Archive for the ‘crime, safety & hassles’ 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




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.






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




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




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!!!




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.




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




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




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.




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.

Thanks to Stuart Dickson for this important news about the Moyale border (written 5 Dec 2013(:

Due to serious and bloody fighting amongst local Kenyan tribes in the Moyale region there is zero transport (private or public) leaving Moyale heading south into Kenya and it seems no traffic coming up in the other direction. The reason for this is tribal members are being pulled from buses and throats are being slit. Normally transport is not affected but for some reason this time round they have decided to attack traffic. I am going to the border each morning for updates and the general consensus from the police and immigration officers is that next week sometime will be the earliest that transport may start rolling.If you are in town “a word of warning” do not believe a word from the hawkers in the streets they will promise you all you want to here but nothing is moving and you will just loose your cash.There are no planes coming in due to the small strip being in the conflict area. People are saying that the plane will land at the police strip but that is just a helicopter pad.
You are free to go back and forth between borders and snack on soggy chips and milky tea in Moyale Kenya and catch all the rumors or hang out and have a laugh with the very kind folk at the immigration office, police station or border crossing in Kenya,

Stuart Dickson writes:

Eating & drinking: The Xanxad bar was a very short lived adventure it is now the Famous Kitfo restaurant. But don’t worry adjacent you have the wonderful Fiqir Buna house which serves what I think is the best buna in town- Dila Organic along with great Ful and many other local dishes. With Yerom and Ganet running the place you cannot go wrong
Also just up the road next to Dolca Vita you have The Garden Lounge a wonderful bar and restaurant with great garden ambiance and a deadly blues jazz rock playlist.Danni the owner is of the Emperors family decent and back after 20+ years in New York. Another nice new addition if your want to escape 20 most popular Ethio songs being played all over the country and listen to Billy Halliday and the likes over a cold drink or two. ,The family along with Bob Geldof also bought out the Awash winery and are bringing in South African wine makers to upgrade the whole operation, so some time soon hopefully Ethiopian girls can enjoy wine without lacing it with Coca Cola.

Hotels: Hotel Hawassa : I found out yesterday that Hotel Hawassa has price discrimination rates. I think this is a new policy because six months ago a bungalow cost 600 per night or 400etb if long term . Now it is 1000etb. When asked if they practice prices discrimination the manager openly admitted that they did.If I had a resident card it is 500etb.
The Circle of Life Hotel has reopened, only the rooms at present and within a month or two the Jamaican style restaurant shall be open. Sophie has done a hefty renovation of the place, Rasta style. All the rooms have been fixed up, toilets cleaned up ,the lovely gardens trimmed and spruced up and lots of nice new art work dotted around. The cake shop and ice ream shop will also be functional again at the front entrance. The only problem now is this are has become a very noisy area with all the bars just outside and when they go to sleep the new tin hut church across the road wails at all kind of hours of the night with it’s new sound system.
The little GUEST HOUSE next door to COL has reopened after much intrigue – it is a good deal at 150etb per night, clean with large rooms some with hot water. Nice to see it back.

Security: A German tourist was stabbed to death late Saturday night(approx 3am) in Hawassa. the man was attacked in the 05 region of town outside commercial bank.This is a booming part of town with lots of new little coffee shops, burger joints bars and fish restaurants popping up.People have been advised to be aware and not be alone at night.It is so easy to take a Bajaj there is no need to walk especially that late.Be aware this is more bad news after the knife attacks on Tabor hill last year,

Ulrike writes:

