Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get a visa for travel to Ethiopia?
All foreign nationals require a visa to enter Ethiopia. Fortunately, the process is very straightforward. You have two options for securing a visa, you can pay online in advance through the online evisa service, or you can obtain a visa on arrival at Bole International Airport.
If you use the online service, you will still collect your visa at the airport on arrival but you can skip the payment queue (which is welcome after a long overnight flight!) If you are paying on arrival, note that you cannot pay in Ethiopian Birr or card payment. You will need to pay in cash in either GBP, USD, or EUR. The price for a visa is around 50 USD for a standard 30 day visa. To secure a visa, your passport will need to be valid for at least the next 6 months from the point of arrival in Ethiopia.
If you need to extend your visa, you can do this at the Immigration Headquarters on Churchill Avenue in Addis. For multiple entry visas, or if you are visiting on business, you need to contact the Ethiopian embassy in your home country, as these cannot be obtained online or on arrival.
Do I need to worry about altitude sickness?
Altitude sickness is a real possibility in the Simien mountains, although instances are rare for most visitors with some experience at higher altitudes. If you have a history of altitude sickness or other pre-existing health conditions that may put you at higher risk, please consult your doctor or travel health nurse to help determine whether the Simien mountains are an appropriate for you.
It is important to be aware that the Simiens are in a rural part of the country, and the nearest health facility is many miles away by road. You must arrange adequate travel insurance before departing to Ethiopia, and consult your doctor to understand the risks involved for you.
Staged increases in altitude is extremely important to avoid altitude sickness. It is important that you do not fly into Ethiopia and immediately head to one of the higher camps. It is much safer to acclimatise in Addis, Gondar, or Lalibela for a few days before heading into the Simien Mountains.
How fit do I need to be?
Trekking in the Simien mountains is not limited to the super fit or athletic. A road running through the primary escarpment of the mountains allows you to take sorties into the park, and simply stop off for short hikes to the best viewpoints and landmarks.
Guides can also help to carry gear or show you the most accessible routes. While you don’t need to be in amazing shape to enjoy the Simien mountains, it is important to keep in mind that you will be above 3000m most of the time, so even short walks can become tiring.
For those that are fit and active, there are some more challenging treks you can enjoy if you want to push yourself.
What is the minimum and maximum group size on the trek?
We prefer to have a minimum of 2 clients and a maximum of 15 on each team because it can be better controlled, delivering good services and good taking care of clients. But if anybody wants to do the private trek on his/her own, we can organize such trek as well.
Is a private trek available?
YES, private trip available and we also offer a trip for family members, office staff team, friend-to-friend team, etc. For this kind of trek & climb, the itinerary can be re-arranged and the date will be customized.
Is the park suitable for families ?
Absolutely. Short, kid-friendly hikes can easily be arranged. If you are coming as a younger family, it usually makes more sense to base yourself at Simien Lodge or Limalimo Lodge . Older children used to camping will enjoy the adventurousness of the treks and time around the campfire in the evenings.
Can You Tell Me About The Other Hikers On A Trip I'm On Or Interested In ?
The short answer is “no.” We are not permitted by law to give out any guest information. We can tell you how many people are on a given trip.
If you’re concerned about hiking pace disparities or differences with the other guests, we strongly recommend booking a private trip.
What do I need to bring?
Please see our full Simien trekking kit list below:
Waterproof jacket/raincoat/windbreaker and jumper for the evenings.
Good quality, robust, waterproof trekking shoes or boots.
Light waterproof trekking pants or trousers. Shorts are a good option as well on warmer days.
Soft day bag (backpack).
Toilet paper and/or wet wipes.
Comfortable T-shirt. If you’re visiting in the rainy season, a long sleeve trekking T-shirt (ideally Dri-FIT or similar) is a better option.
Cap or hat.
Filtration water bottle (please don’t use plastic).
The nice-to-haves (guides can provide much of this for you)
Nordic walking stick.
We also recommend bringing a few sachets of rehydration salts. Water is provided for the treks but you can often find yourself dehydrated after a full day of trekking and the salts can provide quick relief.
The different operators offering trips into the Simiens have different standards – it’s well worth booking one of the better ones to ensure you have the right gear and good food on your trip.
Tents, sleeping bags and mattresses can vary in quality depending on who you choose and with sub-zero temperatures, poor gear can make things uncomfortable.
