country as soon as possible. As I have experienced it, the country relies more on personal relations of respect, than on procedures that you can call upon. Bring a book, food and try be patient!


In March 2012 the Ethiopian government looked seriously at passing a draft ruling cancelling the facility to buy visas on arrival at Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport as of April 2012.

There was a lot of confusion at the time, leading this website – as well as several others – to warn travellers to check the situation and recommending that anybody planning to travel to Ethiopia in the immediate future buy their visa in advance to be on the safe side.

As it turned out, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in Ethiopia, under pressure from tour operators et al, eventually decided to shelf the draft ruling and stick with the established visa policy. In other words, visas are still available on arrival at Bole International Airport to the same nationalities they have always been.

To avoid further confusion, I am deleting all older posts relating to this unimplemented draft ruling and can also assure anybody who picks up similar posts dating to March and April 2012 on other websites that this ruling was never implemented. In the extremely unlikely event that anything does change with regard to visas on arrival, I will post details as soon as they are known to me.

I spent a couple of days in Addis Ababa en route to Somaliland (where I was working on a new Bradt guide) and compiled an extensive list of updates:

Exchange Rate: Currently around Birr 16 to US$1

Somaliland Embassy & Visas: The Somaliland Embassy is next to the Namibian Embassy about 200 metres north of, and clearly signposted from, Bole Road. The junction is very close to Saay Pastry (map ref page 159 F2) and on the same corner as the red-and-yellow Wassamar Hotel. It opens 8.30am-2pm Mon-Fri, and will usually issue a visa on the spot, depending on whether the ambassador is in. It costs US$40 and a passport photo is required.

Sky & Selam Bus: The Sky Bus booking office (tel: 011 1568080/8585) is in the Itegue Taitu Hotel and it runs daily buses to Gonder (12 hours, Birr 372), Bahir Dar (9 hours, Birr 306), Dire Dawa (9 hours, Birr 291), Harar (9 hours, Birr 293), Jijiga (12 hours, Birr 326) and Jimma (5-6 hours, Birr 199). Selam Bus covers the same routes at about the same price and has a booking office in front of the central railway station, on the opposite side of the square to Buffet de la Gare. All buses run by both companies depart from Meskal Square at 5.30am. We were really impressed by the service, which include scheduled lunch stops, and regular roadside ‘pee breaks’.

Itegue Taitu Hotel: Tel: +251-11-1-56 0787; reservations@taituhotel; This has evidently taken over from the nearby Baro as the main hub of backpacker activity in Addis Ababa. It has a good restaurant, good services including free internet and WiFi, and it makes a point of not charging discriminatory ‘faranji prices’. Rooms without shower are Birr 125-150, en-suite rooms in the annex cost Birr 270-320, and rooms in the main building range from Birr 328 for the smallest room using a common shower to Birr 377-492 for a ensuite or Birr 831 for the largest room.

Visa extension: If you need longer than the standard 30 days issued upon arrival, extensions can be arranged at the Immigration Office on Churchill Road. This costs US$20 and usually requires you to leave your passport overnight. It is best to be there before 8.30am. You need a photocopy of the main page in your passport, as well as the page with your existing visa.

Taxis rates: From the Piassa, expect to pay 50-60 Birr to the city centre or Arat/Siddist Kilo, or Birr 70-100 to the airport. Expect it to be 50% after 6pm or before 8am.

Entrance fees: For the places we checked, these were Birr 20 for the Lion Zoo at Siddist Kilo, Birr 30 for Kiddist Selassie Church, and Birr 10 for the National Museum.

Red Terror Martyrs’ Memorial Museum: This highly worthwhile new museum on Bole Road next to Meskal Square officially opened in March 2010. It opens from 8.30am-6.30pm daily and entrance is free though donations are appreciated. It is dedicated to the victims of the red terror campaign under President Mengistu and the Derg Regime, and displays include some riveting back-and-white photos dating to the 1975 coup as well as some more chilling relicts – skulls and clothes removed from mass graves, torture instruments – of this genocidal era in modern Ethiopian history. For more details, see

Hope this is useful!


