Detailed trip report Jul-Sep 2014

Charlotte writes:

I was in Ethiopia for 2 and a half months for research from mid July 2014 – end September 2014, but also did some travelling. I did a lot in public transport, for which information is sometimes scarce so I have added some info here, though it is usually quite easy to get information by asking around a bit. Note that the prices that I have put here is what I was charged in Summer 2014, however prices are variable depending e.g. on market days, type of bus taken for transport, prices also vary for peak/off peak seasons, e.g. for hotels , I was there in the off-season.



Sky bus

Their office on Meskel square in Addis does exist but is hard to find, and we found the man bad tempered and unhelpful…maybe it just wasn’t his day…and told us that there were no tickets left on the bus, however we went to the office at Itegue Taitu hotel in Piassa and the lady was very helpful and got us tickets for the bus we wanted.

Took Skybus from Addis – Hawassa and back, a good bus service that leaves on time and is a good price, though there is constantly noise from film/music/standup comedy that they play for the whole bus, so earplugs are worthwhile if you want some quiet. For toilet breaks, the bus just stops on the side of the road somewhere quiet. Also receive a small snack & drink.

They are also very flexible, we had almost illegible tickets (through water destruction) for a Friday, we had tried changing the date, however no-one was around in the Hawasa office and on the phone they just told us to turn up at the busstop at 6am on the Sunday, the day we wanted to leave. After we explained the situation, they accepted our ruined tickets for the wrong day and allowed us to travel! Great!


Selam bus

I took it from Bahir Dar – Addis, same comments as Sky bus.



Generally speaking, if you are careful, there should not be a problem, but there are the odd people that will try to take things from you. In 10 weeks, only 2 attempts were made to take my things (luckily both failed!). In Addis a group of boys distracted me on one side while one of them puts their hands into your pockets on the other side. Even so I continued to keep e.g. phone in my pocket throughout my travels, but I was careful. In minibuses & public transport, if you have bags with you, keep an eye on them (or if you travel with big bags/rucksacks, just avoid keeping important things in them, or if you must, then put them in the least accessible places). I had a small rucksack that I had put by my feet in a minibus, and later caught a man’s hand in it! Luckily I had tied up the inside opening well and he couldn’t access anything, but it is better to keep smaller bags on your lap.

Another friend had his phone stolen by a group of men in a bajaj, clearly they were working together with the driver. He only realised after.



– Tea and coffee in local places almost always comes automatically with sugar already in the drink, although some places more used to foreigners will put sugar aside.

– In hotels, if you like hot showers, one of the 1st things you should do is turn the boiler on as it often takes some time for the water to heat up.

– Cappuccinos don’t have coffee – it is hot milk with a little cocoa powder




I enjoyed Hawassa, it is a nice, clean town, and the lake is beautiful.

Paradise hotel – Great location near to the minibus station, good for early starts. It is a nice place but the bar next door is very (very) loud, but otherwise is good value for money


Hawassa to Shashemene and back

10 birr, 20-30min

NOTE – in Shashemene there are 2 bus stations. The minibus from Hawassa goes to the Old bus station




The rainy season is not the best time to go – we were there in mid-August & it rained every afternoon.


Shashemene to Dinsho/Robe and back

100 birr in minibus – if you go to Dinsho, you still must pay the price for Robe. It takes 2h30 from Shashamane – Dinsho.

The buses between Shashamane and Robe arrive and leave from the New bus station.



This is where the Bale Park forest office is, and also where you can get guides. It is at the end of the town (Robe side). It is possible to stay in the Dinsho lodge, but we did not do this as we had heard that it wasn’t great and that it was expensive. From the outside it looks okay so maybe things have changed.

Tuesday is a market day


Dinsho – Robe

11 birr in minibus, 20-30min (15 birr on market day)



We decided to stay in Robe instead of Dinsho as a point de depart for the Bale Mountains.

Public transport between Dinsho & Robe is easy, although we once had difficulty getting a minibus back to Robe at 4pm, although that may be due to the market that there was in Dinsho. It can sometimes be easier picking up a minibus on the side of the road instead of from the bus station in Dinsho.

Thursday is a market day in Robe.

– Abdama hotel – 300/night for 2 single beds (they call it a double). It is fairly clean & comfortable, but shower isn’t great (there is hot water, but not much water comes out of showerhead at a time) & they don’t give much toilet paper. Note: They lock the gate so if you must leave before 7am someone must come and open for you. Good location near the bus station.

– Hanni café is nice, as is the Harar bar and restaurant opposite which seems popular for tibs BUT be careful in Robe asking for tibs, as you may be presented instead with a plate of chips!