What equipment do I need?
If you are camping in the mountains and have booked a trip with Us , then all camping equipment and food will be provided for you for your treks. However, we do recommend that you bring your own sleeping bag, or check your gear before leaving Debark to ensure you’ve plenty of what you need. Sometimes the sleeping bags, or mattresses can be thin for some people and you might want to bulk up on blankets or double up on gear.
Given the altitude, the temperature in the Simiens often drops below freezing at night and the equipment you have can make all the difference between an enjoyable or an uncomfortable stay. You should definitely also bring warm clothes for the evenings and night-times.
Your main luggage can be stored securely at a hotel in Gondar if you are returning there after your Simien trek, or you can keep them in our vehicles if you are not returning to Gondar. Where this is not possible, luggage is transported by mules from camp to camp, so it is easier if you bring soft bags rather than hard suitcases.
If you are staying at a lodge, then all your luggage can be stored securely at the lodge and you can simply take out a day bag with you on the treks.
Do I need to bring any specialist equipment ?
No, the trekking routes in the Simien mountains are not technical – so as long as you have the basics you will be fine. Walking sticks and ankle supports can be helpful if you are able to bring them, or need them.
What about the maximum allowed weight on the trek ?
For our all-trekking trips, the maximum allowed weight per client is 12 kg on the duffle bag and 5kg on a day pack. Most of the domestic flight to the mountain region allows only (12+5)kg per/person as luggage.
Where should I stay ?
There are two lodges in the park and nine campsites. You can therefore choose camp-only treks, lodge-only treks, community-run treks (south of the park) or a combination. Which is best for you will depend on your fitness levels, interests, budget, and time constraints.
What do I need to carry ?
Unlike backpacking, when on a trek you will only be required to carry those items needed for the day of walking. All of the group personal gear and camping equipment is carried by a trained group of porters or pack animals (ponies, yaks, llama, camels…)
How long should I spend in the park?
The most popular trip is a 2 or 3-night stay based at either Simien Lodge or Limalimo Lodge or camping from Sankaber to Chennek over 3 nights (often with a night or two at Limalimo Lodge tagged on at the end if you have more time available). The full Simien circuit from Buit Ras all the way to Adi Arkay in the north can take up to two weeks.
It is possible to do a day trip into the park, but the experience is more limited. You can see the large troops of Gelada Monkeys, and get to see some of the stunning viewpoints, but you will spend a lot of the day on the road starting out the windows of a Toyota Landcruiser.
It is possible to climb Ras Dashen with a 5 day/4 night trip, but it’s tough going and does not give you much time to adjust to the altitude. The trekking team will also charge a minimum of 8 days for this trip.
Who will be the trek guide?
We have a bunch of Government licensed holder very good English speaking , who are best known for this industry, very experienced, trained, well known about the first aid kit, local cultures and traditions and always very caring to the clients.
Do I need a guide?
It is highly recommended. It’s sensible to book ahead as if you just show up you will get whichever guide is available that day, and many are not as professional or knowledgeable as you would like.
If you are visiting independently, it is not mandatory to take a guide (although you will be pressured into taking one). However, it is mandatory that a scout accompanies you in the mountains. If you visit independently and go with a scout only, you will face a language barrier as scouts tend to have very little English.
If you are coming with a tour operator, then a guide and scout is mandatory.
There are detailed regulation as to how many cooks, cook assistants, scouts, guides etc. a group must take – there are even position like ‘tent erector’! You will have quite a team accompanying you, your muleteers and mules!
All visitors to the park must first arrange entrance fees, guides, and scouts at the entrance town of Debark. If you book through us, all of this is taken care of for you.
Where do we meet our guide?
As our guided trips are normally private, we will propose a meeting location and time based on the logistics for the trip and on your preferences. As a rule, on a multi-day trip, you will meet your guide at your base camp hotel in the evening upon arrival or in the morning before departing for the trailhead. On a one-day hike, your guide will normally pick you up at your hotel in the morning
How much does it cost ?
Given the variety of treks and accommodation options available, the price for a Simien trek depends mostly on the whether you choose to stay at a lodge instead of camping, and how long you want to spend in the park. Get in touch with us for more details or to arrange a quote.
Can I combine the Simiens with other destinations ?
