Addis Ababa - Post Report Question and Answers

What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

As many embassy families, we live in a large house in an area close to the international school ICS. Our house is very large, four stories. Some have very large yards, not ours though. Commute from our house to the embassy is about 40 minutes. A lot of other embassy staff live in a building close to the embassy. Many other expats live in apartments all over the city, like Bole or Kera neighborhoods. Folks directly renting on the market (e.g., UN, World Bank) tend to have much more modern and more renovated dwellings than embassy employees. - Dec 2023

Housing is in different neighborhoods of the city, mostly single family homes of two to three stories and an apartment building. The biggest neighborhood is close to the ICS international school, and about 20-50 minute commute to and from the Embassy, depending on the time of day. There are two other neighborhoods in which most families live. The houses in one neighborhood are closer to a bigger array of shops and restaurants, and has a more cosmopolitan feel (not many embassy houses are located here now). The apartment complex is about a 25 minute walk from the Embassy, and mostly singles and couples with no kids or pre-school age children. There are a couple other houses scattered around the city. Some have yards of varying sizes, some have no yards, and most have a carport. Houses have a water tank due to unpredictable water supply, and a generator for frequent power outages. - Aug 2023

Most families live close to the school in Old Airport. The houses tend to be really big. The outdoor space varies but all houses have walls around your home with barbed wire. Maid quarters included in the compound and detached from the house. Singles and couples tend to live near the embassy in an apartment building called Elevation. It’s nice, new, and modern. It has a pool, gym, cafe, and little market inside. - Aug 2023

Housing is extremely overpriced and rather underwhelming. Habesha know that expats get rental subsidy, so that is why they charge exorbitant rates for rather crappy apartments. Each apartment will come with its own set of problems. Landlords are more concerned about the money rather than fixing anything. Beware of rental agents, too. They like to make sure they get their dollars cash! Commuting can be horrendous as well. I once waited three hours to move less than three km because the police unexpectedly shut down all the major roads for a holiday. - Aug 2022

Houses can be decent sizes. They are a little run down but overall really great places to live. All houses are inside gated compounds. Traffic can be quite bad, depending on where you live and what times of day you go out. - Jul 2022

In my opinion, the worst and ridiculously high accommodation rates. It seems you pay same price as in Manhattan but of much much lower quality. I feel the quality of workmanship for the apartments is NOT worth the +$2000 they want. - May 2022

My residence is in a slum, in my opinion. The house itself is nice, but there are no stores or restaurants anywhere nearby. Power outages occur almost daily. The commute from my house to work generally takes 25 minutes, but that is VERY early in the morning, when traffic is light. Coming home can take an hour or more. It once took me close to three hours. Unannounced and apparently pointless road closures are frequent, making the commute even longer. - Jun 2021

Old cold houses with weird layouts. Commute time from Bole was around 30 minutes on a good day, up to 60 minutes on a bad day. - Feb 2021

Poor quality houses, in my opinion, with little insulation. Many houses make up for this by having lovely gardens. Houses are often very cold in the winter June to September. New apartments are available including some with amenities such as a gym. From what I can tell, nothing meets any kind of safety standard. - Aug 2020

Housing is scattered. Two major neighborhood clusters. Post is moving a large portion of housing to an apartment building in 2021. Housing is generally one of the bigger complaints for folks. Some homes have yards, many have no green space. You can get cabin fever due to feeling stuck in your compound. Commute times vary from 30 minutes to an hour or longer depending on traffic. - Mar 2020

In my opinion, the housing is poor. The homes have an odd layout, they are older, and have many problems (all of which is typical for a large city in a developing county). We are located in three areas of the city. 1. Old Airport, closest to the school and farthest from the US Embassy. Many families choose to be here for their kids. However, the commute to the Embassy can take 45 mins to an hour. 2. Bole, closest to the airport, about 25 minutes to the US Embassy, and at least 30 minutes to the school. All times listed are on the low end, it typically takes longer due to traffic and construction. 3. Near the US Embassy. Easy commute to work, very far from school, and limited grocery shopping on the local market. Personally, we have one of the more "normal" homes in the pool. However, most days the yard smells of sewage so we don't spend a lot of time outside. Our yard also floods in the rainy season and we are far from the school. Our #1 complaint. - Feb 2020

