Archive for the ‘Transport’ Category

Sander writes:
The ‘Gashena ticket scam’ (p. 313) is still very much alive. We encountered almost exactly the same thing (unfortunately, we only read about it afterwards). A guy ripped us off for 400 Birr. Also, we found it extremely difficult to find transport in and out of lalibela. We came from Dessie/Woldia and upon our arrival in Gashena, we could hardly find a bus to lalibela (and once we did, we had to pay 400 Birr, whereas the normal price should be 100 for two persons). Also getting out of Lalibela was very difficult: we arrived at the bus station at 5.30 a.m. (advised by our hotel); there were four buses there (already fully packed) which all left without us (after having asked us two or three times the regular price). We ended up hitchhiking with a truck, paying way too much. Then we were stranded in Gashena again, where we had to wait almost 5 hours for a minibus to Bahir Dar, that also overcharged us at least 2 or 3 times. Finally we paid almost 1200 Birr for coming to lalibela from Addis and 1000 for getting from Lalibela to Bahir Dar. Maybe this is worth mentioning (it was by far our most difficult trip, which we did not expect, considering Lalibela is Ethiopia’s most touristic destination).

 
We went to the rock hewn churches in Tigrai. Considering the Mikael Imba church (p. 293-94), you already mentioned that the ‘treasurer’ was ‘neither co-operative nor friendly’. Well, things did not improve lately, to say the least. We had a really bad experience there. We were travelling with a Belgian couple. They decided to not enter the church, but my brother and I wanted to. The priest/treasurer however already wrote a ticket for 4 persons, which is 600 Birr nowadays (we tried to tell him that there would only be two people), and refused to change it. Eventually he got so upset that he refused to let anybody in. Things got out of hand (the guy started shouting at us and went up to our driver) and eventually he threatened to throw a big rock at the front window of our car (we were about to leave). We were quite upset and half the village was there to look at us. Finally we decided to pay him the 300 Birr (the fee for 2 persons) even though none of us had seen the church. We felt that paying was the only option of getting out of there without damage to our car. The treasurer/priest claimed that he would otherwise get into trouble because of the ticket he wrote. We didn’t understand exactly what he meant, but we even offered him to leave a note with our passport numbers and autograph, stating that we did not pay any money to him. Afterwards, we informed the police about the incident in the next village and they told us they would look into it. It is perhaps better to avoid this church all together, because the guy went completely mental.

 
About the Ethiopian Airlines ticket prices: prices for domestic flights are now MUCH lower if you fly with Ethiopian Airlines TO Ethiopia. For example, flying from Bahir Dar to Addis would be around 150 dollars (regular price). However if you have an international ticket through Ethiopian, it would cost you only 50 dollars. Many people we met did not know about this, as the ruling only came into being earlier this year. We flew with Turkish airlines, so no discount for us making it too expensive now for us to fly domestically.

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!

 

 

 

 

 

Just in today – not sure when it will be implemented – but looks like domestic flight prices will all be cut by 40% – http://www.newbusinessethiopia.com/index.php/market/106-travel-tips/799-ethiopian-airlines-cut-domestic-flights-rate-40

Thanks to Michael Pinet for this wonderfully detailed and informative trip report:

We have read and studied the Bradt guide again and again to prepare our 2011 and 2014 trips to Ethiopia and it was the only guide we took with us. We like its thoroughness, accuracy and personal touch. However here is some updated detailed information I would have liked to find either in the latest edition or on the internet. I have also added some impressions about our own experience. I hope it will be valuable to people planning a visit to Ethiopia.

Bale trek
Goba is no longer the hub of the Bale area, Robe is. This the place where minibuses leave for and arrive from Shashemene. Bekele Mola hotel (250 birrs for 2 people in a single room with hot shower) is still fairly good value with its bungalows. As usual in Ethiopia, the bathroom is in poor condition.
The organization of a trek in the Bale mountains is not done through the park headquarters, dealing with civil servants , as in the Simiens but through the Nyala Guide Association next to it. So you need to be very clear and check twice what you really want as English is often misunderstood and they are keen to charge you for extra days, etc. The price are as follows :
– guide 300 birrs per day
– horse 120 birrs per day
– horse handler 170 birrs per day
– cook 400 birrs per day
– tent + sleeping bags 400 birrs per night (rented by a guide’s friend!), expensive but quite
decent equipment
– entrance fee 90 birrs per day / per person
– camping fee 40 birrs per night
If you do not walk back to your starting point, Dinsho, then you have to pay extra days for the horses and handlers. Logical. The same with the guide or cook unless they use your car or minibus to go back.
For a 5-day trek for 2 people you will need to add 1500 birrs (same amount in the Simiens 2 years ago) for the food which the cook will buy (you feed the whole group, of course as in the Simiens but you can tell the cook what you want to eat). He will also supply the cooking equipment.
You might need a car or minibus to pick you up at Sanetti Campsite, at the end of your trek to take you back to Robe, Goba or Dinsho. We paid 1900 birrs (a guide’s friend again). Expensive as usual, but it is the same all over Ethiopia and when you take into account the poor conditions of the roads it is acceptable.
We did the usual 5-day trek
– Dinsho – Sodota campsite (22k / 3100m to 3500m)
– Sodota – Keyrensa campsite (20k / 3750m)
– Keyrensa – Rafu campsite (17k + 4k to visit spectacular lava flow / 3990m)
– Rafu – Garba Guracha campsite (18k / 3950m)
– Garba Guracha – Mt Batu (4200m) – Sanetti campsite where a hired minibus picked us up
That was absolutely great! Not breathtaking as the Simiens was, due to the tracks often along the escarpment, but majestic because of the huge scopes of land and varied landscapes. No problem whatsoever with altitude, etc. and we are both over 65. Contrary to the Simiens there is no water at the campsites and there is a cold northerly wind (you can’t keep a T-shirt on as you would in the Simiens, you need warmer clothes and a woolly hat, especially the last 3 days!). The cook, Idris, was competent and nice and so was the guide, Awol.
They all expect tips as they would in Ethiopia. A day’s fee is the norm as I read in Bradt’s guide when we did the Simiens, so a day’s fee it was and they were pleased.
Wabe Shebelle hotel in Goba is nice, clean, with pleasant grounds (454birrs for a single room for 2, breakfast included).

