Addis Ababa

Addis Ababa (አዲስ አበባ) is the capital and largest city of Ethiopia. It had a population of 3.4 million in 2007 and it is growing very rapidly like many African cities.

Understand

Lion of Judah statue outside the National Theatre

There are more than 120 international missions and embassies in Addis Ababa, making the city a hub for international diplomacy concerning Africa. The headquarters of the African Union and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) are both in the city. The European Union and the United States both have two delegations in Addis Ababa, one for bilateral relations with Ethiopia and one for the African Union.

The city is divided into ten boroughs, known as subcities, then further divided into wards (kebeles). Suburbs include Shiro Meda and Entoto in the north, Urael and Bole (home to Bole International Airport) in the east, Nifas Silk in the south-east, Mekanisa in the south, and Keraniyo and Kolfe in the west. Many of the wealthiest people live in the southeast (Bole), southwest (old airport), CMC, Ayat and Lamberet parts of town.

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 23 24 25 25 25 23 21 20 22 23 23 22
Nightly lows (°C) 9 9 11 12 13 12 12 12 12 10 8 8
Precipitation (mm) 13 30 58 82 84 138 280 290 149 27 7 7

Source:w:Addis Ababa#Climate

Temperatures in Addis Ababa are remarkably constant from month to month. The average highs are between 17°C (63°F) and 22°C (71°F). The average lows are between 11°C (51°F) and 14°C (58°F). The warmest months are February to May. Temperatures and climate can vary due to elevation. Due to altitude there is a huge day to night range of temperature: it is often 27°C (81°F) at lunchtime and 3°C (37°F) at night: In the Addis evenings always take a second layer with you.


Get in

By plane

Bole International Airport (IATA: ADD), the busiest airport in East Africa and the hub of Ethiopian Airlines, is serviced by several international airlines with daily flights to Europe, United States, Asia, and many African cities including Accra, Bamako, Brazzaville, Cairo, Dakar, Dar es Salaam, Djibouti, Khartoum, Harare, Johannesburg, Nairobi. There are two terminals. T1 (the older, smaller one) is for all domestic flights and most flights to neighbouring nations (but not Kenya). T2 (the newer 2003 building) is for all other international flights – arrangements may change so check first.

As of July 2012 access into the terminals is restricted. Anyone at the airport to meet you, plus taxis, will be out in the carpark. A dozen of the top hotels still have a booth inside the arrivals area. Similar rules apply at the other airports in the country, for both arrivals and departures. As of July 2011 a taxi to the city costs 100-150 birr. If you have a prior arrangement, many hotels will send a vehicle to pick up pre-booked guests from the airport. The Sheraton Addis, Dreamliner, Hilton Addis, and most other hotels provide regular shuttle service for guests. This is also the case with many popular guesthouses.

By car

Routes through Addis Ababa

Most of the major roads are in good condition.

By bus

Terminals:

Get around

Sample minibus prices

  • Very short trips 1 birr
  • Short trips 1.50-3 birr
  • Medium trips 3.80 birr
  • Long trips 7 birr
  • Very long trips 8 birr

Sample taxi prices

  • Short trips within one area 30 birr
  • Other short trips 60-80 birr
  • Medium trips 80-120 birr
  • Long trips 120-180 birr
  • Very long trips 180+ birr

As of February 2014

Very few streets have names and when they do, they may not be named correctly on a map; use landmarks to navigate the city.

Blue and white minibuses

Blue and white minibuses/taxis travel quite efficiently around town. Since they are full with people most of the time, it is very cheap too; usually between 1-3 birr depending on how far you are going. To catch a minibus, stand on the side of the road and hail it. This can be done anywhere it is possible for the bus to stop. The conductor inside will call out the destination, and if that's where you want to go: get on. You pay the conductor when he signals to you that he wants money (which might take a few minutes). To get change. To get out say "woraj alle", or just "woraj". It is worth having an Ethiopian guide with you if it is your first time using these taxis, since it can be quite chaotic to find out what minibuses go where, and from what places.

