Some travel tips

Zachary writes:

Consider couch surfing and Air BnB in the bigger Ethiopian cities- often young, fun, English speaking people can really show you the city from a local perspective.

Minibus transport and hitch hiking is the coolest way of transport, if you can tolerate being squeezed in a small place, and having variable times of departure (they dont leave til the minivan is “full”- varying definitions for sure).

I’d highly recommend the Tigrai Rock Hewn churches, much less touristy and more beautiful than Lalibela.

I found Harar to be the most interesting and beautiful city in Ethiopia, with incredible food (try the camel- you can buy from a butcher and have the restaurant next door cook it for you!) and beautiful winding narrow alleys. An interesting contrast and peek into the Muslim African world.

In Bahar Dar, take the local ferries (you need to wake up early to get tickets), they are beautiful, interesting and about 1/10 the cost. You will get to the lake monasteries before any tourists as well.

Happy travels!

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 ( 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





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






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!






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 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 – – 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 €




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





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!

Sue Turnbull’s updates

We have recently returned from a three week holiday in Ethiopia – the northern circuit plus Bale mountains and rift valley lakes.

Earlier in the year I devised an itinerary using the extremely valuable Bradt guide as my main source of information and sent it off to several UK and Ethiopian-based travel companies. While waiting for the responses, I came across a recommendation on this site about a tour company called Ethio Renaissance and having nothing to lose forwarded them my itinerary as well. In the end, based on several criteria, we decided to use Ethio Renaissance ( This was the first time we have ever booked a holiday direct with a local tour operator (and we are quite well travelled) and as such was a bit of a leap of faith on our part. However, we have no regrets – the service compared very favourably, and for the most part exceeded that of any UK company we have used in the past 25 years. We would have no hesitation in recommending them to anyone else. So many thanks to Lizzie Vardon for her comments on this site.

Some other general comments that travellers to Ethiopia may find useful:

1) Roads – there is a lot of road building by the Chinese going on everywhere, at least in the highlands, and this is scheduled to continue for the next few years. The road between Debark and Shire (on the way to Axum) was particularly bad and at one point we just got through before the road was closed for three hours. In another area the road was closed for a while because of a landslip – the new road was being built above the old road and the hillside collapsed on top of it (and the hillside was still ‘moving’ as we eventually drove past). Dust at some points reduced visibility to zero! Even so we would still recommend road travel over air given the fantastic scenery and opportunity to visit local villages etc.

2) Lalibela: Tukul Village Hotel – an earlier posting on this website said that the hotel rooms had fleas and indeed in the hotel room there was a handwritten note from a previous incumbent that the bed contained fleas. However, we had no problem whatsoever and the room was cleaned daily to a very high standard. Our guide told us the flea problem was more likely to occur in the rainy season and indeed it could have been the tourists that picked up the fleas from the churches and brought them back to the hotel. One way around this is to either spray your socks with deet before entering the churches (shoes off of course) or to wear plastic carry bags held up by rubber bands when visiting the churches.
Our return trip up to Asheton Maryam by mule/walking took four hours in total but that included about one hour exploring the church and taking in the scenery – just to clarify previous comments on this site. However, we are reasonably fit and if you suffer from the altitude/ or are infirm, it would take longer.

3) Axum: Yeha Hotel – abysmal plumbing in the bathroom but we made do. The shower could barely manage to produce a trickle of water but buckets were provided – we found it easier to wash using these!

4) Hawzien: Gheralta Lodge – this is a great place to stay. We had booked two nights here but got bumped in favour of a tour group for the second night, which was a bit annoying. It can be a good idea to have a back up plan/ second choice as I guess this could happen at any location.

5) Bale mountains: Wabishebelle Hotel – we arrived at about 6pm and the hotel was in darkness due to a power cut and electricity was not due to be restored until 10pm. This meant there was no hot water etc and only a candle to see by in the room. However, hot food was available in the restaurant (and cold beers!) which had emergency lighting. We understand that this may be a regular occurrence at the moment (the next night was OK though). We were extremely lucky to see a leopard on the return journey to the rift valley lakes. We would strongly recommend that all travellers carry with them an LED torch for these occasions and for exploring some of the churches.

