What was supposed to be a temporary resting place turned into a fortress I did not exit. I spent my entire 17-hour layover in Ethiopia at the Hilton Addis Ababa.
Upon arriving in Addis Ababa, I visited the Ethiopian Airlines Transit Desk and received my complimentary hotel voucher for the Hilton.
> Read More: Addis Ababa (ADD) Transit Guide
> Read More: A Guide to Ethiopian Airlines’ Free Transit Hotel
Hilton Addis Ababa Airport Shuttle
Just outside baggage claim are several small kiosks for various hotels, tour groups, and transport companies. A representative holding a Hilton placard just outside baggage claim walked me over waiting area, offered me a bottle of water, and stated we would be leaving in approximately 10-15 minutes.
It was more like 20, but eventually we did depart. I shared the van with a UN aid worker from Kenya who was helping to settle Sudanese refugees in the region. He was in Addis for a conference.
While traveling to the hotel I noticed a number of blue Lada (Russian) taxis. Ethiopian closely aligned itself with the Soviet Union until 1991 and thus imported a huge number of Soviet cars, including the majority of its taxi fleet.
Hilton Addis Ababa Security
If you’re worried about hotel security, don’t be. The entrance to the hotel is flanked by armored guards and after clearing the initial security checkpoint as well as an airport-style metal detector screening, I came face-to-face with an armed sniper guard. It reminded me of my trip to Kabul, Afghanistan.
Hilton Addis Ababa Airport Service and Elite Recognition
I’m merely a Gold member in the Hilton Honors loyalty program, but was treated like royalty during check-in. Perhaps it was because I was white. Perhaps it was because Ethiopian Airlines was footing the bill for everything. Or perhaps that is just the way Ethiopians treat everyone.
Whatever the reason, though, the check-in staff could not have been friendlier. I was informed I had been upgraded to an “executive” room and would be granted lounge access.
The lobby has a very 1970’s theme, but it was well-preserved and actually quite stylish. The lobby contained not just one, but two Ethiopian Airlines offices.
Hilton Addis Ababa Guest Room
My room, 1217, contained a king-size bed, desk, flat-screen TV, couch, and chair. Wi-Fi was reasonably fast.
View from my window in the room:
Fresh-cut roses arrived while I was eating breakfast:
No coffee, but a hot water kettle with tea was available in the room:
The bathroom was in desperate need of a refresh, but at least clean.
Even a good clearing, however, could not cover over the chipped porcelain and tile, damaged mirror, or torn curtains.
Hilton Addis Ababa Executive Lounge
The 12th Floor Executive Lounge offers breakfast in the morning, drinks throughout the day, and hor d’oeuvres in the evening.
Breakfast included several fresh juices, bread, toast, salads, cold cuts, cheese, fruit, and hot eggs, sausage, and potatoes.
The evening spread was really enough for dinner, with a variety of hot items (western and Ethiopian food) as well as more salads, cheese, sandwiches, fruit, sweets. Alcoholic beverages were also free of charge, including local Ethiopian beers and many wine/spirits.
Hilton Addis Ababa Pool and Miniature Golf
A large pool seemed quite popular among guests, with dozens in the pool and many more sunbathing around it. Behind the pool seemed to be an abandoned miniature golf course, which would have been of more interest to me than swimming.
Hilton Addis Ababa Dining
I took a look inside the Executive Lounge for breakfast and dinner, but ate both meals downstairs in Kaffa House, the hotel’s buffet restaurant.
At check-in, I was presented a voucher for breakfast/lunch/dinner at Kaffa House.
The breakfast buffet was huge and included a selection of breads/pastries, fruit, cereals, and omelet bar, Chinese/Japanese food, and my favorite…a juice bar. I enjoyed several glasses of freshly made smoothies and juices from a blend of various fruits and vegetables.
The dining room is primarily inside, but there is small patio overlooking the pool that serves as the smoking section.
The dinner spread was also expansive, featuring salads, pasta cooked-to-order, fresh chicken, many hot dishes, cheese, fruit, and dessert. Food wasn’t great quality, but the variety was quite impressive.
Gazebo Restaurant + Bar
Near the pool, Gazebo offers covered outdoor dining. Il Forno, the hotel’s Italian restaurant, is located behind Kaffa House.
A lobby bar appeared to be a popular spot for ex-pats in the evening.
Hilton Addis Ababa Fitness Center
Before dinner, I spent 45 minutes working out. The hotel gym sells local membership and was quite crowded, hence the limited number of pictures below. Most equipment was modern Life Fitness machines and free weights.
Hilton Addis Ababa Shopping
One level below the lobby, several stores offer goods for sales ranging from souvenirs to clothing to high-qulity Ethiopian coffee.
The Hilton Addis Ababa was a perfect stay for my 17-hour layover in Addis. I appreciated the comfort of my room, the warmness of the hotel staff, and the hotel’s amenities. While the hotel is certainly showing signs of aging, it’s Addis Ababa, not New York City. I would not hesitate to return.
Dear visitor and reviewer
I read your review I think in my opinion you put it frankly except one thing; you think they treat you differently because you’re white. We Ethiopians doesn’t really act that way whether you’re white or black or any other race we respect humanity not race. If you wanna check it in any way possible. Your review would be at its fullest if you could correct that.
Thank you for your comment. I trust that you are correct.
I stayed at the Hilton Addis Abba at the beginning of November, coincidentally in the same room. I agree with your review and also received a very warm welcome.
That is a coincidence!
If you came in the door as hotel guest you will receive similar treatment regardless. Remember a guest is there bringing in money. Money for hotel owners and a small change for the attendant. If you happen to be aviation and travel consultant then you are bound to get extras. If you are Californian, yet a little more kudos. 🙂 Ethiopian rulers also want you to tell the whole world how noble they are and all the chatter to the contrary did not happen. Wink, wink. Get it?
Matthew, although I have not stayed at the Hilton, I have attended a conference. I have eaten their food many times. Ethiopian hospitality is unquestionably among the best. The treatment you received is truly a common practice. All the possible reasons you suggested are ok. I am glad your layover was enjoyable.
It is interesting that you are recycling the same material from October. I do know “consultants” who do just that to build a resume to make the rounds around the globe for free or on great discount. Look at the space taken up by your bio. I think hotels need to put a system in place to factcheck resumes.
I’ve never published this before. I just wrote it yesterday…