Archive for the ‘Getting around’ Category

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

Thanks to Forrest Copeland fir the following useful updates:

 

•The road between Mekele and Adwa (via Abi Aday and Tembien) is now paved.  There are still a few small stretches that are under construction, but the project should be finished by the end of 2014. It’s nicccccce.
•My 5th edition refers to Awri dancing.  The name should be: Awrs. As stated it’s known all over Tigray and represents serious Tembien pride!
•The town description could be revised:  Abi Aday literally means ‘Big Town’, and although not quite the metropolis this might suggest, it is a reasonably substantial and seemingly quite rapidly expanding settlement, set in a dusty valley below an impressive cliff.  The town is generally divided into three parts.  Kebele 01 is the oldest section of town and holds the old market, tej bets, and the newly paved road to Mylomin.  Kebele 02 is the center of town and contains the bus station, the large new market, banks, many restaurants, bars, and cheap pensions.  Kebele 03, also known as Adigdi, is a rapidly expanding suburb on the way to Adwa.  Starting at the crest of the hill, where you’ll find the hospital, Ras Alula Hotel, and the Mylomin Botanical Garden Lodge, Adigdi continues for 1 kilometer to the College of Teacher’s Education.  Besides offering a base from which to explore Mylomin, a lushly vegetated oasis nestled below sheer sandstone cliffs along the river Tonkwah.  Visitors can take outdoor showers and enjoy food and drink in the cool shade at the day lodge.
Getting there and away: This is still accurate except that the road is now paved with beautiful new asphalt.   Using public transportation, it will take you about 3 hours to get to either Adwa or Mekele from Abi Aday.  By private car, less than 2 hours. Mini-buses and large buses run to both destinations multiple times per day approximately every 2 hours.
Where to Stay:  These are still good recommendations.  Prices have of course increased.  I would add the Mylomin Botanical Garden Lodge in the Moderate category.   Description could be: Located near the Hospital and Ras Alula hotel, this secluded and overgrown compound offers about a half a dozen individual huts that can be rented for the night.  Each cozy and well furnished hut contains a private bathroom, but running water is hit or miss.  The English speaking staff can help arrange tours and car rentals to the surrounding churches.
Where to Eat: The best places for Ethiopian food are Elsa’s Restaurant located near the main traffic circle, or Azeb’s Restaurant located opposite to the bus station.  Both the Mylomin Day Lodge and the overnight lodge offer full menus that include some ferenji food. Abi Adi has a few juice shops and one of them, opposite to the Wegagen Bank, has an unexpectedly articulate and helpful English speaking owner.   Abi Adi is famous for its honey and tej; the best place to try it is in the shade of coffee trees along the river Tonkwah opposite to the Mylomin Day Lodge.
•The information for the Abba Yohanni and Gebriel Wukien Churches is still good.  I haven’t visited the other two.  I paid 150 birr each for these two churches.  There was no mention of TTC guides or permits, in fact the only reference I’ve heard of this system is in your book.  The going rate for a other rock hewn churces is 150 birr each.  This includes: Abunna Yemata (Hawzien), Abraha we Atsbha (near Wukro), and all the churches in the Teka Tesfai cluster.  Those are the ones I’ve visited in the last 6 months.  It’s too bad, as you noted, because it’s really too expensive for some of the less spectacular churches.

Mekele now has two main bus stations.  The original bus station is for south bound buses while the new bus station is for north bound buses (and Abi Aday/Tembien).  It’s a pain in the ass for travelers.  They are connected by contract bajaj service or by line taxi (3.50birr one way).  The new bus station is north of town, on the main road towards Wukro, past the Awash Resort and Hilltop Hotel.  It’s probably 5km from the city center.
Mekele has expanded hugely in it’s upper market food and lodging offerings since I arrived here 1.5 years ago.  I’m not sure how to get you more information about the new spots since mapping is so difficult here in Ethiopia and addresses don’t really exist.  A list of good new restaurants includes: Beef M&N, Sabisa, Karibu, XO Cafe, Omna.  All these places offer pizza and other ferenji food 60 to 130 birr dinner prices.  When you’re in Mekele you could ask around for some of these places.  Also the newest and fanciest hotel in town is called Planet Hotel, located near the Hiwalti war monument and the new (under construction) stadium.  It’s gym, spa, swimming pool, and restaurant puts the former best hotel (Axum Hotel), to shame.  But it’s really expensive.

 

I’ve been trying to seek clarity on the situation with domestic fares since Ethiopian Airlines announced a 40% reduction in May (see http://www.newbusinessethiopia.com/index.php/en/market/106-travel-tips/799-ethiopian-airlines-cut-domestic-flights-rate-40)

So far as I can ascertain it, the full fare for most domestic flights, for instance booked through the website, remains about the same as it was before, typically around US$130 per leg.

However, it seems this fare has been vastly reduced (by more than 50%) to passengers who have booked their international flight to Addis Ababa with Ethiopia Airlines. In this case, the fare is typically around US$55-60 per leg!

So far as I understand it, to take advantage of this massive discount, you must first book, pay and be ticketed fir your international flights. With that ticket number, you or any operator can then book the domestic flights at any Ethiopian Airlines ticket office.

