Harar to Somaliland and back, May 2016

Bob Francescone writes:

We did this trip overland in May, 2016. It’s an easy trip to Somaliland, a time-consuming one back. Buses leave from Harar for Jijiga very frequently, but not until they are filled, double-filled, and triple-filled. Our bus had 25 seats and 45 people. Ditto for the bus from Jijiga to the border. It’s all easy. Transfer time in Jijiga was just a few minutes, but we may have been lucky. The two buses are about 35 and 40 Birr each.

The border is a mayhem filled market, but the passport procedures are a snap…if you can find where you stamp out of Ethiopia and into Somaliland. People will help. The Ethiopia guys are pleasant and efficient. The Somaliland guys are worth the trip, happy go lucky, hand-shaking, welcoming, smiling guys. Our visa had expired, but they made a quick phone call up to Addis and issued us a new one, for the usual charge of $60 for a Somaliland visa. Easy stuff! They only get about 25 walkers a day, so they remembered us 5 days later on the way back, with equal affability and charm. Harar to the border on the two buses took about 4 hours.
The ride into Hargeisa is about $7.00 and takes about 2 hours. It will be cramped. They’ll drop you off at your hotel.
(NOTE: if you get your visa in Addis, plan carefully. Pay very careful attention to the 30 day limit. It begins to count down from the day you GET your visa. 60 day visas may also be available there. Issuing the visas takes a few hours. If you go early you may get it almost immediately. We got there at 11 and had the visa at 1. )

The return trip is another experience altogether. Border to Harar took 8 hours. Details to follow.
The bus from Hargeisa leaves from the bus station and is about $3-$4, with seats and little crowding. Reverse the immigration process at the border. There had been heavy rains so the Ethiopian passport office had moved. People helped us find it.

The bus to Jijiga was crammed with people and piles of goodies they are trying to bring back into Ethiopia. Somaliland has no taxes. Things cost a fraction of what they cost in Ethiopia. You’re traveling with small time ‘smugglers’, and the Ethiopian authorities know it. The buses were stopped 8 times. They’re looking for electronics (and smuggled US cash, the currency of favor in Somaliland) , we were told. They search everything and every package. One stop was essentially a pro forma wave through. Most required us to off load, be questioned and searched. Our back packs were emptied onto the road and our wallets emptied and counted at one. That one also included a body search. It was all polite, and everyone else seemed to take it as a matter of course, so that’s what we did. Other passengers showed us what to do and where to go. It was pretty simple. All the goodies were opened and confiscated.

Our trip might have taken less time, but the first bus broke down and the substitute bus had clutch problems and ‘sped’ along at the rate of a careful stroll. We got to Jijiga as it was getting dark, but there was a bus loading up. It left about 30 minutes later. The bus fare collectors may try to charge you more than they charge the other passengers. On the border-Jijiga busTwo women behind the fare collector waved 3 fingers at us, telling us the fare was 30Birr and not the 50 he asked for.

All in all, it was easy, fun, crowded and a quintessentially Ethiopian experience, with friendly people. This is why we travel.

Somaliland Embassy in Addis Ababa

According to this post (January 2016) on the Thorntree, the Somaliland Embassy in Addis Ababa has moved yet again – this time close to Edna Mall & Medhane Alem Church (Grid G5 on the map on p 158-9 on the Bradt 7th edition)


Ethiopia visas in Somaliland

Thanks to Pawel for the following important news (which I have expanded slightly)

It is no longer possible to get an Ethiopian visa in Somaliland. The Ethiopian representative office in Hargeisa is not issuing them anymore. So if you plan on visiting Somaliland from Ethiopia, you either need a multiple-entry visa for Ethiopia, or you will have fly back to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with Ethiopian Airlines (which costs upwards of US$200 one-way) and then buy a visa on arrival at Bole International Airport.


Jijiga & Tog Wajaale

Phil King writes:

We stayed in Jijiga for a night on the way to Hargeisa and again on the way back. We stayed at the Bade (sometimes spelled Bada) on the way there. We found it to be unfriendly, gloomy, badly maintained, and very poor value at 250 birr. On the way back we stayed at the Hamda Hotel, which I don’t think is mentioned in your guidebooks. OK, I’m not saying it’s the greatest hotel in the world, but for 368 birr it’s at least 3 times as nice as the Bade, and way more friendly. It’s right on the main highway between Harar and Waajaale.

Tog Wajaale (the border post) has to be one of the most miserable places I’ve ever been to. In a future edition you might want to warn readers not to accept the help of the friendly little boys with wheelbarrows who offer to carry your bags across the border. I did, and when I gave the kid 10 birr, which I thought was generous (at least by Ethiopian standards) for 15 minutes work trundling 2 small bags he demanded $10, and I had a world of hassle from a bunch of hustlers/touts in the parking lot before they allowed me to get away with paying 20 birr.

