Archive for the ‘bus transport’ Category

Thanks to Michael Pinet for this wonderfully detailed and informative trip report:

We have read and studied the Bradt guide again and again to prepare our 2011 and 2014 trips to Ethiopia and it was the only guide we took with us. We like its thoroughness, accuracy and personal touch. However here is some updated detailed information I would have liked to find either in the latest edition or on the internet. I have also added some impressions about our own experience. I hope it will be valuable to people planning a visit to Ethiopia.

Bale trek
Goba is no longer the hub of the Bale area, Robe is. This the place where minibuses leave for and arrive from Shashemene. Bekele Mola hotel (250 birrs for 2 people in a single room with hot shower) is still fairly good value with its bungalows. As usual in Ethiopia, the bathroom is in poor condition.
The organization of a trek in the Bale mountains is not done through the park headquarters, dealing with civil servants , as in the Simiens but through the Nyala Guide Association next to it. So you need to be very clear and check twice what you really want as English is often misunderstood and they are keen to charge you for extra days, etc. The price are as follows :
– guide 300 birrs per day
– horse 120 birrs per day
– horse handler 170 birrs per day
– cook 400 birrs per day
– tent + sleeping bags 400 birrs per night (rented by a guide’s friend!), expensive but quite
decent equipment
– entrance fee 90 birrs per day / per person
– camping fee 40 birrs per night
If you do not walk back to your starting point, Dinsho, then you have to pay extra days for the horses and handlers. Logical. The same with the guide or cook unless they use your car or minibus to go back.
For a 5-day trek for 2 people you will need to add 1500 birrs (same amount in the Simiens 2 years ago) for the food which the cook will buy (you feed the whole group, of course as in the Simiens but you can tell the cook what you want to eat). He will also supply the cooking equipment.
You might need a car or minibus to pick you up at Sanetti Campsite, at the end of your trek to take you back to Robe, Goba or Dinsho. We paid 1900 birrs (a guide’s friend again). Expensive as usual, but it is the same all over Ethiopia and when you take into account the poor conditions of the roads it is acceptable.
We did the usual 5-day trek
– Dinsho – Sodota campsite (22k / 3100m to 3500m)
– Sodota – Keyrensa campsite (20k / 3750m)
– Keyrensa – Rafu campsite (17k + 4k to visit spectacular lava flow / 3990m)
– Rafu – Garba Guracha campsite (18k / 3950m)
– Garba Guracha – Mt Batu (4200m) – Sanetti campsite where a hired minibus picked us up
That was absolutely great! Not breathtaking as the Simiens was, due to the tracks often along the escarpment, but majestic because of the huge scopes of land and varied landscapes. No problem whatsoever with altitude, etc. and we are both over 65. Contrary to the Simiens there is no water at the campsites and there is a cold northerly wind (you can’t keep a T-shirt on as you would in the Simiens, you need warmer clothes and a woolly hat, especially the last 3 days!). The cook, Idris, was competent and nice and so was the guide, Awol.
They all expect tips as they would in Ethiopia. A day’s fee is the norm as I read in Bradt’s guide when we did the Simiens, so a day’s fee it was and they were pleased.
Wabe Shebelle hotel in Goba is nice, clean, with pleasant grounds (454birrs for a single room for 2, breakfast included).

Shalla hotel : good quality, clean, nice. 250birrs for a single room for 2 people. Not far from bus station

Midroc Zewed Village hotel (called Old Zewed Village now) is just as mentioned in Bradt guide. It is a haven of green, quiet and relaxing, thriving with wild life . We spent our late afternoons sitting by the lake and watching cormorants, Egyptian geese, egrets and kingfishers endlessly . The bungalows are roomy with still decent bathrooms. The manager told us he was planning to pull everything down and rebuild it. Let’s hope he will keep its unique atmosphere. A bungalow with a double bed is 414 birrs, breakfast included. The fish market is not to be missed and neither is the superb walk along the lake, full of life. Had a good meal at the Pinna hotel as mentioned in guide.

