In December 2012 we spent 1 week in Omo Valley and 1 week in the north around Lalibela. No time for Simien and Abuna Yemata in Tigrey. Ethiopia would be my number 2-3 destination in Africa, it is interesting and safe, people are very nice. December is considered mid-season but in Omo markets and vilages we have seen very few tourists, similar in Lalibela. Even at the bull jumping there were 300 relatives and only 20 tourists. Go and see.
We stayed in Ankober hotel in Piazza next to Baro hotel email ankober.g.house at gmail.com . Always hot water, quiet. Ask for discount: we paid $27/night for double. You can also try historical Taitu email reservations at taituhotel.com for same price. For extensive list of cheap hotels in Addis go to ICASA 2011 Travel list or search cvent.com
Don’t use the taxi kiosk inside the airport terminal: they want $20 for ride to Piazza. Go to the parking lot, we bargain from 200B then finally to 150B. In general blue taxis are cheaper than yellow.
If you think about visiting Ethiopia and don’t have much time, then my advice would be go to Omo. All other places will still be there waiting for your next trip. Even if you have only few days, it is worth all the money and effort. Omo exceeded my expectations, I’ve never thought that such interesting and real tribes still exist. In most cases it is not a Travel Zoo as some tourists complained. Don’t postpone your trip because all will change dramatically in the next 10 years. They already have decent roads and electricity will be there in 1-3 years. If you have money then fly to Arba Minch even for few days to see Hamer.
We had to fly because we had very tight schedule. There are no flights to Jinka, only to Arba Minch 3 times a week. For some reason they are not listed on Ethiopian Airline web site, you have to call them. They have discounts on internal flights if you buy your ticket to Ethiopia from them. Make sure that you confirm every leg a day before- one flight was cancelled/delayed till next day, the other left 40 minutes early.
I will try to attach a list of all agencies that are recommended on various sites and blogs. In Addis the main ones are Abeba Tours, Sora, Adimasu. You pay more at the bigger agency but they probably would provide more help if the car breaks down. They quoted $130-$170 for 1990s model year and $170-$200 for newer model with Sora having the best prices. This is for the 4WD with driver, gas, taxes from Addis. 1$=18B. Don’t buy all inclusive- it will be $200+/pp/day. If you get the car then other expenses are double room 200B, meal 40-60B, beer 11-15, guide $30/day, entrance fees 300B/car/village so your total will be about $100/pp/day based on 2 people. Of course for the low budget trip. Bargain everywhere, they inflate prices-absolutely don’t pay 12B for a tea, it should be 3B -complain about rip off and walk away.
Another option, but only in a very dry season, is to rent 2WD Honda from Avis in Addis, with discounts and even charge per km it would be a good deal for 3+ people.
After we decided to fly we had to find a local guide and car in Omo. There are very few options so many people order the car from Addis but you have to pay for their round trip. Probable exception: I’ve received email from Endalk Bezawork endalbez at yahoo.com promising to charge $130/car from Arba. I’ve not be able to verify this because I’ve already decided to go with Lalo Dessie lalotour.com 251- 913363077, email lalojinka at gmail.com . Lalo is a local guide from Jinka, knows everybody including tribe people and can organize whatever you want. We were camping in the villages, seen bull jumping (impossible to find out the schedule without the good guide), visited his friends and family and had great time. Nice, flexible and highly recommended.
Other practical info: bring the toilet paper, peptobismol, antidiarrhea (we were OK), flashlight, granola bars, wet napkins, mosquito repellent and small net to cover your face at night.
We flew to Lalibela, stayed in nice Asheton hotel 251 33 3360030 don’t know email, paid 300B for double, highly recommended. It is worth to hire guides for 200B to visit churches. We wanted to do trekking so we talked to local agencies: Daniel Melese highlandtrekking.com 912130831 based in 7 Olives very professional but expensive at $40-$50/pp day trekking to Abune. We used Sisay Emagnu Trekking in Lalibela email sisay208 at yahoo.com251 920 133060 for 10-12 hour hike to churches in Bilbala for $25/pp day trekking. We returned by bus for 100B/ticket. Our guide was very nice and helpful freelancer Abebe email abebe_tesfaw at yahoo.com 251 921 963544. Another agencies are TESFA Cooperative and unrelated Tesfa Tours. I am not sure why the trekking prices are so high considering that you stay in huts, etc – dbl room in cheap hotel in Bilbala was 100B. Search internet for $5 trekking/hut stay with Ms. Sisay 251-91-1556205 but she did not replay to my email.