What to Do in Ethiopia

Are you looking for Ethiopia travel tips?

As part of our “Travel Tips” series we interviewed Marcello Arrambide who traveled throughout Ethiopia for roughly three months and lived there for two months.

Marcello share’s with us his Ethiopia travel tips and knowledge on what to do in Ethiopia for those looking for the best places to see, eat, stay, drink, and explore.

Take it away Marcello…

Why Visit Ethiopia?

Ethiopia has a tremendous amount of history and culture and is one of the most ancient civilizations that we have today. It is one of the only places in the world that has a completely unique culture that isn’t similar to others.

ethiopia travel

The costs of traveling to Ethiopia are extremely cheap, the food is delicious, crime is almost nonexistent, and if you like coffee why not go to the place that invented it?

Best Things to See and Do?

The Omo Valley is a very interesting cultural experience as they are one of the last parts of the world that haven’t been influenced by the western world.

Ethiopia is the only place you can access Somaliland (Somalia), the real-life Camelot can be found in Gondar, the second Jerusalem in Lalibela, and the history of a powerful empire in the city Axum.

Don’t forget the bustling an interesting capital, Addis Ababa, that can easily be called the capital of Africa. Once you head to the East you can visit the fourth most religious city for Muslims in Harar and feed hyenas.

Best Areas to Explore?

• Addis Ababa
• The Northern circuit; Axum, Gondar, & Lalibela, Semene Mountains
• The Southern Circuit: Awasa, Omo Valley, Rift Valley Lakes
• The East: Harar & Somaliland (Somalia)

Ethiopia travel

Where to Eat?

I tended to already stay away from restaurants and big hotel chains to eat and Ethiopia proved that right. The food is already extremely reasonable and the best places to eat in Ethiopia are in local restaurants.

Anyone is going to serve you some of the best coffee you ever had and the prices many times will be under two or three dollars. There aren’t many street vendors in Ethiopia, the local restaurants are the way to go.

You Can’t Visit Ethiopia Without Eating _______?

Food in Ethiopia is very unique, while they do have popular choices like many varieties of meat, the sponge like bread called Ingera is unique to their culture and country.

Most Ethiopians eat with their hands and you typically pick up your food with the engineer of bread. You have to try the lamb or beef tibs.

Ethiopia travel

Where to Drink Coffee?

I kid you not when I tell you that I used to drink six or seven machiatos every day because the coffee was that good. There is a coffee ceremony that you should definitely experience which is very unique.

You can find the coffee anywhere in the country including local cafés, hotels, restaurants, and corner stores.

Where to Stay?

Accommodation in Ethiopia is very reasonable, even in the developed cities like Addis Ababa you’re going to pay anywhere between $7-$15 a night for a private room with a shared bathroom and up to $20 to $30 for a private room and bathroom.

In Addis, I recommend Taitu Hotel which is very centrally located and you have all the services you need inside the compound.

Any Markets or Shopping Districts Worth a Visit?

Addis Ababa is home to Merkato which is one of the largest markets in Africa and the largest open air market on the continent.

To add to the interesting nature of the surrounding area, this is a Muslim neighborhood where you can find very interesting people and things to see.

Major Events and Festivals Throughout the Year?

Timkat, Timkat, Timkat! This is where Ethiopians celebrate Epiphany and is one of the most colorful and best festivals to witness in the country. Timkat is celebrated on January 11th.

Meskel, or finding of the true cross, is also a large celebration where we can see thousands of people celebrating, eating, singing, and an endless amount of flowers being thrown.

I would also recommend that you check out the new year celebrations that are held on September 1 every year. Consider that Ethiopians have their own calendar (dates listed above are in a Western calendar).

What’s the Best Way to Get Around?

Traveling around the country is very cheap, if you’re going over long distances I would recommend that you fly. I bought two round-trip tickets to three different cities for only $210, the roads are atrocious between cities so it is best to fly since the prices are so cheap.

Within city limits you can use local transport which depending on the city can be a combination of toyota vans, three wheeled tuk tuks, and even motorcycle taxis.

Is Ethiopia WiFi friendly?

The only thing that Ethiopia does not have is good Internet access, after the war with Eritrea their access to the coast was cut off along with its Internet access. The only place to find good Internet access is a large hotel chains.

It does not have to be a brand name hotel like Hilton or Sheraton but make sure you find a big hotel and you will surely find Internet access.

Most of the time you will be able to find it for free as well as long as you buy something, my favorite is six or seven machiatos.

Best Time of Year to Visit?

The best time overall to visit the country would be in the fall between September to December. You can avoid the rainy season in most parts of the country and the weather is also very temperate.

When I was living in Addis Ababa, the days were warm, but not hot, and the evenings were very cool.

Getting There and Away?

The best way to get to Ethiopia would be to fly directly into the country. Flying between countries in Eastern Africa is tremendously expensive and considering the mountainous region that Ethiopia lies in it’s very hard to get information during countries.

The only border that can be crossed by land is via Kenya and even that has seen significant problems. Fly into the capital Addis Ababa, Ethiopian Airlines is one of the best airlines in Africa.

Best “insiders” tip for travelers?

Many people don’t know that Ethiopia is the religious homeland for Rastafarians (mostly Jamaicans). The last King of Ethiopia is their God and there is a city just outside Addis Ababa which can be considered the Jamaican homeland.

It’s a surreal experience to go to Africa and see all the Rastas around, definitely something you should check out.

Ethiopia is also the gateway to Somaliland (Somalia) which most people find extremely dangerous, I love Somaliland and would highly recommend that you visit.

