Addis Ababa has a population of around 3.6 million and the city is the largest in the country.
Many of the wealthiest people live in the southeast (Bole), southwest (old airport), CMC, Ayat all are around the airport side of town.
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.
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: Evenings in Addis always take a second layer of clothing with you.
Check: www.ethiopianweather.com For Addis Ababa and all all other Ethiopian towns. Updated every 2 hours.
Addis Ababa – 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, and Asia as well as inter-African destinations.
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.
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.
Addis Ababa – By Bus
• Autobus Terra near Mercato. This is the main bus terminal where most of the national buses arrive and depart.
• Ras Mekonin Avenue near the railway station. Buses to/from Adama (Nazret), Debre Zeyit, Dire Dawa, Nairobi, Lalibela, Shahemene, Awasa and Bahir Dar are here.
JULY 2011 – Ras Makonnen – or La Gare – closed and moved to somewhere on Debre Zeit Road.
Buses west to Nekempte and beyond go from ASCO on the old Ambo Road.
Addis Ababa – Train – There is no longer a train service in Ethiopia.
Streets increasingly have names, but the names are not widely known or mapped; use landmarks to navigate the city.
Blue and white minibuses/taxis travel quite efficiently around the town. Since they are full of 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 which minibuses go where, and from what places.
Small, blue coloured 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. JULY 2011: the taxi prices for contract taxis in the info box here are WAY OUT OF DATE. Airport to city is now 100-150 birr. Hiring a car for a day-trip will be quite expensive as well – including a trip to Mt. Entoto to see St. Mary Church and the other sites from above, expect to pay 900birr. <–NEVER pay 900birr for a taxi. You should be able to rent a taxi for 600 birr for the whole day. Remember, it’s only 20birr / liter for gasoline.
Yellow and green taxis usually hang around hotels like the Sheraton. They are more expensive, but reliable, and if you’re willing to pay for peace of mind, slightly better drivers and a car that wasn’t featured in the Flintstones (comfortable ride and vehicle usually in good working order). Use these cars.
Walking in Addis Ababa
Walking in Addis Ababa is a pleasant and sensible way of getting around. Locals will happily greet you, ask you how you are doing and so on.
Walking along the street starting from Meskel Sq. to Sidest Kilo is very safe and entertaining. It will give you the chance to see the Africa Hall, the palaces and the Parliament building, the Hilton Hotel, the marvelous architectural adventure of a building hosting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Sheraton Hotel, the first modern school (which Menelik the II built in the 1880s), the Trinity Orthodox Cathedral, the National Museum, and the Addis Ababa University (which also hosts a former palace and museum). Arat Kilo Avenue is marked by a statue built in commemoration of the Ethiopian V-day during the Second World War, while Sidest Kilo Avenue is marked by a statue commemorating the 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 laborers). If you want to proceed 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 American Embassy are found on this side of the street. After the American Embassy there is an open market called Shiro Meda where traditional craftsmen sell their homemade fabrics, pots and other crafts. The marketplace is at the foot of the Entoto Mountains that 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 St. Mary and St. Raguel as well as smaller palace of Menelik the II. Walking on the mountain, especially between the churches, is refreshing and gives you the chance to see rural life, the city itself, forest and unbelievably beautiful landscape intersected by farmlands and trails of farmers. It is from here that Menelik II and Queen Taitu conceived of the establishment Addis Ababa. You can get a sense of the city plan yourself by looking from here at the current city.
• Ethiopian National Museum, (Between Arat Kilo Avenue and the University of Addis Ababa Graduate School). Although the museum is unknown to most, the Ethiopian National Museum is a world-class museum; truly a hidden gem! The most famous exhibit is the replica of Lucy, an early hominid, but the museum offers much more. With Ethiopian civilization being one of the oldest in the world, the artifacts within the museum span thousands of years, including some from its earliest days. A wide variety of artifacts are featured, from sculptures to clothing to artwork. Both traditional and modern art are featured. Well worth a visit.
• Red Terror Museum (2010), Bole Rd (very near Maskal Square end). This is a must-see to learn about the horrors of the Derg that led to the well known famine of the 1990’s. Entry is free, but well worth a donation here. Most of the employees are survivors of the regime themselves and will tell you stories about facing torture at the hands of those who still run free today Free.
