When we were going to the South Omo valley, of course we had a lot of questions in our mind; Is the Omo Valley dangerous? Can you travel without a tour company? Is there any cheap way to visit Omo valley? How can I find a guide? How are the road conditions in the Omo valley? Is it safe to ride motorcycle? Does is possible and easy to travel Low Omo Valley by public transporter?
After spending 10 days in the Omo Valley we wanted to write an article and try to answer all questions what we had in our mind. We hope that our ‘Discover Ethiopia’s Low Omo Valley by yourself’ article’s, which is about the Omo Valley & tribes (ethic groups) and this article can help you to prepare your own journey there. If you have any question feel free to ask.
How is the road in the South Omo Valley? What about petrol?
When you leave from Konso and turn to the Omo Valley road the region says hello to you with an amazing landscape and nice mountain roads.
Key Afar is 112 km from Konso and all the way is tar road; you just need to be careful for potholes and the local busses.
Jinka is 40 km far from Key Afar. It is a tar road with some potholes.
Turmi is 83 km far from Key Afar. Dimeka is the first village on the road, which is 56 km far and than Turmi is only 27 km from Dimeka. Road is still under constriction therefore it is a gravel road with some corrugation. Still the road to Dimeka and Turmi has some problems in the rain season. 🙁
Gorcho (One of the Karo ethic groups village) is 50 km far from Turmi. First 30 km is gravel road with some corrugation after that hard sand road, sometimes soft sand. But it is impossible to reach the Gorcho on the rain season. Dus is 19 km far from Gorcho and most of the road is soft sand.
Omorate is 71 km far from Turmi and it is a brand new tar road (2018).
Where can you find petrol in Omo Valley? It was one of the big question in our mind when we were going there. We bought petrol in Konso, it is look like only one petrol station sells petrol which was 22 birr. Another option Jinka to find petrol. One petrol station is so much busy because they have petrol, which was 19 birr. We didn’t see petrol station Key Afar, Turmi or Omorate but they have many motorcycles there. So, if you ask one of them they can help to find petrol but price will be more high between 30 to 50 birr. When we were leaving Jinka we calculate how many kilometers we ride and took extra petrol with us.
Where can you stay Jinka, Key Afar, Dimeka, Turmi and Omorate in the Omo Valley? Safe, cheap, clean etc.?
We can highly recommend staying in Jinka and Turmi because you can find a lot of option to stay.
Key Afar has two-three pensions. We didn’t stay in Key Afar because we know that people complain about cleanliness and security. Dimeka has the same problem. You can visit Key Afar and Dimeka at the market day. Easy to go with public transport and turn back. We went to Omorate for a day and we couldn’t see nice place to stay around, only some basic pension.
Normally, we have been staying in tent in our journey but we skipped to do it in Ethiopia. We have many reasons for it; it is rain season now. Each day, we have rain maybe half an hour but everywhere getting mud and roads can be like a river. Also, we have a lot of electronic with us. We don’t want to leave them in the tent when we go to visit Ethic groups. In Omo Valley, people like to touch everything a lot. It is not maybe because of they want to steal something; maybe they are only curious. But we don’t feel comfortable to stay with all our bags on the motorcycle. Other reason was price; some camping sites are more expensive than basic rooms. Also, they can be far from the city center. We don’t want to walk 3-4 km under the sun everyday to find food in the city center.
You can find a hotel for yourself, which you like. We wanted to share with you what we know.
Jinka Pension & Hotels
Who went to Jinka before us they recommend three different hotel/pension to us. Nardos Pension , Goh Hotel and Orit Hotel & Pension. Three of them are clean and close to each other in city center. Nardos and Orit have Wi-Fi (some times good sometimes slow, depend how many people use at the same time.) You should remember that you can always negotiate the prices especially if they are not crowded.
Nardos Pension has a room with private shower and toilet but don’t have many rooms so can be full fast. The rooms with share bathroom are more available. We went there but they didn’t have a room with private bathroom. The room price is 300 birr. They asked 250 birr for a room with shared bathroom room.
Goh Hotel has many rooms and the price starts 350 birr. It was look like ok. We went there only for lunch and we didn’t like the food.
Orit Hotel and Pension has many room because they are famous place for tour operators. They made new building with high quality room (when you compare to Ethiopian standards). We asked the room price and they said 740 birr. We stayed in the cheaper rooms, this is an old building with simple rooms but including shower and toilet and it was clean. They said that they have water problem therefore only bucket shower. (We are not sure that the water ever works J) They said 300 birr but we paid 250 birr. They have bar and restaurant. Food was ok.
Turmi Pension & Hotels
Turmi has many options to stay but its not like Jinka. The prices are higher and the quality is less compared to Jinka.