Be careful with the freshly appointed civil servant called Astbeha at the Tigrai tourist commission in Wukro. He blatantly overcharged us and is unknowledgable . He offered to be our guide for 275 birrs a day, which we found reasonable , yet it turned out to be the fee per person! (Our fault, I assume for not making things clear at the beginning!). However he proved to have no knowledge whatsoever about the churches we visited and made us miss the opportunity to visit Debre Tsion through lack of information.
It is important to know that you need a guide from the Gheralda Guide Association in Hawzien to visit the churches nearest Hawzien, namely Mariam Korkor and Abuna guebre Mikael as far as we were concerned. We were pleased to get rid of our “guide” for a proper one .
We used Wukro as a base for our 3 day visit and used a minibus (1500 birrs a day) with a competent, nice, responsible driver (Sishay Degu 09 14 49 07 06). Here again it sounds expensive yet the distances are important and the roads are just tracks most of the time. What’s more the driver accompanied us in all the visits and was a good help in discouraging the usual kids and teens .
Day 1 : Mikael Imba and Medhane Alem Adi Kasho
Day2 : Abreha We Atsbeha and Yohannis Maikudi (Debre Tsion could have been done!)
Day3 : Maryam Korkor and Abuna Gebre Mikael
Each church charges 150birrs per person and a receipt is given . Most of the priests do not ask for a tip and all have been very pleasant, sharing some injera and wot with us on two occasions.
Tigrai is not to be missed for the churches of course but also for the landscape and the walks which can be just as good as the churches themselves (the walk to Mariam Korkor in particuliar).
Lwam hotel is clean and pleasant (300birrs for a single room for 2)

Wenchi crater from Ambo
Abebech Matafaria hotel in Ambo is clean, very nice with welcoming grounds (285birrs for a single room for 2 with a good hot shower)
We paid 1100 birrs for a minibus to take us to Wenchi crater and back, a 1.5 hour drive each way on a bumpy track, leaving at 8.30 and coming back at 4.30. A good price negotiated through the hotel receptionist. It should have been 1500 birrs.
Did a superb 5-hour walk down to the lake, across to the island of Deber by boat , then to Immogil point by boat again , then along the Dawala hot spring valley with its watermills, back up to the park headquarters.
– car park fee :30 birrs
– entrance fee : 50 birrs per person
– guide : 200 birrs
– boat : 50 birrs per person
– horse and handler = 50 birrs (we hired them to contribute to the local economy but we didn’t
really need them and hardly used them )
A very scenic place with a nice and clean village and friendly people.
2 hours by minibus from Addis from Asco bus station or Mercato .

Some frustrations
– No maps or guide available anymore (Bale mountains national park, Wenchi crater, Tigrai

- Dallas hotel in Mekele is dirty, smelly, not worth the 200birrs for a single room for 2. And we are
not fussy people in the least! The small Moringa hotel next door is much better with friendly staff
yet more expensive (300 birrs)

- Sky buses are still efficient with friendly staff in their ticket offices but the buses are deteriorating
fast and drivers do not seem as cautious as they were. We saw a huge difference in 2 years’ time
and not for the better (cockroaches in one, worn out clutch and creaking gears in another)!

Thanks to Stuart Dickson for this important news about the Moyale border (written 5 Dec 2013(:

Due to serious and bloody fighting amongst local Kenyan tribes in the Moyale region there is zero transport (private or public) leaving Moyale heading south into Kenya and it seems no traffic coming up in the other direction. The reason for this is tribal members are being pulled from buses and throats are being slit. Normally transport is not affected but for some reason this time round they have decided to attack traffic. I am going to the border each morning for updates and the general consensus from the police and immigration officers is that next week sometime will be the earliest that transport may start rolling.If you are in town “a word of warning” do not believe a word from the hawkers in the streets they will promise you all you want to here but nothing is moving and you will just loose your cash.There are no planes coming in due to the small strip being in the conflict area. People are saying that the plane will land at the police strip but that is just a helicopter pad.
You are free to go back and forth between borders and snack on soggy chips and milky tea in Moyale Kenya and catch all the rumors or hang out and have a laugh with the very kind folk at the immigration office, police station or border crossing in Kenya,

