I have written before about my love affair with Ethiopian food, so Ethiopia was obviously at the top of the list of countries I was looking forward to visiting. But I was frequently met with puzzled looks when I mentioned my plan. Ethiopia is a bit off of the beaten tourist track, but it shouldn’t be. It is a beautiful country with amazing sights and scenery. The people are friendly and excited to share their culture, and the food was even more delicious than I expected.
Now, I’ll be honest here – Ethiopia is not the most comfortable country I’ve visited. It is still a developing country, which means that sometimes you will have power and running water and sometimes you won’t. The accommodations were adequate and clean, but often shabby. During long bus travel (and bus travel can be LONG given the quality of the roads and the tendency of the buses to break down), the driver will pull over once for people to relieve themselves . . . right along the side of the road. And don’t even think about taking a minibus if you value your personal space and/or safety.
But if you can get past those minor annoyances, you will get to enjoy touring the amazing rock-hewn churches of Lalibela (awe-inspiring structures carved right into the stone), feeding hyenas in Harar, a boat ride on hippo-filled Lake Tana to visit the surrounding monasteries, a jazz club in Addis Ababa, and being surrounded by baboons in the Simien Mountains.
So what are you waiting for? Here are a few tips for your trip:
Fly domestically between cities. Although the roads in Ethiopia are rapidly improving and coach buses are now available for travel between most destinations, flying on Air Ethiopia is surprisingly affordable (around $20-70 for a one way ticket). Do not book your tickets online, though – tickets are half of the price when purchased at one of the many Air Ethiopia offices around the country.
Hike in the Simien Mountains, but do not pre-book a tour package. It is much cheaper to go to the park office in Debark and arrange your guide, cook, porter, etc. there, and you will also be helping local people to earn a living. (Feel free to email me if you would like the contact information of the guide we used). If you are planning a multi-day hike, you should buy your food and supplies before arriving to Debark, which is a very small town.
Be prepared for power outages. Bring flashlights and books that don’t require charging. Bring supplies for taking bucket baths when there is no running water.
Use local guides. In most towns, young college-aged men speaking very good English will approach you to offer (or in some cases, impose) their guide services. As long as you agree upon a price and exactly what the service will entail up front, this is a great way to experience Ethiopia with a local. It is kind of like renting a friend (and will usually run you less than $20 a day). In addition to taking you to see the sights, they can recommend restaurants, bars, and hotels. (But be aware that they may get commissions for taking you to these places). One guide took me to a bar that was packed with locals playing traditional music and dancing. It ended up being one of the most fun nights of my trip – I was the only tourist there, and I never would have found it on my own. I still keep in touch with some of the guides I used, and would be happy to share their contact information.
No related posts.