We stayed in the Green Hotel. They were thinking two guys on the motorcycle and said that 700 birr a room. After they learned that we are couple the price was 500 birr. After negotiated we paid 400 birr for the room, which has a double bed, clean and has running water. It is in the center of the village. (We went to Gosho and Omorate from Turmi and turn back the same day.) Green hotel is so much noisy place. L Because they have TV and local bar, therefore people drink and watch TV almost until midnight.
Tourist Hotel is next door of Green Hotel. We asked the price to them when we were staying in Green hotel, which said that directly 400 birr to double room with private bathroom. They have share bathroom room as well, 100 birr. I suppose it’s similar to the Green Hotel.
We asked price to Kizo Lodge. They wanted 35 USD For the room. It was looking good but it was too expensive for us. They allow camping there. They want 10 USD but you can get 5 USD per night. When we were there they didn’t have internet but local people said that we can use WIFI there. It is in center of the village.
Another option is Mango (Kaske Campsite). Their price for camping 150 birr and basic room is 300 birr but if it is not busy easily you can get price to camping 100 birr and to room 200 birr. It is 4 km far from the center. So, if you want to go shopping or restaurant to eat you must walk.
If you want to go Omo Valley to really discover you can stay in the ethic groups villages as well. This is possible with the Hammer tribes. Of course you need to pay for this. 🙂 When we asked the price they said that 300 birr, per person, for village camping. Also, you can stay Dassenech (Dashnech) village as well but you need to organize with guide where you can find them.
What can you eat or find in Jinka, Turmi or Omorate? What is the price for a meal?
They have a lot of restaurants in Jinka. We ate sometimes in Orit Hotel. Food price starts 50 birr. Small coffee 5 birr, soft drinks 12 birr and beer 16 birr. We can also recommend Besha Gojo Restaurant. Prices are almost the same as Orit hotel. They have a lot of options in the menu but the quality is better. They have different prices for local and tourist, which is almost double for tourists. For example, our guide ate FirFir 40 birr and we ate 70 birr. He drunk beer 14 birr we paid 23 birr. 🙂 (Some market prices; an avocado 5 birr, local orange 1 birr, a banana 2 birr, a tomato 2 birr and 2 liters water is 15 birr, a sandwich bread is 3 birr)
You can find small markets around to buy drinks, cookies, fruits etc. If you plan to see the Jinka market on Saturday you should wait to buy fruits and vegetables there because it’s so cheap.
Unfortunately, we cannot say the same thing for Turmi. They have some local restaurants to eat local food. Or hotels have food but they don’t have many options. In Green hotel, local food prices were around 50-70 birr for tourist. We ate only one time there and than we cooked our self most of the time.
You can find easily small markets to buy water and soft drinks. But you can’t find a lot of fruit or vegetables around. Tomato, cabbage, onion, bread and eggs are easy to find. Market day, we found avocado and banana as well. (Some market prices; a small avocado 5 birr, 3 eggs are 10 birr, small cabbage is 5 birr and 2 liters water is 15 birr, soft drinks 500 ml is 20 birr, a sandwich bread is 3 birr).
Two nights we went to Evangadi Lodge to dinner. Local food was 35-40 birr, pizza was 80 birr (you need to order in the day time to dinner) and meat was around 100 birr.
You can try local food; Injera is some kind of bread. You will like or not, nothing between. Shiro is the sauce; you make it with garlic, ginger, tomato and spices. Tips fir-fir is injera with mince meet.
How much to hire a guide, village enter fee, rent a car, national park enter fee…? Do you need a guide in Omo Valley to explore?
They don’t have any fix price for hire a guide in Jinka. But most of them want to 500 birr to go to the Mursi Villages. To visit the Ari Village is around 200-300 birr. If you want to visit the Jinka market with a guide (which is not necessary) you can find them on the road when you walk. They can say 150-200 birr you can pay less after negotiate. J Villages enter fee is 200 birr per person. If you want you can hire a guide in a day to visit the Mursi and Ari village also to market. Just you need to negotiate for the price. 🙂
How much did we pay to visit a Mursi village?
- 500 birr for the guide
- 270 birr is Mago National Park enter fee per person
- 54 birr is Mago National Park enter fee per car
- 200 birr village enter fee per person
- 150 birr is the ranger price. They don’t allow to you to go the village without ranger. When we were entering the park they didn’t have any scout there. We were in the park at 7 am and looked like they were sleeping. When we were turning back they ask how we enter without anybody. Our guide said that you didn’t there. Answer was “It doesn’t matter you must pay 150 birr” Yes, they didn’t come or do nothing but took the money. So this did not feel good for us!
