Shopping in Addis Ababa

  • Mercato. The mercato (Italian for market, as the main covered market still in use dates from the colonial administration of the late 1930s) is the largest outdoor market in the world, and you can get anything from tourist goods (t-shirts, wood crafts, etc.) to fabric to metal goods there. Haggling and bargaining are standard procedure, and foreigners (especially those of European ancestry) should expect to be charged higher prices. To ensure a positive experience, maintain a sense of humour, don't be afraid to negotiate aggressively, and above all don't let yourself be bullied by the many "brokers" who frequent the market, and will try to steer you towards certain stores in exchange for a kick-back from the merchant. You will be able to negotiate lower prices if you can avoid brokers, and especially if you have a local friend or guide to buy things on your behalf. Closed Sunday.
  • Shiromeda Market. Between Sidist Kilo & Mt Entoto. If the madness of Mercato isn't for you, Chiromeda is a pleasant alternative. Haggling and bargaining is still the status quo, but you could walk away with a traditional dress from as cheap as 100 ETB.
  • Friendship Supermarket. Bole Road (airport end). Well-stocked western-style supermarket - and they accept Visa.
  • Edna Mall on Telebole. Contains a large book store, and Ethiopia's only 3D multiplex cinema (three screens), which plays both Amharic and English-language films. Western films typically are shown within a week to a month of their U.S. release, though occasionally they may operate on European release schedules (for instance, Skyfall began showing at Edna Mall over a week before its U.S. premiere). The center of the mall features an arcade zone and an indoor amusement park with carousel, climbing tubes, and bumper cars; it's a fun place for small children, but really crowded on the weekends and holidays. Also located nearby are several dance clubs.
  • Dembel City Centre
  • Getu Commercial centre
  • Addis Sheraton Shopping
  • Loyal Shopping centre
  • Arat Kilo Shopping centre
  • Piassa Shopping centre
  • Bambis department store, expensive euro-style supermarket located in Kazanches, near the Radisson, Hilton, and Sheraton hotels. Features an extensive selection of Greek products, and high quality fresh/frozen meats.
  • New York Supermarket, near Bole Olympia
  • Shoa Supermarket on Bole Rd.
  • Novis Supermarket on Bole Road, near Friendship. This market sells a lot of high quality products mostly imported from Italy or Dubai.
  • Fantu Supermarket on Bole Road, near Friendship. This market has relatively cheaper products of the same quality and is located on Bole road and also near the Canadian Embassy in Old Airport.
  • Lafto MallSouth Africa Street (located adjacent to St.Bisrate Gebriel Church),   +251 11 372 8777. This is a multi-purpose mall consisting of a grocery store, numerous places to buy clothes and toys, a liquor store, and a mobile phone store. This mall has several levels each with a number of small rooms selling goods. Lafto also consists of a large outdoor swimming pool. none.

Get money

Ethiopia operates a cash economy. Domestic credit cards are non-existent, and international cards are accepted in very few locations (mostly those catering to expatriates).

ATMs/cash machines - are found throughout Addis Ababa. Dashen Bank is a principal member of both VISA and MasterCard International and has ATMs. Some of the ATMs found at D.H. Geda Tower (next to Friendship City Center) accept both VISA and MasterCard, Dembel City Centre (quite hidden, use the main entrance, than to the left, at the window), Edna Mall, in some hotels (Hilton, Sheraton, Intercontinental, Wabi Shebelle Hotel, Ethiopia Hotel, Semein Hotel, Harmony Hotel). Also near the National Museum (Lucy Gazebo Restaurant), ground floor of Getu Commercial centre just at the entrance and some branches of Dashen Bank. Note that not all cards are accepted everywhere, Dashen Bank ATMs accept VISA/MasterCard/Cirrus/Plus while Zemen bank ATMs do not accept MasterCard (which seems to be hit or miss in Ethiopia). Most ATM machines have a 4000-6000 birr limit per day, but most do not charge a local ATM fee (international or third-party ATM fees from your financial institution may apply, however).

Warning: Some ATM machines are targeted for "skimmer" scams, allowing thieves to steal your ATM card information. To protect yourself, the safest ATMs to use are the ones located at the Hilton (Dashen, Zemen, CBE); Radisson Blu (Dashen, Zemen, Wegagen); or Sheraton (Dashen) hotels.

There is an illegal black market where you can get a slightly better rate, especially if you bargain. Check your money very carefully before you leave and do not allow it to leave your hand after your final count. Most souvenir shops off Churchill Rd and Zambia St do it.

Ethiopia - Travel guide