Why go to Ethiopia or the most amazing country in Africa. Travel Tips
Back at the beginning of the year, I never thought I would be going to this exotic country in the fall. The concept of Ethiopia was at a level-what’s there to do! The concept has changed, thanks to Tourister and Tourists. The first seed of curiosity was a Maksim Starostin, in one of the comments mentioned his desire to go to Ethiopia. After gathering all the information I came to the conclusion that one week in Ethiopia is not enough! The country is fantastically diverse – from the semi-wild tribes in the south
to the ancient orthodox churches
the unaccustomed black abbots
and fantastic, in some places alien, landscapes of the north.
My idea to travel was supported by my countryman, maksim-nav, for what I am grateful to him, to march alone is unreal.
The cost of the flight to Addis Ababa eats up a large part of the budget of the trip. Many people fly the Turks through Istanbul or the Egyptians through Cairo. At least $600 per ticket, if you’re lucky. But then there is a nuance. The roads in Ethiopia are different, generally quite by African standards, but the average speed is reduced by the constant movement along, across and across the roads of camels, donkeys and four-legged goats.
And people and cars on the roads are taken for granted. You can easily drive 200 kilometers for five hours. And while most people take a car tour when traveling south, getting from the capital to the north by car is a waste of an extra 3-4 days of round-trip travel. And Ethiopian Airlines, by the way, the best airline in Africa in recent years, has this trick. If you buy any international segment of Ethiopian airlines, i.e. you fly in and out of the country with this company, then the price for domestic flights will be up to 3 times lower. And if not, you’ll pay about $350 for an hour round-trip flight from the capital to the north, for example. Natural robbery! If you fly in Ethiopians from Europe, the price tag is inadequately over $1500. As a result, I found the most acceptable option – by Turkey with a convenient connection to Nairobi for 450 dollars, and from there Ethiopia to Addis for 150.This allowed to purchase domestic tickets for $ 120 instead of 350 dollars and a plus opportunity to visit the Kenyan reserve Amboseli on the way back. It is most convenient to change money on arrival at the airport. I read that in some tribes they only take new, not greasy fives for a photo. Credit cards are better to forget for a time, they can only be used for payment in hotels in the capital and major cities.
In the capital we booked the Caravan hotel, $58 for a twin. It seems not cheap, but the pluses were the proximity to the airport, free shuttle service and an excellent breakfast. We stayed in the Caravan hotel for less than a month and the hot water was available all the time. Internet access was average, as everywhere else in the country. A little bit about communication. Our valiant operators are charging such high Yakut prices for connection, and especially for internet in Ethiopia, that it is advisable to spend time and buy a cheap local sim card with internet. I got through on my MTS phone with “zero without borders” on, but Tele2 just wrote that the card does not support those operators. To buy a local SIM card you need a passport and registration of your phone model with the operator. You can do it at the airport (I had about twenty people in line) or at the Ethiotel office. It took me about an hour. And you will not top up the balance at the operator’s office! You have to buy a scratch card and enter the code from it via SMS. Scratch cards are sold in stores, from groceries to textiles. In general, there is a lot of nonsense. Mobile Internet only allows you to write text messages to Vyber or WhatsApp, not enough for calls. But the connection is almost everywhere, except for the area of the volcano Erta Ale. In the end, for about 500 rubles, I had two weeks of stable connection to home and work.
About food. In the south, whether you go there from Addis or fly to Arba Mincha and then drive on, the food is well organized. Of course, a lot depends on your Ethiopian tour operator, but there were no problems with ours with food. Our tour operator provides plenty of water. This is included in the tour price. In general, you can find quite decent lodges and hotels in the south.
But you need to immediately adjust to the fact that the light at night are turned off in most places, as the route includes villages where there is no electricity in principle. Problems with water less, but a lot of hot water do not expect, is likely to be warm. Must take batteries, the adapter charger in the car and a flashlight – will be useful 1000%!
What to watch in the south? First of all, the authentic tribes, who live almost as they did hundreds of years ago,
Except that instead of a spear Kalashnikov, plus a cell phone in the tribe. I heard on the Internet that they say it’s all for tourists, they do not live that way! They live this way and even worse than we can imagine! When people live in houses made of garbage,
When people live in rubbish houses, stand in a queue for water, children fight over candies, notebooks and pens, and pregnant women carry bundles of brushwood under 30 kilos – these are for tourists.
The North is more economically developed. In Tigray and Afar regions we visited, the roads were better than in Russia and in Mekelle, the largest city in the north, they were incomparably cleaner than in Addis Ababa. One goes to the north to visit Christian monasteries, the Danakila Depression, the hottest place in the world and the lowest in Africa,
the Hamed Ila salt marsh, which in the rainy season is only slightly inferior to Bolivia’s legendary Uyuni.
and for a trek to the bubbling crater of the volcano Erta Ale. Impressions are unforgettable, but the difficulty of the route is appropriate. Conditions (hotels, toilets, showers, electricity) throughout the route are absent in principle, and on returning to the “base” town of Mequel, a simple hotel with hot water and electricity is perceived as Four seasons on an island in paradise!
In general, such trips change one’s outlook on life in many ways. Problems that seem like problems to us are, for most people there, easy misunderstandings. I’m not urgently urging everyone to sell everything and share it with the locals, but if you go to Africa in general and Ethiopia in particular, take some of your unwanted clothes or shoes (especially), notebooks, pens, candy, and toys for children,
eye drops for adults (the smoke from the fire in the hut corrodes the mucous membrane of the eyes)-you will be sincerely grateful for everything. Do not arrange a “prize giveaway” if you’re surrounded by a crowd-just give through a local attendant to the senior in the village, he knows who needs more.
