New Backpackers Lodge in Bahir Dar

The management of Manuhie Backpackers Lodge just emailed us to let us know they opened in Bahir Dar in late 2015. The lodge is situated in the backroads behind the Bete Daniel (approximately grid B2 or C2 on the map on p231 of the 7th edition) and has rates in the US$10-24 range. For further details, see the contacts below:

Phone Number – +251918253484

Email – Naoel8000@gmail.com

Facebook Page – http://www.facebook.com/manuhie.backpackers.lodge

December 2015 trip report

Simon writes:

I am just back from 2 1/2 weeks in Ethiopia using your 6th edition (I bought it just before 7 came out &#X02639) It is very good, thank you.

I am a geriatric backpacker at 60, usually travelling around southern Africa in my own Landy for the past 15 winters. This was my first trip to Ethiopia, prompted by the start of direct flights to Dublin, Ireland.

As a general comment I found no evidence of the ‘hassle’ and ‘overcharging’ you frequently refer to in the guide. Was I lucky, or have things improved?

A few detailed points:-

Addis Ababa:-

I used the new metro in Addis to get from the Autobus Terra to Piazza, a handy trip for backpackers. It seems very safe with police in every carriage.The trains are lovely, but the signage is not too good yet!  You buy your ticket in the orange kiosk just by the exit of the bus station, cross the busy road and climb the steps on the far side to get to the correct platform.  On arrival at ‘Menelik Square’ you take the steps at the front of the platform to the surface, then do an about turn and walk 300M to arrive at Menelik Square itself. You have the ‘Fire Department’ marked incorrectly on pp146, it should be on the south side of Gal Hailu Kebede. To go from Menelik to Autobus Terra take the entrance near Gyorgis church.

Tesfa Trekking:-

I arranged everything on arrival in Lalibela. I did the 3 day western Meket trip alone and was charged $260 which is probably high as there wasn’t a group. I travelled to Gashena by bus with the guide which was crowded but fine. It was good having the guide to sort things out and it is recommended for ‘local colour’. I was travelling on to Bahir Dar, but for those returning to Lalibela it may be better to arrange private pick up at the end of the trek as apparently finding public transport back to Lalibela is not so easy. I really enjoyed it.

Is it ‘good value’? We should be careful not to go soft in the head at the thought of ‘community involvement’. Getting a similar standard of lodging and food in any town would be a fraction of the cost. I was keen to point out to them that they could easily improve things with a little effort.

 

Lake Tana Ferry:-

I travelled from North to South, which still leaves Gorgora on Thursday, but I believe the departure from Bahir Dar has changed.

The road from Gondar to Gorgora is being rebuilt and minibus traffic has stopped. The bus was very full and took 3 1/2 hrs. The repairs are expected to be finished by end of 2016.

Gorgora Port Hotel is still as bad as when you described it! Apparently there is another place to stay in the village about 15mins away which is better. (Note from PB – Simon will be referring to Kim & Tim listed in the 7th edition)

Arrival at Konzula:- Apparently there are now 2 ‘hotels’ in town. I am not sure which one I found, but it wasn’t the Hilton! There seemed no need for a ‘mad dash’ and the 10min walk is actually on the flat! It does not feel so remote anymore. There is a bank and lots of mobile phone shops!

Blue Nile Falls:-

Your description of the way to the falls is a bit wrong. The ticket office is right by the gates to the hydro plant. You don’t need a guide despite what they suggest. I was a little hassled but not too bad. The map shows the correct position of the side road about 100m back up from the ticket office. You just follow this ‘road’, keeping left at a junction before dropping down to the left AFTER the church. A quick look on Google earth will help your description. After crossing the suspension bridge, beware the tea lady selling the most expensive drinks in Ethiopia! It is then about 5mins walk to the motor boat to cross back to the town.

Debra Libanos:-

The entrance fee for the church included the museum (and I got a guided tour!) so was reasonable value I thought. You now get a ‘guide’ to go up the pretty steep steps to the cave, but as it is a holy shrine it is good to have one to avoid upsetting pilgrims.

