Top tips for visiting northern Ethiopia

In 2015, I finally made it to Ethiopia and specifically travelled around the northern cities as I sunk my teeth into every aspect of the culture, people, food and more.

The country offers so much to visitors, but if you’re planning to take part in any unusual activity then ensure that you have the right type of insurance in place, even opting for extreme sports insurance if necessary.

Below are my top tips for making the most of a visit to northern Ethiopia.

1. Do barter on everything – hotel accommodation (if you’re booking upon arrival), tour guide fees and Bajaj/ taxi journeys.

Bajaj in Ethiopia

2. Protect your health with GOOD malaria tablets. I took Doxycycline before, during and after my trip but do consult your GP weeks before your departure and ensure that you take them for the right duration.

3. Book your international flight with Ethiopian Airlines. The airline monopolises all domestic flights in the country. By booking your international route in this way, you’ll become eligible to the secure maximum discount on the domestic routes which are pretty much essential if you plan to visit more than one city.

4. Travel light. I travelled from the UK to Istanbul as well as five cities in Ethiopia in just seven days with cabin baggage only. This will prevent you spending too much time in airports and more time on the ground.

5. Bring good walking shoes. The historical sites need to be explored on foot and if you have a good tour guide then you will likely cover a lot of ground.
Ad-lib Traveller in Lalibela, Ethiopia

6. Bring a scarf (or several!). Whether you’re covering your hair and shoulders, covering your face in the dusty environment or trying to stay warm during the cooler evenings, you’ll be thankful for having a flexible garment that’s lightweight and interchangeable.

7. Learn to adapt to the environment: we experienced a power cut in Lalibela and occasional low water pressure or no WiFi. Be realistic about the pressures that come with a country that’s developing it’s infrastructure.
Injera and lamb tibs in Ethiopia

8. Budget around £10 per day to cover all food and drink expenses per person. Ethiopia is a very affordable country to visit but it’s all in the planning.

Have you visited northern Ethiopia? Any tips that you’d recommend to visitors?

7 comments

  • Thanks for the tips! Would love to head to Ethiopia sometime. Great tip about the airline–would have never known that! And that’s awesome that £10 a day can buy more than enough food for the day!

  • Never in a million years would I have connected the importance of booking your international flight with the same airline that dominates domestic travel but it makes absolute sense now that I think of it. And I bet this would be absolutely critical if you were arriving internationally and connecting domestically on the same day – the domestic staff would be able to see if some of their international passengers were delayed.

    I am all for traveling light – this is the perfect example. Just grab your bag and go. Waiting 15 minutes to check your bag and 45 to pick it up can add up to nearly a full day of sightseeing’s worth of time in just a short trip.

  • Very excellent list of tips! I’m departing for Kenya in 15 days and I’m going to be taking malaria pills. I’m worried that they are going to have side effects like nausea… so I’m not looking forward to taking them, but I know it’s for the best! Way better than contracting malaria!

    • Thanks for the comment Lauren. Yes, definitely take the malaria tablets! I avoid medication wherever possible but that’s just not a compromise that I was able to make. I’d love to visit Kenya – how long will you be there?

  • Some really useful tips here – thanks. Is it necessary to cover your face in Ethiopia, I mean, for religious reasons?
    I’ve never visited countries in Africa, so am a little clueless. And £10 a day is great!

    • I didn’t feel the need to cover my face but hair, shoulders, bare arms (as with most places) when visiting religious areas. I covered my face a lot simply because of the dust (triggered my asthma).

      £10 was an overestimate, but more than enough to eat like royalty 🙂

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