12 things to take note of if you are coming to Ethiopia (Addis Ababa)

12 Things to take note of if you are coming to Ethiopia (Addis Ababa)

a mock up of a map, the basics
a mock up of a map, the basics
  1. Maps are nonexistent; people don’t work by maps or road names. You will have to go by what is near that location. The amount of times i have got into a taxi and then called a local (friend) to get them to explain where exactly it is i want to go. The amount of times that the taxi driver doesn’t know the location is pretty often also.
  2. Taxis. Try and get 2 drivers who you know and trust. And always agree the price before you start your journey.
  3. Driving!!! Most drivers are crazy, there seems to be no rules to the road. They have introduced lanes but no one keeps to them, roundabouts it seems you just enter and hope for the best, and cross junctions wow here you find yourself just edging around cars left right and centre. It will stop shocking you after a while.
  4. Walking – most paths are not finished so you will find you walk on the road most of the time. Just remember the previous point and just be aware of your surroundings. Another point to the paths that during rainy season these paths can be slippy even when wearing hiking boots. You will adjust and will get easier as the weeks pass.
  5. Exploring the city. Walking it is a great way to gage where anything is. Sundays are nice and quiet. However, when you go out for a walk there are a few things to watch out for;
  • If you look like a tourist and a “faranji” at that (and you will), Then beggars especially kids will make a beeline for you, I have been advised by locals to not encourage the kids. Plus you could be prime target to pickpockets. Those who look like that they need support then 1Birr is acceptable if you wish
  • Also you are a prime target for “tour Guides”. They will just start walking with you, build up a conversation and then ask if you have seen XYZ. In my experience this has been a type of church. This person will then proceed to walk with you and then take you to the church. Before you know it you have paid to get in the church and then expected to pay your new friend a fee for them taking you there. I so far have been stung twice. A way to avoid is to tell anyone that you are walking with that you are meeting someone, they soon give up (well some of them do!!!)
  • We have used our driver as a guide or used our new colleagues.

6. Shoe cleaners. You will be walking a fair bit. No matter how much you try to keep your shoes clean, with the amount of construction around and all the Zinab and Chicka (rain and mud) you will need to spruce up. There are boys/men on every corner, some with set positions others who are on the move. They will always be there asking. You will look to pay around 5Birr.

7. Greetings. Do you kiss cheeks? If you do how many times? Do you shake hands? I have been offered a wrist as a hand shake before. Also there is the hand shake with the shoulder bump and back slap. Only tip here is be aware of the options and just follow suit.

8. Learning the Lingo. Even if you jest learn the basic greetings and key words. I have never been very good at learning new languages, but the locals are always grateful when you try. It will always put a smile on their faces. At first this made me very conscious that they were laughing at me and i was getting it all wrong. But it is just that they really like it when you try. One word which will always guarantee a laugh is when you tell them you know the word Cor Jim Jimmits (Ankle). I have no idea why this has made my vocabulary!!


9. Food.When you first try Injera it tastes a bit sour. But you soon get used to the taste and actually start to enjoy it. You will not be able to eat a whole one to yourself. Portion sizes are pretty large. When eating with the locals they want you to just keep on eating. I thought Cumbria ate large portions but no this stuff is filling.


10. Bambis is a pretty central supermarket that has most things. It is Greek owned so you will find a lot of Greek food also. You won’t find everything but you can usually mash up together a decent meal or 2. With Veg or fresh foods you will find plenty of stalls on the side of the roads where you will get these from.

  1. There is another supermarket called ‘Safeway’ which is a taxi ride out. This is much bigger and has more selections. It even has Heinz Baked Beans (this is currently sitting in my cupboard but the cravings haven’t hit just yet.)

11. Yes that guy is standing there with his back slightly to you and yes he is doing what you think he is doing. This is normal. Maybe reconsider walking through that puddle with your nice shoes on….

making friends on a Hash
making friends on a Hash

12. And lastly find an expat and find out about ‘Addis Ababa hash house harriers (AAHHH)’. This is a great way to meet new people, get out of the city, run or walk.


These are just my observations made in my first month here. They may change by the end of the 6 months. IF they do i will repost a new list.


  1. Great blog. I feel as if I am learning about a new culture right along with you. I share your driving, taxi and walking sediments on life here in the Philippines. Keep up the great work:)

  2. What a culture “shock” it seems like, but then isn’t that the beauty of moving into a new environment.

  3. I think it all sounds fantastic and such a great experience, there’s nothing better than visiting somewhere new and being able to explore and learn about their culture. The road / taxi situations is taking me back to my time in Russia!!

  4. Love your blog and your list…. Promise you will have more to add after even another week.

    The lack of maps and taxi update are quite the same in Ghana. I remember a friend saying via text “Just tell them to drop you off at the mtn tower” Well, mtn is an abbreviation for mountain where I come from, so I said the “mountain tower” to the taxi driver and he drove me around to some mountain area, way far away to where I wanted to go. MTN is a mobile carrier and they have towers….. that would have been nice for me to know up front, huh?!

    Sounds like you are going to be a tour guide yourself at the end of all of this! Glad to hear you are learning the lay of the land! Can’t wait for your next update!

  5. A really interesting insight, am really loving your blog and the news it brings, be careful of the puddles and keep up the good work!

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