Of course, what happens in theory and in practice aren’t always quite the same thing, so feedback from anybody who tries this would be much appreciated!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Addis Advisor has alerted us to a drastic increase in the cost of domestic flights in Ethiopia as of Nov 2013. Broadly speaking, these now split up into three price tiers, the most expensive being for non-citizens who travel to Ethiopia with a carrier other than Ethiopian Airlines, the middle one being for non-citizens who fly to the country with Ethiopian Airlines, and the lowest being for Ethiopian citizens and expatriate residents with a Green Card. If you look at the Ethiopia Airlines website (http://www.flyethiopian.com/en/default.aspx), the standard fare quoted here for any given domestic flight is the one that will be paid by those coming into Ethiopia on another airline. Those flying into the country with Ethiopian Airlines will pay about 45-55% of this fare. Citizens and expatriate residents with a Green Card pay about 30% of the full fare.

Addis Advisor writes:
 
1. There are so many new hotels, guest houses etc in Addis Ababa these days that taxi drivers may not know them all. So, if you are staying at a new hotel without an airport shuttle bus, have the location description ready for your taxi driver (ideally in relation to a well-known landmark), and the phone number in case he still doesn’t know where it is.
 
2. If  you are arriving at Terminal One and being met by somebody, be aware that non-passengers are never allowed inside this terminal, so you should go out to the car park to look for your lift.

3. The situation if you are arriving a Terminal Two is more complicated, as meet-and-greeters  and drivers are allowed into the terminal, but to do so they have to buy a ticket and queue up for a security check, so most of them opt to wait outside in the car park. I spent three hours waiting for two Colombian Tourists on Friday – on a late plane from Jeddah – and in that time I met four groups or individuals who were waiting inside, when their drivers proved eventually to be waiting outside!  The driver for the Taitu Hotel is especially bad – he was inside at 0730 but outside for his next group at 0930. The potential for confusion is made worse by the phone network, which is pathetic right now. So make sure you know in advance whether the person meeting you is going to be outside or inside.  And if you do agree to meet inside, a great rendezvous is the Yellow Spot Cafe, which is immediately to your left as you emerge from baggage hall, and is open plan (no walls) so you or they are very visible sitting there.

It’s been drawn to my attention that several aspects of the information on flights & airports was not fully updated for the 6th edition.

So please note the following:

1. Arrival at Bole Airport (p128) – Especially if you need to buy a visa on arrival, immigration procedures at Bole Airport are a lot slower than they used to be. In essence this is because the volume of flights has more than trebled in recent years but the number of immigration desks hasn’t kept pace. Expect it to take an hour to 90 minutes from landing to leaving the airport.

2. Airlines (p129) - Alitalia no longer flies to Ethiopia. SAA flights are in partnership with Ethiopian Airlines. Other carriers that now fly to Addis Ababa include Egyptair, Fly Dubai, Gulf Air , Turkish Airlines, Saudi Airlines and Yemenia.

3, Domestic flights  (P89) are now on 75-seat Bombadier Dash aircraft made in Canada. Since they got the new planes in 2010, more than 97% of Ethiopian domestic flights leave on time, and cancellations are a very rare occurrence indeed .

4. Ticket confirmation (p89) – It is no longer necessary to confirm domestic flights as you travel around the country, as stated here and in several regional chapters – flights are now effectively confirmed at the time of booking.

5. Taxes (p90) No additional taxes need to be paid at any airport on domestic (or for that matter international) flights. Where taxes are charged, they are incorporated into the ticket price at the time of booking/payment.

John writes:

I could fill a book with all the positve aspects and good fruit juice places etc in Ethiopia!!! But a few negative experiences:

Lalibela

For low budget travellers to eat in Lalibela, go to the bottom of the town, walk past paradise hotel, continue uphill, before turnoff road to jerusalem hotel, past nobles gift shop on left is Hanna’s. She has she only been there 2 months & a internet place is to the right of her kiosk. Hanna basically caters for the local fratenity esp the street kids so if you want youngsters to practice ther english with you and eat great tastng homemade flatpan bread and scrambled eggs this is your breakfast stop befroe going uphill. Also, from midday, continue past the lal hotel to roha supermarket on the left side also, next to that is a white painted kiosk, selling souvenirs when open, behind that is Denke’s House. Denke is a bit of a local legend as she takes in street kids and feeds them as well. she does injera meals for 10 birr, does more assorted meals at the w/e due to more veggies from the market on saturday, if you have 2 boiled eggs on your plate its 15 birr more. she serves til the evening when all the food has gone.
Jordan’s Pension is the cheapest faranji place to stay at the top of the town, for 80 birr. It’s past the niteclub strip, past the blue lal hotel on the right, down a pathway, i got a room at the paradise hotel down at the bottom for 150 birr,rooms 1 to 6 being the cheapies

Gashena scam:


In feb i was with 2 other faranji going from gashena to bahir dar,we were approached by a guy with one third of his right nostril missing looks like a minor burn,he duly got us places on a mini bus to bahir dar for 150birr-later we found out it should be 100 birr,anyhow he took us to the minibus and we paid 150 each,no ticket issued of course,i wasnt particalary bothered about paying more at that time, but a little while later the ticket collecter lad tried to get another 150birr out of us,then i took umbridge to this and so did the other 2.basically what happens mr fixit gets you on the minibus takes the payment outside,and the driver,the ticket collecter,and mr fixit get 150 birr each,split it 3 ways and no ticket are issued,tana transport lose 300 birr without the companys knowledge. Its the law that all passengers must be given a ticket,the police enforce this.watch what other passengers are paying if you doubt the sincerity of some ticket collecters.

