Do’s and Don’ts in Ethiopia

Do’s and Don’ts in Ethiopia

Each society has a set of rules that they follow. It is around the sets that we have the dos and Donts in Ethiopia. It is important to note these if and when on safari in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is located in the Horn of Africa, bordering Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, Eritrea and Djibouti. The country has the second biggest population in Africa, with over 50% of people being under 25 years of age.

Do’s and Don’ts in Ethiopia

Due to the vast size of the population, it is important to recognize that descriptions of Ethiopian cultural customs can vary significantly. There are many distinct cultural practices that are specific to people’s region, ethnicity or religion.

Despite this diversity, Ethiopians are generally united by their patriotism and pride in the country’s overarching cultural identity.

Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa, once ruled as a dynasty by a series of monarchs. It is distinct from most other African nations as it is one of the only countries that successfully resisted European colonization.

It also has a historical connection to Christianity, with the region adopting the religion before many Western nations were exposed to it. This legacy of the country’s independence and the Ethiopian ‘Tewahedo’ Orthodox Church are very important to Ethiopians’ sense of national pride.

Do’s and Don’ts in Ethiopia

Their sense of morality and cultural refinement are shaped by centuries of practice, and continue to inform how they see themselves in the contemporary setting. Generally speaking, Ethiopians are renowned for being welcoming, considerate, cooperative and non-confrontational people.


  • Check the type of visa that you need before coming.
  • Bring a credit card if you have one.
  • Get proper vaccination and insurance before coming.
  • Have some emergency numbers always ready with you.
  • Try to learn some basic Amharic; they’ll love it and you too.
  • Try to visit the countryside and see the rural side of Ethiopia.
  • Unblock your phone at the airport upon arrival and get an Ethiopian SIM card at Ethio Telecom.
  • Bring comfortable shoes and clothes (check the weather of the season/place you are coming).
  • Use safe ways of transport, especially avoiding drivers who chew “khat” and night rides outside the city.
  • Wash your hands always, before and after meals.
  • Eat properly cooked food and drink bottled water.
  • Bargain in souvenir shops. They inflate the price double, triple or four times the real price.
  • Negotiate with taxi drivers that don’t have a meter system.
  • Ask always if the appointments’ time is in Ethiopian time or international time.
  • Offer food to people around while you are eating.
  • Try to come to one of the big holidays; they are very colorful.
  • Get some leather, coffee and cotton (Ethiopia made, please).
  • Be careful with street dogs; they may transmit rabies.
  • Respect different cultural aspects when different than yours.
  • Be aware of your impact as a tourist and try not to leave a footprint that can damage them in the future.
  • Be nice and polite to people all the time.
  • Take it easy when things are going wrong. Try to act calm and serene. People will normally try to help you when you claim for help.


  • Don’t bargain in local food and grocery stores; they have fixed prices.
  • Don’t give alms to kids. They are not going to school, pressed by family members or mafias. If you give them money or goods, you are perpetuating this exploitation.
  • Don’t take pictures of government buildings, embassies and similar; it is forbidden.
  • Don’t take portraits of people without asking first; it’s a robbery.
  • Don’t openly criticize the government. Be careful with politics.
  • Don’t drink tap water, uncooked food, salads, etc.
  • Don’t leave your things unattended.
  • Don’t accuse anybody of stealing without proof.
  • Don’t expose homosexual activity; it is punished by law.
  • Don’t swim in most of the lakes (except Langano)
  • Don’t hire unaccredited tourist guides.
  • Don’t go to religious service without covering your head, shoulders, and knees (women).
  • Don’t contraband illegal items/drugs into the country.
  • Don’t work under any circumstance on a tourist visa.
  • Don’t volunteer under any circumstance on a tourist visa.
  • Don’t share non-fasting food with fasting people.
  • Don’t leave trash behind (even if you see locals do it)
  • Don’t feel the need to answer to every person talking/insulting you on the street.

Don’t try to get a “logical” explanation to everything that happens in Ethiopia. There may not be one