A good network of buses slowly connects most towns. Unlike most African countries, seated passengers in the aisles of long-distance buses are illegal, making them more comfortable (we said more comfortable, not comfortable!) and safer. They’re cheap, 100km costing Birr12 to Birr25.
Distances are the biggest problem. Northern Ethiopia’s historical circuit requires around 10 days of bus time to cover the 2500km. Long-distance buses typically leave at 6am or earlier.
If you’re bringing a 4WD or motorcycle, you’ll need a carnet de passage, the vehicle’s registration papers and proof of third-party insurance covering Ethiopia.
Ethiopia doesn’t recognise international driving licences for more than seven days, so you’re supposed to acquire an Ethiopian-endorsed licence at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (0115 506561; Yohanis St) in Addis Ababa. This is rarely enforced and most travellers take the chance.
Hiring 4WDs (with mandatory driver) is costly (US$90 to US$180 per day) and primarily done through travel agencies.
For independent travellers, organising a private tour (kitschy packaged tours don’t exist) is useful for four things: specialised activities like white-water rafting; access to remote regions like the Lower Omo Valley or the Danakil Depression; ‘themed trips’ (eg bird-watching) with expert guides; and to help those with more money than time.
Ethiopian Airlines (www.flyethiopian.com) is the domestic carrier, regularly serving all major cities. These reasonably priced (and scenic!) flights are worth considering, some cutting days on the road.
In Ethiopia standard rates always apply, whether buying tickets months or hours in advance. It’s absolutely essential to reconfirm all flights.