Oban Harbour

View of Oban Harbor, from McCaig's Tower

View of Oban Harbor, from McCaig’s Tower

Balmoral Hotel Edinburgh

Balmoral Hotel

Postcard from London

Postcard from London

A lovely shot of the London Eye and aquarium from a Thames river cruise.

How Not To Be a Tourist in Ethiopia

It’s summertime across most of the world and that means an influx of tourists. Don’t get me wrong, I love tourism. I think tourism is really great. However, I can’t help but notice the groups of missions trips and travellers who don’t do any research beforehand, and as such, can be picked out a mile away. How can you travel in Ethiopia and not immediately be seen as a tourist? I’m glad you asked.

1. Don’t wear shorts

I don’t care how hot it is. I don’t care if you’re going out on a boat or hiking. Ladies, DO NOT WEAR SHORTS. If you can find me a woman in rural Ethiopia who wears shorts, then sure, you can wear them too. But after living in this country for almost two years, I can tell you that shorts are not appropriate for women outside of a club in Addis. Wear trousers or knee-length skirts instead.

Men, this nominally applies to you too. In Ethiopia male farmers wear short shorts in the Gojjam/Wollo style, but it’s rare you’ll find a man in cities, and especially the workplace, wearing anything but trousers.

Bottom line: Wear what the locals wear.

Children in Sagure
2. Don’t give money or presents to children

Most people mean well by giving things to kids on the street, but that really just makes it more difficult for all the ex-pats who have to live here longer than a week. In some of the more touristy cities, kids have learned tricks to get things from tourists. One PCV did an informal survey of the “street kids” in his super touristy town and found that over 75% are sponsored by a foreigner and receive more money every month from abroad than the normal Ethiopian salary. Keep in mind these are kids with both sets of parents who have good jobs.

If you really want to help the kids who need help, find an organization that is already responsibly working with street kids, orphans or vulnerable children. Giving things to random children on the street is doing more harm than good.

3. Don’t throw toilet paper in the toilet

This is the developing world, there is limited or no infrastructure for the collection and disposal of human waste. No matter how “nice” a hotel or restaurant looks, if there is a trash can next to the toilet, the toilet paper goes in there. Throwing it in the toilet risks clogs, overflows and lots of other gross things. It might be weird at first, but it saves the next person a lot of heartache.


Of course, this list isn’t comprehensive. However these three things will make a huge difference in helping you avoid being immediately labelled as a tourist in Ethiopia!

Creating the Big Trip

When Ryan and I first started dating, I had this idea of the big, post-Peace Corps trip I wanted to take. It started in Israel and Jordan, moved to India for Yoga Teacher Training, travelled through southeast Asia and ended in Australia visiting my friend J living in Brisbane. When Ryan and I got more serious and he wanted to travel with me, I realized it no longer made sense.

We shifted it around, added and dropped some things. Most of the advice out there says you have to pick your “pillars,” or places you must go, and build around that. My pillars were: Taj Mahal, Mumbai, Myanmar, Angkor Wat and Petra.

I still wanted to do the Yoga Teacher Training (YTT), so we decided I’d depart Ethiopia earlier than Ryan and attend the YTT north of New Delhi and then we’d commence the trip in New Delhi when Ryan could join me. Unfortunately, due to the fact I would need to leave the first possible COS date and I can’t know that until August, I had to drop the YTT dream, however our trip is still beginning in New Delhi—mostly because it’s easy and affordable to get there from Addis Ababa.

We brainstormed ways to fit Jordan and Israel in (and hopefully Cairo!) that would make sense, and came up with taking the Trans-Siberian Railway from Beijing to Moscow. But first, we have to get to Beijing… it made sense to just go from west to east in southeast Asia: Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam. We’re hitting Vietnam right at Tet (or Lunar New Year) and will fly up to Shanghai afterwards, taking the bullet train to Beijing.
Due to the unrest and conflict currently happening between Moscow and Ukraine, we are opting to cut our train trip short and take it to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

However, we still want to complete the original circuit and make it to the Middle East, so we added Turkey in lieu of Russia followed by Jordan and Israel. Thankfully, we recently booked our flights back to the States from Israel and were able to get a long layover in Cairo, so at least we’ll get to see the Pyramids!

And that is how our Big Trip went from just an idea I had a year and a half ago to a reality starting in around 8 months.

How did you plan your last trip?