Health & Safety and Medical & Travel Insurance
Please refer to UK Foreign Office and US State Department for up-to-date travel advice to Ethiopia. Do note that travel insurance should be bought at the same time as booking your trip. If travelling from the US, you must obtain insurance within 21 days of paying your deposit to your travel operator. We advise that you insure for trip cancellation, medical repatriation and force majeure. When asked, we usually refer our US clients to Travel Guard. UK clients are issued standard ATOL insurance certificates, which cover loss of money and repatriation should something adverse happen to the travel operator whilst you are away.
Amharic, with its unique alphabet is the official language, although over 80 local languages are spoken. English is the second official language and is understood in most hotels in major towns. Arabic, French and Italian are also widely understood.
It is important to be aware of cultural traditions and government policies in Ethiopia. Please be mindful of the cultural sensitivity around LGBTQ+ people and relationships, as many African countries are conservative when it comes to same-sex relationships, gender reassignment, or any other LGBTQ+ rights.
We suggest visiting the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) website and their Sexual Orientation Laws Map for more detailed information. Travelling as a LGBTQ+ person is by no means to be avoided. However, we do recommend researching thoroughly prior to travel.
International and official regional carriers have standard luggage allowances, but when travelling to Ethiopia there are often additional light aircraft flights/ transfers that carry different luggage weight and carrier restrictions that you will need to be aware of before you start packing.
For scheduled flight transfers in Ethiopia there is a luggage restriction of 20kg maximum per person. You are able to travel with one small carry on, which must not exceed 7kgs. Please tag each item of luggage with contact details and the first destination. It is also recommended that if you are travelling with family or a partner, share the load between you in case one bag gets lost.
Private charter flights are restricted to 15kg, including hand luggage and camera equipment. These weight restrictions and limitations on the baggage are strictly adhered to. Only soft bags (no hard suitcases can be transported as they physically cannot fit into the aircraft) will be accepted. The maximum dimensions of the soft bags which can be accommodated are as follows: 38cm (15 inches) wide x 30cm (12 inches) high and 68cm (27 inches) long.
Luggage that goes missing on scheduled flights is beyond the control of Journeys by Design and/or the airline concerned. Should you lose your luggage, we will endeavour to assist in returning your bags as soon as possible. Any additional costs incurred in retrieval should be covered by your travel insurance company.
Passengers weighing more than 100kg (220 lbs) must advise us in advance as an extra seat may need to be factored in for safety purposes.
International flights and Arrival & Departure
Ethiopia Airlines is a major carrier and Addis Ababa has become an international flight hub, with numerous routes to and from the US, EU and Asia. Wild Expeditions does not organise clients’ international flights. On arrival, clients are met in the arrivals hall by our ground agent. On departure, the check-in time required by the airlines is 3 hours prior to flight departure.
Please note that internal flights only operate in daylight hours and tickets are issued locally. In the case of private charters, there are no tickets. Your camp manager and ground agent will have details of your internal flights.
Whilst flight arrangements are pre-booked at published times, in the event of any delay due to unforeseen circumstances beyond our control, we cannot be held responsible. We will do our best to facilitate alternative arrangements.
Private and Shared Charter Flights:
For regular Private Charter flights, we use single engine aircrafts with one pilot. However, provision can be made for a twin engine aircraft with two pilots at an extra cost. Wild Expeditions has a two-pilot Cessna 208, a grand caravan with Garmin 1000 GPS.
The timetable for Private and Shared Charter flights are often only set the day before travel. This means that it is often very difficult to be precise about timings. However, as a rule of thumb, they tend to depart shortly after breakfast. The relevant camp managers are responsible for checking and confirming these times ahead of departure.
Flights are strictly subject to runway conditions and serviceability. In the event that the destination airport or airstrip is deemed by the pilot as unsuitable for our aircraft, we will divert to the nearest alternative airport or airstrip.
Please inform us in advance if you weigh over 100 kg (220 lbs) or more as an extra seat must be purchased for safety and comfort.
Ground transport (including transfers)
All ground transportation is in 7 – 9 seater vehicles (for urban transfers) or in 4x4 Landrovers or Landcruisers when on safari. Game drives are in open Landrover 4x4 style vehicles and/or boats, and canoes. Private use of vehicles cannot always be guaranteed. Should you wish, special arrangements can be made in advance to secure a private safari vehicle, which does come at an additional cost.
Currency and Exports
There is no limit to the amount of foreign currency you can take into the country, although sums over $10,000 must be declared. The amount of local currency you can take out of the country is restricted. It’s best to travel with suitable cash in small denomination US$ notes for tipping. If you budget about US$30 per person per day for extras, you should be well-covered. Only the major banks and main hotels change foreign currency. ATMs (Dashen Bank) are available at Addis Ababa, Bahir Dar, Gondar, Mekele, Dessie, Awassa and Dire Dawa. Please note that credit cards are not widely recognised in Ethiopia. It is illegal to export historical artefacts, shells, coral, ivory and turtle shell, as is exporting foodstuffs, plants or plant based products.
Although some camps and lodges now accept credit card, we strongly advise to tip using cash instead. Tipping of your driver/ guide/ staff and other incidental guides or helpers is not compulsory, but is customary, and will be left to your discretion. Please remember that tipping amounts should be viewed in a local context and your average camp staff will probably earn about US$ 200 per month. Generally tipping breaks down into four main areas.: general camp staff, guide, incidental support, and manager. Please view the below as an acceptable minimum if you have received adequate service:
1 General Camp Staff
As a rule of thumb, US$20 per person per day to cover all camp staff is acceptable. Lodges will normally provide you with an envelope for camp staff gratuities. This should be handed in on departure. Smaller camps and lodges have a small communal tip box where you can leave your tips for the manager to sort out later. If they do not, then please give the tip to the manager - in full view of other members of staff - upon departure.
2 Your Guide
Again, US$20 per person per day for your guide is acceptable. Lodges will normally provide you with an envelope for guide gratuities. This should be tipped at the end of the safari and is dependent on how well you think that he or she has done his or her job. If you are a small group or family we suggest tipping no more than a total US$ 60 per day to the guide.
3 Incidental guides, trackers, other drivers
No hard and fast rules here, but if you assume that one day’s good work is probably worth about US$5 per person per day then you can’t go too far wrong. Restaurants and the like take the usual 10%. For porters and other minor assistance $2 would be very generous. Occasionally you might be escorted by an armed park ranger, particularly if you are walking. A one-off US$10 tip would be well received as park staff are invariably poorly paid.
4 The Manager
We do not recommend tipping managers.
There is a shortage of the more usual photographic supplies throughout Ethiopia, so visitors are advised to bring plentiful supplies with them. It may be useful to consider bringing two spare rechargeable batteries and charger to ensure you are not left without batteries for your camera. A pair of good binoculars will be a great asset to the safari. We recommend 10 x 32 for excellent magnification and size.
It is not permitted to take photographs of the President, policemen, members of the armed forces, military installation, prisons or prisoners, airports and where public signs forbid photography. The people of Ethiopia, like other nations, do not like to be treated as ‘exhibits’, no matter how innocent the interest. It is essential to gain the full co-operation of the subject before hand, and in this regard the drivers/ guides will be happy to help and give advice about photographing people.
In some areas - and particularly the Omo - tourism of the worst kind has had the effect of reducing interaction between guest and host to a commercial exchange, with visitors paying for photographs. Our safaris into the likes of the Omo are very different, with any negotiations handled in advance by your guide, and many of the experiences camera-free. While initially an odd feeling, not having a camera allows for a different and, ultimately, much more rewarding experience.