Ethiopian Travel Agency: Having trouble finding the best one?

Are you planning a trip to Ethiopia? Are you going to go with an Ethiopian Travel Agency? It can be really confusing to pick the right one. 

First, there are a lot of them. Second, most of their websites aren’t very good. And lastly, half the ones you contact won’t write you back– or at least not in a timely manner. 

As someone, not from Ethiopia, it’s also hard to know if the prices are fair. You don’t want a cheap price if it means you end up in a hotel with bed bugs. But you also don’t want to be taken advantage of. It’s not just about the money, it’s the principle of the matter. 

Girl on laptop trying to pick the best Ethiopian travel agency
Searching online for the perfect Ethiopian travel agency a can be hard! How do you pick the best one?

Why We Created This Guide

That’s why we put this ultimate guide to picking the best Ethiopian Travel Agency. Because the tour operator is one of your most important decisions. Your tour guide can become the highlight of your trip, a friend that you keep up with for years. Or it can be someone who hardly talks or worse yet– is creepy or puts you in an unsafe situation. 

Obviously, as a tour company ourselves, we’re a little biased.  We love what we do, and we get great feedback from our guests (who do indeed keep up with us for years after their trip). 

But our goal, however, is to create a helpful guide. Something that lets you take a deep exhale and relax. Because we know the information out there is confusing. So the least we can do is compile it for you and let you make an informed decision. 

We hope this is helpful. If you have any more questions about your upcoming trip, just send us a message anytime! 🙂 

A picture of Binyam, the owner of Inside Ethiopia Tours , an Ethiopian Travel Agency
I am Binyam! Together with my wife Amanda, we started Inside Ethiopia Tours to help tourists have an amazing trip to the country!

Background on Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a charming, East African country, famous for its coffee, food, and hospitality. As the only African country never colonized (they beat off the Italians in the famous battle of Adwa), Ethiopia is one of the most unique countries in all of Africa. It’s a completely different travel experience than neighboring nations. 

Quick Facts: 

Location: Horn of Africa

Size: 1.104 million square kilometers  (about twice the size of Texas)

Population: Over 110 million people! (a little less than France and Spain combined)

Religion: 40% Orthodox, 30% Muslim, 20% Protestant, 10% other (although all the regions integrate super peacefully)

Language: 80 languages are spoken. In the capital city, it’s Amharic. Many Ethiopian speak at least Amharic and one local. English is also taught in schools so you’ll find plenty of decent speaking English speakers & plenty of kids eager to practice small phrases like, “How are you?” and “What is your name?”

Currency: Ethiopian Birr (ATMs that accept international cards  are everywhere & will give you cash in birr)

Nicknames: Land of Origins (because Lucy was found here), 13 Months of Sunshine (Because of their unique Julian calendar that is 7 years behind the world’s & has 13 months), and Rooftop of Africa (because Ethiopia has 70% of the world’s mountains)

A map of Ethiopia showing it's East African neighbors
Ethiopia is located in the horn of Africa which is the outer “horn” of the continent that sticks out into the Indian Ocean.

Fun Facts:

-Addis is the 5th highest capital city in the world due to a high elevation of 2200 meters

-The first country to send an athlete the Olympics barefoot– and he won 

-The first country to discover coffee

Travel in Ethiopia

Before you pick your Ethiopian Travel Agency you have to know current safety considerations and what places to visit. 

Safety in Ethiopia

Overall, Ethiopia is quite safe place to visit. Ethiopians are peaceful, and violence is not aimed at foreigners. (in fact, most Ethiopians go out of their way to help or protect travelers). 

There has been some unrest in recent years in certain places. You can check out the UK Ethiopia travel warnings for more help. 

Most people don’t realize how tribal African countries are. So if there is a conflict in 1 area of the country, it usually won’t have any impact on you as long as you aren’t in that area. 

For more safety information, you can also contact a tour company and ask them what areas are safe. However, most tourist towns remain largely unaffected. Although your travel agent might recommend flying somewhere instead of driving if the area in the middle is experiencing protests. 

An Ethiopian girl smiling
Most Ethiopians are extremely kind & welcoming–especially to travelers.

Where to Visit in Ethiopia

Addis Ababa, a city of 6 million people, is the capital of Ethiopia. It’s also home to the African Union which is an ultra huge organization that creates and implements projects across the continent. Because of that, most embassies (including the American, British, Europeans, etc) are double the size. They have the regular visa/consular section and a second wing dedicated to serving the African Union. This means that there are a lot of people from all over the world living here. 

There are a lot of things to do in Addis Ababa. But you can see them in three days of less. It’s recommended to bookend your trip with your days here. 