The walk back up to the main road is not that steep! ( a climb of 160M according to my GPS)

There is a  hotel about 300M down the road from the junction with lovely views over the gorge. It is a bit basic but half the price of the Ethio-German Park next door!

I hope some of this may be of help!

 

Bahir Dar hotel recommendations

AddisAdvisor writes:

On a recent visit to Bahir Dar I looked at the following hotels, all of which can be recommended:

1. Rahnile Hotel (tel: 0582207575, email: rahnile@gmail.com
http://www.facebook.com/Rahnilehotel)

The Rahnile Hotel has moved swiftly to number 1 on Trip Advisor rankings since it opened two years ago. I didnt stay there but had breakfast and dinner and saw the rooms, which cost ETB 799 (around US$38) for an ensuite double with queensize bed.

Pros.

– Owned by the architect who designed it……..cleverly designed spacious open air but covered restaurant balcony. ie like a large area with 3 walls only…..

– Good meals and service. Very nice rooms. Welcoming staff with good English in reception ground floor bar cafe area.

– Very central. On the side road running east from the St George traffic lights at lake end of the high street, i.e. a block south of Dib Anbessa Hotel on the border of grid E2/F2 on the map on page 231. So very handy for early morning Selam Sky bus departures. Free airport shuttle.

Cons.

– No lake view.

2. Bahir Dar Hotel 1 and 2. These two good value budget hotels are good value for money with rooms in the ETB 450-550 range (i.e. US$22-26). Tel  0582208888, email: bahirdarhotel@gmail.com

D 1, in side streets opposite Ghion. We stayed there 1972….. courtyard set up like a motel. Cafe in central area.

BD 2. Same street as Rahnile but much nearer the traffic lights. Very friendly staff, free airport shuttle. Good breakfast included. Very central but front rooms can be noisy due to clubs, restaurants nearby. Avoid room 101 201 etc go for even number rooms at the back….

3. On a less positive note, the Ghion Hotel looks to be permanently closed. The compound has been chopped in two by corrugated iron walls, and the eastern half of the compound is now a road…….leading from the main lakeside road opposite the fuel station to the lake shore. The boat trip touts at the tourist info place near the main jetty tell me the site is scheduled to be a recreation centre for the inhabitants of BD!

Edition 6 updates

Maarten has sent me the following updates & comments, based on edition 6, so page numbers related to that edition and many of his comments are already incorporated in the 7th edition.

Addis Ababa

Sleeping

Taitu burned down halfway through 2014 and got rebuild. The top floor rooms are much nicer than before. The other rooms though are of generally low quality, and even though cheap not good value for money. Better option in Piaza area is for sure Baro (take the rooms in the front, not in the main building) with a nice little sitting place and fair prices. The neigboring Ankober guest house, next to Baro, is quite overpriced with clean rooms at 600Birr, but with good working Wifi. Small bathrooms with only cold water, pretty noisy hallway all through the night. Across from Baro lies Wutma hotel (small rooms, good option if Baro is fully booked), fair place for breakfast as well.

 

Toronto guest house is not so good located and slightly overpriced. But, clean rooms, excellent service.

 

Addis guest house; excellent service, clean big rooms. Fairly priced. Great pick when you need a little more luxury and are tired of the shoestring options.

 

Eating

Best breakfast and cake (even though ‘cake’ sounds more tempting then can ever be held true wherever in Ethiopia) are available in Oslo cafe on Dej Joto, where you`ll find the best fetira I had in the country (thin cripsy pancakes served with honey or egg, or even both).

 

Beergarden Inn around Edna Mole in Bole area serves excellent though pricy homebrewn bears and fair food. Excellent place if you are eager to watch European soccer matches.

 

China bar actually better then the description in the guide suggested. Ate there several times, fair portions, very fresh food with loads of fresh vegetables.

 

Gati thai disappeared, after many telephone attempts I was told the closed the restaurant.

 

Castelli piazza is very popular, but to my taste highly overrated. Ate there several times, the food is overpriced. The pasta is good, very good indeed. All the meat and fish dishes were poorly cooked. Drinks are expensive. Lovely environment. Definitely not worth all the credit it is getting.