Small blue Lada taxis

Small blue Lada taxis are more expensive. Negotiation is the norm and you often have to press quite hard to get a bargain as a foreigner. They can be contracted for a single trip, an hour, or a full day; just negotiate. Do not be surprised if the price of the taxi increases at night for the same trip.

Yellow taxis

Yellow and green taxis usually hang around hotels like Sheraton. They are more expensive, but reliable. If you're willing to pay for peace of mind, slightly better drivers and a car that wasn't featured in the Flintstones, use these cars.

Light Rail Transit (LRT)

Map of the Light Rail Transit

There is two lines of Light Rail in Addis Ababa, crossing near Meskel square:

Cost is 2 birr for a 8-stations trip and up to 6 birr to go everywhere. Both are open since November 2015.

Airport shuttle

If you need an airport shuttle to your hotels or other destination, there are some taxis parked outside the airport. They probably take you anywhere you want to go but negotiate the fee before you board. If you want a peace of mind, you can reserve a shuttle service called iEthio.com before you arrive.

See

If you walk along the road from Meskel Square to Sidest Kilo, you'll probably find it quite entertaining and interesting. You'll see the Africa Hall, the palaces and the Parliament building, the Hilton Hotel, the marvellous architectural adventure of a building hosting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Sheraton Hotel, the first modern school (which Emperor Menelik II built in the 1880s), the Trinity Orthodox cathedral, the National Museum, and the Addis Ababa University (which hosts a former palace and museum).

Arat Kilo Avenue is marked by a statue built in commemoration of the Ethiopian day of victory during the Second World War, while Sidest Kilo Avenue is marked by a statue commemorating some 39,000 residents of Addis Ababa killed by Italian fascist troops. Around Arat Kilo, you will find part of an old town known as Serategna Sefer (literally, the residential area of labourers).

If you go past Sidest Kilo, the road becomes steeper and many of the attractions will be on the right side of the road. The Entoto college (previously Teferi Mekonnen School) and the US Embassy are on this side of the street. After the Embassy there's an open market called Shiro Meda where traditional craftsmen sell their homemade fabrics, pots and other craftwork. The marketplace is at the foot of the Entoto Mountains, which rise up to 3,300 m (10,827 ft) above sea level.

You can take a taxi or a bus to the mountain unless you are of a mind to try it yourself. On the mountain, you will find the first churches of Addis Ababa, called Saint Mary and Saint Raguel, and a smaller palace of Menelik II. Walking the mountain, especially between the churches, is refreshing and gives the chance to see rural life, the city, forest and unbelievably beautiful landscape intersected by farmlands and farmers trails. It is from here that Menelik II and Queen Taitu conceived the establishment of Addis Ababa. You can get a sense of the city plan by viewing the city from here.

Museums

Churches and mosques

Saint George's Cathedral

Other

Do

Learn

Addis Ababa University is the largest and the oldest university in Ethiopia. It was originally named "University College of Addis Ababa" at its founding, then renamed for the former Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie I in 1962, receiving its current name in 1975. Although the university has six of its seven campuses within Addis Ababa (the seventh is located in Debre Zeit, about 45 kilometres away), it also maintains branches in many cities throughout Ethiopia, leading to the claim of being "the largest university in Africa."

The government assigns qualified students to these universities upon completion of secondary school. Students also attend other private colleges, such as Unity College. Addis Ababa University was founded in 1950 at the request of Haile Selassie by a Canadian Jesuit, Dr Lucien Matte as a two-year college, and began operations the next year. Over the following two years an affiliation with the University of London was developed.

There is also Theological College of the Holy Trinity, a theological school of higher education located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It provides religious and secular education to both clergy and lay members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, as well seeking to be a centre of theological and ecclesiastical study for all Oriental Orthodox Churches as well.

Originally founded as a high school by Emperor Haile Selassie in 1942, the college division was added in 5 October 1960, and the elementary education section eliminated on 18 December 1961 and the college became one of the chartered units of this first National University of Ethiopia.