Shashemene
Shalla hotel : good quality, clean, nice. 250birrs for a single room for 2 people. Not far from bus station

Hawassa
Midroc Zewed Village hotel (called Old Zewed Village now) is just as mentioned in Bradt guide. It is a haven of green, quiet and relaxing, thriving with wild life . We spent our late afternoons sitting by the lake and watching cormorants, Egyptian geese, egrets and kingfishers endlessly . The bungalows are roomy with still decent bathrooms. The manager told us he was planning to pull everything down and rebuild it. Let’s hope he will keep its unique atmosphere. A bungalow with a double bed is 414 birrs, breakfast included. The fish market is not to be missed and neither is the superb walk along the lake, full of life. Had a good meal at the Pinna hotel as mentioned in guide.

Tigrai
Be careful with the freshly appointed civil servant called Astbeha at the Tigrai tourist commission in Wukro. He blatantly overcharged us and is unknowledgable . He offered to be our guide for 275 birrs a day, which we found reasonable , yet it turned out to be the fee per person! (Our fault, I assume for not making things clear at the beginning!). However he proved to have no knowledge whatsoever about the churches we visited and made us miss the opportunity to visit Debre Tsion through lack of information.
It is important to know that you need a guide from the Gheralda Guide Association in Hawzien to visit the churches nearest Hawzien, namely Mariam Korkor and Abuna guebre Mikael as far as we were concerned. We were pleased to get rid of our “guide” for a proper one .
We used Wukro as a base for our 3 day visit and used a minibus (1500 birrs a day) with a competent, nice, responsible driver (Sishay Degu 09 14 49 07 06). Here again it sounds expensive yet the distances are important and the roads are just tracks most of the time. What’s more the driver accompanied us in all the visits and was a good help in discouraging the usual kids and teens .
Day 1 : Mikael Imba and Medhane Alem Adi Kasho
Day2 : Abreha We Atsbeha and Yohannis Maikudi (Debre Tsion could have been done!)
Day3 : Maryam Korkor and Abuna Gebre Mikael
Each church charges 150birrs per person and a receipt is given . Most of the priests do not ask for a tip and all have been very pleasant, sharing some injera and wot with us on two occasions.
Tigrai is not to be missed for the churches of course but also for the landscape and the walks which can be just as good as the churches themselves (the walk to Mariam Korkor in particuliar).
Lwam hotel is clean and pleasant (300birrs for a single room for 2)

Wenchi crater from Ambo
Abebech Matafaria hotel in Ambo is clean, very nice with welcoming grounds (285birrs for a single room for 2 with a good hot shower)
We paid 1100 birrs for a minibus to take us to Wenchi crater and back, a 1.5 hour drive each way on a bumpy track, leaving at 8.30 and coming back at 4.30. A good price negotiated through the hotel receptionist. It should have been 1500 birrs.
Did a superb 5-hour walk down to the lake, across to the island of Deber by boat , then to Immogil point by boat again , then along the Dawala hot spring valley with its watermills, back up to the park headquarters.
– car park fee :30 birrs
– entrance fee : 50 birrs per person
– guide : 200 birrs
– boat : 50 birrs per person
– horse and handler = 50 birrs (we hired them to contribute to the local economy but we didn’t
really need them and hardly used them )
A very scenic place with a nice and clean village and friendly people.
2 hours by minibus from Addis from Asco bus station or Mercato .

Some frustrations
– No maps or guide available anymore (Bale mountains national park, Wenchi crater, Tigrai
churches)!

- Dallas hotel in Mekele is dirty, smelly, not worth the 200birrs for a single room for 2. And we are
not fussy people in the least! The small Moringa hotel next door is much better with friendly staff
yet more expensive (300 birrs)

- Sky buses are still efficient with friendly staff in their ticket offices but the buses are deteriorating
fast and drivers do not seem as cautious as they were. We saw a huge difference in 2 years’ time
and not for the better (cockroaches in one, worn out clutch and creaking gears in another)!

Thanks to Pawel for the following important news (which I have expanded slightly)

It is no longer possible to get an Ethiopian visa in Somaliland. The Ethiopian representative office in Hargeisa is not issuing them anymore. So if you plan on visiting Somaliland from Ethiopia, you either need a multiple-entry visa for Ethiopia, or you will have fly back to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with Ethiopian Airlines (which costs upwards of US$200 one-way) and then buy a visa on arrival at Bole International Airport.

 

Charlotte Harvey writes:

I brought your guide to Ethiopia last month. The biggest news is that as of November 1st the prices of Ethiopian Airlines has quadrupled.

Other than that we had one bad tour guide experience in Axum re a car rental from Axum to Lalibela: We cannot recommend Covenant Ethiopian Tours run by Dawit Tesfay. I’m afraid he charged a luxury price of 8000 birr up front for a day rental of an old car that broke down on the rode north of Lalibela, with no jack, two flat tires, no flashlight, no water, no air conditioning. He also made no effort to make up for the poor service. I have to reported the experience, to the wonderful hotel (Gheralta Lodge) that recommended him, and to the travel sites for others heading that way. By no means should this keep you away from the beautiful country, just use another tour guide.