Housing is provided by US Embassy. We are not fond of our housing here and we are a flexible family used to living in other quirky cities. Yes, the house is gigantic, but what I wouldn't give for a little house and some green space for my children! The only positive is that we living in Old Airport so we're not far from the school. My husband has a long drive to the embassy for work though. For families living in Bole or elsewhere, their children ride the bus or are driven for up to an hour (depending on time of day) to get to and from school. Please really think about whether you want to come here and can handle living in a house that may frequently need repairs or having your child endure long "commutes" to school for a few years. We have two children and we feel that there is no outside space for them to play when they are home. However, other people are lucky and have much nicer living conditions. It seems be risky, and it feels as though family size is not taken into consideration. We've tried very hard to make the house safer (and asked for help) however, we still do not feel the house is as safe as it should be. There are many situations from many families here (including ours) who seem to have experienced dangerous issues with electricity and water, generator issues, and problems with mold (leak issues). There seem to be issues with electrical bills, and I could go on and on. We had no idea until we arrived how off-kilter things would seem. - Feb 2019

Houses are usually quite nice. Most expats have a two, three, or four bedroom stand-alone house on their own little compound, often with a garden and a patio. I'd say about half of the expats live the Old Airport area, the rest are spread throughout the city. - Oct 2018

Housing is the biggest and worst challenge at this post. Sizes range greatly, yards, commute times, etc. The office that manages housing seems to face a lot of challenges, and I feel there is room for improvement.

Many houses are bigger than what you find in the US, but the maintenance does not seem up to US standards. The condition was not what we expected when we moved in, and numerous repairs have been necessary since then.

I feel as though if there is an earthquake here, none of the houses will be left standing. I have heard of people regularly getting regularly electrocuted here. Power outages, water shortages, gas shortages, etc. seem to be frequent. - Aug 2018

For USG employees, houses are rent out in local economy all over the city. Some comes with large yard, others does not. It is hard to rent a decent house under $2000 per month rent in Addis. Most of the lower rent houses tend to be old and small in size - bungalow style with 2 rooms plus but may come with yard. In Old Airport 2 years ago, if you pay around $4500 per month, you could get a house yard and good size house.

Newer and larger house does not mean it stands well. Most houses are built with poor quality and an odd layout and you will more likely to have maintenance issues throughout the year. Some landlords will increase the rent 20% a year, so when you rent your house, so do lock in your rent while you are there and make it clear what is landlord's responsibility and your responsibility once things do not work. Local landlords have different way of approaching than western ones.

Bole is very convenient as far as accessibility to restaurants, shops, airport, etc. Many families with children that attend ICS live near school in Old Airport where there are fewer restaurants. If you live in Bole Homes (by the airport), Gerji, or CMC, your childrens' commute to ICS will be long. Addis has many road construction to accommodate large traffic, and major construction in Kera area will affect the ICS community. Lebu has very nice gated community, and it is close to Old Airport, but the road congestion is normal and it will take you so much time in and out of the area. - Jul 2018

Housing is very mixed: we have a big house with no yard some have smaller houses with a larger yard. The houses are very spread over the city. The international school is located in old airport. which can be almost one hour from the embassy in rush hour traffic. The quality of housing is not great. You will be spending a lot of your time on work orders and following up on work orders. Most of the time things will not get fixed, so you will have to live with it. It can be very frustrating. - Jan 2018

I live in a retro '60s "villa," basically a small bungalow with a huge yard. This is not representative. Most housing at post is small houses with no yard in Bole, or huge rambling manses with no yard in Old Airport. I make repair and maintenance requests often, but have not had serious problems with my house. There is a generator and I use it frequently, as city power is unreliable. - Sep 2017

