Archive for the ‘banks and forex’ Category
Tags: atms, banks, bradt, Ethiopia, Gonder, guides, lalibela, travel, update
-The fee for the church entrance was raised to 50 USD
-Golden gate restaurant does not have Chinese food. It is mostly Ethiopian food. We thought it was overpriced for the food we ordered
Tags: Addis Ababa, banks, bradt, Ethiopia, money, travel, travellers cheques, update
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.
- 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)!
- 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
- 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)
- Habesha Cafe for good juices and coffee
- booked a 3 days Simien trek with Mickey (simientrektours.com) for 320$; for sure there are cheaper offers around, however I was happy with the tour, we were only 2 and had the best cook around, the guide and the scout just for us, and didn’t meet a single other tourist; very good organization
- the bus ride from Gonder to Shire was long and bumpy (almost 12h), but wonderful landscapes and views; tough but worthwhile
- Africa Hotel is a very nice place; 170b s/c single with hot shower and DSTV
- the Tekra Tesfai cluster of rock-hewn churches is easy to visit as a day trip from Wukro, even caught a minibus to Mekele the same afternoon; don’t pay the “keeper” at the foot of the cliff just for taking photos from below the cliff
- Atse Yohannis Hotel is a great place; try to get a room on the 4th floor, mine was the corner room and had great views over the city from the balcony; 200b for a spacious s/c single
- very good local food just across the corner from Atse Yohannis (Bellevue Restaurant?)
- the Green Valley Cafe serves good pizza, burger and of course coffee with some nice pastry
Thanks to Anton for sending us this trip report from his visit to Ethiopia in September 2011.
Weather: I think, September is not the best time to visit E., because there’s still heavy rainfall, most in Addis, during midday and afternoon, but otherwise everything is flourishing
On Bole Road there are almost ALL African embassies.
I can recommend Bole Ambassador Hotel near the airport (www.boleambassadorhotel.com) for those who only want to overnight, but you have to pay 90 US for a single and 120 US for a double room (including buffet breakfast). The transport to and fro the airport is FREE
I also can recommend RAS-Hotel at Churchill Rd. Many travellers; clean; Taxis in front oft he hotel; but you have to bargain a lot! To Airport is 10$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
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!!!!
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
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
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!
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!
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 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 – email@example.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 €
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
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.
- 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
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!
Airport arrivals bank is always open BUT beware of departure area bank which has a habit of being “closed” on your departure..
Vital if going to Omo…