Cornelia writes:

- We did an absolutely wonderful hike with TESFA, but due to internal problems between TESFA (Lalibela) and Tesfa Tours (Addis) the organization of the trekk was awful. They overbooked some night stays and forced us to change our plans the day before our planned hike even if we had booked and paid weeks before. TESFA wanted to charge us the last night again telling us that Tesfa Tours did not send them enough money for our stay. They proposed us to claim it back in Addis after the hike. Our guide had different information about our meeting point and time and it was difficult to find him at our starting point in Filakit. And finally we had to bargain to be picked up at the end of the hike for the price they had announced us before… The hike for itself was a wonderful experience, but until they do not solve their problems, it is hard to recommend it.
- Buses and even planes tend to leave a lot earlier than planned. We always managed to catch them, but e.g. our flight from Lalibela to Addis left almost one hour earlier than announced. Minibuses often left around five when we were told that they would leave around 5:30 or 6:00.

Chuck writes:

I’ve lived in Ethiopia (in Bonga, just 3 hours past Jimma) for most of 2011 and 2012 and can share some tips:

Both Selam Bus and Sky Bus travel the route between Addis and Jimma, but stick to no consistent schedule and frequently cancel buses the morning of departure (and expect you to just stick around for another day in Addis, as they offer no refunds). They use their most decrepit buses for this journey, but reserve their nicest buses for the North.

In Addis: Selam’s ticket station is across from Meskel Square down an alley. Sky Bus’s ticketing is done next to Taitu Hotel in Piazza. Both buses depart from Meskel Square. Selam only departs in the morning, but you may find that Sky Bus alternately departs at 1 pm in the afternoon (as it tries to do a round-trip journey to/from Jimma).

In Jimma: Selam’s ticket office is in same building as Central Jimma Hotel. Sky Bus office is next to Syf Hotel. Both buses depart from these ticket offices.

I could write in which days which bus travels between Addis and Jimma and vice versa, but that information will be completely obsolete by tomorrow. I’m dead serious. Your best bet is to get to the ticket offices two days in advance and check both Sky and Selam. My guess is that these luxury buses don’t understand the first thing about customer service: that you stick to a schedule and maintain reliability and consistency over the loss of a few birr here and there. Instead they would rather inconvenience you as much as possible.

I have to make the trip between Jimma and Addis quite often and will always try to avoid Selam and Sky bus if possible.

I found your book entertaining to read but It would seem that we visited a different country to the Ethiopia you write about. Have travelled a fair bit but Ethiopia is the one country I was happy to leave. We travelled independantly using public transport in both the South (more preferable) and the North. We were worn down by the begging, cheating and lieing which appear to be endemic the like of which we have never experienced in some 40 odd years of travelling. Additionally being mobbed by groups of up to about 20 youngsters selling cigarettes, tissues, etc. who refused to move away even when local people berated them can become alarming. It would seem that they were operated by Faginesque characters. Being spat on was unpleasant but I took it as local recompense for previous European colonialism.

I could drone on about beggars and their games and tactics but one comment would be that no one appeared to be short of food. A comment from a teacher we met seemed to sum things up when he commented that the Government did very well from begging so why not everyone else!

Virtually every bill we were given was significantly inflated, 4 times was the record for sending the bill back before we got one that was somewhere near the costs shown on the menu – which as you pointed out – were several times more than the menu written in Amharic.

Bus stations were typically hazardous and many times we had to wrestle our bags back from people who had picked them up or, made off with them and demanded money for their return. This typically occurred when police or security chose not to stop them entering bus stations or interfere when they were present.

As to the environment poaching and tree felling go on non stop. We did tell some park rangers of people felling trees but by the time they, their kalashnikovs and we got back to the area they had left with the firewood. Though the rangers did confiscate a machete. The rangers have a thankless and impossible task. Given the current rate of deforestation I doubt little will be left in perhaps 10 years.

