Information about Ethiopia for guests
Ethiopia has two primary seasons: a dry season from October to June and for the rest of the year, a rainy season divided into “small rains” and “big rains”. The small rains, February through April, are generally intermittent showers. The big rains, June through September or longer, usually bring heavy rains. The big rains are rarely continuous, and sunny mornings or afternoons can be expected on many days.
Temperatures are variable in Shire and in Addis Ababa the weather is more temperate. The dry season has bright, sunny days with hot to moderate temperatures; nights are cooler in Shire and in Addis Ababa can be quite chilly. The average temperature in Addis Ababa is 17.16 C and in Shire temperatures can vary from 20 – 45C. The temperature will drop in the evenings. Night temperatures drop to 15 C from November to January in Shire (Addis Ababa is cooler) and hottest period in Shire is from February to May (Recorded high 56c), so if you do not like the heat stay away at that time, there is no air conditioner!
The official language of the Federal Government of Ethiopia is Amharic. English is widely practiced as a working language especially in Addis Ababa, but in small shops and rural Ethiopia few people understand or speak English; in Shire the official language is Tigrinha from which Amharic is a derivative.
Passport and visa formalities
Only a valid passport is required from nationals of Kenya. For all other nationals, an entry visa for Ethiopia is mandatory. Visas can be obtained from Embassy or Consulates of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in your country of nationality or residence. Exceptionally, visas can be obtained upon arrival at the International Airport of Addis Ababa (Bole) upon payment of USD 30 for single entry for one month from European and North American countries, all other countries should check with the in country Embassies before arriving at Bole Airport, or you may be sent back.
Immigration and Customs Formalities
Upon arrival in Ethiopia, you will be given (if not ask for one) the immigration card health formalities as follows:
- Submit a passport containing a valid visa
- Complete immigration form distributed to all travellers and submit it to immigration officials
- Show an up-to date international health certificate for yellow fever if requested
Customs have an X-ray machine and upon leaving the baggage claim area all luggage will go through the X-ray machine and occasionally the customs official will ask to see inside you bags. Please bring no electronic items exception being your personal laptop computer which you can simply show to customs.
You may request porters to collect your luggage. These porters are dressed in brown coveralls and wear identification badges. They generally charge US$ 5 as a lump sum.
Other General Information
- Local Time – Time Zone – GMT +3
- Electricity – voltage is 220 – 250 volts, frequency 50HZ
- Internet Access is not easy at present; we do have a wireless telephone with connection to a special wireless system which is rather unpredictable.
- A local hotel in Shire town has some access to internet which you can use.
- The local Post Office has a good service for posting letters including express mail which works well too.
- Faxes may be sent care of the Africa Hotel, we have no fax service from here at Grace Village.
- Currency – The currency used in Ethiopia is the Ethiopian Birr (EB), the exchange rate is 11EB for 1 US$, 14 EB for 1 Euro and 15EB for 1 UK£. Foreign currency may be exchanged at banks around Addis Ababa; in Shire this can be exchanged in Shire Town at the Wegagen Bank. Dollar in currency dated before 1999 will not be accepted as these are not electronically readable. Cash is easiest to change, traveller’s cheques require going to main branch banks where the facility is available to change these. There are a few places where credit cards are accepted, the Hilton and Sheraton hotels mainly. A money belt is a good idea to keep your money safe; this should be worn under your clothes.
- Traffic – Driving in Ethiopia is on the right side. Visitors require an international driving license in order to drive in any part of the country.
Immunization and health Information
Yellow fever - Check the validity of your international health certificate and update the yellow fever vaccination, this is obligatory.
Cholera - Vaccination against cholera is also required for any person who has visited or transited a cholera infected area within six days prior to arrival in Ethiopia.
Malaria - There is malaria outside of Addis Ababa, therefore anti-malarial medication is recommended. Many guests take Malarone, which is effective against most forms of the Plasmodia (malaria parasite).
Layers of cotton is recommended, these can then be removed or replaced according to temperature changes. Be sure your underwear is cotton as nylon or synthetic underwear may cause chafing and this can be very uncomfortable! Include an umbrella in your luggage. A jacket, pullover, shawl or cardigan is recommended for the cool mornings and evenings. In Shire dress is informal, trousers for women is fine, easier for playing with the children! Short sleeve T-shirts and jeans or below knee trousers are fine too, we do not wear sleeveless shirts and shorts as these may offend. A skirt for women on Sundays would be good but not essential.
Guidelines at Grace Village
We are delighted to have guests come to the village, to see sponsored children and the children love this! However, when the guests go home we who stay year round are left with bereft children. We therefore kindly request that in order to maintain the village routine you only visit in the various homes when invited by the house mother and this is cleared with the head of childcare (Mulugeta).
We believe that all our children are special, we prefer that no child is singled out even if you are the sponsor; some children do not have the honour of their sponsor visiting them. Please try and play with the children in groups when they are outside playing. Should you bring gifts we think it is in the best interest of the children that all receive something small rather than one or two receiving large gifts.
The children are our priority in all respects and setting an example to nearly fifty children is our responsibility; as a guest we expect you to set the same example while at Grace Village. As the children know what goes on inside our houses; they know what we eat and what we drink, therefore smoking and drinking of alcohol is not permitted anywhere at Grace Village.
Our guest are welcome to worship at our chapel, this brings enormous joy to us and the children. At Grace Village the Director and Childcare Coordinator are ultimately responsible for the children and their activities, guests are kindly reminded to respect these roles.
If you have any questions please feel free to let us know.