Ethiopian Airlines is inexpensive and offers a wide range of domestic services. Because flights are often overbooked, it is essential to confirm your tickets at least a day ahead of time and arrive at the airport on time. If you fail to reconfirm, they may presume you won’t show up and offer your tickets to others.
Tip: Purchasing Ethiopian Airlines tickets on the internet is far more costly than booking at their Addis Ababa office. For example, the route Addis The> Gondar -> Lalibela -> Addis was offered on-line for USD450, however the ticket cost just USD150 at their booking office (in the Hilton in Addis). Even better, if you book your international ticket to Ethiopia via Ethiopian Airlines’ website, you’ll save 50% on internal flights. Even if you landed on a different airline than Ethiopian, you can still receive the reduced rates (booked at Ethiopian offices) provided you show evidence of an international reservation with Ethiopian, whether or not you have flown the trip. To receive the discount, book a refundable or low-cost flight from Hargeisa or Nairobi in the future and provide the ticket number when purchasing domestic flights.
Abyssinia Flight Services, situated on TeleBole Road, just down the street from the airport, offers chartered flights (both to serviced airfields and “bush flights”). National Airways, Abyssinia Flight Services, and a few government-owned businesses provide helicopter service.
Bole airport parking costs 5 birr (about USD0.27) and must be paid in cash to the parking staff upon arrival.
The ubiquitous minibuses or matatus (typically Toyota Highace vans that seat up to 14 people) that operate throughout the region; small to large sized passenger buses called “Higer bus” (named after the manufacturer) that frequently travel between regions (“1st level” to “3rd level” indicating the class); luxury buses (Korean modern standard buse) that operate between regions
Along the main highways, there is an extensive network of inexpensive Higer buses, but they are sluggish and rudimentary. Buses traveling lesser distances usually depart when they are fully loaded (in reality, this means once every hour or so); almost all long-distance buses depart around daybreak (06:00 or twelve on the Ethiopian clock). Buses do not travel at night; they will stop before sunset at a town or hamlet with passenger accommodations, or in the plain countryside between Dire Dawa and Djibouti. Minibuses will travel between certain cities (for example, Adama and Addis Ababa) after the bigger buses have halted for the night. By law, every passenger on the bus must have a seat; this avoids congestion, although it may be difficult to catch a bus from a stop along the route. If you intend to travel by bus, bear in mind that nearly all of the buses are old and dirty, and the majority of the roads are in poor condition (as of March 2015, this is quickly changing due to an improving economy and Chinese infrastructure improvements). In most areas, the major highways are currently in excellent condition). Because Ethiopians dislike opening bus windows, the inside of the bus becomes hot and humid by afternoon. If you want to get some fresh air, seat as near as possible to the driver or one of the doors, since the driver leaves his window open and the conductor and his helper often open the door windows. Riding the minibuses and Higer may be hazardous, since they are a major contributor to Ethiopia’s ranking as one of the most dangerous places to drive in the world. When changing lanes, many drivers do not utilize mirrors and simply ignore the potential of approaching traffic.
Around 5:00 a.m., the bus terminals typically open. If you want to catch an early morning bus, arrive at the station by 5:00 a.m. They are very hectic first thing in the morning, and many buses will sell out of seats before leaving at 6:00 a.m. You may frequently purchase a ticket in advance to make things simpler and less hectic. The day before you want to go, locate the proper window at the bus terminal in Addis and purchase your ticket there. (If you don’t know Amharic, you’ll need assistance locating the window, although there are generally people willing to help if you ask.) The ticket will be written in Amharic, but somewhere on it will be a readable bus number. Simply go to the bus terminal the following morning and look for that bus. In smaller cities, you may often purchase a ticket from the conductor when the bus comes from its last journey the afternoon before your trip. Arrive early and secure a seat as soon as possible, even if you already have a ticket. If you don’t have a ticket, you’ll have to rely on others to point you in the right direction (unless you can read Amharic). In this scenario, don’t spend time attempting to purchase a ticket from the bus conductor or at the window; instead, get on board and grab a seat! A ticket will be sold to you later by the conductor. Large backpacks and most baggage will have to go up on the roof, while medium-sized bags may typically fit beneath the seats. Before you start worrying about your baggage, make sure you claim your seat. Luxury buses, on the other hand, take a more formal approach, with numbered seats and designated baggage lockers underneath the vehicle. Any individual who assists you with your baggage, including the one who passes it up to the conductor’s helper on the roof, will be expecting a modest gratuity (around 2-3 birr).
On several routes (Addis – Dire Dawa, Bahardar – Addis), you may also come across unofficial traveller cars with no fixed departure; while browsing a bus station, you may be approached by someone offering you a faster connection by taking a private car; this is more expensive than taking the regular bus, but it is also much faster. You will be given a mobile phone number to contact to schedule an appointment. These vehicles may depart before sunset or drive at all hours of the night.
Traveling across Ethiopia by automobile is a great way to see the country. You can speed up your trip by flying, but driving will give you a better view of the countryside. Galaxy Express Services, NTO, Dinknesh, and Focus Tours Ethiopia, as well as Ethiopia Safaris and Journeys Abyssinia with Zawdu, are also reasonably priced tour operators. They can take you off the main path to explore Ethiopia’s natural beauty and attractions.
However, renting a vehicle is very costly (starting from 600-900 birr depending on the condition and quality; 600 birr for a cheap car with driver). However, if you need a vehicle for at least 8 passengers, it would cost between 1,000 and 3,000 birr each day. Due to the country’s inflationary pressures, prices will fluctuate during this time. Drivers pass on their spare-parts expenses, and if gasoline prices rise, they will have to raise the price. The qualifications of a driving guide should be verified, including his or her tourist license, insurance, and engine (external and internal). Before signing a contract, you should ask the driver-guide about tourist routes using a trip guide book (e.g., Lonely Planet or Bradt Guide), but keep in mind that this information may be outdated. Check your license plates if you’re traveling to Ethiopia’s “deep south,” since officials there check in and record “3” plate tourist vehicles, taking the names of the passengers and passport numbers. On certain routes and sites, they’ll require a letter from the tour operator to prove the agent is legitimate. A litre of petrol costs 21 birr. Before you start refueling, double-check that the pump is zeroed.
Ethiopia has a number of roadways, some of which are in excellent condition:
Road 1: Addis Ababa-Asmara via Dessie and Mekelle
Road 3: Addis Ababa-Axum via Bahir Dar and Gonder
Road 4: Addis Ababa-Djibouti via Nazret (Adama), Awash and Dire Dawa
Road 5: Addis Ababa-Gambela via Alem Zena and Nekemte
Road 6: Addis Ababa-Jimma via Giyon
Road 48: Nekemte-Gambela National Park via Gambela
TAH 4 to the north: Cairo via Khartoum and Bahir Dar
TAH 4 to the south: Cape Town via Gaborone, Lusaka, Dodoma, Nairobi and Awasa
TAH 6 to the east: Djibouti via Dessie
TAH 6 to the west: Ndjamena via Darfur
Road conditions vary greatly across Ethiopia; some roads are well-maintained while others are littered with big stones. Accommodation is inexpensive and widely accessible in virtually every community (although these “hotels” usually double as bars and brothels). Food and beverages are also readily accessible. You will draw a lot of attention (it is not uncommon for whole schools to empty out as the children run after you). Expect stones and sticks to be hurled at you, particularly in the south.