Transport in Ethiopia

Detailed information on transport in Ethiopia. Find out how to get into the country and how to get around whether by land, sea or air.

GETTING AROUND

Generally, public transport in Ethiopia is very poor and the only comfortable and practical way of getting around is to hire a driver with a 4×4 or join an organised tour. However, we managed to travel the country by a mix of public transport, private transfers and domestic air travel.

Bus: Skybus and Selam operate comfortable buses between Addis Ababa and several other major cities and towns around Ethiopia.

We used a public Coaster bus to travel from Gondar to Bahir Dar: 100 ETB ($4 USD) per person. Touts at the bus station were very aggressive, so be prepared to bat them off. On the bus, avoid sitting right at the back. We had five people squeezed into four seats (six people if you count the baby!). Note that we boarded the bus at 9am and departed at 10.15am while we waited for the bus to fill up.

Private transfers: Note that transfers in Ethiopia tend to be organised through a sort of whisper network of drivers, so can take a few days to arrange – and prove expensive! For example, we booked a transfer from Lalibela to Mekele (290km) through an operator working for the hotel for 2,160 birr ($80) and used this as a basis for calculating other fares. Note that you may be asked to pay for the driver’s journey back if he hasn’t secured customers for the return journey.

Hotel owners can help with organising transfers.

Air: Domestic flights are the quickest way to travel in Ethiopia (check latest routes here). It’s far cheaper to book flights at an Ethiopian Airlines office in the country. Be sure to mention if you flew with them internationally as you will be eligible for a substantial discount.

Train: There are no domestic train services in Ethiopia.

GETTING THERE

Air: Addis Ababa is the country’s primary international airport. Dire Dawa is the second largest city in Ethiopia and has the country’s only other international airport, Aba Tenna Dejazmach Yilma International Airport. However, Djibouti is its only international destination.

Book international flights via skyscanner.net.

Train: A Chinese-built railway line was launched in 2017 linking Addis Ababa to Djibouti. At the time of writing it didn’t carry passengers but this has just changed.


Independent travel isn’t easy in Ethiopia given the huge distances. If you prefer to travel in a tour, we recommend G Adventures and their small group Ethiopia tours.

G Adventures Africa Tours