Guide to Ethiopian Airline Transit and Transit Hotels

Ethiopian Air provides excellent Transit Service, they just don’t lay out all the details on their website. From numerous transits over the past year, including two this week, and piecing together sometimes conflicting, sometimes corroborating statements from staff, I now have a clear picture.

Ethiopian Air Transfer Desk

Eligible Transfers:

  • Must be international to international connection (no domestic inbound or outbound connection).
  • Connection must be between 8 and 24 hours.
  • Daytime connections of 8 or more hours eligible, provided on the next departing flight to that destination, if there is an earlier connection you are not eligible for free hotel.

Any Connecting Passenger Can Pay at a Great Rate (If Ineligible for a Free Stay):

  • $50 for stays up to 12 hours.
  • $70 for stays over 12 hours.
  • Payable in US$ cash or credit card (MasterCard/Visa).
  • Must be arriving international to get to the transit desk, so not available for domestic to international connections.

What It Includes:

  • Hotel accommodation at one of many hotels, you do not have a choice (this week I was at Hotel De Leopol one night and Bole Ambassador Hotel another), all are charitably around 3-star and in the overpriced market otherwise go for roughly $80-$120. These hotels do the creepy dark room open door thing when you arrive.
  • Free roundtrip transfer provided by the hotel.
  • Free meals at hotel according to time of day, for instance my 8:45 pm arrival tonight included dinner and breakfast.
  • All I have experienced include free wi-fi that has worked.

Bole Ambassador Hotel Room

How It Works:

  1. Important and awesome: you do not need a visa. Once you have your hotel voucher, go straight to immigration! (Exception: if you are connecting to a domestic flight and staying in Ethiopia you will need to get a visa on arrival or get a visa in advance. Visa on arrival payable in US$ cash or MasterCard/Visa.)
  2. Ideally you will get your hotel voucher when you check-in at your departure airport, ask for it. If you get it, upon arrival in Addis Ababa proceed direct to immigration.
  3. If you don’t yet have your voucher, upon arrival, which is usually by bus gate, go to the Transit Desk on the arrivals mezzanine. This is also the place to go if you are willing to pay. Do not go up to departures or down to immigration. If on the domestic or regional flights at Terminal 1 you need to follow directions to transfer to Terminal 2. The Transit Desk is a scrum: get to the front, and as with anything with Ethiopian, if you have anything that looks like a Star Alliance Gold card, use it aggressively.
  4. At immigration, hand over your passport, onward boarding pass, and hotel voucher. It is a breeze.
  5. In the baggage claim hall, right after scanning your bags at customs, show your voucher to the Ethiopian Air transit staff. They will direct you to the hotel’s shuttle, which may already be outside in the parking lot, or they may direct you to wait there or at a hotel arrivals desk outside baggage claim.
  6. At the hotel you only provide the voucher and passport. No deposit or credit card needed.
  7. Enjoy your brief Addis Ababa experience!

Bole Ambassador Hotel Dinner

Readers, any questions? Share your experiences.

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  • john

    @RTC, very helpful post, are you saying that if you are (1) ineligible for a free hotel (because you chose a longer connection than necessary) and (2) buy the hotel voucher from the transit desk, then you don’t need a visa?

    Where are these hotels located? Are they somewhat convenient to sightseeing?

    What are your top three things to do/places to visit on a transit?

    How often did you get the voucher at the departure airport? I am surprised that outports would be that organized… I’m thinking about catching a flight ex CPT or JNB.

    Gracias

  • Andrew C

    @RTC, Thanks for putting this together!! ET is the easiest mileage-based option for a potential trip to India for a set of very specific dates I’m looking at, but the timings from the US to connect are pretty poor. Having the day room would definitely take some of the sting out.

    @john, one of the hotels he listed is near the airport, the other nearer the center of town (based on a quick look at Google maps, I haven’t stayed at either) — in any case, Addis isn’t a great place to sightsee by foot. I’d probably hire a guide (this should be cheap, as are taxis) and certainly they’ll suggest some things, likely involving the national museum and a stroll through the mercato (definitely best done with a local) and hopefully LOTS of eating.

  • Don W

    Great synopsis. Quick data point, I’ve done the transfer 3 times in the past 18 months and have always received the Hilton Addis Ababa…. albeit flying business class.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @john – I am curious if they really enforce the shortest connection thing, easy to say travel agent booked it and you didn’t know, she did laugh when I said would you then put someone one the next flight for free. Regardless, you won’t need the visa you will have the same voucher for immigration and a separate payment receipt. I saw two Chinese try for a visa on arrival, I don’t know if they knew about the transit hotel option, I think they were under 8 hours, officer may have suspected something and did not give them a visa.

    As the other comment noted, a number by airport, one I was at was farther, none in good sightseeing location. Ambassador is wise to this and runs expensive seeming afternoon half-day tours for guests. I don’t know yet what to visit yet, mine have all be late night to early morning though tomorrow will get in around 6 pm.

