What You Need To Know

Addis Ababa or Addis Abeba, Ethiopia’s sprawling capital in the highlands bordering the Great Rift Valley, is the country’s commercial and cultural hub. Its National Museum exhibits prehistoric fossils, including replicas of the famous early hominid known as Lucy, along with Ethiopian art and traditional crafts. The burial place of the 20th-century emperor Haile Selassie, copper-domed Holy Trinity Cathedral, is a neo-baroque architectural landmark.

The city is populated by people from different regions of Ethiopia – the country has as many as 80 nationalities speaking 80 languages and belonging to a wide variety of religious communities. It is home to Addis Ababa University. The Federation of African Societies of Chemistry (FASC) and Horn of Africa Press Institute (HAPI) are also headquartered in Addis Ababa.
Area: 527 km²
Population: 3.385 million (2008)

Currency

  • Ethiopia’s currency is the birr.
  • Coins in circulation are 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 cents. Banknotes in circulation are 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100 Birr. 1 birr can be divided into 100 cents.
  • Usual banking hours are 8:00am to 3:00pm, Monday – Thursday, Fri 8:00am to 11:00pm and 1:30pm to 3:00pm on Fridays and 8:30am to 11:00am on Saturdays.
  • Foreign currency can be exchanged at any commercial bank, including branches located at larger hotels and at the airports. Exchange rates are the same everywhere in Ethiopia. It is illegal to change money on the black market.

Climate

  • In Addis Ababa, the climate is warm and temperate. The summers are much rainier than the winters. This location is classified as Cwb by Köppen and Geiger. The average annual temperature in Addis Ababa is 16.3 °C. Precipitation here averages 1143 mm.
  • The driest month is November. There is 8 mm of precipitation in November. The greatest amount of precipitation occurs in August, with an average of 263 mm.
  • With an average of 18.0 °C, May is the warmest month. The lowest average temperatures in the year occur in November, when it is around 14.8 °C.

Language

Tigrigna and Amharigna (Amharic) are the modern languages which are derived from Ge’ez. Amharic is the official national language of Ethiopia. English, Arabic, Italian and French are widely spoken by many Ethiopians.

Getting Around

By tram

Trams operate frequently 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. Tickets are exceptionally cheap – costing 2-6 ETB depending on distance travelled – and can be bought at orange-coloured kiosks next to each station.

By Mini bus/ Taxi

Blue and white minibuses/taxis travel quite efficiently around the town. It is very cheap, 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 acceptable to ask if the taxi (minibus) will go by your destination on its way.

Safety

Petty theft and mugging is common and on the rise. Take particular care when visiting crowded public places, especially at night. There have been incidents of assaults occurring around the Bole area at night. Keep valuables like cameras and passports out of sight. Be aware of the risk of pick-pocketing, and bag and jewellery snatching including from vehicles stopped at traffic lights in Addis Ababa. Incidents involving parked and unattended cars are on the increase. When parking in Addis Ababa, leave your car in a well-lit and guarded area. Consider fitting anti-shatter film to all windows on your vehicle.

Do,s

  1. Watch out for any unexpected vehicle – that also includes donkeys, sheeps and goats – sometimes in large herds heading for the final journey.
  2. Be careful at night as people cross the road in a pretty erratic way
  3. Take into account that the car in front of you could do anything from stopping to suddenly turning right or left even if you thought there was no road and it was not an option
  4. Use your horn a lot, in a preventive and reactive way.
  5. Always bear in mind that there could be a serious whole in the street – also to be taken into consideration when you are a pedestrian

Don’t

  1. Rely on the priority to the right – it doesn’t exist
  2. Think flash lights can tell you where people intend to go – it’s not the case!
  3. Stop every time you see a pedestrian on the side of the road – maybe he just intends to stay there
  4. Assume people will let you go because you have the cutest car
  5. Drive too fast, there are… a lot of surprises on the way
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