Obtaining an Ethiopian Visa in Nairobi

Friday, 24th of March 2017

On our northbound trip across Africa, we have heard from many people that it not possible to obtain tourist visas at the Ethiopian embassy in Nairobi if you are not a Kenyan resident. Fortunately, this is not true as my dad and I (both of German nationality) managed to obtain single entry visas today.

Here is a step-by-step description of how we organised our visas. Please be advised that the information provided below should only be used as a guideline. I wish you the best of luck!

The documents we required:

  • Valid Passport
  • Photocopy of your Passport (There is a photocopy machine at the embassy for a small fee paid in Kenyan Shilling – I think it was around 20 Shilling per copy)
  • Passport picture
  • Letter of Introduction or Letter of Recommendation from you home country (if your home country doesn’t issue those letters, obtain an official statement saying exactly that)
  • Itinerary of your whereabouts and
  • Booking confirmations of your hotels in Ethiopia
  • 40 USD for the 30-day single entry visa

Useful information: Try to find taxi driving who is willing to chauffeur you around the horrid traffic of downtown Nairobi. We were lucky to find Amos, who is fluent in English. He kindly waited for us at each embassy and drove us to all the necessary places we had to go. He can be reached at +254 712 789 298 or at amoswambugu5@gmail.com.

Before we headed to the Ethiopian embassy we had read on Lonely Planet that two British were denied visas without a letter of introduction. For this reason, we headed to our German embassy first (Note to Germans: You can only enter the German embassy by appointment which you must do electronically via their website). We booked a timeslot from 2:00 pm until 2:15 pm a few days earlier but apparently so did another dozen people when we arrived. At last, however, we got our chance to speak to the embassy to enquire our letter of introduction. To our disappointment, Germany doesn’t issue letters of introduction/recommendation. We, therefore, asked for a statement saying exactly that with a stamp of the German embassy. We merely received two photocopies of such a statement and we had to be satisfied with what we got.

The Ethiopian embassy is open from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm on weekdays. We arrived with all the aforementioned documents, except an official letter of introduction the following morning. There are in fact two entrances to the Ethiopian embassy, one for the embassy which faces State House Rd, one for the consulate which is located on the other side of the block and faces State House CRE. Do make sure to go to the embassy first. Here I asked the security guard kindly if we could obtain two tourist visas. She asked for the passports and the letter of introduction. I handed over our passports and the aforementioned statement from our German embassy that we received the day before. I did not mention a word that the papers are not official letters of introduction in hopes that they wouldn’t notice.

It seemed to work. After a 15 minute way at the gate of the embassy, the security guard returned our passports and our statements from the German embassy. Both had something handwritten on them in Ethiopian and were signed by some official inside the embassy. We were told to walk to the consulate gate for further instructions.

At the consulate, we asked for two tourist visas at the security gate. After a brief security screening, we had to turn off our phones, received a visitor pass and were told to wait in the lobby. Wait we did, for approximately an hour before the head consulate arrived. After she settled down in her office, cleaned up her desk, she waved us inside. Let the paperwork begin!

It turns out that Ethiopia is serious about where you will be staying and what you will want to see in Ethiopia. Luckily I booked some hotels in Addis Ababa the night before and had photocopies of our reservation confirmation. Book hotels that you can cancel if you are not sure when and where you will be staying in Ethiopia, but you mustn’t forget to bring booking confirmations! This you will need, as the head consulate asked us about the manager of the hotel, his or her phone number and the exact location. Everything was written down on our visa application form including a list of countries that we had visited before Kenya and all the countries that we plan to visit after Ethiopia. This in combination with a photocopy of our passport, a passport picture and the statement from our German embassy seemed to suffice. The final task remaining was to pay for our 30-day single entry visas (note that we could have obtained 3-month single entry visas if we wanted to). In this case, our fee was 40 USD per visa and it has to be paid at any branch of a Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA). Annoyingly there is no branch at the Ethiopian embassy. The closest CBA is a five-minute taxi drive away. Here we handed over the fee and received a transaction statement from the bank which we returned to the head consulate. At around 11:30 have we completed our paperwork and we were asked to return at 2:00 pm to pick up our passports.

