A quick update on the Piazza or Piassa area of Addis. Although the Baro Hotel is good value for Addis (choose the twin rooms to the left at 220 birr rather than the very dingy singles to the right at 135 unless money is tight), the noise level from the bars in the streets behind near the Taitu mean there is no possibility of sleep before about 1am. The Ankober next door is a step up in terms of quality, and price at 400 birr which might be negotiable. The high-ceilinged original rooms above the restaurant in the old building of the Taitu are great, and about 350 birr. Both these hotels have the same noise problem as the Baro, however.
The real issue with the area is the very nasty hustling of tourists that goes on at night. You can’t safely go out for a drink to relax and listen to the music that prevents you from sleeping, because you cannot trust anyone you meet. Do not under any circumstances allow anyone to take you anywhere. You WILL be ripped off. Do not believe anything that anyone tells you. Make absolutely sure of the price of drinks before ordering, don’t ever let anyone else pay for them and put you in their debt.
I had thought that the uniformed staff serving in the bars were trustworthy, but sadly even they will rip you off. A favourite in the darker places is to take the note you give them if it is 100 or 50 birr, turn away to examine it and turn back apologetically holding a ten to say you have made a mistake. If you don’t have the exact money, don’t let go of your 100 until you have shown the waiter what it is and made clear that you and he both know where you stand.
I should mention the only, honourable exception. The National Hotel bar consistently charged 11 birr for beer where other places went up to 20, and also it was the one and only bar in the area in which I was never conned, ripped off or hassled in any way. This was actually confirmed for me by a local I spent some time with.
I have to say, reluctantly, the whole area has become unsafe. I am a reasonably experienced traveller at 48 countries backpacked over 20 years, and so were the others staying in the area that I spoke to. Every single person I met was conned or ripped off in the 3 days I was there. Avoid!