Ethiopia – travel tips

I was given some really handy travel tips before I departed and gathered quite a few more when I was down there which I thought I might be useful to share….
Definitely bring hand sanitiser & packets of tissues.  Although all the loos that we used were in good condition there were a number options that left you feeling slightly dubious about the cleanliness levels!
A number of people suggested bringing flea spray or tea tree spray to put on your feet before going into the churches.  None of our group did this and we were alll fine. Apparently they have really cleaned up the church carpets in the last couple of years.
Money – change your money on arrival in Adddis.  Ask for lots of smaller denominations as you will need them for tips when taking photos of the priests etc.   Ethiopia is really quite cheap (a beer is about $1.5) so don’t change too much.
Photography – Ethiopia is a photographer’s paradise.  Bring a good zoom as there are endless opportunities to capture the people but it is far nicer to do it subtly with a large zoom rather than being too intrusive.
Toiletries – although all the hotels had soap, they lacked any shower gel or shampoo.  Those that did have them were not very nice!
Scarf – bring a light scarf which can act as a shawl to cover your shoulders when visiting the churches.
A friend told me to bring some postcards of my town (Bath) or of London.  Our guide was particularly fascinated to see my postcards of Bath as Haile Selaisse spent 5 years in exile there.
It is nice to bring some school books or pens but don’t give them to the children that accost you at every opportunity asking for pens.  Instead ask your guide if you can visit a school during your trip and give them to the head master to distribute.  The Ethiopian government has done a lot in recent years to try and stop the amount of begging that goes on by improving their social services.  In Lalibela the entrance fee has doubled over the last couple of years from $25 to $50 with the difference being put into hostels and projects to help the beggars.
We visited Ethiopia in March and in the North was warmer than I expected.  The most you needed in the evening was a light sweater (& maybe something warmer in Lalilbela as it’s so high).  I took too many warm clothes!
Language – the locals really appreciated our attempts to master some of the Amharic language. ‘Selanta’ The Ethiopian Airlines inflight magazine has a great ‘beginner guide to Amharic’ page which is worth ripping out and keeping in your pocket!

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