Archive for the ‘banks and forex’ Category

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

Thanks to Anton for sending us this trip report from his visit to Ethiopia in September 2011.

 

Weather: I think, September is not the best time to visit E., because there’s still heavy rainfall, most in Addis, during midday and afternoon, but otherwise everything is flourishing

 

Addis Ababa:

 

On Bole Road there are almost ALL African embassies.

 

I can recommend Bole Ambassador Hotel near the airport (www.boleambassadorhotel.com) for those who only want to overnight, but you have to pay 90 US for a single and 120 US for a double room (including buffet breakfast). The transport to and fro the airport is FREE

 

I also can recommend RAS-Hotel at Churchill Rd. Many travellers; clean; Taxis in front oft he hotel; but you have to bargain a lot! To Airport is 10$US. If you wan t to rent a taxi for a few hours: that will cost you 250 BIRR. Opposite of RAS-Hotel, there’s a street, where you can find fast internet!

 

Near RAS-Hotel you can find GALAXY TRAVEL, where you can book flights etc. People, who want to got to South-OMO, should ask there for Mr. Tesfaye MIDEKSO; he’s the guy with all info. A 10 day trip will cost you up to 2400 EURO

 

Lufthansa is now in AXUM Building! Within walking distance: go from Meskel-Square in direction of Haile Selassie Road outtown, and after the Carnivore Resti, go the next broad street tot your right.

 

Address: PO Box 3484, Axum Building, Urael Church to Atlas Hotel Road, Addis Ababa

 

Eating: If you like American/European food go to “Carnivore Addis Restaurant“ Salad-Buffet; good menus. Not far form Meskel-Square; Haile Gebre Selassie-Road, right

side

 

 

Money:

ATM: maximal withdrawal  5000 Birr per day, Exchange rate €1=25 BIRR; US$1=19 BIRR

 

Postcard < 5 Birr

Water 2 Litre bottle: 8-10 Birr

Café  Espresso: 5 Birr

 

If you want to spend a lot of money, go to Sheraton Hotel  for a mixed fruit juice, very delicious, but 120 BIRR!!!!

 

 

Bahir Dar

 

I recommend to take a flight. The airport is a kind of joke, still under construction! Baggage claim is out of the airport, there’s a building to your left, where all the hotels have their boards. Here you can get a transport to YOUR hotel.

 

I choose the Summerland-Hotel; the guy for this Hotel is Mr. Haile Yesus, he’s a good but somehow expensive man! But you can trust him, he can help you in any way!

 

To do the Nile-Falls with a guide and private taxi you pay US$50. The falls are now full of water again!!!

 

Summerland-Hotel: single is 500 Birr (with breakfast). Because of water pressure take only room at 1st or 2nd floor!

 

Ghion Hotel is right now not in a good state

 

Zege Peninsula:  if you can see only these 2 churches, this will be fine! The boat is 750 birr! Entrance fee to the church is 50 birr. Guide 110 birr: this is o.k., because he knows all the pictures and can describe them. There are al lot of  souvenir stalls, but the people are very friendly and not pressured.

 

Other monasteries on the lake:

 

The boat costs you 2400 BIRR: this will be a very long day, starting at 0600 in the morning until 1900 in the evening. Most of daytime you will spend on the boat. Important: Bring some warm clothes with you, otherwise you will freeze!

 

Because of time limits you can visit only 3 churches, if you have different wishes, that will cost you more! Of interest is in my opinion only the Selassie church. Otherwise I think it’s not worth the money and the time, but….

 

Tana Kirkos: it’s a very beautiful island, but the monk is crazy: he asks 150 Birr entrance fee (monk’s law, as he said!!). The view from top oft he island is spectacular! We didn’t pay and therefore I don’t know, if the inside oft he church is worth to visit! The „last“ church next to town is Debre Maryam – is in a very bad state; I suggest, NOT to visit!;

 

Otherwise the bird nests at the lakeside in the papyrus are very nice

 

Mixed Fruit-Juice in Harar Supermarket – go down the ally from R/A (warrior monumentl) to the south; after 100 meters it’s on the right side! A very tasty fruitjuice costs you 8 BIRR (in Gonder you pay 11 birr)

 

1 Kilo Bananas  12-15 Birr

 

We shared a taxi (3 persons) to Gonder, that is 1500 Birr, this is not bad and has a big advantage: you can stop on your way to Gonder and can visit the GUZARA castle which is world heritage and well worth to see: the view unto the lake is wonderful and also the site itself; entrance is 50 birr. There’s a good guide, he knows a lot of stuff and speaks a decent English

 

 

 

Gonder:

 

This is NOT a really Must see-city; it’s no good place, in my opinion, only the castle is really worth to see.

 

There’s no need to take a guide, they charge 120-150 birr;  the entrance is 50 birr

 

1 night is enough there!

 

I overnight at Atse Bekaffa Hotel: 25 US per night for a single room; had a lot of flees and other bugs!!!

