The birr (ETB) is the official currency of Ethiopia. One, 5, 10, 50 and 100 birr notes are in circulation, however, the 1 birr note is becoming increasingly less common as it is replaced by a coin.
Although many major towns and cities now have ATMs, tourists should bring currency to exchange in case cash is not available.
Ethiopia is accessible to travelers on every budget; with as little as $50 (USD) visitors can cover all their main daily accommodation, travel, and food expenses. It is especially important to plan finances carefully for a trip to Ethiopia if leaving over land. This is because, in order to convert birr back into dollars, it is necessary to have an onward airplane ticket from the country.
Travelers can find information below about money and credit card usage in Ethiopia as well as advice for budgeting.
Paying by Card in Ethiopia
Card payment is not widely accepted in Ethiopia, visitors should be prepared for mostly cash transactions. Only a few hotels, mainly in the capital city of Addis Ababa, accept credit cards and in nearly all restaurants only cash payment is possible.
In addition, hotels which do accept card payment are unlikely to offer a good exchange rate.
It is important to note, however, that cash amounts over $3,000 must be declared when entering the country.
Exchanging Currency in Ethiopia
The preferred foreign currency is US dollars, which tourists are recommended to carry, although euros can also be exchanged. To avoid any issues, dollar notes dating from 2006 onwards should be used as some places may be reluctant to accept older notes.
When it comes to exchanging cash in Ethiopia, it’s a good idea to consult a tour guide who can give advice on reputable places to exchange cash at a favorable rate.
Approximate exchange rates for the US dollar, euro and GB pounds are:
1 USD = 31.70 ETB
1 Euro = 34.37 ETB
1 GBP = 41.78 ETB
Travelers can check exchange rates online prior to departure to help calculate how many dollars (or euros) they need to take.
Budgeting for a Trip to Ethiopia
When budgeting for Ethiopia the costs of accommodation, travel and other daily expenses such as food should be taken into account.
Whether on a tight budget or with money to spend, holidaymakers in Ethiopia can tailor their trip accordingly.
How much does accommodation cost in Ethiopia?
Guesthouses and hostels in Ethiopia are very economical with prices in the capital from around $15 a night, usually with shared bathroom facilities.
For greater privacy, travelers often opt for a private room in a hotel. Different price options are available:
- Budget hotel: $20 to $25 with optional breakfast
- 3-star hotel: $25 to $50, many with breakfast included
- 4 & 5-star hotel: from $50, breakfast included and some with spa facilities and/or swimming pool.
Travel costs in Ethiopia
The cheapest way to get around Ethiopia is by public transport. Bus and train travel is inexpensive. For example, the bus from the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport to the city center costs under a dollar.
Travelers are unlikely to spend much over $10 a day when using only local public transport.
Sightseers who wish to visit as much of the country as possible often choose to take domestic flights between cities. This is a great way to save time and is also fairly economical, the flight from Addis Ababa to Bahir Dar takes just 1 hour and tickets cost from around $78 one way.
Tourists with a higher budget may choose to hire the services of a private driver, the advantage of which is being able to create a personalized, flexible itinerary as well as learning about the country from an expert guide. Such services usually charge in the region of $100 a day.
Budgeting for food and drink in Ethiopia
Ethiopia’s gastronomic offering is varied and interesting, from traditional local dishes to innovative international cuisine.
The good news for holidaymakers is that eating and drinking is generally inexpensive, the following is a rough guide to prices:
- Typical cuisine in a local eatery for just $5
- A meal with drinks in a midrange restaurant should set diners back no more than $10
- Fine dining at a top restaurant is possible from $15 to $20.
Do people tip in Ethiopia
Tips are greatly appreciated in Ethiopia and can be a very welcome addition to often low wages. It is a good idea to always have some smaller birr notes available for tips.
Although there are no strict rules, the following are useful recommendations:
Tipping guides and drivers
If hiring the services of a professional driver or guide, it is acceptable to leave $10 per person per day when part of a large group, slightly more if traveling in a small group.
Tipping at restaurants
When dining at restaurants aimed at tourists, a 10% tip is expected however, check a service charge hasn’t already been added to the bill.
At local establishments, it is sufficient to simply round up the bill or leave around 5% tip.
Tipping at hotels
Hotel ports can be tipped around 10 birr ($0.32) per piece of luggage handled.
Other Ethiopia Travel Costs
Other expenses that tourists should factor into their budget is the Ethiopia eVisa fee. Passport holders from all countries can apply online for the Ethiopia visa, with no need to travel to the embassy or consulate in person, the eVisa saves time and money.
Foreign citizens should check the Ethiopia visa requirements for their country before applying.
Some vaccines are highly recommended for Ethiopia, check with a doctor well ahead of departure to find out which vaccinations are advised and how much they cost.