Archive for the ‘Addis Ababa’ Category

Charlotte writes:

I was in Ethiopia for 2 and a half months for research from mid July 2014 – end September 2014, but also did some travelling. I did a lot in public transport, for which information is sometimes scarce so I have added some info here, though it is usually quite easy to get information by asking around a bit. Note that the prices that I have put here is what I was charged in Summer 2014, however prices are variable depending e.g. on market days, type of bus taken for transport, prices also vary for peak/off peak seasons, e.g. for hotels , I was there in the off-season.

 

GENERAL INFORMATION

Sky bus

Their office on Meskel square in Addis does exist but is hard to find, and we found the man bad tempered and unhelpful…maybe it just wasn’t his day…and told us that there were no tickets left on the bus, however we went to the office at Itegue Taitu hotel in Piassa and the lady was very helpful and got us tickets for the bus we wanted.

Took Skybus from Addis – Hawassa and back, a good bus service that leaves on time and is a good price, though there is constantly noise from film/music/standup comedy that they play for the whole bus, so earplugs are worthwhile if you want some quiet. For toilet breaks, the bus just stops on the side of the road somewhere quiet. Also receive a small snack & drink.

They are also very flexible, we had almost illegible tickets (through water destruction) for a Friday, we had tried changing the date, however no-one was around in the Hawasa office and on the phone they just told us to turn up at the busstop at 6am on the Sunday, the day we wanted to leave. After we explained the situation, they accepted our ruined tickets for the wrong day and allowed us to travel! Great!

 

Selam bus

I took it from Bahir Dar – Addis, same comments as Sky bus.

 

Theft

Generally speaking, if you are careful, there should not be a problem, but there are the odd people that will try to take things from you. In 10 weeks, only 2 attempts were made to take my things (luckily both failed!). In Addis a group of boys distracted me on one side while one of them puts their hands into your pockets on the other side. Even so I continued to keep e.g. phone in my pocket throughout my travels, but I was careful. In minibuses & public transport, if you have bags with you, keep an eye on them (or if you travel with big bags/rucksacks, just avoid keeping important things in them, or if you must, then put them in the least accessible places). I had a small rucksack that I had put by my feet in a minibus, and later caught a man’s hand in it! Luckily I had tied up the inside opening well and he couldn’t access anything, but it is better to keep smaller bags on your lap.

Another friend had his phone stolen by a group of men in a bajaj, clearly they were working together with the driver. He only realised after.

 

Other

- Tea and coffee in local places almost always comes automatically with sugar already in the drink, although some places more used to foreigners will put sugar aside.

- In hotels, if you like hot showers, one of the 1st things you should do is turn the boiler on as it often takes some time for the water to heat up.

- Cappuccinos don’t have coffee – it is hot milk with a little cocoa powder

 

SHASHEMENE AND HAWASSA

Hawassa

I enjoyed Hawassa, it is a nice, clean town, and the lake is beautiful.

Paradise hotel – Great location near to the minibus station, good for early starts. It is a nice place but the bar next door is very (very) loud, but otherwise is good value for money

 

Hawassa to Shashemene and back

10 birr, 20-30min

NOTE – in Shashemene there are 2 bus stations. The minibus from Hawassa goes to the Old bus station

 

 

BALE MOUNTAINS

The rainy season is not the best time to go – we were there in mid-August & it rained every afternoon.

 

Shashemene to Dinsho/Robe and back

100 birr in minibus – if you go to Dinsho, you still must pay the price for Robe. It takes 2h30 from Shashamane – Dinsho.

The buses between Shashamane and Robe arrive and leave from the New bus station.

 

Dinsho 

This is where the Bale Park forest office is, and also where you can get guides. It is at the end of the town (Robe side). It is possible to stay in the Dinsho lodge, but we did not do this as we had heard that it wasn’t great and that it was expensive. From the outside it looks okay so maybe things have changed.

Tuesday is a market day

 

Dinsho – Robe

11 birr in minibus, 20-30min (15 birr on market day)

 

Robe

We decided to stay in Robe instead of Dinsho as a point de depart for the Bale Mountains.

Public transport between Dinsho & Robe is easy, although we once had difficulty getting a minibus back to Robe at 4pm, although that may be due to the market that there was in Dinsho. It can sometimes be easier picking up a minibus on the side of the road instead of from the bus station in Dinsho.

Thursday is a market day in Robe.

- Abdama hotel – 300/night for 2 single beds (they call it a double). It is fairly clean & comfortable, but shower isn’t great (there is hot water, but not much water comes out of showerhead at a time) & they don’t give much toilet paper. Note: They lock the gate so if you must leave before 7am someone must come and open for you. Good location near the bus station.

