Trip report from a female traveller

Carrie writes:
I just got back from three weeks in Ethiopia using the 7th edition of the Bradt guide. The guidebook was invaluable and I couldn’t have done the trip (solo, without a guide) without it. There were just a couple of things I wanted to update you on:

Women travellers: As a 27-year-old American woman traveling alone,  I experienced  quite a bit of harassment, mostly from teenage boys. It was mostly verbal, but a few times I found myself encircled by groups of boys who got a little physical. There were also many cafes/restaurants that I didn’t feel comfortable eating in because it would have been very conspicuous that I was the only woman there. (I was almost always the only woman eating alone in cafes and restaurants, but there was a difference between places where that didn’t seem like a big deal and places where I was sure I’d face an endless stream of romantic proposals if I sat down there.)

A little more disconcertingly, in Harar, I was followed around for 20-30 minutes on two separate occasions by older men. Both times they followed me into shops and one of them even followed me into a restaurant. Appealing to other Ethiopians just got me laughed at. Dressing in long skirts and loose shirts did not make a difference. Taking a guide, and latching on to locals I felt I could trust, seemed to solve the problem.

Getting around: I heard nothing but bad things about Skybus when I was there. I bought a ticket from them at one point and they tried to tell me it was Skybus when they actually sold me a ticket for Golden Bus. (I returned the ticket.) I ended up taking Selam Bus whenever traveling by bus, and despite leaving later and driving more conservatively, it always arrived earlier than the Skybus/Golden Bus.

Addis Ababa:

I contacted Mr. Martin’s Cozy Place in advance for an airport pickup (I arrived at 1 am). They sent a taxi for me, but the taxi took me to the wrong hotel (in the same area) and told me it was Mr. Martin’s. When I questioned him, the driver refused to help me find Mr. Martin’s. The other hotel staff (I still don’t know where I actually stayed) also refused to help. And since it was dark and the other hotel wasn’t significantly more expensive, I gave up. The taxi driver also charged me more than I had agreed with Mr. Martin’s staff and refused to give me change. I didn’t realize I was right around the corner from Mr. Martin’s until the next day, when it was light enough out to see the sign.

By contrast, Taitu took a walk-in booking from me for two weeks in advance and gave me the exact room they had shown me. They had the most helpful staff I experienced in Ethiopia as well.

Kiyab Cafe in Piassa area: You mention it has snacks, juices, etc. but it also had a full breakfast menu and the food was outstanding.

Since you recommend several hotels and restaurants in the Atlas Junction area, it would have been helpful to see minibus stops there too. It was easy to get to Piassa but I had a hard time communicating with people where I was trying to get back to from Piassa.

I had no trouble with pickpockets or any safety-related issues in Addis. I felt 100% safe walking around with my camera and a backpack at all hours. No one ever tried anything on me. I did carry my backpack in front of me instead of on my back and I wore skirts with no pockets, so I might have just not looked like an easy enough target.

Danakil:

WorldSun Ethiopia Tours seems like one of the more popular agencies for Danakil trips, and cheaper than ETT. I originally booked with them but the rest of the group backed out so they put me on the ETT trip for the same price. Despite not traveling with them, I found their service to be above and beyond.

The Danakil trips, across all tour agencies, were all stopping for a night in the highland village of Abala in between Dallol and Erta Ale. Not sure if that’s just because it was August and it was so hot in the desert, or if this is a permanent change. It definitely made the Danakil trip more bearable–a toilet and bucket showers made a huge difference.

Mekele:

I couldn’t find the Tigrai Tourism office anywhere on the street it was mapped on. Not sure if it’s moved or closed, or if it was just unsignposted. I didn’t ask anyone.

Atse Yohannes Hotel: Now charging 500 birr for a room, and they wouldn’t budge on price. There are definitely better-value options (Moringa and Lalibela Guesthouse) available. Their breakfast was terrible.

Beefmin Garden: I totally agree with your review. Great restaurant and had some of the best wifi I found in Ethiopia.

Getting to the Lachi bus station: it was difficult to figure out where the minibuses to Lachi left from–and most locals didn’t seem to know (one put me on a minibus going to the wrong place!). Would have been helpful to have the minibus station on the map.

Wukro:

I couldn’t find the Tigrai Tourism office here either.

The museum is now open and was one of the more informative museums I visited in Ethiopia. Lots of English signage and supplemental materials and the staff was happy to answer questions.

Ersayem Restaurant: Signed in English from the main road, but the restaurant itself is signed only in Amharic. They didn’t have a menu and it was a fasting day, so the only options were fasting food or spaghetti, and the server at first assumed I wanted spaghetti without asking. We cleared that up and they had fantastic food–and it was 30 birr for a huge meal with an Ambo! Best-value food I found in Ethiopia.