 

Kaldi`s coffee is a nice string of coffee places scattered around Addis. One is on Churchill road with the crossing with Zambia Road. Another is right next to La Parisiene on Ghana Street close to Edna Mall. Excellent coffee`s, Ice cream, good sandwiches.

 

Jewel of India restaurant has moved; it is now at a road parallel to Bole Road, first to the left from Bole road coming to Meskel Flower road. Excellent food, fair prices.

Tomoca gets a lot of credit, and it`s completely all correct. The place to go for the best coffee. Epic!

 

A lovely hideaway is the back garden of the Hilton hotel. Quiet, excellent food (at high prices though). Great place to get away from all the hectic life in Addis.

 

Dashen restaurant has ceased to exist.

 

Not in the guide, definitely should be high ranked for eating farengi food is Island Breeze restaurant. It is situated across from Arada Zone telecom between Arbeynoch and Cunningham (map p146).

 

Shopping

To the left of the Edna Mall is the best supermarket I came across in the whole of Ethiopia. Wide selection of products. Another great supermarket, which also has a wide range of stationary, furniture, cooking utensils, is on Bole road, on the right when going to the airport, just over the river. This whole building has a good collection of shops for practical things.

 

Curio shopping is definitely good at Churchill avenue as mentioned in the guide, but very overpriced. If you have little time to do souvenir shopping, this is definitely the best pick because you will find the full range of available curio. At a fraction of the price you will find the same things at Mercato, and usually sellers are fair and open to negotiation.

 

In the stadium area there are plenty of youngsters trying to steal your stuff. This area is notorious for it, so be aware. Especially around Ambassador theatre, several reports of people ‘accidently’ bumping into tourists, after which their smart phones had disappeared.

The shops around the stadium sell excellent leatherware at good prices.

 

Bookworld on map p. 146 is situated more east, opposite Enrico pastry.

 

Mekele

Hotel Atse Yohannis offers great value for money. Furthermore, it is close to the bus station, and close to the office of Ethio tours and travel, the best agency I came across.

 

Axumite restaurant is populated by horrible staff that is unwilling to service you at all. Furthermore, the food is horrible (tried 2 times, both times very disappointing). Do not go here.

 

Lovely market in Mekele, nice to see the herbs and of course the salt slabs coming in from Dalol/Danakil depression.

 

Hawassa

Circle of life Hotel

Quite a beat-down place. Private doubles 350Birr, more beat-down for 250Birr (also self-contained). The garden makes up for a lot though –you won`t find a more lush environment on ‘the strip’ of Hawassa- as does its lakeside location. Nice food at decent prices, of which most unfortunately is always out of stock. Recently changed management (3 times during the last year) but now serious improvements are being made (WIFI much better quality, rooms much cleaner and maintained), bad staff fired.

New telephone number 0462201318

 

Haile Resort

Easily the most beautiful pick in Hawassa. Pricy, but not overpriced. Beautiful rooms, clean. Spa facilities, shopping and swimming pool, all also available for persons not sleeping over against fair rates (e.g. day at the poolside including showers, soap, towels, 100 Birr). Beautiful bird-viewing and more amenities in the making. Great food.

 

Lakeview hotel

Very good pick. The name does not really offer what you expect, since the view is mostly on a gated piece of dirty land bordering the lake. But the hotel is excellent value (950Birr per 2p room with private luxurious bath room, excellent bed, DSTV). Very good restaurant, very friendly staff. A definite downside is the bad reservation system; you can call in advance, but it happened several times to me that the reservation was non-existent upon arrival. Also once the staff told me they only make reservations one day ahead for single room reservations, since the high rate of no-shows.

 

Eating

The Dolce Vita restaurant is highly overpraised. Around the corner, in the same street as the Lakeview, crossing the road heading to Lewi Resort, is the way much better Italian restaurant Venezia. Funny owner who likes to try his own liquor collection a bit too much, but he`s a very generous and serviceable chap, cooking himself. By far the best pasta`s (and more original than the vegetable or Bolognese you get served everywhere) and drinks. Always serving dishes outside of the meny.

 

On the same street as Dolce Vita is Tropical Burger. Great place, excellent prices, fast service.

