How to get from Lalibela to Addis Ababa in one day.

Transportation was the most frustrating part in the Ethiopia experience. These series of posts aims to help with this aspect.

Despite being a major tourist destination, Lalibela remains hard to reach. Lalibela is located pretty deep in the mountains and all the roads leading to it are not paved. Taking a public bus to Addis Ababa takes two days with a break at Dessie. If you are in rush and determined to get to Addis Ababa in one day, it is still possible. There are two ways I am aware of.

  1. Your best bet is flying. Book your flights well in advance to avoid disappointment. We were in Lalibela during Timkat and all the flights were sold out. Another option is to take a morning bus to Bahir Dar and fly from there. There are flights from Bahir Dar to Addis Ababa throughout a day.
  2. The second best bet is hiring a private car. The catch is that normally drivers do this journey in two days breaking the journey in Kombalcha. We had a hard time finding a driver agreeing to do it in one day and ended up paying 2400 birr for the ride. The journey took 15 hours and the driver told us at some point he regretted accepting the deal.

All in all, plan your exit strategy before you set your foot to Lalibela. If you determined not to fly, one way to do it and still enjoy in process is to go to Bahir Dar after Lalibela, spend there a night or two (it is a nice enough city that warrants several days) and then a catch a direct morning bus to Addis Ababa. Bahir Dar is reachable from Lalibela in 5-6 hours with a bus change at Gashena.

Safe travels!

Got questions, comments or corrections? Leave a comment below.

How to get from Aksum to Debark (or Gonder)

Transportation was the most frustrating part in the Ethiopia experience. These series of posts aims to help with this aspect.

There is no direct public connection from Aksum to Debark, but you must change buses at Shire first. The problem is that (mini-)buses leave from Shire in the morning, before you get to Shire by a minibus. So you have three options.

1. Leave Aksum in the evening, spend a night at Shire and catch a morning bus to Gonder. The last mini-buses to Shire leave Aksum around 6PM.

2. There might be private mini-buses from Aksum to Gonder. Ask around and you might catch one. Hotel staff is a good point to start. We managed to get one and paid 900birr for two persons (more than half of the price seemed to be the commission to the middleman who arranged us this deal).

3. Take a private car to Shire leaving Aksum at 4AM, so you catch a morning bus to Gonder. Apparently a good price for this ride is 600birr.

The road from Shire to Debark is mostly good asphalt, which abruptly ended two hours before Debark. Hopefully the public transport will improve once a proper road will be built.

Safe travels!

Got questions, comments or corrections? Leave a comment below.

How to get from Mekele to Aksum

Transportation was the most frustrating part in the Ethiopia experience. These series of posts aims to help with this aspect.

There are direct buses from Mekele to Aksum, but they are slow and infrequent. A much better option is to first to take a minibus to Adigrat and there change to a minibus going to Shire. So

  1. First take a tuk-tuk to the new bus station (we paid 50 birr from the ETT office).
  2. Ask about a mini-bus to Adigrat (45 birr). For some reason locals pointed to a slow local bus, but keep insisting on taking a mini-bus. The journey to Adigrat takes approximately two hours.
  3. In Adigrat take a mini-bus to Shire and get off in Aksum. The journey takes about two hours and half.

Important note: while the ticket price is fixed, you will end up paying extra for your baggage. This is a common practice that concerns both locals and faranji, though the latter has to pay way more. On different prices we paid from 0 to 1.5 times the ticket price itself. Bargaining helps to some degree, but in many cases you are faced with the choice of either paying the fee or getting off the bus. Also try to avoid middlemen and pay directly to the ticket man or a bus station hustler.

Safe travels!

Got questions, comments or corrections? Leave a comment below

To Poonhill and back

Hands down, the best hike of the journey award goes to the Poonhill trek. Four days of the majestic Annapurna scenery and timeless tranquility. Tiger Leaping Gorge and Kalaw were great, but they pale in comparison of the grandeur of Annapurna. After completing the hike I was hungry for more of this and was ready to go straight on. Maybe to Annapurna Base Camp or why not the whole Annapurna circuit. Alas, we had to go back to Pokhara.

The mountains are unbelievable. They just stand there in their majestic glory not giving a damn about worldly matters. There are no cars and the only means of transportation is walking or riding a horse. Same goes for delivering goods. Villages are made of stone and have stairs instead of paths. They are neat and idyllic without being tourist traps. A rare sight in this globalised world, indeed! Everything is detached from the rest of the world. Time has got its own pace here.

Hiking in the Annapurna region is dead easy. You do not need to carry any camping equipment or provision with you. The area is dotted with numerous guest houses, restaurants and grocery stores. Accommodation is ridiculously cheap, but prices on food and drinks are highly inflated (to the tune of 2-4 times as much as the rest of Nepal) and controlled by a cartel of each village. You are expected to eat where you stay and there is no room for bargaining. This questionable business practice triggered a lot of discussion about fairness and forced us into the “no spending” mode. Instead of indulging in soft drinks and sweets, we did not buy anything except essential meals and an occasional cup of hot lemon with honey. Nonetheless it was way cheaper than normal travelling at least for us. In retrospect I wish we could have supported locals more, but without getting this feeling of being ripped off. Oh well.

Anyhow it was awesome. I miss Nepal.