There are between 200-500 travel companies in Ethiopia. How do you pick the best one? This is our story of how we started Inside Ethiopia Tours and our 10 secrets to building what many consider the most reputable Ethiopian tour agency.
1. It starts with true love
This is true for us both personally and as a business. My wife is Spanish. I am Ethiopian. And we met while we were both traveling Ethiopia.
There’s something about traveling that brings two people closer together. Perhaps because you are seeing amazing sites and having unforgettable experiences together. Or because the daily adventures keep you off your phone and into the present moment.
But our relationship began and was founded in traveling Ethiopia. We realized the magic of Ethiopia wasn’t just something that mesmerized us, but something others craved too. Whether it’s a new couple or one that has been together for 40 years. We also get lots of parents (both moms and dads) who take their kids (both small and adult children), lots of friends, and of course the solo traveler who wants the real “Inside Ethiopia Experience.”
2. Passion for Travel
The best travel companies in Ethiopia are founded by travelers themselves. The worst ones are started by people just looking to make some quick money. When we aren’t working and traveling with our guests, we are traveling ourselves.
We’ll take off for the week and explore some off-the-road place in Ethiopia that most locals haven’t ever been too.
Continuing to travel allows us to “walk a day in the shoes” of our customers. We know what it’s like to want an incredible experience that doesn’t break your budget. To want to explore an exotic new land while also ensuring safety. We know how to infuse the most traveling joy into our guests’ trip while avoiding or at least minimizing the hassle (and in Ethiopia, there is a lot of hassle and hustle).
3. Respect for Guides
One of our top secrets is that we search for the best guides in each town and then we pay them really well. Because jobs can be hard in Ethiopia, often guides are coerced into taking treks and day tours where they are being paid well below the minimum rate.
We never want to do that. We honor their profession and want to pay fair wages. When we started out, we did this simply because it is the right thing to do.
But we found it also creates a win-win solution. Because when guides receive fair payment, they put in extra effort in with our guests. They show them things that most travelers miss. They take time to really answer questions and build relationships so that our guests walk away with an in-depth knowledge of each village.
I guess it is what they say, “doing good in business makes for good business.
4. Inside Knowledge
We named our company, “Inside Ethiopia,” because we really wanted to give guests an inside view of this beautiful country. For example, if you visit New York, you’ll have an amazing time. But if you visit New York with your friend who lives there, you’ll experience so much more. You’ll see things that aren’t on the tourist radar, you’ll find the hole-in-the-wall restaurants to die for, and you’ll learn a lot more about the real culture of being a New Yorker.
That’s what we strive to do. We show you the parts of Ethiopia that you wouldn’t know about if you come by yourself. We avoid the generic. Instead, we give you an in-depth experience of life in Ethiopia. So that when you leave, you didn’t just check the country off your bucket list. But you have a profound understanding and appreciation of the culture that most people, even if they visited here, don’t truly grasp.
5. Outside Knowledge
One of the best parts Amanda brings to the company, besides her amazing multi-linguistic ability, is that she knows what the European or Australian or American customers really want. Growing up in Spain, traveling the world, and living in Chicago (we both lived there for quite some time) she knows what international standards are and what appeals to Western travelers.
For example, what an Orthodox Christian in Ethiopia finds fascinating (special religious sites or artifacts) might not be as special to someone who isn’t a devout Orthodox. And the new movie theater in Addis which is the top attraction in town isn’t going to be something an American wants to see during their 5-day trip.
We try and balance the best of the country with our knowledge of what travelers truly want and that leads to more memorable experiences.
6. Bespoke Tours
Although we have suggested itineraries based on the top sightseeing spots and timeframes, we love crafting specialty tours for each person. If you like to run, we’ll take you to the training spots that Ethiopian Olympic runners still train. For bird enthusiasts, we’ll show you the best spots to see over 863 different species, 18 which are endemic to Ethiopia, and an additional 14 that are endemic to Ethiopia and Eritrea. If you like to cook, we’ll take you inside local homes so that you’ll be a master of Ethiopian cuisine by the time you leave.
Whatever your interest is, we’ll craft the perfect trip for you.
7. Putting Guests Needs 1st
We put our guests’ needs first. Most hotels will pay travel companies in Ethiopia a commission if the client stays at their hotel. This means some guests get stuck staying at bad lodging not knowing it’s because the guide wanted a bigger commission.
We don’t work like that. We figure out what you, as our guest, needs and what will make you the happiest. Then we arrange a trip that prioritizes your needs. You are the guest, and everything about the trip should be in your best interest.
8. Good to the Community
One of the main reasons we started a travel company in Ethiopia is because we wanted to help our community. Some of the best things to see in Ethiopia are in small villages and rural areas. Those are also the areas with the most poverty.
By bringing travelers to these areas we are supporting the community. Their lodges, restaurants, souvenir shops, guides, and women making handicrafts all thrive when travelers visit.
More than that, we seek to personally make sure our travel is environmentally friendly and prioritizes supporting women and children. Giving back is good for the community and for the traveler.
Ethiopia is considered a very safe, East African country. It’s the kind of country where hitchhiking is still normal and safe. And gun violence is so rare it is almost never a discussion on the news.
Recent protests have sprung up in the past couple of years, but it has been segregated to certain areas (where you wouldn’t go as a traveler anyways).
As a travel company in Ethiopia, our biggest priority is the safety of our guests. We always make sure we are following best protocols as established the US and UK embassies. We know where the top, European-trained physicians are in case you get sick when you come. And we use only the safest cars with experienced drivers.
10. Authentic Experiences
We live for authentic travel experiences. The kind of moments where you look someone in the eye, someone who doesn’t share your language, but somehow you both know that you are smiling about the same thing.
We create authentic moments, destinations, and experiences that you’ll remember forever.
Have more questions for us? Contact us now. Or leave a comment below!