Seven must-haves for traveling to Ethiopia:
Money Belt: Ethiopia is a beautiful and completely safe country. But petty theft and pick-pocketing are common. When visiting populated areas like markets and tourist attractions, it is good idea to keep larger bills in a money belt hidden underneath clothing. Smaller bills and coins are fine to keep in pockets for easy access.
Luggage Locks: Ethiopia is a large country, and seeing it requires many transfers by car, bus and/or airplane which means lots of different people handling your backpacks/luggage. Ethiopians are also very friendly and it is customary for them to be helpful towards visitors so they will always offer to take your luggage. Most hotels do not have safes, so the locks are essential.
Toilet Paper: Western toilets and “squatty potty’s” are both used in Ethiopia. In most hotels and tourist areas western toilets can be found, but even these are missing the critical component…toilet paper. So best to always carry it with you.
Warm Layers and Rain jacket: Northern Ethiopia gets a lot of rain and mist during June to August. The city of Gondar, the “Camelot of Ethiopia”, has many hills and a wet climate similar to San Francisco. In addition, it can get quite cold in Simien National Park, which is between Gondar and Axum. So bring layers and a rain jacket.
Scarf (for Women): The major attractions of Northern Ethiopia are beautiful, old, churches. Although the historic churches are Christian, and the modern-day population is Christian and Muslim, it is expected for women to cover their heads when visiting churches.
Ear Plugs: As a whole, Ethiopians are religious. The Christian and Muslim churches combined have many holidays in Ethiopia, as well as two fasting days per week. In cities there are many churches, and most have loudspeakers with a Christian and Muslim call to prayer many times per day. During holidays the prayer calls are around the clock and often start as early as 3:00am, and continue throughout the day to as late as midnight. Ear plugs help ensure a good night’s rest.
Waterproof shoes: June to August is the rainy season in Northern Ethiopia, which is the main tourist route. Bring waterproof shoes because there is standing water and mud most everywhere during the rainy season. There are many places on the street to get the mud cleaned off your shoes (cost 10 birr, $0.50), and if your shoes are waterproof, then life is good for the next day of mud.