Archive for the ‘Gonder’ Category

Alex writes:

I have travelled to 86 countries and feel pretty used to backpacker hassle and scams. But I was surprised at the irritant factors in Gondar given the generally gentle and welcoming Ethiopian character. Two bad experiences to report:

Ethiopian Hotel. Excellent location with a deceptively grand bar from the colonial period masks a hotel which I would avoid at all costs. I awoke at 3am crawling in bed bugs, itching and bleeding into the sheets. As so often, the staff seemed to think that they could get away with a cleaning job, but unless they destroy the mattress and treat the wooden frame where they hide (which they did not seem keen on), bed bugs will be permanent bedfellows. In the morning, there was not the hot water advertised, or in fact any water from a shower. I was led from bathroom to bathroom in a towel until a bucket was found…

Actually more irritating than all this was the manager. I asked to see him so I could pay as the counter was closed for checkout. I suggested that after 2 hours sleep and no water, a discount was in order. He told me that he hadn’t forced me to stay, he didnt give a F*** about bedbugs, and manhandled me down the stairs. There were a bunch of lackies (the kind who charge for directions or to get a seat on a public bus) in the lobby, and I felt seriously outnumbered and in danger. As it happens there was a ‘Tourist Police’ hut opposite the hotel on the roundabout, so I went there and explained that at the very least there was a public health issue at the hotel. I’m not sure how the tourist police are meant to help tourists when they dont speak English! So when the manager came down he had the language advantage and I have no idea what the police understood. The lackies came too and seemed to be on his side, though they told me that the manager is ‘not right in the head’. The manager wanted to publicly reconcile with the tourist, but I have no confidence that anyone will be treated better in the future!

Also I had read in the guide about ‘praise singing’ which I would recommend seeking out in a local club. We couldnt get in to one such, but a doorman took us to ‘his other’, presumably meaning he would get a fee for bringing a faranji to any other. It was basically a very dingy bar with a small band. We enjoyed the singing and tipped all the musicians, but the bill for 30minutes entertainment was irritating if hilarious. Hand written on a scrap of paper it included his drinks, entrance fee (on departure), VAT and service, to an absurd fictional figure. I agreed to pay only the inflated price of beer, which I would advise asking for before drinking! Buyer beware! Half the bar seemed to follow us down the street demanding money, funnily enough almost to the location of the tourist police hut, who are worth putting on your map!

What a palaver….

A female reader writes:

At the risk of coming across quite harshly, in 10 years of travelling (except maybe in India), I have never experienced so much hassle as in Gondar and Debark (I am in Aksum now which seems quieter, hoping for the best). I am a single female, and guys in Gondar would constantly wave and shout at me, often from a distance of 25 metres. If i chose to ignore them, since it was a regular occurrence , many would get really angry at me and curse me. When walking alone after sunset and passing cafes or restaurants, guys waved me to their tables and a couple got up to follow me when I ignored it, explaining me how to behave in a foreign country. Conversations with Peace Corps volunteers and a bunch of other travellers confirned this, although I feel being alone in the streets aggravated the problem (and yes, i was dressed modestly).

In Debark, while it was a bit less aggressive, I had men constantly follow me as well, usually until one so-called guide pretended to come to my rescue, explaining how dangerous/annoying the situation was. I never felt seriously threatened though. However, having a few hundred people shout at you in one day, hardly ever accepting the “thanks a lot, i am ok/dont want to…” has certainly tainted my experience. As a consequence, I will head back to Kenya, where people treated me very much with respect and a smile on their faces. Weirdly enough, I found people in Addis Ababa much more friendly and willing to help!

Sorry that turned into quite a story. But I just wish someone had me prepared for this hazzle, apart from the begging children who occasionally try to snatch your bag or the often rude customer service, that, all of which were to be expected, so maybe this is useful to others. Might also be connected to the fact that it is the low season and i have not seen too many other tourists around.

(PS – Sorry for the typos, still getting used to my little keyboard!)

Gondar hotels

Posted: June 25, 2014 in Gonder, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

Elena, Teresa & Jaime write

We are a group of three travelling in the north area of Ethiopia!! We arrived yesterday night at Gondar & started looking for a good hotel to spend the night! We visited the Hibret Hotel (in the Bradt guide), but they treat to cheat as asking for 600 birr for a small twin dirty room! Afterwards we visited the Merkuriaw Alemaya Hotel, it still has very good prices (120\150 birr), not so good looking nor so clean, but not bad for the price.

Finally, by chance, we found the Michael Hotel (near to the L-Shape hotel). This hotel really merits your attention!!! Is really really clean, good looking, with white clean sheets and a well equipped bathroom with hot water and hydromassage shower and this twin room cost on ly 300 birr!!!! As we are three we are paying 350 birr for sharing the room, also because one of the beds is big enough. The staff is really friendly and they have free WiFi in all the floors!!

