Ethiopia

September 11 - October 2


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The highlights of this trip are the natural wonders of Ethiopia.
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TM, ®, Copyright © 1999 Ulysses-Travel all rights reserved.

Itinerary

    Ethiopia:
    • Addis Ababa
    • Labilela (north): XII century churches carved in the rock
    • Axum (near Eritrea): granite obelisks, St Mary of Zion
    • Bus to Dire Dawa
    • Bus to Harar and back to Dire Dawa
    • Train to Djibouti
    • Other attractions: Gondar (castles), Bahir Dar (Blue Nile falls), Surma tribes, Omo valley (tribes), Semien Mountains (geladas monkeys)
    • Djibouti: Djibouti
    • Somaliland: Hargheisa
    • See Yemen
    Eritrea:
    • Asmara
    • Massawa
    • Other attrations: the Dahlaks (similar to Belize keys), Danakie depression (similar to Death Valley, -110m)

Notes

Trip difficulty: difficult to strenuous
Length: 14 days
Season: Oct-Feb
  • The rain season in northeast Africa is July to September
  • Note of 2003: after the 1998-2000 war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Ethiopia forbids all travel from its territory to Eritrea. So it is not possible to enter Eritrea from Ethiopia (no, not even by air). One has to fly to Djibouti (not the best place for a stop over) and then on to Asmara.
  • Most meals in Addis Ababa cost $2-3. A reasonable hotel with private bathroom is $5-10 (Baro Hotel near Piazza: 50 birr). The only expensive things are air fares.
  • People are generally very friendly, but a multitude of beggars pester foreign tourists. They are not violent, but very persistent. Crime is very low everywhere and never violent. Pickpockets abound in Addis.
  • Almost every embassy in Addis Ababa requires a "letter of support" from your embassy in order to grant you a visa. A Yemeni visa takes two days and 480 birr. A Sudanese visa takes three days and $61.
  • The natives use a different measure of time, which is six hours off from western time. So 2pm is 8am for them. This can be confusing when taking buses (remember that buses always leave early in the morning).
  • Ethiopian Airlines is a fine airline, but you have to check every day if your flight still exists and what time it leaves. In most cases your flight is simply delayed, but sometimes it might leave earlier.
  • $1=8.5 birr=12.5 nakfa Birr and nakfa, de facto, cannot be changed back to dollars.
  • Visa for Ethiopia at the airport: 315 birr ($40).
  • Taxi from the airport to downtown Addis: 25-30 birr ($3). Minibuses occasionally enter the parking lot and take you downtown for 1 birr ($0.10).
  • Many embassies are on Bole Rd near the airport
  • Flight Addis-Axum-Lalibela-Addis $282
  • Airport to Axum 20 birr
  • +Hotel Kaleb in Axum (50 birr). ++Abissinia restaurant (excellent shuro)
  • Access to stele and museum in Axum 50 birr, St Mary 60 birr
  • Pentaleon monastery is a 30 minute walk from town (entrance 20 bir)
  • Lalibela: ticket for all 11 churches 100 birr ($11) but you also need a guide or you will not find the various tunnels. Most spectacular is the Bete Giyorgis of the 13th century, also the last one built.
  • Bus Addis-Dire Dawa leaves at 6am, takes 12 hours. The train to Djibouti (55 birr) does not run every day and may take as long as 17 hours (it breaks down very often and border procedures take about 2 hours). There is a Djibouti consulate that issues visas ($35) and does not require a letter of support. Hotel in Dire Dawa: National (44 birr). Restaurant: +Burger & Chicken. From Dire Dawa to Harar it's about 1.5 hours by minibus (10 birr).
  • The Lalibela airport is quite far from town. Taxis ask 40-50 birr per person.
  • For a country always on the verge of starvation, Ethiopia enjoys an amazing rate of night clubs and brothels. Every town has a "red light" district.
  • Djibouti is one of the most overpriced cities in the world. Djibouti is basically legalized theft on a large scale: you are overcharged for everything (i.e., make sure that you know the price of the drinks you order because a restaurant can easily charge you $10 for a coke). Taxis can easily ask for 10-20 times the regular price. Air conditioning is quite essential. Cheapest A/C hotel is Banadir ($25). The pestering of children in Ethiopia is replaced by the pestering of taxi drivers. The only good news is that it is very safe. You can easily change money in the streets.
  • Djibouti-Hargheisa (Somaliland) is served by at least two airlines (the horrible Djibouti Airlines and Daallo, $90 each way). Djibouti-Asmara is $150 with Daallo. Somaliland now requires a visa from tourists that must be obtained before arrival, despite the fact that no country recognizes Somaliland and therefore there are no embassies abroad.
  • A visa for Eritrea in Djibouti is $50 and takes a few hours.
  • Asmara has to be the most pleasant city in Africa. It is quiet, clean and safe. It is not even hot (because it sits at 2400m of altitude). There is a bus from the airport to downtown (1 nakfa).
  • In Asmara, a large room at the Africa Pension is $9 with communal bathroom. The Shogey has private rooms for $11 but small. The Top Five has excellent rooms with private bath for $15. There are many pensions in the streets off Harnet Avenue. The Asmara restaurant near the post office is simple but good ($2-3). The Shogey restaurant is slightly more upscale. The Spaghetti House at the beginning of Harnet Avenue serves excellent Italian food but at Italian prices.
  • Asmara to Massawa is all paved but steep and winding, so the bus takes about 4 hours. The train (one of the wonders of Africa) runs only when there are enough tourists (basically, it has to be chartered).
  • The Yemeni embassy (near the airport) issues visas for $32 the same day. In theory they require an AIDS test ($90 at the Sembel medical center). Flight Asmara-Sanaa-Addis: $616.
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  • TM, ®, Copyright © 1999 Ulysses-Travel all rights reserved.