MIkael Imba (Tigrai), Gashena & Domestic flights

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.


One thought on “MIkael Imba (Tigrai), Gashena & Domestic flights

  1. Legese Begashaw says:

    Legese Begashaw from Eureka Ethiopia Tours
    I also travel to Lalibela and Tigray Rock hewn churches with tourists and have heard almost same complaints and problems from travelers going to these and some other Ethiopian destinations. This is true and the only way to minimize the problem is to work together for the florishment of the Young Ethiopian Tourism Industry.
    Some of the main problems and challenges in relation with the development of this industry in Ethiopia are poor infrastructural development, lack of adequate and efficent transportation, lack of community training and awareness about the industry and ack of balanced wealth distribution earned from the sector.
    In destinations like tigray rock hewn churches most of the priests who are responsible for their respective monasteries or churches have neither any tourism training nor basic skills of communication. So unless a foreign tourist has a guide or a translator obviously it is difficult to communicate with them. I and some of my friends working in this industry have complained to the regional Tigray Tourism Office about this problem. They are promoting and trying to develop the regional tourism Industry. However, they don’t seem to give and understand the vital importance of having church priests with good English communication skills and the need to give them training on how to deal with travelers.
    Lalibela is one of the main Ethiopian tourist destinations. Ironically However, so far there is no a single asphalt road connecting it with Gashena. And puzzelingly the only Asphalt road connecting Lalibela Airport with the town of Lalibela is one of the most neglected and poorly maintained asphalt roads in the country. This makes traveling to this town always difficult for both foreign and domestic travelers .It is true that the government is planning to develop the regional infrustructure and many new hotels are being built; both private and gvernment banks have started to operate with the development of telecommunication. However a lot remains to be done by the governmnet, non govermental organizations, steak holders and other concerned bodies in this region in the area of infrustructural development, Expansion of Education and training for the community, balanced wealth distribution from the sector and Etc.
    Foreign Tourists traveling independtly to these sites are advised to come to these places well prepared for these challenges. One way of doing this is getting reliable information from other sources such as guide books, travelers who have been to these places and crosschecking the information with some tour operators, tourism offices by e-mails.
    Be informed that those who charges ferenji price or those who scam foreigners are uneducated and ill-trained people who cannot understand the impact of that on the development of Tourism in Ethiopia. Otherwise most Ethiopians are respectful, friendly, honest, helpful and courageous. Your opinion about your travel experiences in Ethiopia is helpful and I believe that concerned bodies in Tourism industry in Ethiopia will learn from yours and others experiences and then work hard to tackle the problem.
    Legese Begahsaw, Tour manager
    Eureka Ethiopia Tours

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