Arriving at Addis Ababa (Bole Airport)

by Virginia Barder

A guide to first time visitors…

  1. Many passports don’t need visas in advance of visiting ( – if you arrive without a visa, follow the signs to “baggage reclaim” and you’ll come to a sign saying ‘Visa on Arrival’ and go into a little office. I had a $20 note with me – I don’t know if they accept other currency or credit cards. They say you need passport photos, but didn’t use mine. As well to have them just in case.
  2. You then come out the other door of the office, and then join the queue for passport control where you will get a stamp on your visa.
  3. You are then in the baggage hall.
  4. I picked up some Birr here while waiting for the baggage – I changed some cash (sterling) and don’t know if they accept credit cards here.
  5. There are free baggage trolleys.
  6. Once you have collected your baggage, you will be approached by men who look like porters, but who in fact check your baggage tags against your baggage.
  7. You then arrive at customs. Here you have to put all your luggage through a scanner.  They are mainly checking for electronic items or other things you might be going to sell in Ethiopia.
  8. It says you also need to fill in currency forms here, but I didn’t have to.
  9. You then come out into the arrivals hall, and Owen will be found on your left in the yellow café drinking coffee and mixing with other ex pats.

(Note by Owen: many of the international hotels such as the Sheraton, Hilton, Queen of Sheba, Jupiter etc have booths after customs where you can get a hotel shuttle bus to your hotel. And there are plenty of taxis outside – the yellow taxis tend to be a bit better maintained, and bit more expensive, than the blue and white ones.)

16 comments on “Arriving at Addis Ababa (Bole Airport)”

  1. I changed most of my money to Birr at Addis Ababa airport. There were ony two places (both hotels) that I cam across where payment was expected in dollars. I’d take enough dollars to pay for a few nights’ accommodation, but otherwise, it’s perfectly easy to change sterling into Birr at the airport. I’d somehow got it into my head that I could only change dollars, so changed sterling into dollars before leaving the UK. Obviously, it’s going to depend what exchange rates are doing at any given time, but this two-stage exchange turned out to have been a bad move, losing me about 10%.

  2. Flying back from Burundi in April 2009 we had a night in Addis Ababa compliments of Ethiopia Air – it took over 2 hours though waiting in queues for the transit visa to leave the airport and get to the bus provided to take us to our hotel for the night. We all hoped to get out and see some of Addis Ababa as our arrival time was early evening – this amount of time spent there standing around in one queue to another was quite disappointing really – a few of us diehards were still keen though to get out and see of the city so we jumped in a taxi about 11pm for a couple of hours being shown around the city centre – lots of people sleeping on the streets, barking dogs and police with automatic machine guns!
    Our hotel was quite okay – Ararat Hotel but met a couple on the plane who said their overnight stay provided by Ethiopia Air on their way back from Malawi was ‘awful’ – cant remember the name of it.

    Our return to Addis Ababa airport the next day was another 2 hours waiting in queues to get back through customs…but excellent views flying over Africa during daylight.

  3. I hope this message finds you well & happy. I am just asking you humbly a favor to every one reads this message if to sign petition of the Statue of Emperor Haile Selassie (HIM) on the AU building. I’m not monarchist or supporter but I believe in our factual history that we inherit as Ethiopians. I know there were others that contributed to League of Nations & African Union Organization but among them was HIM. Thanks for your cooperation in advance :)  God Bless!
    Best Regards,

  4. When I travel to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia I always had problem getting from the airport to hotel. Some hotels do provide shuttle service but some don’t. 

    I recently found that a shuttle service from Addis Ababa Airport called , it was a pleasure taking the shuttle service. They take you where ever you want within Addis Ababa for a flat fee. I highly recommend it. Visit the site to reserve your pickup. 

  5. Hello Owen,
    Stumbled on your website by accident…I’m currently trying to arange a visa for someone I work for. Business visa or tourist visa is still the question as this is a lst minute task.
    I’ve heard that a visa can be obtained at the airport in Addis Ababa incase we don’t have enough time to arrange in Europe. is that still the case? I’ve seen a previous message on your website about this but that was in 2009.
    Kind regards, Alex

  6. Whenever I land at Addis airport, domestic or international, I offer 60 birr to the taxi touts and, when they object, walk purposefully towards the exit road tha leads to the flyover not that far away where there are local buses. 80 birr is still too high and 100 birr exorbitant. 

  7. We have planned a trip to Addis Ababa in mid-November 2013. What tourist agency should we contact to arrange tours while in Ethiopia? What areas should we visit? What areas should we not visit? What restaurants will be a good experience for us. Your assistance would be greatly appreciated.

    1. My local currency is dirhams (UAE). Will banks be willing/able to change this to birr? I was planning to take a small amount in dollars but do not wish to change currency twice if this is unnecessary.

  8. I wanted to update, that on my most recent flight into Addis,
    They only take 20usd and no other  currencey. The lines for getting this visa-entry stamp are getting longer and longer. If you can get this before your arrive, I would suggest that you do so.
    The lines into custom windows where also slow, they had  only 7 positions open and I probably took  at least 40mins to get to one of the window.  The currency eXchange window was also in disorder . You might be better off exching foreign currency into birr at the Sheraton hotel Dashen bank. The rate  is not as good as the Aeroport, but I will be much easier and simple,  if your staying at the Sheraton.
    Just my  2cts of advice

  9. Hi, Visa on arrival really makes travel process easy. Another advantages in modern airport is, plenty of taxis. you can choose any taxi and go around the destination
    thanks for your post.

    1. -if using visa on arrival, do you need to complete any forms/documents prior to arrival at Bole airport?
      -the visa on arrival fee is $20 for all countries?
      -2 photographs required?

  10. I had heard evidence of onward travel was required but I was not asked for it (lucky since I hadn’t booked any!). There is also an ATM before the visa window which offers birr (not sure about dollars).

    When I hailed a taxi I was offered 80 birr by a lady in the airport. I accepted and she lead me down to one of the waiting taxis. He drove me to my destination on Bole road (~1km) and when I got out demanded $20. What a jerk. It being 4am and having never been to Addis I caved. If I had it to do again I would have confirmed the price when I got into the cab or told him to take a hike when confronted with his outrageous demand.

  11. Greetings ! I am a Tanzanian

    how does one get a visa on arrival at Addis Ababa.
    Tanzanian’s are not automatically eligible for this

  12. i want to know if the duty free shops in the air port sells to people entering Addis also or they sell only for people leaving , some airports got such regulation .

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