• Africa Hall, (located across Menelik II Avenue from the Palace). This is where the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa is headquartered as well as most UN offices in Ethiopia. It is also the site of the founding of the Organization for African Unity (OAU) which eventually became the African Union.
• Parliament Building, (Near Holy Trinity Cathedral). Built during the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie, with its clock tower, it continues to serve as the seat of Parliament today.
• Shengo Hall. Built by the Derg regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam as its new parliament hall. The Shengo Hall was the world’s largest pre-fabricated building, which was constructed in Finland before being assembled in Addis Ababa. It is used for large meetings and conventions.
• Medhane Alem, (Near Bole International Airport). This cathedral, whose name means “Saviour of the World” is the second largest church on the continent.
• St George’s Cathedral, (North end of Churchill Road). 8AM-9AM, noon-2PM. Built in 1896 to commemorate Ethiopia’s victory over the Italians. The cathedral is a circular building that does not look very impressive when you approach it. As you walk around the building, you will notice people praying besides the walls, but it is unlikely that you will find an entrance. The Cathedral houses a small museum and close to it you will likely meet one of the archdeacons of the Cathedral. If he offers to be a guide, take his offer and visit the Cathedral with him. The interior is beautifully decorated with huge paintings and mosaics, and will make the trip worthwhile. It is worth visiting the museum with a guide as well to see ceremonial clothes and ancient manuscripts.
• Anwar Mosque. In the Mercato district, which happens to be the largest market in Africa. It’s quite impressive
• Roman Catholic Cathedral of Nativity. In the Mercato district
• Menelik’s old Imperial Palace. It remains the official seat of government.
• National Palace. Formerly known as the Jubilee Palace, built to mark Emperor Haile Selassie’s Silver Jubilee in 1955, which is the residence of the President of Ethiopia.
• Ethiopian National Library.
• Ethiopian Ethnological Museum. A fascinating museum with exhibits relating to the history and culture of Ethiopia. There are many displays of the various ethnic groups found in Ethiopia with information about each of their lifestyles. A large amount of ethnic outfits, instruments, tools, and other artifacts accompany each ethnic exhibit, making it one of the most interesting museums in the city!
• Addis Ababa Museum. While the national museum houses artifacts from all over Ethiopia, this museum focuses solely on artifacts and exhibits from Addis Ababa. The building itself was once a palace where Ras Biru Habte-Gabriel, a former Minister of War, resided.
• Ethiopian National History Museum.
• Ethiopian Railway Museum.
• National Postal Museum. Next to the main post office. A small but good collection of Ethiopian stamps.
• Netsa Art Village. Authentic and interesting art in a beautiful park across from the French Embassy. * Holy Trinity Cathedral. It was once the largest Ethiopian Orthodox Cathedral. It was built to commemorate the country’s liberation from the Italians, and many victims killed by the Italians during occupation are buried here. The locals call the church *Haile Selassie Church, because Emperor Haile Selassie’s body was moved here in 2000.
• Gola St. Michael Church (See), At the centre of the city (Next to the Federal immigration office). a very interesting place to visit and it is one of the many old churches found in Addis Ababa. One can see old paintings painted by many Ethiopian celebrity artists. In addition the church has a museum displaying church articles given by many famous people of the country including the emperor Haile Selassie and his Empress.
Other features of the city include the large Mercato Market, the Jan Meda Race Ground racecourse, Bihere Tsige Recreation Centre and a railway line to Djibouti, while the Entoto Mountains start among the northern suburbs.
• The Hager Fikir Theatre, the oldest theater in Ethiopia, is located at the Piazza district.
• Suburbs of the city 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.
Shopping in Addis Ababa
• Mercato. The mercato (Italian for market, as the main covered market still in use dates from the colonial administration of the late 1930s) is the largest outdoor market in the world, and you can get anything from tourist goods (t-shirts, wood crafts, etc.) to fabric to metal goods there. Haggling and bargaining are standard procedure, and foreigners (especially those of European ancestry) should expect to be charged higher prices. To ensure a positive experience, maintain a sense of humour, don’t be afraid to negotiate aggressively, and above all don’t let yourself be bullied by the many “brokers” who frequent the market, and will try to steer you towards certain stores in exchange for a kick-back from the merchant. You will be able to negotiate lower prices if you can avoid brokers, and especially if you have a local friend or guide to buy things on your behalf.
