Warning about Guide in Ethiopia
The picture included here is of the guide I am writing about: Daniel Damtew Aseffa:
In January 2013 we had the worst experience that we have had in our many years of travel to many countries. We had booked a private tour ( January 16-February) with Daniel Demtew Aseffa of Glory Ethiopian Travel. Friends had previously used Daniel with a positive experience 2 years before. In the interim something changed Daniel. We were cheated, lied to, robbed, and eventually abandoned because of Daniel's incompetence and dishonesty. Here are the details:
We spoke to him via Skype and sent numerous emails back and forth. We paid him by means of wire transfers a total of $9194 for three people for a tour from January 16th through February 1, 2013.
1) At the last minute he reversed our trip so that we went to the south first. We now realize that was because he had no reservations for us in the north.
2) Before the trip we researched some of the hotels and decided to upgrade 2 of them. We sent Daniel the extra money for the upgrades but we never stayed in those hotels for 2 of the nights 3 nights booked. He pocketed that money too.
2) More than once he took us to hotels we had not booked and told us it was because they were better. We now know that it was because the ones we booked were more and/or would no longer take his reservations.
3)) Also on day one we gave him $200 cash so that he could negotiate with the villages which required a fee to enter ($20 per village. We later found out that this was 10 times what he would have to pay. So he, all along, planned on pocketing that money.
4) The car: Most importantly we were the only non 4 wheel drive car we saw in the South Omo! The warning lights on the dashboard were lit day one. He said the light was broken. Then day 2 the air conditioning went (it was in the 90’s and very dusty). The brakes squeaked which he claimed were because of new brake pads. Then the radiator went and he began gluing it together, leaving us for hours and days on the side of the road and in restaurants/hotels to supposedly fix it. Later we found out there were no radiators in Southern Ethiopia so we have no idea what he was doing while we were stranded. One back door did not open. One back window did not open at all and the other opened only halfway. Car was a death trap. In an accident there was no escape.
During this time there were 4 days where we had breakfast, were stranded and given a 3-4pm lunch and no dinner, having arrived at hotels after 9pm. One day were left at a hotel at 6pm and not picked up until 3pm the next day with no contact in between.
6) At the Mursi village we wanted to buy lip plates. He told us it would cost us 200 birr per plate. Without negotiating we bought them for 30 birr each from a woman who approached us. I’m sure he planned on pocketing the difference there also.
5) At the Murulle Lodge he asked us for an additional $100 each saying the price had gone up and if we didn’t pay we’d have no place to stay. When we questioned how they could do that after we had reserved at a particular price we were told that was common practice in Ethiopia. I’m sure he pocketed that money
6) At one point we went to see some totems and the people kept yelling at us in Amharic and waving us away. Daniel went in an office and we heard arguing. He came out and said they were accusing him of his papers not being good. He called them stupid peasants. Later we found out it was true that he was not licensed.
7) On our many drives he slept or read. No conversation or information occurred.
8) The morning of our departure for the north at 5AM he said he would pick us up to take us to the airport and, at that time, would bring us our vouchers for the northern part of the trip. We ALL know that that was a lie.
9) On our last ride with him to Addis from the south the car was completely broken down so we had to take a taxi van. He wanted us to pay that also but by then we were disgusted and refused. Then Daniel, the taxi driver, and a friend drove up to 180 kph, chewing chat and drinking a clear liquid mixed with coke. When we complained Daniel said we had to accept it or they could just leave us on the side of the road with our luggage. We were truly afraid for our lives by this point. The license number of the taxi van was # 07809
10) We arrived in the north to find out that the tour operator there expected us to arrive with the several thousands of dollars they were owed by Daniel. We were told the m oney was to pay for the last month’s tour group of Australians that Daniel never paid for. He also had not paid for us so we were on our own. We then had to repay for everything (hotel, transportation, tours) until we got back to Addis 5 days later to fly home. We had to stay in hotels that took credit cards as we did not have that much cash on us. At Lalibela the fees had double since the time we had booked so because Daniel never paid for our admission or tour, we had to pay the increased fee to enter the churches ($100 each)
11) A man name Fitsum Gezahegne( President - Ethiopian Tour Operators Association and Managing Director Paradise Ethipia Travel) helped us. He is the president of the Ethipian tour guide association. It was from him that we learned that Daniel is not licensed. Fitsum rebooked the hotels and tours. He also got us a van when a dust storm from the Sudan cancelled all flights for three days. In this way we were able to pay him at the end with a credit card since we did not have enough cash on us to continue the trip.
