Ethiopia tips and tricks for babies
Updated: Jan 23
So, having just returned from backpacking (and I lose this term very loosely) around Ethiopia with an almost two year old, I thought I would try and give some tips and tricks to help anyone traveling either solo or as a couple with a young baby or child. In no particular order...
If you book your international flights with Ethiopian Airlines then you get a big discount on all your internal flights, so this would be silly not to do. They are a good, professional airline and I had no qualms at all flying with them. For all internal flights, Tiger enjoyed cake and little cartons of mango, apple and orange juice. If you can fly with your baby under the age of 2 they only cost 10% of the adult fare. For example one internal flight we booked came through on my credit card as £24.74 for me and £1.43 for her. You seem to be able to change your flights once without penalty, after which you pay the price difference. They are very helpful on the phone and I always pressed the button to say I was a business class customer which I presume got me through quicker! The Ethiopian Airlines app is fabulous and I used this for almost all our internal flight bookings.
Ethiopia is a cash based economy so bringing cash is a good idea. Sterling, dollars or euros are all easy to use to pay for things. Dollars in particular are the currency which guides use to quote their fees and you will even see hotels quoting dollar prices on booking.com I didn't actually bring any dollars but took £400 cash with me.
From a cash point you can pull out 4000 Birr per transaction (about £75) and you can do two transactions per day. As for every withdrawal, there are usually two fees (sometimes only one. I was always charged a non-sterling transaction fee (about £2) and frequently a non-sterling cash fee as well (£1.75) using my Nationwide and HSBC cards. Please do what I forgot to sort out in advance and use a currency card like the Moneycorp red explorer card or similar. Visa and Mastercard are all accepted at ATMs although I always used Visa and sometimes you have to go to multiple ATMs if they run out of money.
Hotels are perfectly nice but never have travelcots so bring whatever you may need. We had the BABYBJÖRN Travel Cot Light and this was brilliant, and only 6kg. For younger babies I would highly recommend the Sun & Sleep Koodi pop up bassinet with mosquito net for up to six months and the pop up Sun & Sleep Koodi bubble cot for once babies are over six months.
Bottled water is available to buy everywhere and costs between 12 to 15 Birr for a 2 litre bottle (about 22p).
You can buy baby formula in pharmacies in every town so this isn't something you would need to carry with you unless you are particularly wedded to a brand. I didn't need this this time around as Tiger was older but you may wish to use a collapsible travel kettle to boil the bottled water to make up formula for babies. We used this kind of thing in India and it worked very well.
Fresh cow's milk is not easy to find. I did find a dairy in Bahar Dar and bought some milk from there, but Tiger refused it and it did taste a little different. It doesn't last if you don't have a refrigerator anyway! I also found I could buy UHT "fresh" milk in supermarkets in a bag, but Tiger also wouldn't drink this either. I was told that common practice is to boil this fresh milk before you give it to children.
Powdered cow's milk. You can buy Nido milk powder which is fortified and tastes more like real milk but I only managed to get Tiger to drink one bottle of that and after that she refused it. In the end, I just gave her water in her bottles. Since returning she has been straight back to cow's milk but hardly drank a drop in Ethiopia!
Nappies are available in every pharmacy too but there is a real array of brands. I brought two packs of 30 Pampers nappy pants with me in my backpack and I would definitely recommend bringing what you like from home. Once you run out you can buy local nappies in every town in either a pharmacy or supermarket (we bought a pack of 36 "Paddlers" nappies made in Turkey for 300 Birr (£5.60) from a big pharmacist in Piazza in Addis Ababa).
Nappy bags don't seem to exist - bring your own if you like to use them (I only used them for particularly disgusting nappies but also useful to put dirty clothes in when you are out and about).
Wet wipes can be bought from pharmacies too. The brand we bought were about 100 Birr (£1.86) so not that cheap really and not as good as the ones from home. The pack contained so much water that once it was open I needed to make sure I carried it in a plastic bag.
Bottles, plates, spoons, cutlery. I found took two Tommy Tippee bottles with me, one water bottle, one plastic plate and some spoons. You certainly don't need to go overboard but a few bits are useful.
Food for babies... I think I'd have been tempted to bring pouches with me if I had a six month old baby but things like baby rice, porridge and similar are available but not widely at all. You'd find them in Addis Ababa but I wouldn't like to guarantee elsewhere.
Food for toddlers. I brought four little toddler meals with me for emergencies, and this might be a good idea for when you first arrive but Tiger generally ate lots of bananas (30 Birr or 50p for 1kg), lots of biscuits (yes, with sugar - no rusks - but I could buy them everywhere and they kept her going), pasta or spaghetti with tomato sauce (I always asked for this "not spicy" and sometimes it was, sometimes it had a bit of chilli in it so bit of a lottery), chips, bread, scrambled egg, a bit of injera with "tibs" (bits of fried meat) here and there, and sometimes ice cream. Almost all foreigner-type restaurants could cater for her without any issues but it was just sometimes a bit difficult to keep her seated so perhaps the portable high chair may have saved us.
High chairs are few and far between but we found one in a restaurant in Lalibela! I'd suggest bringing something like the Vine Easy Seat Portable High Chair which costs £10 with you. I had actually ordered one but didn't receive it in time and we managed ok as Tiger was getting to the right age where she would actually sit at a table without a high chair.
Reins for toddlers - very useful and bring your own!
Baby carrier. I got laughed at a lot by the locals for having Tiger in her Deuter Kid Comfort Active SL carrier but this was a life saver for traveling with a two year old toddler.
Mosquitoes and malaria. Most of the time we were above 2000m except in Jinka so I had brought adult and child malarone with us but there were no mosquitoes at all in January, so this simply wasn't an issue for us.
Toys! I brought one cuddly toy with us, some colouring pencils and the Gruffalo Mini Library (four small board books) which really kept us going and wasn't big. You can always buy (and discard) more toys as you go along.
All in all, I found Ethiopia perfectly safe for toddlers and would recommend it.