Ethiopia

MY TRIP

My travel dates:

30 December 2018 – 18 January 2019

Traveled km:

Flight Lusaka -> Addis Ababa: 2940 km
Addis Ababa -> 589 km Jinka -> 118 km Turmi -> 118 km Jinka -> 260 km Arba Minch – > 32 km (Dorze Village) Chencha -> 32 km Arba Minch -> 319 km Yirga Chefe -> 122 km Hawassa -> 279 km Addis Ababa -> 772 km Mek’ele -> 103 km Hawzen -> 23 km Magab -> 23 km Hawzen -> 103 km Mek’ele -> 772 km Addis Ababa
Flight Addis Ababa -> Berlin: 7836 km
Altogether: 14,441 km

Expenses:

Flight one way to Addis plus one-way flight to Berlin: €646.00 / $734.50
Travel costs for 20 days / including 3 domestic flights: €1841.75 / $2094.09
Visa for 30 days / apply online: €87.00 / $99.00

Important Info:
If you fly in with Ethiopian Airlines, you get BIG discounts on all domestic flights. I couldn’t figure out how to get that price online but in any Ethiopian Airlines office around the country, you’ll get the correct price and can book on super short notice (a day or two before). If I had known this earlier, it would have saved me around €150.00 / $170.00.

About Ethiopia:

Capital: Addis Ababa
Population: 109.17 million
Currency: Ethiopian Birr

COSTS

MY HOTELS

Gabi Home Stay

Someone in Ethiopia once said to me “cheap is expensive” and that really often is the case. I booked this guest room because I wanted to save money but I wouldn’t stay there again. First of all, the room was very basic, without even a chair or a table. I was sharing a bathroom with three other rooms, and it was just dirty all the time. Then there was a power cut and electricity was off for quite a few hours, meaning I couldn’t work on my laptop or use the WIFI.

The young man who lives in the house and rents the rooms out had a really sweet housekeeper and breakfast was included, but it was also very basic. If you wanted her to cook you meals or make you coffee, they charged you based on a price list that was way too expensive for the standard of this place — when you first arrive, you don’t have a feeling yet for the country’s prices…

Before arrival, I wrote to the guest house at least three times, asking if they would pick me up, and right before take-off from Zambia, I finally received a message that someone would be there. However, on arrival I would never have found that person, had someone at the airport in Addis Ababa not helped me by making a call and describing what I looked liked. He didn’t even bother to hold up a sign with my name. He then charged me €7.00 / $8.00 for a pickup to his place which was no further than a seven minute drive away from the airport.

I’m writing this because when leaving the country, I paid €48.00 / $54.00 for a night in a decent hotel and the transfer to and from the airport was included. I paid the exact same amount for two nights and an airport transfer in this dumpy guest house.

Of course it was cheaper but it wasn’t worth it. I spent New Year’s Eve alone here too — not a highlight of my trip. There are a few more things I could add, but summed up, there are better places to stay.

Info: I got a pick up for €7.00 / $8.00

Single room: €17.00 / $18.00 a night, incl. breakfast

Location

Addis Ababa

My Rating

2.5 out of 5 stars

Nexus Hotel

This is the hotel I stayed at on my last night, the airport shuttle is included in the price. I have to admit, it looks a bit nicer on their website than in real life…;) It’s not a hotel with a personal atmosphere but it had a little spa and fitness area which I used, as I didn’t go jogging along the roadside in Addis. They have a little rooftop bar with a view of the city, which was nice. The lunch restaurant buffet was pretty bad, but honestly, buffets are rarely good. They also offer a half-day rate, so you can check out at 8:00 pm, that was perfect for me because I had a flight to catch at midnight. This place is not “the place to stay” but it has everything you need and it’s 5 minutes away from the airport.
Info: Airport shuttle included in the accommodation price