Hawzien:

There are all-day (or at least until mid-afternoon) minibuses running directly from both Wukro and Mekele now. And going to Adigrat, I was able to pick up a direct minibus (without having to change at Frewenyi) at around 9 am after only a 5 minute wait for it to fill up.

It’s possible to take a bajaj to Megab and do Abuna Yemata as a straightforward and easy day trip from Hawzien. No need to take a guide from Mekele or Axum or book expensive private transport, you can sort it out on the spot.

Gheralta Lodge was as amazing as everybody says–the food, the rooms, the location, the service, everything. Dinner is a flat 250 birr for the full menu, no a la carte option. It was about 75% vegetarian-friendly.

Axum:

The bus from Adigrat to Axum was one of the worst trips I’ve been on anywhere in the world. The driver was going 140 km/hour up and down switchbacks and he clearly didn’t have control. At one point we almost skidded off a cliff. Buses everywhere else in Ethiopia were fine, just this one leg was horrible.

AB Traditional Bar and Restaurant: Did not have live music the Saturday night I was there. Food was exceptional, but options were limited–they only had beef or lamb tibs and some Italian dishes available the night I was there.

National Yared Juice House: This was one of the more conspicuously all-male cafes I encountered. I definitely would not have felt comfortable there. Over the three days I was in Axum, I got cat-called every time I walked by by the people sitting there.

Lalibela:

Villa Lalibela: Great place to stay, with a super-friendly staff. They include breakfast with the room now but it’s very basic–just bread, jam and coffee. My one complaint is location. That cluster of hotels at the bottom of the hill is far from most of the restaurants/cafes/etc. It’s a very dark walk back after dinner that requires walking by a bunch of bars and pool halls that seem to be where all the obnoxious teenage boys congregate. Normally I would’ve just eaten at a hotel restaurant closer by, but the only one with an open restaurant when I was there (it was pretty devoid of tourists) was Jerusalem Hotel.

I’d suggest that other women traveling alone stay at Red Rocks or Asheton–better and more central location that you could have your choice of dinner spots from without worrying about the walk back. (To be clear, I’m sure it wasn’t actually unsafe–it just isn’t much fun to have boys following you and whistling at you/throwing stones at you when you ignore them when you know you won’t even see a street light for a mile.)

Ben Abeba: Great food, great service, great views. Totally agree with your review except the dessert menu was limited to fruit salad the day I was there. But it was a delicious fruit salad.

John Lodge: This was much more mediocre. Their local dishes were mostly unavailable when I was there and the only veggie-friendly option was spaghetti. They also said juices were unavailable even though I saw other people ordering them.

Dire Dawa:

African Village was as good as you made it out to be. The owner took the parrot out of the cage at night and moved it somewhere where it was much less disruptive. Only complaint is the wifi didn’t work well, but in a pinch there are plenty of internet cafes around.

Harar:

Rowda Waber Guesthouse: This was my favorite accommodation in Ethiopia. The breakfast was as good as you made it out to be. The staff was great. Booking through Hailu (who was also a fantastic guide) went smoothly. It would have been nice to know that none of the guesthouses are signposted, so you really do either have to get picked up from the bus station or ask a lot of people to find them. The one downside was an aspirant guide who was hanging around trying to get me to hire him. I stayed firm with wanting to use Hailu instead, and eventually he backed down.

Fresh Touch has moved and it’s now almost immediately outside Harar Gate. It no longer has wifi.

Cozi Pizzeria does not seem to be there anymore. There is another restaurant in its place but some locals said it wasn’t good.

The military base across from the Ras Hotel has a really nice bar with beautiful garden seating. I went with Ethiopian friends and I’m not sure if foreigners could get in alone, though. And they’re strict about no cameras (I put mine in my bag and agreed not to take it out after a ten-minute argument about leaving it at the entrance).

I would suggest including the place in the main square in the old city that makes the chapati pancakes in your food recommendations (coming from Harar Gate, it’s outside on the ground floor of that big building on the left). 30 birr for a 2-egg pancake with veggies etc., delicious, and one of the most popular spots in town among locals.

There is also a lady who sells great veggie samosas (choice of potato or lentil). She sets up around 6 pm outside Central Cafe. 4 samosas ran me 8 birr.

The hyena feeding site has moved. It’s now about 5 km outside the walled city. (I didn’t go to the old sites to verify that they’re no longer there, but I did ask several locals and four different guides and they all said it’s been moved.) Costs 150 birr in a bajaj round-trip (the unofficial guides will tell you 200) plus 100 to pay the hyena man. The site was pretty quiet at 7:30 pm when we arrived but the hyena man eventually got 3 hyenas to come.

That’s all I’ve got–thanks again for the great guidebook! Ethiopia was the trip of a lifetime and the relatively small hassles and frustrations were totally eclipsed by the friendliness of the people and the fascinating history and natural sights.