• Souvenir Street. Churchill Avenue going downhill from Tomoca cafe. A string of shops as you head downhill that are very reasonably priced and full of the same goods that you’ll see at the airport, in Lalilebla, etc. Not much haggling is possible, but the prices are good to begin with.
• Shiromeda Market. Between Sidist Kilo & Mt Entoto. If the madness of Mercato isn’t for you, Chiromeda is a pleasant alternative. Haggling and bargaining is still the status quo, but you could walk away with a traditional dress from as cheap as 100 ETB.
• Friendship Supermarket. Bole Road (airport end). Well-stocked western-style supermarket – and they accept Visa. (Both not to be confirmed in August 2011).
• Edna Mall on Telebole. Pretty good bookshop here, along with a Cinema stocked with Popcorn & Western Films. The center of the mall features an indoor amusement park with carousel, climbing tubes, and bumper cars; it’s a fun place for small children, but really crowded on the weekends and holidays.
• Dembel City Centre
• Getu Commercial Centre
• Addis Sheraton Shopping
• Loyal Shopping Centre
• Arat Kilo Shopping Centre
• Piassa Shopping Centre
• Bambis Grocery & Department Store, Greek ownership, very good product. Also in Bishoftu (Debre Zeit) and Adama (Nazret).
• New York Supermarket, near Bole & Olympia
• Shoa Supermarket on Bole Rd.
• Novis Supermarket on Bole Road, near Friendship
Staying Safe in Addis Ababa
• Addis is safer than most cities in Africa. Gang violence and similar serious activities are unusual. However, you may encounter some pick-pockets and con-artists around and inside Bole Airport, Mercato, Piazza areas. Keep your belongings close, and pay attention to your surroundings. The good news is most of these pick-pockets are unarmed and very young boys. If they know that you are aware of what they are up to, they get intimidated and go away. Young kids are very aggressive in Addis compared to other parts of Ethiopia, be firm and tell them to go away.
• Be aware of your belongings on Line Taxis: They usually get very crowded – keep your wallet/phone/bag close to you.
• The major and important roads and areas are patrolled by the ‘Federal Police’ or, as the city residents refer them Federal. They have a reputation of being merciless with suspected criminals. In contrast, the Addis-Ababa city police, who most of the time patrol the less important city streets, markets and neighborhoods are more tolerant and less respected police officers.
• For all emergencies ☎ 991. In Addis, major streets are generally safe at night.
• In a total difference of other African cities, in Addis-Ababa, police officers never approach foreigners to ask them to present a passport, ID or “legal” papers. Once you show your passport at the airport, you are free to move around pretty much anywhere. The only time you need your passport or ID is for hotel registration (booking) and other similar and few instances.
Telecom in Addis Ababa
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).
Ethiopia uses GSM network and operated by Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation. Currently there are 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 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 that will cost you 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 an own SIM card is probably in Hilton Hotel. If you have all needed documents (photocopy of your passport and two passport sized pictures), it will take you less than 5 minutes to get your SIM card.
In Addis Ababa, especially in Bole Subcity, you can find quite a number of internet cafes. Some cafes still use Dial-Up connections, but broadband becomes more popular. Most of the high-end hotels have internet connections (either Ethernet or WiFi), which are reasonably fast and often free for hotel guests.
A general problem about 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 128kbits. 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.
• Dembel City Center on Bole Rd has “Hut Internet Cafe” on the 2nd floor with over 30 Internet capable computers for use Mon-Sun 10AM-7PM
• Arkies Business Center, Piazza, next to ‘Taitu Hotels’
• Broadband Internet in DH Geda Tower, next to Friendship City Center / Bole Road. 128kbps, many seats, but mostly completely occupied. The good thing is, that is is easy to find.
• Nina Internetcafe, across from Baro Hotels, inside Wutema Hotels
• TG Business Center, Bole, from Airport (Big Roundabout) to the right, junction with Cameroon Road (locally known as “Bole-Tele”) has broadband but only 3 seats. Most of the time it is not crowded, so a good connection can be expected
• DMG Internet Center, near Edna Mall next to Kaldi’s Cafe just off Djibuti Street (the road leading from Tele Bole towards 22), has broadband connection and 11 terminals. 2 MB speed Internet, which translates to pretty decent speed for the country. Open Mon-Sat 8:30 am – 8:00 pm.
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. Also CDMA is available, that needs special devices (prices around 0,10 ETB per Minute, around 128kbits). 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.