Day 1: Arrive & Settle In

Day 2: See Addis Ababa

Travel to other towns in Ethiopia

3rd to last day of your trip: Arrive back in Addis Ababa by night

2nd to last day of your trip: More sightseeing

Last day of your trip: Last minute shopping,  packing, & fly out

Main roads throughout Ethiopia are quite nice, but there is usually only 1 main road connecting each city. That’s why it’s smart to head back to Addis a few days before your departure in case an unexpected road block occurs (car accident, festival, etc.) that jams up the road for a day or so. 

Where to stay?

There are over 300 hotels in Addis Ababa. This includes international brands and local establishments.

Just like other African cities, the best part of the country to experience is outside the capital. So plan to spend most of your trip outside Addis Ababa. That’s where you’ll find all the beautiful animals, culture, historical sites, and adventures. 

A beautiful picture of best western plus hotel in addis ababa
With over 300 hotel options in Addis Ababa, you’ll find name brands (like Best Western Plus Addis Ababa pictured here) as well as small boutique hotels.

Most Popular Places to See:

Your Ethiopian Tour Agency can help you choose the best places. But here are some of the most popular.

Lalibela:

Home to ancient rock churches that were built by carving down into the rock (to avoid being seen by invaders), these are beautiful. There are underground tunnels connecting them, and they are still actively used by locals which makes it feel like an authentic experience. 

There is also a wonderful hiking in the area, beautiful starry skies, a very famous restaurant called Ben Abeba, and a famous honey wine bar called Torpedo. 

Bahir Dar:

The source or the Nile with a stunning waterfall (depending on the season). You can also schedule a boat tour on Lake Tana and visit the monasteries built on the tiny lake islands.

a picture of the waterfalls at bahidar... very muddy
The Blue Nile Falls are about an hour drive outside of Bahidar

Gondar:

This feels back in the medieval days with old rock castles. 

Simien Mountains:

One of the best hiking experiences in all of East Africa.

Danakil Depression:

This is one of the most unearthly experiences. Sci fi movies are now being made here. It starts with plains of sulfur then moves to an active lava lake. 

Huge lava lake in Ethiopia
One of only 5 active lava lakes in the entire world! The Erta Ale volcano in Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression is a must-see visit!

Bale Mountains:

this is a beautiful national park 6 hours from the capital. It has endemic black lions and Ethiopian wolves, over X species of birds. 

Arba Minch:

This is home to some of the largest crocodiles in the world. There is a beautiful resort and several other animals in the area.

Awassa:

a small lake town that is great for relaxing. You can also take a boat ride to see wild hippos or walk into “monkey forest” where it’s not unlikely a monkey will jump out of trees and land on your shoulder (especially if you bring peanuts) . 

Harar:

is an ancient trading town with 368 alleys squeezed into just 1 square kilometer. It’s like a beautiful colorful maze where the best activity is just getting lost while exploring it. (And at night, you can meet a hyena whisper who will let you feed wild hyenas raw meat out of your mouth).  

Omo Valley:

These are the national geographic photos you’ve seen of tribes with top less women, large mouth plates, and bull jumping ceremonies. 

a picture of 3 boys in the omo valley who are dressed up in tribal white painting
Three young boys from the Omo Valley. Visit their land and learn about the different cultures.

Packages & Bespoke Tours

Most travelers enjoy spending two or three days per town and combining several of them together. That’s why tour agencies offer packages. Curated itineraries that many other travelers have used. 

It’s also great to look for bespoke packages that incorporate your specific interests and budget. For example, if you are extremely passionate about running you may want to spend extra time in Addis Ababa hanging out with Run Africa or visiting famous running towns and trails. 

Do you need a travel agency in Ethiopia?

Let’s be real. You don’t have to use a tour operator. The only place in Ethiopia where you have to have a tour operator is the Danakil Depression. And that’s because there is no public transportation and the tour agency will also pay locals for protection (that sounds scarier than it is, but it is actually a highly recommended necessity). 

Other than that, you can travel to Ethiopia by yourself. 

Benefits of an Ethiopian Travel Agency

But there are countless benefits to picking an Ethiopian Travel Agency.

 

 

 

 

 

a priest looking out of window from a carved mountain in Tigray. Ethiopian Tour Agency
Tour guides give you access to seeing things and meeting people you didn’t know existed.

Informal guide or tour agency in Ethiopia?

If you see the perks of a guided tour, then it’s worth choosing a professional company instead of an informal guide that you meet along the way or find on social media. 

The problem with the lone tour guide is that it’s hard to trust their intentions. For one thing, they could be totally swindling you or putting you in an unsafe situation. Because at the end of the day, they can disappear easily. They’re livelihood doesn’t depend on a customer review. 