Detailed July/August 2016 trip report

Greg writes:

Chapter 3 – Practical Information

In the section “red tape” I suggest specifying that Visas on Arrival are not issued at Dire Dawa airport, notwithstanding daily flights from Djibouti. Tourists arriving from Djibouti must either obtain their visa in advance from the Ethiopian embassy in Djibouti city or fly directly to Bole airport.

In the section “getting around”, I found your characterization of the Ethiopian Airlines travel experience to be accurate. However, in booking several flights with Ethiopian during the course of my stay I found considerable disparities in the application of policies, procedures and pricing – as well as general helpfulness – depending on who I was dealing with (i.e. Ethiopian Airlines call centre, Airline ticket offices in various cities and independent travel agencies). I also found considerable variability in security measures at various airports, with Axum having by far the most stringent checks, related presumably to the widespread peddling of ancient Axumite coins in this region.

Chapter 5 – Addis Ababa

In the section “Getting there and away“, I think you understate the number of international flights at terminal 1. As far as I can make out most if not all destinations in the Gulf are served by terminal 1, and by extension any other destinations involving a Gulf-based airline (e.g. Qatar). We personally found this to be problematic as we travelled to Ethiopia from Canada on Qatar, and our hotel shuttle driver was waiting for us at terminal 2 based on the assumption that this would be where he could find us.

While I generally found your review of Zeist Lodge (page 151) to be accurate, your characterization of its breakfast as one of the best in the country is overstated in my opinion. While admittedly I only stayed there one night, I found the breakfast to be middling in terms of quality and the staff stingy with refills and extras (e.g. jam or butter for the toast provided).

On your map of the city centre and Piazza on pages 154-55, please note that the Ethiopian Airline office in Piazza has moved from the location on Cunningham Street indicated on the map to Churchill Avenue at Wawel (i.e. in the Eliana Hotel complex) at the south-west corner of the intersection. Also, I suggest you consider adding a review of Eliana Hotel in your guide; I stayed in this relatively new hotel two nights in July 2016 and I was impressed with the quality of the rooms, the good breakfast and friendly service.

On your map of Bole on pages 158-59, I suggest you add a reference to the post office located on Olympia Circle, between Africa Avenue and Gabon Street. Also, the location indicated on the map for the Jewel of India Restaurant appears wrong. It is not on Gabon Street but rather a street which runs parallel to it.

Under Art Galleries and Installations on page 168, Netsa Art Village no longer exists. I spoke with the coordinator in August 2016 and I was told that it closed down about a year ago after the park authorities indicated that they did not wish to renew the Art Village’s lease.

In your description of Piazza on page 174, you may wish to add a similar warning to the one you indicate for Merkato with respect to pickpocketing. My wife and I were targeted four to five times in the area over a span of just two days. Although none of the attempts was successful, it would certainly be advisable for visitors to stay alert at all times.

I would suggest you add Downtown Café and Restaurant to your Piazza-area restaurant listings (pages 161-162). It is located on the east side of Churchill Avenue just north of Eliana Hotel and it is very good. Popular with young Ethiopians and stylishly appointed, it serves both Ethiopian and Italian dishes, along with excellent fruit juice. A mushroom pizza costs 99 birr; fresh juice 26 birr.

Chapter 6 – Around Addis Ababa

Under your entry for the Kuriftu Resort on page 185, please note that “facials” are not offered in the spa, only manicures and massages.

Under your description of Adadi Maryam (page 197), the entry fee is now USD5 (100 birr), up from the US3 indicated in the guide. Also, there is a typo on the 3rd line of the final paragraph on page 197: “excavation” should be replaced with “expedition”.

As for the Tiya stelae field, the entry is now USD6.50 (130 birr) rather than USD6 indicated.

Chapter 7 – Western Amhara

In your introduction to Bahir Dar (page 227), you suggest that hassle has lessened in recent years. While I do know how bad it was in the past, the degree of hassle here was the greatest of any town or city I visited in Ethiopia. While one of our most unpleasant experiences was at the bus station – where an aggressive gang of touts was very unpleasant to deal with in their attempts to get us on “their” minibus to Gonder (and we heard from another couple who had a similar experience), we found there was generally a high degree of street harassment (e.g. aggressive begging, pushing tours, etc), particularly in the evening near the lake and in downtown.

With respect to the information provided on the Blue Nile Falls (page 238-239), we were charged an admission fee of USD5 (100 birr) per person, not USD2.50 as you indicate. With respect to guides, we found there was considerable pressure at the ticket office and at the trailhead to take one, but once we had run this gauntlet the hassles on the trail itself were low-key and unobtrusive (i.e. young children selling curios, people wanting to hold an umbrella for you, etc). Visiting in late July the Falls were very impressive, although the path was quite muddy and slippery. I would also note that the road is currently being upgraded, and consequently it is a long, bumpy trip from Bahir Dar at present.

