Bob, I have a couple of further questions, if it's not too much trouble:
The tour companies my friend has looked at for the Danakil are quoting approx $500 for a 4 day tour. You said the tour company from the leaflet you picked up were quoting $150. Would you still have the name of the company so that I could check them out? Obviously, we want to go with a reputable tour that will provide enough water, supplies, etc. but that is a big difference in cost, so I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on it. We are between minds about whether or not we need to bring sleeping bags with us. Tour companies sometimes provide these I know...
Also, we are hoping to just share a ride from Mekele to Lalibela with other travellers, if not taking a bus. I wonder did you find that it was easy to connect with fellow travellers that way in Ethiopia? It seems like you hired drivers quite a bit. Did you find that the easiest way to get around, and how costly was it?
Thanks so much. I"ll leave you in peace after this
Evelyn, the company is Ethio Travel and Tours. It has a Web site. You'll see that the content of the sheet I have (it was given to me in the office) is almost identical to what is on the Web site. However, the Web site says the cost is $600 per person. Written at the top of the sheet I have is this: "Group price 150$ pp = all inclusive." You might ask (bargain) for a lower price.
I booked an international flight with Ethiopian Airlines; and got a discount on internal flights.
The price of drivers (including car and fuel) varies. Africa is more expensive than Asia, where you generally can get a driver for between $50 and $70 a day. I paid $70 per day when I traveled in Assam last fall; and $80 per day when I traveled in Rwanda in spring 2013. I paid $45 per day (10 hours) in Bali last May. Ethiopia was more expensive because I went off the beaten track, requiring a four-wheel drive vehicle (Toyota Land Cruiser). For example, I visited Gambela National Park near the border with South Sudan. In 2013 I paid $120 per day; in 2014 I paid $130. That's the most I've ever paid for a driver. But it was worth it because the roads were absolutely terrible (mud, rocks, cattle, goats). We had three flat tires on one segment of the trip; and extra fuel had to be carried on top. I tacked on an extra day; and my driver charged me $85, so I suspect you could find a driver for around that price. If you share a vehicle, the per-person price would be lower. I liked having a driver since I had the freedom to stop. And I learned a lot from them about the country and its culture. We had long days, often starting at dawn; and arriving at night.
There are a lot of minibuses in Africa. They generally are packed inside and out (lots of baggage on top; and perhaps some animals and people). Some are well maintained; some are not. Many speed. As a result, it's not uncommon to see overturned vehicles, particularly on unpaved roads.
Many people overlook the option of hiring a car and driver. I find it to be a reasonable alternative to public transportation, particularly if you share a vehicle. In my view, the benefits outweigh any modestly higher cost. Having said that, I also like using public transportation; and do so extensively.
Where to find car and driver? Hotels and hostels can make recommendations. Other travelers can, too. I found my Ethiopian driver on the Bradt Guide forum on Ethiopia. A traveler provided an informative description of his extensive trip; and mentioned the name of his "excellent" driver.
Let me know if I can be of further help.
P.S. I won't have Internet access for three weeks beginning Aug. 13, when I arrive in Papua New Guinea.
P.P.S. I suspect you won't need to bring a sleeping bag. You will be hiking at night to see the Erte Ale volcano, then hiking back to the camp for breakfast. So you won't be sleeping much that night. Elsewhere, it will be warm, except perhaps in the Simien Mountains. You might consider a lightweight silk sleeping sack, available at camping stores. It will provide some warmth; and help keep any bugs out. I got bitten by bed bugs in Adigrat, Ethiopia (I remember it well!). Ask the tour company about what you should bring.
[ Edit: Edited on 29-Jul-2015, at 19:25 by berner256 ]
Bob, you are a gent. Thanks so much once again for all the trouble you have taken with your responses.
We are booked with Ethio for the Danakil (as coincidence would have it, my friend had already engaged with them and has now managed to get a lower price based on your info), we have booked our Simien trek and also our internal flights. Little left to organise now. Excitement mounting
Hope you have amazing adventures in Papua New Guinea. If you make it to Ireland at any stage on your travels, let me know. I owe you a beer
Evelyn, you'll have a grand time. Glad to be of help. I drank lots of beer in Ethiopia. Dashen seemed more flavorful than St. George. I liked Meta, too. Enjoy! Bob in Brisbane.
Just wanted to let you know I had the most incredible travel experience in Ethiopia. Just got back to Ireland yesterday but I think I left my heart behind me What a country, I fell in love with the people, the culture, the food, the shoulder dancing! I am missing it acutely in the hours after coming home and just wish I could go straight back. You were not wrong.
Hope you are enjoying your own travels right now.
Thanks once again
Evelyn, great to hear that you had a good time. I'm sure you'll return to Ethiopia. There is so much to experience. How was your trip to the Danakil Depression?
I begin another adventure tomorrow, leaving Marrakech for the Atlas mountains of Morocco, including a visit to a hidden valley that's off the beaten path. We're camping. Then it's overland with a Toyota Land Cruiser to Western Sahara, Mauritania (as far east as Chinguetti), Senegal; and by boat to the Bijagos islands of Guinea-Bissau. I'll be home around mid-November by way of Lisbon and Madrid.
If you have time, please share some of your photos on travellerspoint.com.
All the best to you in future travels. Happy trails!