Practical Tips & Advice on What to Bring
Clothing – What to Wear in Ethiopia
For most travelers to Ethiopia, you should pack lightweight clothes in natural fabrics such as cotton, linen, bamboo or hemp – clothing that will keep you cool, yet is durable.
Casual, comfortable clothes are the the main thing to keep in mind. Avoid dark clothes like black or navy blue. Stick to neural colors like whites, tans, khaki, etc. You should dress down rather than up.
But please remember Ethiopians are conservative dressers, and it is appreciated when you wear clothing that covers you at least from your shoulders to your knees.
For travel at higher altitudes, pack a lightweight jacket or long-sleeved top to keep you warm in the early mornings or late evenings. Day time temperatures are very pleasant but nights and early mornings can be freezing!
Not to mention, long pants and long-sleeved tops will help protect you from the harsh daytime sun and act as a barrier against mosquitoes at night.
Don’t worry about packing a lot of clothes because laundry service is available in most hotels. This is where natural fabric clothing comes in handy, since they are easier to wash and quick to dry.
A good pair of walking shoes or low hiking boots are recommended even if you don’t plan to go for any serious hikes. Pathways and trails around many historical sites are rocky and uneven.
Bring a money belt. A money belt is a small, zippered fabric pouch on an elastic strap that fastens around your waist, under your clothing.
You might like to carry a small folding umbrella which is handy in case of rain and sun. Light rain gear is advisable and essential in rainy season (June- September), although you often will find shelter to let the shower pass.
If you travel in malaria infected area, an extra mosquito net might come handy in some lodges or hotels.
Although in most hotels clean sheets are offered, some people prefer to travel with a personal sleep sack or a sleeping bag liner.
Toilet paper is often missing and a small pack of camping/travel toilet paper comes in handy if you have to use a ‘bush’ toilet.
Sunglasses with a ball cap or a hat with a wide brim and high factor sunscreen are advisable to protect against (very strong!) sunlight. Remember to drink a lot of water too.
A good compact flashlight is useful to have in case of the power cuts but it is also very helpful to find your way around at night (no street lamps in remote areas) and it helps to get a better view in and around some of the unlighted churches and historical sites.
If you are a light-sleeper you might want to bring earplugs. If your hotel is in the neighborhood of an Ethiopian Orthodox Church, prayers may start very early morning and last for several hours.
As wake up calls are not available everywhere, you better bring a small, wind-up alarm clock, if you decide to leave your mobile phone at home.
- Bring a money belt or neck pouch. Use it to stash away the stuff you cannot afford to “loose”
- A lightweight day-pack or fanny pack,
- Lockable, soft-sided luggage,
- Your cell or smart phone (for calls/video/camera/alarm),
- Phone charger, and 2 pin Euro-style plug adapters,
- Camera, spare batteries/charger, Memory cards,
- Earplugs (for light sleepers),
- Small, folding umbrella or rain gear,
- A mosquito net (for open windows),
- Compact flashlights with spare batteries,
- Sunglasses and hat,
- Don’t forget to bring a pair of binoculars. Even a small pair stashed away in your day-pack will be appreciated when bird or wildlife watching.
Special Notes for For Nature Lovers: Bird Watchers, Hikers, & Wildlife Photographers
When you book a trekking tour or bird watching trip, please bring only soft-sided bags as your luggage will be transported by mules, and luggage with sharp corners and stiff sides are hard on the animals.
Most trekking tours are done at higher altitude (Simien Mountains/ Bale Mountains/ Lalibela), so make sure you wear warm clothing or carry extra layers you can add on as the air gets cooler.
We recommend that you bring your own sleeping bag. And as most campsite facilities are often very basic, it is also a good to bring wet baby wipes or camping toilet paper.
Most people prefer to wear more sturdy hiking boots with ankle support while out hiking on more remote trails. If you are comfortable with a (Nordic style) walking stick you should bring one or two along as well.
For visitors to Erta Ale volcano, a good headlamp is advisable for the hike in the dark. Also, for Erta Ale, a scarf or handkerchief comes handy to cover your mouth and nose for obnoxious fumes and it is better not to wear open shoes and shorts once you reach the crater rim, as the young lava crumbles easily and is razor sharp.
Outside Addis it is difficult to find the special photographic or hiking/camping gear you might need, so it is better to bring these items with you from your home country.
Last but not least, please bring a first aid kit.
First Aid Kit
There are private clinics in most major towns but in general the standards of treatment are limited. So don’t forget to bring a simple first aid kit, which could include:
- Bandages (Multiple sizes, gauze, and adhesive tape)
- Antiseptic cream,
- Preferred antacids, motion-sickness,
- Preferred painkillers,
- Anti-histamine tablets for allergies,
- Anti-itch gel/cream for insect bites,
- Moleskin for blisters,
- Anti-diarrhea tablets (e.g. containing loperamide),
- Sunscreen (SPF 15 or greater) with UVA and UVB protection,
- Insect repellent.
Personal Packing List
While pharmacies carry a range of medicines but we recommend that you bring your required medicines with you, which may include:
- Spare Glasses/Contact lenses & Eye drops,
- Sunburn treatment (the sun is strong),
- Travel toilet paper,
- Preferred feminine products (if needed),
- Prescriptions medicines,
- Copies of all prescriptions,
- Medical alert bracelet or necklace,
- Diabetes testing supplies.
The following items may require a letter from your doctor on official letterhead/stationary or a copy of your prescription:
- Needles or syringes (for diabetes, for example),
- Insulin vials,
- Insulin auto-injectors,
- Epinephrine auto-injectors (EpiPens),
Yes, we know many minimalists, feel this is way too much “stuff” to bring on an adventure tour. Keep in mind It is just a suggested packing list.
You can bring as little on this list as you want… although our tour partner, strongly recommends the first aid supplies and personal travel kit.
No one wants to spend the last days of their Ethiopian adventure, stumbling around, virtually blind because they lost their glasses!