Is Ethiopia Safe? (The Ultimate Safety Guide)

Ethiopia isn’t normally the first place people think of to travel, but it should be on your radar. Beautiful scenery, tall mountains, incredible history, and diverse culture; Ethiopia is not to be missed.

And you know what? When compared with other African countries, Ethiopia is actually pretty safe. There are certain areas you will need to avoid, particularly around some of the borders. Pickpocketing is probably the biggest problem to contend with, but that’s mostly in the capital and other large towns.

We have created this guide on staying safe in Ethiopia so that you don’t need to worry. We’re believers in responsible travel at Journeying The Globe, and you should be too.

Our guide covers a range of topics, from the safety of the roads, to if it’s safe for a solo traveller in Ethiopia – and almost everything in-between. We are covering it all.

Perhaps you’re travelling as a family and wondering if Ethiopia is a family-friend place, or maybe you simply want to know if the country is safe to explore alone. Regardless of your concern, our guide is here to help.

Simian National Park in Ethiopia
Simian National Park in Ethiopia

Is Ethiopia Safe? (Our Take)

There is nowhere like Ethiopia, a magnificent country that boasts a culture rich in history, spectacular wildlife, and also the motherland of where the coffee bean originated.

On the whole, Ethiopia is a safe destination to visit. It’s off the beaten path, but millions of tourists still visit the country every year. The country is also home to over 100 million people, making it the 14th most populous country on the planet.

However, Ethiopia is exposed to many natural hazards, including flooding, volcanoes, and earthquakes. If you add human threats such as pickpockets into the mix, then you can see why safety in Ethiopia may be a concern.

Compared with other African countries, Ethiopia is incredibly safe. Theft is one of the most significant threats, which is why it’s important not to parade an outrageous display of wealth.

Keep an eye on your possessions at all times, always take caution around busy areas such as bus stations, markets, and other large functions. Thieves will sometimes operate in these areas, targetting locals as well as tourists.

But in all, we still have no problem saying that Ethiopia is a safe place to visit. Protect your money from pickpockets!

Keeping your money safe from theft and pickpockets is essential when traveling on the road.

A Travel Safety Belt is an effective and affordable way of protecting your notes, cards, and cash.

Is Ethiopia Safe? (The Facts)

ethiopia landscapes

Yes, Ethiopia is reasonably safe to visit. The country welcomes thousands of new visitors every day and over one million visitors each year.

The growth in tourism is rising, and the locals are reaping the benefits of increased business. Of course, Ethiopians want to keep the country safe, as it’s beneficial for the economy and portrays a good image to the public.

In 2016, violent anti-government protests in some of the countries regions led to authorities advising against travel to Ethoipia. Many protestors were killed in the clashes by police officials. Although tourists were never the target, some foreign-owned businesses were struck and destroyed during the demonstrations. Although the severity of these protests has since calmed down, always check recent safety reports published by the British Foreign Office before your travels.

The crime statistics in Ethiopia are relatively low, with petty theft usually being the most significant threat. You will also need to watch out for scammers and con artists, particularly around tourist areas.

Life in Ethiopia continues as usual. You will love your time here, but remember to apply common sense during your stay. Thousands of people visit the country every day, without ever encountering any problems.

Is Ethiopia safe for solo travellers? 

travelling alone ethiopia

Travelling by yourself is an enriching experience, and something everyone should try at least once.

Many past travellers have expressed how safe they felt when travelling in Ethiopia alone. Of course, nothing is 100% risk-free, which is why you need to exercise caution at all times.

While Ethiopia is generally safe for solo adventurers, travelling anywhere alone comes with its own set of dangers.

  • Dress appropriately – try to blend in by dressing in the appropriate clothing. As a religious country, Ethiopia has its own set of values and beliefs that could surprise you. If you want to mix in, stick to wearing long trousers and t-shirts, and try to avoid anything too revealing.
  • Avoid walking alone late at night – a rule of thumb in most countries, and also applicable to Ethiopia. Avoid walking around late at night on your own, and always take a taxi when venturing anywhere after dark.
  • Consider a local guide – if you don’t feel safe travelling alone, then consider relying on a local tour guide. Ethiopians are known for their generous hospitality, and can often go from a guide to a friend. The prices are generally fair, and it’s a fabulous way to discover the real nitty-gritty of the country.
  • Stay in hostels – hostels are an affordable and great way to meet other like-minded travellers. Solo travel can become lonely, particularly during the late evenings. There are plenty of cheap hostels to choose from, especially in Addis Ababa.

Solo travel can be fun and safe at the same time. The primary thing to remember is trusting your intuition. If you do that, along with applying common sense, you will be fine.

Is Ethiopia safe to travel as a family?

ethiopia family

In a word: yes. Ethiopia is a very safe place for families.

There are plenty of family-friendly hotels where you and your children can stay throughout Ethiopia. Of course, you have to be much more organised which can be challenging, but in regards to safety, it’s very safe. Ethiopians are generally very friendly people and will love chatting with you and your children.

Ensure that your children are up to date with any necessary vaccines that you might need before visiting.

Is the tap water safe to drink in Ethiopia?

The tap water is not safe to drink anywhere in Ethiopia.

Stick to drinking bottled water which is reasonably priced and readily available throughout the country.

For general purposes such as washing, cleaning, showering, and brushing your teeth, the tap water is safe to use.

Is the food in Ethiopia safe? 

