Getting around in Addis
Addis Ababa is served by an extensive network of little blue-and-white minibuses, which are fast, efficient, cheap and a great way of getting around.
Minibuses operate from 05:30 to around 21:00 (20:00 Sunday). Journeys cost roughly Birr2 (though exact prices depend on the distance).
Minibus stops can be found near almost every major intersection. Major ones include Arat Kilo, De Gaulle Sq in Piazza, Meskal Sq, Ras Mekonen Ave near La Gare and in front of the main post office on Churchill Ave.
To catch the right minibus, listen to the destinations screamed by the woyala (attendants) hanging out the windows. ‘Bole!’, ‘Piazza!’ and ‘Arat Kilo!’ are the most useful to travellers. If confused, ask and someone will point you in the right direction.
Most taxis in Addis operate from 06:00 to 23:00. Short journeys (up to 3km) usually cost foreigners Birr60 to Birr80 (more at night). Medium/long journeys cost Birr100/140. If you share a taxi the normal fare is split between the group.
If you’d like to visit a few places in Addis Ababa, negotiate with a driver for a half or full-day fare (Birr600 for a full day is pretty reasonable). A ‘city tour’ lasting a couple of hours should cost around Birr300 to Birr350.
- The Lucy Taxi:
Call: +251 913 135 534.
- Book a taxi from the National Tourism Organization (NTO)
Call: +251 115 511 822
Ethiopia has two main seasons. The dry season lasts from October through to May, and the rainy season starts in late June and ends in September. Temperatures depend on season and altitude. The weather in Ethiopia during October is moderate but the condition can change several times within the day from hot to cold. It is much colder than would be experienced in most of West, Central and North Africa. Warm clothes including cardigans and warm jackets are advised.
The time zone in Ethiopia is East Africa Time (EAT) (UTC+03). The IANA time zone database identifier is “Africa/Addis Ababa.” Almost all Ethiopians use a 12-hour clock system. The daytime cycle begins at dawn 12:00 (6:00:00 AM EAT) and ends at dusk 11:59:59 (5:59:59 PM EAT).
Ethiopia has 220 volt electricity, meaning that unless your computer or appliance is dual voltage or designed for 220 volts, you will need a converter or transformer.
There are two associated plug types, types C and F. Plug type C is the plug which has two round pins and plug type F is the plug which has two round pins with two earth clips on the side.
International dialing code: +251
The local currency is the Ethiopian Birr (ETB). Birr notes are available in denominations of 5, 10, 50 and 100. Visitors may import an unlimited amount of foreign currency but this must be declared on arrival to the customs authorities on the appropriate blue-colored form. Foreign currency may only be exchanged at authorized banks and hotels, and a receipt must be obtained. The currency declaration form must be retained as this will be required by customs on departure. Visitors may change back any surplus Ethiopian Birr to cash at the airport before departure.
All banks and most hotels in Addis Ababa have ATMs that accept international Visa cards and MasterCard. Note that foreign Solo, Cirrus or Plus cards do not work in any ATM. Credit cards (Visa and MasterCard) are increasingly useful in Addis Ababa but are rarely accepted outside it, with the exception of some Ethiopian Airlines offices and top-class hotels. The travel agencies, airline offices and major hotels that do accept cards typically charge you 2% to 3% extra for the privilege.
Amharic, the national language, is widely spoken throughout the country and is predominant in Addis Ababa. The principal foreign language is English, but you will also find many people who speak French, Italian, and Arabic.
Major religions in the country are Christianity and Islam.
Ethiopia is a curious mix of social conservatism (many Ethiopians are deeply religious) and a fairly relaxed approach to life. As a general rule, you’re more likely to find the latter in Addis, and the former in rural areas and smaller towns. To be on the safe side, modest behaviour and dress in public areas is almost always the way to go. While you may be forgiven as a foreigner for stepping over the line, you should still try not to offend and always seek local advice if you’re unsure.
Ethiopians will almost always seek to behave respectfully to one’s elders and we encourage you to do likewise. Greetings are important to Ethiopians so take the time to greet people properly before launching into the main business of the conversation.
Eating is one area where it pays to try and replicate local customs.
- If you’ve been invited to someone’s home for a meal, bring a small gift. Pastries or flowers are good choices in urban areas, while sugar, coffee and fruit are perfect in rural areas.
