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Legal Matters

Remember that when in Ethiopia, you’re subject to Ethiopian laws. If you’re arrested, you must (in theory) be brought to court within 48 hours. You have the right to talk to someone from your embassy, as well as a lawyer. For the most part, police in Ethiopia will show you as much respect as you show them. If confronted by the police, always maintain your cool, smile and be polite. Compared with some other African nations, police here rarely, if ever, ask for bribes (we’re yet to experience it) and police checkpoints, for example, seem to make a point of waving tourist vehicles through.


Alcohol cannot be served to anyone under 18 years of age in Ethiopia. Disturbance caused by those under the influence of alcohol is punishable by three months’ to one year’s imprisonment. Driving while under the influence is also illegal and attracts a fine.


Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs (including hashish) are strictly enforced in Ethiopia. Convicted offenders can expect both fines and long jail sentences.

Consumption of the mildly stimulating leaf chat is permitted in Ethiopia.