Arrival in Addis
At Bole Airport
You will touch down in Ethiopia at Bole Airport, Terminal 2. It's a small but modern international airport terminal and generally we don't experience many problems in getting people through the immigration process. There are toilets at the back of the immigration hall which are worth using before joining the immigration queue - especially if you have young children! Sometimes the queue moves slowly.
Join the queue for non-Ethiopians. It usually moves steadily, although sometimes if several international flights arrive at once there can be a delay. Your passport and visa will be checked and very occasionally your vaccination booklet might be requested to check you've been vaccinated against Yellow Fever. Often you will be asked to give an address where you will be staying. You can give:
House number 441,
There is rarely, if ever, any difficulty at all at immigration if you have the correct paperwork. Just smile and be polite as you would in any country!
After you pass through immigration, turn right and you will immediately enter the Baggage Claim Hall. Trolleys can usually be found in the centre of the hall, between the carousels. It's normal for baggage to be already on the carousels because it's a small airport, but look at the screens or ask a porter if you're not sure. Sometimes, if several flights arrive at once, the baggage from one flight may be set in a space on the floor on the far side of the hall for you to claim.
If you have something missing, go to the Lost Luggage desk on the far wall of the Baggage Claim Hall. They will record your baggage numbers and show you sample pictures to help you to identify what you are missing. A receipt will be issued to you so that you can claim your luggage when it is found. Keep this safely as it's the only way you'll be able to get back into the airport to collect your luggage in the following days!
Customs in Addis will probably differ greatly from in your home country. Although technically there is a green lane for those with nothing to declare, in reality it’s often closed and everyone is sent through the red channel. Your baggage claim tickets will probably be checked as you leave the baggage claim area to make sure that you've picked up the correct bags and then you'll join the line to have your luggage scanned. This procedure is checking for items on which customs tax may be due. For most people there will be no tax due. Occasionally you may be asked to open your suitcase and show the contents.
This search is mainly for electronics, electrical goods and other high value items. Examples may include DVD players, camcorders, blenders, kettles, car parts, medical equipment, digital projectors etc. Backpacks are rarely checked if they are being worn.
There is no way to predict whether or not you will be charged tax. Sometimes it's acceptable to say that the items are for personal use - especially if you're only carrying one of the item - a laptop, a phone, a tablet and a musical instrument may all be for personal use. If you're carrying 2 laptops or phones then they might see that as suspicious. Sometimes they may make a note on their electronic system that an item is being brought into to the country for personal use. If this occurs, then you are expected to carry the same item out of the country next time you leave - as proof that it hasn't been sold to an Ethiopian.
If you are charged tax on goods then you will be asked to pay in cash. If you don't have cash on hand there is an ATM at the airport. If you can’t use it for some reason then the customs officer will keep the item safely at the airport and give you a receipt to come back and claim it. Do not lose the receipt - it is the only way to retrieve your item(s).
If you are bringing in a smartphone to use while you are in country, you need to stop at this point and go and register it. You do this in the office which is behind the x-ray machine that your baggage was put through. It's a simple process and you will be able to register one phone per person. This is a new system in Addis. Phones which are not registered in this way will not work when a local SIM card is bought and placed in them. In the past some people have brought 2 mobile phones in case of loss or damage. At the moment it’s not possible to register the second phone, even if the first is damaged or lost.
A number of staff have recently been purchasing locally produced Android mobile phones and have found them to be of good quality and function and at affordable cost. This might be an option if you bring a phone and then need to replace it. Locally produced phones are pre-registered. There are no locally produced iPhones.
Exiting the Airport
As you leave the customs area you will enter the Arrivals Hall. No one without a plane ticket is allowed to enter the airport, so the people picking you up will be waiting in the car park. Leave the terminal, turn left and then find the ramp that heads down into the car park. You will probably be asked many times if you need a taxi. A simple, "no thank you" is sufficient. A porter may offer to push your trolley - this is ok, but a tip of 5-10 ETB will be expected. It might be easier to say no thank you if you don't have Birr available.
We will be waiting in the car park for you with a sign with your name on it.
What if I get held up in customs?
Don't panic! We are aware that these things happen. We won't leave without you. If you are forbidden to enter the country (which has never yet happened for anyone with the correct paperwork) then please try to borrow someone's phone and call the person collecting you (with whom you will have been put in contact ahead of time) or Gail Gorfe (Government Relations Officer) on +251 911 882 187.
What if no one is there to meet me?
Don't panic! In the very unlikely event that they are not there, go back to the ramp and wait under the shelter there. The most likely explanation is that there is an unexpected traffic problem in the city. You will not have been forgotten! Please do not leave the airport in a taxi - they don't know where Bingham Academy is even if they say they do! If you get worried that something has gone wrong, try to borrow someone's phone and call the person collecting you (who you will have been in contact with) or Jemma Fifield on +251 989 994 176.
If you have other "What Ifs?", email email@example.com