7 Hilarious Public Transport Incidents in Ethiopia

April 3, 2013
7 Hilarious Public Transport Incidents in Ethiopia

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Public transportation may not be the most glamorous way to travel, but it is by far the best way to really experience a place, to test your nerve, and to collect some awesome stories to tell your the folks back home. Here are some of the hilarious and will-bending experiences I’ve had the pleasure of encountering on public transport in Ethiopia:

7 Hilarious Public Transport Incidents in Ethiopia

1. The time someone vomited all over my traveling companion’s bag

No, the family did not offer to clean the bag off. But don’t worry, the bus got a flat tire, so she was able to take the bag outside and wipe it in the grass. After that problem was fixed, we still found ourselves on the side of the road next to a bus with a flat tire that wouldn’t budge.

Luckily, a converted streamline trailer in quite bad repair came along, saw three foreign women on the side of the road, and offered us a ride. Which of course resulted in almost everyone else from the original bus trying to cram onto the already full airbus. I have a vague recollection of being pulled over bodies, sitting on someone’s bag with a knee in my ribs and another body pushing my knees into my chest. Thankfully, we didn’t have far to go after that point.

2. The time my friendly neighborhood taxi driver, (who I call Morgan Freeman) got me a seat on a completely full bus, right up next to the driver on the padded engine cover

This seemed like a score, until the chat-chewing man (who looked like Heath Ledger) immediately to my right (meaning pressed up against my entire right side) started talking. His version of talking was more like loudly yelling with spittle flying, while continually trying to tell me things in Amharic after I had told him multiple times that I could not understand him one bit. After 45 minutes, the bus finally left the station and he quieted down until the end of the bus ride when he asked me to take his baby to America. The same baby who continually fell into my lap the whole ride to make the chat-chewing man reach into my lap to lift the baby out again.

“No,” I told him. “I cannot and will not take your baby to America.”

He responded, “Then give me money for the baby.”

“No. Have a good day and goodbye.”

3. The time I went to a nearby town to check my email

On the way home in the connecting bus station, a station worker told us that there were no more buses to our town for the day. The only way back would be to contact a line taxi for several hundred birr for a ride which normally cost six birr. We were in a rather sizeable group, and many people were frustrated. I attempted to be somewhat diplomatic, asking him if he was being truthful. He answered yes.

“Do you swear this is the only way back now?”


At this point, another foreigner in my group started yelling a few curse words, at no one in particular, due to his frustration with the situation and this man.

“Do you swear by God?”

But the man would not swear and realized he had been caught in his lie. So we just had to wait for the bus to come, glaring occasionally at the schemer.

4. The time we made the line taxi pull over to talk to the police about a man who was trying to renege on a deal

Multiple people on the bus heard us negotiating with drivers and door boys, saying that it was not right for them to try to charge extra fees to foreigners. Unfortunately, this is an everyday occurrence. But, don’t worry, when we got the law involved, the law was upheld. Take that.

5. The time after my first visit to my town where I had to keep my elbows up in Chicken Dance position

There was a very dirty and sickly man next to me, and the only way to keep him out of my seat space was to hold up my arms in the Chicken Dance position. For six hours.

6. The time we were going through the mountain pass and saw nine upturned cows on the side of the road

They were all dead, with four legs up in the air. Of course the bus stopped so that every single man on the bus could get out to inspect the cows.

7. The constant experience of being packed next to more people than the bus should be capable of transporting, plus the occasional goat or bunch of chickens

Even worse—no one will open a window for fear of getting tuberculosis. This is in addition to a nice few liters of sweat in a puddle underneath you and a wonderful aroma of unwashed bodies in your nose.

Sure, these are hilarious stories, but they’re also a great way to gain some patience in Ethiopia. Plus, I’ve found that experiencing a country’s public transport is the best way to know a people, a country, and a different pace of life.

transport in Ethiopia



7 Hilarious Public Transport Incidents in Ethiopia top photo by Unsplash. 

About Nora Kreml

Nora Kreml graduated Drake University with a degree in Art History and
International Relations. She is currently serving in Ethiopia with the Peace Corps attempting to improve English language instruction in local primary schools. She has an ever expanding 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon index in her head and can play a mean game of Scrabble and Quirkle.

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