Our experience was so good, that we decided to Michael Hotel to your readers!

Many thanks to Mulu Gelaye of Mulu Ethiopia Tours (www.muluethiopiatours.com or www.ethiopiasimientours.com) for the following updates:

Gondar

Entrance fee for the castle is now 200 birr per person. Optional guide fee is 350 birr per day
Some new recommended hotels:
1. Sona Hotel, open on October 2013
- Bedrooms SGL 9, DBL 2, Twin 5, TRP 1(total 17)
And have wifi Acess and price single ETB 280 and Twin/Double: 330 birr
2. Hotel Jasemin
- 27 bedrooms, it’s price 100-200 birr for Ethiopian & 160-250 foreigner
And have Internet cafe and have jenerator.
3. Hotel unique landscape
- conference hall for 200-300
- DSTV, Generator, pool bar and barber shop.
Debark
There are now three banks that give ATM service.
Also there is now a Simien Mountain Village Tour? You will see the following:
1. Hair dressing
2. Black smith
3. Coffee ceremony( it is definitely cultural)
4. injera beaking and how to make local beer.
To see more information you can visit their Facebook made by (JICA) www.facebook.com/discoversimien.com
Simien Mountains
The new fee structure is as follows:
1. Enterancefee for foreign 90 birr plus 10 birr for camping per day.
2. Guide fees, 1-5 person 300birr
                        6-10 >>. 350 birr
                         11-20 >>, 450 birr
                          > 21>>, 700 birr which is they will take 2 guides
3. Game scout.   150 birr per day
4. Cook, 1-3 person – 300 birr
               4-10 person- 450 birr
                > 11 person – 600 birr
5. Mule, 120 birr per day per mule and mule man also 120 birr per day per.

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.

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

Romana Roschinsky writes:

Just returned from a holiday in Ethiopia in July/August 2013. Your guide was really helpful. Although I did not have the latest verision, we ere in general very happy with the recommendations.
A few comments.

Ghion Hotel Bahir Dar.
The room we got for 300birr was ok, but not much more.
We approached the reception to organise a tour to the monastries. They referred us to a guy on the porch. Later we found out that he is some relative of the manager.
We were booked for a tour and promised to see between 4-5 monastries the next day starting from 8.00. The tour was said to be 250birr/person and last around 4-5 hours. We were told there was an extra 100 birr entrance fee for Ura Kidane Mihret church but he adviced us that woud be worth it. And we could enter the monastry compounds of the other monastries without paying and decide if we wanted to enter the buildings. Then we would be charged accordingly. We thought allright.
We were ready the next day. Had to wait with all other tourists for an hour, but that was ok. We went to Zege Peninsula where we were welcomed by our guide. We visited Ura Kidane Mihret and it was perfectly fine. Then we made it back to the boat.
Passing another island the boat guy said the monastery would be closed, but thhere was a museum that the men could enter. The men on our boat refused out of solidarity. We approached a second island and disembarked. We wanted wo move around the compound but were told we woul dhave to pay yet another 100birr per person. We refused, discussed that we had been told we could at least move around on th ecompound and asked to be brought to another place. The boat guy did so but at the next monastry the same game. We refused again. As “compensation” he offered us to take us to the Nile outlet. We agreed. The promised Hippos were nowhere to be seen because: The temperatures were too cold. What a stupid lie.
Back at Ghion Hotel We approached our organizer. First I asked him to give back the extra 50birr he had charged me but not the other tourists. He did that. Then all of us complained that we did not get what we payed for and were really disappointed. We asked him what he yould offer us. He said it was not his fault and shoved the boat owner into our faces. He tried to run off several times but we always managed to confront him again. He said we could go again to the lake but none of us was interested after spending hours on the water already. He refused to do anything else for us.
So I strongly advise against booking the Tana monastry tours at Ghion Hotel in Bahir Dar. A bad idea.

Gonder:
Queen Taitu Pension is a terrible accommodation. We were put into a room with mould across all walls. The smell was disgusting. We could not change rooms, as all others were booked and did not know where else to go as it was dark already.Do not stay there!!!

Lalibela:
I know this night be updated now but the entry fee is now 50 US$/ person. It’s well worth it but we were surprised be the amount.

We were told the tourist information is closed. We did not check if that was true though.

Axum: Africa Hotel: very nice place. But check the room before you pay. They wanted to give us a mould one at first.

Addis Abeba: Taitu Hotel: The main building is very nice. But the bathrooms are terrible. No toilet seats, mould, cockroaches. Still the price was ok for 300birr/night.

Simien Mountains Lodge:
We got a wet season discount and payed 90US$ for a double room. They even brought us a massive bucket full of hot water as the fog was too thick for the solar power panels to work. Very nice.