Protests in Gondar, Ethiopia: Still safe for backpacking?

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Gondar, Ethiopia protests have many wondering, ‘Is it safe to travel?”

I love Ethiopia, travel Ethiopia, & live in Ethiopia. 

But while avoiding real work, I came across an article posted on Yahoo stating ten killed during protests in Gondar, Ethiopia.

It was the first I heard of violence in Gondar, Ethiopia, and unfortunately the second of recent ethnic clashes in the country.

Gondar, Ethiopia, Castles in Africa, backpacking tips, backpacking africa for beginners

What Gondar Looks like 99.99% of the time (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

My Opinions for Backpacking Ethiopia (and other African countries)

1. I still believe Ethiopia is a very safe country to travel.

No country is 100% safe and even the “safe countries” don’t guarantee a risk-free travel experience anymore. The US Embassy has issued a travel warning for Gondar, Ethiopia, but the rest of the country remains unaffected.

2. Don’t avoid an entire country because of violence in one area. African countries contain thousands of different cultures and tribes. One part might be clashing with another, the rest of nation will be unaffected. I’ve already shared detailed, specific safety advice and explained how to know where you’re traveling to is safe. But to keep it short, don’t write off Ethiopia or other African countries for one clash in one area. Sometimes you should and sometimes you shouldn’t, and in this case there are still lots of reasons for backpacking Ethiopia.

3. Avoid Protests. 

A news reporter from Europe was raped during the Egyptian protests. Yet my Canadian friend living in Cairo was perfectly safe. Why? Because despite hearing gun shots, seeing tear gas, etc. my friend was on the other side of the Nile far enough away from the demonstrations.

The other ethnic violence that occurred in Ethiopia this year happened to protesters. The many 2015 protests in America resulted in several deaths, injuries, and arrests.

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A protestor throws back a gas canister at police in Maryland. Photo Credit: Eric Thayer

Dangers of Protests

And while violence, rape, and other awful acts are NEVER justified NO MATTER WHAT, they are much more likely to happen to someone at a protest than not at a protest in the same city at the same time. If you feel so strongly about the issue, and a peaceful protest is what you think will help, than do so.

But as a traveler, who probably doesn’t know about or care about the issue, avoid the protests! Don’t watch. Don’t participate. Stay far away, and most likely you have nothing to fear.

Don’t let protesters in Gondar, Ethiopia scare you away from the country or the continent. 




See Also:  Love on the Road & 9 Other Answers Explained by a Traveler in Africa

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14 responses to “Protests in Gondar, Ethiopia: Still safe for backpacking?”

  1. Ken says:

    Hi Valerie – this is great advice! I’m planning to fly to Ethiopia next week (staying for a month in total) and wanted to get your opinion on whether you’d advise going to Gondar and Bahir Dar at the moment? I heard some reports that the Simien Mountains are currently closed and that the government’s turned off the internet in Bahir Dar, but I’m not sure how true that is … thanks!

    • Val Bowden says:

      Hey Ken! Great to hear from you. You’ll have a great time in Ethiopia! So honestly, I’d avoid those areas now. I haven’t been there recently, but heard that it is escalating a little bit. The rest of the country is totally fine though. And personally, Gondar and Bahir Dar aren’t my favorite cities for tourists anyways. The castles in Gondar are neat and definitely show how Ethiopia was such a major power back in the day, but if you’ve seen castles in Europe you’d be quite bored. And Bahir Dar is beautiful, but personally I didn’t love the monastries like everyone else. I’m not sure if you downloaded my Ethiopian guide or not, but other cities I think travelers will enjoy more include Lalibela (churches are awesome and lots of good hiking nearby), Harar, Omo Valley, & Danikil Depression.The internet gets shut off once in a while in Addis… I’m not sure about Bahir Dar. Does that help? Just let me know if you have any more questions 🙂

  2. Elena says:

    Hello Valerie! Thank you very much! How would you advise to travel to Omo Valley from Addis? Is it possible to fly there?

  3. Paul hilton says:

    We intend to fly to Gonder tomorrow staying at Landmark hotel before leaving to Debark, then to Limalimo then trek to Adarmaz then onto Sankabsr and Geech Abyss onto Aykotba up to Chenek camp site then back down.
    What are your thoughts on this due to recent fires and unrest?

    • Val Bowden says:

      Hi Paul! Great to hear from you. Have you seen my latest post on safety in Ethiopia? That will give you some more ideas. And since you are probably already there…. lol I guess you should be giving us safety tips and letting me know how it is. In my personal opinion, you’ll probably be fine. Just avoid protests, and if things gets rowdy leave. Most Ethiopians really want peace, and in general it’s still a safe country. So I’m hoping if you avoid any hotspot areas you’ll be fine. But definitely check back in and let me know how it goes! All the best! Stay safe!

  4. Kerry Dooley Young says:

    Great blog. Thanks for the information on Gondar and other sites.

  5. Pierre says:

    Hey Val!

    Thanks a lot for all your tips, it’s great to hear about that situation with more calm and perception than the travel warnings on Embassy websites 🙂

    We’re landing in Addis tomorrow and we were planning on travelling mostly through public bus. Some embassies strongly discourage that, but we don’t really have the budget to fly everywhere….

    What are your thoughts on road travel?

    Thanks again for the wonderful blog.

    • Val Bowden says:

      Hey! No problem. I mean Embassies, especially the American one, puts the strictest, scariest warnings on their websites. I think most travelers find it much better than what they read. So I’ve traveled the whole country by bus, and actually found the roads and big buses (Selam and Sky Bus– both have offices in Meskel Square), better than other African countries. Obviously, driving here is a lot crazier than what you’re used to. But it’s on par with latin American countries or Miami, Florida where I used to live. lol. The only advice for now is just show a little extra caution… especially in Oromo/Amhara areas. And as always (but definitely now) avoid any large gatherings or protests. Other than that, I think you’ll be totally good visiting Ethiopia. It’s a great place! 🙂

  6. Irma says:

    Hello, We are planning on going to Ethiopia in a couple of months. Since we only have a week we plan to fly to Lalibela for 2 or 3 days and than fly to harar for a couple of days. I read about needing injections for hepatitis A and malaria and injections. Do you think any injections are needed. We went to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand last yr. and did not get any injections. Thank you for your response.

  7. Irma Sherman says:

    Hello, We are planning on going to Ethiopia in a couple of months. Since we only have a week we plan to fly to Lalibela for 2 or 3 days and than fly to harar for a couple of days. I read about needing injections for hepatitis A and malaria and injections. Do you think any injections are needed. We went to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand last yr. and did not get any injections. Thank you for your response.

    • Val Bowden says:

      Hi! Great to hear you’re coming. You’ll have a great time! Well, I always like to get vaccines just in case. If you’re staying and eating at nicer places, the Hep A probably isn’t a must though. Especially if you felt comfortable in Asia without it. So you could probably skip the Hep A. And as far as Malaria goes…. Lalilbela and Addis are malaria free. Since they both are in a higher altitude. Technically, they say malaria is possible in Harar. But it’s not super common especially if you’re not coming during rainy season. Again, it’s up to you. But I would just bring a bottle of bug spray. Malaria pills are super cheap here, so if you come and are worried just head to a local pharmacy. Anyways, hope you have a great time! 🙂

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