There is also the unspoken cultural habits of showing up late, being too flirty, taking you to their relative’s store where you get ripped off in prices, etc. 

That kind of stuff doesn’t happen with legit tour companies. Guides go to college for tourism. They learn the professional courtesies a traveler expects. They have your back. And each customer matters deeply to them.

An Ethiopian travel agency also has its own, high quality, vehicles (by law). Whereas a tour guide might have their own car with bad breaks or rent one from a friend (which increase the price on your end). 

How does one become a Ethiopian Travel Agency?

Since tourism is something the Ethiopian government is actively promoting (because it’s so great for the local economy), they have set several laws on who can be a tour agency. Some of these standards include:

If you want to make sure the travel agency is legal, ask them to send you a picture of their business license. Any reputable business will be happy to do that.

woman from the omo valley with large mouth plate
Ethiopian Tour Agencies are new friends that can help introduce you to people you would never meet otherwise.

Tour Companies in Ethiopia 

There are anywhere between 200-500 tour companies in Ethiopia. So how do you even pick?

Top 4 Criteria Include:

About Inside Ethiopia

Inside Ethiopia Tours was founded by Binyam and his wife, Amanda. 

Binyam, who is Ethiopian, grew up in the country. He also lived in Chicago for several years eating some of the world’s best pizza (although Efoy Restaurant in Addis Ababa comes close..). He is fully fluent in English and Amharic. 

Amanda, his wife and also co-founder, is originally from Spain. She love Spanish food and always puts almond milk in her coffee. Beside Spanish, she also speaks French, English, and Amharic. As a language teacher by training, her passion for travel is backed with an interest in local linguistics. 

The two actually met while traveling Ethiopia. They fell in love with promoting this beautiful country and with each other. They later married and have been together ever since. 

A picture of the founders of Inside Ethiopia Tours,  an Ethiopian Tour Agency
We are Binyam (from Ethiopian) and Amanda (from Spain). We started Inside Ethiopia Tours to help people like you have the best time in Ethiopia!

Why We Started

Inside Ethiopia Tours was started because Binyam and Amanda wanted to offer travelers a better experience. 

“We felt like local tour companies were letting travelers down. They were overcharging, but under delivering. They also weren’t investing in their tour guides enough which wasn’t fair to the community or to the customer,” says Binyam. 

“At Inside Ethiopia Tours, we hand select the best guides. Those who are truly passionate about helping guests fall in love with the country while also having the safest and most memorable trip. Then we heavily invest in training. We make sure they are equipped to handle every possible need and concern. And we are very committed to paying fair wages. Because in the end, we want to see the community prosper and the guest have a life changing experience”

“The other thing that makes us special,” says Binyam, “is that we cater to special and unusual activities.” 

“Of course, we showcase all the great places and activities. But we also love doing new things with guests. We really tailor it towards their passions and interests. Whether you want to cycle or run, bird watch or trek, each trip is different because each customer is different.” 

Behind the Name “Inside Tours”

The name came because we wanted to really give guests that authentic traveling experience. “As an Ethiopian, I want to show the world my beautiful heritage, culture, values, and special places to see. Even when I’m not working, I’m still traveling throughout Ethiopia just because I love it,” says Binyam. 

Amanda’s specialty is also making sure international guests feel welcome and comfortable. Besides growing up in Spain, she has also lived in the United States and in Ethiopia for several years. She has all the “inside knowledge” to helping customers have a great time. She knows what tourists find interesting and what things they’d rather avoid. 

A picture of Amanda from Inside Ethiopia Tours
I love helping guests because I understand what it is like to be a traveler. I know what you want, what you don’t like, and all the best tips for a safe and memorable trip!

Best Trips in Ethiopia 

We love combining towns together coupled with your interest to do the best trip for you. Learn about our Ethiopia travel tours. 

Reviews from guests

 

 

 

 

a picture of girl with a black and white monkey on her arm (ethiopian travel agency)
Feeding the monkeys in Awassa was a highlight of my trip! I highly recommend choosing Inside Ethiopia Tours.

Location

Our Ethiopian Travel Agency office is located only a ½ kilometer away from the airport in Mafi Mall which is across the street from the large Medhane Alem Cathedral. Although we

Getting Started

  1.  Contact us with any questions

And we mean it. Any questions. Whether it’s about safety or best airlines or even what to pack, we love helping travelers. Period. 

  1. Tell us about your trip.

How long are you staying? What do you want to see? We’ll give you a free itinerary and budget. No pressure. But we love setting up the best trips, timing each location just right. 

  1. Need other support?

We can help set up your hotel reservation, give you packing tips, and arrange anything else you need. 

What are you waiting for?

Contact us today!

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