 

Lakeside fresh fish is best at the restaurant that has a boat terrace extending into the lake. Here they also serve a very tasty fresh fish soup.

 

Lakeside

At the lakeside many youngsters rent out their motorcycles at fair prices (about 500Birr for a full day including fuel). Hawassa makes a good city from which you can make beautiful trips (e.g. Wondo Genet at 40min motorcycle ride, beautiful road with great sight seeing possibilities).

 

The lakeside has a bad reputation when it comes to youngsters trying to take your money and phone, mind your stuff.

 

 

Shops

The mall opposite to Time Cafe has a good Internet cafe with Wifi available. The bottom floor of the mall has a good supermarket. This is the same mall as where Sky Bus has its office to buy your bus tickets.

 

Shashemene

Even though the description in the guide is fair when it comes to the ambiance in Sashamane lacking, I would say the market in Sashamane is definitely worth a visit, albeit not a special detour. Best place to eat farengi food is for sure Haile hotel (double rooms, self-contained, at 595Birr including breakfast, which is a very fair price. Telephone number 0461101007 / 0930108484 / 0930108485). The banana art gallery is a nice place to find a unique type of art at fair prices. The hustling Rastafarians surrounding the place are quite a hassle though, so you should be prepared for this.

 

Bahir Dar

Blue Nile hotel; decent prices, clean place. In the middle of the red light district though, where in every bar surrounding it you`re being served by prostitutes.

Blue nile falls back and forth, public, choose the right time

 

Tickets for the Selam bus can be bought at the office at the roundabout close to Protection House. The buses leave in front of Ethio Star hotel.

Excellent place to eat is indeed Desset Lodge. Has the most spectacular views of the lake with fair amounts of pelicans surrounding the place.

 

Gondar

A nice place to witness Ethiopian dancing and music is located next to Tana Snack (guide p 218 D3). Many Ethiopians visiting the place.

 

Butajira- Hosaina road

Beautiful to do, fresh tarmac roads that cover most of the track, so very safe. The mentioned sightseeing places in the guide are not all worth it though. The Lake Ara Shetan is fantasticly beautiful, though we had quite some trouble with locals not happy with visiting tourists (rocks, unwanted harassment).

Asano Dengai (p 443) is wholly unimpressive and not worth the visit and trouble to find it. It is indeed decapitated, its single, it`s about 80cm high. Quite unremarkable stele to us.

 

Hosaina

The Canal my House Café & Pension does no longer offer rooms. Edget is a popular pick for farengi`s and was offering rooms to visiting travelling companies when we were visiting here, so we mostly saw farengi`s in stead of any Ethiopians in the place. Yabsera Hotel was beat down, dirty, with no warm water and bad beds. We changed rooms, but the quality was the same. Definitely a place to not visit. Lemme international hotel is indeed mostly visited by aid workers and tour groups, unclear why exactly. The restaurant is quite poor and service there was quite bad during several visits.

 

 

Ajaro Falls

At a vast 120Birr (per person) to enter the sightseeing place, the Ajaro Falls are relatively expensive to visit. That said, they are fantastically beautiful and definitely worth a detour. Very impressive, if you can stand the hassle of locals wanting to guide you, even though the road is signposted very clearly and guiding is definitely not needed.

 

Sodo-Sashamane road

Has recently undergone massive reconstruction, is now a fairly comfortable and more safe road than before; the pot-hole rate is very low currently.

 

Arba Minch

Soma Lodge changed owners, and is now a bit run-down. But, it has the best views over the valley between the lakes, better even then at Swayne`s hotel. No restaurant still, but good breakfast and excellent, serviceable staff. The restaurant of Swayne`s is very good at fair prices and at walking distance.

 

Ethio tours and travel

You pay slightly more for the trip to Danakil (600USD, others about 550USD. Negotiable price though!) but everything but drinks is included. Excellent food, good drivers, good guides. Other agencies I heard about got bad reviews in terms of arrangements and food and accommodation quality. Furthermore we used them for a tailored trip from Mekele to Debark and into the Simien Mountains. The private vehicle trip to Debark set us back 250USD for 2 persons excluding overnight stay.

