Our Frequently Asked Question sections are intended to help you decide if a particular destination is right for you. Here Derek Schuurman answers questions about Ethiopia. He has travelled extensively around the country, exploring both the historical sites and the wildlife reserves. He'd be delighted to share his stories with you and you can ring him on 020 7666 1250.
What is special about Ethiopia?
Ethiopia has a unique cultural heritage, truly remarkable architectural constructions, elaborate festivals and a high concentrations of endemic birds and mammals.
How do we get there?
Ethiopian Airlines and Bmi operate regular flights from London Heathrow to Addis Ababa.
How do we travel around the country?
We arrange travel by four-wheel drive vehicles for most parts of the country except for certain stops along the Historical Circuit where they aren’t needed. Most of our customers opt for either a private tour or a small group which are a fun and sociaable way to travel.
If there was one thing I shouldn’t miss, what would you recommend?
Lalibela is top of the list for any first time visitor – it is one of the country’s many World Heritage Sites believed to be built in the late 12th century as a replica of Jerusalem and the rock-hewn monolithic churches are utterly remarkable. The myth is that angels built them and you could almost believe this!
See our selection of Ethopia Holidays and Tours.
Is Ethiopia safe?
Yes, it is for the most part. We avoid the Eritrea and Somali border areas, as well as the Danakil Depression. All other parts of the country are safe.
Can I drink the tap water?
Tap water is not safe to drink. Make sure that all water has been well boiled before you drink it or it is treated with iodine or a water purification tablet before hand. Add vitamin C tablets to hide the taste. Bottled water is widely available. When buying bottled water, make sure the bottles are sealed when handed to you.
Is English widely spoken?
The official language of Ethiopia is Amharic but English is widely spoken by guides and by people in the hospitality industry.
Should I expect very basic facilities in all Ethiopia’s hotels and lodges?
Many hotels are simple, especially the government run hotels in the Ghion chain but we use few of these, only Yeha in Axum and Goba Wabi Shebelle in Bale Mountains National Park. Elsewhere, lodges of a reasonable standard have opened up in the last five years. These include a few gems, like Bishangari and Gerhalta Lodges.
People should note that tourism in the country is still in its fledgling stages and the infrastructure remains rudimentary. Roads can be rough and in the dry season they can be dusty. However, don't let this put you off as you wont be surrounded by mass tourism and this only adds to the authentic and exciting experience of visiting this wonderful country.
What is the local food like?
To be honest its quite distinctive and an acquired taste. The traditional local staple is injera, a large, flat pancake made of teff, a type of grain grown in Ethiopia. It is accompanied by spicy stews. There is usually Italian cuisine as an alternative if you prefer but we recommend you try the local cuisine at least once! Ethiopia produces wine and a honey-based mead, tej.
How much of a culture shock is travelling to Ethiopia?
The poverty disturbs some visitors but generally we find that clients visiting the country are well informed, and we always welcome the opportunity to talk one-on-one during the planning process.
How can I contribute to the local economy and conservation programmes?
We can recommend a range of charities to you such as reputable orphanages and conservation projects. One lodge with which we have a close working relationship, Simien Lodge, is linked to some inspiring projects which aim to help impoverished and remote local communities. We can tell you more about these if you are interested.
Do I need to get any vaccinations ahead of travel and/or malaria tablets?
A yellow fever immunisation is a requirement. Malaria exists only in the Rift Valley, Omo and at Lake Tana. The highlands are not affected. Always consult your doctor though, at least sox weeks before travel.
I am pregnant, can I travel to Ethiopia?
If visiting only the non-malarial Historical Route in the northern highlands, then possibly yes, but always take the advice of your doctor before travelling.
Email Derek directly if you'd like to start planning your trip or ring 020 7666 1250.
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