Lake Tana by boat

2 day boat trip to gorgora on lake tana from bahir dar.if you are approached when you dock in gorgora by a guy called saddam with an east africa flora and fauna guidebook be wary.turn left you arte at the government hotel within 2 minutes,to be honest he helped me get the cheapest room there for 60 birr opposite the tennis courts.later i went to the village main sterrt 3 mins away and he showed me the local eatery which i would have found anyway.i bought him a meal and a drink.he hovers round the hotel bar all the time.he was under the impression that since i met him off the boatthat i had employed him as guide,not so!he may well be a flora/fauna guide and know his stuff,but make it very clear to him you do not require his services,unless you do need a guide,basically when i got a morning bus out,i had to remonstrate to the crowd via an englsh speaking ethiopian,that he was a xxxxwit and a pest.and he appolished to the his village as he lost face.

Simien Mountains
Whatever any guide tells you in the park office,you do not buy food for your scout,muleman and guide if you choose one.theres a band of brothers thing going on at the campsites where where the fellow,guides/cooks look after thei fellow comrades,also dont buy more than 6 pieces of bread they go solid quickly in the mtn air.you really dont need the added expense of a guide .

Yohannis Maikudi (Tigrai)

on 14th march faranji date i hitched a lift with an ethiopian/swiss couple in their own minibus to yohannis maikudi church,they also had their own ethiopian guide who was travelling with them,though not an official guide from a tour office.hoardes of school children descended on the minibus,running across fields,2 youths were employed one to watch the minibus another to escort us up the mtn,3 or 4 others came along to.we had tella nad injera after the priests had stopped fasting at 3pm.one priest apparently said to the youths ,be good to these people,they are good people.we were met by a mass of children at the minibus beng met down from the mtn.then it wa the old,you,you,you,give me money,give me money,bridgade kicked in.the two guides were paid but demanded more then,then everybody was demanding money,we made a hasty retreat,pushing them off to slam the sliding back passenger door,some body had apparently put a sharp in strument in the hatch door as john the owner couldnt open it with a key.the van was pelted with rocks and stones and youngsters ran across the fiels to cut us off,thankfully we made it,ive read jon girling’s accout that he sent to me.

Street kids in Addis Ababa

I buy off street kids everyday, to support a micro economy,but be wary of them in addis they bunch you and twice very nearly robbed me,once on an inside pocket and up by st georges chuch managed to unzip my day bag as well!

 

Adam writes:

We were in Ethiopia in Jan/Feb 2013. We have done the northern circuit which is like most people i would say.

Just want to let people know the cost of some things (especially visiting churches)

On Lake Tana (Bahir Dar) All the monasteries and churches around the lake are all charging 100 Birr ($5.50 per person or 3.40 pounds) This total cost for two of us seeing all the places the boat took us to was 1000 Birr. I cannot say that they all were worth the cost.

We enjoyed both Bahir Dar and Gonder both very nice cities.

We did a five day trek in the Simien Mountains with just the two of us and paid $400 each. (this gave us a guide, scout (man with a gun) Cook and the mules and helpers so our tent and everything was sorted. I am sure you can get this a little cheaper but we thought it was worth the money.

The internal flights are cheap around $50 each per flight, and saves spending a day on a bus. We did a bus from Addis to Bahir Dar (very nice trip tho)

We also did Gonder to Axum the day after our flight was cancelled due to Fog and was told this could last three days. We did the trip door to door in 13 hours (great road but not sure i would rush to do it again lol.

In Axum we hired a car to do a two day trip to see rock churches in Tigrai. We booked the 4 X 4 though Africa hotel and the cost was $100 a day. If there are 4 people this works out very cheap.
We told our driver which churches we wanted to go to but this did’t seem to fit into his plans.
All the rock churches are charging 150 Birr per person ($7.50 or 5 pounds) on top of this you still have to pay a person for opening up the church and the shoe person. After six churches the cost was in excess of $100.

We then went to Lalibela,

This place is taking every cent of the tourist dollar/pound/euro.
They have put up the price to see the churches to $50 for the pass. This has only just been put up in mid Jan from 350 Birr. For the two of us it cost 1827 Birr. I did ask what the money would be used for and why the huge increase in price. I was informed that they only worked for the priests and there were 900 of them including the monks that needed paying. They are in the future going to build a medical centre (not sure when or for who). We were later informed that the Lalibela priests have not long bought their 3rd hotel (the 7 Olives) so it seems the money has been spent in different ways.

The churches are worth the $50 but i do think given the poverty in the country the church seems to be taking so much of the tourist dollar and not much goes downwards.

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.