40 ETHIOPIA TRAVEL TIPS
by Nancy Horn (Addis 66-68)
Food and Drink
1) Drinking Water – drink only bottled water; “Yes” has the least amount of minerals
2) Water for Brushing Teeth – in Addis, I generally use tap water and have not suffered any ill effects; I’m a bit more cautious outside of the city
3) Meals – western cooking is available in a lot of restaurants and in almost all hotels; chicken is generally the most expensive, and beef the least. Don’t eat rare meat and worms still abound, although it is getting better.
4) Salads – I personally don’t eat any raw vegetables, including lettuce and tomato (I got food poisoning from eating a piece of a raw tomato once and ended up in the hospital for two days). Many people do eat salads at the larger hotels and the ferengi-type restaurants, but I play it cautious on this.
5) Ambo water now comes in flavors – apple and lemon – but there is sugar in it.
6) Ethiopian beer and wine – Melotti, St George’s – are still excellent beers; different wineries are emerging, so you might give them a try (not just Guder now)
7) Room Tipping – I generally tip the maid 10 birr/day
8) When purchasing anything, including food in restaurants, a 10% service charge is added and a 15% VAT/sales tax, so whenever you are calculating what a meal will cost, add another 25%. Since there is a service charge, there is no need to tip, but if you find the service exceptional, you can leave a couple of birr.
9) Ice Cream – Kaldi’s coffee shop has WONDERFUL gelato at about 16 birr per scoop (tax inclusive). Do have a macchiato and ice cream, or some tiramisu or very yummy cake as a snack. There are several of these all over town. The Hilton has ice cream, but it is much more expensive.
10) Milk – in the large hotels, they used packaged milk (liquid) and it is fine to put on cereal and drink it, or in your coffee. Remember, buna b’wetet is latte, macchiato is a shot of espresso with some milk. If you don’t want it too strong, get a nech machiatto, which is half a shot of espresso with a lot of milk. If you want the regular machiatto, it is takur machiatto.
11) Diet Coke/Coca Cola Lite – yes, diet coke is bottled in Ethiopia. In supermarkets you can sometimes get diet 7-Up. Otherwise, Coke is the standard soda here.
12) Juices – try the fresh mango, papaya or avocado juice. It’s a little hard to sip it through a straw as the juice is generally freshly blended. In hotels, they generally serve the Ceres juices from South Africa for breakfast, although some do fresh squeezed orange, but it is generally a bit tart.
13) Fruit – if you buy any fruit from kiosks, take it back to the hotel and wash it, and then peel it. Even apples from down south or imported should be eaten in the same way.
14) Yoghurt – supermarkets all sell very good yogurt, some imported and some local. It is all fine and can be very good if you have a queezy stomach. Bring a plastic serving set so you have the utensils with you if you just want to grab some of this on the run.
15) Breakfasts – most hotels have a buffet breakfast with juice, several types of fresh fruit, cereal, different types of breads and pastries, potatoes, waffles/pancakes, sausage, vegetables, some type of Ethiopian dish, baked beans, and generally there is an egg preparation table at which you can order eggs the way you like. There is also lots of coffee and tea, and hot milk to go with.
16) Restaurants – some you might remember include the Cottage, for vegetarian food run by the 7th Day Adventists and the China Bar. Lucy’s is right outside of the museum near Sedist Kilo and has very nice food (I recommend the crackling chicken); Green View near the Dessalegn has good pizza and nice Italian Food; Top View – a bit outside of town and on the hill to the left as you get on the Debre Berhan Road, has an excellent view and very nice ferengi food as well as Ethiopian; the Hilton has a lovely poolside restaurant – on Sundays they have a buffet for 125 birr, but you can order a la carte as well; Sheraton, fairly good food (the Middle Eastern mezza is good) but pricey, although the poolside café is a bit less – their teatime cakes are really something to write home about, but be prepared to pay about $10 for coffee and a piece/pastry; the Jewel of India is REALLY good Indian food and is just up the street from the Dreamliner; Sangam, on Bole Road, is pretty good Indian food as well; the Lemon Tree is more like a healthy sandwich restaurant and is on the Bole Road – it is a favorite place for expatriates and the sandwiches are very good as they are served on barley and other types of very healthy bread.
17) Pharmacies – all medicines can be purchased without prescription, and most come from Europe. If you are on a regular medication and find it too costly in the States, think about buying it here. I generally stock up on Amoxycillin and Cipro (digestive and urinary tract infections, including severe diahrroea). Just check on the expiration date of whatever you buy to make sure.
18) Malaria pills – I personally take Mefloquine/Lariam, but many people cannot tolerate this and hallucinate. If you take it once a week after food, as I do, it should be OK. Some of you might want to go the doxycycline route every day. I have never purchased either of these here, but they are probably available.
19) Hospitals – The Korean hospital is very good. I spent two days there with food poisoning and was treated very well. The doctors are Korean, Ethiopian and American. If you have to be admitted for any reason, you have to put down a 5,000 birr deposit, and then your treatment comes out of that. For all the treatment I had for two days, plus hospital bed, etc., it was $200.
20) Sunscreen and moisturizers – do bring your favorites as with the elevation and weather, the air is very dry and you can turn into a prune fairly quickly. As you recall, you will be just a few degrees of the equator and while you may not feel the burn, it is there. The pollution is really getting bad, so often you can’t see the sun, and you get a yucky, dry taste in your mouth when you walk around, so best to carry water wherever you go.
21) Bathrooms – most restaurants and all hotels have public bathrooms that are kept fairly clean, but there is often no toilet paper. This can be purchased in any little shop, or you can bring a roll from home if you have room. Some are just squatters, but most are sitters – thank God!