After our lunch break downtown, we returned at 2 pm, waited for another hour in the lobby to finally receive our passports with a 30-day single entry visa sticker inside. Two Germans managed to obtain Ethiopian visas in Nairobi successfully. We are very happy indeed, as the only other option would have been to either fly or FedEx our passports to the Ethiopian embassy in Berlin.

Best of luck! Please feel free to get in touch for any additional questions.

Press here for Egyptian and Sudanese visa guidelines visit.

8 thoughts on “Obtaining an Ethiopian Visa in Nairobi

  1. hey! congratulations!! I’m in Kenya too and would love to travel to egypt overland. So I’m grateful for all the information about visas you can give me as I really am struggeling to find out how to do it without sending my passport back to germany. thanks and enjoy your trip!

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  2. Hey, first of all thanks for all the awesome information, i’m in uganda at the moment and got the east african tourist visa so i’m gonna make my way to kenya within the next weeks but i also have the problem that i just decided that i want to travel to egypt overland and of course like every other planless traveller didn’t apply for the visa when i was still in germany. I’m really glad that i just saw here that it is possible to get the visa in kenya even if it’s a lot of waiting and paperwork so thank you very much for that but my question is how serious do they take the travel itineray which is required and how did you “fake” it? Did you give them a piece of paper with some made up dates and locations? And did you do it on the computer and print it or with a pen? I’d really aprecciate an answer because i want to make sure that everthing goes well when i go to the embassy and that i have every required documents
    Cheers,
    Leo

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    1. Hi Leo, I am glad you found the information useful. We ‘faked’ it by booking one hotel on booking.com and saying that we would stay there all the time. I cancelled the booking after we received our visa. When you use booking.com make sure to book a hotel with a free cancelation policy. I had a print out of the booking confirmation. The Embassy Lady asked for our travel itinerary and pointed to the back of the booking confirmation with a pen. I took that as a sign to write down the countries we had previously visited (Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya) and wrote those down in that order. As if this wasn’t enough she asked for the hotel’s manager name and phone number. I just pointed to the phone number on the booking confirmation and made up the name. We were THAT desperate and I couldn’t be asked to call the hotel. But as you can see all worked out. Just remember, the people at the Embassies whether at the Ethiopian, Sudanese or Egyptian in Addis seem to follow countless rules without really thinking. If something goes not according to plan just try to talk yourself out of it.

      I entered Egypt yesterday by the way. Let me know if you need any further help.

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      1. Okay cool thanks for the answer i’ll try to be a good liar. It’s probably not possible to obtain a multiple entry visa though is it? I was planning to cross from ethiopia to somaliland and then to dschibouti and erithrea but i decided against it because overlanding from somaliland to dschibouti just seems like endless hassle and stress so i’ll go back to ethiopia from hargeysa. The problem is that they don’t issue a visa for ethiopia in hargeysa at all. Should be possible to get another single entry in addis when i get there though shouldn’t it? Let me know if you have any information about that.

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    2. Hi Leo, unfortunately, I have no information on multi-entry visas. But in honestly, I think it’s possible. The story remains the same for the embassy side (as is explained above). Once in the consulate, you can apply for anything you want. Best of luck!

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  3. Hey, I just went to the German embassy in Nairobi to finally get my letter of introduction\statement that the embassy doesn’t issue such a letter, in order to get my Ethiopian and Sudanese visa. Turns out what I thought would be the easiest part of this whole visa thing is way harder than I thought. I booked a timeslot at the embassy and specifically asked for a statement saying that they don’t issue that letter and told them that I only need that because I know that the German embassy doesn’t issue letters in general. No one had any idea what I was talking about and after half an hour of waiting around they told me that they are sorry but they can’t find any statement like that. My question is, do you remember how that letter looked like and what it said on there and what exactly you asked for when you were at the German embassy? That would help a lot because without that piece of paper with a German stamp on it I don’t even have to try to go to the Ethiopian embassy.
    Thanks for your help
    Leo

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    1. Hi Leo,
      We had trouble receiving a cop of that letter ourselves only after we consistently asked to speak with the ambassador thinks started to move. The letter is rather simple. It says that the German embassy doesn’t issue letters of introduction. Had a stamp of the German embassy on it and that was it. Someone later also pointed out that apparently this statement is available for download on the internet. That could be a solution to your problem perhaps.

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