Sanetti plateau

The park management advise against using public transport for the Sanetti plateau, and from experience, I will agree with them, unless you have time or plan it well! Getting there was easy however returning was a problem.

From Robe you must go to Goba (5 birr, minibus, 15 min). Sometimes there can be very long queues so if you are continuing to Sanetti, then it is best to leave early (I would suggest about 7am, as we were there at 9am it was far too late).

From Goba, take a bus direction Dolo Mena, and get off at Sanetti campsite (your guide will know it; 60 birr in a public bus, about 1.5hrs; we had 50birr for luggage). It is standard to pay the price of the whole trip to Dolo Mena. Try to leave as early as possible, it took a long time for our bus to fill up, but I don’t think it was the 1st bus that left.

For the return from Sanetti to Robe/Goba – you must wait on the side of the road and wait for a passing bus/truck/car that is willing to take you. We waited all afternoon once and had nothing, and were forced to spend an extra night on the plateau. The afternoon is a bad time for getting transport here although you may get lucky. It is easier to get transport in the morning, we ended up getting picked up by a truck (we were 3 people, 2 travellers and 1 guide).




Diana hotel – Near the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia. Decent place, but price variable (100birr for a man & woman to share, 150birr for two of the same sex to share). The shower & toilet are shared, but are clean enough.The manager Tesfay is friendly and helpful and can help you out with problems.

Merkeb hotel – We paid 130birr (although according to another couple we met, they paid 100….maybe it was because we were 2 females).Cleanish but I prefered the Diana hotel, which is better for a very similar price, however you can’t beat Merkeb’s location next to the bus station (for southerly destinations), and close to Selam bus stop, particularly useful for early travellers.


Mekele to Hawzen & back (via Wukro)


Take bajaj in Mekele to the Lachi bus station & can get a minibus from there

To return: it is difficult to get a minibus back after 3pm



Good base for visiting rock hewn churches (of which Abuna Yemata & Debre Maryam Korkor are definately worth visiting, particularly if you also enjoy hiking a bit, the views are wonderful!). It is also possible to arrange longer hiking trips over several days (or even weeks I think) to less accessible churches.

Gheralta lodge – it is by far the nicest place to stay, and worth it (1300birr/ night for a room with 3 single beds, private bathroom, and includes a great breakfast)

Vision hotel – Recently opened (end of August 2014) and is nice and clean, the manager is friendly and speaks good English. No running water, but this was a problem in the whole village at that particular moment (130birr / room/ night with private bathroom). I am sceptical about how long the hotel will stay in good condition as some material in the bathroom seems a little flimsy.


Mekele – Woldia (Weldiya)

I ended up having to take several minibuses to get here, although I think it is possible to get bigger buses directly if you arrive in time at the bus station (big bus leaves at 6am)

Mekele – Mohia: 45birr, about 2hrs

Mohia – Alamata: 20birr, about 1hr

Alamata – Woldia: about30birr, about 2hrs

Woldia is quite a nice but plain small town – I enjoyed climbing one of the hills for a very nice view of the town, although I would have preferred to have headed straight onto Lalibela (unfortunately I missed the last buses)

Jordanos hotel – Clean, nice. Didn’t have hot water but think I was just unlucky with a broken boiler.


Woldia – Lalibela and Lalibela – Bahir Dar

Woldia – Gashena then Gashena – Lalibela


Buses between these destinations tend to overcharge farenji. On my return trip Gashena – Lalibela I was asked to pay 70 birr, the locals paid 40. On my trip from Gashena to Bahir Dar, I was asked to pay 200birr, negotiated this to 150 birr, however the locals only paid 80birr.


Bahir Dar & the Blue Nile Falls

I had heard that a lot of people were disappointed with the Blue Nile Falls because of lack of water (due to a hydropower plant) however I went in mid September at the end of the rainy season and thought that they were really superb.



Minibuses around Addis

Prices are more expensive later at night. It is difficult to get the minibuses after 9.30pm. They don’t tend to overcharge farenji. For some idea of prices:


Stadium – Haya Hulet: 4 birr

Haya Hulet – Arat Kilo: 4 birr

Stadium – Global (Kira direction): 6 birr

Arat Kilo – Bole: 3 birr

Arat Kilo – Shiro Meda: 3 birr

Arat Kilo – Piazza: 1.5 birr

Arat Kilo – Meganegna: 3 birr

Arat Kilo – Stadium: 3 birr

Stadium – Kaliti bus station: 10 birr




Many people like this place, I did not. I found the lakes very dirty, with lots of rubbish, except if you are in a lodge or restaurant on the side of the lake, and my travel partner and I got harassed quite a bit.