    I talked to others who do this a lot and a surprising amount of time vouchers work, this week in N’Djamena they brought it up then apologized due to loss of connectivity, while over in the mayhem of Lagos they were churning them out.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Don W – that’s great, the bug chain hotels are mega-expensive in ADD, how is the Hilton? How is the ADD Cloud Nine Lounge? I have only been in ShebaMiles for Star Alliance Gold. Searching online for Cloud Nine Lounge returns enticing results.

  • Excellent post – bookmarked. Ethiopian is a fine airline, and the complimentary hotel service a pretty neat perk, but they sure don’t make it easy to redeem.

    It’s worth noting than staying any longer than 24 hours (26 hours in my case) means foregoing the free hotel and paying for a visa. On the flip side, Ethiopian doesn’t always enforce the “next available flight” rule – just a few weeks ago I was traveling with friends who voluntarily chose a later flight and still got a hotel voucher, no questions asked.

    Regarding the lounges, Ethiopian has four: three in Terminal 2 (ShebaMiles Silver, ShebaMiles Gold, and Cloud Nine/Business Class) and one in Terminal 1 (Gold/Cloud Nine/Business Class.)

    Unlike Lufthansa, SWISS, etc., Ethiopian reserves their best lounge to Business Class passengers. Star Alliance Gold passengers do not have access to the Cloud Nine Lounge, and there is a WORLD of difference between the recently renovated Cloud Nine lounge and the depressing ShebaMiles Gold lounge.

    The Cloud Nine lounge in Terminal 2 features a nice buffet, a bar, Ethiopian coffee served as per the traditional ritual, and has Wi-Fi, though it’s pretty basic otherwise. The other lounges don’t even have Wi-Fi, though it’s still pretty generous of Ethiopian to operate a club exclusively for their Silver members.

    Here are more details on the Cloud Nine Lounge in Terminal 2: https://loungereview.com/lounges/ethiopian-airlines-cloud-nine-lounge-add-terminal-2/

    And reviews of all lounges at Addis Ababa airport:
    https://loungereview.com/lounges/airport/ADD/

  • @Patrick – thanks for all the great detail. I have longingly looked it to the Cloud Nine Lounge, never been inside and you get interesting results online searching those keywords. Where the heck is the Silver lounge? I thought I walked the whole terminal and never saw it. Gold is dreary, same food, always cold, packed, so many people don’t strike me as frequent travelers I have wondered how they are Gold members, I have gotten the internet to work there and over at T1, though.

  • @Stefan, when you face away from the gates, the Silver lounge is all the way to the left, in the second “block” of stores parallel to the gates. There’s virtually no signage, the entrance isn’t obvious, and people are typically loitering outside. That said I prefer it to the Gold lounge because it’s quieter, less ugly, and maybe a tad less beat up.

    I agree that the Gold lounge is pretty awful, especially at nights. There’s virtually no lighting.

    There is public Wi-Fi at the Gold lounge in T2 and dedicated secure Wi-Fi at the lounge in T1. No WiFi at the Silver lounge however (the public network is too weak) and no public network in T1 afaik.

    And I’ve just searched for “Cloud Nine Lounge”… LOL. Indeed. Very… informative. Quite the list of amenities :p

  • zeevic

    thanks to all
    got a bit mixed
    i have an 18 hour lay over night in addis
    do i get an hotel free?do i need to buy visa?
    appreciate clarity
    thanks

  • @zeevic – if there is an earlier option to your destination, technically they can turn down the hotel in which case you would need hotel and visa, in practice I think the chances are good they will give you the hotel and you will not need the visa. Make a back-up plan just in case. At your flight check-in they usually give the hotel voucher if you are eligible.

  • zeevic

    thanks stefan
    it is great to be able to communicate annd get this info
    when you say “At your flight check-in they usually give the hotel voucher if you are eligible.”
    you mean at the beginning .. if i am starting from israel and stop over at addis on the way to ghana
    i will get the voucher in israel?????
    thanks for being there.

  • @zeevic – yes, would be Israel, in case the computer is down or other issue, and you don’t get it, you can visit the transit desk upon arrival to Addis.

  • zeevic

    thanks&love

  • Rodrigo

    Hi Stefan, I just got to know that my return flight was cancelled and when I return from Delhi to São Paulo I will have to wait 2 days in Addis Ababa.
    Do you think the same policy applies to this case?

  • @Rodrigo – with ET cancel and that is the best rebook ET can do, then I should think they can work it out. It may not happen at check-in, if so, in ADD go to the transit counter with copies of your original reservation, rebooking, etc and give it a try. It is always a bit chaotic, get to the front and keep their attention until you find someone willing to assist. They might need to talk to immigration about stay over 24 hours and you might get hit with needing to buy a visa if immigration is not flexible. If they even stiff you at the hotel, they have discounted cash rates for all the hotels much lower than you can get on your own, so at least get that. Let me know how it goes.