With respect to Gondar hotels (page 262), we stayed several nights at the Taye Belay and I was impressed by the helpfulness and flexibility of the staff. I would highly recommend this hotel on this basis alone, notwithstanding the rather crummy breakfast on offer. I was less impressed with the Lodge de Chateau. We looked into staying here based on positive reviews from another tourist, but I was not impressive by the manager’s lack of flexibility regarding low season pricing and the rooms seemed dark and poorly appointed, certainly much worse value for money than the Taye Belay, where we were paying under USD50 for three people in a top notch room.

With respect to Gondar restaurants (page 263-264) your review of Four Sisters is right on the mark. However, I was very disappointed with Habesha Coffee. In addition to unfriendly staff, we wait ages for the fruit juices we ordered, they got the order wrong and it seemed as though they had failed to clean the blender as there was a strong taste of banana in what was supposed to be mango juice.

In your map of Gondar (page 261), the placement of Ras Gimb appears wrong. You may want to double check, but I believe it should be placed further to the North, i.e. close to the Oil Libya gas station.

With respect to Fasil Ghebbi (page 266), while the admission fee remains USD10, the woman working in the ticket office was the most blatantly corrupt ticket seller of any museum or historic site we encountered during our trip. Not only was it very difficult to get her to produce a receipt but she also attempted to short-change as well.

With respect to Kuskuam, which we were very impressed with, I would simply note that the cost of a bajaj was about USD3 from the city centre.

Chapter 8 – Eastern Amhara

Under “tourist information” for Lalibela on page 323, it appears that the tourism office is no longer at the location indicated. I was told it is located within the church ticket office.

With respect to Lalibela restaurants (page 327) please note that the Holy Land Restaurant has closed. A seemingly new and very nicely appointed restaurant/cafe is the XO, located in the Lalibela cultural centre. They serve Ethiopian and western food as well as a good selection of drinks.

In your description of Bet Gebriel-Rafael, please note that the “rickety wooden walkway” has been replaced by a solid concrete bridge.

Chapter 9 – Tigrai

Under Axum’s “getting there and away” section on page 345, you may wish to mention that the security checks at the airport are by far the most stringent we experienced anywhere in the country – including international departures from Bole airport in Addis. It appears the focus is on searching travellers for Axumite coins and other antiquities.

While there is a fine-looking tourism office near the big fig tree/piazza, it was locked up throughout our stay in Axum.

 

Under Axum hotels (page 347), the phone number for Yeha Hotel is wrong. The correct number is 0347-752377. We stayed at Yeha Hotel for two nights and I agree with your assessment: beautiful grounds and setting overlooking the town, but both the rooms and the hotel generally are in need of refurbishment, plus the television in our room wasn’t working, breakfast was very poor and staff came across as entirely unhelpful and clueless. On the positive side, the restaurant terrace is very pleasant and we enjoyed watching the monkeys cavorting in nearb trees and bushes.

In your map of Axum (page 348) I noted two errors in your map. Ethiopian Airlines is no longer at the location indicated near Sol Internet. It has now moved several blocks to the east on the north side of the street near the Ark Hotel. Also, B-Life Nightclub is at the east end rather than the west end of the block, i.e. diagonally across the intersection from Atse Kaleb.

Under “other practicalities” in Axum on page 350 you may wish to add a reference a laundry. Located on a side-street south-west of the Dashen bank, its phone number is 0922-163539/0914-492931

Chapter 11 – Harar and the Far East

Under Dire Dawa hotels, we stayed at the Samrat and we were quite disappointed. Even taking into account the lower standards that one comes to expect in Ethiopian hotels, the Samrat was truly dire. In addition to exceedingly unfriendly and unhelpful staff, the breakfast was awful (everything was cold and barely edible), the pool was closed and our room was barely acceptable. The only positive was the Bollywood Restauran, which was quite good.

On your map of Dire Dawa on page 437 you show a bridge crossing the Dechatu river near the Coca-Cola bottling plant. This bridge does not in fact exist.

Under “what to see and do” in Dire Dawa on page 439, I visited what you describe as the site of the “new railway museum currently being established” and was told by the coordinator that its establishment is now doubtful due to the loss of government support for the venture. That being said, entering the gate to the south-west of the old train station you will find a train wagon set up for the train yards’ official tour guide, a long-time railway employee who speaks good English and French. She offers extensive tours of the site, including visits to the old roundhouse, workshops, etc. There is no set admission fee but a tip is expected.

Under “where to eat and drink” in Harar on page 449, I find you are overly positive about Hirut Restaurant. While the setting is certainly nice, the food is on par with other options (e.g. Fresh Touch) and we found the service to be poor, and it didn’t help that the waitress disappeared when it was time to bring us the change from our bill.

