Archive for the ‘banks and forex’ Category

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.

Matthew Birt writes:

I enjoyed reading and made good use of everyone else’s information, so I thought I ought to contribute:

 

Dec/Jan 2014

Travelled solo, independently using local transport

 

Bradt Guidebook excellent

 

General

 

Generally felt very safe and welcome

Quite a lot of hassle from kids, beggars, tourist touts, blokes in the street – quite consistent, but not that persistant and certainly not threatening in any way. Groups of kids are a right royal pain in the ____ .

 

Transport pretty good. People always really helpful – and I always got to where I was heading, even if I’m not sure how. Roads generally good and traffic free – all the driver has to worry about are the people standing in the middle of it and the aimlessly wandering livestock

Cheap tuk-tuks just about everywhere – seem to have replaced garis in most places

Mobile phone coverage generally good – cheap and quick to get sim (need photocopy of passport and photo)

 

Everything seemed very inexpensive – accomm, transport, food, etc

Easy to change cash in banks/airport

ATMs in a lot of places – Dashen and Commercial Bank worked for me

 

Forgotten how noisy Africa is, especially at night – or at least it was where I slept. Every night. My top tip – take the finest ear plugs money can buy. As well as eye drops (for the dust) and lip balm (for the sun).

 

Budget hotels – apart from in Harar – always provided towel, toilet paper and soap.

 

Weather – always sunny and hot during day – 25-30 C. No rain. In some towns, pretty cold early morning and night and required two fleeces (e.g. Debark, Debre Birhan, Abese Teferi)

 

Bole Airport

 

Arrived 2am, and stayed in there until morning flight to Axum. Felt safe, although pretty cold. Nowhere nice to sleep, try and get into domestic terminal departures asap where there are comfortable loungers.

 

 

 

Axum

 

Hotel reps waiting at airport with free transport

Africa House – fine – 175B en suite single

Thought Tsion Maryam complex at 200B a rip-off, considering much of it closed and under refurbishment

Really enjoyed walk out to Debre Liqanos Monastry

 

Shire

 

Africa Hotel – fine – 150B – adjacent restaurant good but noisy at night

Nice just to be in a normal town, without the tourist ‘nonsense’

Good to walk out of town into countryside to see ‘real’ Ethiopia

 

Debark

 

Bus from Shire didn’t leave until after 7, even though told to be there at 5. Awful road. Wonderful Simien scenery for 10 hours or so!

Simien Park Hotel – good – 250B en suite single

Unique Landscape next door also looked good, but slightly more expensive.

If not trekking, negotiate hard and get a number of quotes for your day trip into the national park – tourist touts, argh!!!

 

Gondar

 

Queen Taitu Pension – 200B en suite single. Poor. No hot water, etc. Noisy.

Moved to  Belegez Pension, 200B, water still a problem, but quieter and nicer courtyard

Four Sisters Restaurant – great food and fantastic dancing. Before I left I didn’t think some contrived dance show for tourists would be a highlight of my trip. But it was. Go and see for yourself.

 

As solo, negotiated guide fee down to 100B (rather than 200) for castle complex

 

Kosoye also a highlight. Easy to get to (30-40 mins north of Gondar). Had a very nice breakfast at Befikir Ecolodge, which is visible from main road. Staff super friendly. Then great walk down into valley. Scout cost 100B, and worth every penny. Tough going.  Highly recommended.

 

Bahir Dar

 

Wudie Pension –  nice big room – 200B.

Ghion looked really run down to me, although good spot for meeting fellow tourists.

Tread carefully with the tourist touts in town. Both half day trips to the lake monastries and waterfall were shambolic and a rip-off. Average price paid seemed to be 200B/person, but I’m sure you can get for less. Get itinerary and any additional costs written down. You have been warned! Good for meeting other (equally hacked-off) tourists though!

Lucky with Blue Nile Falls – water was flowing – and another highlight.

 

Lalibela

 

There for Christmas, so very busy and accomm prices x2 or x3 normal rate

Hotel Lalibela, been refurbished and now rather swish. $45/double en suite

Private Roha – very basic, but felt safe – 400B/twin shared facilities

Recommend Unique Restarant opposite Asheton – cheap and good fun

Walk up to Asheton Maryam good, although hard

 

Used local guide  – Zewudu Melak – +251 (0) 913636414 – for churches – nice guy – only ‘guide’ I used that I can recommend

 

Lake Hayk

 

Logo Hayk Lodge (I think, maybe name changed, not sure)

This place could probably be very peaceful and relaxing, but not on Christmas Day with a huge party going on!

230B/hut ensuite for okayish room (150B if you’re Ethiopian!)