About the single female travelling: I travelled a lot within the last years (Middle east, Ghana, Egypt, British Guyana, Japan,….), usually on my own or with friends I met on the road, mostly by hitchhiking (which works really well in Ethiopia too!) and preferably to sites where I could meet people from the country I visited and not other Europeans or Americans. But I have to say, maybe also because I stayed in Ethiopia because I had to (research in Addis Ababa and working in a hospital in Hawassa) I was never that exhausted with a whole country’s chauvinism! And you can easily tell by throwing a rough look on Ethiopian women’s daily life (on average 11 hours work daily) comparing it to the male counterpart (3 hours work daily!!!!) that women are seen more of a gratis working power then as actual people. being white and a woman I suffered some serious depressions from time to time (and usually, even in Egypt, I am taking those things in a tough manner), questioning my flight schedule, thinking about coming home earlier. I usually can’t walk a long a street without some young man rapping about my booty or whatsover, and in the daily life it makes work really really difficult if noone takes you serious, but everyone wants to take you out for coffee and more. The other issue (more interesting to travellers then to working expats) is the kids throwing stone – I’m a person who doesn’t like prohibitions and things like “don’t do this on yourself, it’s not good!” I usually run once daily, and I mostly kept on doing this in Ethiopia, with the result that in Hawassa I was stoned DAILY while I was running at the part of the lake behind the referal hospital along some villages. Behaviour which was supported by the parents who quite didn’t understand that sports pants don’t have pockets to hide any money inside. Same around Harar, as I mentioned, even in Addis Ababa where I lived (Alem Bank) and in Arba Minch as well.

John writes:

We did not expect the very unpleasant confrontation we were forced
into on the 14th of March 2013, as we went to visit the church of
Yohannis Maikudi situated some 30 km west of Wukro, in the beautiful
Gheralta region. It is located on a mountain ridge beautifully
overlooking the surrounding plain. We left our car near a large school
compound close to the foot of the hill and, as is customary, appointed
a local youngster as the guard for the car and chose another as our
“guide”. He would help us keep on the right path , as the church can
not be seen from the starting point, and would free us of the
“obligation” of having a guide. They would have stayed anyway.
As we were being followed by a cluster or other young boys to the foot
of the hill, we made it clear upon the start of our climb that we
needed one escort only, and that we would pay no one else. Most of the
kids turned back, but as we reached the church after about an hour’s
climb, it appeared that we were being accompanied by three or four
youngsters having caught up with our group and who had joined with the
We paid all the requested official fees at the entrance of the church,
and after the visit of this beautiful and intriguing very old rock
hewn church, we were kindly invited by the priests and the few members
of the community to share some talla and injera. It was three PM, our
time, and they were breaking their Lent fast.
It was a pleasant and friendly moment ended by kind words of thanks
and appreciation. Our translator mentioned later that the priests and
elders had indeed admonished the youngster and warned them not to be
Upon returning to our car, I had the impression that the talla had
worked its effect on the boys who seemed overly exited. But it was
when we started paying the watch boy and the guide that things went
abruptly wrong. Both claimed angrily that the amounts given were very
insufficient, although they were absolutely in line with the amounts
we had paid else where. We increased the payments somehow, but
suddenly the car was surrounded by other youngsters claiming loudly
that they had to be paid too. We firmly and clearly refused, keeping
to our initial contracts. But some boys set themselves in front of the
car to prevent us from leaving. We gently and firmly pushed them aside
by getting the car moving, only to be followed by a most unpleasant
group of adolescents unsuccessfully hurling stones at the car.
This incident was entirely out of line with our fond experiences in so
many other places and times. We discussed at length amongst us to find
out if we could have proceeded differently to prevent such a
disagreeable event. But reading Gabriella’s account, I now believe the mistake was not so
much on our side.

Gabriella writes:

On Feb 24, 2013 we wanted to visit the three rock-hewn churches at Teka Tesfai in Tigrai. Entrance fee to Petros & Paulos, Medhane Alem Kesho and Mikael Milhaizengi was increased to Birr 150 per church per person (!!!), for a group of 15 no discount of any kind could be reached thus we decided to skip Petros & Paulos and visited only the other two. Since visiting these churches requires substantial walking in the villages, we were surrounded by local kids who soon started to demand money – Birr 10 for showing a nice view, Birr 10 for helping to walk 20 meters on the rocks. During the walk they started to throw stones. The two local guides also demanded more money than the pre-agreed fee (Birr 30 per guide was agreed, Birr 40 was given voluntarily, Birr 100 was demanded for no English and no factual guiding). By the time we reached the bus after visiting the other two churches it became almost dark. As we said goodbye to the two guides after a fierce battle over their fee and turned left to the
main road to Wukro, after a few hundred meters two stones hit the bus, one of which crashed a side window. Luckily the lady sitting by the window could jump away but the window crashed. We placed a police report in Wukro. While the churches are astonishing and are must-see, locals are very unfriendly. It would be great if Bradt could figure out what happens with those thousands of Birrs handed over to the priests on a daily basis and warn future travellers of the aggressive locals.