Under “other practicalities” in Harar on page 449, you may wish to consider adding what I believe may be the town’s only travel agent, which sells Ethiopian Airline tickets, etc. It is called Sofi Travel Service (tel 0911-029602 / 0256-664422) and it is located on the south side of the main street between the Ras Hotel and Cozi Pizzeria. I bought airline tickets from Dire Dawa to Addis here, and the woman running the agency was quite helpful.

Under the “hyena men of Harar” (page 453), it may be worth pointing out that at least one imitator has sprung up beyond the two hyena men based at the traditional feeding sites near Felana and Erer gates respectively. On our first evening in Harar we made our own way to the “Christian” feeding site, but arriving at about 6:30pm there was no one about and we left just before 7pm. Finding out later that that the feeding does not actually start until after 7pm (i.e. nightfall) the next day we opted to make arrangements with a bajaj driver to take us to one of the sites. After leaving the old city through the Erer gate he took us to a rural spot about 1km south-east of the “Islamic” feeding site where a man who claimed to be the son of the original hyena man was charging 100 birr per person, which we negotiated down to 250 birr for three people. Two other parties of tourists later showed up with their guides in tow. While I expect the experience was not dissimilar to what we would have had at one of the traditional sites (i.e. about 6-8 hyenas came around and tourists who wanted to feed a hyena with meat on a stick could do so), I was initially quite concerned that we were being scammed.

Under your entry for the Rimbaud museum, you indicate the entry fee as USD1. The entry fee seems to have risen to USD2.

I found your overview of Babile Elephant Sanctuary (page 457-458) to be very helpful. However, you may wish to consider adding the following details. Given that spotting any elephants generally requires hiking through the bush, it is important for visitors to come appropriate dressed (i.e. thick trousers and closed shoes), given the large number of cacti and other thorn-bearing plants about. Also, I was surprised by the extent of human encroachment on the Sanctuary, with quite a few people and many camels and cows grazing, which apparently has served to push the elephants into more remote areas. Notwithstanding the timing of our visit in early August it took us 3-4 hours of searching before we came upon a group of three elephants. In addition to the cost of the car, driver and guide – which in our case cost us 3,000 birr, we also had to pay an entry fee to the park (100 birr per person) and 200 birr for the scout (there were three of us on the visit). Finally, those any locals who help to locate an elephant expect a tip. In our case it was a group of children, to whom we paid 50 birr at the suggestion of the scout

Kulubi Festival

Marc writes:

I was in Ethiopia in December last year and was so glad to have the Bradt guidebook 6th edition with me–an invaluable resourse of good information. A highlight for me was the Kulubi festival that takes place twice a year (on 26 July and 28 December with the December one being the bigger one allegedly) in the small village of Kulubi (near Dire Dawa/Harar – see p 407-8). It is the biggest pilgrimage in Ethiopia with ca. 100.000 people going there to see the St. Gabriel church, to pray and celebrate. It is a fascinating spectacle and very few tourist go there. I, like most Ethiopians, went there a day early and stayed overnight drinking beer with the locals in some shack to get a very early morning start to pilgrimage to the church at dawn. The whole experience was very unique and compelling. If you’re in Harar at that time when it is happening, it is definitely worth to go there to see an orthodox ceremony that is very spiritual and quite overwhelming.

Northern circuit and Harar trip report

Bernd writes:

I just came back from a 3-week-trip to Northern Ethiopia. Here are some short update:

* From Addis to Bahir Dar: there are also minibuses leaving from a place close to Mercato during the morning. Think this is important as most people travel that direction. Couldn’t find that info in the guidebook.

* Bahir Dar: watch out when booking a tour to the monastries or Nile falls at the Ghion Hotel. Several people got cheated (paying 200, 250, etc) instead of 150. Ended in long discussions…

* Blue Nile falls: No guide necessary (instead you wrote you might need one on page 201). Tour operators tell you that you should go only to one of the places, but only the round trip makes sense.

* The ticket office in Axum is currently used by some people who are not official at all. They just took it over as the real guy working there stopped. So they recommend you guides without license (not necessarily bad ones, we got one good and one bad one).

*Axum / rock churches: We booked a tour with an unofficial but very good guide. We would like to recommend him: Name: Getachen. Phone: 0920018953

* Axum/Mekele: The tour agency at the Africa hotel in Aksum now has a small office in Mekele on the backside of the Atse Yohannis Hotel. If you are in Aksum, talk only to the boss. Other guides from the hotel charge an additional fee when booking through them. We booked our Danakil-tour with them: very good! 500 US$ for 4 days to/from Mekele.