12) We also spoke with a man named Mr. Sisay Teklu, an assistant to the Minister of tourism. However when we met with him it was in an office with lots of boxes and a desk. He said they were remodeling. When Daniel was asked to repay us he said he had spent the money long ago. We wanted to have him arrested right then but we assured the ministry would recover our money and we would not get anything if Daniel was in jail..We signed papers (in Amharic) supposedly saying that if Daniel didn’t pay the agreed upon amount he and his wife (his partner in crime) would go to jail. We were also told in an email from Fitsum "The next day after you left, Mr. Sisay of the Ministry of Tourism had written a formal letter to Daniel requesting for an explanation about the whole thing and he signed a paper at the Ministry to pay all your money back before 31st of March. If he cannot pay the money by then, the government will pay you back and prosecute him accordingly." We naively believed the ministry would stand by its promise. However when Daniel didn’t pay by the deadline, we received an email from Mr. Sisay that Daniel had been given an extension until May 4. We wrote asking them to honor the original agreement but that has not happened. At this point we are convinced we have been totally used and lied to and will never see this money and that Daniel will not go to jail for what he has done.
We believe the ministry should honor their promise to pay us and then get their money back from Daniel since they seem to trust Daniel and we don’t.
Side note: We tried to get help from the American Embassy but they would only give us a list of lawyers to contact.
Also, not all Ethiopians are dishonest. We did meet several who tried to help us, including Fitsum.
We were also recently told that Daniel’s business license has been revoked.Related to:
- Adventure Travel
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NO DIET SODA !
Despite having a burgeoning Tourist Market and having a thriving import market, you will be unable to find Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, Diet 7-Up or any diet soda drinks. Coca-Cola first licensed a bottler in 1959 to produce Coca-Cola and now has 2 plants employing 700 people. Still no Diet Coke! Why? I have no idea. I have been to Ethiopia more than 5 times now and have NEVER found diet drinks in any bar, restaurant, supermarket or corner shop.
If you really need it: B.Y.O.B. Bring your own supply of diet drinks or switch to fruit juice. That can be found cheaply and easily everywhere!Related to:
- Work Abroad
- Family Travel
General warnings in brief...
Don't give anything to children---parents are neither happy nor proud of this. I myself saw many fathers and mothers giving a spank to their offspring for this.
Don't give anything (lonely planet says,too) It is too egoistic because we do it mostly for us, I know because I enjoyed it ,too. Give to the schools, to the parents or the teacher! Don't make them beggars, don't make them get used to easy money because they often leave school just to run after tourist buses and ask for money. It's a great pity!!
Instead give something to old and invalid...
Be very careful of thieves in the market. They distract you or hold your legs and grab your camera or money.
"Lonely Riders" don't trust girls who come to your room for a "ride". They very often drug you and rip you off. They themselves told me they are ingenious at finding your money no matter how well you have hidden it. Give it to your friends or to the receptionist.
Protect your cameras and other electronic equipment from dust! There are clouds of it everywhere!
Always carry a roll of toilet paper.
Unfortunately there are a lot of small children in Ethiopia who will approach you with a sorrowful look and start telling their weepy stories. They have invented very big and plausible lies and sometimes they will convince you they are telling the truth. It's their big beautiful innocent eyes and their convincing way they are talking. Well, don't believe them. They are lying. Very few of them are really in need and their parents are not always proud of this practice. But who can stop them.