- Hanni café is nice, as is the Harar bar and restaurant opposite which seems popular for tibs BUT be careful in Robe asking for tibs, as you may be presented instead with a plate of chips!

 

Sanetti plateau

The park management advise against using public transport for the Sanetti plateau, and from experience, I will agree with them, unless you have time or plan it well! Getting there was easy however returning was a problem.

From Robe you must go to Goba (5 birr, minibus, 15 min). Sometimes there can be very long queues so if you are continuing to Sanetti, then it is best to leave early (I would suggest about 7am, as we were there at 9am it was far too late).

From Goba, take a bus direction Dolo Mena, and get off at Sanetti campsite (your guide will know it; 60 birr in a public bus, about 1.5hrs; we had 50birr for luggage). It is standard to pay the price of the whole trip to Dolo Mena. Try to leave as early as possible, it took a long time for our bus to fill up, but I don’t think it was the 1st bus that left.

For the return from Sanetti to Robe/Goba – you must wait on the side of the road and wait for a passing bus/truck/car that is willing to take you. We waited all afternoon once and had nothing, and were forced to spend an extra night on the plateau. The afternoon is a bad time for getting transport here although you may get lucky. It is easier to get transport in the morning, we ended up getting picked up by a truck (we were 3 people, 2 travellers and 1 guide).

 

NORTHERN CIRCUIT (MEKELE-WOLDIA-LALIBELA-BAHIR DAR)

Mekele

Diana hotel – Near the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia. Decent place, but price variable (100birr for a man & woman to share, 150birr for two of the same sex to share). The shower & toilet are shared, but are clean enough.The manager Tesfay is friendly and helpful and can help you out with problems.

Merkeb hotel – We paid 130birr (although according to another couple we met, they paid 100….maybe it was because we were 2 females).Cleanish but I prefered the Diana hotel, which is better for a very similar price, however you can’t beat Merkeb’s location next to the bus station (for southerly destinations), and close to Selam bus stop, particularly useful for early travellers.

 

Mekele to Hawzen & back (via Wukro)

40birr

Take bajaj in Mekele to the Lachi bus station & can get a minibus from there

To return: it is difficult to get a minibus back after 3pm

 

Hawzen

Good base for visiting rock hewn churches (of which Abuna Yemata & Debre Maryam Korkor are definately worth visiting, particularly if you also enjoy hiking a bit, the views are wonderful!). It is also possible to arrange longer hiking trips over several days (or even weeks I think) to less accessible churches.

Gheralta lodge – it is by far the nicest place to stay, and worth it (1300birr/ night for a room with 3 single beds, private bathroom, and includes a great breakfast)

Vision hotel – Recently opened (end of August 2014) and is nice and clean, the manager is friendly and speaks good English. No running water, but this was a problem in the whole village at that particular moment (130birr / room/ night with private bathroom). I am sceptical about how long the hotel will stay in good condition as some material in the bathroom seems a little flimsy.

 

Mekele – Woldia (Weldiya)

I ended up having to take several minibuses to get here, although I think it is possible to get bigger buses directly if you arrive in time at the bus station (big bus leaves at 6am)

Mekele – Mohia: 45birr, about 2hrs

Mohia – Alamata: 20birr, about 1hr

Alamata – Woldia: about30birr, about 2hrs

Woldia is quite a nice but plain small town – I enjoyed climbing one of the hills for a very nice view of the town, although I would have preferred to have headed straight onto Lalibela (unfortunately I missed the last buses)

Jordanos hotel – Clean, nice. Didn’t have hot water but think I was just unlucky with a broken boiler.

 

Woldia – Lalibela and Lalibela – Bahir Dar

Woldia – Gashena then Gashena – Lalibela

 

Buses between these destinations tend to overcharge farenji. On my return trip Gashena – Lalibela I was asked to pay 70 birr, the locals paid 40. On my trip from Gashena to Bahir Dar, I was asked to pay 200birr, negotiated this to 150 birr, however the locals only paid 80birr.

 

Bahir Dar & the Blue Nile Falls

I had heard that a lot of people were disappointed with the Blue Nile Falls because of lack of water (due to a hydropower plant) however I went in mid September at the end of the rainy season and thought that they were really superb.

 

ADDIS ABABA

Minibuses around Addis

Prices are more expensive later at night. It is difficult to get the minibuses after 9.30pm. They don’t tend to overcharge farenji. For some idea of prices:

 

Stadium – Haya Hulet: 4 birr

Haya Hulet – Arat Kilo: 4 birr

Stadium – Global (Kira direction): 6 birr

Arat Kilo – Bole: 3 birr

Arat Kilo – Shiro Meda: 3 birr

Arat Kilo – Piazza: 1.5 birr

Arat Kilo – Meganegna: 3 birr

Arat Kilo – Stadium: 3 birr

Stadium – Kaliti bus station: 10 birr

 

 

BISHOFTU

Many people like this place, I did not. I found the lakes very dirty, with lots of rubbish, except if you are in a lodge or restaurant on the side of the lake, and my travel partner and I got harassed quite a bit.