* Lalibela: the Roha Bar and Restaurant (the one beside the Lalibela Hotel) can NOT be recommended. When we got in, it was empty and really dirty, but we were too lazy to walk on. For this we got punished: we both got a really bad diarrhea (likely amoeba).

* the Lalibela Hotel (in Lalibela) has new renovated rooms at 35 US$. They are good, but 35 $ is overpriced.

* Harar: for getting there by plane, I think you should include the info, that you need a transport into Dire Dawa town first and from there to Harar. There are no direct buses from the airport to Harar (easy to find out, but before planning the flight this info would have helped).

* security: in general safe, especially in the Danakil, as there are now lots of soldiers to protect the tourists. But, last week an Austrian guy was killed on a blue nile tour (remote area).

Besides: really nice guidebook (better than the Lonely Planet)!

 

Dire Dawa map (and other) updates

A reader has kindly sent us the following updates for Dire Dawa (with grid refs):

–  Wegagen Bank is misspelled (A4)

– There’s a pretty good (ie fast) Internet place (Bethlehem Business Center) straight across the main north-south road from Samrat Hotel (A4)

– On the sign out front, Abider Clinic (C4) is spelled Abadir

– On the sign over the entrance, Mikael Snack Bar (C4) is spelled Michael

– Mito Burger (C6) has been demolished and is now a major building site. I confirmed that it was gone with the staff at the Continental Hotel across the street. There is also no information centre there either (presumably also in the bit that was demolished). I could not confirm what’s being built on this site.

– I found no sign of the Tele Centre (C6), unless it’s inside the Post Office itself (which was closed during my visit). That entire half block behind the Post Office has been demolished and is now a major building site as well.

– Tewedros Restaurant is a bit of a landmark and should probably be added…it was quite busy. It’s on the western side of the roundabout between the Tati Hotel and Dus Cafe (C6).

– You may be using a bit of cartographic license, but the Market (D3) is actually quite a bit further south than where it’s shown on the map…maybe 10 minutes from here. It could be leadered straight down that main road south from the Minjar Hotel.

Anton’s trip report

Thanks to Anton for sending us this trip report from his visit to Ethiopia in September 2011.

 

Weather: I think, September is not the best time to visit E., because there’s still heavy rainfall, most in Addis, during midday and afternoon, but otherwise everything is flourishing

 

Addis Ababa:

 

On Bole Road there are almost ALL African embassies.

 

I can recommend Bole Ambassador Hotel near the airport (www.boleambassadorhotel.com) for those who only want to overnight, but you have to pay 90 US for a single and 120 US for a double room (including buffet breakfast). The transport to and fro the airport is FREE

 

I also can recommend RAS-Hotel at Churchill Rd. Many travellers; clean; Taxis in front oft he hotel; but you have to bargain a lot! To Airport is 10$US. If you wan t to rent a taxi for a few hours: that will cost you 250 BIRR. Opposite of RAS-Hotel, there’s a street, where you can find fast internet!

 

Near RAS-Hotel you can find GALAXY TRAVEL, where you can book flights etc. People, who want to got to South-OMO, should ask there for Mr. Tesfaye MIDEKSO; he’s the guy with all info. A 10 day trip will cost you up to 2400 EURO

 

Lufthansa is now in AXUM Building! Within walking distance: go from Meskel-Square in direction of Haile Selassie Road outtown, and after the Carnivore Resti, go the next broad street tot your right.

 

Address: PO Box 3484, Axum Building, Urael Church to Atlas Hotel Road, Addis Ababa

 

Eating: If you like American/European food go to “Carnivore Addis Restaurant“ Salad-Buffet; good menus. Not far form Meskel-Square; Haile Gebre Selassie-Road, right

side

 

 

Money:

ATM: maximal withdrawal  5000 Birr per day, Exchange rate €1=25 BIRR; US$1=19 BIRR

 

Postcard < 5 Birr

Water 2 Litre bottle: 8-10 Birr

Café  Espresso: 5 Birr

 

If you want to spend a lot of money, go to Sheraton Hotel  for a mixed fruit juice, very delicious, but 120 BIRR!!!!

 

 

Bahir Dar

 

I recommend to take a flight. The airport is a kind of joke, still under construction! Baggage claim is out of the airport, there’s a building to your left, where all the hotels have their boards. Here you can get a transport to YOUR hotel.

 

I choose the Summerland-Hotel; the guy for this Hotel is Mr. Haile Yesus, he’s a good but somehow expensive man! But you can trust him, he can help you in any way!

 

To do the Nile-Falls with a guide and private taxi you pay US$50. The falls are now full of water again!!!

 

Summerland-Hotel: single is 500 Birr (with breakfast). Because of water pressure take only room at 1st or 2nd floor!