I did not expect the country to be so green yet!
Most of the area is over 2000 meters above sea level.
Because of this it is not so hot, and at night in some places even cool.
Souvenirs. Try to buy souvenirs in the villages or markets of the tribes of the South,
Do not count on the airport Addisa – the prices there are just cosmic, 10 times higher than in the souvenir shops and markets. The situation is not good with souvenirs – the only place where we saw them was the market in Turmi. They say there are a lot of them in Aksum. The advertised Mercato market in Addis is not the place where you should linger at all. Without a local guide or “help” you will not find anything, at the time of our visit Maxim and I were the only non-locals and we were looked at with sheer surprise. The price tag on the souvenirs offered, which we found with the help of “helper” on some floor of one of the buildings, struck us as exorbitant. In our opinion Mercato-place is extremely negative, it is possible at best to get lost. There is nothing to do there alone.
What else is surprising in Ethiopia. The extreme degree of begging on the one hand – the children at the sight of jeeps with tourists rushing to the road with outstretched hand and shouting “money”, on the other hand, the more educated – civilized people – a desire to sincerely help still rare in their area tourist. And these and other examples of the trip was a mass.
Absolutely do not regret that I drew my attention to Ethiopia-so many different experiences and sensations I have not had any previous trip. And for a photographer, this country is just heaven! How many times I wanted to stop here and there, but the schedule, schedule…
If you still have doubts about going or not – as they used to say in the 80’s in Odessa – “go!” and let my materials will be the trigger that will direct you to this wonderful country…
Ethiopia guide: six reasons to go to the heart of Africa
Currently, only three countries with which Russia resumed air links, the epidemiological situation meets all criteria of Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare: Tanzania, Seychelles and Ethiopia. Options for a vacation, to put it bluntly, not much – and here is one of them. Journey to this unusual country, you really will remember for a lifetime.
See a completely different world
Of course, Africa itself is significantly different from all the European countries, but even against the background of African countries Ethiopia seems very distinctive. Here the nature is unusual for the Black Continent – the country is almost half covered by emerald mountains. The history of the state on this land is 3000 years old, and scattered around the country ancient architectural monuments, the age of which is counted in centuries and millennia. Ethiopia has also remained the only African country that has never been a colony, although Europeans tried to gain influence in the local territories until the mid-twentieth century.
The best time to travel in Ethiopia is from October to February, when there are no extremely high temperatures or rainfall (this period is considered the cold season in the country). From March to April it is best to travel in the north of the country, as it is the rainy season in the south. From May to September is not worth visiting at all: it still rains in the south, in the north – the unbearable heat.
Ethiopia has its own chronology, which begins seven and a half years later than usual. The local calendar has 12 months of 30 days and an extra month with five or six days, depending on whether it is a leap year or not. The day begins at six in the morning here (that is, for locals it is 00:00). Of course, for tourists the daily schedule will be familiar – airports, train stations, banks, stores use the usual time for us, but just in case, check with interlocutors about what time we’re talking about.
The local currency is the Ethiopian Birr. Nowadays 1 Birr is equal to 1,87 Ruble, which means that one US dollar contains nearly 40 Birr. Only new dollars (at least 2013) and euros are accepted for exchange. Cards are not widely accepted in Ethiopia, but there are ATMs serving Visa and MasterCard in every city. By the way, a cow in Ethiopia is also currency: you can exchange it for money or goods. And even for your wife. (How awful!) In short, life in this country really is like nothing else.
Citizens of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus must have an Ethiopian visa: it is made online, valid for 30 days and costs $ 52. You can also get a visa at the airport in Addis Ababa for $ 50.
Get to know African tribesmen
Of course, many travelers come to Ethiopia primarily to experience the life of wild tribes, to share a life with them, to see how they exchange food at the market, and even to live in a traditional hut. All of this is doable, but you can’t do it “in the wild”.
- You will need a guide ($50 per day), because the Ethiopian tribesmen – logically – do not speak English or any other foreign language.
- The tribes themselves have a fee for visiting and taking pictures. In some, this fee is paid directly to the chief, but in others, you have to give a few Birr to anyone who gets in your picture, so before you visit the Aboriginal villages, don’t forget to change large bills for change.
- Many tribes live in national parks and reserves, where you may also have to pay to enter. But all these amounts are small enough. Local tour operators offer one-day organized tours to the tribes, the cost of which ranges from 100 to 150 dollars: it already includes a guide, transportation and tribal fee.
A yellow fever vaccination is mandatory to enter Ethiopia. Also, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends entering the country after routine vaccinations against measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, smallpox, polio, influenza, hepatitis A and typhoid fever. It’s also a good idea to buy antimalarial pills and repellent sprays before you travel.
There are several Ethiopian tribes that travelers can interact with in person, all of whom live in the southern Omo Valley. When visiting the natives, remember that the African tribes’ villages are their real habitats, not just a colorful attraction for tourists.
An African Mursi woman with a large lip plate
The Mursi are the most famous of the Ethiopian tribes. It is easy to recognize them by their unusual accessory – an impressively sized clay disc inserted in the lower lip (in the modern tribe it is mostly women and girls who are adorned in this way). They say that once upon a time members of the Mursi tribe mutilated themselves in this way in order not to be taken into slavery; today the clay disc is a “source” of income, because tourists often take pictures of the “decorated” natives. The men wear loincloths only in front of tourists – and are happy to take them off for a photo, while the rest of the time they prefer to parade around naked.