Addis Ababa updates

I spent a couple of days in Addis Ababa en route to Somaliland (where I was working on a new Bradt guide) and compiled an extensive list of updates:

Exchange Rate: Currently around Birr 16 to US$1

Somaliland Embassy & Visas: The Somaliland Embassy is next to the Namibian Embassy about 200 metres north of, and clearly signposted from, Bole Road. The junction is very close to Saay Pastry (map ref page 159 F2) and on the same corner as the red-and-yellow Wassamar Hotel. It opens 8.30am-2pm Mon-Fri, and will usually issue a visa on the spot, depending on whether the ambassador is in. It costs US$40 and a passport photo is required.

Sky & Selam Bus: The Sky Bus booking office (tel: 011 1568080/8585) is in the Itegue Taitu Hotel and it runs daily buses to Gonder (12 hours, Birr 372), Bahir Dar (9 hours, Birr 306), Dire Dawa (9 hours, Birr 291), Harar (9 hours, Birr 293), Jijiga (12 hours, Birr 326) and Jimma (5-6 hours, Birr 199). Selam Bus covers the same routes at about the same price and has a booking office in front of the central railway station, on the opposite side of the square to Buffet de la Gare. All buses run by both companies depart from Meskal Square at 5.30am. We were really impressed by the service, which include scheduled lunch stops, and regular roadside ‘pee breaks’.

Itegue Taitu Hotel: Tel: +251-11-1-56 0787; reservations@taituhotel; www.taituhotel.com. This has evidently taken over from the nearby Baro as the main hub of backpacker activity in Addis Ababa. It has a good restaurant, good services including free internet and WiFi, and it makes a point of not charging discriminatory ‘faranji prices’. Rooms without shower are Birr 125-150, en-suite rooms in the annex cost Birr 270-320, and rooms in the main building range from Birr 328 for the smallest room using a common shower to Birr 377-492 for a ensuite or Birr 831 for the largest room.

Visa extension: If you need longer than the standard 30 days issued upon arrival, extensions can be arranged at the Immigration Office on Churchill Road. This costs US$20 and usually requires you to leave your passport overnight. It is best to be there before 8.30am. You need a photocopy of the main page in your passport, as well as the page with your existing visa.

Taxis rates: From the Piassa, expect to pay 50-60 Birr to the city centre or Arat/Siddist Kilo, or Birr 70-100 to the airport. Expect it to be 50% after 6pm or before 8am.

Entrance fees: For the places we checked, these were Birr 20 for the Lion Zoo at Siddist Kilo, Birr 30 for Kiddist Selassie Church, and Birr 10 for the National Museum.

Red Terror Martyrs’ Memorial Museum: This highly worthwhile new museum on Bole Road next to Meskal Square officially opened in March 2010. It opens from 8.30am-6.30pm daily and entrance is free though donations are appreciated. It is dedicated to the victims of the red terror campaign under President Mengistu and the Derg Regime, and displays include some riveting back-and-white photos dating to the 1975 coup as well as some more chilling relicts – skulls and clothes removed from mass graves, torture instruments – of this genocidal era in modern Ethiopian history. For more details, see http://www.redterrormartyrs.org

Hope this is useful!


Ethiopia & Somaliland updates

Hello Philip

Many thanks for your brilliant ‘Ethiopia’. I thought that I’d share some observations I made on a recent trip to Ethiopia (E) and Somaliland (S) with you.

Adigrat (E) – Hohoma Hotel was fantastic. We payed 100 birr for a double with great hot shower, comfortable beds with new linen and TV. The owner, a lady called Alganesh, is very warm and friendly, and cooks great food (try her shiro and thilo).

Gorgora (E) – We stayed in the villa at the Gorgora Hotel.The location was great, but there was no hot water (in fact, no water ran from the shower despite the best plumbing efforts of various cleaners and security guards). In Gorgora town, there is a very nice little bar on the main street, on the righthand side coming from the port. They serve icy-cold Dashen on tap, and are very friendly. They also have great, plain, fresh bread for breakfast.

Axum (E) – We ate a very disappointing meal at Remhai hotel. The recommended beef stroganoff was rubbish (and overpriced). -Four friends and I were overcharged on laundry services at Africa Hotel (for some 50%). Best to confirm price beforehand (and work it out for oneself).

Lalibela (E) – The service at the Blue Lal restaurant was poor and disinterested. -The ‘Unique Restaurant’, just opposite Asheten Hotel, is run by a friendly lady who serves generous, good meals (but don’t expect food to come quickly).

Gambella (E) – We stayed at Aberague Hotel, just next to bus station. The rooms were clean, but got hot at night (especially when there was no power). The manager, Fanta (or Fantom) is very friendly.

Itang, near Gambella (E) – We found the pople in theis town (50km east of Gambella) quite aggressive. Better to stay with the friendly people of Gambella town.

 Hargeisa (S) – We stayed at the Hawthanang Hotel (or something similar) just near the central bridge. Hassan, the manager, speaks brilliant english and was very helpful in organising transport and police permits. The rooms were clean and good value ($12 for a double). -The people at the recommended Oriental Hotel basically refused to help us at all unless we stayed there.

hope that this helps Kind regards Robert M (Australia)