JP and I decided it would be a good idea to get a drivers’ license in Ethiopia so we are able to rent a car and get out of the big city every once in a while. The idea sounded like a really good one and once the licenses were obtained, we were really excited, but getting there, was crazy!
We did what everyone, well every Faringe, does in Addis Ababa when they have a question about one of the governmental processes. Call Habtamu, our incredibly trusty friend/driver. We said “Habtamu, we want to get our drivers’ licenses. What do we do?” He confidently said, “No problem. I will take you.” That is when the journey began.
Our first stop was the US Embassy. The US Embassy here looks like a prison. No one is allowed to dilly dally on the road in front of the Embassy and there are old containers acting as a barrier from the outside world. We stepped up to the guard stand where we got searched and presented our passports the first time. We told them our business and after speaking a little friendly Amharic, they let us pass. Then we proceeded to the next inspection area where we told them our business, showed our passports, got inspected again, turned in our cell phones and iPod and they told us “Go to window 8”. For window 8, we went outside, around the building, into a waiting area and up a flight of stairs into another waiting room that held at least 100 people and air-conditioning was an afterthought, so was deodorant. We waited in one line, only to be directed to another line, where we had to pay 30 USD each. We then had to stand back in the first line, then sit down and wait for our names to be called in order to get our US based licenses notarized. Once our names were called, we had to raise our right hand and verify that all of our information was correct. The lady notarized our document. Thank you for our first stamp, off to our next destination.
We headed, next, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to get our next stamp. Amazingly, we saw the same people at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as we did at the US Embassy. We were all just throwing those US Dollars and Birr around in hopes of getting the correct stamps (Ethiopia loves to stamp things – it is not considered official or authenticated unless it has at least three stamps on it). We waited in a line, only to obtain a number to wait in another line. Two lines and 300 Birr each later, we had our second stamp. Ethiopia now recognized our US licenses as authenticated. Off to our next destination.
We went out to what we thought was the Ethiopian equivalent of the DMV. They were closed. That was the end of our day☹
The next day we went back to that location only to find out that the drivers’ license section had moved to an office about 45 minutes away. Well, we were already well invested in this endeavor, so why not make the trip.
We made it to the official driver’s license office right before 12 noon. We turned in all of our paperwork and were feeling pretty good about sealing the deal and holding our Ethiopian licenses in our hands. Not so fast though, the cashier had already stepped out to lunch. We couldn’t get anything done until paying 100 birr each! At 1pm, everyone returned to their stations. We paid the cashier our 100 birr each, we paid the stamp lady 10 birr each and we paid the laminator lady 4 birr each. After all of this, we got our licenses. Ethiopian processes are comical, ridiculous and completely inefficient all at the same time.
It only took, 2 days and lots of Birr (and some USD), but we did it! We are now legal to drive in this city but the question is…..do we really want to? The traffic is nuts.
Special thanks goes out to our friend and driver, Habtamu. We wouldn’t be able to get anything done without him.
JP and SM