- 2000 birr is rent a car. Our guide booked it from “Travel to Tribe”
You can go to Key Afer alone by local bus we can recommend to have a guide there because life is more easy to take a photo, shopping, info etc. When you walk to the market they will come for a guide to you. You can negotiate for it. Price can be 100 birr. Or you can have a guide from Jinka who is your guide to visit the villages you can ask in the beginning when barging for the price. Don’t forget, most likely they want to charge you full price.
I suppose that Turmi has only fix price to hire a guide. They have a Evangati Youth Association in the village and they fix the price; village enter fee is 200 birr, guide is 300 birr, bull jumping is 600 birr, dance performance 400 birr and village camping is also 300 birr. You can walk around the market by yourself. When we were there the market day and bull jumping was at the same day. Therefore, we went to the Hammer market with our guide and ask a lot of questions to him (without extra costs).:)
We went to Omorate to visit Dashnech (Daasanach) tribes. Sometimes we really think about where the money goes because it is look like some people do some kind of business 🙁 If you don’t have any vehicle you can rent a motorcycle or hire one. I suppose the price can be around 300 birr.
How much did we pay to visit Daasanach (Dashnech) tribes?
- 150 birr each person to the village enter fee
- 400 birr to guide (for group or a person same price)
- 100 birr for photos. We gave it when we were in the village. You are free how much you want to take photo after pay.
- 150 birr per person for canoe. They are next to the bridge and easily you can walk to the village. They told us we can walk and pass bridge but we still have to pay for the canoe. Which kind of business it is we are really curios like Mago national park security. You just have to pay!
Visiting Karo village this is a bit far away from Turmi, you can rent a local motorcycle for 400 birr to make the trip. First village Gorcho is about 50 km single way. They wanted 600 birr each person to enter the village. 3-4 guys were sitting in front of the village and drinking beer. It was before 11 am. We didn’t like their behavior and we didn’t sure to our money is going where. Therefore, we didn’t enter the village and turned back. We were enough upset and a little angry about all cost, it felt that we were paying money for somebody get rich or drunk! (To be honest, we were so much disappointed each village about money. Because we are not sure all money going village or somebody making money from their lifestyle.)
Don’t forget! If you want to take a photo from a person they will charge you. One photo is 5 birr. Sometimes, they can calculate the clicks, so every click is 5 birr. Only in Key Afer market one girl did it. Other times we just paid 5 birr. And most of the time old people want 10 birr for the photo. If you take a general photo from the village or market it is fine, nobody says something for it. When you go to a village you pay enter fee but this doesn’t mean that you don’t need to pay for the photos. Still you must pay for the photo if you want to take it from a person.
When we were visiting the Ari village we took photos how much we wanted. Nobody ask for the money because it is free after pay for the village.
How can I find a local bus (public transporter) to reach the cities?
You can find local busses to travel between the cities easily especially around the market days in the Omo valley. We have been traveling by motorcycle but we used the bus in the Omo valley as well to visit small cities.
Go to Jinka from Addis Adaba:
You can get a bus from Addis Adaba to Arba Minch. They have a daily bus between the two cities. It’s about a 10 hours journey and the price is around 250 birr. You can find ticket office next to the stadium (National Museum) for “Selam bus”. If you look more cheap bus you can take public bus from Merkato but we can recommend to use private bus for safety and comfort.
From Arba Minch (in Sikella bus station, everyday) to Jinka is about 6 hours and costs 120 birr. Generally, buses leave when they are full so there is no schedule and they will stop many times that’s why it’s so hard to say how long it will take.
Also, they have a lot of busses from Konso to Jinka every day.
Go to Key Afar from Jinka:
You can find a lot of mini busses that will go from Key Afar to Jinka. They leave when they are full. It cost 40 birr and takes about 45 minutes. Especially on Thursday day have many buses to Key Afar from Jinka as its market day in Key Afar. Other days, you can wait long to bus get full.
Go to Turmi from Jinka:
It is easy to find a bus on Tuesday and Saturday from Jinka to Turmi. It takes around 3 hours and costs 100 birr.
Go to Dimeka:
You can reach Dimeka from Jinka, Key Afar or Turmi on Tuesday and Saturday. The price is between 30-80 birr.
Go to Omorate:
It is not so easy to find public transport to go to Omorate. A bus is leaving from Jinka on Tuesday and Saturday to Omorate from via Turmi. It is 110 birr and takes around 4 hours. The bus turns back from Omorate the next day. You can get the bus from Turmi as well it takes about one hour and costs 40 birr.
Note: Other days you can find trucks to travel, which local people always take. But we don’t know about the price or safety part. It’s easy to get to Jinka. Therefore when you are making a plan to visit the Omo Valley you should get all bus details in Jinka. Just remember that you can find a bus to go Key Afar, Dimeka, Turmi and Omorate when they have market.