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Addis Ababa overview

Addis Ababa, an ancient and historical city is the capital and largest city of Ethiopia. Officially spelt Addis Abeba by Ethiopian Mapping Authority, it is a city located on a well-watered plateau surrounded by hills and mountains.

Entoto, situated on a high tableland was the previous headquarters of Ethiopia, until extreme cold and a shortage of firewood resulted in the change of the capital to Addis Ababa. Addis Ababa (New Flower) was founded and named in 1887 by Empress Taitu, the wife of Emperor Menilek II. The city was like a military encampment in its first year with the Emperor’s Palace being the central focus surrounded by the dwellings of his troops and numerous retainers. A large number of eucalyptus trees were imported from Austalia in 1905 to increase the supply of firewood and provide a forest cover for the city. Addis Ababa served as the capital of Italian East Africa from 1936 to 1941, when modern stone houses were built and several roads paved.

Addis Ababa is the educational and administrative centre of Ethiopia. The Addis Ababa University, founded in 1950, and several teacher-training colleges and technical schools are located in this historical city. It is Africa’s 4th largest city and the “political capital of Africa” as it hosts the headquarters of numerous continental and international organisations like United Nations Economic Commissions for Africa (ECA), African Union etc.

The diversity of Ethiopians is reflected in the large number of churches, cathedrals, mosques, and museums.

The history and tourist attractions in Addis Ababa make it one of the best places to visit in Africa. There are several great places for visitors to tour in Addis Ababa to learn the culture, traditions and history. Experience the city’s famous historic edifices, bustling markets and bazaars. Here are a few great places to visit while in Addis Ababa.

Ethiopian National Museum

Red Terror Museum

Africa Hall

Parliament Building

Shengo Hall

Medhane Alem Cathedral

St George’s Cathedral

Anwar Mosque

Roman Catholic Cathedral of Nativity

Menelik’s old Imperial Palace

National Palace

Ethiopian National Library

Ethiopian Ethnological Museum

Addis Ababa Museum

Ethiopian National History Museum

National Postal Museum

Netsa Art Village

National Railway Museum

The Mercato Market

Some of the biggest and most popular festivals and events in Ethiopia hold in Addis Ababa such as the Ethiopian Film Festival in May, the Summer Cycling Championships from July to September, Kulubi (Feast of Saint Gabriel) in December, the Ethiopian New Year (Enkutatash), Feast of Epiphany (Timket), the Ethiopian Christmas (Genna) celebrated on January 7 and Meskel (Finding of the True Cross) in September makes Addis Ababa an all-year-round destination for entertainment.

Best time to book a flight to Addis Ababa

Booking a flight to Addis Ababa for many tourists is dependent on the weather. Addis Ababa is located close to the equator, hence the temperatures are constant all year round.

Off Peak Season

The rainy season in Addis Ababa runs from March to mid-September. It is the time when the city experiences warm temperatures and pleasant rainfall. The wet conditions can make transportation slower. The countryside is green during this period, and most hotels negotiate generous rates for walk-in clients. The cheapest flights to Addis Ababa are booked during the rainy season.

Peak Season

The dry season occurs from September to January. The dry season is the best time to visit Addis Ababa with pleasant temperatures, blue skies and low rainfall. Flights to Addis Ababa are more expensive during this season, as more festivals and events are held during the period. Meskel and Timkat festivals are particularly popular for locals and visitors. Hotels and flights usually spike their prices for the occasion.

Best time to visit Addis Ababa

Addis Ababa Experiences 2 Types Of Climate: The Rainy Season And The Dry Season. Addis Ababa Is Best Visited From Late-September Till January When The Festivals Draw A Large Gathering Of Locals And Tourists. These Festivals Are Amazing Events To Witness First-hand Especially With The Relatively Mild Temperatures Of The Dry Season. The Winter Period Runs Till February, And So It Is Highly Cold In The Highlands, Majorly At Night.

Viewing Wildlife Is Consistent Throughout The Year, But Local Birds Are More Colourful During The Breeding Season, Which Is Usually During The Dry Season. Birds Migrate From The North During The European Winter Months.

In General, Visitors To Addis Ababa Should Avoid The Rainy Season Between June To Mid-September. Bear In Mind That In Addis Ababa, The Higher The Altitude The Lower The Temperature, And The Lower You Go The Hotter The Conditions. Always Prepare For The Cold Evenings.