  • Klau

    Hello guys. My case is i think pretty similiar. We have 18hrs stopover in Addis (during a day) and i wanted to get a Hotel from the Ethiopians and later a guide. Apparently i dont Need visa as you are writing, but the Problem is i dont want to pay this 70 dolars. is it other way to obey it ? Like maybe i will buy turistic visa at the Airport and will manage by myself going to the City? for me Hotel is not that important (as i want just Sightseeing). What do you suggest?
    Thanks!

  • @Klau – if it is next connecting flight you should get the hotel for free, which will be confirmed when you check in at departure airport. If not, you can try again at the transit desk in Addis Ababa. If they do not give hotel, and you do not get it from them, you may still be able to transit for free with their help or directly with immigration. If you try, please let me know the result. For 18 hours you should want a hotel and their rates, which include transfers and meals, are much better than you are likely to find outside; it is not a cheap accommodation city. Consider also that if you leave airport and plan to go back night before your flight, even with boarding pass, there is a possibility security will not let you back in many hours before a flight. I don’t know for this airport it is an issue.

  • Rodrigo

    Thank you very much for your help Stefan. It went all well and I didn´t have any problem with the immigration neither the visa.

    @klau I stayed in Addis Abeba for 48hours and I didn´t have to pay for any Visa. They accomodated me in a good hotel. Don´t expect a lot from the sightseeing…

  • Hiro

    Hi Stefan, a great report and thanks so much for sharing this. Regarding minimum connecting time rule – do you have any clue if the situation like below, would be entitled for a free accommodation?

    There are 2 flight patterns available between BOM-ADD-CPT on a same day:

    ET 611 BOM (05:25) – ADD (08:00)
    ET 847 ADD (08:30) – CPT (14:15)

    ET 641 BOM (11:15) – ADD (14:30)
    ET 849 ADD (23:30) – CPT (07:15+1)

    Going with Option 2.

    Technically, if there is another flight combination on the same day that doesn’t involve more than 8hr transit like Option 1, the airline has the right to say I could have chosen Option 1 hence no free accommodation could be provided (I believe TK has a rule like this).

    However, going with Option 2, there is no earlier flight to CPT before 23:30 flight and I could still claim this would fit in their definition of free accommodation. I guess it will depend on which agent I’d get, but I’m curious about your views.

  • Hiro, sorry I overlooked this earlier. On your option 1 I doubt 30 minutes is enough for the ADD minimum connect time. I would be surprised if that ticket could be sold and if you, I would not want to book such a tight connection. That option 2 is over 8 hours itself you so should have a hotel with for that sure, while for option 1 I suppose they can technically deny it since you could have taken the later, but even with that you should be entitled to a hotel so hopefully either would work out if you argue at the ADD transit counter.

  • Hiro

    Thanks so much for your time to reply. I’ll negotiate and update my experience once I fly with them (it’ll be in April ’17). You’ll be amazed that ET actually does allow you to book even for a 15-minute connection. DEL-CPT for Summer ’17 schedule (say, 1st April) is the example. ET from DEL arrives at 07:45 in ADD and the next flight to CPT leaves at 08:00. I wonder if anyone with the right mind would actually book this ticket!!

  • Hiro

    I just had a 25-minute connection at ADD (as per the actual schedule). The flight arrival was 08:00am from Mumbai connecting to 08:25am departure to Cape Town. The incoming flight was delayed a bit and was parked at 08:20am, but the experience afterward was amazing. There was a separate direct bus to Cape Town flight waiting on the tarmac, and did not have to go through any security in the main terminal. Door to door in 10 minutes. I was worried about my check-in baggage making through but surprisingly it came out fine. I’m just impressed!

  • meir

    Hi Stefan
    What is like to spend 2 hours in transit area at adis airport for our connection flight to cape town.
    Is it true that it is not so pleasant . few toilets and very crowded.
    Is Ethiopian airlines ok to fly with?
    Can you please advice since we are a little concerned.
    Thanks
    Meir

  • Amazing indeed!

  • Meir,

    It isn’t the best, though two hours should not be a big deal. There isn’t much seating in the main transit area. You can go through security to the gates and there is addition seat, especially if you are in the downstairs area to the left from security there is some premium class seating that they don’t seem to enforce who sits there. Boarding can be a little chaotic, just let others go first. The airline itself is well run and I enjoy flying them, their crews, and the meals.

  • meir

    Stefan
    Thank you so much for the info.

  • Rachael Schneider

    @Rodrigo Can you tell the outcome? What did you end up doing?

  • Qush

    Hi

    Is this appicable to economy passenger also? I am planning to fly with Ethiopian with 18 hours layover to KUL this coming July.

    Thank you for the reply and this will really help me.

  • Yes, I have done it in economy and received the hotel as described in this post.

  • Adam Mundy

    Hi

    I’ve just booked a “budget” holiday to the Seychelles in October and was daunted by the prospect of having to spend a 15 hour stopover (8.30pm – 11.15am) at the airport,

    It would appear from the information here that a transit hotel is already included in the price of the economy ticket or if not can be simply arranged at the airport, my independent travel agent was unable to find any information as useful and complete as this

    Thanks

    Happy Days 🙂