Moment to tell the grand-kids (provided you survive long enough) You get into a taxi, the seat collapses and while you're midway in the air trying to fix it the cabbie bombs off the wrong way down the road dodging a JCB and some goats! He then, having nearly killed us both takes BOTH hands off the wheel to bless his Jesus thing!
Addis Ababa seems to consist almost entirely of goats, small blue taxis,small blue minibuses and the lesser spotted 'Anbessa City Bus'
None of the options are particularly easy to use and walking is difficult due to the extreme altitude. It's all good fun though:
Small blue Lada taxis:
Generally come without working windscreen wipers (great in the wet season...) seats that serve as ejector chairs, Jesus/Muslim pics (dependent on driver) and a steering wheel that detaches at 60 mph on the wrong side of the road. You hail these by being white and standing anywhere on the remains of a pavement. They will skid to a stop next to you-or occasionally depending on brakes into the herd of goats just ahead. If they do plough into the cattle simply turn around and hail the next one. The driver will be fine. Someone will come along in a moment to help dig his car out and fix his tires.
You pay for these through negotiation. For a medium journey. Say Kera to Piazza, you stick your head in the shattered remains of what was once a window and say "Anbessa Piazza? 100 birr?" (100 is far too much but as a tourist you will NEVER get it below) the taxi driver will give you a stunned look and ask if you are crazy? Everyone knows the price is 5,000! (about £169/$215) Walk away...wait for the call back...usually a shout of "Ok! 150 birr!" return and agree 110 making explicitly clear you are talking in birr not US dollars. The cabbie will probably spend the journey telling you about Jesus/Allah and making friendly chat that you generally can't understand a word of. I had a strange one earlier trying to get to Oh Canada (post coming soon) We'd agreed 115 or possibly 150 (it wasn't clear but was quite a long journey) The driver simply took my 100 and smiled. Ethiopians are surprising like that sometimes.
Small Blue Minibuses:
These tend to herd together in groups and seem to be a bit better maintained than their Lada counterparts. A boy (always a boy for some reason) screams a destination out of the window (for example PIAZZA! OOOH! FERRANGI! PIAAAAZZZAA!) Assuming you don't understand what he's shouting they are fine about slowing down just long enough for you to ask. If they are going in your direction you simply scramble on, if they aren't they will probably drive off without a word and a local will tell you where to go for the one heading to your bit of town. Assuming you do get on, the kid will eventually get around to you, hand him a couple of birr (about 5 pence worth) and it's that simple.
Getting off, you shout 'Woraj!" and the bus skids to a stop, being slightly better maintained than the cabs they usually manage to stop before hitting someone's livestock. The problem is knowing the routes (if indeed there are any) They are great for short obvious hops, for example one long street or Mexico Square to Mescal Square but when the monsoonal rain is hammering down and you are on the other side of the city...
Anbessa City Bus:
I have no idea. I've only seen a few trundling around. They seem to have actual routes (in Amharic script) They have a cool lion on the side.
Could probably be hired as transport in an emergency.
EDIT: There is also a light rail which trundles along doing what light rails the world over do. Addis' is still being developed though and doesn't really go anywhere sensible as of yet.