Ethiopian coffee

A large part of Ethiopian culture is the food. Injera is the staple dish, which is a pancake-like flatbread, made from incredibly nutritious and gluten-free grain.

Most of the food is eaten with your hand, often using a piece of the Injera as a spoon. Cutlery can hardly be found (even in restaurants), but there are handwashing stations for you to clean your hands before and after eating.

The food in Ethiopia is safe to eat, but like with anywhere, it is essential to apply some safety precautions:

  • Check reviews – when choosing where to eat, look at trusted review websites such as TripAdvisor to see the top-rated restaurants in your area.
  • Wash your hands – always wash your hands with soap and warm water before and after eating. Most restaurants will be equipt with handwash stations.
  • Make sure food is cooked thoroughly – one of the best ways to prevent illness is to make sure your food is properly cooked – especially meat, seafood and egg dishes.
  • Look for restaurants with a high volume of people – a high turnover of customers usually means the food is fresh and not stuck in storage. 

You’re in for a treat in Ethiopia. Not only does the country offer many beautiful sights, but the food is also DELICIOUS. There are plenty of places to eat in Ethiopia; just remember to look for trusted and highly-rated restaurants.

Is driving safe in Ethiopia?

ethiopias roads

Foreigners are entitled to three months driving under their international license when using their own car, after which you need an Ethiopian license. However, this is seldom enforced, and many expats still drive without the necessary legal requirements – but do so at your own risk.

Nevertheless, just because you can drive doesn’t mean you should. Once you head out of the capital Addis Ababa, the roads can be extremely challenging to navigate. Road signs and road names are almost non-existent, which is why we always recommend hiring a driver.

To hire a car in Ethiopia, you will need a local driving license. Most of the vehicles for hire are either 4×4’s or minibuses and expect to pay a large deposit upfront.

Although you can find metered taxis in Ethiopia, they are only really found in Addis Ababa.

Are taxis safe in Ethiopia?

In Ethiopia, there are two main kinds of taxi services: ‘private taxis’ and ‘shared taxis’. Shared taxis follow a fixed route, and stop and pick people up when signalled, similar to how a bus would operate. Private taxis are for individuals or groups who flag down a cab and are travelling to a custom destination.

Generally, taxis are safe in Ethiopia. However, be wary of drivers trying to overcharge you, especially in large tourist areas such as airports, bus stations, and shopping malls. Always agree on a price before entering the vehicle.

Is public transport safe in Ethiopia?

Public transport is an affordable and reliable way to get around Ethiopia – and relatively safe, too. 

Ridesharing apps like Uber and Grab hardly exist due to unreliable internet connectivity. Taxi is still one of the most preferred ways to travel.

Public buses are a popular way to get around, but try to avoid travelling at night. The bus drivers are also known for their careless driving.

Selam Bus and Sky Bus are two reputable and luxury bus operators. Their buses are equipt with aircon, spacious seating, seatbelts, and drivers with a reasonable safety record.

Is Ethiopia safe to live?

Addis Ababa

Ethiopia is not without risk, but that doesn’t mean it’s not safe to live here.

Many expats move to Ethiopia for the beautiful scenery, friendly people, and diverse culture.

The cost of living is low. So much so that it might be depressing returning to your home country.

This country is a stunning place, but it comes with its drawbacks. Healthcare standards are generally lower than in western countries, and we advise taking out healthcare insurance before moving here.

Asides from that, Ethiopia is an entirely safe place to live. There are are no significant health risks, and violent crime (outside of borders with tribal conflicts) is mainly non-existent.

Ethiopia Travel Insurance

Enjoy your stay in Ethiopia, but always make sure to get travel insurance! Even if you are only visiting for a few days, you should always take out travel cover. Take our word for it: travel insurance can save you thousands of pounds – so make sure to purchase it before you start your trip.

We highly recommend using World Nomads, but there are many insurance providers to choose from, so make sure to shop around to find the best deal. 

Top 10 Safety Tips for Travelling to Ethiopia

travel tips

Generally, Ethiopia is safe, especially for an African country. There are a plethora of exciting things to do in Ethiopia. Because it’s essential to travel smart, we’re going to share our insider travel tips for Ethiopia.

  1. Watch your personal belongings – pickpocketing and petty theft is a concern for travellers. Keep an eye on your personal belongings at all times.
  2. Be careful around busy tourist areas – theft is particularly common in busy tourist areas such as bus stations and public buses. 
  3. Check local weather reports – severe weather risks such as heavy rain, strong wind and poor visibility can put a dampener on your safety.
  4. Remain vigilant – common sense goes a long way. If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Don’t fall for popular tourist scams.
  5. Stay away from public protests – if you see big crowds of protestors, stay away at all costs.
  6. Avoid travel to the borders – you can check which borders are currently safe by visiting your countries government travel website.
  7. Don’t walk alone at night – valid for most countries, and Ethiopia is no exception. Don’t walk the streets after dark and always take a taxi.
  8. Wear mosquito repellent – always protect yourself from mosquitos and insect bites, as malaria and other diseases are present in most parts of the country. Also, consider taking anti-malarial medication.
  9. Consider getting a guide – less about safety, and more about comfort. Sometimes it’s worth getting a guide who can show you around.
  10. Take a digital copy of passport – make sure to carry a digital copy of your passport and other important documents. If anything gets lost, this will make the process a lot easier for you later.

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James Ardimento has spent the last 12 years journeying around the globe ! With its precious experiences and tips he gained around Asia, South America, Europe and the US he is a precious asset for this blog and for its readers