A good way to tour Ethiopia is by car. You can take small airplanes to expedite your tour, but you will take in more of scenery if you travel by car. Reasonable touring companies include Galaxy Express Services (http://www.galaxyexpresse...) NTO [www.south-expedition.com], Dinknesh (http://www.ethiopiatravel.com) and Focus Tours Ethiopia (http://www.focustoursethi...). as well as Ethiopia Safaris and Journeys Abyssinia with Zawdu. [www.ethiopiatjazz.com]. They can take you off the beaten track so you can see the beauty and attractions of Ethiopia. Nevertheless, hiring a car is quite expensive starting from 600-900 depending on condition and quality of model.600 Birr for cheap car with driver. But if you want a car for at least 8 persons is costs from 1000-3000 Birr per day. Prices will vary at this time due to inflationary pressures inside the country. Drivers pass on their costs for spare parts and need to increase the price if fuel rises. A driver guide's credentials should be checked such as tourism license, insurance, engine external and internal. Before accepting a contract, it is also a good idea to quiz the driver-guide about tourism routes via your own travel guide book ie Lonely planet and Bradt Guide but you must also accept that this information could be out of date. When driving to the "deep south" of Ethiopia also check the license plates, because the authorities in the south check in and log "3" plate tourism cars, take the names of the passengers and passport number. They need a letter from the tour company to show the agent is bona fide on some routes and parks. Gas comes at 21 ETB a liter. Make sure to always check how much gas is bought and to get a receipt after filling up the gas, or you might be overcharged.
There are a several highways in Ethiopia, majority of the roads in Ethiopia are in good conditions:
Road 1: Addis Ababa-Asmara via Dessie and Mekelle
Road 3: Addis Ababa-Axum via Bahir Dar and Gonder
Road 4: Addis Ababa-Djibouti via Nazret Adama, Awash and Dire Dawa
Road 5: Addis Ababa-Gambela via Alem Zena and Nekemte
Road 6: Addis Ababa-Jimma via Giyon
Road 48: Nekemte-Gambela National Park via Gambela
TAH 4 to the north: Cairo via Khartoum and Bahir Dar
TAH 4 to the south: Cape Town via Gaborone, Lusaka, Dodoma, Nairobi and Awasa
TAH 6 to the east: Djibouti via Dessie
TAH 6 to the west: Ndjamena via Darfur
There is a comprehensive network of cheap buses along the major roads, although these are slow and basic. Buses travelling shorter distances generally leave whenever they have filled up with passengers in practice, these means once an hour or so; nearly all long-distance buses leave at dawn 6AM on the European clock; 12AM on the Ethiopian clock. Buses do not travel at night; they will stop before sundown in a town or village with accommodation for the passengers, or, between Dire Dawa and Djibouti, just in plain nature. Between some cities e.g. Adama and Addis Ababa, minibuses will run after the larger buses have stopped for the night. Everyone on the bus must have a seat by law -- this prevents overcrowding, but often makes it difficult to catch a bus from an intermediate point on a route. If planning to travel by bus, keep in mind that the vehicles are old and very dusty and the roads are bad. Ethiopians do not like opening the bus windows, so it gets hot and stuffy inside by afternoon. If you like fresh air, sit as close to the driver or one of the doors as possible as the driver keeps his window open and the conductor and his assistant often have the door windows open.
The bus stations usually open somewhere around 5AM. If you are catching an early morning bus, you should get to the station at 5AM. They are very chaotic first thing in the morning, and many buses will sell out of seats before they leave at 6AM. To make things easier and less stressful, you can often buy a ticket in advance. In Addis, find the correct window at the bus station the day before you wish to travel and buy your ticket there. You will need help finding the window unless you can read Amharic, but there are usually people around who will help if you ask. The ticket will be in Amharic, but there will be a legible bus number written on it somewhere. Simply find that bus the next morning at the bus station. In smaller cities, you can often buy your ticket from the conductor when the bus arrives from its previous trip the afternoon before you travel. Even if you already have a ticket, arrive early and claim a seat as soon as possible. If you don't have a ticket, you will have to ask people to show you the correct bus unless you can read Amharic. In this case, don't waste time trying to buy a ticket from the window or from the bus conductor -- push your way on board the bus and claim a seat! The conductor will sell you a ticket later. Medium sized backpacks can usually be squeezed under the seats, but large packs and most luggage will have to go up on the roof. Claim your seat before you worry about your luggage. Anyone assisting you with your luggage, including the person passing it up to the conductor's assistant on the roof, will expect a small tip around 2-3 birr.
On several routes Addis - Dire Dawa, Bahardar - Addis you may find also a kind of informal traveler cars with no fixed departure; when looking around at a bus station you may be approached by somebody who offers you a faster connection by going with a private car; this is more expensive than the normal bus but also much faster. You'll be handed a cell phone number where to call in order to make an appointment. These cars may leave before sundown or travel even at night.
Road conditions vary considerably around Ethiopia; some roads are smoothly sealed while others consist mostly of large stones. Accommodation is cheap and available in almost every village although these "hotels" usually double as bars and brothels. Food and drink are also easily available. You will attract considerable attention it is not uncommon for whole schools to empty out as the children chase you.