Dean writes:
Every day I am approached about 3 times by the Kids pretending to sell Tissues and Gum. As soon as they spot a Faranji they go into attack mode and are quite brazen about the whole thing. They will forcefully push the little box,which usually contains only 2 or 3 packs of whatever,into your stomach while the other hand,blocked by the box,goes to work. There is usually 2 of them working together. Actually I can easily spot them now,because they always make a beeline for me. They seem to be trained at this and are not really interested in selling anything. One tourist I spoke to in a cafe said one of the little thieves stole her iPad using the above technique.

Having had my passport stolen in Ethiopia, I would like to add something to the information on passports and visa. In my country of origin I am an attorney specialized in immigration law. Let’s put it this way: now I am also one specialized in Ethiopian immigration law. The procedure to obtain an emergency-passport and an exit visa is quite an adventure.

The first thing you need to do is report the theft (or loss). Preferably this has to be done with the local police of the area the theft has taken place. However, the local police can be very helpful, but not very forthcoming to write an official report. In our case we had to write it ourself. These kind of reports will never be accepted by your embassy or by the immigration service. If the local police is not willing to give a typed, stamped and signed report, go to the regional police. Ask them kindly to write the report in Amharic, with your name, nationality and passport-number in English.

After this you need to translate the report into English as this is required by your embassy. The translation can be performed by official translation bureaus, which can be found in Addis Ababa near the Stadium. When you have obtained the translation, you have to authenticate the translation at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. After this you have to legalize the documents (the report and the translation) at the Ministry of Forreign Affairs.

Equipped with the authenticated and legalized documents you can apply for the emergency passport at your embassy. Take two passport photo’s and a copy of your old passport. The issuance of the emergency-passport should normally take 24 hours.

Having obtained the emergency passport you can apply for the exit visa. This visa is required to leave the country and can not be obtained at Bole airport. The exit visa needs to be applied for at the Ethiopian Immigration service. The process itself can take a whole day, as you need to pass about six or seven rooms. When you have paid, it takes about 24 hours for the exit visa to be issued. When you explain what has happened and emphasize that there is an emergency, it might help to get the visa the same day.


We were very lucky to have a driver (with car) who spoke Amharic. He helped us through the whole process. My advise would be to take someone with you that speaks Amharic. He or she will be able to get you in front of the rows and explain that there is an emergency. The keyword in the process is: respect. Treat all the civil servants with respect and just kindly explain that you need to leave the country as soon as possible. As I have experienced it, the country relies more on personal relations of respect, than on procedures that you can call upon. Bring a book, food and try be patient!


During our short stay in Awasa (400km south of Addis Ababa) my friend and I were planning to do one of the hikes in and around the city as recommended in the guide. One of them was a hike up Tabor Mountain, a small hill giving views over Awasa lake. We did the hike, but were violently robbed of all our belongings. The robbers (three against two and armed with knives) were very hostile. When reporting at the police, we found out that two days before two people were robbed and stabbed (and died of the injuries). A week before two tourists were robbed. When talking to the locals they all confirmed that it was dangerous to go up the hill without a guide. They told us that there is a gang residing on the mountain ready to attack whenever a possibility would offer itself. However, all the tourists and expats we talked to were surprised and reacted that they had done the hike, did it regularly or even used is as an daily exercise. You might understand that we do not recommend anyone to do this hike.

