Hotel Review: Radisson Blu Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
This week, I had the opportunity to spend a few days staying at the Radisson Blu in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The hotel itself is centrally located in Ethiopia’s capital city and overall is an excellent option when traveling to this busy, sprawling city. There are several nice Western-style hotels in Addis, and the Radisson certainly ranks near the the top in overall satisfaction and amenities. Read on to find out what I liked the best about my stay, how I tried to maximize a Radisson promotion, what credit card gave me automatic Gold status, and much more!
A welcome respite from Addis Ababa
For those that have not yet been to Addis Ababa, the city is large, with about 3.4 million people within the sprawling metro borders. For comparison sake, Chicago has about 2.7 million people. One of the first things you will notice about Addis is the traffic, followed very shortly by the excessive amount of pollution and fumes spewing from almost every car on the road.
Once you get past those two issues, the capital is actually a pretty interesting city to explore, with numerous historical, cultural, and culinary locations to check out. That being said, after a day out and about in Addis, I want to go back to a place that offers me respite from the hustle and bustle (and the exhaust fumes!). For most of my time here in Addis, I lived at a house in the “Old Airport” section of the city. It was in a nice area, walking distance to several good restaurants, bars, etc. However, for the last week of my stay I had to vacate this house and choose a hotel–despite the relatively austere and drab appearance of the outside of the hotel (seen above), the Radisson Blu was an excellent choice.
The Radisson hotel chain is part of the Carlson-Rezidor Hotel Group, which operates Radisson Blu, Radisson, Park Plaza, Park Inn, Country Suites, and the Quorvus Collection. According to their website, they have over 1370 hotels throughout the world, and have a large presence overseas. Their loyalty program is called Club Carlson, and while not the most valuable hotel points out there, the program offers several nice benefits and good reward redemptions. Additionally, Club Carlson had targeted me with an offer to “Celebrate Double,” where I would receive a bonus eligible night towards elite status for every paid night through the end of this year. Since I am going to be staying at the Radisson Blu for 6 nights, that will end up being a generous 12 nights of elite status credit.
I currently am a Club Carlson Gold member (see more below on how I qualify for that status). The program has four tiers, Red, Silver, Gold, and Concierge. My gold status offers me 15% discount on food/beverage, complimentary room upgrades when available, 35% point bonus on stays, and an in-room welcome gift. The only additional benefits to Concierge is free breakfast and increased food/beverage discounts and a 75% point bonus on stays. However, maybe the concierge guests get upgraded more often?
I honestly do not stay at Club Carlson hotels very often, the last one I stayed at was the Radisson Blu Dubrovnik, Croatia, which was a great hotel in an extremely beautiful location. For that stay, last June, I redeemed Club Carlson points for a three night stay, and got the third night free due to an extremely valuable benefit of holding the Club Carlson Visa Signature Card. Up until last June, all cardholders could get a last night free on any award redemption for a stay of two or more nights.
The Club Carlson Visa Signature Card
Once I made plans to go to Dubrovnik, I started looking at hotels and found that the Radisson Blu had everything I was looking for–and I knew that I was only going to be able to stay for 3 nights. This got me thinking about applying for the Club Carlson Visa Signature Card, so that I could get the sign up bonus of 85,000 points–I received 50,000 Gold Points immediately after my first purchase plus an additional 35,000 points once I met the minimum spend of $2,500 within the first 90 days–plus take advantage of the 3rd night free benefit. The US Bank issued card had an annual fee of $85, not waived the first year. So, the bottom line was I got 85,000 points to use towards my Dubrovnik hotel stay, automatic Gold Status (one below Club Carlson Concierge, their top-tier) and a third night free on my award redemption–all for a mere $85 fee. Not a bad deal at all.
I signed up for the card, paid the annual fee, met the minimum spending and redeemed 100,000 Club Carlson points for a 3-night stay at the Radisson Blu Resort in Dubrovnik (I had some previously earned points in my account to make up the balance between the 85,000 bonus and the award redemption).
Shortly after I applied for the card, Club Carlson notified all cardholders that the last night free benefit on 2 or more night award redemptions was going away. This was obviously a disappointment, and I am still debating whether or not I will renew the card in a few months when the annual fee comes due. The card does offer some other nice benefits, including a 40,000 point bonus every year you renew and pay the $85 annual fee, automatic Club Carlson Gold Status, and a free night at any Carlson-Rezidor hotel in the U.S. after you spend $10,000 on the card in a year. Will I keep it? Not sure yet, but I am sure that it will be a topic of a future post!