Kaliti bus station to Bishoftu: 12-15 birr


Public transport

– Try to leave in the morning. Often I found buses would leave at 6am, and you would have to arrive earlier to take tickets.

– Make sure you aren’t in a hurry, the buses can sometimes take quite some time to fill up (Often they fill up fairly quickly, but it isn’t always the case)

– Often they will charge you more for luggage (but not always)







Trip report Dec/Jan 2013/4

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




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.






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




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




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!!!




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.




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




Alaf Hotel – bit noisy and water issues – 170B en suite. Great view of lake




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.




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.

Addis Ababa and Bishoftu hotel reviews

Emma writes:
I’ve been in Ethiopia for a few months – just staying in Addis Ababa and Bishoftu/Debre Zeyit – so I thought I’d do a bit of a review of the places I’ve stayed.
Salayish Park & Lodge – Debre Zeyit
I loved this place. I went for a few days and have ended up staying about 3 weeks in total. It is just out of Debre Zeyit (also called Bishoftu) which is about 1 hours drive south of Addis. At the moment, the trip is annoying, because the road is really busy. So, it’s better to go early in the morning (around 7am). There is a new highway being built though, which should be open sometime in 2013, and that will cut the trip down to an easy 30 mins.Salayish has about 5 thatched huts in a beautiful garden, and one hilltop room which is bigger and has views over the lake. The place is really peaceful and unpretentious. The rooms cost around 380 birr a night , and I think the hilltop room costs around $80 a night. The huts are basic, but very clean, and they are spaced around the garden so that you get a nice sense of privacy. The food is good, although the menu is small – they could really expand it.

They have a nice little menagerie of animals – a horse, goat, chickens, cows, turkey etc etc as well as a heap of birdlife in the garden. They also have a traditional distillery where they make tej (a type of honey wine) and araki. Sitting around a campfire at night, listening to the crickets and drinking tej is probably the highlight of my stay in Ethiopia (so far!)

One quibble I have with the Bradt Guide description of this place is that it calls it one of the most ‘peculiar’ spots in Ethiopia.  I really didn’t find it peculiar, just rustic.  I met another traveller at Salayish who said to me that she liked how Bradt called it “peculiar” because it put other people off going there and she had it all to herself.  (Hmmm…not sure that was quite the aim of the writer of the guide!!)
Elame Resort – Debre Zeyit
This little resort is on the same lake as Salayish (Lake Babogaya), although it doesn’t have lake views. I didn’t stay here, but I looked in the cabins and talked to people who did stay here and they really liked it. The cabins are spaced around a lovely garden with lots of quirky little statues, and the whole compound is very quiet. I think the rooms cost around 600 birr a night. The food there is awesome, because at the moment they have a chef from the USA working there and training the staff. I think I had the best roast chicken of my life there, followed up by strawberry sorbet. Yum, yum…I highly recommend the food!
Lisek – Debre Zeyit
Lisek is a large, new resort that has almost finished construction and will be opening in the next month or so.  It is across a little lane-way from Elame and about a 200 metre walk from Salayish.  I met the owner and have done a tour of the place.  It is MASSIVE.  Heaps of rooms, all cascading down a steep hillside, with a big swimming poo.  There’s a lovely eating area at the bottom that goes out over the lake. I don’t know how much the rooms will cost – someone told me but I forget.  I think around $100 a night. Even if you can’t afford the rooms, it would be a nice place to go have dinner or a swim.
Mr Martin’s Cozy Place – Addis
I stayed here for a few weeks when I first arrived in Addis. I stayed in one of the larger family rooms, which was really good value at around 380 birr a night (sorry, I can’t remember the exact price!) The room I was in had 3 beds, a sitting area, and a fridge. Even though it faced onto the main courtyard it was extremely quiet. I also stayed for a few nights in one of the smaller rooms, which was next to the communal bathroom. This wasn’t such a great experience because the sound-proofing wasn’t very good and every time someone went into the bathroom it felt like they were walking into my room! But, I am an extremely light sleeper, so most people probably wouldn’t have a problem with this.The staff at Mr Martin’s are really friendly, and the cleaning staff were good (I had the cleaner in my room quite often whilst I wasn’t there and nothing went missing). The compound itself is very quiet, because it’s back off the road, down a lane-way. It’s very secure as well.

The main drawback for me was the location. It’s out in Bole and feels a bit like staying in the suburbs – not much around, although there are a few nice places to eat in the area. I recommend Oh Canada, and also a nice little Lebanese place whose name I can’t remember. But, you get there by walking out of Mr Martin’s, turning right at the end of the lane and walking down through the intersection. The restaurant is one of the first buildings you pass after crossing the intersection.


