Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Report of what it's like to live there - 10/23/18
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?
No, I've also lived in Beijing and Brussels.
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?
3. How long have you lived here?
Two years (2012-2014).
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
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.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Basic groceries are available, but lots of the non-basic stuff can be unavailable at times, and some things are just not available ever.
Vegetables are seasonal, which means during winter options are limited. All export items are expensive, but if you don't buy those, you shouldn't break the bank shopping for groceries.
3. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
When we lived there, there were no restaurants that delivered, or we weren't aware of them at least. There are quite a few decent restaurants spread around the city, some take a while to get to. Local restaurants are everywhere, and cheap. Most international cuisines will have a restaurant, but sometimes only one.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Sending mail or packages is not a problem, post office works quite well. We received mail at work, since they didn't deliver to individual houses. PO boxes exist.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Cheap and easy. We paid 50 USD per month for a maid. She came three times a week for a few hours, but I've heard other expats paying the same for a full-time maid. Live-in nannies are paid about the same I think, and night guard as well.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
They're around, although not many. Not cheap, but not expensive either.
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?
ATMs aren't common, we used the one at the Hilton hotel which was near our house. Credit cards only accepted at upscale places. Mostly a cash economy. It might be different now, this was four years ago (2014).
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You will get a lot of praise if you speak Amharic, but you can get by without, although you will need to use gestures a lot.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, the smaller roads aren't great, and sidewalks are few and far between, plus lots of potholes. Also, Addis has a lot of hills, which would make it even harder.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
We were told big buses were unsafe, but if you mind your belongings, I think it should be ok. We mostly used the small blue buses, that travel set routes, and can be waved down anywhere, and will stop wherever along their route you ask them to do so. Cheap, but sometimes quite crammed (when you think it's at maximum capacity, the driver thinks it's only half full).
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?
Buying a car locally is very, very expensive. We didn't drive one, we biked and used the small busses and sometimes a taxi (which are annoying because they don't use a meter and they overcharge expats, plus you have to negotiate the fare, which I hate).
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Haha, noooooo. You can get internet at home, but it's slow and capped (unless you pay a lot more). It might be different now, this was four years ago (2014).
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Local provider, not too expensive, decent coverage.
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?
Yes, some veterinarians, not many, but some will come to your house. Not sure about kennels, but hypothetically you could pay your maid, gardener, or guard to take care of the dog for a monthly fee lower than one day at the kennel in some countries.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
We felt Addis to be very safe. We never felt like we couldn't walk home at night. There's crime in every city, so also some in Addis, but it's mostly crime of opportunity. Addis is probably safer than most US or European cities.
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 not good. For anything serious, go abroad. I wouldn't want to undergo anything that would require full anesthesia in Addis.
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?
Good to moderate, although I've heard the amount of cars has increased a lot since we left, so that might have affected the air quality.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
The weather is pretty much perfect, apart from the rainy season, which last for three months, maybe four.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Two main options: ICS and Sandford. ICS is the best (and the most expensive), but Sandford is decent enough. More international students at ICS, but both have good international teachers. Sandford offers IB, not sure what curriculum ICS offers.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Mid-size, due to all the NGOs and embassies. Morale seems ok, the hardships of living in a third world country creates some sort of 'we are all in this together'-feeling. We made great friends from all over the world in Addis.
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?
Expat events are heavily visited.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Not great for singles I'd say. Good for couples (lots of day trips and short holidays to be done around Addis and in the rest of the country). Good for families I'd say, because you'll have a nice house with a garden, and nannies are cheap. Not many things to do for families though, except play dates.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
No, I think you'll have to hide your sexual orientation if you're not straight. I'm sure there's some sort of underground scene, but probably hard to find and participate in.
5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
It's such a beautiful country, with so many different things to do. For Africa, it has a lot of interesting cultural sights that you can visit, in addition to some wildlife excursions. It's by no means a mono-cultural country, so there a lots of different things to experience: Islamic culture in the East (Harar), Orthodox monasteries throughout the country and rock-hewn churches in Lalibella, relics from the Axum kingdom, the tribes in the South enough to fill many holiday breaks.
6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
The Danakil depression is quite an experience. It's the hottest region on Earth, and contains sulfur lakes, a salt flat, the Erta Ale volcano that you can climb and spend a night at, next to the lava-filled crater. Not cheap, but worth it. Sweaty affair though.
7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Yes, some nice handicraft items.
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
It's a good base to explore the rest of the country from. The food is good, but the city doesn't have very much to offer to be honest. Friendly people though, and safe. Ethiopian Airlines is Africa's best airline, so it's a good base to fly out of to other countries, although travel is expensive within Africa.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
The frequent power and water outages, and the very slow internet. Many expat homes have backup generators for power, and large water tanks to have a buffer for the water outages. We didn't, so it took some getting used to. Valuable experience because of it actually. The slow internet was my biggest source of frustration, as I never realized how addicted I was to what the internet has to offer.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, I loved our time there, despite the hardships. It's a great country, and I'm so happy to have experienced it. Our fellow expats were quite wonderful, as it takes a certain type of person to move here (crazy and/or great). Two or three years is enough though.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
4. But don't forget your:
Candles for when the power goes out.