Gwyneth Deakins’s updates

Many thanks for the usual thorough and reliable Bradt guide. I did a tour of the main tourist highlights earlier this month with Voyages Jules Verne. Just a few comments which probably reflect what other people will say:
– the reliability of internal flights has apparently improved with the recent purchase of new aeroplanes (though delays are still possible!)
– however the strict security at airports means you usually have to take off shoes, belts, watches, etc. not once but twice and it takes a lot of time – independent travellers who don’t have a guide to warn them should leave enough time to get through all this;
– the Hotel Yeha in Axum is pretty shoddy for what it is supposed to be – as you rightly point out.
– however the Ghion hotel in Addis was nicer than your rather grudging review suggested. If one is there at weekends the many wedding parties in the park opposite are a really wonderful spectacle. However someone said that there were plans for the whole area, garden and hotel, to be redeveloped as a new hotel – that would be a terrible shame.
– the hike up to the top of Asheton Maryam from Lalibela surely takes more than 2 hours. We went up by mule and it tokk longer than that; we could see hikers taking it more slowly.
– in general it would be good if the guide could say more about the geological history of the area one is visiting – the area around the Devil’s Nose (very spectacular!) between Gonder and Bahir Dar is a case in point.
– the Blue Nile falls were pretty amazing even if they were only 30% of what they used to be, and well worth visiting. But we found that the souvenir sellers there were quite aggressive (along the path to the falls), much more so than anywhere else we visited.
– apart from the Falls area, Bahir Dar was not at all good for souvenirs.
– Addis airport is horribly expensive even by western standards and the souvenirs there rubbish compared with what you get in Axum, Lalibela, etc.
– I think you should be less disparaging about the shoe men in Lalibela; we had one with our party who was enormously helpful not only with shoes but in helping the several members of our group who were struggling with the stairs, tunnels, etc. He may have been expecting generous tips but we felt he was genuinely keen to assist.
– finaly, I think the photo in the Guide (between pp 310-311) which says it is Bet Maryam is actually Bet Mikael.
Keep up the good work, and thanks again.

New hotels in Addis Ababa, Lalibala & Bahir Dar

We’ve just had a truly brilliant holiday in Ethiopia. My husband has been working there for a month in three since the middle of last year and I took the opportunity to join him this time – after he’d finished the bulk of his work there. Your book was invaluable and was with us at all times – despite it being a pretty hefty weight. We found virtually everything you said to be reliable.

I just wanted to mention a couple of places which have opened – or will – since your book was published.
Addis : we stayed in a recently opened hotel just off the Bole Road, almost next to the Edna Mall, called the Kaleb. The staff couldn’t have been more friendly or more helpful, the location was great, the breakfasts very good – although a number of the delicious pastries could have made a fantastic afternoon teas, or desserts after a meal, since these are both something I craved for in Ethiopia – and the wifi was – mostly! – reliable. We stayed a night and then returned for 3 more, ten days later. We paid $90 per night for this large and comfortable double room. The bathroom was smaller than it could have been but was fine – with good sized, thick towels. Having checked a number of other hotels in Addis – which I thought surprisingly expensive – this seemed pretty good value. It opened about three months ago.
Lalibela: We met a lovely Scottish lady called Susan who is in partnership with an Ethiopian friend in the building of, initially, a fabulous restaurant in a totally stunning location in Lalibela itself. It is on top of a hill with an almost 360 degrees view all round of the unbelievable countryside. It will have a more formal restaurant and a snack-type restaurant with numerous seating areas to drink in the view.  It is being built to a high spec. and uses as many natural materials as possible, blending into its surroundings, and yet modern and innovative in design. Ultimately they plan to build rooms in individual tukuls so that there is accommodation as well but they are trying to establish the restaurant first. It will be called Ben Abeba (‘Ben’ being Scottish for ‘hill’ and ‘Abeba’ being Amharic for ‘flowers’ : it is on a hill of flowers.) Susan is trained in Home Economics and is taking on the menu planning and training of the kitchen staff herself. There will be both Ethiopian food and international – including puddings and home baking! The official opening is planned for September so fingers crossed for success in that! I’m sure it’s going to be really beautiful and a treat – though not overly expensive – for anyone visiting Lalibela. There is a website for the restaurant although this is still fairly sketchy in its information. More will be added in the next few months. The website address is
Finally, in Bahir Dar we got a fantastic deal! We’d booked in at the Ghion which was fine, if a little tired. As the new Kiriftu resort was right next door we thought we’d go for a nose and perhaps splash out on lunch. Somehow we got talking to the guy at Reception and he invited us to look at the rooms. How could we refuse?! They had a special package offer because the resort was not quite complete – swimming pool still being built and some extra rooms – and this included bed, breakfast, dinner, plus a massage, a manicure and a pedicure per day. Full price worked out at $199, but he said they were knocking 25% off so it would be $150. For us this was still too pricey, but we must have hesitated because he said that if we were interested he could do it for 50% off! We just couldn’t resist the treat potential! It’s absolutely beautiful and the staff are incredibly attentive and pleasant.
With best wishes,
Nicky Harris

Lodge du Château, Gonder

Speaking of hotels in Gonder, there is a new place called Lodge du Château which is owned and operated by the Explore Abyssinia tour company.  Located just to the west of the Castle Compound, it looks to be a really nice place.  It offers singles, doubles, and dormitory beds.  Rates are as follows:

Single                        32US$
Double/twin                36US$
Bed in Dormitory        10US$

All rooms have their own bathroom.
Room rates include breakfast and service charge /tax.
Reduction in rates for groups booking 6+ rooms and for guests staying more than 3 nights. Please ask us.

More information can be found at the Explore Abyssinia website where you can download a PDF brochure.  According to the brochure they also offer horseback riding, bicycle hire, and walking tours.  They can also arrange Simien Mountain treks.
PO.BOX: 237

MOBILE: 00 251 918 77 03 32
TEL: 00 251 581 11 19 17/ 581 11 53 11
FAX: 00 251 581 11 89 65