The experience was very horrible and frightening, but nevertheless it opened the doors to seeing some of the most generous, welcoming and warm people in Ethiopia. The moment we came running of the mountain and stripped of nearly everything we had, we ran into a random property. The moment we entered, the women of the house came running towards us, screaming and crying. In less than a minute we were surrounded by thirty or more people who stood around us, shaking their heads saying: “sorry, sorry.” The people were genuinely angry about what happened and symphatized about what happened to us. Everybody who was around left their work or occupations for what it was and started comforting us. They were shouting for justice to be done and the robbers to be caught. It was for this reason that within five minutes the community arranged five strong men to go up to the mountain trying to find back the stolen bags. And it was because of this courageous effort that we got back one of the bags.

After the incident, one family took us into their house, made fresh coffee and bought lunch with the little money they had. They helped us to go to the police, stayed with us during the hourlong process of reporting. The same night we were invited by a local girl we had met on the buss from Addis to Awasa. Her family cooked enjira for us and preformed a traditional coffee ceremony with leaves, incense and fresh brewed coffee. They borrowed their only phone to us so we could call home and arranged the brothers of the family to bring us home to the door of our hotel, sound and safe.

Each reaction of the Ethiopians who came to know about what happened were they same: genuinely sad for us and angry for the injustice being done to us. One of these moments was in the bus back to Addis Ababa. A nun took us under her care during the lunch break and when she found out the news, the whole bus knew it instantly. All of a sudden all the eyes were on us and the heads shaking: “sorry, sorry.” One of the girls on the bus suggested the whole bus to collect money for us to support us financially. When declined she called a Dutch relative living in Ethiopia, so we could tell him the story in our own language and ask him for help.

Upon arrival in the capital we were offered a driver with a car who took us along all the steps of the procedure to obtain the emergency-passport and exit visa. Besides all his practical help, he even started praying when he saw me breaking down for a moment. Even up to the point of leaving the country on Bole airport, the desk attendant was offering her apologies when she saw the emergency passport.

This experience has had two sides: extreme hostility and extreme heartwarming people. In the plane I met an expat who had been living in Ethiopia for three years. He had been mingling with Ehtiopians in stead of staying in the expat bubble. But not once had he been invited to a diner in the house of an Ethiopian family. We had shared not only a meal, but also our sorrows with them many times in one weeks time.


A quick update on the Piazza or Piassa area of Addis. Although the Baro Hotel is good value for Addis (choose the twin rooms to the left at 220 birr rather than the very dingy singles to the right at 135 unless money is tight), the noise level from the bars in the streets behind near the Taitu mean there is no possibility of sleep before about 1am. The Ankober next door is a step up in terms of quality, and price at 400 birr which might be negotiable. The high-ceilinged original rooms above the restaurant in the old building of the Taitu are great, and about 350 birr. Both these hotels have the same noise problem as the Baro, however.

The real issue with the area is the very nasty hustling of tourists that goes on at night. You can’t safely go out for a drink to relax and listen to the music that prevents you from sleeping, because you cannot trust anyone you meet. Do not under any circumstances allow anyone to take you anywhere. You WILL be ripped off. Do not believe anything that anyone tells you. Make absolutely sure of the price of drinks before ordering, don’t ever let anyone else pay for them and put you in their debt.

I had thought that the uniformed staff serving in the bars were trustworthy, but sadly even they will rip you off. A favourite in the darker places is to take the note you give them if it is 100 or 50 birr, turn away to examine it and turn back apologetically holding a ten to say you have made a mistake. If you don’t have the exact money, don’t let go of your 100 until you have shown the waiter what it is and made clear that you and he both know where you stand.

I should mention the only, honourable exception. The National Hotel bar consistently charged 11 birr for beer where other places went up to 20, and also it was the one and only bar in the area in which I was never conned, ripped off or hassled in any way. This was actually confirmed for me by a local I spent some time with.

I have to say, reluctantly, the whole area has become unsafe. I am a reasonably experienced traveller at 48 countries backpacked over 20 years, and so were the others staying in the area that I spoke to. Every single person I met was conned or ripped off in the 3 days I was there. Avoid!