There are different options to get around within the country, stated below:
Ethiopia has one of the best airlines in Africa: Ethiopian Airlines, which is the only commercial airline that operates within the country (there are other private small charter companies, although they cannot offer competitive prices but tailored flights instead). EA serves more than 102 international destinations and 20 domestic flights.
As stated before, be aware that domestic flights are cheaper for locals, residents, and people who came to the country using Ethiopian Airlines (prices can go down as cheap as half of the price, so it may be wise to consider coming in to the country with them if you are planning to book local flights as well).
Ethiopia is well connected in terms of airports (especially in the north), as you can see in the graph below. The main touristic towns can have up to 5 flights a day! But be aware that they have a radial network, which means that, in most cases, you have to pass through Addis to fly to another town (unless passing by, which happens sometimes in northern routes).
There is no railroad in Ethiopia rather than the old and recently renovated Addis – Djibouti, which stops in Adama and Diré Dawa. You can see more info in the previously mentioned post or on this website: https://www.seat61.com/Ethiopia.htm
RENTING A CAR
Regarding vehicles, get ready: Ethiopia is one of the countries in the world with the fewer number of cars and a higher rate of accidents, giving one of the worst road accident ratios in the world. The infrastructure is very poor (even if improves daily) with only one international standard highway (a six lanes road covering 87 km and expected to cover a 250 km in the future).
Driving can definitely be a harsh experience for newcomers: within Addis, you have to be careful with the number of vehicles, the careless taxi-drivers and the unreliable old cars (that also affect in terms of an awful pollute air). In my opinion, there is a mix of different factors: lack of a good education and awareness, bad state of roads, vehicle and signs, and careless driving. I try to never advise anything in this blog (in my life indeed), as I like to just state things as I see them, but I will make an exception here: BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL. Both in Addis and especially outside Addis, accidents are very common and lots of lives have been sadly lost. By the way, your international driver license works as long as you show your passport where it says that you are on a tourist visa. If you plan to stay longer on another type of visa you will need to have an Ethiopian driver license (explained further in the Living in Ethiopia section)
Having said this, Ethiopia is not an easy place to rent a car without a driver. Most rental car companies and tour agencies will give you a car with a driver, as they know the challenges that new drivers in the country may face. It is relatively easy and advised to get a 4×4 or a minibus with driver. It is a safe option to use an experienced local driver along with the rented car; if you still want to drive yourself, try this company: ABC car rent (last time I heard they asked for a deposit of 10,000 ETB).
To travel outside Addis you can use different types of buses. The main stops are in Merkato Maneharia or Kaliti Maneharia and they are normally overcrowded and very chaotic, so get ready for the fun. You can go there the day before (or even the same day for short distance trips) and get a ticket to go by bus or by minibus. Minibusses are expected to go fast, which increases the number of accidents. Buses should be safer (but not necessarily). Be aware that many Ethiopian drivers chew Khat, a drug that keeps them awake and helps them drive for many hours. A bit scary, to say the least.
A safer safe way is to use other private bus companies: Selam Bus or Sky Bus, which both follow international standards in terms of accommodation, price, facilities (toilet, water, TV, etc) and safeness. Their offices are located in Meskel Square and Taitu Hotel and they can get you to most of the main cities of the country, though they leave very early (5-6 am, normally) and it can be a challenge to get to their station at that time (you should book a private taxi in advance to get you there that early, which, ironically, will cost you almost as much as your ride to the other side of the country).
Anyhow, these means of transport have all fixed prices and nobody will try to cheat you, as, if they do, passengers around you will complain that you have been unfairly charged more. Nice of them!
Within the city you will find various means of transport:
- “Light-rail train”, which has 2 lines. Next, to the stations you can find a small kiosk where they sell you tickets with prices depending on where you are going to, with prices from 1-5 ETB.
- Private Taxi or “contract”: the most expensive way, but the fastest. You can hire a blue “lada” negotiating the price in advance according to the distance or a yellow cab, which normally uses the meter (call centers: Adika: 8210, ETTA 8909). Fares will go from 75ETB (closest location) to 300ETB (furthest location in town) for a one-way ride. Estimate an average of 15-20 ETB per km as a reference.
- Minibus or “taxi”: they follow a fixed route and you can normally stop them wherever they pass through (unless stated the contrary, like in roundabouts and specifically forbidden places). They charge from 1.5 ETB to 7 ETB depending on the distance. The problem is that their destination is written in Amharic so unless you hear them say where are they going or unless you read Amharic (who knows?) it will be very hard to get around with them. Feel free to ask people and most of them will kindly guide you. It is my most preferred way to move.
- Bus: The line bus is the cheapest way, but it takes a long time, it only let you in/out in specific stops, and it is normally overcrowded (don’t get surprised if you see people smashing against the door!). Price 1-4 ETB.
- Bajaj: Forbidden in the main streets of Addis, a bajaj (also known as “tuk tuk” outside Ethiopia) is common in the outer neighborhoods and in urban places outside Addis. It’s basically a three-wheeler motorcycle with space for 3-4 people and prices going from 1-5 ETB on their normal routes to 25-50ETB for private services. I love them!