Addis Ababa is unlike any other city. It will transport you to another world as it’s the gateway to the ancient and mystical Ethiopian history. But as the fourth-largest city in Africa, it also has it’s modern essence and the traffic will definitely remind you where you are. The fast-paced city often times intimidates people but the complexity of the city makes it worth the visit. If you spend time in Addis, you’ll unveil the beauty within the chaos many people overlook and will give you a better understanding of Ethiopia.
Bole International Airport serves several international airline and is the hub of Ethiopian Airlines. It’s also the busiest airport in East Africa. There are two terminals, T1 and T2. T1 is for domestic flights and neighboring countries, with the exception of Kenya, and T2 is for other international flights.
Autobus Terra has many long-distance buses that depart from the station located northwest of Merkato. These buses are much cheaper than the newer ‘luxury buses’ but also a bit more dangerous. They drive much faster and at night so it can be risky. Majority of the buses leave around 5am so it’s best it be at the station by 4am if you want a ticket.
The ‘luxury buses’ go down the country’s highways and are popular amongst visitors and locals. The air-conditioned buses are comfortable with reclining chairs, toilets, and free snacks and drinks. Make sure to book your ticket a week before leaving.
Selam Bus the is best established company. The station and ticket office can be found at the Meskal Square.
Private minibuses are making a popular appearance as it’s fast and cuts journey times a lot. You can find minibus service at Autobus Terra. From Piazza, Mexico Square and Meskal Sqaure, you’ll find minibuses that go to the airport daily from 6am to 8pm.
The blue-and-white minibuses are efficient in the city as there are many and have an extensive network. They operate from 5:30am to around 9pm (8pm on Sunday). Most major intersections are where the minibuses stop. To hop on the right one, listen to the destination yelled by the woyala, the conductor. If you’re confused, asking for help is no issue and someone will point you in the right direction.
It cost around Birr2 but exact prices depend on the distance.
Taxis run from 6am to 11pm. Depending on the journey, short trip cost around Birr60 to Birr80 but prices increase at night. Longer journeys could cost Birr100/140.
You can also hire a taxi driver to take you to various places in the city. You’ll just need to negotiate a price for half/full day. A full day usually goes for Birr600 while a ‘city tour’ should be between Birr300 to Birr350.
The tram, or light-rail system, is quite new in Addis and the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa. It’s rarely used by tourists but can be convenient to avoid the traffic jam. There are two lines, the Green Line that goes east to west and the Blue Line that goes north to south.
Tickets cost between Birr2 and Birr6 and can be purchased at the stations.
Atmosphere and Culture
When to Go
The temperature in the city are consistent throughout the months, although February to May tend to be the warmest months. The average highs are between 63 to 71 degrees F while the lows are between 51 to 58 degrees F.
Temperatures and climates may change due to elevation and with altitude, the temperatures during the day and night can change drastically.
In comparison to most cities in Africa, Addis is relatively safe. You won’t need to worry much about gang violence or similar actives but pickpocketing is common especially around Bole Airport, Mercato, and Piazza areas.
Major streets are usually safe, at night as well. The most danger you might get into is with the stray dog who might attack, or they will follow and bark at you.
There are also many con-artists roaming around. Some men, or even kids, will approach you and try to offer you a traditional show that comes with snakes, dancers, and food. Don’t follow these people as it’s a scam. You will end up paying an absurd amount of money after the show which can lead to violence if you don’t pay.
Be aware of what you eat as it’s possible that you’ll get sick. Only drink bottled water and always check the plastic seal on all bottles before paying.
The society in Ethiopia is a mix of social conservatism. As many Ethiopians are religious and to stay on the safer side, modest behavior and dressing is the best route to go when in public.
Visitors will most likely be forgiven for breaking societal rules but you shouldn’t try to offend the culture.
What To See
What to See and Do:
Ethiopian National Museum
St. George Cathedral & Museum
Washa Mikael Church
‘Red Terror’ Martyrs Memorial Museum
Hiking Entoto Mountain
Addis Eats Walking Food Tours
Holy Trinity Cathedral
Lion of Judah Monument