Buses from Gonder to Lalibela. We were fortunate we bought tickets easily for the Woldia bus (number 1181) and got to Gashena in 6 hours to catch the Lalibela bus. Others we met were not so lucky and were sold tickets to Gashena but their buses terminated earlier leaving them to buy tickets on connecting buses. However at Gashena there is a scam run where local people ‘tell’ the ticket seller to charge vastly inflated prices to westerners, they then collect the additional cost from the ticket seller. We argued and the ticket seller accepted our offer. We then discovered the scam whilst talking to fellow passengers (who would say nothing whilst in Gashena). In Lalibela I complained to the Police who forced the ticket collecter to return the additional ‘charge’. The fare is 20 birr per person. Initially the ticket seller wanted 100 per person, my wife would only pay 100, the ticket seller then gave 60 birr to the gang. The police were not happy with returning our money but they were supported by fellow passengers.

It would seem that as the centre of UN activity and other charities people can acquire goods, services and cash easily (and we saw corruptly) and so people use this approach with visiting white people to get more.

I realise that our views will not be popular but I feel that you need to make the abrasive, tiring and threatening nature of travelling independantly in Ethiopia. For those travelling in groups in 4×4 convoys they are kept away from local people and local conditions and presumably have a much smoother time of it.

Will not be going back to Ethiopia and will not actively encourage others to visit the country.

GeoffB from Shrewsbury

Useful post here with all the latest minibus fares for Addis Ababa

I spent a couple of days in Addis Ababa en route to Somaliland (where I was working on a new Bradt guide) and compiled an extensive list of updates:

Exchange Rate: Currently around Birr 16 to US$1

Somaliland Embassy & Visas: The Somaliland Embassy is next to the Namibian Embassy about 200 metres north of, and clearly signposted from, Bole Road. The junction is very close to Saay Pastry (map ref page 159 F2) and on the same corner as the red-and-yellow Wassamar Hotel. It opens 8.30am-2pm Mon-Fri, and will usually issue a visa on the spot, depending on whether the ambassador is in. It costs US$40 and a passport photo is required.

Sky & Selam Bus: The Sky Bus booking office (tel: 011 1568080/8585) is in the Itegue Taitu Hotel and it runs daily buses to Gonder (12 hours, Birr 372), Bahir Dar (9 hours, Birr 306), Dire Dawa (9 hours, Birr 291), Harar (9 hours, Birr 293), Jijiga (12 hours, Birr 326) and Jimma (5-6 hours, Birr 199). Selam Bus covers the same routes at about the same price and has a booking office in front of the central railway station, on the opposite side of the square to Buffet de la Gare. All buses run by both companies depart from Meskal Square at 5.30am. We were really impressed by the service, which include scheduled lunch stops, and regular roadside ‘pee breaks’.

Itegue Taitu Hotel: Tel: +251-11-1-56 0787; reservations@taituhotel; This has evidently taken over from the nearby Baro as the main hub of backpacker activity in Addis Ababa. It has a good restaurant, good services including free internet and WiFi, and it makes a point of not charging discriminatory ‘faranji prices’. Rooms without shower are Birr 125-150, en-suite rooms in the annex cost Birr 270-320, and rooms in the main building range from Birr 328 for the smallest room using a common shower to Birr 377-492 for a ensuite or Birr 831 for the largest room.

Visa extension: If you need longer than the standard 30 days issued upon arrival, extensions can be arranged at the Immigration Office on Churchill Road. This costs US$20 and usually requires you to leave your passport overnight. It is best to be there before 8.30am. You need a photocopy of the main page in your passport, as well as the page with your existing visa.

Taxis rates: From the Piassa, expect to pay 50-60 Birr to the city centre or Arat/Siddist Kilo, or Birr 70-100 to the airport. Expect it to be 50% after 6pm or before 8am.

Entrance fees: For the places we checked, these were Birr 20 for the Lion Zoo at Siddist Kilo, Birr 30 for Kiddist Selassie Church, and Birr 10 for the National Museum.