 

Debre Birhan

 

Akalu Hotel – reasonable place – 100B for ensuite

Really nice restaurant at Eva Hotel

 

Bishoftu

 

Alaf Hotel – bit noisy and water issues – 170B en suite. Great view of lake

 

Awash

 

Buffet D’Auoache – 150B/room – pretty nice and peaceful place. Dusty, nondescript town though

 

Managed to find a ‘guide’ to get me into Awash National Park by asking around at hotels. Hired a good minibus and driver for 1000B for the day (6am-6pm). Really enjoyed the reserve, it’s not the Serengeti, but saw quite a lot of game. Waterfalls fab. Awash Falls Lodge looked nice and was a good spot for lunch

 

Abese Teferi

 

Kebsch Int Lodge – decent room – 150B en suite; good restaurant attached

 

Got 6am bus direct to Kuni, found ‘guide’ quickly albeit using sign language and pointing to pictures in my Bradt Guide and visited Kuni Muktar Mountain Nyala Sanctuary. Not sure about ‘30-45 mins walk to river’. I got taken 2 hours up a bloody mountain, then 2 hours back down it. Not my ideal start to the day at 7 am. Fantastic though. Saw plenty of (skittish) nyala, warthogs, reedbuck and hyena.

 

Harar

 

Everyone I met moaned about the hotels in this place – except for those in the cultural guesthouses. The only town where I found that hotels were full

Trawfik Sharif Hotel – bit grim – bucket shower – 150B

Tewodros – 160B ensuite – okayish – despite stinking communal bathrooms at entrance

Belayneh – only offering doubles for 300B and water issues

Heritage Plaza looked more run down and mismanaged than guidebook suggests

Harar Ras – looked best bet – been refurbished – cheapest room 230B – good restaurant serving absolutely wonderful pizzas

Fresh Touch Restaurant – good, but expensive (for Ethiopia)

Hyena feeding cost me 100B – the greatest concentration of tourists I saw in one place throughout my 4 weeks in the country

 

Addis Ababa

 

Almaz Pension – 200B shared bathroom – clean, friendly, quiet, safe

Yod Abyssinia – good fun, if expensive – don’t go alone, sit at the front and be of above average height, otherwise you are liable to get dragged up on stage to dance – much to the amusement of the local crowd. This can lead to embarrassing flashbacks.

 

Have a good trip.

Rob writes:

I’ve just returned from a fantastic trip in Ethiopia and wanted to share the positive experience we had with Ethiopia Eco Tour & Trek, run by Addis Yimmer addis_yimer@yahoo.com. We used them for the leg of the trip which included Gondar, the Simien Mountains and onto Axum. I’d contacted Addis before my trip with a suggested itinerary, he then added some suggestions and then arranged everything from there from pick up at Gondar airport to Axum.

I can’t recommend Addis and his company highly enough. Everything was very professional, the support staff he used were excellent and he really understood the important elements of good service. Of particular note was how calm and flexible he was when one of us got sick in the Simien and we had to cut the trek a day short and get off the mountains. He bent over backwards to make sure we were all ok and safe, arranged everything to be brought forward a day (not easy) and also liaised with our guide for the next leg of the trip so he knew we were coming a day early.

A couple of final points – the cook that he uses in the Simien is amazing. The dishes he managed to conjure up from a single camping stove were very impressive and made a massive difference after a long day’s walk! Addis is also a lovely guy, very interesting and knowledgeable and is the type of person that makes me confident that Ethiopia has a great future.

I also wanted to mention something about payment. We paid a deposit before we left via Western Union which allowed Addis’ company to book all the necessary flights and hotels, as well as reserve a car. This is the norm. I know it can seem a bit of a leap of faith to transfer money to someone you’ve never met but bear in mind the world that we now live where feedback is so easy to give and where reputation is so important. There would be no gain for Addis, or the 100s of others in the same position as him, to be anything other than good on their promise.

I’ll try to post a full trip report with a couple of pictures in due course.

Charles writes:

I have just returned from a very enjoyable two-week group visit to Ethiopia. Your Bradt guide was an excellent companion and very useful on both day-to-day matters and the history and culture of the country. This was my first time using a Bradt guide and I will definitely consider using them in future.
A problem I encountered on the last day involved attempting to change my remaining birr back into dollars. I had just over $20 worth. The Dashen Bank branch in the Ghion hotel, where I had originally obtained my birr, insisted on copies of my passport page and my return flight ticket. Staff said this was a central bank requirement.
I did have the original receipt for the purchase of birr and a copy of my passport page. I did not have a return ticket however, merely an electronic ticket locator number. That is all most travellers would have nowadays. This was not enough however. Anyway, staff said, their photocopier was out of action so even if I had had a ticket I could not have copied it. How convenient for them was that?
Two other travellers in my group had a similar experience and the intervention of our local guide had no effect. (One later managed to change her dollars with the hotel cashier.) We were told we could change our birr at the airport. However, the exchange office on the departures level at Bole Airport said it could not exchange birr for dollars. So I have come home with $20 worth of useless and very grubby birr.
At best this is bureaucratic incompetence, at worst a scam by either the bank or the government to hang on to any dollars travellers exchange. This may be a one-off but I think travellers should  be warned.
Lindsey writes:
Lalibela:
-The Dashen bank will manually process atm cards if all the atms in town are out of order
-The fee for the church entrance was raised to 50 USD
-Lal hotel no longer accepts visa cards
-A good guide for Lalibela is Leul (Ethiopian Cell: 0913228565). Some friends of mine passed along Leul’s number after an amazing visit to Lalibela. We had an equally amazing time with him as our guide. He has mastered the art of tour guiding that many in Ethiopia have not– he knows when to talk and when not to. We spent two nights/three days in Lalibela. Leul took us to the first cluster of churches Friday afternoon. We started Saturday morning by touring the second cluster of churches, then accompanied Leul to the market, where we met his father and observed him bargaining for a goat. We joined Leul’s family for lunch and a coffee ceremony at his house. He picked us up Sunday morning at 6 am to attend one of the masses at the churches, and brought along the white scarfs required to attend the mass. Leul is an absolute gem, and all this cost less than the entrance fee for the churches! Several other friends have used Leul as a guide and have all been very satisfied with their experience.
Gondar:
-Golden gate restaurant does not have Chinese food. It is mostly Ethiopian food. We thought it was overpriced for the food we ordered

Kevin McBriarty writes:

My friend has just returned from Ethiopia, and she said the banks in Addis Ababa are not accepting travellers’ cheques because of some security issue. It is not clear how long this situation will last but I would advise carrying other forms of currency.

First of all thanks a lot for the great guidebook, it was not only helpful but also a good pastime during long bus rides and a source of many laughs…

Here some updates and personal experience from my 4 weeks Ethiopia trip in May.

General:
– Maestro/MasterCard can be used with any Dashen ATM, the limit per withdrawal was 4000 birr
– Attention: the forex bureau/bank at Addis Bole airport is closed during the day (open only mornings and evenings)! If you happen to have surplus birr, the Ethiopian Airlines lounge will change for an inferior rate (23 birr/$ instead of 17!)

- cashed Travelers Cheques at Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (100$), same exchange rate as for cash, service charge less than 1$)

- exchanged dollars at Dashen bank, same exchange rate for all denominations (even for 1$ bills)!
Addis Ababa:
– Baro Hotel: rundown and quite rough, but clean enough; 135b for a tiny s/c single; shoestring in the great Piazza area
– Mr. Martin’s Cozy Place: most expensive accommodation during my trip, but a very friendly place and good location with many restaurants, shopping facilities etc. around; 220b for a spacious clean single with shared bathroom
– Old Piazza Restaurant (Mahatma Gandhi Rd. below De Gaulle Square, maybe identical with the mentioned “The Pizzeria”) has good pizza, pasta and some local food
– for getting to the Meskel Square, ask for a minibus to “stadium”; they didn’t know “Meskel” or mixed it up with “Mexico” Square

Bahir Dar

- Tana Pension was very rundown, many mosquitoes (the window didn’t close) and erratic water supply; 80b for a s/c single
– Wudie Pension (50m from Tana Pension at the crossroads) has nice rooms; 120b for a single, but the common bathrooms could be cleaner…; try the delicious Fatira for breakfast
– just across from Wudie is a very good restaurant (check out the balcony on the 1st floor)

Gonder:
– Habesha Cafe for good juices and coffee
– booked a 3 days Simien trek with Mickey (simientrektours.com) for 320$; for sure there are cheaper offers around, however I was happy with the tour, we were only 2 and had the best cook around, the guide and the scout just for us, and didn’t meet a single other tourist; very good organization

Axum:
– the bus ride from Gonder to Shire was long and bumpy (almost 12h), but wonderful landscapes and views; tough but worthwhile
– Africa Hotel is a very nice place; 170b s/c single with hot shower and DSTV

Wukro:
– the Tekra Tesfai cluster of rock-hewn churches is easy to visit as a day trip from Wukro, even caught a minibus to Mekele the same afternoon; don’t pay the “keeper” at the foot of the cliff just for taking photos from below the cliff

Mekele:
– Atse Yohannis Hotel is a great place; try to get a room on the 4th floor, mine was the corner room and had great views over the city from the balcony; 200b for a spacious s/c single
– very good local food just across the corner from Atse Yohannis (Bellevue Restaurant?)
– the Green Valley Cafe serves good pizza, burger and of course coffee with some nice pastry

Roger