We had a wonderful trip. John, Greg and I all could have kept going for another couple of weeks. We loved everything...the places, the people, the food and wine.
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Suggested Length of Stay
If you want a good overview of Ethiopia, experiencing the cultural and natural wonders of the country a good length of stay is between 7-10 days. For travellers who want to experience all that Ethiopia has to offer including National parks in the south 14 days, would be more than enough to truly capture all the beauty of the country.
Recommended length of stays in the more popular destinations are Addis Ababa 1 night, Axum 2 nights, Lalibela 2 nights, Simien Mountains 3 Nights, Bahir Dar 2 nights, Gondor 2 nights and Omo Valley 2 nights.
Modes of transport
The more popular way of tourists travelling around Ethiopia is with overload and 4x4 tours. Like many countries in Africa, the roads are all-weather roads, with few outside the capital paved. Some delays can be expected under poor weather conditions.
The national carrier Ethiopian Airlines operates daily "Historic Route Service" for tourists connecting Addis Ababa to the historic cities of the northern circuit Aksum, Bahir Dar, Gondar and Lalibela. Connecting flights also run daily between these northern cities. There are also flights serving other key centres including Arba Minch, Assosa, Dire Dawa, Gambella, Gondar, Jijiga, Jimma, Mekele and Semera.
Trekking and walking tours within the Simien Mountains national park is becoming an ever increasingly popular option with the more adventurous traveller and the best way to see the endangered Walia Ibex, The Simien Fox and Gelada Baboon.
Ethiopia can be visited all year round; however different seasons have different advantages.
The optimum time to visit Ethiopia is from mid-October to January when the rainy season has come to an end and the countryside is still quite green. This is also the peak tourist season, so facilities and sites of interest tend to be busier than at other times. It is well worth aiming to be in Lalibela or Gondar for Timkat (Ethiopian Epiphany), another wonderfully colourful celebration held on 19 January (except on leap years).
Wisdom would dictate that travellers should avoid the rainy season, which usually starts in June and peaks in July and August in the central and northern highlands. Recent improvements in the northern circuit’s road network over that past few years have made the drive between sights far easier during this season.
Dry season, from February to May, is also a good time to visit, though the scenery tends to become drier and browner towards the end of this period, except in the far south where the first rains often start as early as April.
Wildlife can be observed throughout the year, November to March - is particularly rewarding for bird watching.
Ethiopia is a safe and reasonably healthy country provided you take a few common-sense precautions.
Ensure your inoculations for typhoid, tetanus, polio and hepatitis A are up to date, mainly if you are travelling out of the capital or you will stay away from the largest hotels.
Anti-malarial prophylactics should be taken if you’ll be visiting low-lying moist regions such as the southern Rift Valley and South Omo. There is also a small risk of malaria, especially during the rainy season, at mid-latitude sites such as Bahir Dar and Harar. Malaria is all but absents above 2000m, for instance in Addis Ababa, Gondar, Lalibela and the Bale and Simien mountains.
Avoid drinking or brushing your teeth with tap water. Bottled water is safe and widely available.
It’s a good idea to carry a few packs of antiseptic wet wipes to wash your hands after toilet stops or before meals in more remote areas where running water may not be available.
Ethiopian food characteristically consists of vegetable and often very spicy meat dishes. This is usually in the form of wat, a thick stew, served atop injera, a large sourdough flatbread and made from fermented teff flour.
Ethiopians eat most of the time with their right hands, using pieces of injera (flatbread) to pick up bites of entrées and side dishes.
Meat dishes mainly consist of lamb, chicken and beef. There are several vegetarian options in traditional Ethiopian cuisine. Pork is rarely consumed in Ethiopia as both the Orthodox and Muslim religion forbids it. Addis Ababa and many other cities boast of a wide variety of international restaurants.
After enjoying a traditional Ethiopian meal, it is customary to participate in a traditional coffee ceremony. Enjoy the unique flavour of Ethiopian organic coffee.
The currency of Ethiopia is the Birr (ETB).
Currency controls are strict in Ethiopia. If you have foreign currency exceeding US$3,000, or equivalent, you must declare it on arrival and departure.
You can’t exchange Australian dollars in Ethiopia, but US dollars can be exchanged in most banks. There are limited ATMs in Addis Ababa, mostly in large hotels.
Credit cards are accepted at only a few outlets in Addis Ababa. Travellers' cheques can be cashed at major banks. ATMs are found in major cities but can’t always be used for cash advances. Check with your bank to ensure your credit card will work in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia operates on GMT +3, 3 hours ahead of GMT and 7.5 hours behind AEST. Ethiopia does not observe daylight saving time and all of the countries is on the same time zone.
Tourist visas can be issued on arrival at Bole International Airport for citizens of Australia and many other countries or an e-visa can be applied for online before departure.
Australian Embassy & Consulate contacts in Ethiopia
Cape Verde Street (Turkish Compound)
PO Box 3715
Telephone: +251 11 667 2678 or +251 967 941377
Fax: +251 11 667 2868
Voice Net: 8022 136
Ethiopian Embassy contacts in Australia
3 Sirius Place
Red Hill, ACT 2603
Electricity is 220 volts at 50 cycles. Power cuts are frequent although the largest hotels and restaurants serving international visitors usually have generators. It’s a good idea to bring a torch as some streets in Addis Ababa can be dark at night. A torch will also be useful if you are planning to visit remote locations. Plug standards vary but the Type C (European two-pin) and Type L (Italian three-pin) sockets are most common.
Getting there (stopovers)
Currently, there are no direct flights between Australian cities and Addis Ababa. However, there are many International Airlines that fly via Asian or Middle Eastern cities connecting Australia to Ethiopia. A few examples are Singapore Airlines via Singapore, Malaysia Airlines via Kuala Lumpur and Emirates via Dubai all code sharing with Ethiopian Airlines.
A brief history
The recorded history of Ethiopia dates back more than 3,000 years. According to legend, the city of Aksum, was once ruled over by the Queen of Sheba, who famously visited King Solomon of Jerusalem during her reign, and bore him a son who was crowned as Emperor Menelik I. Ethiopians believe it was Menelik I who brought the Ark of the Covenant to Ethiopia, and who founded the Solomonic Dynasty, which endured until the late 20th century reign of Emperor Haile Selassie I.
Ethiopia as we know it today took its shape by the late 19th century under a series of emperors: Tewodros I (ruled 1855-69), Yohannis IV (1872-89) and Menelik II (1889-1913).
Following the late 19th century 'Scramble for Africa', Ethiopia remained the only African country not to be colonised, largely because of the imperial army's victory over the Italians at the Battle of Adwa on 1 March 1896. Menelik II was the founder of the modern capital Addis Ababa, whose growth was bolstered by the arrival of the Djibouti railway in 1917 and an associated influx of Armenian and French traders. Addis Ababa was chosen as headquarters of the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union), a role it has retained ever since.
In Ethiopia like most African countries the best rule when tipping guides on tours are around $10USD per day. Most restaurants and hotels in larger cities frequented by foreign tourists add a 10% service fee to the bills. However, it is always good practice to tip 10-15% with or without a service charge added.
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