Ethiopia notes

I was in Ethiopia between the 30 of April 2018 and the 034 of June 2018. The information and prices were correct at the time of writing.

Whilst I was there the exchange rate was 37.27 ETB to 1 GBP or 27.60 ETB to 1 USD.

I only cycled a handful of days in Ethiopia as I didn’t feel safe on the road, for this reason there is no daily descriptions for this country.

Visa
I got my visa at the Ethiopian Consulate in Khartoum. It could all be done in one day but I went one day to collect the form and the next to process the visa. Mine got done on the same day whilst I waited.

The visa starts on the day of issue and as I wanted to make sure I got enough time in the country  I filled in quite a detailed itinerary and got a 3 month visa without any trouble. You also need the name of a hotel.

Below is the itinerary I gave:

Gondar 3 days
Simien Mountains 5 days
Axum churches 3 days
Mekele 3 days
Danakil depression 5 day
Mekele 3 day
Lalibela churches and hiking 4 days
Lake Tana 4 days
Debra Markos 4 days
Addis Ababa 7 day
Ahawasa 5 days
Abra Minch 4 days
Omarate 2 days
Yabelo 4 days
plus 9 days for travel

I took with me:
a photocopy of my passport
2 Passport photo – there is a photo shop right next door to the embassy
60 USD (for a three month visa)

I got there at about 7.30 and there was already quite a lot of people, a lot of them Eritreans. It seems that the Eritreans get their name on a list. I didn’t  have to put mine on the list but I went to the official doing the list and asked him what was the process and what did I have to do. He told me to wait and I sat in the grass with some Eritreans.

After a while he asked me to go in – men go on one side and women on the other – you are security checked and need to leave everything including your phone in a locker (you can take in paper book/notebook) – The person checking you gives you two cards one for your things and the other is the number for the visa.

At the main visa hall they call the numbers, in Arabic although after a while they started to use English as well. The official checks your form, asks you a couple of questions and in my case there and then said she would give me 3 months.

Then you wait and eventually the cashier call your name and you pay your money.

Then you wait again and they call your name and presto your passport has the Ethiopian visa on it.

On arrival
I entered the country through the Metema border.

Just after the sign reading Customs Control in English and Amharic there is a building on the right where you get your passport stamped after being fingerprinted and having your photo taken.

After that you proceed to a blue and white that reads Ethiopian Revenues &Customs Authority where your luggage is checked. They didn’t check mine too thoroughly.

Money
There is an ATM of the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia on the right hand side very close to the border GPS 12.955083,36.15434

There may be helpful people around it wanting ‘to help’ you to use the ATM. I refused

I had no issues drawing money from ATMs anywhere in the country.

Ethiopian SIM card
I waited until I arrived in Addis to get my SIM but they are easy to get. First you need to register your phone at one of the Ethio telecom offices. Registration is free.

Once the phone is registered you can get the SIM. I paid 30 birr for it. Cutting it to size was another 20 birr.

You then buy credit, some of which can be used for data

Connectivity wasn’t brilliant but was good enough for me.

Food and drink
Prices varied enormously from one place to the next.  which is why I can’t give any average price. I was charged for bayonet (fasting food), injera with different vegetarian sauces anything from 50 to 150 birr.

The only thing that as pretty standard was the coffee (buna) which costs 5 birr but on one ocassion I paid 30 birr for it!

On the road
As I mentioned above, I only cycled a couple of days in Ethiopia. I had experienced all the being chased by children screaming “YOU YOU YOU” and asking for money whilst some of them tried to hold onto my bags but when an older teenager punched me as I went by for no reason at all my resolve not to cycle in Ethiopia was firmed up.

Personal Safety
Please note what follows is the personal experience of one individual and it does not intend to provide any authoritative account with regards to safety in the coutry or account to recommendation to travel there. We are all different, our attitude to risk and our perception of safety is different too.
Always check your government’s travel advice for Egypt before making your decision.

I didn’t feel safe in Ethiopia. On the road I was hassled in every village. Ethiopia is a densely populated country and I found it  impossible to be on my own. Anytime I stopped there would be people gathering around me asking for money, food, my bike…

Once I started travelling on organised tours with my daughter things changed, probably because of the constant presence of local guides.

Personally, I have no desire to return to Ethiopia, muc less to cycle there.

Accomodation
Below I have listed where I spent the night at each location and the cost. For the coordinates check here.

Shehibi – Zenbaba Hotel – 150 birr. Basic but clean, shower in the room but no hot water but shared toilet. I didn’t find them particularly friendly. There are eateries down the road.

Camped in a small hamlet 68 Km from Shehibi. The villagers were really friendly and one of the women gave me some water to tie me over.

Gonder – Yohannes Guesthouse – 250 birr – shared bathroom and toilet – hot water. WIFI near the main house.  Yohannes is a friendly guy but if you thinking of getting excursions shop around as he is quite expensive. A nice place to meet other travellers. You can also camp.

Addis – Wim’s Holland House – 150 birr camping and 200 for a room with shared shower and toilet (hot water and great shower) or 400 birr for a big double room en suite. WIFI in the restaurant areais OK. A nice place to meet other overlanders. The food is a bit pricey but nice.

Lalibela – Sora Lodge – 55USD – a treat – lovely location and high standards. Good WIFI in the room – breakfast is included.

Mekele – Sayzana Pension – 250 birr double en suite. Hot water. Poor WIFI only in reception. Clean and comfortable. There is an excellent place for breakfast just across the road.

Axum – The Ark Hotel – 300 birr for a double en suite with hot water. Clean and comfortable, dodgy WIFI.

Gonder – the L Shape Hotel – 280 birr  double en suite with hot water. Clean and comfortable. Good reasonable restaurant at the hotel. WIFI in the room.

Harar – Belayneh Hotel – 300 birr en suite with hot water. Clean and comfortable – No WIFI when I was there. The restaurant is not particularly brilliant so I would eat somewhere else.

Arba Minch – Zebib pension – 400 birr for en suite, hot water

Yabelo – Yabelo Motel – 600 birr – Absolutely no value for money, they started by asking 45 USD! – The water tap did not work in the sink, and the WiFi did not work either.

Moyale – Koket Borena – 400 birr for an en suite with hot water. WIFI in the main reception/restaurant area. Clean and comfortable. Good place for breakfast 100 meters down the road on the right before the market stalls.