Since 2020, Ethiopia has not only been crippled by the effects of COVID on citizens and travel, but the country has been grappling with civil unrest and opposition from armed forces.
In spite of it, the local government is slowly reopening its doors to international visitors, including South Africans.
Can I travel from South Africa to Ethiopia now?
Yes, South African citizens are allowed to travel to Ethiopia with some restrictions.
Although certain regions have travel advisories against the country and tourism to Ethiopia is discouraged as long as the National State of Emergency remains in place, it seems the worst has passed and soon the usual entry visa requirements into Ethiopia from South Africa will be the only condition before entering the country.
But before that happens, it is best to be aware of the current COVID-19 restrictions in Ethiopia and the specific regional regulations.
Best options to visit Ethiopia as a South AfricanSouth Africans can choose from a number of different options to visit Ethiopia, the following being the most convenient, cost-effective ones:
- Johannesburg to Addis Ababa
- Johannesburg to Awasa
- Cape Town to Addis Ababa
Direct flights from South Africa to Ethiopia last around 5,5 hours, while the Johannesburg-Addis Ababa journey covers over 4,000 km.
Other options are the Bloemfontein-Addis Ababa, the Johannesburg-Dire Dawa, and the Johannesburg-Gonder flight connections.
The most commonly used airlines to complete these routes are Ethiopian Airlines, ASKY Airlines, and Kenya Airways, among others.
COVID Situation in Ethiopia
Ethiopia’s COVID restrictions remain in place at the border and all arrivals must present a negative PCR test.
Those who can prove recovery from COVID in the last 90-days or their full vaccination status are free from further quarantine measurements. Unvaccinated travelers are required to self-isolate for 7 days.
Travelers are advised to purchase the necessary private medical insurance as healthcare facilities are limited and care can not be guaranteed during an outbreak of COVID-19.
Regional Regulations in Ethiopia
Due to the current state of emergency in Ethiopia, no travel is advised and passengers must try to transit through Addis Ababa Bole International Airport within 8 hours of arrival.
The ongoing conflict has caused interruptions in cellphone communication and various road closures, making travel unpredictable and unsafe.
The following regional advisories in Ethiopia are in place:
By late November, the capital was still calm but residents remain vigilant.
The government has warned that a heightened security presence might become noticeable and that civilians should avoid any gatherings and demonstrations.
The Addis Ababa Bole International Airport is the country’s biggest airport, hosting 24 airlines and covering over 67 destinations.
This city also offers an array of cultural, artistic, and historical attractions for foreign visitors, which helped Ethiopia become the world’s best tourism destination in 2015.
The Amhara region borders the south of Tigray, the region worst affected by the conflict. Travel to Amhara is strongly discouraged as civil unrest and the refugee crisis make it unsafe. There is also an 8 pm curfew in place and government offices are closed.
Afar is in the North East of the country and is also subject to spill-over conflict from Tigray.
Since July 2021, inter-ethnic tensions have escalated between the border of Afar and Somali regional states increasing the risk of travel in the region significantly.
The central state of Oromia, where the country’s capital is found, has been the target of rebel actions. The towns of Ambo, Adama, Debre Zeit (Bishoftu), Dodola, Shashemene, and Bale Robe have been majorly disrupted, most recently coming under attack in October 2021.
There is a regional curfew in place from 9:00 pm to 5:30 am and travelers are advised to contact local security forces before entering the area.
Sidama is a small region in the south-central region of Ethiopia. A curfew is also in place in Sidama and public transport is only allowed from 6 am and 8 pm.
SNNPR (Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region)
The regions bordering Sudan and Kenya remain volatile and travelers should exercise extreme caution. Some parts, including the Konso zone, already see a heightened security presence.
Both the Oromia-Somali and Afar-Somali borders have been key areas of ethnic conflict in the past months and the situation remains volatile.
The mass displacement of citizens in the area remains a threat and all contact with these borders should be avoided.
The most northern region of Ethiopia is the center of all the conflict and must be avoided at all costs.
Land borders both domestically and internationally are closely monitored and flights have been canceled.
Access to the region remains restricted and frequent interruptions to communication and banking services are further cause for concern. No attempts should be made to enter Tigray until further notice.
COVID numbers in Ethiopia
By the end of July 2020, Ethiopia had less than 10,000 cases of COVID-19. Since then, the number has grown steadily with large increases in August and the following March and September.
The highest number of daily cases was recorded in April 2021, with just under 2,500 new infections. By the end of November, more than 370,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Ethiopia and over 6,500 people have died as a result.
The country has a slow vaccine rollout and access to vaccines is limited. Around 5.5 million doses have been administered and only 1.2% of the population is fully vaccinated.