Kaliti bus station to Bishoftu: 12-15 birr

 

Public transport

- Try to leave in the morning. Often I found buses would leave at 6am, and you would have to arrive earlier to take tickets.

- Make sure you aren’t in a hurry, the buses can sometimes take quite some time to fill up (Often they fill up fairly quickly, but it isn’t always the case)

- Often they will charge you more for luggage (but not always)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travellers heading between north and south might want to make use of a new road between Debre Birhan and Mojo bypassing Addis Ababa. The road is unsurfaced, but reputedly in good condition. Coming from Debre Birhan, you need to drive south as if towards Addis Ababa, then before you reach Sheno, head east via Kotu village and south to Mojo (at the junction of the road east to Harar and south to Hawassa).

Many thanks to John Grinling for this excellentt summary of the live music scene in Addis Ababa in mid-2014:

The music scene in Addis Abeba is wonderful, enthusiastic and varied. Ethiopian music, with its unique rhythms, beat, vibrations and sounds might be, like whisky, an acquired taste: it aims at inducing trance either by way of a distinctive and energetic dance music, or through hypnotic wailing melodies that have an undeniable Arab or Oriental clang.

Marvelous musicians and bands perform every evening in numerous venues, starting usually around 10.30 PM. Exceptions are the Sheraton’s Office Bar where the Zemen Band plays from Thursdays to Saturdays as from 8 PM. And the Jupiter Hôtel in Kazanchis featuring Bibisha and Co every Thursday after 7 PM.

But for a more thrilling experience, you should visit either the venerable Jazz Amba, on the right side of the Taitu Itegue hotel at Piazza. Or the pleasant and homely Mama’s Kitchen, on Bole road, the avenue leading to the Airport just after the huppé Black Rose bar, a fine place to waste time before a concert by watching Addis’s jet set.

And there is also Jams, a club situated 500 m. beyond Yod Abyssinia at Bole Medhane Alem, a comparatively new venue offering superb Reggae and Salsa. Reggae is on Thursdays and Saturdays by the well-established “Imperial Majestic Band” with Sydney Solomon as the star singer and dancer. Expect to hear also plenty of great reggae guest musicians there: Addis is indeed a required stop on the road to Shashamane, the Rastafari Makkah.

Good reggae, of a wilder kind, could be heard on weekends at the 3rd floor Smokey Blues Café in Shegger’s building. Barefoot Rasta, the polyglot veteran who doesn’t wear shoes, plays on Fridays at Zanzibar, a difficult to find joint near Bole Airport. But my personal favorite reggae singer is called Ayou. He sings on Thursdays at Jazz Amba with the Express Band.

Most performances do include some Reggae, even at the Sheraton. The band leader Vahé also sometimes interprets with much passion his own compositions in Armenian.

Virtuoso British percussionist Eshee Havana’s all Ethiopian salsa band plays on Fridays also at Jams. They conjure up a powerful Latino pulse that sends dazzling couples spinning. Unforgettable.

Mama’s Kitchen proposes a varied choice: First the famous Monday’s Jam Session, backed by the solid Nubian Ark musicians. It is packed with connoisseurs and artist who take turns to rouse the audience. On Tuesday, it is Michael Lema’s performance, a great new singer with his Ethiopian music band. Wednesday belongs to traditional Azmari Beit music, where the masinko (a one string sort of violin played usually by wondering minstrel) takes center stage, accompanied by drum and singer. On Thursday’s and Saturday’s, the Lubac Acoustic Band plays with most famous singer Alemayu Eshete, the star guest on the weekend. Friday you have the Blue Vibes Band and Sundays are for Samuel Yirga’s Jazz Band.

The ancestor of these venues is the steady Jazz Amba :

Tuesday: Ethio Jazz by Addis Taim band and the famed singer Getachew Kassa.

Wednesday: Legendary Alemayehu Eshete backed by the remarkable funk band named Nubian Arc.

Thursday, my favorite evening, with Michael Lema and reggae singer Asayehegn Alemu, better known as Ayu. They play with the Express Band of Haileyesus Girma.

Friday: Oldies interpreted by Addis Acoustic Project Band, with the elderly singers Girma Negash and Bahta Gebre-Hiwot as well as a few other excellent vocalists.

Saturday: Zemen Band with modern English and Amharic songs by Tsedenia Gebre Markos and other artists.

Sunday: Bati Groove’s Quartet Jazz Band plays with Dawit Melese.

