The main ethnic groups in Gambela are the Nuer and Anuak.
The region is a lowland with savanna vegetation, akin to neighbouring South Sudan.
There are in excess of 300,000 Sudanese and South Sudanese refugees in the region, giving rise to a significant UNHCR presence and many church-based charities. Protestantism is the predominant form of religious belief.
As at January 2020, Ethiopian Airlines has twice daily flights from Addis Ababa, one of which is via Assosa.
The airport is a 30 minute drive from town. The Baro Gambella Hotel provides free airport pickup if you are staying there and takes other passengers for a small fee. Ethiopian Airlines has a mobile app that enables flights to be booked and paid for by credit card. There is no Ethiopian Airlines ticket office in Gambela but the Abemeker Travel Agency is on the main road just south of the roundabout with the Nyala statue (it is this travel agency that Google maps incorrectly identifies as the airline ticket office). If the mobile app gives problems, the travel agency can arrange a ticket on the spot, but payment needs to be in Birr by cash.
Gambela is small enough to explore on foot, but there are numerous bajaj if you prefer.
- It is very pleasant to walk down the road running west from the main bridge along the north bank of the Baro in the late afternoon. There are many coffee places where you can sit in the shade and watch the river go by.
- In a side street, lying to the west of the Tadessech Hotel, there are local markets with an interesting array of produce.
- Gambela's Tourism Bureau can arrange visits to traditional hamlets around Itang and further west around Lare. Itang is more picturesque than Lare but the countryside on the journey from Itang to Lare reminds visitors that although they remain in the political entity of Ethiopia in other respects they could well be in South Sudan. The cost is 100 Birr per person and 500 Birr for the guide. Local buses run regularly. These visits could be a highlight of a trip to Gambela but are somewhat problematic - although the Bureau is punctilious in providing a stamped document showing that the 100 Birr per person has been paid, this money does not appear to reach the villagers; in addition, guides seem to be under instruction not to permit any money to be paid to villagers. The inevitable result is that the villagers regard visitors as intruders best ignored. A better approach might be to make it clear to the Bureau that you intend to pay a representative of the village a further 50 Birr and that you want the villagers to be given notice of your visit.
The Baro Gambella Hotel has good meals.
There are many hotels and other accommodation. Not all of these find their way onto the internet booking sites or the internet at all.
The Baro Gambella Hotel is a popular and good place to stay with a great outside eating area where you can watch the monkeys scampering around in the evening. It is easy to make a telephone booking with the Hotel. 700Birr per double per night.
There are no particular safety concerns within the township of Gambela, but there have been instances of robbery and murder in the region, presumably the work of bandits from South Sudan. It is wise to check the current situation before travelling to Gambela, and check again with the Gambela Tourism Bureau before travelling any further west.