Ethiopia usually has rain from June to September and no rain from October to May. The temperature ranges with the altitude, with hot and humid conditions in the lowlands and mild, cool temperatures in the highlands.
When to fly to Ethiopia
October through May is the dry season and is most popular with visitors. Though there is never a real stampede of tourists stepping off flights to Ethiopia, the dry season is the time when hotels are more likely to be booked and attractions will be busier.
June to September is when the country receives the most rain, however, this can still be a good time to visit as there is plenty of sunshine.
Getting around Ethiopia
Ethiopian Airlines has an excellent network, with domestic Ethiopia flights to more than 40 destinations in the country. Prices are reasonable. Ethiopia is a big country and this is by far the quickest way to travel. Be aware that there is a US$10 tax on departure for each flight.
There is a good bus and inexpensive bus system, but services can be very slow and tickets may be sold out a day in advance. Book ahead if possible. Buses are regulated and drivers can’t continue past a certain hour in the evening, so if you haven’t reached your destination on time, you may just get dropped where you are for the night.
Car hire is possible in Addis Ababa. It is necessary to get a 4WD due to the poor conditions of the roads.
Ethiopia insider information
- Addis Ababa is a fascinating, and huge, city. There is plenty here to see: the National Museum tells the history of the country, Africa Hall is the seat of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and Trinity Church is the largest in the country. However, a particular favourite with tourists is the huge mercacto – the largest outdoor market in the whole of Africa. The market is so large it is extremely easy to get lost inside; if you want to make sure you don’t miss anything – and that you get back out again – you may want to take a guide.
- The Royal Enclosure, with picturesque ruins from the time of the Emperors, is the first place most tourists visit in Gondar. Fasilades Bath is a focal point during Timkat, the festival of epiphany, in January. This is a very important festival in Ethiopia and is celebrated throughout the country. In Gondar, the Fasilades Bath is filled with water and the people of the town jump in, symbolising Christ’s baptism.
- When visiting the churches at Lalibela, make sure you remove your shoes before entering. If you’re worried about keeping them safe – or simply feeling lazy – you can pay a small amount to one the “shoe watchers” who will arrive. Not only will they keep an eye on your shoes, they will also carry them to the next church for you if it’s easier than putting them back on your feet.
- There are two drinks of importance in Ethiopia: coffee, called buna, and tej. After every meal a big ritual occurs around the preparation of the coffee. The ceremony can last a few hours and an invitation to join is a sign of respect. The coffee itself is always taken black, though with plenty of sugar.
- Tej is an alcoholic drink, like a honey wine. It is drunk from a glass flask and is served in tejbetis (tej houses). Locals, especially older men, often gather round these tejbetis in the evening.