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.

Progress of my journey (Part 3)

See Part 1 and Part 2

Bangkok (bus, ferry, 18€) ⇒ Ko Phangan (ferry, bus, train, 38€) ⇒ Penang, Malaysia (minivan, 12€) ⇒ Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands (minivan, boat, 21€) ⇒ Taman Negara National Park (local bus, 2€) ⇒ Jeruntut (train, 8€) -> Singapore (bus, 16€) ⇒ Penang (minivan, tuk-tuk, 17€) ⇒ Krabi (bus, 3.5€) ⇒ Surat Thani (bus, ferry, 6€) ⇒ Ko Phangan (ferry, 10€) ⇒ Koh Tao (via Chumphon, ferry, bus 24€) ⇒ Bangkok

Total: 175.5€

Krabi – Koh Phangan route was particularly interesting. I decided to save some money and do each step of the route on my own, instead of booking a package. The main motivation was to see if I can save some money, to gain some experiences (doing it a hard way) and to avoid tourist agencies. The result was saved 60 baht (one meal) and only minor additional hassle. Not really sure if it was worth it, but this is one way to do it.

I left out local transportation out of the equation, which can be expensive in places in Ko Phangan. Some examples. A boat ride from Had Rin to Had Yuan (2-3kms) is usually 200 baht and 300 baht if the boat driver is in a greedy mood. That’s 10-15€ there and back just to buy some groceries or book a ticket. Now that is a lot even by Finnish standards. There is no way to beat the system, apart from walking an overgrown jungle path, provided that you do not carry any bags with you. With bags the only way is to bite the bullet and pay whatever the boat drivers asks. Cartels are bad, mmmkay. Another example is that it cost me 300 baht (7.5€) to go by taxi from Had Rin to Thongsala, when I was leaving to Koh Tao. There were no other people to share the taxi in sight (damn party fiends sleeping till late) and I sort of had to catch a ferry. In comparison the ferry to Koh Tao was only 100 baht more expensive. Sometime local prices do not make any sense whatsoever.