Itegue Taitu – Addis
I’ve been at Taitu for the past month and have stayed in a few different rooms, all in Block A. Apart from the filthy bathrooms and maids who steal stuff, this place is great. Block A is set back a bit from the old building and the rooms on the top floor are really quite nice – apart from the bathrooms. They have cupboards and bed-side tables in the rooms, and some have nice views out over the garden. I find block A to be very quiet, so if you are a light sleeper this would be a good option. The rooms are around 345 birr a night.

The patio area at the Taitu is a lovely place just to hang out, and I really like the Piazza area because it has a bit of atmosphere, and some nice little cafes.

Just be aware though, that the maids at the Taitu do occasionally steal, and that complaining to the management isn’t going to help much. My solution has been to never let the maid into my room without me being there watching the whole time. Most of my friends at Taitu do the same thing – the maids will often ask for my key to clean my room but I don’t let them have it. That has worked for me. (I don’t mean to say that all the maids steal, or that you’ll lose everything you own…but it is an issue.)

Babgoya Viewpoint Lodge at Bishoftu


Babgoya Viewpoint Lodge at Bishoftu/Debre Zeit
Stayed here two nights Oct 30 31. I have been to all such lodges in Ethiopia and this is possibly THE best place to relax.More like a Guest House with owners Yan/Sara in residence. They and their staff will look after you. Continental Breakfast included; tea n coffee always available, as are beer n soft drinks. Main meals on request at reasonable prices 60-120 br(3 course dinner). Everything is small scale – less than 10 rooms so book…Yan=0911465693.
Fantastic view- see website. Site is in four terraces from entrance area tolakeside (120 steps) Camping possible.
Bishoftu/ Debre Zeit possibly is a very nice town – visit the other lakes, swim in Babagoya itself or the Air Force Officers Club pool. Shop at farm shop at Genesis Farm. Go to Family Restaurant if you like Tex/Mex. Lots to do.
Frank Rispin

Viewpoint Lodge, Bishoftu (Debre Zeit)

This new lodge is on the shore of Lake Babogaya, set in an ancient volcano 1km wide, filled with clear water in which it is possible to swim or to go around with a kayak. There are 8 rooms in a traditional style. Almost all have view over the lake. The lodge is going to the lake. Some rooms are on top of the old crater, others down near the water. Some are in the house, others are in a traditional hut and others, finally, on stilts (above water). The view of the lake is exceptional. Its surroundings are wooded and the volcano Yerer emerges behind. There are 3 levels of garden to give space for each of the visitors. For the foreigners, the price for 2 people is 900 birrs. If you are alone, the price is 700 birrs. The family room is 35 euros if the children are under 15 years, otherwise the price is 45 euros. Breakfast is included in the price. Ethiopian people have a discount. Just contact the manager.

It is better to book, especially on weekends.
You can call 00251 (0)911 465 693, we will answer in English, French, German, Dutch or 00251 (0)911 864 679 in Amharic.
By email
For more details and photos visit our website.
Jan Jackers (owner-manager)

East & Southern Ethiopia updates

p 381 – “Green Crater Lake”

The name “Green Crater Lake” is not known to the locals, and perhaps you should consider naming it Aranguade Bahir Lake which is the name the locals are using (and which you also mention in your text).  The name Hora Hado does not seem to be used, and it may be confused with Lake Hora.   The dirt road to the lake, which branches off to the west just south of Bishoftu is an awful rutted track, not passable by a gari.  The lake can be reached by walking for 2-3 hours from the main Bishoftu – Adama road or by a 4×4.

p. 465 – Awassa fish market

Entrance fee was raised to 20 Birr

2.  p. 420 – Harar – Feres Megala

Perhaps a few words about the curious monument in the center of Feres Megala could be of interest to your readers.  The monument commemorates the 1887 Battle of Chelenko, in which the Moslem forces lost to the Christian forces headed by Menelik II.  The day of the battle is commemorated by the Harari regional government.  I googled “the battle of Chelenko” and found this news item:

“The 121st anniversary of the battle of Chelenko was commemorated in the Harari Regional State on Sunday January 13th, 2008. Harari government officials placed a wreath of fresh flowers at the Chelenko martyrs monument in Faras Magala. A special prayer services were held for the martyrs, along with songs to commemorate their heroism and sacrifices.”

It definitely shows something about the current government of Ethiopia which allows its former vanquished enemies to commemorate their day of demise and use the term “martyrs” to boot.

Ron Bennett