Ethiopia adventure travel tips
In November 2010 my husband and I traveled around Ethiopia for three weeks by public bus with a private guide. Traveling (especially bus travel) is a real adventure and not for the faint hearted as there are long travel days (even if the bus breaks down) on poorly maintained roads. But it is an excellent way to get up close and personal and experience the life and culture of the locals.
We arrived at the airport at 3.30 am. We didn’t book any accommodation due to our early arrival, so we stayed at the airport until almost 7 am. A taxi agreed to take us into town for $10 USD. We went to the Ras Hotel where we had to wait until 9am to see if they had a room.
Travel tip: We stayed at Ras Hotel 3 times due to its central location. The awful breakfast is included in the price but lunch and dinner are good.
We stayed at the Ghion Hotel on Lake Tana and took a boat cruise to the islands to see the painted churches. The Blue Nile Falls area is beautiful but not worth the long rugged trek to get there. Since dams are built on the river, the waterfalls certainly don’t look like a poster show.
Travel tip: Check if a guide is included with your Lake Tana boat trip. There were 9 of us on our boat. No guide accompanied us on the boat except for our private guide, Samson. The first island we visited Samson was our interpreter or he wouldn’t have understood what we were looking at. The second island we visited the church guide speaks English.
Abandoned castles are very interesting and well worth the guides inside the gate.
Travel tip: We stayed in the Belgez Pension which was cheap, clean and quiet but the rooms were very small and cramped. They do your laundry for a very small fee – they give to the cleaners in the morning.
We did a 4WD day trip with another traveler and our guide, Samson.
Travel tip: We wanted to spend the night even though we’re not hikers, because the scenery is amazing.
We spent two nights in Lalibela exploring the amazing rock-cut churches.
Travel tip: Keep your admission card handy as it will be scanned at the entrance to each church.
Arba Minch is a night bus stop between Addis Ababa and Ginka.
Travel tip: Spend an extra night on one of the stops and take a tour of the lake.
We hired a 4×4 locally to tour the 3 main tribes of the area (Mursi, Hammer and Karo tribes). We shared this cost with 3 other travelers who were on the bus and stayed in the same accommodation as us.
Travel tip: Buy your bus ticket to Addis Ababa early (at least a day in advance) so you can get a better seat number or you’ll find yourself stuck in the back of the bus for the two-day trip. Buy good earplugs so you can block out the noise of playing loud music videos.
We used a variety of modes of transportation which included: public bus, van, 4×4 and boat.
Travel tip: If you find that a few of you are going in the same direction, it will be more economical and comfortable to hire a minibus and driver as we did from Bahir Dar to Gondar (7 people).
A tour guide
We used the services of a private guide. This was the first time we had hired a guide for the entire trip through a new country. The guide proved invaluable in keeping the guides away (they are worth the money alone), dealing with local tour operators and getting hotels.
Travel tip: Use your private guide’s extensive knowledge and experience to enjoy Ethiopia through the eyes of the locals.