22) Cleansers – you might bring the Purell bottles for hand sanitizing or the wipes (I bring these and they are great). Clean your hands off every time you handle money, as it leaves a nasty smell –and whatever else – when you handle it.
23) Computers – in almost every hotel in Addis there is either DSL or wifi hookups in the room; if you don’t want to bring your computer, most hotels have a business center/room in which there are computers, printers, and FAX machines. There are nominal charges for all of these. There are also cyber cafés all round, and they charge by a portion of an hour.
24) Clothing – you may be shocked when you see what young women are wearing – jeans that are skin tight and of the latest fashion. Slacks are now OK in the rural areas as the urban influence is spreading. Men still wear business suits to work, but relaxed dress is fine just about anywhere. Check the weather through google before you come as it may still be raining. The short rains were pretty good this year, and the heavy rains have just started, although they are starting with just a storm a day.
25) Changing money – the exchange rate is the same everywhere and it is published daily in several newspapers. When I arrived three weeks ago, the exchange rate was $1US = 17.55 birr; it is no up to 17.61. Fluctuation is due to the craziness in Europe, in general. Banks are everywhere. The easiest place is the Hilton, and some hotels. Sometimes the hotels give you a bit less for the service, so you can determine whether you want to transact for a little less or take the time to go to the bank.
Try to budget closely as changing birr back to dollars can be a bit troublesome.
Also, bring $100 bills printed from 2005 onward, that have no defacement/fold marks, and no tears. The banks have gone through a lot of counterfeit money and so they are extra careful. The rate for $100 bills is higher than that of lesser bills, so I advise the larger ones.
26) Bargaining – while some of the tourist shops in Addis will bargain, many don’t any more and say that everything has a set price. You can try, but if you walk away don’t expect anyone to chase you.
27) Shops by the French Lycee/post office. There are many shops along two streets that sell almost any kind of memento you might like. However, with trade opening up with other African countries, the shops sell a lot of things from Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, etc. Proprietors will try to tell you things are from Ethiopia, but certain things are not.
28) Silver crosses – if you buy any of these (really bronze painted over with silver paint) don’t pack them too tightly as on your way out of the country your suitcase is x-rayed and crosses have had to be shown in the past so as to ensure that what is being taken away is not an antique.
29) Jewelry – I still g to Teklu Desta in the Piazza, athough they are surrounded by all sorts of gold and silver shops. I have always found them honest to deal with. 46 years ago I dealt with the father, and now I deal with the son. Price have gone high, with silver 45 birr a gram, and gold (18K) almost 1,000 birr/gram. He can “quietly” accept US dollars if you haven’t changed enough, but watch how he does the calculation. You can mention my name and Peace Corps as I have alerted him that you all are coming in September.
30) Other shopping – many of the small shops at the PO sell traditional and “designer” Ethiopian dresses, shirts, woven and manufactured scarves, clay pots, wooden and metal crosses, traditional religious artefacts, items from more distant locations in the country, crosses in picture frames under glass (don’t spend more than 250 birr – 900 at the airport), hand-made sandals, gabbi’s for warmth, embroidered pillow covers and dining room place settings, bedspreads, and other like items. There is a shop across the street from the Dreamliner – Glass Art – that sells engraved glassware at a fairly reasonable price. They also sell the Ethiopian coffee sets with the angels on the rim. Some shops also sell the olive wood and porcupine serving pieces from Eritrea.
31) Coffee to take home – Kaldi’s sells coffee by the half kilo. In November it was 85 birr per half kilo, but it has gone up to 100, and may be even higher by the time you come. A coffee cooperative, Tamoca, is also a great place for coffee, and you can buy specific beans, ground or not. Last November it was 65 birr for a half a kilo, but it is probably at least 75 by now. There is a little coffee kiosk in the store to get a quick pick me up. Tamoca is on the top part of Churchill Road. As you are coming down the hill from the Piazza, it is on your right.
32) Bookstores – Mega Book Stores have all sorts of books and these shops are all over. The Hilton also has books and magazines. All are pricey, though, as all are imported. There is a frilly rigorous second-hand book trade, but they are generally a bit grubby. I have seen the Ethiopian Rough Guide, but it is very pricey here. I recommend you purchase a copy and identify what you would like to see and where you want to go.
Travel around Addis
33) Trinity Church – a must visit while in Addis as that is where Haile Selassie and Empress Menon are said to be buried. It is up from the palace and down a street to the right before you get to Arat Kilo.
34) Ethiopian National Museum – I think Lucy is back from her travels, so the museum is worth a visit (and then you can have lunch/dinner at the Lucy restaurant right outside).
35) Peace Corps Office – it is not marked, but it is behind the Vatican delegation in Sarbet. It would be difficult to take a taxi there as there is no signage due to security. I hope they will arrange for some type of visit as it would be very worthwhile to visit with those who have been here a year and those who will have arrived just a couple of months previously.
36) American Embassy – is on the road way past Sedist Kilo past another market that sells lots of textiles.
37) Taxis – the blue and white taxis are all “official” and are generally safe, if not a bit old. In these you bargain for the price to take you different places, with no real rule of thumb as to how much it costs to go where.
38) Airport Transport – most of the hotels you will be staying in have airport pick-up service, generally for free, but sometimes there is a fee of about 50 birr, so do check.
39) Airport Tax – the departure tax has already been included in the ticket, so you won’t have to pay anything to depart.
40) Airport – when you depart from Ethiopia, the new airport has MANY duty free shops with international goods as well as local shops selling Ethiopian things for inflated prices. There are also two restaurants/snack shops that sell pretty good food and, of course, coffee.
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