(Tel. 00251936010968 / 00251936011309 / 00251930071417)

March 2015 trip report

E&M writes:

This is a great resource that I so appreciated when I was researching our trip to Ethiopia. We spent 33 days in this amazingly beautiful country (Dec/Jan 15), and wanted to add my notes in the hopes it might help others.

Trans National Airlines (TNA) We did not fly w Ethiopian Airlines, so TNA was great for us. We flew on it twice $50 each way from Bahir Dar. The first flight saved us the 9 hour bus ride from Addis. The 2nd flight we drove from Lalibela to Bahir Dar and then flew from there back to Addis, saving us the 2 day bus ride from Lalibela. Make sure you confirm flight times, as our information was a 12pm flight, so a 5am departure from Lalibela to ensure we would get there on time. The actual flight time was 3pm.

Addis – Lots of construction, but when the light rail is finished it will be so much easier to get around the city. We were not there long enough to get a grasp of the buses and the taxis never seemed willing to go below 150 birr, so we did a lot of walking. The Caravan is a great place to stay for $50-60 US per night, and includes free airport shuttle. Fairly centrally located with great restaurants nearby, plus the hotel restaurant is quite good, too. The employees are great, each time we returned we felt like we were meeting old friends again. Addis Eats Walking Tour – great food tour that highlights 3 restaurants, 2 coffee shops and a juice bar. We did it on one of our last days in Ethiopia and wondered if it was worth the $s. It definitely is! We had a great time, and enjoyed the best Injero and Tibbs.

Ethio Travel andTours – Great company and great experience with them. We met with them the first day after exchanging emails earlier, spent @ 2hr firming up our itinerary. We only booked 2 tours with them – 4 day Simien trek and The Danakil, both were excellent. They offered great logistical suggestions, such as the TNA flights which saved us time and money. Several times we called them on our trip to arrange transport and we found them responsive and helpful.

Other suggestions ETT recommended included – starting the Simien trek at the waterfall and then hiking the first day to Gich. This allowed an extra night at Chenek, which we preferred over spending the first night at Sankabar. Also, scheduling a vehicle at Chenek and driving to Axum, rather than going back to Gondar. The drive to Axum is long with many switchbacks, but stunning scenery. After hiking in the Simiens, the drive allows you to look back up into the Mtns on this drive. We found everyone we dealt with at ETT professional and helpful.

ATMs – prior to arrival this was the most conflicting information. Perhaps we were just very lucky, but we never had a problem getting birr from the ATMs. We used them in Addis, Bahir Dar, Gondar, Axum, and Mekele. There was a 4000 birr max per transaction, but we could do multiple transactions. At the time of our ETT booking (Dec 5, 2014) they were not able to accept credit card payment. But they drove us to the Hilton in Addis and were able to get the birr for payment.

Bahir Dar – we really liked this pleasant tree lined city bordering Lake Tana. We only stayed 2 nights since we had committed to the Simien trek, but definitely would have stayed longer. Stayed at B&B The Annex – a small 4 room B&B with a beautiful little courtyard in the center where we ate breakfast and enjoyed the birds. A great restaurant on the South Shore of the lake, can not remember the name, but also had @ 100 beautiful pelicans nearby.

Gondar – enjoyed the castles. Three Girls restaurant – delicious food.

Simiens – Our understanding – the guides are randomly assigned by the Park Headquarters. We were very lucky to have Davey Yohannes assigned as our guide, and would recommend him. http://www.ambarasethiopiatours.com We are not clear whether you can request a specific guide ahead of time. This is a beautiful trek. Itinerary suggestions above. It is definitely cold, proper gear is essential. Mid Dec we woke up to ice/frost. We were traveling for too long to carry our own gear, but it would be a consideration for another time.

Axum – Africa House is a decent place to stay. Had our best spitz across the street from the Africa House.The small Archeological museum (at the Stella site) is nicely done, with very knowledgeable staff.

Loved the Tigray area – especially the Geralta Lodge. Well worth the splurge!