Housing is fine-ish. All large houses/compounds (although it's my understanding the embassy is going to add some apartments to the pool this years). On one hand, I'm not complaining: I live here for free, thanks to the US tax payers and for that, I'm honestly really grateful. However, let's be real: the houses are fraught with issues...constant work orders in at any one time. There is nothing in the way of insulation so you will be cold here, especially from June through September when the primary rainy season is in effect. It gets cold at night. The embassy provides space heaters but a) those always scare me, especially given the electrical nightmare that is Addis and b) they are not efficient, plus the metal gets scalding hot and don't really emit heat beyond a couple inches' radius of the heater. Mold. None of the bathrooms have exhausts/vents. This means a growing (literally) wave of what almost looks like black mold in our bathroom that peaked during rainy season. The embassy's solution? Paint over it. Neither of us has respiratory issues nor are we smokers but honestly, don't come here if you have breathing issues (we'll get to air quality later). I know there were posts about pests/rodents - honestly, we don't have too much of an issue although the rainy season seems to have brought ants. Occasionally we see some quasi-scary looking spiders but it's not terrible. Location - we're in Bole Rwanda, adjacent to 'little Mogadishu' because of the large population of Somalis. Without traffic, which is almost never, we are about 25 minutes (6 miles) from the embassy. With traffic and when it's raining, just forget about getting home in anything less than an hour. - Aug 2016

House. Large house, but dysfunctional. Poor quality electrical system, plumbing, sewer. Constant problems, constant repairs. Very little yard. We are located in Gerji (near the airport). Embassy calls it Bole, but locals correct this. Lots of Embassy housing here. It's basically a village that's been annexed by AA. Unpaved roads (swamps) goats and cows cause traffic jams. Nothing within reasonable walking distance, and unsafe to walk in any case as there are no sidewalks. The shortest commute time from here would be 30 minutes at 6 a.m. on a Sunday. Week-day commutes are more like 45 minutes with normal (non-rush hour) traffic flow. Can be 90 minutes on return to home. - Aug 2016

All detached homes with yards of various sizes. Families with school-aged kids generally live in 'Old Airport' which is a ~40 minute commute to the embassy. Families with young children, couples, or singles generally live in 'Bole', which is more of a "downtown" area about 20 minutes from the embassy. Generally speaking, there seem to be either older houses with great yards or newer houses with very little outdoor space. - Feb 2016

Most families live in the Old Airport neighborhood, near the international school about 30 - 40 minutes from the U.S. Embassy. Most others live in the Bole neighborhood, shorter commute but traffic can be bade. Some houses are huge mansions designed by people who have never actually lived in the West but have seen a lot of TV shows. Very impractical layouts and poor quality with little or no yards. Other houses are smaller. - May 2014

Generally, there are two types of housing. Older ranch-style homes with a bit of a yard, and goofy palace-like places with little to no yard and barely any on-compound or street parking. Most homes will have some sort of electrical issue, so be patient and bring lots of candles and several quality flashlights (even if you have a generator). Traffic is becoming gnarly with newly installed traffic lights all over town and the random, massive-scale, road construction all over the place, pushing commute times up towards 60 minutes and longer at times. Driving is a huge test of nerves and patience. Leave your road-rage at home and keep you head on a swivel. - Jan 2014

Provided by U.S. Embassy leased from a local landlord; wide variety of layouts and quality. Commute to Embassy fluctuates -- anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour if traffic is bad or city has decided (usually arbitrarily) to completely close roads. I could not imagine trying to find decent housing on our own or dealing with a landlord directly for maintenance issues. - Nov 2013

There are two major neighborhoods where most people live within the expat community. One is close to the school. The other is closer to the embassy. As the size of the expat population grows, people will start moving to other neighborhoods within Addis or on the outskirts. Traffic is crazy; therefore, in all honesty, I can't write a predicted commute time. - Jun 2012

I live in U.S. Government provided housing in Bole. It is a fun neighborhood with tons of restaurants and clubs within walking distance. Others at the Embassy live in the "Old Airport" neighborhood, which is close to the "International Community School (ICS)" where our children usually study. - Aug 2010

Most expat housing is in single-family homes in individual walled compounds. Expats live in both the older neighborhoods and the new ones, so styles vary. The enormous houses with pools, expansive gardens, etc. found in some parts of Africa are not common here, but housing is generally very nice. Commute time ranges from 15 minutes to over an hour. Avoid rush hour if you need to cross town. - Jun 2010

Embassy housing is very nice and tends to have well-tended gardens and plenty of space. - Mar 2008

Subscribe to our newsletter

New book from Talesmag! Honest and courageous stories of life abroad with special needs.

Read More