Safety in the streets
Ethiopia is not only a very safe country, but also a place where you feel very welcome. The people are polite, warm and open. Particularly, Addis Ababa is a safe place to for tourists. It is extremely rare someone will attack you from the blue. Moreover, thanks to the Ethiopian government, these days, there is more police presence, and security guards everywhere.
Of course as a traveler you should always use your common sense and take some precautions. You should never leave your bags unattended, never display a lot of money, show off your expensive jewelry or digital devices unless you are in a safe place or accompanied with friends. Also be very careful of thieves in the market and crowded areas. They might distract you to grab your items. Always take little money, and leave your passport and ticket in a safe place.
Car driving is a bit unknown in Ethiopia. Most car dealers will only let you drive cars around Addis Ababa. If you do not want to miss out the good bits of the country side, you need to rent a four-while car with a driver. If you decide to drive yourself, drive defensively. When walking or driving in Ethiopia, look out for careless drivers as in some towns they drive in every direction.
Usually a lot of children can be seen begging in market areas and major tourist sites, but very less begging in smaller towns. If you give them money; more of them will come asking for more money. The society is generally unhappy about this practice; some parents even give a spank to their children for this behavior. Giving money to children encourages them to leave school. If you enjoy giving, better give things to families, schools, local charities, or the sick and elderly. In some areas, such as at church entrances, you may see many baggers in the morning hours waiting for breakfast. If you are free to give them some food or even cloth.
Some people try to scam you if you appear a stranger. Sometimes, small children and young men approach you with a sorrowful look and invented stories; trying to convince you they are telling a true story. This could be an easy way to make money from new-comers. Avoid giving money. In fact, many people are really in need; you can make your own judgment if you choose to give them something.
Don't trust street girls who approach you for a ride. They are not quite visible in mian streets, but you may encounter them when walking in smaller side streets. Do not always assume you can have fun with them. It is difficult to get rid of them if you fail to keep your promises. They can turn wild, and scream and attract unwanted crowd until you give them some money. If they approach you, just smile and keep walking, of course unless you have decided to have a real fun.
Keep car windows shut
Open car windows are an excellent invitation to adventures thieves. Obviously, it can get very hot in Ethiopia, but don’t leave your car windows open. If riding in shared taxis, some passengers dislike air blowing through open windows. Yet, some taxis are not too bad as the side door is always open, but large busses and small taxis can be a real problem,
Cultural show scam
These days, especially in Addis Ababa, you may be approached by gentlemen inviting you for local cultural show or traditional dancing. This can be a complete scam. They take you somewhere to show dancing, and offer you a drink. At the end you will be asked to pay unreasonable sum, or invite you to arguments that might turn to be violent. Do not attend such shows; you can get them for free if you visit a decent local restaurant.
Fake tour guides
When you take local guides, make sure they are genuine and know the area very well. You may end up telling them more interesting info about their country than you learn from them. While walking around tourist centers, many young men will approach to you as tourist guides with an aim to earn some money. It is a good option to take a guide, as they will walk you around the city, when you are shopping in the market. Definitely they also serve as deterrent against other annoying guides. Many guides speak reasonable English or some German, Italian, French or Arabic. To be in the safe side, it is advisable to hire a licensed tour guide.
Save your currency exchange receipts
On your return at the Bole Airport you will be asked to show your receipt if you want to change your remaining Ethiopian Birr back to your preferred currency. Make sure you keep all receipts of any exchanged Birr. If you go over the permitted amount of Birr for the exchange, just ask another fellow traveler with a passport to exchange the money for you.
You may have been warned against the behaviors of African police. Due to their minimum salary, some are forced to be corrupt, and take advantage of strangers in their country. In contrary, the Ethiopian police displays professionalism, and do not ask you for money. They may appear dangerous carrying their Kalashnikov guns, but they are polite and extremely helpful.
Peeing in public
Do not get shocked if you watch men peeing in the public. It is not only real homeless men who did this; a lot of men just turn their back and go for it. They do not even think about going behind the bush a few meters away.