Addis Ababa Quality of Life: A Guide for Better Living on Budget

addis ababa at night

Addis Ababa is an expensive city, compared to other third world countries. Addis Ababa quality of life differs based on income, services available, and money buying power. The income of most of the employees in the city is much less than American or European or foreigner employees. The expenditure is increasing faster than the income for many.

Food items and cloths are increasing although the Chinese products are getting in the country at a much high rate. Importing a car is five times more expensive than many African countries. A simple 2000 manufactured car could cost up 10,000 USD or more.  Housing is expensive as well, compared to the income of the society. This is true for the whole of Ethiopian cities as well.

Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries with a per capita income of 800 USD. The quality of health care is average, population level is very high and the crime level is moderate. The lack of access to clean water, low-quality health service, high prevalence of transmittable disease and the low buying power of the birr are some of the indicators Addis Ababa quality of life.


The literacy rate is very low in the country, that is more than half the population is considered to be illiterate and the employment status is very low at the same time. Despite its fast-going economy in the world, with an average growth of 9.9 percent a year from 2007 to 2018, compared to the regional growth average of 5.4 percent, the Addis Ababa quality of life is considered to be very low.

The standard of living in Addis Ababa differs from place to place and from person to person. Income disparity made a distinction between social groups. The majority of the population could not afford basic services while the hight end could waste a lot of money on entertainment. Most expats are categorized under the high-income group as payments for foreigners are calculated on a different scale. Some are paid ten times more than locals in a single month. Therefore, it is easier to choose where to stay or where to eat for foreigners than locals. At the same time, the various restaurants, hotels and other services have various price options, some are very cheap while others are very expensive even for the high-income group. It is wise to choose based on your income.

Standard of Living in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is one of the fast-growing economies in the world and one of the poorest at the same time. Some of the issues are listed below.

  1. UN classifies Addis Ababa as a ‘slum city’, where a majority of the city is occupied by dilapidated public housing. The housing shortage is high. Even the new condominium housing could not solve the housing crisis. The increasing rate of rural-urban migration has contributed to this, and new housing is needed this time.
  2. More than 60 million people in Ethiopia don’t have access to sanitation services and to clean water.  
  3. The transportation sector also lacks quality service. Public transportation in Addis Ababa is barely enough for the fast-growing population. The new suburban development also needs new long-distance public transportation system. The new LRT in the city has reduced the transportation need but at the same time, its design has brought its own challenges on vehicular activities. The system separates the middle of the streets and it creates a highland and blocks easy traffic flow from one side of the street to another.
  4. The illiteracy rate is high in the country, especially in rural areas. The unemployment rate is high as well and most of the economy is dependent on the informal. The country has been focusing on education for the last 10 years.  Illiteracy is declining in the country with the construction of schools in rural areas.
  5. Many Ethiopian locations have a high prevalence of disease due to unsensitized medical equipment, shared utensils, lack of clean water and due to drought and famine. Lack of formal education and employment has contributed to this.
  6. Freedom of expression is lacking and has been dead for a while especially for the last 10 years. Many have died and have been imprisoned, as some sources explain, including the current government from the same party.

General Addis Ababa data

  • Population:2,973,000 in 2016
  • Average Broadband Download Speed:1.0 Mb/s
  • Average Broadband Upload Speed:1.5 Mb/s
  • Purchasing Power:6.83
  • Literacy: 80.5 percent
  • Total fertility rate: 1.7 children per woman

What is the average cost of living in Addis Ababa?- Addis Ababa quality of life

Items Average price birr price USD Notes
Furnished apartment monthly rate 20000 625.0 There are various options
Furnished apartment (center and expensive) monthly rate 30000 937.5
furnished condominium (price could increase for foreigners up to 3 times 10000 312.5
Utilities including gas, electricity, heating-based on usage 500 15.6
internet 4G- monthly 4000 125.0
TV 36 inch 30000 937.5
House cleaning service or hire a maid 3000 93.8
Average lunch in city centres(individual) 150 4.7
6 apples 100 3.1
1 kg potato 20 0.6
coca cola small bottle 10 0.3
Local bottle wine 80 2.5
slice bread 30 0.9
personal care
Deodrant-50ml or 1.5 oz 120 3.8
Toilet paper- one roll 15 0.5
Toothbrush and cream 100 3.1
Tampons- single pack 60 1.8  
Men hair cut 100 3.1 depends on the salon-see options
women hair care 100 3.1 depends on the salon-see options
spa and massage 500 15.6 see packages and choose your need
Entertainment short distance is up to 3 dollars
Movies per ticket 150 4.7 depends on the movie, 3D or 2D and more
Macchiato- near expat areas 30 0.9
A pair of jeans 1500 46.9 Negotiate
A shoe, a Chinese (you may not find original products) 1500 46.9 Negotiate
A shoe, original 4000 125.0 Negotiate
Local leather bags 3000 93.8 Depends on brands-see choices
Transportation 0.0
Taxi-blue and white 10 0.3 informally calculated per km
UBER type rides (per ride)- minimum fee applies 200 6.3
Marlboro cigarettes- single pack 100 3.1 local cigars have more nicotine-cheaper

What is the cost of living in Ethiopia in dollars?