Work

Buy

Get money

Ethiopia operates a cash economy. Domestic credit cards are non-existent, and international cards are accepted in very few locations (mostly those catering to expatriates).

ATMs/cash machines - are found throughout Addis Ababa. Dashen Bank is a principal member of both VISA and MasterCard International and has ATMs. Some of the ATMs found at D.H. Geda Tower (next to Friendship City Center) accept both VISA and MasterCard, Dembel City Centre (quite hidden, use the main entrance, than to the left, at the window), Edna Mall, in some hotels (Hilton, Sheraton, Intercontinental, Wabi Shebelle Hotel, Ethiopia Hotel, Semein Hotel, Harmony Hotel). Also near the National Museum (Lucy Gazebo Restaurant), ground floor of Getu Commercial centre just at the entrance and some branches of Dashen Bank. Note that not all cards are accepted everywhere, Dashen Bank ATMs accept VISA/MasterCard/Cirrus/Plus while Zemen bank ATMs do not accept MasterCard (which seems to be hit or miss in Ethiopia). Most ATM machines have a 4000-6000 birr limit per day, but most do not charge a local ATM fee (international or third-party ATM fees from your financial institution may apply, however).

Warning: Some ATM machines are targeted for "skimmer" scams, allowing thieves to steal your ATM card information. To protect yourself, the safest ATMs to use are the ones located at the Hilton (Dashen, Zemen, CBE); Radisson Blu (Dashen, Zemen, Wegagen); or Sheraton (Dashen) hotels.

There is an illegal black market where you can get a slightly better rate, especially if you bargain. Check your money very carefully before you leave and do not allow it to leave your hand after your final count. Most souvenir shops off Churchill Rd and Zambia St do it.

Eat

Food is generally cheap. Make sure you try the national dish injera at least once, since there is no other food like it. It is a yeast-risen flat bread with a unique, slightly spongy texture. It is traditionally made out of teff flour. In making injera, teff flour is mixed with water and allowed to ferment for several days, as with sourdough starter. As a result of this process, injera has a mildly sour taste. It's what the locals eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Most ordinary Ethiopian restaurants have it, and a serving for 2 people with free refills can be as cheap as 15 birr.

Budget

This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
Budget Below 50 birr
Mid-range 50-250 birr
Splurge 250+ birr

Addis has hundreds of cake and coffee cafes. They sell various coffees, tea - black unless you ask for "machiatto" - and sometimes fruit juices. There are also juice beits. The cafes along Bole Road and around the Piassa area are of a high standard and relatively inexpensive. Most are very similar to each other.

Most cafes serve the common drink called 'sprice juice' (fruit pulp served in layers in a glass). There are usually three layers from a selection of avocado, mango, papaya, banana, guava etc. The juice is eaten with a spoon. It is colourful and tastes delicious. Single fruit juices are also great, such as orange, papaya, mango, and pineapple - beautifully fresh. 7 birr up to 25 birr in Hilton.

Restaurants that do not have an English menu are cheaper. Example: Connection between Bole Road and Tele-Bole, next to Bole roundabout, at NOC-Fuelstation, close to German Kantine. You can have lunch (local food, spaghetti) for less than 20 birr. If you don't have a translator, ordering is a lot of fun.

Mid-range

Splurge

Drink

The national drink of Ethiopia is 'tej', which is brewed from honey. You can also try 'tela' which is like a beer.

Sleep

NOTE: The Ethiopian dialing plan changed on 17 Sep 2006. Six-digit telephone numbers changed to seven digits. Many of the accommodation listings here appear to still have the older 5 digit numbers following the country code of +251 and the city code of 11. Addis Ababa local numbers should contain 7 digits. Please check the number before calling and please plunge forward and update any numbers that are incomplete.

