Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Report of what it's like to live there - 01/01/18
Personal Experiences from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
We have lived in Jordan and Israel, so this is our third post overseas.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
The USA, There are direct flights to DC from Addis or many options if you fly through Frankfurt.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
We are here with the US embassy.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
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.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
The US embassy has a commissary, which has some things. Other items you can get in the local market, but many times there will be shortage of things like cream for cooking, sugar and at time gas for your car. Things here are very expensive especially if you want Western quality food products (if they are even available). Bring a big cooler for when you travel.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Anything with liquids, because you cannot ship liquids through pouch.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There are about 10 restaurants that we use at times, like pizza, hamburger Ethiopian food and a few Italian places. But again if you are a foodie forget about great food in Addis.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Addis is at high altitude so no malaria, but as soon as you leave Addis you need to take malaria meds.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Through the US embassy.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Household help is fairly cheap. Some people have a full-time housekeeper and a day guard, and some people hire private drivers for full time or part-time.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There are a few gyms around--not sure about the quality. There are a few expats that teach yoga and Pilates.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Credit cards are hit or miss. Some bigger stores accept them, but it all depends if there is a internet connection that day. Ethiopia is mostly a cash society.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
I think there are a few English-speaking churches around.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
For shopping and getting around, you will be fine with English, but it is always very helpful to know a few phrases in Amharic.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
A very hard city to navigate when you have a disability.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Local buses are not recommended but taxis are cheap.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
A four-wheel drive. The roads here a terrible, and in rainy season they become even worse. Parts are hard to get so bring whatever you need from the U.S.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
It is the worst internet we have ever experienced and the most expensive.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
We use a local provider for our cell phones.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
I do not have any pets so I am not sure, but I know that people have vets for their dogs and cats.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
There are not very many options for jobs, Telecommuting is difficult because of the slow internet.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Ethiopians like to dress nicely but casual clothing is accepted.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
There is some pickpocketing around town but I am not sure it is any more than in a major European city.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care is terrible, if there is any issues you will get medical evacuation. most likely to South Africa. All hygiene is a big problem here, and the water is not clean.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
The pollution is really bad. We have purifiers in the house that we brought from home, and I am really happy we did. If you are in town it can be hard to breathe at times.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
I would be careful if you suffer from asthma.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Morale at post is very low, and people can feel discouraged about being here.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Addis has a nice climate, because of the altitude. The summer season is not to hot and the rainy season can get cold and wet but not too bad.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
The International school here in Addis is our saving grace, the school is wonderful. You feel welcome right away and the academics are also good.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
It is a very accommodating school.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
I think there are a few around town, and ICS also has a preschool.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
There are almost none.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
The expat community in Addis is very big, there are a lot of embassies and NGO's. I think the overall morale is pretty low.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
School is a great place to meet for coffee, otherwise I think most people host their own events at home.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I think the single crowd here are doing OK. There are a few bars and clubs. For families the school is great but Addis does not have a lot to offer. No playground or green space. There is only one movie theater, and not much else to do.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I am not sure but I do not think so.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Ethiopia has a lot of tribal issues.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Going to Lalibela and seeing the rock churches. Also Arba minch is nice to see wildlife.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Going to the Portuguese bridge.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
No this is not a shopping post, but you can buy some local handicrafts like scarves and handwoven towels, baskets and coffee.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
There is a lot of sunshine and people are nice.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How bad the pollution is and how poor the overall morale is among the embassy staff. Also how little there is to do in Addis itself.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?