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Grand Escapades’ Budget Guide To Ethiopia

Depending On Where You Go!

Simien Mountains Lodge, Simien Mountains, Ethiopia

Simien Mountains Lodge, Simien Mountains, Ethiopia

Type Of Travel

The types of travel were completely different on those 3 trips, mainly because you cannot travel the different areas of Ethiopia the same way:

  • To visit the Danakil Depression, you must be on a tour, both because you absolutely need one (you have to have two Jeeps, an armed Afar policeman, an Afar scout, a military escort for Dallol, …) and because it is the law…
  • True, you can discover the Lower Omo Valley on your own, but as there are almost no public transports, you have to have your own wheels if you don’t want to spend weeks there. Moreover, communication will be quite tricky if you do not speak Amharic. So a tour seems to be the only viable way…
  • On the other hand, the Northern Historical Route can be easily done independently.

That said, if I visited the Northern Historical Route on my first trip independently & partly on a budget (except transports as we had only 12 days at hand), the second time I was traveling with my 70+ years parents, and decided to enhance their comfort and took a local and absolutely trustworthy Agency, Pangeans Safari. This, of course, has a significant cost – especially since I chose for my parents a more upscale type of travel & comfort for their first (and maybe only) trip to Africa.


Itinerary & Time Of The Visit

I visited Ethiopia 3 times over the last 5 years and spent approx. 2 months there. Nonetheless, I still have the impression that I haven’t seen it all:

In 2010 – 2011, I discovered a country where tourism was still in a very early phase, but already showing signs of a quick take off. What a surprise when I came back in 2015 and discovered a country that had undergone a tremendous development in many aspects, over a period of only five years!


Global Budget

Costs per Person

per Day in €


Omo Valley


Danakil Depression


Northern Historical Route


Northern Historical Route


Danakil Depression

Duration (Days) 8 6 12 17 5
Type of Travel Tour Tour Flash-packing High-End Tour
Long Distances’ Transport € 51,20 € 12,60
Short Distances’ Transport € 0,00
Total Transport     € 51,20 € 12,60
Hotels € 15,70
Restaurants & Food € 7,30
Drinks & Going Out € 0,00
Every Day Life (& Souvenirs) € 4,70
Total Living     € 27,70  
Visits & Tours € 86,90 € 158,30 € 8,30 152,90 € 230,00
Activities € 0,00
Total Tours & Activities € 86,90 € 158,30 € 8,30 € 152,90 € 230,00
Total Country: € 86,90 € 158,30 € 87,20 € 165,50 € 230,00


Hostels & Hotels

During Tours, accommodation (& food) is included, so the only prices I have are for the trip on the Northern Historical Route when we traveled independently. The Airport Motel should be avoided at any cost (expensive & dirty); the Yeshi Guesthouse was a very pleasant surprise!


(Easter 2011)

Hotel Name Price
(€ per Day)
Type of Accommodation Evaluation

(1* to 5*)

Addis Abeba Airport Motel 21,70 Hostel *
Bahir Dar Dib Andessa Hotel 17,40 Hotel ***
Gonder Atse Bekaffa Hotel 25,60 Hotel ***
Axum Yeha Hotel 55,20 Hotel ****
Lalibela Lal Hotel 27,70 Hotel **
Addis Abeba Yeshi Guesthouse 13,10 Hotel *****
Total 28,60


Restaurants & Food

Most of the time we ended up eating in our hotel or a tourist restaurant, which came to 7,50 Euros per person per day. To be honest, you can only eat so many “Injeras”…

Preparing an Injera - Ari Village, near Jinka, Lower Omo Valley

Preparing an Injera – Ari Village, near Jinka, Lower Omo Valley


Tours & Activities

Everywhere, when we traveled independently, we hired a local guide at the local sights, which added 8,50 Euros per day and person to our budget.



Things have tremendously changed in Ethiopia! Almost all major roads are excellent tarred road (all Chinese build), and there is even a modern highway for the first 130 km from Addis Ababa to Djibouti. Therefore, travel time is now much shorter than it used to be as recently as 5 years ago…

Ethiopian Road

Ethiopian Road

If you have a limited amount of time at hand, flying will save you a lot of travel time, as distances are great and roads crosses mountain ranges on the Northern Historical Route. Remember that if you plan to fly within Ethiopia, domestic tickets are outrageously expensive except if you have used Ethiopian Airlines as an international carrier. So book an international plane ticket on Ethiopian Airlines (they now fly directly to Paris, Frankfurt, Rome, Stockholm, Vienna…) if you plan to fly within Ethiopia!

The time indicated bellow is in a private Jeep, so travel time by bus will be higher, but not necessarily much higher, depending on the type of transport you find (large buses that drive long distances through or minibuses that tend to stop about anywhere)…

From To Transport Distance
Travel Duration
Addis Abeba Dire Dawa Jeep 452 09:50
Dire Dawa Addis Abeba Plane 348 00:40
Addis Abeba Axum Plane 568 01:05
Axum Debark Jeep 271 06:40
Debark Gonder Jeep 124 01:30
Gonder Bahir Dar Jeep 175 03:30
Bahir Dar Lalibela Jeep 309 05:30
Lalibela Mekele Jeep 460 07:00
Mekele Gheralta Jeep 106 01:40
Gheralta Mekele Jeep 106 01:40
Mekele Lake Afdera Jeep 260 06:00
Lake Afdera Erta Ale Jeep 300 07:00
Hamed Ale Mekele Jeep 150 02:40
Mekele Addis Plane 504 01:10
Total 4 133 56:00


Splurge At Reasonable Costs?

Ethiopia is still relatively cheap for African standards, so it is not that expensive to slightly enhance your comfort and enjoy a pleasant guesthouse or hotel.

There is one place that you should consider if you want to splurge a little: the Gheralta Lodge in Tigray, and use it as a base to discover the amazing and quite Off The Beaten Track Rock-Hewn Churches of Tigray. They can organize transfers from and to Aksum or Mekele, and a car with a guide to discover the churches. Yes, it is understandable why this lodge is so immensely popular. Book far, far in advance!

Gheralta Lodge, Tigray, Ethiopia

Gheralta Lodge, Tigray, Ethiopia


Reduce Costs?

If you are on a budget, focus on the parts of the country that you can do independently, and this is the Northern Historical Route. There, especially if you travel by bus between cities, you can easily keep the budget under control.

When heading to the Danakil Depression, you have 2 options, as I explain in the Travel Guide to The Danakil Depression – How To Get There / Choose The Right Agency. One is much cheaper than the other, but also far less flexible…



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