Single room: €48.00 / $54.00 a night, not incl. breakfast

Location

Addis Ababa

My Rating

3.5 out of 5 stars

Radisson Blu Hotel

I would never have been able to afford this hotel on my low budget. Thank you to  https://www.elbgold.com for sponsoring a week of my stay in Ethiopia while we traveled together and for also sponsoring my international flights to Ethiopia and back to Berlin.
In the end, I learned that Ethiopia is much more expensive than you’d think!
After staying in quite a few very basic hotels and getting used to cold water, showers with no pressure and broken toilet seats, staying here for two nights was like heaven.
The first thing I did was take a really long shower! They have a restaurant with good food, just expensive. Everything is expensive in this hotel! But that’s Africa, too: in a lot of countries you get either moderately priced accommodation or it’s really expensive. Nonetheless, I enjoyed going to the gym, drinking yummy coffee at the coffee shop, having a yummy breakfast, a good shower in a large clean bathroom with big clean towels and sleeping in a comfy bed with fluffy blankets — it was great!
Info: Airport shuttle included in the accommodation price

Single room: €186.00/ $211.00 a night, not incl. breakfast

 

Eating out in Addis Ababa:

Dashen Traditional Ethiopian Restaurant:

This place had a nice atmosphere. Sometimes they have live stage shows with music and dancing. The injera is very good in all its variations: vegan, vegetarian or with meat, they do it all very well and it’s reasonably priced: https://www.tripadvisor.de/Restaurant_Review-g293791-d1214041-Reviews-Dashen_Traditional_Ethiopian_Restaurant-Addis_Ababa.html

 

Nahkala Restaurant / Yemeni Food

Really, really yummy delicious food, especially the bread! They serve it on big plates placed in the middle of the table for everyone to share. The waitresses are all dressed in typical attire and I liked the traditional atmosphere. This place is nice for groups, I wouldn’t go here alone, it wouldn’t be fun…I can’t find a link to the place on the internet but just ask around for it!

Location

Addis Abba

My Rating

3 out of 5 Stars

Orit Hotel

This is not the Hilton, but I was just happy to find a vacant room in the high season (which I didn’t know it was). I was coming directly from Gabi Home Stay, so having my own bathroom seemed pretty nice. They have a restaurant and the food is okay. You’re not too far from the big market and there are ATMs around the area, so it’s all just fine.
If you plan to visit the market, be careful, there will always be someone approaching you, wanting to act as your “guide”, even if you don’t want them to. At the end they will demand money, even if you kept politely telling that child or person that you didn’t need a guide. That’s what happened to me and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
I flew into Jinka from Addis. It’s a new small little airport and flying in saves you a lot of travel time! (cf. the domestic flight tip on the top of the page).

This is where I found my first guide for my first story in Ethiopia, in the Omo Valley. This is also where I found out that tourists are often overcharged! At least in my opinion and in comparison to other African countries. I wanted to get to the Hamar tribe. My guide told me I had to book a car and a driver for two days to do so and that there was no other way. I paid €260.00 / $295.00 just for that. It gave me sleepless nights because it killed my budget but I didn’t have a choice, it was important for this project. The thing is, my “guide”, who spoke English, was a nice guy, super friendly and I really liked his humor, but in the end he didn’t even come along on the two-day trip, he just organized the car and driver who didn’t speak English; I organized the rest on my own (hotel and story). In retrospect, I feel a little ripped off. He knew I wasn’t a tourist and I had explained exactly what it was that I was doing which is also the best PR for him and this region. I didn’t want him to help me for free but at a reasonable price. He said he could only give me a better price if I paid him in dollars (because they get a better exchange rate for it on the black market), but I didn’t have dollars. When I arrived in Turmi, a village which was only three hours away from Jinka, so not a long drive, I had to pay more guide fees and village fees and all sorts of other photo costs. For every picture you take of any tribe person, get ready to pay. That’s fine, except that tribesmen will come up to you with open hands, demanding to take their photo for money. This is a matter on its own, which I’ll get into another time. Enjoying an authentic experience of the Omo Valley is unfortunately not that easy anymore since tourism has arrived in the area. But in the end, I found a beautiful story and in Turmi my guide Kala who was so sweet — there are lots of nice people, you just have to keep your eyes open all the time and do your research before coming! I would probably try and do this whole trip to Jinka and Turmi differently now.
I would take public transport to Turmi and go with the flow from there.

