“How much does travel in Ethiopia cost?” is a question I get asked a lot, like, a lot!
And the answer I always give is “well it depends.”
And it does depend.
Totally and utterly depends on a huge variety of features.
So while I honestly always want to try and give an accurate answer, the reality is, that’s just not possible.
But what I can do is outline some of the costs I’ve collected from my 3 visits to this country to try and help you work out your own budget, depending how long you plan to stay in the country, what you want to do there and your travel style.
So here goes… how much does travel in Ethiopia cost?
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Overall Ethiopia Travel Budget
The first thing I’d encourage you to do is head over to my Ethiopia itinerary post and check out the 2 week itinerary and then come back here!
To give you some idea of prices, I’m going to cost out this specific itinerary so you’ve got some parameters.
This budget will be costed exactly based on the trip I’ve done, staying in the same hotels, visiting the same attractions and eating at the same places.
Obviously, this will involve travelling on a budget i.e. eating in cheap, local restaurants and staying at cheap. local guesthouses.
That said, it will include some added extras, which perhaps might not be considered budget travel items in other places around the world but which, in Ethiopia – which as I’ve pointed out before is not that cheap to travel – certainly are the cheapest way to do things if you actually want to see and experience this country’s best places.
This budget will also include domestic flights, because again while taking the bus is the far cheaper option, for many budget travellers, time is still of the essence and their priority is seeing Ethiopia in a couple of weeks rather than saving a couple of hundred dollars.
It’s also worth pointing out that the 2 week Ethiopia itinerary I’m working off, literally isn’t possible to undertake if you don’t fly – you simply can’t cover the distances required in any other way.
Worth pointing out too, is the fact that this budget does not include international flights, visa expenses or insurance costs, so don’t forget to factor those in as well.
First up I’m going to give you a breakdown of each category, so that those of you who are travelling for longer or with a bit more / less cash, can do your own workings.
Then, at the end of this post, you’ll find the complete budget breakdown of my proposed 2 week itinerary.
Hope it helps!
Accommodation costs aren’t cheap in Ethiopia, primarily because tourism didn’t develop here from the backpacker market.
As such, it’s really only in the 2 years that I’ve been visiting the country, that there’s been a growth in shoestring, long term nomads travelling here.
What this means, is that there are very few hostels in Ethiopia and almost all accommodation is in twin / double rooms – the cheaper ones with shared bathrooms.
These rooms start from a minimum of $10 USD a night, but normally you’ll pay closer to $15-20 USD.
For private bathrooms you could be looking more at $25 USD per night and this would still count as the budget end of the market.
For mid-range hotels, you’re looking at around $50-70 USD a night, especially in Addis where this type of accommodation is more common.
Elsewhere, it’s luxury resorts or lodges that tend to predominate and these can reach up to some crazy prices around $100-200 USD a night.
#2 Food & Drink
Thankfully, following on from the accommodation costs, food and drink in Ethiopia is crazy cheap… if you eat in local cafes that is.
Almost no accommodation spots in Ethiopia have kitchens, but most nightly rates do include breakfast – which leaves you 2 meals per day and some drinks to pay for.
Good news is that the amazing Ethiopian coffee is super cheap on the street – at 5 Birr – and local beers are normally little more than a dollar or 2. The same goes for soft drinks and local wine.
If you eat in local cafes / restaurants, especially outside of Addis, then you’re not likely to pay more than $2-5 USD for a meal either.
This means you should be able to get by on around $10-20 USD a day when it comes to eating and drinking – it just depends how much and in what quantities you like doing that stuff!
Transport costs can make a huge difference when it comes to the price of travelling in Ethiopia, based on how much time you have in the country and how much you want to see.
What I mean by this is, if you want to whiz around Ethiopia and see most of the major sights in 2 weeks, you’re going to have to fly.
If you’ve got longer or skip a few of the big attractions, then taking at least a few local buses might be an option open to you.
As a guide, a local, one way flight between Lalibela and Makele may costs you around $40 USD, whereas a bus will cost you maybe $4 USD!
This flight price I’ve given above is based on the assumption you’re eligible for the local flying discount by having an international flight into Addis with Ethiopia Airlines…. otherwise you’re going to pay even more!
The other difference when it comes to transport costs are that some tours include them i.e. a Tigray Church tour may include transport from Makele to Axum, in which case you’ll be saving this cost altogether, or at least absorbing it.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to do in Ethiopia
#4 Entrance Fees & Guides
Annoyingly high in Ethiopia, you have to pay to get into almost any church, museum or site of special interest here.
