Addis Ababa — or Addis as it is commonly known — is Ethiopia’s capital and the country’s largest city as it is home to at least 4 million people. It is often referred to as Africa’s diplomatic capital – the African Union (AU) is headquartered in Addis Ababa, and more than 100 international missions and embassies are based there, meaning the city plays host to many of the continent’s dignitaries.
Africa.com highly recommends staying at the Sheraton Hotel when doing business in Addis Ababa. Ideally located in the city’s center, it is a prime location for business travelers. The Sheraton Addis is above the standard for Sheratons worldwide; it is more akin to a Four Seasons or a Ritz Carlton; it is a true five star in every regard. In addition to beautiful rooms, excellent guest services, and multiple dining options, the Sheraton Addis Hotel grounds are breathtaking. The hotels’ business center provides a full range of services, including mobile phone rental services. Additionally, the hotel boasts the largest conference facilities in Ethiopia, as well as smaller meeting rooms. Internet access is available throughout the hotel – but you’ll have to pay extra for it. Wifi in the rooms allow for connection of up to three devices. The hotel does not have a fitness center, but they will bring an exercise bike to your room on request.
The Radisson Blu Hotel is second choice to the Sheraton. It is brand new, and has a trendy vibe. Centrally located in the Kazanchis Business District, this five-star hotel will cater to all your business travel needs. In addition to the business center, the Radisson Blu Hotel has nine well-equipped conference rooms with personalized services. Complimentary high-speed wireless Internet is available throughout the hotel. There is also a Business Class lounge for more informal business meetings, along with two on-site restaurants and a bar. The hotel has a fitness center as well as a luxurious full-service spa.
The Jupiter International Hotel is our third choice. This locally managed hotel has an on-site business center, with a dedicated staff to meet your business needs. There are also several dedicated rooms for business meetings and small conferences. The Jupiter International Hotel offers complimentary wireless and wired internet access for guests, along with 24-hour room service and a fully-equipped fitness center.
Yet another indication of Addis’ status as an international and regional hub is its newly constructed Bole International Airport. Named the busiest in East Africa, the airport has an annual carrying capacity of almost 20 million, and is serviced by several daily flights to Europe, United States, Asia, and other African countries. We find that for first time visitors, the airport is relatively easy to navigate.
Transfers from the airport are convenient. City taxis are a safe and reliable choice and are available for hire at the Arrivals Hall. Many hotels in the city offer a transfer service so be sure to enquire when making your booking. The Sheraton Hotel provides a complimentary shuttle bus service from the airport every hour. The Radisson Blu offers the same, at a fee.
For getting to your meetings and other business matters in Addis, we recommend the small, blue-colored Lada taxis, as well as the small yellow and green-colored taxis that are available for hire around the major hotels. Fares are negotiable – as a rule of thumb, journeys up to 3 km (1.9 mi) should cost Birr20 (just over $1). You can work out an arrangement with your driver to wait for you; waiting costs are not very high.
For business travelers unfamiliar with local driving customs, we do not recommend a rental car, as traffic may seem daunting to newcomers. Be warned that many roads are unmarked.
While Ethiopian Airlines and the larger hotels will accept major credit cards like Visa, Mastercard and American Express, most places will not.
You can use your US dollars, GBP or Euros fairly easily so no need to change currency for a short trip. The easiest foreign currency to change is the US Dollar. In addition to a wad of cash, bring 50 single dollar bills so that you always have correct change (rounded to the dollar) and do not have to deal in local currency.
Ethiopia’s currency is the Birr (ETB). If you need and/or want Birr, we recommend withdrawing it from an ATM at the airport or in the major commercial center.
ATMs are plentiful in Addis, and the ones found in the major hotels, banks, and major tourist attractions like the National Museum will accept both Visa and MasterCard.
The major cellphone operator in Addis Ababa is Ethio Telecom.
When traveling in most major cities in Africa, Addis Ababa included, you have a choice of a) using your cell phone and phone number from home and making roaming calls; however, roaming in Ethiopia only works with certain carriers and is variable or b) buying or renting a local Pay-As-You-Talk SIM card, thus operating with a local number and charging it with airtime locally.
For international calls to the United States, Europe, you should be able to use Skype or Google Voice. In 2012 there was a period of time when the government restricted use of Skype, but we have been successful in using it subsequent to those reports. You should set up these accounts before you leave home. If, for example, you are in a hotel with free WiFi, a Skype account that has been set up for unlimited calls to U.S. phone numbers for a flat rate of $4/month, will allow you to dial any number in the US with unlimited talk time. This is the best way to stay in touch with people in the U.S., Europe, South Africa, etc.
For local calls, we recommend purchasing an inexpensive cell phone that is “unlocked” before you leave home (or using an old cell phone that you no longer use). Unlocked means that the phone can take a SIM card from any carrier. If you have a U.S. or European phone that is locked (i.e., tied to a carrier), you can ask the carrier to “unlock” it. Alternatively, there are a number of websites that for a small fee of under $10, will provide you with specific instructions on how to “unlock” your cell phone. Simply Google the words “unlock cell phone” and you will find a large number of choices.
Is it safe to travel there?
For the latest updates on safety and travel news on Ethiopia, we recommend visiting the British government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office page HERE.
Another useful source for assessing safety and security in Ethiopia is the Ibrahim Index, founded by Sudanese businessman Mo Ibrahim. The Ibrahim Index ranks African countries relative to one another, and ranks Ethiopia’s personal safety as 23rd out of 52 countries (1 being best, 52nd worst). You’ll find more information on the Ibrahim Index score for Ethiopia HERE.
Though Amharic is the official working language in Addis Ababa, English is widely spoken throughout the capital in business circles. You will find some cab drivers and housekeeping staff who do not speak English.
Ethiopia is influenced by western business attire. Expect to see both men and women dressed up in suits and formal business attire. Attire is conservative in general, and for casual wear, women should avoid shorts, tank tops, etc.
Electrical Outlet: Voltage: 220 Volts
Plug Types D, J, and are all used in Ethiopia.