 

Ghion Hotel is right now not in a good state

 

Zege Peninsula:  if you can see only these 2 churches, this will be fine! The boat is 750 birr! Entrance fee to the church is 50 birr. Guide 110 birr: this is o.k., because he knows all the pictures and can describe them. There are al lot of  souvenir stalls, but the people are very friendly and not pressured.

 

Other monasteries on the lake:

 

The boat costs you 2400 BIRR: this will be a very long day, starting at 0600 in the morning until 1900 in the evening. Most of daytime you will spend on the boat. Important: Bring some warm clothes with you, otherwise you will freeze!

 

Because of time limits you can visit only 3 churches, if you have different wishes, that will cost you more! Of interest is in my opinion only the Selassie church. Otherwise I think it’s not worth the money and the time, but….

 

Tana Kirkos: it’s a very beautiful island, but the monk is crazy: he asks 150 Birr entrance fee (monk’s law, as he said!!). The view from top oft he island is spectacular! We didn’t pay and therefore I don’t know, if the inside oft he church is worth to visit! The „last“ church next to town is Debre Maryam – is in a very bad state; I suggest, NOT to visit!;

 

Otherwise the bird nests at the lakeside in the papyrus are very nice

 

Mixed Fruit-Juice in Harar Supermarket – go down the ally from R/A (warrior monumentl) to the south; after 100 meters it’s on the right side! A very tasty fruitjuice costs you 8 BIRR (in Gonder you pay 11 birr)

 

1 Kilo Bananas  12-15 Birr

 

We shared a taxi (3 persons) to Gonder, that is 1500 Birr, this is not bad and has a big advantage: you can stop on your way to Gonder and can visit the GUZARA castle which is world heritage and well worth to see: the view unto the lake is wonderful and also the site itself; entrance is 50 birr. There’s a good guide, he knows a lot of stuff and speaks a decent English

 

 

 

Gonder:

 

This is NOT a really Must see-city; it’s no good place, in my opinion, only the castle is really worth to see.

 

There’s no need to take a guide, they charge 120-150 birr;  the entrance is 50 birr

 

1 night is enough there!

 

I overnight at Atse Bekaffa Hotel: 25 US per night for a single room; had a lot of flees and other bugs!!!

 

Near this hotel is a very good restaurant: Habesha Coffee Shop

 

The only thing to stop in Gonder is to rent a car with driver! We did this at the wonderful Tourist Information! There’s a very good manager there, where we discussed the possibility to go by private car to Axum (and first to Simien lodge). He recommended us the freelancer Mamoush! After all we have been driving around with this guy for 3 weeks(!). This cost you for the car (and fuel) 150 US per day!! It was the best thing we could do and was worth every penny!

 

We did with „our“ driver the whole north: Simien Mountains, Axum, Gheralta, Mekele, Lalibela)

 

Don’t forget in Gonder to visit  church Debre Berhan Selassie: because of the ceiling paintings!!

 

The drive from Gonder to Debark is remarkable

 

 

Simien Mountains

 

Park entry in Debark 100 Birr; office can not be easily seen, but it’s on the left of the main road. They speak a very good English. In Debark they can arrange everything; you can buy food and all stuff you need! A scout is obligatory; he is carrying  the usual AK 47. There’s plenty of food around the shops in town! Debark is one oft he most dirty towns I’ve every seen (in rainy season!)

 

Simien Lodge; wonderful house; a family room is in total 250 BIRR, breakfast is included. It‘s very cold there! In the evening everybody is sitting round an open chimney.The food is not bad!

 

Be aware, that if you are trekking there, you are NOT alone: there are living a lot of people along the trekking paths, the settlement is all around and there’s a lot of cattle there!

 

The geladas are easily to find, not far away from the lodge, they are used to people and are not afraid of man! The kids will show you the way to some; but as you have a guide/scout and so on, of course they will do this! With a car you can go to Chennek and further on! There are a lot of roads up there! So trekking is not very nice! Our driver told us, you can go almost to the base camp of Ras Dejen! To drive there is only a matter of money!

 

From Simien lodge to Chennek it will cost you by car 100 US!! And it is WORTH it!!! Spectacular view!  A big waterfall  is there! For the drive to this place and back by car, you need a whole day!

 

 

 

Axum:

 

Yeha-Hotel; very good with nice view from the stelae ; the food is so la la!

 

Don’t forget to visit Panteleon-monastery: going  up and down is wonderful! The view from top is incredible.

 

Guide for a whole day is 250 BIRR. If you take an „official“ guide, he will take 400 birr!

 

Temple of Yeha: wonderful surroundings, you should see this! – have a look at the so called LION-shaped mountain

 

There are many wonderful  landscapes on your way to Gheralta Lodge, one oft he best I have ever seen: it’s a mixture of Grand Canyon, Patagonia, Scotland and so on; you will see many birds!