Absolutely. The Simien Mountains is part of the classic Northern circuit of Ethiopia. Ethiopian Airlines’s domestic flight network makes it easy to connect into the gateway town of Gondar from anywhere in the country, and from there it is a 2-hour drive to the national park.
Although not always included in the northern circuit, it is also easy to combine the Simiens with a trip into the Danakil Depression .
If you want to combine the Simiens with regions in southern Ethiopia like the Omo Valley or Bale Mountains , keep in mind that you need at least 4 days to explore the Omo Valley, and 2-3 days for the Bale Mountains. If you’re combining these destinations with the full northern circuit, you’ll need at least two weeks.
How Much Cash Should You Bring On The Trek ?
The cash that you need to carry entirely depends upon the length of the trek and if you are opting to plan the trek with a travel agency or not. All the basic facilities like food, accommodation, porters and guides are provided by the travel agency if you go on an all-inclusive package with them. In that case, you need to bring cash only for your personal expenses, tipping and shopping.
Are meals & water included ?
If you are on a camping trip, all meals, water and snacks are included. However, in the interest of the environment we are trying not to use packed bottled water. This will also save on the size of your mule train! We recommend that you bring filtration equipment (a small filtering water bottle or pump). The team can then just bring a jerrycan or two and even fill up from the natural spring water (and it is safe if you have a filtration system).
At Limalimo Lodge, all meals and mineral water are also included. Note that the menu is fixed but they will adapt to your requirements if you tell them in advance). Limalimo have their own filtered water and bottles of local drinks. Wine from the Rift Valley (highly recommended!), beers, and local G&T are also included. If you are staying at the Simien Lodge, food and drink are not included but there is a good a la carte menu for each meal.
Am I allowed to bring my professional camera to Ethiopia?
Ethiopia is very photogenic, so you’ll want to bring a good camera with you to take the best snaps of your adventure. If you are planning on bringing a professional camera, you will need a permit. We can help you arrange this. There are no clear guidelines indicating which kinds of camera require permits, and handheld cameras are usually never questioned, but as a general rule – the bigger the camera, the more likely you’ll need a permit.
What guidance on tipping?
Tipping is vitally important in Ethiopia and is somewhat of a cultural expectation. While tipping is hugely appreciated by the local staff and we recommend tipping generously where you can, it can be difficult social terrain. We hope the below advice can help you avoid any awkward/uncomfortable situations.
The social awkwardness is often worse regarding the amount of the tip rather than whether or not to tip at all (as most travellers will provide some amount of tip). One approach that we have found works well is to decide beforehand how much you want to tip, then take out and fold up the notes and place them firmly in your guide/drivers hands, thank them for their help/services and then move on.
You don’t want to be in a position where you are being watched as you take out notes one by one deciding when to stop. As a general guide, we recommend tipping 10 USD per day for guides, and 5 USD per day for drivers/support staff (drivers, cooks etc.).
People do often tip much higher than this but it comes down to your budget, so our suggestion would be to start at 10 USD/day and go up/down from there depending on the quality of service and your budget. It can be tricky but it’s important to feel like you’re tipping what you feel is deserved whilst sticking to your budget!
: Do I need travel insurance ?
Our Company offers full travel insurance coverage with Travelex. Should you decide to obtain travel insurance on your own.
Can we use our Credit Cards? / Are there ATMs?
Major international credit cards are accepted by most top hotels, restaurants and shops. Visa and MasterCard are most widely accepted. However, Cash is recommended in the camps/lodges whilst out on City’s. Visa is the most reliable card to use at ATMs.also MasterCard is accepted as well as other international ATM/credit cards can be withdrawn at an ATM and in limited amounts.
Will I get mobile data in Ethiopia? Can I get a local SIM?
The internet in Ethiopia is intermittent, and internet outages are frequent (either voluntarily during protests/civil unrest or involuntarily due to infrastructure).
Most hotels in built up areas will offer internet which is generally reliable. Ethiopia has just one telecom provider, the state-owned Ethio Telecom. The mobile data coverage is surprisingly good.
You will need to purchase a SIM card on arrival in Addis, and unfortunately it is not a simple process! Your guide will help you organise this, but essentially you will need to get a SIM card cut for your phone and they’ll take your passport details and a photo in the shop. It costs around 50 Birr (~2 USD). There are mobile data bundles available, depending on how much data you plan to use.