We visited Ethiopia twice in 2010-2011. Both times we travelled during the busy season (Christmas and Easter) and spent about two weeks in the country each time. This is not our preferred time and tempo. Nevertheless we felt a lot less rushed than most other tourists. Especially large groups on buses go at a merciless pace!
Omo Valley & Danakil Depression: Christmas 2010 – New Year 2011
On our first trip, we travelled two regions during 17 days. Places that could not be more different and further apart. The Omo Valley, at the very south-west borders to Sudan and Kenya, the Danakil Depression in the north-east, at the border to Eritrea and Djibouti. Both of these regions are remote, even by African standards. So using the services of tour operators was a must. Each time we looked for two other people to reduce costs. This was easier than we thought using the Lonely Planet ThornTree Forum.
For the eight day tour through the Omo Valley we chose Experience Ethiopia Travel and paid 695 Euros per person for a group of four (995 Euros for a group of two). The Omo Valley could be visited using cheap public transport, but this would be very, very time consuming, as well as getting the permits for each village. Moreover, without a guide or driver, it leaves you completely cut off from the local population due to the language barrier.
Pangean Safaris took us six days through the Danakil Depression, again a group of four. This was 950 Euros per person (1.250 Euros for a group of two). Unless you are suicidal, the Danakil Depression cannot be travelled without an organized tour and therefore is extremely costly.
The “Northern Historical Circuit”: Easter 2011
This time we followed the famous “Northern Historical Circuit” (Addis Abeba – Bahir Dar – Gonder – Axum – Lalibela) for 12 days. For this well-trodden trail we felt we did not need a tour company. For the short trip between Bahir Dar & Gonder, we took the bus, for the other four trips we used planes. That ain’t cheap!
Only beginning of April 2011 did Ethiopian Airlines stop charging overinflated “Faranji – Prices” on domestic flights, so we dished out a hefty 450 Euros per person for plane tickets. But roads are improving fast under Chinese guidance and travelling in a dust bowl for hours on a mountain road should soon be history.
We only made one reservation, for the hotel in Lalibela over the Easter weekend. This is recommended if you want to choose. Something really expensive or really cheap is always available. The mid-range to upper mid-range accommodation we chose cost on average 29 Euros per night for a double room. The more upper mid-range the more large groups you have, if this is what you want to avoid.
Most of the time we ended up eating in our hotel or a tourist restaurant, which came to 7.5 Euros per person per day. To be honest, you can only eat so many Injeras….
Everywhere, we hired a local guide at the local sights, which added 8.5 Euros per day and person to our budget.
All in all? Except for flights, we spent 43 Euros per person per day on the Northern Historical Circuit. Considering our choices of hotels and eateries, it was actually quiet cheap…