Ethiopia travel
Why not kiss a Hyena??

I love Ethiopia because _______?

Ethiopian culture resembles no other and being such an ancient civilization it’s extremely interesting and fascinating to get to know.

Supposedly, their history descends directly King Solomon. It is extremely cheap, the people are friendly, open to new cultures and people, and the women are beautiful.

BIO: Marcello Arrambide is a day trader that has been living overseas in 10 countries across 4 continents.  You can find out more about Marcello on his travel blog WanderingTrader, on his Day Trading Academy site, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

Craig Makepeace is the founder of yTravel Blog and has been traveling the world since 2002, first with his wife Caz, and now with his two daughters. Get his free email series on the 4 best ways to reduce travel costs. Follow him on Google+

19 Comments on “What to Do in Ethiopia”

  1. Great interview, Marcello! We’ve long been fascinated by Ethiopian history, music, cuisine and culture, so at some point we’re just gonna have to go there to experience it for ourselves. Thanks for the tips (but not for reminding me how long it’s been since I’ve had some good injera)!
    Bret @ Green Global Travel recently posted..How To Avoid The Downsides Of Frequent Travel
    Bret @ Green Global Travel recently posted..How To Avoid The Downsides Of Frequent Travel

  2. Lisa Brown

    Correction: you can also cross by land through Djibouti.

    Thanks for writing about Ethiopia, a land that I also love!

  3. This is amazing – i never realized Ethiopia had such cool architecture.
    John recently posted..Exploring The Ruins of The Old Los Angeles Zoo
    John recently posted..Exploring The Ruins of The Old Los Angeles Zoo

  4. Those are churches carved out of stone and the real life camelot I have to tell you John is absolutely INCREDIBLE!!!!
    WanderingTrader recently posted..Getting To Know The Beautiful People Of Somaliland
    WanderingTrader recently posted..Getting To Know The Beautiful People Of Somaliland

  5. Ethiopia has long been a country that I’ve dreamed of visiting, mostly for its world class cuisine, but also for the fascinating history and incredible culture. Hoping to visit Ethiopia on my next trip to East Africa!
    Mark Wiens recently posted..How to Eat Like a Food Blogger and Stay Slim
    Mark Wiens recently posted..How to Eat Like a Food Blogger and Stay Slim

  6. Ethiopia is on my bucket list and I hope to get there whenever I finally make it to Africa, so I love the tips. The country sounds even better than I imagined. If the Ethiopian calendar is anything like the Hebrew calendar in Israel, the holidays etc are probably not on the same Latin/Western dates every year, right? Do you know where I can find an updated Ethiopian calendar in English?
    Ayelet – All Colores recently posted..Jerusalem Ice Festival: Jerusalem Made of Ice
    Ayelet – All Colores recently posted..Jerusalem Ice Festival: Jerusalem Made of Ice

  7. @ayelet: I would look on Timeanddate.com. They will show the major holidays on our calender so you can understand it even though it will be on a different calender
    WanderingTrader recently posted..My View Of Machu Pichu, Peru
    WanderingTrader recently posted..My View Of Machu Pichu, Peru

  8. Thank you for all of this wonderful information on Ethiopia. My husbnd and I are travelling there from Canada for one month in December and really looking forward to it

  9. Ethiopia is a truly wonderful country. What else can I say.

  10. Nice overview! Marcello. Ethiopia has many histories that is so much interesting specially south is best place to visit.

  11. Adehi George

    Im coming into adddis ababa tomorow and staying for a week, will like to get someone that willl show around.will be glad if I can get any reliable contact. Tanks

  12. I am planning a big family trip, renting an appartment for a month Between dec 26 to Jan 20… Some of the places I must visit are Bahar Dar, Caves in the south, Erta Ale lava, Simien Mnts, Gondar, Harar (my birth place), and the Capital

    1) How much spending should take in USD?
    2) Should I rent a car and drive or fly? if flight, should I book online or travel agent within the country

  13. Ethiopia is such a wonderful country gives amazing nature enjoy. Historic places in Axum, Gonder, Bahir Dar in North Ethiopia brings you Ethiopian’s magnificent history, which encompasses legend and tradition, mystery and fact, from a powerful and religious ancient civilization.

  14. I had an amazing time traveling to Ethiopia, i went to see the North and the South , its was the most beautiful time i never had

  15. Ethiopia is a land of contrasts and diversity. It is a land of remote and wild places which you might have ever visited in your life. The best tourist attractions in this place include.
    ◾Lake Tana
    ◾Blue Nile Falls
    ◾Lake Assal
    ◾Simien Mountains National Park
    ◾Ras Dashen
    ◾Awash national Park
    ◾Mount Entoto
    ◾National Museum of Ethiopia
    ◾Lake Abbe
    ◾Sof Omar Caves
    ◾Mago National Park
    ◾Yangudi Rassa National Park
    ◾Omo National Park

  16. Great tips! I had a round trip around northern Ethiopia last month. Unfortunately, Ethiopian Airlines raised their prices by up to 300% recently and it’s not that cheap to fly anymore. But in general I don’t think it does a lot of harm to travelers. Ethiopia is so amazingly beautiful that I wouldn’t even dare using a plane. I can’t imagine missing all those spectacular views I’ve seen using cars and public buses :)
    Justyna | one-penny-trip.com recently posted..How I Found Myself In Addis Ababa
    Justyna | one-penny-trip.com recently posted..How I Found Myself In Addis Ababa

  17. Batseba Seifu

    We have houses/apartments for rent in Addis Ababa according to your needs if you are staying here for at least a year. Please contact me at +251 938 59 40 60.

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