Mekele – probably the only non interesting town for us, but perhaps it was due to just spending 4 days in the Danakil. Atse Yohannes – upgrade and request the balcony – its old and tired, but ok for a quick stop before and after The Danakil and convenient to the ETT office in Mekele.

The Danakil – GO! It is amazing!!

Lalibela – lots already written – the churches are amazing. We had read lots of warnings on the hassle from the children. Someone has been working very hard to change that image – we were greeted with “welcome to Lailabela’. Yes, they would join you walking, but they did not hassle us.

Harar – a long 9 hour bus ride, stumbling into town at the edge of the massive market, arriving at a dumpy ‘recommend’ hotel (The Belayneh) that did not have water, and pretty filthy … The next morning, stumbling around in the old city, trying to locate the Cultural guesthouses. Finally asked someone and Sherif took us to the unmarked gray door – Zubeyda – to walk into a lovely courtroom with 3 rooms. It changed the entire dynamic of the city. Spent the next 2 days touring with Sherif, the camel market, the spice market, the cloth merchants. Highly recommend a guide to really enjoy the city. Just negotiate the daily charge ahead of time.

Ok, so that is a long post. Hope you find it helpful. We truly enjoyed our trip and definitely hope to return!

2015 trip report

Ian and Les write:

Going South:

  • One night on Lake Langano at Bishangari Lodge was memorable both from the point of view of location and birds. However, one has to suffer the 30 minute journey from the main road, much of it on a track, to get there. It was worth the suffering.
  • Then the drive from Lake Langano to Bale Mountain National Park, up over the Sanetti Plateau and down to Bale Mountain Lodge was probably the best one day road trip I have taken. Your description of it was apt. A bonus for me were the pipits and larks on the farmed plateau between Shashemene and Goba.
  • We decided to splurge on a 3 night stay at Bale Mountain Lodge even though it was way over what we would normally pay for accommodation. It was helped a discount Guy Levene offered us. He was not there by we met Yvonne on the last night and she said you were there 3 weeks previously. It was worth the money both because of the location, between the plateau and the dry lowlands, and for the warmth and care provided by the people who work there.
  • We did a day trip down to the area around Dola Mena and I could not believe how prolific the birdlife it there. I am not a top birder by any means but we must have seen 50 species there in 4 hours of which 14 were ‘lifers’ for me. And camels to boot. That said, I can understand it when Yvonne said that some people come back from this trip disappointed as it is the birding which makes it really special.

Going North, we took a tourist package as we only had three days for this part of our trip and chose to go to Bahir Dar.

  • We selected the Abay Minch Hotel, partly based on the Bradt Guide advice. But were very disappointed not to be on the lake and your description needs to be amended as the wording something like ‘in a quiet corner of the lake’ is misleading. So we decided to move – with Abey Minch not giving us a refund – and stayed at the Lake Tana Blue Nile Resort. It is such a great location, particularly for birding, and we really liked the atmosphere there. The food was better than we expected and Les and I decided they only needed to do one thing: fix the bathrooms.
  • The Deset Lodge, on the bay opposite the Lake Tana resort hotel is a great place for evening drinks and dinner. We went there with people staying in Bahir Dar who are in the know.
  • We took a day trip on Lake Tana to the monasteries with the one on Dek Island being the highlight: beautiful, quiet and spiritual.
  • The trip to see the Blue Nile Falls trickle was disappointing and I would not recommend it. We knew there was no water but were not prepared for the horrible bumpy 37 km journey there and the pressure to buy curios every step of the way. Also the birding was disappointing.

Back in Addis and the Akaki Wetlands

  • While I was working for the first week in Addis I stayed at the Ghion Hotel, which was just OK, made worthwhile by the setting. But on passing through on the way back we wanted the feel of smart Bole Road and stayed in the KZ hotel which was nice and good value.
  • Based on what you had written about the Akaki Wetlands, we took a half day trip out there. But, as I presume you have found yourself, the wetlands are gone. It seems as if they have been drained for agriculture and/or for the construction of the freeway, railway and pipeline between the town and what must have been the wetlands. In some ways this is a metaphor for what is happening in Ethiopia: development at an unbelievable pace with the wilderness paying a price for this.