The Gelada monkey on the Simien Mountains. Picture: Supplied
The Gelada monkey on the Simien Mountains. Picture: Supplied

How to travel to Ethiopia on a budget

By Mpho Rantao Time of article published Nov 10, 2018

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Ethiopia is one of the oldest and most remarkable places in Africa. It’s got a long and storied history, incredible food, and some of the most impressive UNESCO World Heritage Sites this side of the Great Rift Valley.

Not only is it a country full of unadulterated character, but it is also a country that is quite inexpensive and holds a lot of interesting sites and artefacts for travellers to see.

Here’s a way for travellers to explore Ethiopia on a budget.

Visit locations that have free admission

In cities like Addis Ababa, there are quite a number of museums that have free admission for visitors - so you’re able to save a bit of money for the rest of your trip or for to purchase souvenirs.

The Ethnographic Museum, Addis Ababa. Picture: Supplied

Book cheap flights

Flights to Ethiopia are not bank-breaking but they aren’t the most budget-friendly either. A great way to save money is to book your flights during an off-season time within the year.

Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Picture: Supplied
A return flight from Johannesburg to Addis Ababa during off-peak would cost R8000.

Drink local!

True Ethiopian coffee and the ceremony surrounding it is as old as the country itself. Practically the national beverage, Ethiopia has some of the best beans in the world.

Ethiopian coffee. Picture: Supplied

Head to a more popular coffee shop in Addis or a small hole in the wall anywhere else and for a few Birr, get the full experience.

Coffee beans are roasted in front of you over a small charcoal fire, then ground with mortar and pestle, brewed in a traditional clay pot, and sometimes served with plain popcorn or with some frankincense burning to add to the experience. Usually for less than a dollar, too!


It breaks our Africa-shaped hearts, but the famous rock churches of Lalibela are not the budget attraction they once were.
The Lalibela UNESCO site. Picture: Wikimedia

One of the most impressive sites in the country, the 11 churches carved out of pure rock and sunk into the earth now cost quite a bit to visit.

Causing great anger amongst the hoteliers, guides, and restaurants in the area, some have speculated that the price hike was implemented by corrupt priests since most of the entrance fees went to the government as opposed to the community.

While definitely not a budget site anymore, this amazing UNESCO Site is what one would spring for if we had one ‘”splurge” activity here.

Go hiking

Ethiopia has countless mountains and hills spread throughout the entire country. The region of Abyssinia itself has some of the most dramatic scenery and views in all of Africa.

Simien Mountain. Picture: Supplied

That said, you can hop out of a minibus almost anywhere and find opportunities to hike the hills and valleys with nothing more than your pack, camera, and a bottle of water.
Dramatic views, abounding nature, and picturesque villages and farms await, and almost all of the time, for free! IOL

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