Single room: €15.43 / $114.00 a night, not incl. breakfast

Turmi Hotel

Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of this hotel, which isn’t on booking.com either, but it’s the first hotel on the right hand side before the main road (coming from Jinka) takes a turn left. This is a small village and there is only one main road. There is this one hotel that all guides stop at with their cars, it comes after the ”guide“ meeting point, you’ll know what I mean once you’re there. In any case that hotel is disgusting (I took a look at the rooms and the toilets)! And the hotel directly next to it didn’t make much of an impression on me either. I was so glad I didn’t have to sleep in either of them. On the other hand, I was lucky I found a place at all, there are not many hotels in the village and I hadn’t booked ahead of time. My room in this place was clean and the bathroom was totally okay. Again, this is not the Hilton, but it works for a night.

Single room: €21.00 / $24.60 a night, not incl. breakfast

 

Guide Tip / Turmi

My Guide in Turmi was Kala Ayke. He invited me to his home where I cooked with his sister. Such a sweet young man! You will need a guide to get to the Hamar tribe. I can definitely recommend Kala! Maybe he’ll also take you to his home to cook! You can ask for him in the village when you reach the “guide meeting point”, everyone knows everyone here.
We were together for 1.5 days and when I left, he gave me of one of his bracelets as a gift. When I gave him the last bit of money that I had as an extra tip and apologized that it wasn’t much, he replied: “It’s not about the money.” I believe him.
FB contact: https://www.facebook.com/kala.ayke
Telephone: +251 92 7070803

Location

Turmi

My Rating

3 out of 5 stars

Dorze Lodge

Dorze Lodge is situated at an altitude of 2400 meters, on the edge of an escarpment, offering spectacular views. The lodge is overlooking the Nechisar National Park and the Lakes Chamo and Abaya.
I slept here while doing a story in the Dorze Village and it’s the only real place to stay while up in the mountains. You’ll sleep in a traditional Dorze Hut called an ‘elephant hut’ because they have the shape of an elephant, a reminder of the time when there were elephants in this area — really beautiful! And the view in the morning is breathtaking, just wow! There are huts with a bathroom and a terrace and an amazing view that cost around €30.00 / $35.00 a night. I paid the same for a single hut with nothing but a bed and a chair and access to a communal bathroom outside.

The communal toilets were disgusting, the showers too (couldn’t shower), just really dirty. While writing this and doing my research, I find out that, according to the lodge’s webpage, the single room for one person costs only €13.00/$15.00 a night, while a nice hut with a bathroom costs €30.00 / $35.00. My guide charged me double the price for a small room without a bathroom!
At night, the electricity is switched off and only gets switched on again after sunrise, so you’ll need a flash light. I would stay here again if charged the correct price and only in a hut with a bathroom. The lodge also has a restaurant with a cozy fire place. Just do your business directly with the lodge and not with a guide!
When at Dorze village, try to also catch the beautiful market in Cencia (usually on Saturday but ask again to be sure). It’s a 30 minute Bajaj drive from Dorze.