They are used to getting easy money from tourists and they practice a lot becoming better and better ...“I need a uniform for school... / I am a student and my family lives in the country/ I want to be a doctor/ I have no parents/ my mother is sick and my father is dead, we have no food” are the usual stories but they are so clever that sometimes you want to give them something even though you are sure of their mischief. Anyway don't, because it is not good for their future.
Ethiopia is not only a very safe country, it is also a place where you feel very welcome. No one will attack you, or try to take your belongings by force.
But of course you should always use your common sense which means that you never leave your bags unattended, never take out the whole bunch of your money, never show off expensive jewellery or electronic equipment unless you are in a safe place, like a hotel or with the company of local people that you trust as real friends. And don't be surprised if you come to have many of them. They are such a warm and open people!
fake tour guides
one of our main reasons travelling to ethiopia was a desire to hike around in the simean mountains for a few days, looking for gelada baboons and other native species. However by the time we had travelled that far north we had already decided that it would be madness to travel without a guide as we had already had more than our fair share of sticky situations. So when we found a tour operator who was running a day trip up there the next day (from Gondar) we said we would go suss it out with the group that day and see what we thought. So there was an italien couple supposedly going and we were to half the cost with them (of course we never actually met this couple!) we discussed prices etc and pick up drop off points and after a small bit of haggling a price was agreed. he said the tour included getting to the mountain range, a guided tour of the area during which he would show us the regular place of the baboons, and home that evening.
Next day when he came to puck us up there were five men in the bus (local) and no sign of any other ferangi :-O when i questioned him he said first that we were picking them up en route, and then this changed to that one of them had taken ill and they had decided not to go. while at this point you are probably saying why did we just not go, well we were already out of gondar at this point and we had already paid. when we got to the stop off point we were offered a guided tour alright... but for extra money! we protested obviously and eventually we just said we would go on our own and meet them back at the pick up point at an agreed time. so we set off. but we were like the pied pipers or something and before long we had a following of children and two men. one of the men had some english and seemed nice, but we told him we did not want a guide numerous times. howeve he just kept going infront of us along the track we were followning, pointing things out. We did see gelada baboons which i found amazing, the mist covered valley from the top of peaks are fantastic and bushy tailed monkeys were hiding in the trees! when we got back to the bus the man demanded money. he was in cohoots with the other lads i would say. they refused to leave until we paid him. so we decided to give him some money anyway since he had been nice, although we were still annoyed with the original tour guide. now for the best part! the men in the bus, mainly the tour guide and the driver started saying that the driver had had to pay entrance fees to the mountain range and we would have to reimburse him. an argument ensued and was getting heated. eventually i just said that when they drop us back to the town we would pay then, whispering to my friend that there wasnt a hope n hell i was handing over another penny to the assholes. So when we got to the town we said that we were not paying any more nad anted to get off the bus. the bus was stopped. they refused so i began to barge my way past to the front of the mini bus. the driver began to drive off, so at this point i stuck my head out the window and began shouting LEBA LEBA very loudly and attracting some local attention. this had the desired effect and they stopped the bus but one of them tried to grab my bad as i left and they shouted every form of abuse (in english might i add) at us as they sped off.
Looking back on it i think we were lucky to get away with being just a little shook from the experience but scams are EVERY where in ethiopia and as time went on we just learned to trust no one.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- National/State Park
THE CULTURAL SHOW SCAM
The is known as “Fird Bet” and seems to only happen in Addis Ababa. What happens? You will be approached on the street by a nice looking gentleman or even a kid. They tell you that the local community are putting on a Cultural Show and they would like to invite you. There will be traditional dancing, including the snake dance, by dancers in authentic costumes. It sounds great doesn’t it? Well, it’s a scam. A complete fraud and criminal enterprise. I used to watch one man, who looked like a school teacher, work the streets near a tourist hotel everyday. There is a teenager who works outside the Sheraton who runs away now when he sees me. Why? Because I know and now – so do you. I learned this from someone who once worked this scam.
