Anyone who visited Ethiopia 15 to 20 years ago will recall joyous nights sleeping in rural hotels that may as well have been stables for animals, and urban hotels that were essentially brothels. No matter where you stayed, fleas were a constant companion. Fortunately, Ethiopian accommodation has come on in leaps and bounds, and it continues to get better, especially in the midrange category. Fleas and sheep mostly stay elsewhere now and hotels functioning as brothels are the exception rather than the rule.
Tents are useful in Ethiopia for trekking and the exploration of remote regions. For short treks, tents can be hired from Addis Ababa’s tour operators or from businesses in Lalibela, Gonder and Debark.
Campsites have been set up in some of the national parks and in the Omo Valley, but most lack facilities and consist of little more than a clearing beside a river. It’s always essential to treat drinking water at the sites and be self-sufficient in everything else.
A few upmarket hotels allow camping on their grounds, though prices are close to what you’d pay for nice budget accommodation and privacy is limited.
In Ethiopia, hotels will generally play home to everyone who’s not camping. There are very few hostels and homestays available to travellers.
The standard of hotels in Ethiopia is constantly improving in areas of high tourist traffic, particularly in the north, east and south, although western Ethiopia continues to lag behind. The boom in hotel construction is particularly noticeable for midrange travellers.
And while there aren't many of them, there's a welcome trend towards top-end lodges in the national parks. Long may they prosper!
We recommend making advance reservations throughout peak tourist season, which effectively means from October to March, and whenever there's a big festival in the town you're visiting, especially in Gonder, Aksum and Lalibela.
Ethiopia's use of dual pricing sometimes leads to resentment from travellers, as many hotels charge substantially higher rates (many openly) for faranjis (foreigners, especially Western ones). Although you may take offence to a hotel owner calling you a rich faranji, remember that you’ll always be given priority, as well as the best rooms, facilities and service.
Room Types: Double or Twin?
Charging more for twin rooms (when compared to doubles) is one of the more baffling but pervasive pricing practices in Ethiopia. And charging same-sex couples more for rooms than mixed couples is similarly widespread.
In Ethiopia, a room with a double bed is often called a ‘single’, and single travellers are often forced to pay the same as a couple.