Double room: €30.00 / $35.00 a night, not incl. breakfast

Location

Dorze village

My Rating

3.5 out of 5 stars

Merka to Pension

I had to spend one night in a hotel in the city but I would not recommend this one to anyone. My guide took me here, he said it was cheap and close to the bus station. Both is true. However, I felt totally unsafe, like anyone could break in. There were drunk men in the restaurant downstairs hitting on me…and then I got woken in the middle of the night to the sounds of loud prayers from the mosque next door, I could hardly sleep because this went on until I had to get up. Altogether, there are just better places to stay, but you can’t beat the price…;)

Single room: €10.80 / $12.10 a night, not incl. breakfast

Eating out in Arba Minch

JEMB Restaurant
I had to look for a place to eat, since there was no proper food at my hotel. And this place I can recommend. I think it’s more of a lunch place, because there were hardly any guests when I was there in the evening, but what I ate was good. They have a variety of dishes from fish and meat to vegetarian:

https://www.tripadvisor.de/Restaurant_Review-g776853-d10046997-Reviews-JEBM_Restaurant-Arba_Minch_Southern_Nations_Nationalities_and_People_s_Region.html

Location

Arba Minch

My Rating

1.5 out of 5 stars

Hotel Habescha

Online, this place doesn’t look very good but it was great! The room was clean, I had hot water and electricity. They have a small restaurant where I ate one of my best injera while in Ethiopia, and for a good price too. Although they couldn’t speak much English, the staff was really sweet and helpful!
When I left, the man working at the place helped me find my minibus back into the city and carried my suitcase (which is pretty heavy) on his shoulders to the street. He wanted to help me save money. There was also a little market I visited on my own. The locals were a bit shocked and amused that I wasn’t with a guide or a group. I went into this clothing store, looking for a certain cloth for a photo but they didn’t have what I was looking for, so the clerk went outside with me to find a vendor who could help me. He stayed with me and helped me until I found something. In the end, he didn’t ask for or expect money from me, I was very touched by that! I would come back to this area to see more. The hotel is definitely not luxurious but for me it was perfect! I didn’t find this hotel on booking.com, instead I called and reserved the old fashion way..:)

Single room: €12.36 / $14.05 a night, incl. breakfast

Here are two more upscale alternative boutique hotels near Hawzen, nestled between the Gheralta Mountains:

Gheralta Lodge:
https://gheraltalodgetigrai.com

Korkor Lodge
https://korkorlodge.com

Guide Hawzen / Magab
My guide here was Haile. He took me to his home in the Gheralta Valley. This area was affected badly by the infamous 1980s famine. That’s why I was here, to talk to people about how that could have happened. I was very touched by his beautiful mother and her story and experiences. At the end, Haile understood what it was that I was doing and helped me get better deals wherever he could. He was a good guide.

You should know, however, that you do not need a guide to climb the Gheralta mountains. You only need someone to help you carry your stuff. That someone you will find at the starting point of the hiking spot. Also, you don’t need to get to the hiking spots by jeep, take a motor cycle taxi, it’s way cheaper (they’ll pick you up too, when you’ve come back down) and it’s much more adventurous. You’ll find Haile and most of the guides in the small village of Magab which is the next village after Hawzen. There is a tourist office where you have to pay a “tourist fee” on top having to pay for a guide. The market in Magab is also definitely worth looking at.
Email: Hailekorkor@gmail.com
Telephone: +251 91 426 3799

Parrot Guest House

This is a simple but clean place where I had a room with my own bathroom, but most of all it is where I found my last story. While eating dinner in their little restaurant, fellow guests asked for a glass of honey wine. I was curious, so I ordered a glass too. It turned out the mother of the owner makes some of Ethiopia’s best honey wine. I asked if I could cook with her and that worked out, which turned into a beautiful last story in Ethiopia.
If you ever stay in this guest house, ask to see the wine bar of Tsehay Abraha. It doesn’t really have a name because everyone knows it.
As for the guesthouse, the breakfast was simple but it takes some time for them to prepare. They also offer simple dinners. The one thing I would be mindful of, is making sure you pay the rate you booked online. I got confused with the different currencies and only later realized I paid more than I should have. Mek’ele is Ethiopia’s second largest city, and there is a lot you can do here, I liked it.

Single room: €23.30 / $26.40 a night, incl. breakfast

Location

Mek’ele

My Rating

4 out of 5 stars

*Please note that prices may differ or fluctuate. Please contact the Hotels/Lodges directly for more information.

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