Red Terror Martyrs’ Memorial Museum: This highly worthwhile new museum on Bole Road next to Meskal Square officially opened in March 2010. It opens from 8.30am-6.30pm daily and entrance is free though donations are appreciated. It is dedicated to the victims of the red terror campaign under President Mengistu and the Derg Regime, and displays include some riveting back-and-white photos dating to the 1975 coup as well as some more chilling relicts – skulls and clothes removed from mass graves, torture instruments – of this genocidal era in modern Ethiopian history. For more details, see

Hope this is useful!


I’ve been living in Addis Ababa since August, and have had overall positive experiences with transportation, food, and Ethiopian people.

Today, however, I experienced what may be a new scam in the city. I got on a typically crowded minibus (locally known as a taxi) and sawt between a man and woman.  A few minutes into the ride, the man asked the woman to open the window. She tried, and was struggling, so asked me to help.

As I was leaning over to help her, the man (who had a jacket on his lap) began to open my purse using his jacket as a cover. He unclipped it and probably got his hand in before I realized what was happening, but fortunately my wallet and money were buried under other things. I gave him a look and pulled by bag away, and then (perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not) the driver pulled over and told my two friends and I to get out so we could get an other bus to our final destination.

I hope that this is not one of the new scams that will become common in the city, because minibuses are generally very safe and foreigner friendy – I’ve never been overcharged in my time here.

Hopefully this will help alert others to be especially careful on minibuses. I would be interested to know if anyone else has had a similar experience.

Rebecca Wickham

Safe travels!

On p74 of the 5th edition we give the road distance of the historic circuit as about 3,000km, in the context of how long you’d need to travel the historical circuit. It has been pointed out that this is probably an exaggeration, and it occurred to me that the comment dates back to the first edition, in 1995, when info was less freely available than it is today, and I’ve never thought to recheck it.

The problem is how? There are no official figures that I’m aware of, and I wouldn’t rely on any one map either (road distances on these are also often inaccurate). However, I personally checked most of the distances on the map on p178-9 of the new edition against a car milometer a few years ago, so they should be accurate for all practical purposes.

Add those up and you get as follows:
AA – Bahir Dar – 580km (via Debre Markos)

BD – Gondar – 185km

Gondar – Axum – 336km (a few stretches here are far longer than indicated on some maps, due to gorges that mapmakers presumably didn’t allow for)

Axum – Mekele – 257km

Mekele – Woldia 234km

Woldia-Lalibela-Woldia 350km

Woliia- AA – 523km

So looks like the total distance is about 2500 rather than 3000 – though of course you might add on some kms with excursions & diversions… and even though roads have improved hugely since 1995, quite a few are still bad enough to make it feel like a lot more than 3,000km :-)


Long distance buses

Posted: December 29, 2009 in bus transport

Seats – It’s wise to get your bus ticket one day before you travel, these are usually available in the afternoon. In case the seats are not numbered, get to the station as early as possible in order to secure a decent seat, always in the front half of the bus. If you’re travelling with someone else, then one of you should go and get the seat a soon as you find your bus and the other should wait at the back of the bus for the luggage to be secured on the top of the bus. Tip for this service is Birr 1 per one piece of luggage, another Birr 1 per piece is expected to be handed over at the destination. If you’re travelling alone, don’t wait for ages for someone to take the luggage away at the back of the bus – go and grab your seat, play dumb about the luggage and eventually hand it over to be secured on the top. You’ll reserve right to your chosen seat by doing this – leave an old T-shirt on it in case you need to go out or ask the person sitting next to you to keep the seat clear.

Windows – try to choose a seat with as least exposure to the sun as possible and consider that the sun moves from east VIA SOUTH towards the west in the northern hemisphere, so eg it’s good to sit on the left side of the bus if travelling mainly northbound on a 7 hrs bus ride that starts at 6am (12 o’clock Ethiopian time). Opening windows on the bus spreads confusion, panic and chaos in rows behind you and you’ll be asked to close them. People believe that any breeze on the bus is harmful to health, especially to young children?!

Goran Jovetic, London, UK