Today, I’m going to go through all the main modes of transportation in Addis Ababa: minibuses, light rail, taxis, and the bajaj (tuk-tuks).
First, the minibus. The minibus is king. It’s cheap, around 5-10birr to get to many places, it’s efficient and pretty safe.
To get on them, you either wait in a designated minibus pickup area or near major intersections or areas. Destinations like Mercato, Bole, or Piazza are called out by a caller. And you hop on if there’s space. If you only go half way, then you pay part of the fare. As a tourist, you might get “ripped off” for the full fare, but it’s nickels and dimes and nothing to fret over.
The buses are mostly modified older Toyota Hi Ace vans. Seats 3 in the front, 10 on seats in the back, and the squishiest seats are when the bus is really full – 3 more including the caller on makeshift stools in the aisle. Legally, that’s the maximum, and it’s enforced, so you don’t worry about overcrowded buses unlike, say Tanzania where things got really intimate. So, the bus is stuffed with only 3 or 4 more passengers than what it was originally designed for, which isn’t too bad relatively speaking. It looks bad on video, but if the aisle seats aren’t full, it’s not so bad.
Also, plenty of women take the minibuses, I know many female volunteers in Addis who take them all the time, so I’d say it’s pretty safe.
2. Light Rail
The light rail is modern looking, cheap, and probably built by a Chinese company, but there are some caveats. Check it out.
Record: The biggest issue I found is frequency, with the trains coming every 20 minutes or more. There’s definitely potential though if they can buy more trains.
I didn’t use taxis other than getting to and from the airport because they cost 10-20 times more than the minibuses.
Vehicle conditions may vary. You can see the one in the video is run down with string for a seatbelt. But most taxis are a late model silver Toyota subcompact.
Definitely, negotiate the prices before entering or you’ll be overcharged. If you’re coming from the airport, prices will vary. The international terminal costs about 25% more than the domestic terminal. I paid about 250birr for about a 5km ride when I first arrived. On subsequent arrivals at the domestic airport, I got it down to 150-200 birr
So, I had one incident with a taxi driver. I shared one late at night with friends, and the neighbourhood I live in is not the safest at night – it’s totally dark and muggings happen. The most common one is someone sneaks up behind you and chokes you out and steals all your stuff. I would suggest taking a taxi, but if you have to walk it, I would recommend jogging to deter thieves.
Back to my story, we negotiated a ride back to our residences at one price but the driver doubled the charge once he dropped off my friend and refused to drive me. My tip to avoid that scam is to photograph the driver’s license plate before getting in and make it known that you did that.
The last form of transportation is the bajaj or tuk-tuks. You actually won’t encounter them in central Addis because they’re too slow, but you’ll definitely ride a variety of bajajis in all other parts of Ethiopia, so I’ll definitely get to those in future episodes.
Special mention – bikes. They’re not in Addis. The only time I saw them ridden was in a designated pay-per-play park where it was a free for all of people riding bikes, motorcycles, and kids power wheels.