Airlines operating flights to Addis Ababa

Airlines operating Cargo services, domestic and international scheduled flights from the airport to major destinations across 6 continents include:

AirDjibouti

EgyptAir

Ethiopian Airlines

flydubai

Gulf Air

Kenya Airways

Lufthansa

Qatar Airways

Saudia

Sudan Airways

Turkish Airlines

Airlines flying from Addis Ababa Bole International Airport and Average Fares to some popular cities 

Country

Major Airport

Airlines

Average Flight fares ($) Round Trip

Lagos, Nigeria

Murtala Muhammed International Airport

Ethiopian Airlines

648

Abuja, Nigeria

Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport

Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways

850

London, England

London Heathrow Airport

British Airways, Ethiopian Airlines

695

Doha, Qatar

Doha International Airport

Qatar Airways

477

Dubai, UAE

Dubai International Airport

Flydubai, Qatar Airways

324

Paris, France

Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport

Air France

619

New York

J.F Kennedy International Airport

Ethiopian Airlines

1050

How long is a flight to Addis Ababa

City

Average Flight time

Lagos

5 hours 20 minutes

Khartoum

1 hour 5o minutes

Abuja

4 hour 40 minutes

Nairobi

2 hours 10 minutes

London, England

7 hours 45 minutes

Doha, Qatar

5 hours 40 minutes

Dubai

4 hours 15 minutes

Paris, France

7 hours 15 minutes

Saudi Arabia

28 hours

New York

20 hours 45 minutes

Frankfurt, Germany

7 hours

Johannesburg

5 hours 25 minutes

Istanbul, Turkey

5 hours 20 minutes

Madrid, Spain

9 hours 30 minutes

Chengdu, China

27 hours 35 minutes

Rome

6 hours

Amsterdam, Netherlands

11 hours 50 minutes

Shanghai, China

11 hours

Addis Ababa airport

Addis Ababa Bole International Airport (IATA: ADD; ICAO: HAAB) is the main airport serving Addis Ababa, the capital City of Ethiopia. It is situated in Bole area, just 6km Southeast of Addis Ababa. The airport was formerly called Haile Selassie I International Airport. Ethiopian Airlines, the national flag carrier of Ethiopia uses Addis Ababa Bole International Airport as its hub. The airport serves as the base for the Ethiopian Aviation Academy.

Ethiopian Airline operates flights to destinations in Ethiopia, Africa and non-stop service to Asia, Europe, North America and South America. More than 150 flights depart and arrive at the international airport of Addis Ababa.

Facilities in the airport include two terminals with 11 gates and more than 30 aircraft parking stands. Terminal 1 serves Domestic and Regional flights for Ethiopian Airlines, EgyptAir, Sudan Airways and Yemenia. International flights are operated by other airlines in the terminal 2 of the airport. The Cloud Nine Lounge and ShebaMiles Lounge in the airport are so available to premium travellers.

Getting from Addis Ababa airport to city centre

Staying in Addis Ababa

here are many accommodation options in Adis Ababa as it receives all kinds of visitors including leisure travellers, business travellers, tourists and government officials.

Sheraton Addis Ababa

This is the fanciest hotel in town. It is where the bigwigs stay when they visit Addis Ababa. Expect to meet the heads of international organisations, diplomats and top government officials in the hotel. It is the best relaxation spot after spending times visiting museums, climbing the hills and trekking in the highlands.

Hilton Addis Ababa

Also a luxurious hotel with excellent amenities. It offers the outdoors bar for a lively evening and weekend. The swimming pool is surrounded by trees and offers a relaxing ambience.

Itague Taitu Hotel 

The hotel was built by Empress Taitu in 1907. It is the oldest hotel in Addis Ababa. It doubles as a museum with the beautiful old furniture and high ceilings providing a beautiful experience. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant and breakfast in the lovely garden. The hotel offers car hire and is the nearest hotel to the Airport.

Harmony Hotel

 The Harmony Hotel is a hotel double functioning as a budget and a luxury hotel. It is located in the upmarket neighbourhood of Bole. It has a clean gym, an indoor pool and a bar at the top floor.

Jupiter International Hotel

This hotel has two locations: Bole and Kazanchis. The hotel offers awesome rooms, gym, good food and live music on Thursday nights.