Budget

Some of the prices below are still a few years old. As of 2013, it is still possible to find "rooms" for 50 birr, but a somewhat decent room will cost about 100 birr, and most cost 150 birr and up. Most tourists stay in the piazza area, where there are many hotels ranging from very cheap to moderately cheap. Except for the cheapest, most of them have running hot water and are fairly clean; below are just a few examples. More cheap hotels are around Mike Leyland Street in Bole area.

Mid-range

Splurge

Stay safe

Cope

Watch what you drink or you can fall sick. It is important to remember to only drink bottled water. There are many brands to choose from; always check the plastic seal on all bottles before paying any vendor. Most travelers should be warned against eating vegetables such as those in salads that may have been washed in water. Try limiting fruits and vegetables to those you "peel" yourself such as oranges, mangos, etc.

Be prepared for culture shock. If you take photos of the people, ask first and offer to show them their picture if you have a digital camera with a display screen. Children enjoy seeing their pictures a lot of the time!

Your emotions are real. Many first time visitors may feel overwhelmed if they have not experienced this type of culture difference before. Be polite but not intrusive. It is OK to ask questions of the locals, but you should be prepared to be hassled a lot of the time, especially if you are white. Additionally, for foreigners who are black, especially American, although possibly able to "blend in", precautions are in order (depending where you are, in Addis on Bole road they are used to seeing foreigners compared to the country side). If you prepare your mindset before arrival, you will be better able to cope.

Embassies

Connect

Telephone

The country code for calling Ethiopia is 251. The Ethiopian dialing plan changed on 17 Sep 2005, such that the two-digit city code changed to three digits (or, from outside the country, one to two digits) and six-digit telephone numbers changed to seven digits. The city code for Addis Ababa as of Sep 2005 is 011 (or 11 from outside Ethiopia).

Mobile

Ethiopia uses a GSM network operated by Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation. There is decent coverage around big cities such as Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa, Bahir Dar, Debre Markos, Dese, Gonder, Harar, Mekele, and Nekemete. It is expanding into most small cities.

Roaming charges are very steep. For a short visit, your best option for mobile access is to rent a SIM card with a phone. Only a few stores rent SIM cards: you can rent a SIM card and phone inside Addis Ababa Sheraton hotel but is it very expensive. Another option is to rent a SIM card and mobile phone from local stores (for example, Red Zebraes).

A third option is to buy a SIM card, at about 60 birr (August 2011). Ask a cell phone retailer (there are many of them, especially in the piazza). If the retailer does not sell them, he or she will point you in the right direction. Be prepared: you will need a passport-sized picture and a photocopy of your passport that the seller will keep. The quickest way to get your own SIM card is probably in the Hilton Hotel. If you have all needed documents (photocopy of your passport and two passport sized pictures), it will take less than 5 minutes to get your SIM card.

Internet

In Addis Ababa, especially in Bole Subcity, you can find quite a number of internet cafes. Some still use dial-up connections, but broadband is becoming more popular. Most of the high-end hotels have internet connections (either Ethernet or Wi-Fi), which are reasonably fast and often free for hotel guests.

A general problem with the Internet in Ethiopia is the unstable international high-speed connection. If it is not working, even broadband cafes only deliver dial-up speeds and less. The local definition of highspeed broadband is 128Kb! Another general problem is the shortage of electricity, forcing daytime blackouts of whole areas 1–2 days a week, so it is good to plan ahead where you are going for internet access. During the winter months of 2009 (Jun-Aug), electricity had gone off on one side of the city for one day, and another side for the next.

Skype and VoIP service are legal in Ethiopia. According to local press, Ethiopia today has the fourth worst internet in the world.

Wireless internet

3G Internet services (known as WCDMA or UMTS) are available in many parts of Addis Ababa. A special SIM card and capable phone is needed. Price is 0.04 ETB cents per 100 KB. CDMA is also available, which needs special devices (prices around 0.10 ETB per minute, around 128 kbits). EVDO requires a USB device and is faster than CDMA but requires monthly payment of 500 ETB/month for 2 GB data plan. CDMA and EVDO are also available in all regional and most zonal capitals in Ethiopia.

Go next

Nairobi

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, January 11, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.