 

Near this hotel is a very good restaurant: Habesha Coffee Shop

 

The only thing to stop in Gonder is to rent a car with driver! We did this at the wonderful Tourist Information! There’s a very good manager there, where we discussed the possibility to go by private car to Axum (and first to Simien lodge). He recommended us the freelancer Mamoush! After all we have been driving around with this guy for 3 weeks(!). This cost you for the car (and fuel) 150 US per day!! It was the best thing we could do and was worth every penny!

 

We did with „our“ driver the whole north: Simien Mountains, Axum, Gheralta, Mekele, Lalibela)

 

Don’t forget in Gonder to visit  church Debre Berhan Selassie: because of the ceiling paintings!!

 

The drive from Gonder to Debark is remarkable

 

 

Simien Mountains

 

Park entry in Debark 100 Birr; office can not be easily seen, but it’s on the left of the main road. They speak a very good English. In Debark they can arrange everything; you can buy food and all stuff you need! A scout is obligatory; he is carrying  the usual AK 47. There’s plenty of food around the shops in town! Debark is one oft he most dirty towns I’ve every seen (in rainy season!)

 

Simien Lodge; wonderful house; a family room is in total 250 BIRR, breakfast is included. It‘s very cold there! In the evening everybody is sitting round an open chimney.The food is not bad!

 

Be aware, that if you are trekking there, you are NOT alone: there are living a lot of people along the trekking paths, the settlement is all around and there’s a lot of cattle there!

 

The geladas are easily to find, not far away from the lodge, they are used to people and are not afraid of man! The kids will show you the way to some; but as you have a guide/scout and so on, of course they will do this! With a car you can go to Chennek and further on! There are a lot of roads up there! So trekking is not very nice! Our driver told us, you can go almost to the base camp of Ras Dejen! To drive there is only a matter of money!

 

From Simien lodge to Chennek it will cost you by car 100 US!! And it is WORTH it!!! Spectacular view!  A big waterfall  is there! For the drive to this place and back by car, you need a whole day!

 

 

 

Axum:

 

Yeha-Hotel; very good with nice view from the stelae ; the food is so la la!

 

Don’t forget to visit Panteleon-monastery: going  up and down is wonderful! The view from top is incredible.

 

Guide for a whole day is 250 BIRR. If you take an „official“ guide, he will take 400 birr!

 

Temple of Yeha: wonderful surroundings, you should see this! – have a look at the so called LION-shaped mountain

 

There are many wonderful  landscapes on your way to Gheralta Lodge, one oft he best I have ever seen: it’s a mixture of Grand Canyon, Patagonia, Scotland and so on; you will see many birds!

 

Debre Damo:

On your way you will pass Debre Damo church: be sure to be fit, as you must climb up on a rope, almost 20 meters, that was quite an experience: the people managing the rope will of course help you going up and down!! As a matter of fact, they will pull you up, if you have no strength. 20 birr is the price: don’t pay any money before you are UP!! –Whatever the people downstairs tell you. Pay for the entrance to the church on top oft he hill!! The price is 150 birr. But ask first, if there is a service in the church, if it is so, they would not let you in, but they take of course your money!!!! In our case it was so, so we had a lot of troubles to get our money back!! Best, to give the money directly to the priest or to his helper!

 

Gheralta

Gheralta Lodge is a wonderful hotel ; we spent 3 days here, but you should stay longer; the landscape is extraordinary: we have visited all churches in the surrounding ; the food here is „Italiano“ and wonderful! There are a lot of table mountains and other fantastic rocky formations!

 

The church Peter & Paul was beautiful:  the rest oft he churches are not really highlights, but you should visit at least a few oft hem!

 

Atsbi Cluster ist an absolutely must!

 

The priests are almost a big disaster; but they all have now persons, who will open the churches for you, even when the priest is NOT there! We could visit all churches: there has always been a person there, who could open the doors!!

 

If you have car and driver, you must visit Abba Yohannis: you will need a whole day; it‘s best to do on your way from Gheralta lodge to Mekele: don’t plan to come back to Gheralta lodge

 

 

Mekele & Erta Ale:

 

Axum Hotel is not bad; I must say, the food is good. There’s is free internet in the lobby!

 

Near the hotel ist he office of GK Tours and a very helpful tourist office: i must mention the head of the tourist office, Mr Gebrehiwot Taddesse. E-Mail – hotgereth2007@yahoo.com – he was very helpful and has a lot of infos!

 

He can help you in all ways, especially, if you want go to Danakil depression: i was in contact with him, when I decided this January to visit Erta Ale and he told me immediately, that there was an assault, where 5 tourists died in an attack by terrorists (so I had to quit this trip)

 

But HE has the latest info and will help you to prepare your trip!!

 

You have to pay for Erta Ale per person 500 €, if you are lucky to join a group: Mr. Taddesse will see to that and can put you on a group!!!

 

If you want to got by yourself, that will cost you at least 2000 €

 

Lalibela:

 

I recommend Hotel Tukai Village, also Mr. Bill Clinton had an overnite here (without Monica)! The restaurant is good, but only a few meals; the rooms are very spacious. Every hotel organizes transport to he airport; it’s 70 Birr and less.

 

The bugs bites you get in the churches are terrible!! Especially women will have a very bad time there!

