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.
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! 🙂
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.
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)
-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.
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.
Most Popular Places to See:
Your Ethiopian Tour Agency can help you choose the best places. But here are some of the most popular.
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.
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.
This feels back in the medieval days with old rock castles.
One of the best hiking experiences in all of East Africa.
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.
this is a beautiful national park 6 hours from the capital. It has endemic black lions and Ethiopian wolves, over X species of birds.
This is home to some of the largest crocodiles in the world. There is a beautiful resort and several other animals in the area.
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) .
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).
These are the national geographic photos you’ve seen of tribes with top less women, large mouth plates, and bull jumping ceremonies.
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.
- You will be much safer. Your tour guide knows all the common scams and danger areas and will steer you clear. Your chance of getting robbed or pick-pocketed are infinitely smaller.
- Avoid the hassle. And in Ethiopia, there is an unbelievable amount of hassle. Drunk people following you on the street. Street kids, who bless their heart, won’t stop following you. Pick-pocketers galore. And endless amount of people hollering at you. A guide will make sure this doesn’t happen to you or at least significantly minimizes it. They’ll also pick up all the bills, handle money, and drive you around effortlessly (or as effortlessly as anybody can in Ethiopian traffic). This allows you to relax and actually enjoy the traveling experience.
- Sidestep the hassle. Ethiopia has what is known as the “Habesha price” which is what Ethiopians pay and the “Forengi price” which is what they trick tourists into paying. Most of the time, it is 2 or 3x the actual price. It’s not that they are trying to be mean. But it’s a country of bartering. And if you don’t know how to play, then in their minds, that’s on you. The perks of having a tour agency is that the guide won’t let you overpay. He is on your side and will help you negotiate.
- Learn More. There is a wealth of history and culture quirks in Ethiopia that is hard for newcomers to understand. Partly because the museums and other sightseeing don’t have comprehensive signs in English. Your tour guide will be able to explain it all to you. You’ll learn more. And you’ll laugh more (because some of the things here are hilarious when you learn the back story).
- Do more. There are public buses connecting most towns. But they are overly crowded. It’s not an exaggeration to say they will a 12 passenger van will hold 24 people, plus a few babies and chickens. And by the end of the ride, your shirt will be wet with sweat for the person beside you. The buses also stop every few minutes to let people get off and new people on. So a bus ride can take almost 2 or 3 times longer. It’s With an Ethiopian travel agency, you’ll have your own private, sweat-free ride. You can stop for lunch or the restroom whenever you like. And you’ll still get there faster. This frees up a lot of extra days so that you can see and more things.
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:
- High Quality Vehicle
- Certain Amount of Capital (to ensure you can take care of your guests in case of a problem)
- An office (so if there is a problem they can track you down)
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.
Tour Companies in Ethiopia
There are anywhere between 200-500 tour companies in Ethiopia. So how do you even pick?
Top 4 Criteria Include:
- Quick responses on emails. Email the company and ask a few basic questions. They should reply within 2 days or less.
- Customer Reviews. Check reviews on their website and other platforms.
- Competitive Price. Ask them about the price and what it includes. A lower price isn’t necessarily the best (because it depends on where you are staying and how they treat their guides. But it should be within a reasonable price)
- Knowledgeable on Safety. Ask them questions about safety and what to do if there is a problem. A good agency should easily be able to give you the right help.
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.
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.
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
- “I will come back to Ethiopia and I will definitely use Inside Ethiopia Tours services. The staff was friendly and helpful during my stay, they allowed me to experience the real Ethiopian culture. ” Irene Lopez, Spain
- “From the first contact to Inside Ethiopia Tours, the answer was quick and full of details. They provide me and my group the best price quote for a nine day stay. Our driver and guide had excellent communicative skills and he made us feel like a family.” Lara Seco, Portugal
- “If you are looking for adventure, history, culture, nature, safaris & bird watching, or just a bit of relaxation in exotic places, ask Mr Binyam, he and his team will take care of you! With Inside Ethiopia Tours you are not a tourist, but like a friend visiting the wonderful country!” Roswitha Meyer, Germany
- “I love Binyam and Amanda! I’m so happy to have chosen them. They go out of their way to make a trip extra special. And I really like their tour guides. It’s always a good sign when your guide speaks well of the owners (I’ve seen guides in other places complain about their low salaries or bad work conditions). You can tell these guides are well taken care of which means they take well care of you. I’ll only recommend Inside Ethiopia Tours to my family and friends.” Jessica Brussard, United States
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?