How do I get there?
Ethiopian Airlines has a large fleet flying to major African capital cities, and to Yemen.
It also effectively connects West and East African countries and a few major cities in
Europe such as London and Frankfurt. The international airport is 8km outside the capital
city, Addis Ababa. You can rent a car, take a taxi or board the bus to the city centre.
Djibouti has a railway line to Addis Ababa, which is, however, not open to tourists at
Road travel is possible from Sudan, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti. Many of
these are, however, unsafe or ill-maintained.
Ethiopian Airlines runs an extensive internal network and has reasonable prices. However,
reconfirmation at all legs of the journey is essential to avoid spending time at obscure
Ethiopian bus rides are a charming combination of unbelievably cheap tickets and equally
unbelievably slow speeds. (Your cup of tella?!) It is a good idea to get
tickets early to avoid being ripped off by the local touts. Inside Addis Ababa, taxis are
a better option than the local buses, on which your pockets are liable to feel very
light after a while. Be sure to bargain with the driver first, since settling for the
first quoted fare will be extortionate and set a very bad tourist precedent. Renting your
own car and driving around is an option but really quite entirely at your own risk.
The Addis Ababa to Dire Dawa trip is not recommended. The bus ride passes through better
scenery and is faster.
The main tourist office in Addis Ababa
is the Ethiopian Tourism Commission near Maskal Square.
Since Ethiopia enjoys pleasant weather
almost throughout the year, one can go pretty much any time of the year. It is probably a
good idea to avoid the very wet months of June and July.
Where do I Stay?
There are some high quality hotels in Addis Ababa and other bigger towns. There are also
cheaper hotels in Addis Ababa and other major towns like Axum that have the ambience of
chaotic bars and brothels. Generally, there is a good variety of budget accommodation.
What to bring
Apart from a keen eye and a taste for adventure and long periods of travelling,
lightweight clothing for the hot and humid lowland areas and warmer clothes for the cold
evenings and mornings in the higher countryside. Anti-mosquito measures and all personal
medicines are a must.
There is a range of cheap or slightly
higher-end places to eat in Addis Ababa, from cafes serving Pizzas and other
Italian cuisine, to burger joints, converted colonial mansions and Indian/Chinese restaurants.
The range of eateries decreases in the smaller towns around the country, but
finding food will never be a problem if one isnt too fussy. A meal at a local
Ethiopian restaurant is also thoroughly recommended--it is an experience! Guests will be
given soap, water and a towel to wash their hands before pieces of injera (type of
bread) are used to scoop up wat (either meat, chicken or vegetables in a hot pepper
sauce) or tibs (fried pieces of steak). No cutlery is used. There is also a big
selection of seafood available in Ethiopia. It is a good idea to avoid salads-- these
can contain high levels of pesticide and germs for liver fluke.
There is a decent variety of nightclubs and discos in Addis Ababa ,
cinema houses showing mainly American, Indian and Arab films, and some good theatre
showcasing anything from Shakespeare to Ethiopian traditional music and dance.
In Addis Ababa, apart from the
Mercato, the huge open-air shopping market, there are more up market options along
Churchill Ave and in the bigger hotels. If exquisite native Ethiopian jewellery, gold and
silverware, ceramics, leatherwork and florists are what you are looking for, then the
Piazza is the place to head for. Shops are usually open from: Monday to Friday: 0800-4230
Saturday: 0900-1300 and 1500-1900
Events and Festivals
The Ethiopian calendar is marked by a number of Christian festivals
reminiscent of the colourful fiestas common to catholic Latin America. These include the
celebration of Christ's baptism at the festival of Timkat, which takes place on the
19th of January every year. The festival, which runs for three days, is marked
by massive Masses and late night picnics. Ethiopian Orthodox Christmas is
celebrated on 7 January. The Ethiopian New Year, which is called Enkutatash and is
celebrated on 11 September, is a colourful affair, with lots of singing and dancing on the
streets. 27 September is the date for another Christian festival, Maskal,
celebrated by burning giant bonfires in town squares.