Travelling by car in Addis Ababa

Ring route in Addis Ababa

One of the interesting – and challenging – aspects of visiting a city like Addis Ababa in Ethiopia is travelling by car in the streets of the city. Because I was only staying for a few weeks last December I never applied for an international licence. Consequently I never had the opportunity to actually take the wheel of a car while there. I did, however, travel many times in cars with other drivers. Like most developing countries, driving in the traffic conditions in Addis Ababa is quite an experience.

In the photo above I have shown a part of the major ring route around the city. At the time this photo was taken the traffic was very light. All seems very organised and safe. All is not what it seems.

You will observe lanes marked on the road. This is not only misleading, it is totally inconsequential. Few drivers, if any, actually drive in the marked lanes. I quickly figured out that the markings were suggestions only; no-one actually drove within the lane markings. It is quite amazing that they don’t have far more serious accidents.

Cars, trucks, buses and other vehicles do not seem to be the major hazards when driving in Ethiopia. Two hazards stood out for me: pedestrians and donkeys – see the photo below. Pedestrians tend to use the road as a footpath. Not surprising – footpaths are so poorly maintained that no-one would want to walk on them. Or are they are totally non-existent.

And there seemed to be random donkeys crossing roads everywhere.

Donkey crossing the street in Addis Ababa


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