Do and don't in Ethiopia

Are you living in Ethiopia? We need you to share your experience of the local customs :)

Is it difficult to adjust to the local customs in Ethiopia?

Could you please share with us a list of the do's and don't's in Ethiopia?


I do not live in Ethiopia but my husband has been there for a year.  I have visited once and will be returning next month.  I love to take photographs and I learned quickly that a lot of people do not want you to take pictures of them!  If you ask first, they will almost always say yes.  It is a very nice gesture to give them one birr, which is like ten cents in U.S. money or a pen or pencil for a child.  Muslims DO NOT want their picture made!  I wear either capri pants at the ankle and don't wear skimpy clothing.  Definitely wear durable shoes that you don't mind getting dirty.  People, especially kids, will beg at the cab window but the handle in the back have been removes just for this reason.  It is hard, but don't look them in the eye.  They are very convincing and it will pull at your heart.  The locals frown upon the begging so I don't contribute to it.  Stay away from the merkato.  It's not always a safe place and if you are not African and have light skin like me you will be surrounded by beggers so fast you head will spin!  If you do go, hire a driver and make him stay with you.  I do not feel as if there are a set of strict rules to follow like the countries in the Middle East.  I am very comfortable as a woman there and do not feel threatened in any way to be out and about.  The people are incredibly kind and sweet.  I hope you have a great experience like I have had. :)


many thanks for the tips my wife and I willlive in ADD for 3 years star nest spring

I have just returned to from Ethiopia.
I feel in love with the country and it's people.
There are lots of beggars yes just like in any other African country.

The taxi drivers tend to increase the fares for foreigners but i think it's a common practice all around the world.

I wish i would work or go back to Ethiopia because i left my heart in Addis Ababa!!

My experience in ethiopia was that there are a few beggars.  Ehtiopian people are a proud but humble people and begging in excess is not tolerated.  Typically the people I see begging are severly crippled individuals and mothers with children who have disabilities.  I give change when I can.  The merkato was a great experience for me.  You should go most definitely, but yes for a visitor or someone new to Addis you should take either a local ethiopian or have a driver.  Also renting a car is probably not a bad idea, then you dont have to worry about being taken on the cab fair.  Addis is great, Africa is great, to bad we only see all the bad stuff on T.V, and oh yeah the safari animals, like theres no successful people living in africa....its kinda crazy.

Although Addis Ababa and Ethiopia in general is a very hard place to visit or to live, I agree that the people are kind hearted and generally good.  It's so difficult to not give to the beggars but it makes me so mad to see a mother send her little ones out to us on the street the minute she sees us coming!  But giving to them only encourages more begging and the locals hate the beggars.  I really like it there and although I have gotten sick each time I have been (my fault for not being more careful about fresh foods) it is still a place that I find extremely interesting yet infuriating all at the same time.  There are over 3000 NGO's alone in Ethiopia but the people remain impoverished. And now I hear that the government is going to tax the NGO's! This country is so broken and these people deserve to have so much more.  They continue to have undying commitment to Christianity/Islam but yet they are the ones, to me, that should have lost all faith long ago!

Recently I learned a valuable lesson in restaurant etiquette. On a date with my fiancee, we entered a very nice restaurant in Addis. The menu stated that ravioli could be ordered with beef or cheese.

I ordered ravioli and pointed out to our server where it said beef or cheese and I said "I want cheese ravioli please". "Alright", she answered.

My ravioli had no cheese, only beef. I complained to her and reminded her I ordered CHEESE. She said, "No problem, they'll put cheese on it for you." and she made her getaway.

She came back and spoke only in Amharic to my fiancee, a local. I was confused, and a little irritated. What was the problem? Couldn't she understand? She returned with the same ravioli with no cheese anywhere. I insisted that I didn't want them.

She returned with the chef. The server was still trying to cover her mistake. She had told the chef that I had ordered beef ravioli and was changing my mind at the last minute.

I insisted they take it back and I wouldn't wait for the cheese ravioli. Instead I would just share my fiancee's meal.

My fiancee explained to me that most people would just accept the mistake and pay for it even if they really didn't want it. The reason for this is because a server's salary is very low.

Also, the average restaurant owner demands that the employees pay for their mistakes. For them it is a very expensive mistake since their monthly salary may not be more than a few hundred birr. And the average meal is 25 - 45 birr.

It is difficult for me to accept a server being rude, making mistakes and I will be the one to pay for it. However, when in Rome . . .

I have experienced the same Lavelas while i was in Addis for my holiday.
This was my 2nd visit to Ethiopia. I went back there because i had left my heart behind,so i went to find it. It is a very nice place to be and it will always leave a lasting impression on you.

Now there is another side to Addis Ababa that all those intending to visit Ethiopia should know. This i experienced when i was back there on my 2nd visit...this time round,it wasn't for work but a holday of about 2 weeks.

There are lots of scrupulos people roaming around the city looking for any unsuspecting foreigners,talk them into going for cultural or traditional celebrations and when they get to wherever the so called festival is,they will ask you to buy drinks plus the people you find among the crowd also ask for drinks and when they bring the bill,it is over 5,000 ETB (Ethiopian Birr) and hence you are forced to let go of your dollars. Even when you know the actual cost of a whine or a beer,these scrupulous men in collaboration with the women force you to pay the bill or beat you up and thus hand you over to the police which is also part of this gang.

Once you land in the hands of the police,they will try to get some money out of you and when you fail to give them the money,they take you to the air port and have you deported.

To avoid this,i had to let go of my $ 500 and take a cab back to my hotel.

That was my experience or lets call it "welcome to Addis"

For those intending to travel to Ethiopia,it is a great place but avoid talking to strangers especially those who come to you asking you where you come from.

Despite all that,i am still planning on traveling back to Ethiopia and i like it so much there.

I am in Addis right now and can confirm the above poster's warning. I am an athletic white male and was very surprised that these people were coming after me with this strong arm scam. Generally it is something reserved for people who look weak or are easy targets. Anyway, my experience was that I was walking right outside the hotel, literally within 100 feet, and a guy about my age came up to me and asked me if I remembered him. He said that he worked at my hotel and that he was on break. I, didnt know who he was but there are so many people working there I assumed this was possible and spoke with him. His offer was similar to that of the friendly and reputable locals who would like to show you their town. He offered to take me to some dance festival down the road, commented how cheap the beer was, and seemed sad and offended when I declined. Now normally I would think that you would have to be pretty dumb to go off in a town by yourself guided by someone you dont know, but this guy was really convincing. Anyway, saw the same guy the next day, still "on break from my hotel", and he had the same offer. Again I declined and ran into another guy another 100 feet down the road with the same pitch. I guess this scam is pretty prevalant. Anyhow, if you just ignore them, which goes against all of the fibers in your body to ignore a friendly looking face, then they will leave you alone. Important to stay in populated places though. Wouldnt go trapsing down any dark alleys.
Good luck!


Go to merkato alone
Assume the capacity of locals (Verify! as you could be surprised)
Give to beggars (you are encouraging begging)
try to get every info online ( as local info is almost exactly non existent- word of mouth is basic source of info)
underestimate gossip
judge anyone by the outfit (content matters!)

The next time you are in Addis Ababa try a tour guide. there are some that give you an authentic experience while guaranteeing your safety

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