BEFORE YOU DEPART
Original-style camping is in shared permanent twin-share tents that feature cosy beds, wooden floors, full linen, lighting, power points, a bedside table and fans. Twin-share hostel/motel rooms are the go, with the option of a single supplement also available. If you’re travelling solo, you’ll be paired with someone of the same gender.
Travel in purpose-built minibuses or Costal (both with air-con) with forward-facing seats and seat belts. Check out the Essential Trip Information of the individual tour for more information regarding which vehicle you will be travelling in.
Keeping in touch with friends and family at home while you’re traveling is vital and you might surprise yourself. No matter how grown up you are or think you are, staying away from home for a period of time relies on your own independence whilst your parents worry sick about you at home. Getting in touch make the people left behind feel at ease knowing you’re safe. Plus, I bet they’d love to know what you’ve been up to! Why not send them a little souvenir from your travelWe realise it’s not always possible to make a phone call home each day, which is why you should think of alternative ways you can get in contact when it counts.
While tipping in Africa, tip in the local currency and be discreet. The expectation of a tip and the appropriate amount differs by country, but tips are always welcomed and appreciated. Even where locals do not tip, foreigners are sometimes expected to tip except in some countries like Senegal where tipping isn’t prevalent in the culture.
For tour guides, budget $8-$10 per person per day if you’re on a group tour and $15-$25 per person if you’re on a private tour. If your guide is also an expert such as a naturalist or archaeologist expect to pay $10-$20 per person per day. In Kenya and Morocco, tip guides and drivers $2-$5 per person per day on a group tour and higher if you’re on a private tour.
You are also expected to pay every member on the team when you’re on a trekking tour, safari, or adventure expedition such as climbing Kilimanjaro or when on safari in South Africa. Budget $20 per day for adventure guides, $10-$15 for trackers, $5-$10 for cooks, and $2-$3 for other staff. In total, this might come to $50 per day, so be prepared for this expense.
Payments can either be made in cash when you arrive in Ethiopia, by bank transfer. Ethio Travel and Tours can send you an electronic invoice which you can pay by debit/credit card. There is a 3% surcharge for credit card payments.
Ethiopian Airlines is the only internal flight operator. If you are travelling internationally by Ethiopian Airlines then the internal flights are significantly cheaper. Ethio Travel and Tours can organise purchase of internal flights at the cheaper price if required.
If we buy the internal flight for you then we will send you the confirmation from Ethiopian Airlines and all you need to do is present it to the check in desk with your passport.
If you purchase your Ethiopian Airlines international ticket through an agency or through a non-Ethiopian Airlines office the ticket may be issued using ‘code sharing’. In this case Ethiopian Airlines will not offer discounted domestic flights.
For a comprehensive benefits package including air ambulance evacuation and treatment at best hospital in Addis Ababa and neighboring countries and consider our recommended insurance company Insure Trip Ethiopia who provide a 24 hours local number hotline staffed by a qualified physician to assist and guide policy holders. Rates are one of the lowest in the industry staring at just US$0.95 per day.
Visa TOURIST OR BUSINESS VISA, ETT Ethio Travel and Tours can help you obtain the necessary Ethiopian visa support documentation and process your visa in a timely manner.
Mobile SIM card – We provide free SIM cards with mobile data packages card to ETT travelers. Prepaid mobile is widely available at shops or at any ethio SIM card retailers shops.
AIRPORT TRANSFER – ETT will meet all clients arriving at the airport regardless of arrival time.
Arriving Tourists Mobile Phone in Ethiopia
Please be advised arriving tourists to register it at Addis Ababa airport customs windows on arrival, (MEI Number of your mobile phone should be registered) This office is located just after the x-ray machine on the way out. You need to present your passport and phone to office (for the time being) so that the customs officer can enter the IMEI number of your handset in the system and it will be immediately activated and you will be allowed to use your phone on Ethio Telecom’s network with a local SIM. Nothing to pay. You can ask the customs who stand around the baggage claim area who wears blue shirt and dark blue suit. And then they will tell you what to do.
CHOOSING A TRIP
Eating and Drinking in Ethiopia
By Marie Javins
Injera is the staple food of Ethiopia. It’s flat, spongy, bread made from tef, a gluten-free grain found only in the African Horn. It serves as both plate and utensils, and is even shredded into some salads. It’s the love-it-or-hate-it part of Ethiopian cuisine as its distinctive sourdough-like taste is not for everyone. Varying grades of tef make different grades of injera.