Unsurprisingly these costs can quickly mount up, especially when each one is pegged at around 200-300 Birr.
Some, like the National Museum in Addis are much cheaper at around 10 Birr, while others like the Lalibela Churches are an eye-watering packet more at $50 USD – of course this includes entry to all the town churches over multiple days, but it can still be hard to stomach!
Again, taking a tour to almost any site should include entrance fees and will help you absorb this cost, however do make sure you clarify this.
Any tour fees should also include English-speaking guides, so again make sure yours does.
Outside of this, guides are rarely included in entrance fees in Ethiopia and you’ll have to pay separately for them.
Often at major tourist sights, like the Royal Enclosure in Gonder or the Simien Mountains National Park office, you’ll find established guide associations.
Quite remarkedly organised for Ethiopia, these associations work on a rotational basis and are staffed by a series of trained and official guides, who just stand in line and wait for the groups to come.
Rocking up here is probably the cheapest way to get a guide in Ethiopia, but will still set you back a couple of hundred Birr for a half day.
#5 Tours & Activities
And coming in at number 5, it’s another big ticket item in Ethiopia, namely tours and activities.
These is where your budget can really spiral if you’re not careful.
Tours to some places like the Danakil Depression are necessary and therefore a worthwhile splurge in my book, otherwise you’re not going to see this incredible landscape.
Ditto the Simien Mountains and Bahar Dar (for the Blue Nile Falls and Lake Tana Monasteries) where boat / 4wd transport is required to get to these sights any way.
Otherwise, I don’t think tours are necessary if you’re on a budget and a confident African traveller.
#6 Other Expenses
Then you’ve got to factor in all those other expenses like international flights, visa costs (it’s normally $82 USD for a single-entry tourist visa to Ethiopia), laundry (once a week should do it) and possibly a SIM and data package too.
These costs all add up too and shouldn’t be forgotten about as part of your budget either.
The Final Budget Breakdown
And finally, here it is, the complete budget breakdown of what it costs to travel in Ethiopia for 2 weeks on a budget….ish!
Mini Travel Guide to Ethiopia
How to Get to Ethiopia?
Unless you’re travelling overland from Kenya, the vast majority of people will arrive into Ethiopia via the country’s only international airport in the capital Addis Ababa.
As always, I suggest using Skyscanner to get the best prices on flights.
The airport is quite central and just a short taxi ride away from the major, more well-heeled areas of the city, where most travellers tend to stay.
A taxi fare should cost under $10 USD.
Learn more about getting money in, and visas for, Ethiopia as part of this article I wrote about the key things to know before you travel to this country.
When to Visit & How Long to Stay?
No question in my mind that you should definitely visit Ethiopia in the dry season. This runs roughly from December to April.
I’d allow at least 10 days for a trip here. 2 weeks is better and 3 weeks is best!
How to Get Around?
Taxis operate across most cities, while longer distances can be taken by bus or by domestic flight.
If you’re travelling long distances in Ethiopia – like down to the Omo Valley, or up Axum, then I definitely recommend flying.
Where to Stay in Addis Ababa?
If you’re looking for the best place to stay in Addis Ababa on a budget, then I can highly recommend Mr Martin’s Cozy Place.
For something more private, the Victoria Guesthouse in Addis gets rave reviews.
Travel Insurance for Ethiopia
World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while travelling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
Alternatively, if you’re a long-term traveller, digital nomad or frequent remote worker seeking travel health cover, check out Safetywing’s Nomad Insurance policies.
Best Ethiopia Tours
If you’re interested in an unforgettable, well-priced tour in Ethiopia with guides you can trust, then email me at [email protected] with details of where you want to go and I’ll send you my top recommendations – simple!
Otherwise, check out these great options, which cover Addis Ababa and beyond!
Don’t Forget to Pack…
Here’s 5 packing essentials you shouldn’t head to Ethiopia without…
#1 Headlamp – Required for those all too often power cuts. I love my trusty Black Diamond.
#2 Toilet Paper – Most places don’t provide it.
#3 Long, Thin Trousers – Perfect for the cold evenings and conservative dress standards during the day. Columbia has a great range for women.
#4 Good Camera – An absolute must if you’re looking to capture the incredible landscape and cultural practices of Ethiopia. I love my mirrorless Sony A6000, which is light, compact and robust – ideal for Africa travel.
#5 Hiking Boots – Necessary for the dusty roads, walking and cold nights. KEEN Women’s Targhee II Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots are a great option I highly recommend.
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