Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway: Advantages, Stations and Schedule

ethiopia djibouti railway

Completed in 2017, the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway has been an enormous success, transporting passengers and goods across the 759 km journey and boosting Ethiopia’s import-export sector.

The fully-electrified line doesn’t only benefit the economy but also makes traveling way more convenient for people. It used to take 3 days to move from Addis Ababa (Ethiopia’s capital city) to the Red Sea port of Djibouti. The new trains only take 12 hours. It is only natural that locals and tourists on an Ethiopian visa alike want to take advantage of this new fast transportation.

In this article, you’ll learn about:

  • The Ethiopia-Djibouti railway construction
  • The achievements of the new train line
  • Stations and schedules for the line
  • What documents to take with you on the train.

What Is the Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway?

On January 1st, 2018, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn officially inaugurated the Ethiopia-Djibouti line, a new standard gauge international railway and Africa’s first electrified cross-border railway that connects Ethiopia to the Red Sea. This was welcomed by the rest of the government, the local population, and the agrarian sector alike since land-locked Ethiopia has no natural access to the sea and therefore to passenger and industrial ports.

The line was built by two Chinese entities, China Railway Group Limited (CREC) and the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), who will also undertake all operations on the line through 2023. $4.5 billion were invested in the works.

Addis Ababa-Djibouti Stations on the New Railway

The Ethiopia-Djibouti new line will run almost parallel to the old meter-gauge railway but will follow a straighter path to allow for much higher speed. New stations were built and opened along the new line outside of urban centers and many old stations have been decommissioned.

The line starts just outside Addis Ababa at the station of Sebeta. In total, there are 21 stations that make part of the new railway. Of these, 15 are passenger stations and most of those will have a single boarding platform of 200-400 meters with a station attached to it.

All stations will be equipped for ticketing and refreshment and will include a prayer room.

The Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway schedule

The timetable for the eastbound train number 1 from Addis Ababa to Djibouti is as follows:

  • 8:00 am departure from Addis Ababa
  • 23:25 arrival at Djibouti Negad station.

The train runs every 4 days on the 1, 5, 9, 13, 17, 21, 25, and 29 of each month.

Another option is to take train number 3 from Diré Dawa station (km 446 of the line) and arrive at Djibouti at 13:54. This train runs on the 4, 8, 14, 18, 24, and 28 of each month.

Finally, passengers can decide to take train number 101 from Addis Ababa at 8 am and arrive at Diré Dawa at 18:16. This train runs every 4 days on the 3, 7, 11, 15, 19, 23, and 27 of each month.

What Does the New Railway Mean for Ethiopia?

Ethiopia is a vastly agrarian economy. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defined the country as “one of the top-performing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa with an average growth rate of 11 percent over the last seven years” and highlighted as agriculture plays a vital role in this growth, with agricultural commodities making up almost the entirety of Ethiopia’s exports.

More than 95% of Ethiopia’s trade goes through Djibouti, accounting for 70% of the activity at the Port of Djibouti.

Tilahun Sarka, Director-General of Ethiopia-Djibouti Standard Gauge Railway Share Company (EDR) said to the media that the railway will make a great difference for the country as it will allow for Ethiopia’s major exports and imports (wheat and fertilizer) to be transported in a majorly more efficient way.

The new railway has already achieved to carry 70,000 tons of fertilizer (a vital commodity for the national economy) into Ethiopia in the past few months. The railway is built to carry up to  24.9 million tonnes of freight annually, with 6 million tonnes annually expected in 2023.

What Documents Do I Need to Take the Ethiopia-Djibouti Trains?

Travelers are required to keep their train tickets for the entirety of their train journey and to have it ready for inspection.

If you’re a foreigner in Ethiopia and have successfully applied for your Ethiopian visa, it’s important that you remember to carry a copy of the valid visa with you at all times while in the country. You should also have your passport ready in case the Ethiopian authorities ask you to show it.