Luxury hotels will cost you upwards of $100 per night. The cheap hotels can be found in Piazza and Bole. Taitu hotels, the Ghion, the Ethiopia, the Wabi Shebelle and  Rita Guesthouse are examples of budget and tourist class hotels. You can expect to pay between $25 to $30 for a night stay at these hotels.

Great places to visit Addis Ababa

There are plenty of things to do in Addis Ababa to make your stay fun filled. From the marvellous array of local and international food to ancient churches, fascinating museums, and beautiful buildings, there are a lot of places to keep you occupied and satisfied in Addis Ababa.

Addis Mercato

One of the best yet simplest things to do in Addis Ababa is taking a walk around the crowded and entertaining Addis Mercato market. The Mercato, the Italian word for market, is the largest open-air market in Africa. The market has several sections and you can buy everything including souvenirs, clothes and food. You can just go watch the crowds of people in the market and observe the hustle and bustle of the market. However, be wary of pickpockets.

St George’s Cathedral and Museum

St George’s Cathedral is a religious icon of Addis Ababa built by Emperor Menelik II to commemorate his stunning 1896 defeat of the Italians in Adwa. It is located on a hill overlooking the Menelik II Square. You can walk in a circle around the cathedral observing the incredible paintings about biblical stories and Ethiopian history. The cathedral is just to the side of the cathedral. It is filled with memorabilia from the ancient church and a collection of religious writings, Ethiopian crosses and clothes adorn the museum. 50 ETB per person is the price to enter the museum.

Meskel Squares and Museums

Meskel Square is the central gathering place for locals in Addis Ababa especially during important festivals and political rallies. The Meskel Square is also a point of reference for local transportation and entering into the city centre. There are 2 museums adjacent to the square, just off Bole Road. The Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum and Addis Ababa Museum will interest you.

National Museum of Ethiopia

 The national museum is home to many of the most important relics and pieces of artwork from different parts of the country. The variety of artworks on display and the collection of archaeology like precious stelae and statues from Axum makes for an awesome viewing. There are also skeletal remains from early hominids and a model of the famous “Lucy.” The upper floor of the museum holds the collection of royal family memorabilia of previous Emperors of Ethiopia. Entry into the museum is 10 ETB.

Ethnological Museum

The Ethnological Museum is located within the University Campus of Addis Ababa. The museum introduces visitors to the major tribes in Ethiopia, then goes through the history and importance of coffee in Ethiopian culture. A collection of Ethiopian Orthodox paintings triptychs and Orthodox crosses also adorn the museum. The highlight of the museum is seeing the former bedroom and bathroom facilities of the highly regarded and famous Emperor Haile Selassie. Entry into the museum is 10ETB for adults and 50 ETB for students.

Monuments, Lion of Judah, Derg Monument

Ethiopia with its ancient history, religious beliefs and struggles against colonisation is full of monuments and sculptures in remembrance. The statue of the Lion of Judah, in front of the old Railway Station in Addis Ababa, represents the Ethiopian pride and the Emperor. Addis Ababa with its wealth of history and national pride is filled with monuments at nearly all public squares, important places and large roundabouts in the city. Tourists can stop to view the monuments while driving by.

The Menelik Palace

The Menelik Palace is the palatial compound known as the Gebi which for several years served as the seat of power for Ethiopia’s Emperors. There are several residences, halls, chapels, and offices within the Palace. Today, it is the office and residence of the Ethiopian Prime Minister. The vast majority of the palace is not accessible to the public as it also houses the Ethiopian Prime Minister.

The Mausoleum of Emperor Menelik II located within the grounds of the Palace is open to the public.  Beneath the sanctuary is the tomb of Emperor Menelik II, his wife Taitu, daughter and Empress Zewditu, daughter of Haile Selassie, Princess Tsehai, and the Archbishop Matewos of Addis Ababa. Additional information about the imperial throne can be seen from the tomb. There are written documents, images, crosses, processional umbrellas and more. The upper part of the mausoleum is a church with several paintings in the dome area. Visitors will see the paintings of the Coronation of Menelik II, the Battle of Adwa (victory over the Italian invaders), and the visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon.

Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum

The Derg communist military junta in 1974 ousted the government of Emperor Haile Selassie. The military junta ruled with terror from 1975 until 1987. Thousands of perceived enemies were imprisoned, tortured and executed without trial.

The Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum was built in Addis Ababa to honour those who laid their lives fighting against the Derg dictatorship. The museum is adjacent to the Meskel Square.

Holy Trinity Cathedral and Museum

 The Holy Trinity Cathedral is referred to Emperor Haile Selassie Church because his body was moved there in 2000. The Holy Trinity Cathedral is a sacred Ethiopian Orthodox church in the city. At the back of the cathedral is a museum housing the historical memorabilia of Ethiopia, crowns of former Ethiopian Emperors and a selection of incredibly well-preserved Amharic Bibles and religious writings. Entry into the museum and church is 50ETB.

Cost of things in Addis Ababa

Although the prices of common items mentioned in the table below are subject to change, they give you an idea of what to expect in the market. The local currency is the Ethiopian Birr (ETB) made up of 100 cents. The notes are available in denominations of 5, 10, 50 and 100. Change your foreign currency at authorised banks and hotels to ease buying in the market. Shops are open Monday to Fridays from mornings till evenings. A few shops are open on Saturdays.

Items

Cost (Birr)

Basic Lunchtime menu

174

Combo meal in fast food restaurant

148

1 litre of whole fat milk

23

Men haircut in expatriate area

70

Basic dinner for 2

276

2 tickets to the movies

126

Dinner for 2 at upscale restaurant

892

1 packet of Marlboro cigarettes

50

Domestic beer

16

1 kg of potatoes

18

1 kg of apples

90

2 litres of Cocacola

44

Monthly rent in expensive area

23,784

Monthly rent in normal area

11, 965

Laundry detergent

112

1 pair of jeans

810

1 summer dress

1,160

1 pair of sports shoes

1,871

1 pair of men’s leather shoes

1,804

 

Addis Ababa tips/advice

f invited to a traditional Ethiopian coffee, drink 3 glasses of the powerful coffee to show politeness. Do not be in a hurry as the proper ceremony takes at least 1 hour 30 minutes.

Addis Ababa has been rated as one of the safest capital cities in Africa. However, tourists should be careful of petty crimes like pickpocketing and bus robbery. Here are some tips when are in Addis Ababa.

Be careful when leaving/arriving by bus in Meskal Square as the hustle and bustle of getting your bags may be an opportunity for pickpocketers.

Do not board a minibus that doesn’t call its destinations. It’s very dangerous to board a bus that asks for your destination or direction.

Merkato market is a very crowded place. Do not carry a backpack in the market.

It is safer to arrange for a taxi driver if you will be staying a long time in the Addis Ababa.

The high altitude of Addis Ababa can be tasking. Be sure you are fit and healthy before climbing the high elevations.

Don’t walk on your own at night in Addis Ababa. Do not wear jewelry. Reduce the amount of cash on you. You can always use one of the ATMS. Wear a money belt that fits under your dress.

Do not fall for the cultural show scam. It is locally known as “Fird Biet”. A gentleman or child may approach you inviting you to the free cultural show. You may eventually be forced to pay as much as $100 for such scam shows.

Flight from local city to Addis Ababa

Ethiopian Airlines operates scheduled domestic flights service from Addis Ababa Bole International Airport to 21 cities across Ethiopia. Addis Ababa, Arba Minch, Assosa, Axum, Bahar Dar, Bale Robe, Dire Dawa, Gambella, Gonder, Gode, Hawassa, Humera, Jijiga, Jimma, Kabri Dar, Kombolcha, Lalibela, Mekele, Semera, Shire and Shilavo.
There is a daily “Historic Route Service” for tourists to visit the country’s famous ancient historical sites of Axum, Bahr Dar, Gondar and Lalibela which showcase obelisks and rock-hewn churches. The special tour programs are designed to ensure visitors choose their own activities and locations that most interest them and gives the most time to enjoy the tourist attractions.
Common flight routes operated by Ethiopian Airlines and the flight fare for a one-way trip is shown below.

Destinations

Flight Fare USD – One-way trip

Addis Ababa to Arba Minch

180

Addis Ababa to Axum

180

Addis Ababa to Bahir Dar

180

Addis Ababa to Dire Dawa

180

Axum to Gondar

170

Addis Ababa to Lalibela

180

Addis Ababa to Mekele

170

Axum to Lalibela

90

Gondar to Lalibela

80

 

 

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