A Budget Backpacker's Guide to Addis Ababa
Feb 16, 2006
A budget backpacker's guide to Addis Ababa - Cheap hotels, local bars, and restaurant recommendations.
8.75 birr = US $1 (approx.)
PLACES TO STAY
(7) National Hotel - I lived here for months. Downstairs the rooms are rented by the hour - avoid them. But upstairs there are some nice old rooms with style - high ceilings and big comfortable beds. My room had a huge balcony overlooking the street, in the middle of the party, every night. Stay elsewhere if you're looking for a quiet place. Shared bathroom - 40 birr/night.
(9) Taitu Hotel - The first hotel in Addis Ababa. The main building has been redone and the rooms are expensive. In buildings in the back, there are cheaper rooms (starting at 46 birr). The Taitu is a good budget option in the center of the Piazza.
(10) Park Hotel & Cheap Local Hotels - If you're looking for even cheaper there is Park hotel. You'll find it on a dirt road a couple of minute walk from the center of the Piazza. With a big of haggling I think that you can get a room for about 20-25 birr. Next door to the Park hotel are some true local hotels - very little English is spoken. I've heard rumors of rooms for 10-15 birr/night.
(12) Baro Hotel - The most popular place for the tourists. The rooms start at 50 birr/night. The cheapest rooms have showers, but not much ventilation so they smell a bit. The more expensive rooms are nicer. The Baro is definitely best place in Addis to meet other travelers.
PLACES TO EAT
(2) Raizel is by far the trendiest cafe in the Piazza with polished glass and aluminum furniture. The crowd generally consists of the hip, the hipper, and the runway models. The macchiatos are amazing.
(3) Rooftop Italian - enter through the bakery (mediocre) and walk up 4 flights of stairs - At the restaurant on the roof, the fresh bread is delicious, and the soup is spectacular. The pasta was good too, but I always showed up for the soup. The food is almost as good as anything that you'd find in San Francisco. The difference is that here a two-course lunch of pasta and soup costs only $1.25. Note: I recommend this restaurant for lunch instead of dinner - by dinnertime they're usually out of the soup.
(4) Omar Khayyam. Stylish and cheap! I ate there almost every day for the fantastic mixed grill with 3 types of lamb (lamb kebabs, lamb chops and lamb sausage) plus soup, rice, vegetables, french fries, and bread - all of that for only $1. Draft beer is $0.20 a glass, shots of Araki are $0.30, and half bottles of drinkable local red wine are $1. Note: everything is great except the chicken soup - avoid it - it's a watery porridge lacking any chicken.
(5) Best Juice - The best juice shop in the Piazza.
(7) National Hotel - I also ate regularly at my hotel. The restaurant was surprisingly nice. On occasion, I'd order Kitfo - Ethiopia's National dish; raw beef, ground up, and mixed with lots of butter, and a served with a very spicy berbere powder. But, most times, I'd go vegetarian and order the tasty and artistic, "mixed salad" with decoratively cut beets and potatoes.
(8) Port Snack - Cheap food, open 24 hours. They guys who work here don't speak English. Ask another customer to translate, or if nothing else, just point at another diner's food that looks good.
(11) Cheap Eth. Food - This place has no sign, but it's a couple of doors up from the Baro on the same side of the street. All they serve is Injeera with vegetables or meat, but it's good and cheap.
(13) Enrico's was the first patisserie in Addis Ababa, and has fantastic little cakes. Their specialty is small custard cakes - balls filled with custard, yellow cake with custard layers, and a white cake with delicate flaky crust layers, custard layers, cake layers, and a powdered sugar top (my favorite) - all done perfectly. My only complaint about Enrico's is they are extremely popular, and far too often, they're sold out of everything.
(14) Pizza - Good cheap pizzas.
PLACES TO DRINK
(6) Lots of little bars - Within two blocks of the National Hotel there are perhaps 50 bars. I never managed to count them all. Random doors would just open up on Friday and Saturday nights and people would be serving booze inside. I particularly liked some of tiny bars across from the National. Poke your head in around Sunset and you'll probably find yourself invited to a coffee ceremony. Show up around midnight and the party is just starting - the drunks will be happy to meet a foreigner and will probably buy you a beer.
(7) National Hotel - I have to confess that I really liked my hotel. I lived there, I ate there and I drank there. The National hotel has some of the largest hookers anywhere in Ethiopia, which makes it a well, experience. It also has very cheap draft beer. I liked to start my evenings with a couple of beers on the patio in front watching the people walk by.
(1) Book stalls - A great place to find used books. There are a dozen used books stalls along either side of this little side street.
(15) Money - There are still no working ATMs in Ethiopia. However, you can get money off of your ATM card at a steep commission from Daschen Bank offices at the Sheraton or on Bole Road.