Getting around Ethiopia by car is a popular option amongst tourists who want to see as much of the country as possible.
From the nation’s beautiful natural landscapes, vibrant cities and interesting architecture, there is a great deal to see and do whilst on vacation in Ethiopia, and traveling by car is one of the most convenient ways to do so.
Private vehicles offer greater flexibility when it comes to planning an Ethiopian sightseeing itinerary, with no need to plan the trip around public transport timetables.
Given that an Ethiopian driving permit is required to hire a self-drive vehicle, the majority of tourists without their own car or motorcycle generally opt for a car with a driver. There are many advantages to contracting an expert chauffeur, as explained below.
For those sightseers who are getting behind the wheel in Ethiopia, it is important to be aware of Ethiopian motoring regulations and safety considerations. As rules and road conditions may be different to those found back home, it is essential that tourists are prepared.
Is it safe to drive in Ethiopia?
The principal concern when driving in a foreign country is safety. Provided that motorists take care on the roads and follow standard safety advice they should be able to travel around Ethiopia without any problems.
- Unmarked speed bumps are a common feature
- Drive slowly through towns and villages and look out for people, especially children, playing
- Livestock can often be found on the highway and can cause accidents.
- Avoid driving at night due to the lack of light and the possibility of encountering parked trucks in the road.
Road Conditions in Ethiopia
Roads in Ethiopia are constantly improving and in recent years several stretches have been developed.
In southern Ethiopia routes have become increasingly vehicle-friendly, many areas can now be accessed all year round.
Driving in Addis Ababa is made easier by the many sealed roads linking the Ethiopian capital to major towns and cities.
Paved surfaces are being expanded to the rest of the country, however, travelers should be aware of poorer conditions and potholes, especially in more remote locations.
Special care should be taken when driving during the wet season as heavy rainfall can cause roads to become slippery.
Road Traffic Rules and Regulations in Ethiopia
Naturally, international motorists must abide by the country’s policies regarding vehicle usage.
Some of the principal traffic rules in Ethiopia are as follows:
- Legal driving age: 18
- Speed limit: 30 miles per hour in towns and village, 60 miles per hour elsewhere
- Mobile phone usage whilst conducting a vehicle is prohibited
- Seatbelts are compulsory for the driver of the vehicle
- Driving is on the right-hand side of the road
- Motorcyclists are obliged to wear a helmet
Visitors should follow these regulations to ensure safety and avoid fines.
Driving License Requirements in Ethiopia
Conveniently, tourists in Ethiopia are permitted to use their own vehicle with an international license for 3 months, this applies to both cars and motorbikes. After this time they are required to obtain an Ethiopian license.
Foreign drivers should carry a copy of their passport, home driving license, and Ethiopian visa at all times as the authorities may request to see them.
Hire car companies will request a local license to rent a self-drive Ethiopian vehicle, International Driving Permits are not recognized in Ethiopia.
How to obtain an Ethiopian Driving Permit
As mentioned above, foreigners who wish to drive a local vehicle, such as a hire car, need to obtain a temporary Ethiopian permit. To do this, motorists in Ethiopia can follow these steps:
- Have the national license authenticated at the embassy of the driver’s country in Ethiopia
- Fill in a form with the ministry of foreign affairs and provide 2 photographs
- Receive the temporary Ethiopian permit
Drivers can contact their embassy in Ethiopia for further guidance and advice.
Car and Motorbike Hire in Ethiopia
Foreigners in Ethiopia are recommended to hire an SUV with a tour guide. With extensive knowledge of the local area and experience navigating Ethiopian roads, this option ensures a convenient and hassle-free trip.
Despite this, some companies offer the option to hire a vehicle without a driver, mainly around Addis Ababa, but will require an Ethiopian permit.
To hire a car with a chauffeur costs from $50 a day whilst top-end models and larger vehicles are in the region of $180. This price usually includes fuel and an allowance for the driver’s food, accommodation if required, etc.
It is advisable to check what the fee includes to avoid any hidden costs, a tip is usually expected at the end of the tour.
Car hire can be arranged online or over the phone in advance. Alternatively, vehicles can be picked up directly at one of several car hire companies stationed at Addis Ababa airport.
How to hire a motorcycle in Ethiopia
As with car rental, an international license recognized by the Ethiopian authorities is needed to hire a motorbike in Ethiopia.
Bikers are reminded that wearing a helmet is obligatory, most companies also have gear to rent such as helmets, goggles, and boots.
A number of businesses offer bike tours, an excellent way to enjoy the stunning scenery and learn about the country from the guide. Prices for a 1-day excursion start at around $180.
The Best Places to Visit by Car in Ethiopia
Tourists that hire a car with a driver can seek advice from their expert guide about which are the best places to visit in Ethiopia.
Traveling by car offers sightseers the opportunity to visit some of the harder-to-access areas of the country, highlights include:
With limited public transportation, the easiest way to visit Ethiopian tourist attractions such as these is by private vehicle.