I am just back from 2 1/2 weeks in Ethiopia using your 6th edition (I bought it just before 7 came out ) It is very good, thank you.
I am a geriatric backpacker at 60, usually travelling around southern Africa in my own Landy for the past 15 winters. This was my first trip to Ethiopia, prompted by the start of direct flights to Dublin, Ireland.
As a general comment I found no evidence of the ‘hassle’ and ‘overcharging’ you frequently refer to in the guide. Was I lucky, or have things improved?
A few detailed points:-
I used the new metro in Addis to get from the Autobus Terra to Piazza, a handy trip for backpackers. It seems very safe with police in every carriage.The trains are lovely, but the signage is not too good yet! You buy your ticket in the orange kiosk just by the exit of the bus station, cross the busy road and climb the steps on the far side to get to the correct platform. On arrival at ‘Menelik Square’ you take the steps at the front of the platform to the surface, then do an about turn and walk 300M to arrive at Menelik Square itself. You have the ‘Fire Department’ marked incorrectly on pp146, it should be on the south side of Gal Hailu Kebede. To go from Menelik to Autobus Terra take the entrance near Gyorgis church.
I arranged everything on arrival in Lalibela. I did the 3 day western Meket trip alone and was charged $260 which is probably high as there wasn’t a group. I travelled to Gashena by bus with the guide which was crowded but fine. It was good having the guide to sort things out and it is recommended for ‘local colour’. I was travelling on to Bahir Dar, but for those returning to Lalibela it may be better to arrange private pick up at the end of the trek as apparently finding public transport back to Lalibela is not so easy. I really enjoyed it.
Is it ‘good value’? We should be careful not to go soft in the head at the thought of ‘community involvement’. Getting a similar standard of lodging and food in any town would be a fraction of the cost. I was keen to point out to them that they could easily improve things with a little effort.
Lake Tana Ferry:-
I travelled from North to South, which still leaves Gorgora on Thursday, but I believe the departure from Bahir Dar has changed.
The road from Gondar to Gorgora is being rebuilt and minibus traffic has stopped. The bus was very full and took 3 1/2 hrs. The repairs are expected to be finished by end of 2016.
Gorgora Port Hotel is still as bad as when you described it! Apparently there is another place to stay in the village about 15mins away which is better. (Note from PB – Simon will be referring to Kim & Tim listed in the 7th edition)
Arrival at Konzula:- Apparently there are now 2 ‘hotels’ in town. I am not sure which one I found, but it wasn’t the Hilton! There seemed no need for a ‘mad dash’ and the 10min walk is actually on the flat! It does not feel so remote anymore. There is a bank and lots of mobile phone shops!
Blue Nile Falls:-
Your description of the way to the falls is a bit wrong. The ticket office is right by the gates to the hydro plant. You don’t need a guide despite what they suggest. I was a little hassled but not too bad. The map shows the correct position of the side road about 100m back up from the ticket office. You just follow this ‘road’, keeping left at a junction before dropping down to the left AFTER the church. A quick look on Google earth will help your description. After crossing the suspension bridge, beware the tea lady selling the most expensive drinks in Ethiopia! It is then about 5mins walk to the motor boat to cross back to the town.
The entrance fee for the church included the museum (and I got a guided tour!) so was reasonable value I thought. You now get a ‘guide’ to go up the pretty steep steps to the cave, but as it is a holy shrine it is good to have one to avoid upsetting pilgrims.
The walk back up to the main road is not that steep! ( a climb of 160M according to my GPS)
There is a hotel about 300M down the road from the junction with lovely views over the gorge. It is a bit basic but half the price of the Ethio-German Park next door!
I hope some of this may be of help!
Levi Lawrence of Ethio Cycling Adventures writes:
We are a new outfit offering urban and rural bike rides in an around Addis Ababa, starting in October 2015. We will provide high quality bikes, hi-vis vests and helmets. Group sizes are limited to a maximum of 10 participants, with experienced leaders at the front and back of each group, who also act as tour guides. We also provide on-road repairs if needed. Our tours include city landmarks, suburban rides, mountain bike trails, day and overnight regional rides, giving riders not only an adventurous recreational experience, but also an up close opportunity to interact with the real Ethiopia.
For further details, contact email@example.com or 0929 343987
I would like to share some advise and news from Ethiopia where I spent a couple of weeks between December and January 2015.