How does it work? They take you somewhere and a few dances are performed. You are offered drinks. You are then asked at the end for $100 per person or even more. Because they kept their end of the bargain you have to pay. Not paying could become violent.
Never, ever go to a ‘Cultural Show’. If you eat at a good Ethiopian restaurant you will get traditional dancing for free. If you are approached, just say “Fird Bet” and they disappear quickly.
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PEEING IN PUBLIC
Unfortunately men (and boys) have a very cavalier attitude towards public urination. The first couple of times I watched this somewhat alarming behaviour I thought it was only truly homeless men in Addis Ababa who did this. It’s not. A lot of men do it and they definitely do this in the countryside. They just turn their back on even the busiest roads and go for it. Many toilets in bars and restaurants enforce this odd behaviour. Sometimes they have a urinal just outside the ladies toilet cubicle so they may have to see this twice!
Any of you guys ever thought about going behind the tree/bush 2 meters away?
No. Obviously not.Related to:
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Study Abroad
- Business Travel
Begging kids!!!!& may be adults
Begging kids are usually seen in shopping areas and other major areas. I dont think that you
would see people begging in a local street expecially in smaller towns.Dont give them
anything they could easilly returne and get the money back.
In jijiga, dire dawa and more places you would see beggers around early in the begging for
breakfast. It's pretty good if you give them some food expecially home cooked things since
they cant re-sell it and it's home cooked.
When traveling by foot becareful of drivers as in some towns they drive all over the place.
2. also dont take pictures with out permissoin of the people.You may wind up getting arested or having your camera confisated.
3. Beware of scams--people will scam you if you look like a foreigner.scams could range from over payment to trying to tell you a sad story that is possibly not true.
4.when staing at a hotel watch out for creepy crawler,insects and carry bug spray around.
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Driving yourself is a bit unknown in Ethiopia. Most places that actually rent cars will only let you drive in Addis Ababa and on sealed roads. That leaves out a lot of the good bits of the country. Driving is no worse than many places in Africa, but this is a lot higher. That means instead of being run off the road, you may be run off the side of a steep cliff that will certainly leave loved one looking at your will. If you do drive – drive defensively. Very defensively!
Just remember that Road Safety is optional.Related to:
- Family Travel
- Business Travel
- Road Trip
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BAD WIRING IN HOTELS
For some reason everyone seems to think they are an electrician. I can honestly say I never saw anyone resembling a competent electrician in all my travels here. I have, however, seen people just try and just wire up any old thing. This included my landlord in Addis Ababa. Number of hot showers I got while living there – zero! I highly suggest that you make sure EVERYTHING is switched off when sleeping and you know where the fire exit is. Too many times I have had burning smells in my room.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
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HIV & AIDS
HIV and AIDS are unfortunately all too common in Ethiopia. In Addis Ababa particularly there are very high infection rates. You only need to get it once to die from it. In 2003 AIDS accounted for 30 percent (79,000) of all adult deaths. In the same year 539,000 children were orphaned, while 128,000 pregnant women and 35,000 newborns were living with HIV and AIDS. A pack of 4 condoms costs 5.5 U.S. Cents and is available at just about any small shop. Don’t gamble with your life.
its hard to come here and not take pictures but if you would like to take pictures of people you need to make sure you ask permission first!!!! some people will say no- unless you agree to pay them (dont do it). depending on where you go in ethiopia there can be a large muslim population and getting thier picture taken is forbidden. also it is illegal to photograph most government buildings, they will take your film or you could be killed for this. so please make sure you ask before you begin to click away!!!
streets of Dessie
there is a woman in Dessie who throws large rocks at cars. there are not too many roads in Dessie so you are likely to run into her if you are there. all local people stop their cars and try to get to their destination another way and i advise you to do the same!!!
While I didn't stay here, I called in to view the grounds and hotel. Impressive place, with bars,...more
You can camp here for $10 or for the same price you could stay en-suite in a budget hotel here. This...more
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