Visa extensions in Addis Ababa

Posted: September 8, 2010 in Addis Ababa, visas

On Visa Extensions you mention that travellers should bring 1 photo
and 20$ in local currency. Not so from my recent experience, although
it is true I was extending a Business Visa. Judging from the lucrative
money exchange plonkers hanging outside, i suspect the regulation may
have changed, and the perennial shortage of foreign currency may have
something to do with this.

Anyhow: you need 1 passport size photo, 2 photocopies of your passport
info and 2 photocopies of you about-to-be expired Visa. And they
demand payment in US Dollars (20$). Travellers should refrain or be
extremelly careful about engaging in birr-dollar transactions outside
the Department of Immigration: their rates are a rip-off and they are
actively monitored by plain clothes police, who won’t miss the chance
to shake off a stressed out foreigner.


Official guides – reasonably knowledgeable, but rarely needed
Unofficial guides – relatively ignorant, but sometimes needed to get rid of other “guides”, kids etc
Tour operators – they do a good job with providing transportation, food and accommodation, but don’t expect them to know everything about the places they’re taking you to – Bradt guide is your best friend!

Go for Bradt’s Budget options if you can afford those rather than the Shoestring ones. A good insecticide is recommended for all accommodations before settling in for the night. Insecticide will get rid of mossies and roaches, but offers limited protection against fleas and bed bugs.

SIM card
Available at post offices, just have a copy of your passport ready to hand over and say (if asked) that you have the residency visa (not the tourist one). Try another post office if the initial one won’t sell the SIM card if they find out you’re only a tourist, or try Western Union office inside the same post office – worked for me, third time lucky.

Using the dial up internet in Ethiopia can be a very frustrating experience. It could take up to 10 mins for the page to download and you can easily spend one hour in order to send one e-mail only. Do not rely on internet if you have to do any research eg shopping for plane tickets as their internet cannot cope with the Opodo and Expedia ads etc. The easiest way to communicate with your nearest and dearest outside of Ethiopia is by SMS. See above on how to get SIM card. Internet is surprisingly OK at some locations eg. Bahir Dar, Axum, Harar and Addis Ababa Sheraton.

Domestic flights on Ethiopian are very cheap, don’t forget to mention if you flew with Ethiopian internationally so you qualify for 20% discount (I think). You will have to re-confirm your flight!

Flying on Ethiopian internationally is a different matter. One way flights are only EUR1 cheaper than the return ones. 1 hour flight (and back) to Djibuti costs around EUR 200 – it could be cheaper to fly to London and back than from Addis to Entebe or Nairobi! I guess there are not many business class pax to African destinations so everyone pays the fixed, full price economy fare? 

VOA for certain countries available at Bole Airport: 1 month single entry visa. Extensions available at the Immigration Office in Addis, but be prepared to wait or to come back tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow or 2 days before the original visa expires etc – it all depends of the officer on duty.

Bradt Guide will keep you amused, informed and entertained as it is amazingly well written – you’ll learn much more than where to find a clean, cheap hotel or where to have a tasty injera. It’s one of the best travel guides I’ve had on my travels. Also, “The Barefoot Emperor: An Ethiopian Tragedy” by Philip Marsden will give you some insights about the unique history and culture of Ethiopia. You can see the replica of Sevastopol, Tewodoros II gun, in Tewodoros Sq in Addis.

Taxis – roughly Birr 10 per 1km, add Birr 10 to and from the Bole International

Bajaj (tuk tuk) – roughly Birr 1 per person per 1 km

Goran Jovetic, London, UK

Visas on arrival

Posted: September 29, 2009 in visas, websites

A regular query on websites is which nationalities can get a tourist visa on arrival at Bole Airport (see page 80).

Thanks to Frank Rispin for pointing out that this information is posted and kept up to date on the Ethiopian Embassy in London’s excellent website.

At present, tourist visas can only be issued on arrival to:

  • foreign nationals who are coming from countries where there is no Ethiopian Mission

  • foreign nationals who are coming from and are permanent residents in any of the following internationally recognised tourist-generating countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea Republic, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States.