Passport and Visa requirements:
Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months after having left Ethiopia. Also keep in mind that your passport needs at least 2 consecutive blank pages. A photocopy of your passport is a great idea (keep it somewhere separate in your luggage).
At present, a visa is required for entry as a tourist into Ethiopia. You need to arrange this yourself. You should apply to your nearest Ethiopian embassy or use a specialist visa agency such as CIBT. For some nationalities it's possible to obtain a tourist visa on arrival into Addis Ababa airport, visitors will need to bring two recent passport-sized photographs and no less than US $50. Please check the visa requirements for your country well in advance of travel as they can of course change at any moment. You can check visa requirements through a site such as this one.
During this trip we use double rooms, some with shower and toilet in the room, where we stay in simple, centrally located where possible, budget hotels. The quality of hotels varies quite a bit, one occasion the rooms are more luxurious and another, they are more basic. Please note that the electricity can sometimes fail and the water supply may stop unexpectedly.
In the south we camp in Turmi for two nights. Facilities while camping are simple. We use double tents arranged by our local agent. We also provide the other camping equipment. However, you must bring your own sleeping bag. The campsite in Turmi has decent toilet and shower blocks, which are cleaned regularly. It may be (due to drought) that there is no water with which to shower!
Participants who register individually share a room with another participant. We will try of course to pair same sex travellers where possible.
You can book single accommodation on this trip and you must indicate this when booking. (You also get a 1 person tent).
Water is scarce in Ethiopia. The country has experienced serious droughts for years, particularly in the south. We would like to remind you to be thrifty with water. During the camping part of the journey we take enough water to cook. Please make sure not to take an extended shower every day. If you take a shower, turn off the water then close when you're lathering up. Do not leave the tap running unnecessarily when you brush your teeth and flush the toilet only when absolutely necessary. That way you'll soon save a few litres of water.
During our travels through Ethiopia, we use various means of transport. During the northern loop, we use the specially hired bus for our group. The second part of the trip (day 16 - 21) we travel with land cruisers. These land cruisers can accommodate four to five participants. Travelling in Ethiopia is a great adventure and needs much patience and flexibility. The quality of the bus is not always comparable with the standards we are used to in the West. Breakdowns sometimes happen, as the quality of the roads (especially in the south) is often poor, especially during and just after the rainy season. Of course, the situation may lead to changes in the program. If flooding makes a bus tour impossible for example, then the tour leader will arrange an alternative.
Upon arrival at the airport, before customs, it is already possible to exchange Euros for Birr (local currency). Make sure you always keep your receipt so that you can later swap any remaining Birr back to Euros. (This can again be done at the airport or at a bank in Addis Ababa). Amounts in Birr with a value of less than €10 will not be accepted for exchange.
To a large extent the Ethiopian Orthodox church determines life in the highlands. They celebrate festivals for the principal saints at appropriate times and the largest Christian events are annually commemorated. Religious festivals are associated with long hours of church service and attractive processions through the streets of towns and villages, preceded by priests in the most colourful robes. They have other attributes such as beautifully decorated silver crosses and effigies of saints. The most important festivals are:
TIMKAT FESTIVAL - LALIBELA
Each year in Ethiopia on 18th and 19th January in exuberant manner, the Timkat or 'Ethiopian Baptism Party' is celebrated in honour of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the River Jordan.
Timkat is the most important festival in Ethiopia. In processions throughout the country, the Ark of the Covenant (replica) is carried for 2 days before being put away. The ceremonies are the largest and most important in the royal city of Gondar, whilst Lalibela is the beautiful place to see the most original displays. Throughout the year pilgrims visit Lalibela, but in the days before and during Timkat it is really overwhelmed by the faithful who wish to attend the procession.
Everywhere in this country are replicas of the tabot, the Ark of the Covenant containing the tablets of Moses. The priests wear gorgeous satin robes. The tour takes you past most churches, where priests join in, each with their own replica of the tabot and a brightly coloured parasol. The tour ends at the banks where there are night prayers, drumming and singing. At sunrise the baptism ritual is carried out . After replicas are soaked, adults and children are brought to the water to be baptized. In Gondar the multitudes jump en masse into the bath which once belonged to the 14th-century emperor Fascilida. After this ritual the procession begins to move on and you see the row of coloured parasols slowly creep up the mountainside.
