Work and Travel in Ethiopia

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Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa and is part of the dramatic Horn of Africa. It’s a favourite for backpackers who visit Africa, but you can do more than just see the sights. Work and travel in Ethiopia is your chance to make a difference and gain a variety of new skills at the same time.

You’ll find there’s a lot of volunteering opportunities in Ethiopia for travellers. These work placements won’t be found in conventional travel guides for Ethiopia, so read on to find out more.

1. Help Get Children Off the Streets in Addis Ababa.

There are huge numbers of street kids in Addis Ababa, the capital of the country. You can play your part in helping to create a future for these kids. You can give them a basic education and you don’t require any specific qualifications to be able to do this.

You’ll support them through centres setup by NGOs and keep them focused as they turn their lives around. You’ll also make friends for life as you work with volunteers from all over the world.

2. Teach English in Ethiopia

Work and travel in Ethiopia and stop off to teach English in the country. Many Ethiopians dream of being able to visit Western countries to live and work. You can help them with that if you’re a native English speaker.

To work in Ethiopia as an English teacher you would ideally already possess the TEFL qualification, or the equivalent of. But there are organisations that accept native English speakers without any qualifications.

You do have more options if you’re already qualified, however.

3. Enjoy a Homestay with a Real Ethiopian Family

Many rural Ethiopian families need additional help throughout the year with farming and other work. This is especially the case if they have grown children who have moved on. Organisations place volunteers with families on homestay projects.

In return for help with daily chores, which could include anything from cleaning to helping with the farm work, you get to take in the friendly and welcoming local culture. It’s the best way of getting under the surface of the local culture and away from the main tourist attractions.


Take note that Ethiopia only allows visa-free travel to two countries in the world. These countries are Djibouti and Kenya for visa-free travel. Everyone else needs some form of visa.

For all North Americans and Europeans, it’s enough to simply turn up and pay for a visa-on-arrival. Take note that this option is only available at the Addis Ababa airport and can’t be issued at a land border, which requires a visa to pass.

The same requirements apply to Russians, South Africans, the Japanese, and South Koreans. Australians and Kiwis must also arrive at the international airport in the capital to receive a visa-on-arrival.

Do bear in mind that the East African Tourist Visa is not available as you travel in Ethiopia. There have been talks regarding Ethiopia joining the programme, but nothing has yet come of it.



The spring is the time to avoid work and travel in Ethiopia because this is in the middle of the rainy season. The various programmes outside of the capital of Addis Ababa tend to close for the reason. You’ll find that you’re limited to traditional care programmes and English teaching programmes at this time of year.

It’s also not an ideal time to travel in Ethiopia as most rural roads tend to be washed out at this time of year.


The summer time still takes up part of the rainy season. However, if you head to the east of Ethiopia you’ll start to see less rain. It’s the perfect time to go into the wild and experience a real adventure through a homestay far away from the cities. Take note that Eastern Ethiopia is far less developed, so be prepared to live without many modern comforts.

For these homestays, you should consider taking an intensive language course in Amharic so you can achieve at least basic communication.


The autumn marks the full end of the rainy season. This is a fantastic time to participate in some of the sports camps that take place. Many of them are paired with helping vulnerable children who may have recently been taken off the streets. You could also participate in helping NGOs develop poorer communities in the major cities.


The winter is when the majority of tourists begin to visit Ethiopia. It’s the hottest time of the month and it’s when most NGOs begin to ramp up their projects because this is the preferred time for volunteers to work and travel in Ethiopia.

Medical centres in both rural and urban areas tend to appear at this time of year. If you have any experience in the medical field, or you’re just a student, your help within these makeshift pharmacies will be welcomed as you travel in Ethiopia.

Places tend to be filled quickly during the winter, so try to apply a few months in advance at this time of year.


Work and travel in Ethiopia is becoming extremely popular. But bear in mind that despite this popularity it’s still a third-world country. In terms of the attitudes towards foreigners, it’s like the majority of third-world countries in that they’re extremely welcoming and happy to see outsiders, especially if you head to the rural areas of the country.

Ethiopians remember the mass international effort to help them during the famine years and their warmth hasn’t dulled in the intervening years. You’ll be welcomed as a guest of the country and taken by the hand into the local culture. It’s one of the best countries for foreigners who have never travelled in Africa before.

But this is still a challenge and you have to be on your guard against the touts. Are you ready to start your challenge in Africa?

Recent Contributors

  • Edited on Jan 16 2018 by Yara

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