Gelada monkeys | Simien Mountains National Park
Updated: Feb 25, 2020
Here are some general tips on travelling to Ethiopia as well as some hints on what to bring for any mountain trekking.
Visa: Can be obtained on arrival, cost is US$50 and you need to pay in cash. Alternatively, you can apply online for an eVisa via https://www.evisa.gov.et
Money: Most tour companies will want to be paid in USD and typically want a 10-15% deposit to confirm the tour, with the balance to be paid in cash on arrival. For day-to-day costs use local currency which can easily be obtained from any ATM in the major cities.
Malaria: Prophylaxis is essential if visiting areas below 2500m in altitude, but not necessary if trekking in the mountains. There is no malaria in the capital Addis Ababa.
Drones: Bringing these into the country is a hassle! Mine got confiscated on arrival and although in theory it was possible to get a permit to fly it while I was there, the person assigned to this task never seemed to be around and the phone number I was supposed to call was incorrect as written at the airport. In addition, none of the staff in immigration knew what to do about this. If you are desperate to bring it I would try to arrange all of this prior to entering the country.
Altitude sickness: I would highly recommend taking altitude medication (Diamox - Acetazolamide) as I did not feel any effects from altitude sickness (besides the obvious physiological effects of high altitude), whereas I met a number of tourists who were not taking any medication and were suffering to varying degrees.
Things to bring: Make sure you bring a rain jacket, even if travelling in the dry season. The weather can be unpredictable in the mountains and you may still get some wet weather. Most of the tour companies will provide the camping gear, but if you have a warm sleeping bag (-10 C) that will pack small I would suggest to bring it as the sleeping bags that are typically provided are not warm enough. Also bring a small travel pillow as they never seem to give you a pillow. As for clothes, plenty of warm items, jackets, thermals, jumpers, etc. are essential. During the day in the Simien Mountains it can be quite pleasant once the sun has come up so you can get away with some pants and a shirt but be careful not to get sunburnt.
Getting to the Simien Mountains: Take a flight from Addis Ababa to Gondar (about 1 hour) or you can get there via bus (about 11 hours). Tour companies will pick you up from your hotel in Gondar.
Tour company: I used Simien Mountains Trekking (http://www.simienmountainstrekking.com) and I would highly recommend them to anyone wishing to visit this area. If you are interested in wildlife photography I would suggest not to do the trekking and go for the car-assisted tour as this will give you the maximum amount of time to spend with any animals you find to take photos. If you do the walking you will spend 6-8 hours per day hiking which will not give you much time to spend taking wildlife photos. Obviously this type of trek is more expensive but will maximise your photographic opportunities and also give you the best chance of seeing less visible species such as the Walia ibex. I would recommend doing a 5-6 day tour as I think anything less than this and you are likely to miss out on seeing things.