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The Ethiopian Birr: Get to know the currency of Ethiopia

by Juan José Herranz | Wed 24 Jul 2019
sunrise in Ethiopia

What is the official currency of Ethiopia? The use of currency in Ethiopia will help you move around the country. The Ethiopian birr takes its name from silver (that's what birr means in Amharic). It became the official currency in 1945, formerly 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 it has been called the Ethiopian birr.

What is the exchange rate for Ethiopia's currency to a dollar?

The exchange rate for the Ethiopia currency to USD is:

 Dollars to Ethiopian Birr ETB
 Ethiopian-Birr to Dollars
 33.5995 ETB           0.0298 USD
 67.199 ETB     0.0595 USD
 167.9974 ETB 0.1488 USD

This has six types of coins. 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.

Ethiopian birr coin

The 1 Santim coin is the smallest. You will recognise it for having a farmer working the land and a pair of oxen on the back. The 5 Santims coin has a soldier advancing on the back. The 10 Santims coin has what is known as tragelaphus buxtoni and is the largest of the smooth coins.

The 25 Santims coin has on triumphant workers on the back and is the smallest of the ridged coins. The largest of the ridged coins is the 50 Santims, which has five plethoric citizens on the back. Finally, the 1 Birr coin is the largest and most recognisable for its alternating edge and the balance of justice on the back.

The value of the currency of Ethiopia's banknotes

There are only five birr banknotes: 1 birr, 5 birr, 10 birr, 50 birr and 100 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.

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.

coffee grains on a map

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.

Now that you have no doubts about the currency in Ethiopia, go and visit their cities.

About the author
Juan José Herranz

Juan José Herranz
Hello! I'm Juan Jose, a boy from Extremadura who loves to travel and share his experiences with readers. I write articles for and I also help users to process electronic visas for all countries in the world that require it. I'm more of the mountains than the beach, so the quiet destinations with green landscapes are my favorites.

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