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The Ethiopian Birr: Get to know the Ethiopian currency

by Juan José Herranz | July 24, 2019
sunrise in Ethiopia currency ethiopia

What is the official currency of Ethiopia? The use of currency in Ethiopia will help you move around the cities in Ethiopia. Here you will discover everything you need to know about the Ethiopian currency, including the current exchange rates.

What is Ethiopia currency?

The official Ethiopian currency is the birr. It takes its name from silver (that's what birr means in Amharic). It became the official Ethiopian currency in 1945. Before that, it was also called the Ethiopian dollar. For this reason, some older people may refer to the name of the old currency as well. In spite of this, the truth is that since 1976 the Ethiopian currency has been called birr. The birr is divided into 100 santim.

The Ethiopian currency has six types of coins: 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 santims; and for 1 Ethiopian birr. All of them are circular and made of different metallic materials: aluminium, brass, cupro and nickel or stainless steel. In addition, they all have a lion's head on the front. However, you can differentiate them thanks to the back and the size.

There are also six banknotes of the Ethiopian currency: 1, 5, 10, 50,100 and 200 birr. You can differentiate them very easily because the number that shows their value appears in the lower left corner. It is a much more flexible and comfortable payment method because it does not take up space or weigh much.

Ethiopian currency coin

Exchange currency: Ethiopian birr to Dollar

The exchange rate for the Ethiopia currency to USD is:

  • 1 ETB = 0.017 USD
  • 1 USD = 56.63 ETB

What currency is used in Addis Ababa?

You can exchange currency at the airport in Addis Ababa. Of course, also in banks. However, when you arrive at the airport, you will find an office dedicated to currency exchanges. We recommend that you change coins and banknotes when you arrive, because in the country payment with cards are not accepted in many places. In addition, tipping is very common. This means that you will finish your coins very fast. It is better that you do not end up without money in a restaurant.

However, you're not likely to run into any trouble if you try to pay with a bank card to visit the main things to see in Ethiopia.

Tips to save money

As in practically all places where there is significant tourism, in some places you may be charged more for being a tourist. Therefore, many times you will have to pay attention to the price they charge you for things or ask first. For example, the price of petrol is shown at the pumps, so you will know it in advance.