Ethiopian Birr banknotes

How expensive is Ethiopia to travel? | Detailed expenses

Published: 09 September 2019 Modified: 25 September 2019

Traveling is as expensive as you want to make it. In Ethiopia the prices vary. The food and drinks are extremely cheap. For tours and accommodation, you pay a lot more. In the end it will balance each other perfectly. Traveling using public transport can keep your cost low. In this article I share the cost for food, drinks, excursions and the public transport in Ethiopia. Hopefully you’ll find the answer to: “How expensive is Ethiopia?”

Visa on arrival for Ethiopia 

First things first, you need a visa to travel Ethiopia. It is possible to get a visa on arrival, valid for four weeks. The cost for this visa is US$50, which you have to pay in dollars at the airport. With this visa it’s not allowed to stay longer than 30 days. If you want to stay longer you can apply for an e-visa ( max 90 days) or extend your visa at the immigration office in Addis Ababa. 

Need more information on where to go in Ethiopia? Check out these two awesome itineraries in Ethiopia!

Food and drinks

Let’s start positive! Food and drinks are extremely cheap in Ethiopia. If you eat local, you can easily get a meal for about US$0,75. In hotels they will charge you a bit more. For dinner there you will spend around US$2 to US$3 per meal. You could say that hotels usually triple the prices for food and drinks, compared to local restaurants. For ‘western’ food like burgers and pizza you also pay a little bit extra. Food portions are very big in Ethiopia, so you can easily share one meal with two people. 

A bottle of water, beer or soda will cost around US$0,30. Coffee and tea are the cheapest. Definitely not more than US$0,10 to US$0,20 per cup. 

How expensive is Ethiopia? Ethiopian dish

Prices for accommodations

Even though it is changing a bit, it still is very hard to find hostels in Ethiopia. Usually the choice is between a hotel or a lodge. The prices vary a lot. Somewhere between US$15 to US$80 per night. More expensive doesn’t always mean better quality. Make sure you see the rooms before booking. Usually the cheaper places are just as good as the expensive hotels. 

Lodges are great in Ethiopia. Usually in the middle of the nature, just outside the city. The money you will spend here will be worth it. Tim and Kim Lodge is one of the cheaper lodges in Ethiopia. You can spend the night for US$35. In Yergalem you easily pay US$80 per night. Checking the websites can give you a good impression of the surrounding and the lodges. Never book online, usually you can negotiate about the price over the phone or in person. This can greatly impact how expensive Ethiopia is on your trip. Airports and bus stations are the place to do this. There are always some hotel owners whom try to convince you to stay with them. The prices are per room. When you are with two people you can keep the cost low. 

Hut at Tim & Kim Lodges i Gorgora
Hut at Tim & Kim Lodges i Gorgora

Traveling with public transport 

Cheap, cheaper, cheapest. How expensive Ethiopia is on your trip is definitely not affected by prices of public transport.Traveling with the local transport in Ethiopia will cost you almost nothing. For long bus rides, around 12 hours, will cost around US$2,50. Short trips ( 4 hours) with mini buses around the US$3.

In cities like Gondar you can take a tuk-tuk (Bajaj). For long distance (10 km) you never pay more than US$3. Keep this in mind when you make a deal. Usually they ask tourists much more. If you want to go extremely cheap, you can take a minibus. These drive all over the city and you can hop on and off wherever you want. For long distance (10km) it’s about 25 cents. Another benefit is that mini buses usually don’t try to trick you and are always safe to use.

Bajaj, the Ethiopian tuktuk

How expensive are prices for tours and sights?

Doing tours and seeing special sights are what makes traveling in Ethiopia expensive. For the Danakil and The Simien mountains its obligated to travel with a tour company. This is also for your own safety. When you do a tour, everything will be included in the price. There are people who carry the luggage, cooks, guides and guards. When you see the guards with their AK-47 guns, don’t worry. It’s just for show. In the Simien they are with you for protection against animals. But it is understandable that everyone has to be paid. The bigger the group you travel with, the cheaper it gets. It’s worth it to ask fellow tourists to join. Usually there is a fixed price, which you can share with others. 

Lake in Ethiopia

*Prices can vary, because of the exchange rate. But this table will give you an indication. For each trip you can decide the amount of days. The more days, the cheaper the trip. 

Location/trip Days Guide mandatory?Prices Other 
Danakil depression3-5Yes  US$400 3 days is the minimum 
Simien Mountains 1-14 Yes  US$100 per day
Lalibella2No, but recommended  US$50Ticket is valid for two days
Churches in general1No US$3Not always, but usually they ask entre fee 
Gondar Castle No, but recommended  US$6Ticket also valid for the Fasil Bath 
Aksum ruins 1No, but recommended  US$25Included guide and trip, per group (3 Pax)

Do you need a credit card for Ethiopia? 

All over Ethiopia you can take cash from an ATM. Also, with a regular bank card. To be certain of getting money, a credit card can come in handy. In some hotels you can pay with your credit card. Getting money from an ATM will always cost something extra. If you exchange cash at the bank, it is cheaper. Tour guides are very happy if you pay them in dollars or euros. These are almost not available in Ethiopia, so they can give you a discount if you pay like this. Win-win. 

Simien Mountains

Ethiopia is extremely poor. They will always ask you for entrance fee, even though locals can go for free. Luckily our money is worth a lot. US$1 is 28 birr, €1 is 32 birr (at the time of writing). You might have to pay for everything, but it doesn’t cost much. Don’t let it stop you from visiting places, it will be worth the money. Usually it’s cheaper to book your tours on the spot. You don’t have to be afraid trips will be full. There not many tourists, but a lot of tour operators. There is always someone who can take you. 

So that’s it! An indication on how expensive Ethiopia is. Are you surprised about the prices?

Suzan - Hi! I am a Dutchie, who lives in Ethiopia. I love to travel the world and meet new people. It is so much fun to visit exotic places, rough jungles and beautiful old cities. Via Travelaar I have the chance to share all my amazing experiences with you. If you want to follow my own journey, see my Instagram: @gateb91