Piazza Area, Addis Ababa

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!

Stewart

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2 thoughts on “Piazza Area, Addis Ababa

  1. Attila says:

    Good info and well worth reading and remembering for anyone who will stay in Piazza. I’ve been here for long now (in Wutma Hotel, opposite Baro: extremely friendly and good place at 210 birr per night, and the restaurant is good.) I have had many drinks on many nights along the street that goes in front of Taitu Hotel. Indeed, good people are difficult to find on that street on that time. I have, however, a few additions to your report.

    I have been a regular customer to Gondar Bar that is right next to Taitu (on the other side of Taitu is dodgier looking dark place called Connection Pub, Gondar Bar is on the other side of Taitu, right opposite the police post.) Gondar Bar is named only in Amharic but it’s easy to recognize as it is mostly outdoors/garden place surrounded by a wall. I have never experienced any hassles in this bar. Waiters are young guys in their twenties but they are completely good and friendly. Beer is 11 birr and food also available. Some rasta assholes visit the place too, but by looking confident enough they won’t attempt on you a lot.

    Another good non-hassle place along this street is Continental Hotel on the junction if you continue walking away from Taitu, past aforementioned Gondar Bar. It’s the last bar on your right before the junction. This is open later than Gondar and the staff and security guard are equally friendly. The guy who operates the “short term accommodation” on the back of the bar (you have to pass him when going to the toilet) is super-sleazy to the level of being a caricature but after all he is also harmless: just attempting some free beers once in a while. I have never been ripped off here in Continental Hotel either.

    Then again, one of the dodgiest shitholes is Queens Bar in front of Tedla Hotel. When walking uphill from Baro/Wutma/Ankober, Queens is right in front of you when you reach the junction. The staff there attempts the aforementioned “100 birr note is swapped with 10 birr note” crap, the place is very loud and dark and customers seem much dodgier and trouble-seeking than in Gondar or Continental Bars. My local friend called this place a “ghetto bar.”

    A white guy was mugged in this area a few weeks ago while walking back towards his hotel super-drunk with a bar girl. A text-book example. I’ve walked back to my hotel several times even as late as 3 am when the street is getting quieter (the aforementioned Queens bar closes around 4 am, though) but by walking confidently (and NOT too drunk) in the middle of the street looking as if you owned the place I haven’t had bigger problems. This area is full of pickpockets and assholes so be cautious as suggested in the original post! (Pickpockets may block your road or spit at your clothes trying to “clean” you then, so don’t get tricked, keep going no matter what happens around you and if necessary use strong words. When guy spat at me I made sure he didn’t even try to touch me. Sad but true, this atmosphere in Piazza.)

    • Sky Hi says:

      If you say you don’t can trust nobody, i’m wondering if you trust yourself? I stayed 2 a week at Taitu, met hustlers, same in Brussels or london, i did not experienced the things you say… Maybe to much experience as a traveller?

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