The Radisson Blu, Addis Ababa
When I arrived at the hotel, the first thing I noticed was a distinct lack of parking. Not a huge problem if you are not planning on driving in Addis or having a car, but a bit of an inconvenience nevertheless. I knew that I was going to have people coming to the hotel to meet me for dinner and that they would have issues parking. Taxis and shuttles have to essentially park on the street to drop off guests and unload bags, while traffic tries to go around, often loudly honking their horns. The initial experience is a bit hectic to say the least.
Then, you have to go through a small security screening area where they x-ray your bags and you go through a metal detector. If there are a lot of people showing up at the same time, this can be a bit of a bottleneck, but the bellhops are pretty good at collecting your luggage and getting it through quickly.
Once you get through security, you enter a nice, wide-open modern looking lobby with the check in area on the left and the lounge and restaurant area on the right. Also in the lobby is a local coffee shop chain, To.Mo.Ca, which has excellent coffee. As a matter of fact, I am sitting at the coffee shop right now, sipping on a double-macchiato while I put the finishing touches on this review.
The front desk was very helpful and outgoing at check-in. I did ask if they had my Club Carlson points number since they didn’t mention anything, but they assured me they did. I did ask about any upgrade options, but I was told that none were available unless I was a concierge level member. I have not had a good track record on getting those upgrades “when available” as the gold status perks advertise — 0 for 2 now, I will have to keep trying.
The rooms are nice, and well appointed. My room had a king size bed with feather filled duvet and large soft pillows. The room also had a large flat screen tv with access to many English speaking news, sports, and movie channels. The bathrooms are also nice, with a large stand alone seamless glass shower and a stand-alone tub.
Most importantly, even though I am overlooking a very busy street and the hotel’s main entrance, my room is very quiet and I rarely hear any outside noises.
Although I enjoy eating out in Addis Ababa and trying the different cuisines, sometimes I don’t feel like going out and just want to eat in the hotel. Each morning the hotel offers a breakfast buffet that was included in my rate. The breakfast includes traditional Western food like waffles, pancakes, eggs, bacon, etc. It also offers some European selections like cheese, meats, bread, granola, etc. Finally, it has a small selection of local Ethiopian foods and fresh fruits and juices.
The dinner buffet is also very good and offers a wide variety of meats, fish, and pastas. Fresh breads and pastries accompany the main courses, and the deserts are plentiful and quite delicious. The dinner buffet also offers traditional Ethiopian food like tibs, wat, enjera, spicy lentils, etc.
For a post dinner drink, the lounge and bar is very nice, and has a good selection of local beers and various alcohol. At night, at least from Thurs-Sat there is a DJ in the outdoor seating area next to the bar and a few people dancing.
The hotel also has a small gym and a reasonably priced spa that offers massages, haircuts, manicures, pedicures, etc. I tried out the Swedish massage for an hour and was charged about $20 plus tip–not bad at all.
Finally, the hotel offers free complimentary internet which is blazing fast for Ethiopia. I honestly have not had internet this fast since I left the US.
Overall, I have enjoyed my stay here at the Radisson Blu Addis Ababa very much. Perhaps the highlight of the stay has been the attentiveness and friendliness of the staff. They have gone out of their way to remember my name, room number, breakfast preferences, etc. One of the employees at the front desk, Samrawit, has actually tried to teach me Amharic language phrases after the first couple times I greeted her with the local greeting, “Salam-nesh” or “hello, how are you.” Unfortunately, I don’t think I am cut out for the Amharic language, I keep butchering the phrases!
The room has been very nice, comfortable, and clean. The location is good for getting out to see and do things in Addis–however, the parking situation is not great.
If you are looking to redeem points, the Radisson Blu Addis is considered a Category 7 hotel, which requires 70,000 points per night. You can check out the various different Carlson-Rezidor Hotels and their category levels here: Club Carlson Hotel Categories. Based on the pricey 70,000 point per night redemption, I would recommend not planning on redeeming your Club Carlson points here unless you have an abundance of them and are tight on cash. The typical room cost is normally a better cash value, averaging around $250-$300 depending on the season. If you used 70,000 points for a $275 room, you would only be getting about 0.4 cents per point in value–and there are much better value redemptions out there.
Bottom line, if you are traveling to Addis, the Radisson Blu should certainly be one of your top choices for a hotel. Let me know you thoughts below if you have stayed there!