MESKEL FESTIVAL - ADDIS ABABA
Meskel is celebrated in September, one of the country's most colourful Christian festivals, where thousands of Ethiopians and tourists gather. Meskel is celebrated on the day on which St. Helena recovered Jesus' cross and brought it back to Ethiopia. This festival is about 1600 years old. On the eve of Meskel, large bonfires are lit, decorated with pretty Meskel daisies in different shades of yellow. The flowers symbolize the end of the rainy season and the return of the sun. Priests are in full regalia and their followers, dressed in virginal white, are singing and dancing around the fire.
LEDDET FESTIVAL - LALIBELA
The Leddet Festival (Ethiopian Christmas) in Lalibela is a lavish celebration. Here you will find underground, eleven monolithic churches and a chapel, connected by a corridor. The churches are decorated with beautiful frescoes. In and around the churches you will find countless priests, devout Christians and pilgrims in white robes. A service in one of the churches is a special experience. The smell of incense, the chanting of the worshipers, candlelight, the music of drums, rattles and whistles that echo through the high arches give it a mystical, magical atmosphere.
Leddet falls on 29th December on the Ethiopian calendar (January 7 according to our Gregorian calendar). It is celebrated after a period of 43 days of fasting called Tsome Gahad (Advent), with a spectacular procession. It begins at 6 pm and continues until the next morning at 9 o'clock. After this marathon, people collectively go home to break the fast by eating chicken, lamb or beef. All this is accompanied by injera (sour pancakes) and traditional drinks like tea and tella (kind of beer). Traditionally, young men play a game called Genna, which is most similar to hockey. The game dates from the time of Jesus and was played mainly by shepherds.
If you are one of the lucky ones invited to celebrate with a family, take a goat as a Christmas gift or a bottle of tej (honey wine) it. It is advisable not to eat much beforehand. Indeed, it is expected of you that you only stop eating and drinking once everything is exhausted!
PLEASE NOTE: The itineraries can be modified during the festival departures; if you are not flying to Ethiopia on a Saturday then the weekly markets will not be visited.
This holiday is classified as Category C
The difficulty of our trips varies greatly. Added to this is the fact that travel difficulty is a very personal perception. To give an impression of the difficulty of a particular holiday we have developed a classification system.
Category A: Light travel for everyone to do. Short distances, good hotels, travel at a slow pace.
Category B: For everyone to do as well. Sometimes long distances. Good hotels and camping facilities, sometimes an adventurous overnight experience, travel at a normal pace.
Category C: Good to do for anyone who prepares themself well and is flexible. There are tougher parts of the journey, such as longer distances or walking tours. Several nights can be spent in basic accommodation.
Category D: A relatively difficult journey, travelling long distances, often primitive accommodation or tents, and challenging walking tours.
This trip travelling through Ethiopia falls into category C. Take into account that you’re travelling in a developing country with a distinctly lower living standard than what you are used to at home. Some travel days are long. It is also possible that due to weather or poor road maintenance roads are temporarily impassable and we must deviate from the advertised route. Participants who register for this trip must realize what is being asked of them and that a flexible and positive attitude is just as important as general physical fitness.
We know that travelling to remote corners of this planet has its effects. At Shoestring we really try to make an effort to keep our impact to a minimum. We try to avoid the use of plastic water bottles on our treks through Nepal and we do not dump our litter during our trips through Africa. All of our staff have been trained to take special care to ensure we make as little impact on the environment as possible.Furthermore we support a lot of local projects which are mostly related to clean drinking water or making sure that children get vaccinated against illnesses such as tuberculosis. On most tours you will be able to visit some of the projects we support through our local agents. Find out more about the different projects Shoestring are involved with, how you can make a difference and our environmental policies here
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You can call us on number +31 20 6850203 or +44 (0)1306 744797 and email us at [email protected]
More country information about Ethiopia
Frequently asked questions about Ethiopia