 

Debre Damo:

On your way you will pass Debre Damo church: be sure to be fit, as you must climb up on a rope, almost 20 meters, that was quite an experience: the people managing the rope will of course help you going up and down!! As a matter of fact, they will pull you up, if you have no strength. 20 birr is the price: don’t pay any money before you are UP!! –Whatever the people downstairs tell you. Pay for the entrance to the church on top oft he hill!! The price is 150 birr. But ask first, if there is a service in the church, if it is so, they would not let you in, but they take of course your money!!!! In our case it was so, so we had a lot of troubles to get our money back!! Best, to give the money directly to the priest or to his helper!

 

Gheralta

Gheralta Lodge is a wonderful hotel ; we spent 3 days here, but you should stay longer; the landscape is extraordinary: we have visited all churches in the surrounding ; the food here is „Italiano“ and wonderful! There are a lot of table mountains and other fantastic rocky formations!

 

The church Peter & Paul was beautiful:  the rest oft he churches are not really highlights, but you should visit at least a few oft hem!

 

Atsbi Cluster ist an absolutely must!

 

The priests are almost a big disaster; but they all have now persons, who will open the churches for you, even when the priest is NOT there! We could visit all churches: there has always been a person there, who could open the doors!!

 

If you have car and driver, you must visit Abba Yohannis: you will need a whole day; it‘s best to do on your way from Gheralta lodge to Mekele: don’t plan to come back to Gheralta lodge

 

 

Mekele & Erta Ale:

 

Axum Hotel is not bad; I must say, the food is good. There’s is free internet in the lobby!

 

Near the hotel ist he office of GK Tours and a very helpful tourist office: i must mention the head of the tourist office, Mr Gebrehiwot Taddesse. E-Mail – hotgereth2007@yahoo.com – he was very helpful and has a lot of infos!

 

He can help you in all ways, especially, if you want go to Danakil depression: i was in contact with him, when I decided this January to visit Erta Ale and he told me immediately, that there was an assault, where 5 tourists died in an attack by terrorists (so I had to quit this trip)

 

But HE has the latest info and will help you to prepare your trip!!

 

You have to pay for Erta Ale per person 500 €, if you are lucky to join a group: Mr. Taddesse will see to that and can put you on a group!!!

 

If you want to got by yourself, that will cost you at least 2000 €

 

Lalibela:

 

I recommend Hotel Tukai Village, also Mr. Bill Clinton had an overnite here (without Monica)! The restaurant is good, but only a few meals; the rooms are very spacious. Every hotel organizes transport to he airport; it’s 70 Birr and less.

 

The bugs bites you get in the churches are terrible!! Especially women will have a very bad time there!

 

 

 

Do some of the churches near of Lalibela: at least Genata Maryam and Yemrehanna Kristos. Car and driver is necessary

 

 

 

Harar

A visit to the hyenas is an absolutely MUST, this is strange, but I will never forget this trip; I visited the hyenas twice because I was so excited ; you can feed them by your own hand, and it’s……whooow!

 

Expect to pay at least 150 birr for this remarkable adventure. The animals are strolling around a courtyard and they will touch you…..

 

Guides are already asking you for helping at the airport at Dire Dawa: if you go with them to Harar, that will save you time; but it’s very costly and you should bargain hard! For 3 days I paid 130 US (!)

 

The Belayneh Hotel is not a bad choice: 200 Birr night. They can organize everything. „Harar Ras Hotel“  was under construction

The town itself is world heritage; nice old city, good for  walking, don’t expect much; but you can feel, that the people are not very friendly with tourists. The main thing are the hyenas and from them you will see a lot!

Laga Oda rock art near Dire Dawa

The reason I am writing is to tell you that I went to the Laga Oda
rock art near Dire Dawa. Your dire warnings of men with spears and
the subsequent reply from another traveller slightly miss the mark!
A ticket costs 50 Birr from the main Ministry Office on the left hand
side of the road going to the airport. The office opens at 8am and
closes at 5pm. We drove south for 2kms then turned off to the right
towards a cement works onto a dirt track. It was a very good surface
as dirt tracks go and all the people we saw along the road were
smiley, waving and friendly not a spear in sight. We arrived at the
village where there is a big sign and a “guide” got in the car with
us and took us down to the site. They are in the process of taking
the road to the entrance and building a house for the official Guide.
He wanted more than a small tip but we resisted as he was not very
helpful or friendly.
I have visited the rock art in the Acacus Mountains in south west
Libya. This overhang does not compare with that but nevertheless it
is well worth going to have a look. There are clear paintings
supposedly 5,000 years old and some not so clear but interesting. I
would love to hear what someone who really studies ancient art thinks
about these.
The whole trip took 3 hours from collecting the ticket in Dire Dawa
to getting back to the main road to Harar. It was 35kms to the
village from Dire Dawa.