I would not recommend the Itegue Taitu hotel. The single room was quite dirty and with no hot water.
I would recommend Michael Hotel. It is clean, there is a wifi free, hot water and a fair price (300 birr for a room with twin bed)
I would not recommend the tour operator “Siemen_Trekking”, especially to a single traveller women.
Generally speaking, Gondar was the only place in ethiopia, where I didn’t feel safe.
I would not recommend the Atse Yohannis Hotel. I spent there two nights, in two different room, and both where not so clean, very old structure. I also had a reservation but they completely ignore it and I had some problem in finding an available room.
ETT Tour Operator is good, altought we had a problem with the car (air conditioning) while we were travelling towards Erta Ale. Be sure the driver will check the air conditioning system before leaving Mekele and always ask for the newest model of jeep (there are more then one).
We had a reservation at Alef Paradise. Altought the reservation was reconfirmed the day before our arrival, when there, there was no room available. Had to change place, stayed in The Villa guesthouse. Very Good accommodation.
It is with both regret and relief that I have decided, after months of deliberation, to block all future posts and comments, positive or negative, relating to general tour operators and guides in Ethiopia.
To place this decision in some perspective, when I started up this website in 2008, I envisaged that its primary role would be to alert Bradt readers to important or interesting travel-related developments in Ethiopia between printed editions of the book, as well as being a forum for meaty trip reports from recently returned travellers.
Recently, however, traffic has become dominated by recommendations for local guides and tour operators. Furthermore, it seems to me like an increasingly significant proportion of these ‘reader recommendations’ are actually being written by the operator or guide in question, or at least by somebody affiliated with them. Which pretty much negates the whole point of posting ‘reader recommendations’ in the first place. Especially as many casual visitors might mistake a reader recommendation for an endorsement by myself or Bradt.
For my part, it’s often difficult, and time consuming, to verify the source of these positive recommendations. Many obviously come from genuine travellers, and I post them. Others are clearly bogus, and I delete them. In some cases, it is difficult to decide, and usually these posts get the benefit of the doubt.
Negative feedback is problematic to deal with for different reasons. The first is that I often have no way of evaluating how fair the criticisms are. The second is that, once posted, these one-off criticisms stay posted forever, which seem prejudicial to any company that does usually provide a perfectly acceptable service. The third is that negative reviews often draw heated reactions from the operator concerned, or clients who had a good experience with them, and I am really in no position to referee these disputes.
Unfortunately, dealing with this stuff has started to dominate the time I spend updating this website and it is also becoming a distraction from my primary job i.e. writing guidebooks. And it strikes me that there are already several more suitable and more impersonal forums (notably thorntree & tripadvisor) where anybody can post unverified and largely unverifiable feedback about general operators.
So… I have decided to revert to what this website was initially meant to be: a place where readers can post travel updates and trip reports focused on the country and its tourist facilities, not on tour operators and guides.
Please note that I will not delete past operator- and guide-related posts, that would be too time consuming, but I will go through them all at some point and remove any that strike me as really iffy. In the meantime, please take these recommendations for what they are, which is, at best, just one clients experience. And even a lousy operator is likely to get it right some of the time.
Secondly, while I will no longer allow through any new posts or comments that deal solely with guides or tour operators, I will allow myself some discretion when it comes to passing references to local guides in more general trip reports or feedback.
I will also allow gladly through objective information about anybody providing a unique or unusual service on the ground – if, for instance, somebody starts up horseback tours or guided hikes in a specific area, I’d see that as travel information rather than operator/guide feedback.
Finally, I will hold on to all positive or negative feedback about operators and guides emailed to me or posted here for evaluation when I come to work on a new edition. So if you want to rave or rant, feel free to do so – the only difference is that I will no longer post these things directly here!
Thanks for your time!
How would users of this website feel if I were to ban all posts, positive or negative, relating to generic tour operators and guides?
And just revert to what this website was initially meant to be: a place where readers can post travel updates and trip reports focussed on the country and facilities there, not on tour operators and guides.
It is becoming a real drain on my time and energy to referee the guide and operator feedback, and it strikes me that there are already several other more suitable forums (notably thorntree & tripadvisor) where anybody can post unverified and largely unverifiable feedback of this sort!
If people are finding the recommendations useful, fine, I am happy to carry on with them. But if most people read them with a pinch of salt (and I know I am starting to more and more), then maybe everybody is wasting their time & it’d be better just to veto them?