- Use just your right hand for eating. The left (as in Muslim countries) is reserved for personal hygiene only. Keep it firmly tucked under the table.
- Take from your side of the tray only; reaching is considered impolite.
- While eating, try to avoid touching your mouth, licking your fingers, or filling your mouth too full. All are considered impolite.
Travelers to Ethiopia may experience what is called altitude sickness while in Addis Ababa. This is may be exacerbated for people who have specific health problems like chest diseases (asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, history of pulmonary embolism), heart diseases (heart failure, high blood pressure) etc. Pregnant women may experience some discomfort at high altitude. The situation is very individualized and so should be examined on a case by case basis.
There are recurrent cases of water borne diseases (Typhoid, Amoeba, Acute Watery Diarrhea) among others that occur from time to time but this is very much dependent on personal hygiene. Infectious diseases like measles, hepatitis A, B, and C, meningitis, HIV are also common and depend on the risky behavior practiced without adequate protection for some of the diseases. Travelers’ diarrhea is present anywhere in the world and so is the situation with Ethiopia.
Advice to Conference Delegates
- The tap water is generally NOT safe to drink anywhere in Ethiopia. Bottled water or filtered water is readily available at tourist sites, shops and hotels
- Maintain proper individual hygiene with regular hand washing after using public facilities, avoid unnecessary handshakes and cough into the elbows to avoid recontamination
- If you have any chronic health problems, make sure you take enough medication to last for the period of stay in Ethiopia as some of the medications may not be available on the local markets (diabetic, hypertension, cholesterol medications) etc.
- Make sure you have some warm clothes in your luggage to adapt to the changing weather
- Avoid eating uncooked foods prepared in public places (salads, fruits that cannot be peeled etc).
- For acute health problems, the UN Health Care Center (UNHCC) is available on a cost recovery basis. This means services will be provided and delegates will be responsible for paying for the cost directly
Services Available at the UN Health Care Center (UNHCC)
All ACRC delegates have access to the UNHCC which is an outpatient health care facility located in the UNCC compound. It provides a good number of services as listed below:
- Walk-in clinic: consultations with Internists and general practitioners.
- Consultations by appointment in the following fields:
- Internal Medicine
- Gynecology and Obstetrics
- Dental Care
- Stress counseling
- Radiology (X-rays and Ultra sounds)
- 24hrs/7days off duty hours coverage of emergency care
- Ambulance services for transportation to city hospitals
- Short stay-in ICU
- Laboratory services
Reception: +251 (0) 115 443 548 / +251 (0) 115 445 502
Mobile: +251 (0) 929 908 433
Delegates will be responsible for covering their own medical costs.
For emergency situations, the UN Health Care Center (UNHCC) can be reached from any hotel in Addis Ababa on the following telephone numbers: +251 115 443 548 or +251 115 445 502. Delegates will be responsible for covering their own medical costs.
United Nations Security Control Room – Addis Ababa (24 hours)
- +251 (0) 115 516 537
- +251 (0) 115 512 945
- +251 (0) 115 445 555
Addis Ababa (City) Police: 991
- +251 (0) 111 110 111
- +251 (0) 111 551 200
- If applying for a visa upon arrival, remember to bring a passport sized photo, general conference invitation letter, hotel booking confirmation, USD50 in cash and your passport which should have two blank pages and should be valid for at least 6 months from the date you intend to enter Ethiopia.
- All important documents (passport data page and visa page, credit cards, travel insurance policy, air/bus/train tickets, driving licence etc) should be photocopied. Leave one copy with someone at home and keep another with you, separate from the originals.
- Check-in online at least 24 hours prior to your flight departure to save time at the airport. Arrive at least 2-3 hours before your flight departs.
- Bring a charger adapter. Countries have different size plugs and voltage. For Ethiopia there are two associated plug types, types C and F. Plug type C is the plug which has two round pins and plug type F is the plug which has two round pins with two earth clips on the side.
- Always carry your own supplies of prescription drugs and preventive medicines. If traveling with prescription medication, check with the Embassy of Ethiopia to ensure the medication is legal. Always, carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor’s prescription.
- Always check your baggage upon arrival at the airport and report any damage immediately. Make sure you know your rights on luggage problems. For more information visit: https://www.airhelp.com/en/know-your-rights/baggage-delayed-lost-damaged/