10 reasons that surprised me in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has long been on my destination bucket list. In 2016 it was time to tick that box.   Living in neighboring Kenya it was only a 2 hour flight to Addis Abeba its capital city.
There are two main attraction areas; the historical northern circuit and the cultural southern circuit. My two two weeks trip as a solo female traveler should take me to the northern circuit covering the Danakil Desert – Axum – Shire – Lalibela – the Simien Mountains and Addis.  Having traveled extensively in Africa, Ethiopia surprised me in many ways. Here is why:
  1. General safety: Ethiopia is one of the safest countries outside of Europe I have traveled. Being female I could walk around freely by myself even after This would not be possible in other African countries without taking a big risk. (Addis might be an exemption, I have not spent enough time there)
  2. Road quality:  Very unexpected was the quality of roads even in more remote areas. Most of the roads are newly paved and in extremely good shape. Its fair to say that I have not seen any bad road in my two weeks of traveling the Northern circuit of the coutry. I am sure you can find them but considering this is still an emerging African country – Ethiopia is far ahead of most african countries.
  3. Traffic safety: In most African countries traffic is the No. 1 danger for tourist  The very first thing I noticed when arriving in Addis was the ease of driving due to no traffic…. Unlike other countries in Africa where spending hours in traffic to cover a few meters seems to be the daily norm, traffic rarely ever seems to get congested – even in Addis.  Another positive and yet unusual experience was that cars do actually stop automatically at pedestrian crossings  – whereas the rule I am used to in Kenya is rather “move or get run over“
  4. Public transport: public transport is widely available and  very affordable. Busses for longer distances have different categories and are very comfortable. For smaller distances Matatus and TukTuks are easy to find everywhere. Time management is suprisingly good.
  5. Coffee, Macchiato and pasta:  coffee lovesr like me will love Ethiopia. Little portable coffee stations are lined up along the streets and in almost every corner. Charming ladies are roasting and brewing fresh coffee to your liking. Best quality macchiato and cappuccino is widely avaiable as almsot every city has at least one location with a professional coffee machine. -t hough Ethiopian food is delicious
  6. Affordable: most cities on the attraction circuit have a range of decent budget accomodation and mid-range hotels at affordable prices. I stayed in single rooms for around 17$ incl. breakfast, hot shower and Wifi. A good portioned meal in a restaurant costs around 50 good quality restaurant (2,50$). Domestic flights are extremely cheap if you booked your oversea flight with Ethiopian airlines. In average a one way flight is 50 $
  7. Food: Ethiopian food is different but very delicious and caters for meat lovers and vegetarians.Thanks to the Italian influence, italian dishes especially pasta and even Pizza are usually available in most cities making it convenient for those who struggle with local food
  8. World Heritage sites : Ethtiopa hosts 9 World heritage sites like the stunning landscape of the „Simien Mountains National Park“, the historical rock-Hewn churches of Lalibela,  the architectural ruins of Fassil Gebbi in Gondar or the cultural tribes of the Omo Valley – just  to name a few
  9. Diversity: Not many countries can hold against Ethiopias diversity. What ever interest you have you will find it. From ancient ruins, monestries and churches to active volcanoes, deserts, stunning mountain ranges and traditional tribes – only beach lovers might have a hard time getting satisfied 
  10. Tourism: When I decided to travel to Ethiopia i thought I was doing an “off-the-beaten-track” trip. Even though I knew Ethiopia has become popular for backpackers I didn’t expect that many tour groups guided by local guides speaking proper French or German. With good roads and being one of the safest country Ethiopia is an easy target for packaged tourism and first time Africa visitors.

Ethiopia is still one of the poorest countries in the world yet it was the most easiest to travel as a female traveler. Besides poverty and hard living conditions people are extremely  friendly, respectful and welcoming towards foreigners. On the downside Ethiopia seems to slowly loose it to tourism. Favoring factors attract large tourists group mostly without any understanding of eco-tourism. Their impact on the country and its people is not to underestimate. Children beg for money, pens and clothes. Tourists make people pose to have their pictures taken for a tip that mostly is worth a days salary. It is just a matter of time when crime rates will increase.

All in all Ethiopia is a fascinating country and if you ever considered visiting you should do it now.

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