The light rail is a quick and very cheap way to get around Addis Ababa. There are two lines (one is north-south, one is east-west) which intersect along Ras Mekonen Avenue.
Every station will have a bilingual Amharic-English map, however they aren’t overlaid on a map of the city, so it can be difficult to find your bearings. One alternative is to use OpenStreetMap, which includes the stations and the tracks. For tourists, the most important stops will probably be:
- Menelik II Square, which is around the corner from St George’s Cathedral in Piazza. It’s the only underground station in the network, so look for escalators.
- Autobus Tera, which is the main bus station and adjacent to Markato. It’s pronounced “Atobistera”, and using the English pronunciation like I did at first will result in confusion.
- Stadium, named after Addis Ababa stadium but also the main station at Meskel Square. This station serves both lines; St. Estifanos station is also next to Meskel Square but it only serves the much less useful [for tourists] east-west line.
Tickets cost 2 to 6 birr depending on how far you are going. To buy a ticket, look for an orange booth with people lined up out the front. There are no signs, and sometimes the booths can be confusingly far away from the stations themselves, even around the corner. But no matter what, the booths will always be in the line of sight from the station, and once you know what they look like they will be easier to spot. There are no light rail conductors, and you cannot buy a ticket on board or on the platforms. There will occasionally be police officers posted at stations to check everyone’s tickets, but they seem disinterested in checking foreigners’ tickets. You can purchase single and return tickets, but beyond this they are not reusable.
On board a voiceover will remind you not to bring cattle and fowl into the carriages, while a promotional video for the Chinese company that built the network plays on repeat.
For more of Zac’s posts about Ethiopia, see https://new-faces-new-places.com