The average hourly wage in Ethiopia is 55 Ethiopian birr or 1.8 dollars. The cost of living could differ based on what services you need and where do you buy them from. Basic food and housing could take about 6000 birr (200 USD) per month per person. Buses are half the price of taxis. In long-distance, this figure could go to 5 times cheaper. Taxis (the minibusses) are 20 times cheaper than private small Lada taxis or Uber-type services.

Restaurants also differ in price. Similar food could be two times or more than another restaurant. Places near ex-pats are more expensive. You can choose your restaurant based on the price. Many restarts have a similar kitchen and have similar sanitation and food quality. The overall cost of living in Ethiopian restaurants depends on the location of the restaurants. Personal cooking is 50 times cheaper than dining outside.

Related: Addis Ababa Airport: Everything you should know that save you from frustrations

What is the cost of living in Ethiopia vs India?

It is rather hard to compare the cost of living in Ethiopia to another since we can’t control the quality of service. We can’t say Addis Ababa quality is of life is better or lesser. However, we can have a general estimate of how to compare Ethiopia to India or the living cost of Ethiopia vs the USA.

Food, including bread and milk, in general, is cheaper in India. Owning a car in Ethiopia has a painstaking of up to 300 percent tax on imports. The recently revised tax relieves recently manufactured vehicles, and yet, they remain expensive compared to the local economy. In some cases, a car in Ethiopia could cost five times the same car in India.

Services such as the internet are more expensive in Ethiopia. House rent price is considered to be expensive as well in Ethiopia.

Drinks, including beer and coffee, seem to get more expensive in India.

What is Addis Ababa’s air quality?

The Addis Ababa air quality is considered to be moderate, based on various studies. Moderate is a little worse than good quality. Some comparative studies sometimes categorized the pollution rate as high.

Air pollution is higher these days, due to a high construction rate and older vehicles operating in the city. The bad garbage disposal method also pollutes the air. The sanitation system is also bad, as some toilets are connected to rivers and industries remove wastes directly into rivers.

The green in the city decreased due to improper planning and due to the high housing and construction demand. Parks have decreased and the city seems to become a concrete jungle.

Addis Ababa quality of life.

addis ababa at night

Addis Ababa air quality index-Addis Ababa quality of life

The Addis Ababa air quality index shows you the quality of the air you are breathing. Plume Labs, for example, measures the quality and calculates the rate of pollution based on world health organizations that guidelines and international standards by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The index should be used comparatively, as the higher the number the higher the pollution. The pollution might have a short or long period of effect. The Addis Ababa quality of life air quality indicates is near 42 out of 100.

What is Addis Ababa’s water quality?

The tab water is safe to drink. Addis Ababa 85 percent pipe water is found to be low risk from E. coli. Residual chlorine is said to be found in piped water in Addis Ababa.

Many locals and tourists also prefer to filter the water and sometimes warming it. Others prefer bottled water. Almost 97 percent of the Addis Ababa residents have access at least to their plot, if not to their houses. The water is good for bathing and washing faces or brushing teeth. If you are not comfortable with drinking from the tab, then you can always filter and warm the water.

Tips for the cost of living in Addis Ababa

  1. Choose wisely- Addis Ababa is a diverse city, with diverse priced products and services. You could save by visiting some shops before purchasing, at least for the first time. Addis Ababa quality of life some times depends on your choice.
  2. Choose a place based on budget- Many services are very cheap compared to high-end services that expats frequent. Hair salons, for example, ask for a dollar for a hair cut others ask up to 6 dollars. Many expats ignore the cheap salons for fearing quality issues. However, once you checked the materials are sanitized before usage, you can get a hair cut in such cheap places.
  3. Buying from small shops instead of supermarkets could save you more.
  4. Choose services based on packages- A hair service, spa, massage, nail polish, makeup…you need to choose which ones you need and you need to pay based on the services you get. Ask for options.
  5. Try cooking for yourself. Enjoy Addis Ababa quality of life at home.
  6. Renting a house based on your budget is possible. Some apartments are exclusively for expats, as they have money with much buying power. These apartments could cost up to 5 times or more than the normal price. Try group renting. You also could rent villas in a group.
  7. If it is your first time, try asking for prices with a local friend. You will soon learn how cheap things are.
  8. If you have to take public transport, that we advise you to avoid, then take one in the early morning or late evening as the traffic would go down.
  9. LRTs are the best transport options.
  10. Never pay for long term rent. Housing contracts are signed on a yearly basis. And most of the time you are expected to pay the first 3 months’ salary. Then you can pay per month or continue paying for 3 months at a time. You can cancel your contract at any time after the first 3 months.  You may not ask for a return on the first payment.
  11. Bring your car to Ethiopia if you stay longer
  12. Negotiate, if the price is not fixed. Some sellers would assume that you have money. A local friend could help with this.
  13. Ask for advice from other expats. They may show you Addis Ababa quality of life.

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