Preparation

Below is a list of quick facts and useful travel tips to help you in planning a trip to Bahir Dar.

Climate

As a result of its high altitude, Bahir Dar has a moderate climate with hot winter season. It has also fluctuating monthly temperature and annual average temperature varies from 12 c0 to 30 c0. It has annual rain fall amount of 1,416mm. The city’s close proximity to Lake Tana and Abay River has made it one of the most enjoyable cities throughout the year in Ethiopia.

Geography

Bahir Dar is situated on the southern shore of Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile (or Abay), in what was previously the Gojjam province. The city is located approximately 578 km north-northwest of Addis Ababa, having a latitude and longitude of 11°36′N 37°23′E Coordinates and an elevation of about 1,800 meters (5,906 feet).

Health

Tourists have to bring vaccination card against malaria and yellow fever. For any more health problems, Bahir dar has many health facilities; there are two general hospitals, one referral, and other specialized health clinics and health centers.

Language

The three largest ethnic groups reported in Bahir Dar Special Zone were the Amhara (96.23%), the Tigryan (1.11%), and the Oromo (1.1%); all other ethnic groups made up 1.56% of the population. Amharic was spoken as a first language by 96.78%, and 1.01% spoke Oromiffa; the remaining 2.21% spoke all other primary languages reported. In the city English is also spoken in some extent. Tour Guides, Hotel employees and some employees of government organizations can communicate easily in English.

Population

Based on the 2007 Census conducted by the Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia (CSA), Bahir Dar Special Zone has a total population of 221,991, of whom 108,456 were men and 113,535 women; 180,174 or 81.16% are urban inhabitants, the rest of population are living at rural kebeles around Bahir Dar. At the town of Bahir Dar there are 155,428 inhabitants; the rest of urban population is living at Meshenti, Tis Abay and Zege towns which are part of Bahir Dar Special Zone. Bahir Dar is one of the largest towns in Ethiopia and also one of the fastest growing, particularly, in the western side the city is expanding rapidly.

Religions

In Bahir Dar 89.72% of the population practiced Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, 8.47% were Muslim, and 1.62% were Protestants. Therefore, the people are very respectful, helpful and hospitable for guests.

Transportation

Air transportation in Bahir Dar is served by the Bahir Dar International Airport (ICAO code HABD and IATA BJR). It is also known as the Ginbot Haya international Airport, it has paved runways. Ethiopian Airlines operates six daily flights through the facility, linking Bahir Dar and the capital; the flight also daily connects the city with other towns in the historic route.

Additionally, the city is connected through roads (and bus lines) to other cities and tourist sites. The most common and convenient way of traveling in Bahir Dar is cycling. Bajajs, Auto rickshaws and share taxis also provide transportation in the city. Intercity bus service is provided by the Selam Bus Line Share Company, Abay Bus and Sky Bus Transport System which operates daily to and from the capital.
In the destination, tourists have to types of transportation to reach the sites:

  •  Boating: to monasteries in the Lake Tana
  •  4 wheel drive/public transport: to sites in and around the city other than island monasteries.

If tourists use road to transport to enter Bahir dar, especially after late September they can enjoy Ethiopian green, flowery and stunning landscape and lifestyle of people in Ethiopian countryside villages.

Safety & Security

Bahir dar is one of the safest cities in Ethiopia; the city has not significant bad story of security problem. Indeed, Travelers are often advised to stay within the city centre if they are alone; avoid carrying large quantities of money; avoid walking alone at night. In Ethiopia the security offices of cities have local militias, standby regular police and special force. These forces are ready for any problems that may occur in the town.

Time and budget

Tourists can visit Bahir Dar throughout the year. All facilities are there any time. However, a tourist who wants to extend travel to other nearby tourist destinations like Semen Mountains National Park is advised to travel starting Late September, just after the rainy season – which is a very good time for travelling. The country is wonderfully green; there are many beautiful wild flowers and few tourists.

It is also very interesting for visitors to be present during one of the fascinating festivals, like Meskel (the finding of the True Cross) in September or Timqet (Ethiopian Epiphany) in January. Especially December and January can be considered as ‘high season’ in Ethiopia and it is high season to Bahir Dar city as well.
The Ethiopian time zone is GMT+3 and daylight savings time (DST) is not observed. The country uses a clock that is the reverse of the Western 12 hour clock. As a result, the day starts at 6am and not 12am (midnight). It is important to double check the time of local appointments and travel schedules to ensure which type of time is being used.

Visas & documents

Foreign tourists who fulfil Ethiopian passport and visa requirement can travel in Bahir Dar. But tourists should know that there is immigration and custom check upon their arrival to Ginbot Haya international Airport. They don’t have to forget holding valid passport and visa with date of validation they received from Bole International or embassies and consulates of Ethiopia in foreign countries.

Currency and exchange

Upon arrival in Ethiopia, visitors must declare foreign currency. There is no limit to the amount of currency that can be brought in, but no more than 100 birr can be exported or imported. They may bring their money in cash or credit card
The exchange rate of the birr versus other currencies varies. For the latest exchange rates, the following website (among others) can be checked on the Internet: National Bank of Ethiopia, Exchange rate

Exchanging money – Tourists are advised to bring US dollars – these are still the best currency to carry. But there are not less than nine hard currencies which the CBE exchanges and these are: US Dollar, Canada Dollar, Euro, Pound, Dirham, RSA Rand, Swedish Frank, Yen, and Norwegian currency. The US Dollar, Great Britain Pound and Euro are the most commonly exchanged currencies in other banks in the city as well. Travel cheque is not advised form of payment due low its reliability (tour operators)
Costs – costs for admission fee and costs for services are reasonable in Bahir Dar.
Tipping – tourists who visit Ethiopia are advised to give tip when they are satisfied; but over-tipping is not advised.

Telephone

Used for calling from outside of Ethiopia = +251
Used for calling within Ethiopia= 0