The well-regarded Ghion Hotel, close to Mesquel square, now cooperates with the internationally famous vibraphonist Mulatu Astatke and has set up a “Jazz village” in its vast premises. The Belema Jazz Band is supposed to take stage on Wednesday and Saturday. Misto Misto Band plays on Thursday, Express Band on Friday, and when Mulatu is in town, he performs on Saturdays, joined usually by other great Ethiopian musicians.

This was the situation mid-2014. But venues and performers often change. Fortunately, most of these locations now run Facebook pages that are reasonably up to date. It is highly advisable to check them out.

True Ethiopian ambiance can also be found in less illustrious but more traditional scenes, such as Messafint’s cabaret (off Meskal Flower rd), or Fendika (in Kasantchis quarter)animated by renowned dancer Melaku, or my personal favorite, the Dome in the basement of the ill-famed Concorde Hotel on Debre Zeit road.

Crowded by locals as well as by lively Chinese and by Arabs keen to change from their diet of alcohol abstinence and veiled women, these hideouts propound a blend of music, song, traditional dances, drinks and Azmari performances that generate a special quality of happiness, abandon et euphoria you will experience nowhere else.

 

LizaD writes:

I also several friends who stayed at Lomi Guest house that was recently recommended (http://bradtethiopiaupdate.wordpress.com/2014/06/18/lomi-guesthouse-addis-ababa/) and everyone loves the place.

Also, your readers might want to look at Addis options on https://www.airbnb.com. I am one of the hosts, but usually don’t take tourists who come just for 3-4 days (I prefer long stays while I am traveling, to keep my house from being empty). But this is not meant as a plug for my own ‘business’ it is more to say that now quite a few new people joined airbnb Addis and there seems to be a wider array of options that may be interested to some of your readers.

John Grinling writes:

An excellent hotel in the budget category is the charming, clean and
well-kept Lomi Guest House on the nascent Entoto Hill. Situated on
Shewareged Gedle str., close to the English Sandford School in the
agreeable Kebena quarter, it is at ten minutes’ walk, in the direction
of the British Embassy, from Arat Kilo.
The manicured flower garden somehow overlooks the city, with plenty of
seats around for guests to share a talk and a beer. Breakfast,
hamburgers, spaghetti or tebs can be ordered all day long
Spick and span budget rooms are available for 12 USD a night, with two
rooms sharing one bathroom. Single rooms having ensuite bathrooms cost
between 18 and 24 USD, depending on location and size. The very
spacious luxury double rooms, with fridge and satellite receiver, cost
28 USD. The personnel are energetic and helpful and can be reached by
tel. +251 913 60 93 66 or +251 111 23 36 28 or by email :
lomiguesthouse@gmail.com.

Thanks to John Grinling for the following corrections & updates:

P. 159, « The Churches of Kiddist Maryam etc. »  2nd para, first line :
The church named Kiddist Maryam you are speaking about here is not
located at C4 on the map p.162. As you mention, the Kiddist Maryam
church you are speaking about is situated just beside Beta Maryam
where the Menelik II Mausoleum can be found. These two churches are
both are on the western side of the Guebbi, at D1 on the map p.162.
The church situated on that map at C4 is another Kidist Maryam,
therefore also dedicated to St Mary.

P. 185, map : please spell “Tilili” and not “Tiliili”

P. 230 – I would also suggest you mellow down the over emphasized mention of :
“…the world most persistent shoeshine boys…” – I stayed four
days in Debark and could not find event one listro.

P. 256 – “… escape the yelling kids and wanabe guides…” (p. 256) – During a
leisurely week spent in Axum, I particularly appreciated being left
close to totally undisturbed. By the way, the Abinet Hotel seemed to
me particularly well maintained and friendly, and does not make use of
Faranji prices. The prices are cheap – in the range of 200 and 250
birr – and the same for all. It is rare enough to be stressed.


P. 406, one paragraph before the bottom of the page, you mention
“An ambitious excursion from Asbe Teferi…” in the direction of Machara
and the Mt Arba Gugu. Both are not “further east”, as you write, but clearly towards the
south west, as Machara is situated on the continuation, direction
south west, of the road to Kuni. Your book speaks also, first line p.
407, of Kuni being 25 km south east of Asbe Teferi. It should read
south west.


 

Michelle writes:

Amex Travellers Cheques now not accepted in any Ethiopian Bank (Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, Dashen Bank, also tried others in Addis). Evidently in about June 2013, a number of counterfeit Amex Travellers tendered by travellers to major Ethiopian Banks.  The counterfeit cheques were not honoured by Amex.  We were told that “the problem has never been resolved”.  Aside from this hitch all was good and our local guides and friends went the extra mile to help out.