 

 

 

Do some of the churches near of Lalibela: at least Genata Maryam and Yemrehanna Kristos. Car and driver is necessary

 

 

 

Harar

A visit to the hyenas is an absolutely MUST, this is strange, but I will never forget this trip; I visited the hyenas twice because I was so excited ; you can feed them by your own hand, and it’s……whooow!

 

Expect to pay at least 150 birr for this remarkable adventure. The animals are strolling around a courtyard and they will touch you…..

 

Guides are already asking you for helping at the airport at Dire Dawa: if you go with them to Harar, that will save you time; but it’s very costly and you should bargain hard! For 3 days I paid 130 US (!)

 

The Belayneh Hotel is not a bad choice: 200 Birr night. They can organize everything. „Harar Ras Hotel“  was under construction

The town itself is world heritage; nice old city, good for  walking, don’t expect much; but you can feel, that the people are not very friendly with tourists. The main thing are the hyenas and from them you will see a lot!

It is almost impossible to cash these in Ethiopia now. I tried about 8 banks (various companies) in Addis, who all said that they couldn’t because there had been problems with fraud. Even the banks at the Hilton won’t do so. The only place I found was the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia’s Head Office, Andinet Square.

Helen O’Neill

- British Council has moved to near British Embassy, no longer has internet and newspapers, etc. for the public

- Several internet cafes and a few normal cafes now offer wifi; examples are Lime Tree on Bole road and Bon Café, right nearby. If transferring data from computers in internet cafes to laptops, users should make sure to have excellent antivirus software installed!

- Blue Tops has closed.

- ATMs accepting international credit cards now include Wagagen (sp?), which is in many of the large shopping centres on Bole and near Bole Medalem; the number of Dashen ATMs has also grown considerably

- SIM cards can be easily purchased throughout the city for 60ETB; 2 photographs (passport-sized) and a photocopy of ID are all that are required

- The Women Fuelwood Carrier’s Shop has moved to be nearer Entoto

Stella

I spent a couple of days in Addis Ababa en route to Somaliland (where I was working on a new Bradt guide) and compiled an extensive list of updates:

Exchange Rate: Currently around Birr 16 to US$1

Somaliland Embassy & Visas: The Somaliland Embassy is next to the Namibian Embassy about 200 metres north of, and clearly signposted from, Bole Road. The junction is very close to Saay Pastry (map ref page 159 F2) and on the same corner as the red-and-yellow Wassamar Hotel. It opens 8.30am-2pm Mon-Fri, and will usually issue a visa on the spot, depending on whether the ambassador is in. It costs US$40 and a passport photo is required.

Sky & Selam Bus: The Sky Bus booking office (tel: 011 1568080/8585) is in the Itegue Taitu Hotel and it runs daily buses to Gonder (12 hours, Birr 372), Bahir Dar (9 hours, Birr 306), Dire Dawa (9 hours, Birr 291), Harar (9 hours, Birr 293), Jijiga (12 hours, Birr 326) and Jimma (5-6 hours, Birr 199). Selam Bus covers the same routes at about the same price and has a booking office in front of the central railway station, on the opposite side of the square to Buffet de la Gare. All buses run by both companies depart from Meskal Square at 5.30am. We were really impressed by the service, which include scheduled lunch stops, and regular roadside ‘pee breaks’.

Itegue Taitu Hotel: Tel: +251-11-1-56 0787; reservations@taituhotel; www.taituhotel.com. This has evidently taken over from the nearby Baro as the main hub of backpacker activity in Addis Ababa. It has a good restaurant, good services including free internet and WiFi, and it makes a point of not charging discriminatory ‘faranji prices’. Rooms without shower are Birr 125-150, en-suite rooms in the annex cost Birr 270-320, and rooms in the main building range from Birr 328 for the smallest room using a common shower to Birr 377-492 for a ensuite or Birr 831 for the largest room.

Visa extension: If you need longer than the standard 30 days issued upon arrival, extensions can be arranged at the Immigration Office on Churchill Road. This costs US$20 and usually requires you to leave your passport overnight. It is best to be there before 8.30am. You need a photocopy of the main page in your passport, as well as the page with your existing visa.

Taxis rates: From the Piassa, expect to pay 50-60 Birr to the city centre or Arat/Siddist Kilo, or Birr 70-100 to the airport. Expect it to be 50% after 6pm or before 8am.

Entrance fees: For the places we checked, these were Birr 20 for the Lion Zoo at Siddist Kilo, Birr 30 for Kiddist Selassie Church, and Birr 10 for the National Museum.

Red Terror Martyrs’ Memorial Museum: This highly worthwhile new museum on Bole Road next to Meskal Square officially opened in March 2010. It opens from 8.30am-6.30pm daily and entrance is free though donations are appreciated. It is dedicated to the victims of the red terror campaign under President Mengistu and the Derg Regime, and displays include some riveting back-and-white photos dating to the 1975 coup as well as some more chilling relicts – skulls and clothes removed from mass graves, torture instruments – of this genocidal era in modern Ethiopian history. For more details, see http://www.redterrormartyrs.org

Hope this is useful!

Philip