Cost of Living in Addis Ababa

One of the things I’ve always appreciated about expat blogs is the practical, on-the ground advice about life in a new place. So, as my time in Addis comes to an end, I thought I’d do my part and share what I’ve learned about this city. This post is the first in New in Addis? series that I’ll be posting in the next few weeks.

For starters, here is a list of common prices, as of Sept 2013. All prices are quoted in Ethiopian Birr (ETB), which is currently valued at approximately 18.9 ETB to 1 USD. If any local readers have thoughts to add, please leave a comment!

Lodging and Rent: 

  • Cheap hostel: $ 10-15 a night, though this is hard to find
  • Cheap hotel:   $ 20-50 a night
  • Monthly Rent (one moderate room in a shared house or apartment):  5000-8000 ETB, depending on location, whether or not utilities/guard/maid fees are included

Public Transportation:

  • Shared blue/white minibuses (“Taxi”):  Usually 1.30 ETB or 2.70 ETB, occasionally more if longer distance (no more than 5 ETB)
  • Private blue/white taxi (“Contract Taxi”)*: 
    • Short distance: 40 – 60 ETB
    • Medium distance: 60 – 80 ETB
    • Long distance: 80 – 120 ETB

* Differential pricing runs rampant among contract taxis in this city, as they are one of the few instances where there is no official receipt. 99% of contract taxi drivers will try to rip you off. A good rule of thumb is to aim for 40-50% of the quoted price, which will usually get you the fair rate. Ignore all comments from the drivers that they are offering you a “fair price”, “good price”, or “habesha price.” They are lying through their teeth. Exercise your haggling muscle and barter away!

** Exceptions — Taxis are 10-20% more expensive under two conditions: 1) during nighttime, and/or 2) when there is more than one passenger or requested stop.

Food and Drink: 

  • Street food (snack): Usually less than 5 ETB
  • Breakfast:  20 – 30 ETB pp
  • Entree at a restaurant, Inexpensive:  30 – 60 ETB per person
  • Entree at a restaurant, Moderate: 60 – 100 ETB per person
  • Entree at a restaurant, Expensive:  100 – 300 ETB per person
  • Large pizza: 60 – 100 ETB
  • Local Beer:  20-25 ETB, occasionally cheaper
  • Sparkling Water: 10 – 15 ETB
  • Small Bottle of Water:  6 – 10 ETB
  • Macchiato:  8 – 12 ETB
  • Tea:  8 – 12 ETB

Groceries:

  • Beef (per kilo):  90 – 150 ETB per kilo. The roadside butcher shops are usually around 100 regardless of the cut, though you might end up with some bones and untrimmed fat (unless you speak amharic or get someone to translate). Larger supermarkets will usually have 3-4 tiers of pricing for different cuts.
  • Cabbage, carrots, potatoes: Less than 10 ETB per kilo
  • Onions, tomatoes: 15 – 30 ETB per kilo
  • Greens, general (e.g. collard, salad); approximately 35 ETB per kilo
  • Bananas: 12 ETB per kilo
  • Dairy: Not sure about milk, but eggs are usually  2.75 – 3.5 ETB per egg, depending on size.
  • A Loaf of Bread: 2 – 12 ETB, depending on size and density
  • A Piece of Injera: 5 ETB

Note that prices tend to fluctuate, so I am including a list of basic staples that are relatively easy to find below:

  • Vegetables:  Onions, carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, potatoes, beets, collard greens, bell peppers, chili peppers, salad greens, garlic, ginger, green beans, eggplants, zucchini, squash, cucumbers, lettuce, avocados. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower are also available, though relatively expensive.
  • Fruit:  Pineapple, mango, bananas, oranges, strawberries, guava, limes (not lemons!), watermelon, papaya. Apples are expensive (50+ ETB per kilo). Peaches and pears do not exist here.
  • Meat:  Beef is the main staple. Chicken, lamb, and pork are also available for similar prices, though not as widespread.

Communications:

  • Basic Nokia phone (2G): 400 – 500 ETB
  • SIM Card (2G): 150 ETB
  • Text message (pay as you go):  0.35 ETB per message
  • Phone calls (pay as you go):  0.80 ETB per minute

Personal Care:

  • Monthly Gym Membership: 600 – 800 ETB for basic gym access, more for spa service
  • Shampoo and Conditioner: 50 – 100 ETB

Other miscellaneous  information:

  • Ethiopian Airlines – If you are buying domestic tickets, ONLY buy at local ticketing offices or travel agencies. Do not buy them online, as the prices are more than double!
  • A lot of common goods like clothing, electronics, etc. are all imported, hence extremely expensive. Other than some scarves and textiles, don’t expect to do much shopping here.
  • House help salaries vary dramatically and are quite low across the board. In general, full-time live-in maids get paid much less than those who visit on a schedule. Our maid, for example, lives with us and gets paid 800 ETB a month for a single-level 3BR house.

Things that are difficult or very expensive to purchase here (i.e. bring your own!)

  • Sunscreen – over 300 ETB per bottle
  • Malarone (antimalarial drug) – currently unavailable in the country, although the pharmacist said Doxy was available for about 100 ETB for a 10-pack.
  • Feminine hygiene products (tampons)
  • Rain boots – a must for rainy season (Jun – Sept)!
  • Skin care of any sort
  • Clothing – everything is shoddy imported H&M stuff.
  • Nuts – only shelled, roasted peanuts are available here

I hope some of you will find this useful. If there’s anything else I can elaborate on, feel free to ask in the comments section.

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