Pureed spiced vegetables, chicken drumsticks, hard-boiled eggs, and/or fried meats arrive in little piles on a wide pancake of injera.
Diners are presented with another piece of injera, which they tear into small pieces (using their right hands only). The small pieces are used to consume the puddles of veggies (“wat”) or piles of fried meat (sometimes “wat” or “tibs”) on the plate of injera.
Vegetarians do well on Wednesdays and Fridays, when no meat is eaten. But they suffer the rest of the week when chicken, beef
lamb and goat are standard dishes.
Vegetarians will find a great deal to eat during Ethiopian Lent in March and April, unless they travel in southeastern Muslim areas where Lent is not observed (but Ramadan is). Supermarkets in Addis are well supplied for self-caterers.
Kitfo is warmed meat that is raw. Most tourist literature advises against eating it for health reasons, but it is an integral part of Ethiopian cuisine and could be sampled at an upscale, reliable restaurant or hotel or at a US Ethiopian restaurant.
Kolo is a snack food that may be available during long bus journeys. It is roasted barley, often served in a paper cone. It tastes a bit like popcorn kernels, and popcorn is also a common Ethiopian snack.
Tej is a honey wine, with a deceptively sweet taste that masksits high alcohol content. It’s available in bars frequented by men, while women drink it at markets and in restaurants.
Ambo is a ubiquitous, fizzy bottled mineral water, named for its source that is near the town of Ambo. Other soft drinks include western standards and freshly squeezed juices. Plain tap water is fine in Ethiopia, but avoid it to play it safe.
Coffee is as important to Ethiopians as it is to Americans. Perhaps more so. Ethiopia holds a credible claim to being the birthplace of coffee and highland-grown coffee is its biggest export. An entire ceremony has grown up around coffee, with beans being roasted and ground in front of the guest. Tea is common in lowland Muslim areas.
Western meals are available in larger towns, and pasta is often available even in rural areas. Addis Ababa features restaurants for all tastes and budgets, including Ristorante Castelli (fine Italian), Sangam (Indian), Tomaca (coffee), Burger Queen (burgers), and La Notre (European-style bakery/cafe). The Sheraton and Hilton feature upscale restaurants and Sunday brunches.
Find an Ethiopian restaurant near you. Recommended restaurants include Merkato in Los Angeles, Addis Ababa in Washington DC, and Meskerem in New York. In traditional Ethiopian restaurants, meals are eaten around a mesob — or short, colorful, woven table — and water will be poured over your hands before the food is served. In the U.S., modern tables and chairs are more common in Ethiopian communities.
With Dr Felicity Nicholson. For up-to-date information on health issues across Africa, click here.
Ethiopia, like most parts of Africa, is home to several tropical diseases unfamiliar to people living in more temperate and sanitary climates. However, with adequate preparation, and a sensible attitude to malaria prevention, the chances of serious mishap are small. To put this in perspective, your greatest concern after malaria should not be the combined exotica of venomous snakes, stampeding wildlife, gun-happy soldiers or the Ebola virus, but something altogether more mundane: a road accident.
Within Ethiopia, adequate (but well short of world-class) clinics and hospitals can be found in Addis Ababa and a few other major centres, while functional doctor’s rooms (known as ‘higher clinics’), laboratories and pharmacies are available countrywide. Wherever you go, doctors and pharmacists will generally speak passable English, and consultation and laboratory fees (in particular malaria tests) are inexpensive by international standards – so if in doubt, seek medical help.
Travel clinics and health information
A full list of current travel clinic websites worldwide is available on istm.org. For other journey preparation information, consult travelhealthpro.org.uk (UK) or wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel (USA). Information about various medications may be found on netdoctor.co.uk/travel.
Ethiopia is generally a very safe country. Casual theft and pickpocketing are fairly commonplace in parts of the country, most notably Addis Ababa, but this sort of thing is almost never accompanied by violence. In Addis Ababa, pickpockets might operate anywhere, but favoured areas are the Mercato, and in the vicinity of government hotels in the city centre. Violent crime isn’t a cause for serious concern, but as in any large city one should not wander around at night with a large amount of money or important documents.
In other parts of Ethiopia, the risk of encountering pickpockets is mainly confined to bus stations and markets, and even then only in larger towns. At bus stations, this is most likely to be a loner operating in the surge of people getting onto a bus. In the streets, a favoured trick is for one person to distract you by bumping into you or grabbing your arm, while a second person slips his fingers into your pocket from the other side. It’s advisable to leave valuables and any money you don’t need in a hotel room, to carry the money you do need in a relatively inaccessible place, and to always turn quickly in the other direction if somebody does bump into you or grab you. A useful ruse is to stuff something bulky but valueless (a bit of scrunched-up tissue or an empty cigarette pack) as a decoy in a more accessible pocket. If you need to go out with important documents or foreign currency, carry it in a concealed money-belt, and carry some cash separately so that you need not reveal your money-belt in public.
Thieves often pick up on uncertainty and home in on what they perceive to be an easy victim. In Addis Ababa, where there are plenty of experienced thieves and con artists, always walk quickly and decisively. When you arrive in a new town by bus, stroll out of the bus station quickly and confidently as if you know exactly where you’re going (even if you don’t). Avoid letting the kids who often hang around bus stations latch on to you. Once through the crowds, you can sit down somewhere and check your map, or ask for directions.
One area of risk that is difficult to quantify is that of armed bandits – shifta – holding up a bus. This was quite commonplace a few years ago, but is no longer a serious cause for concern, except perhaps in eastern areas near the Somali border. That said, the sporadic anti-government protests that have broken out in various parts of Oromo and Amhara since 2016 have forced the temporary closure of several roads and have resulted in several attacks on buses and fatal clashes between different ethnic groups or the militia and civilians. Tourists are not likely to be the direct target of any such violence, but there is a risk of being caught in the crossfire, or of having one’s travel plans disrupted by road closures, such as occurred between Awash and Harar in December 2017 and between Dessie and Weldiya in February 2018. Keep your ear to the ground.
It is easy enough to let warnings about theft induce an element of paranoia into your thinking. There is no cause for this sort of overreaction. If you are moderately careful and sensible, the chance of hitting anything more serious than pickpocketing is very small. Far more remarkable than the odd bit of theft, especially when you consider how much poverty there is in the country, is the overwhelming honesty that is the norm in Ethiopia.
We get very mixed feedback from female visitors to Ethiopia. Broadly speaking, most actual travellers, even those on a tight budget, regard it to be a safe and hassle-free country for women by international standards. All told, the risk of rape or seriously threatening harassment is probably lower than in many Westernised countries. Teenage boys yelling obscenities at women, though unpleasant, is ultimately a less innocuous variation on the sort of verbal crap that all single travellers have to put up with from time to time in Ethiopia. Even so, it is not an everyday occurrence (unless perhaps you settle in Shashemene), and it is most unlikely to occur in the company of a respected guide or another local person. Women travellers are less likely to hit problems if they refrain from drinking alone, avoid staying in local hotels at the brothel-cum-barroom end of the price scale, and turn down any invitation that could be construed as a potential date.
Dress may also play a role in how you are perceived. In rural areas particularly, both Muslim and Christian, it is good sense to look to what local women wear and follow their lead. To quote a former volunteer: ‘If I wear sleeveless clothes then I tend to get a constant stream of comments and stares, even in Addis Ababa, so I wouldn’t dress in this manner in smaller towns where faranjis are few and far between.’ Another reader adds: ‘We came prepared with skirts and headscarves, but there was no need to wear them. We wore pants/trousers and that was acceptable. I saw some women travellers wearing shorts, but I’m not sure that I’d feel comfortable with that unless they extended below the knee – even then I’d think twice.’
A couple of readers have highlighted the problems specifically facing black female travellers in Ethiopia, where women retain a somewhat subservient role by Western standards. European women are not expected to fit the mould, but nobody seems quite certain on which side of the chasm to place black Western women. Black women who travel alone in Ethiopia are in for a strange time, and they will often experience African sexual attitudes at first hand. The obvious area of solution is to dress and carry yourself in a manner that precludes confusion: don’t come with a rucksack full of flowing African dresses and bright blouses, but rather wear jeans or preppy clothes, things that would rarely be seen on an Ethiopian woman.
Homosexual activity, both male and female, is illegal in Ethiopia, and punishable by up to 15 years’ imprisonment. Homosexuality is also regarded as sinful by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and by Islamic law, for which reason the vast majority of Ethiopians (as many as 97% according to a 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Project) consider it to be unacceptable behaviour. In 2008, a group of prominent religious figures, including the heads of the Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic churches, urged the government to enact a constitutional ban on homosexual activity, likening it to bestiality and blaming it for a perceived rise in sexual attacks on children and young men. None of which necessarily amounts to an obstacle for gay or lesbian travellers wishing to visit Ethiopia, provided they are willing to be discreet about their sexuality. Note, too, that most hotels forbid two men (and in some cases two women) from sharing a room with a double bed.