The local currency is the Ethiopian Birr (ETB) which comes in 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 cents, and 1 birr coins. Notes are available in 1, 5, 10, 50, and 200 birr denominations. In April 2023 the exchange rate is ETB 53 for USD 1, ETB exchange rate to other major currencies is based on the prevailing rate of that currency to the USD. Find the current exchange rates here.

Credit card acceptance is growing but still limited. The number of ATMs is rapidly increasing with Visa cards more widely accepted but Mastercard (Maestro) is accepted at a growing number of banks. Don’t rely completely on ATMs and bring enough cash as a backup. Please note that old series USD banknotes are not accepted, they have to be of the series after 2000!!

When changing cash, the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia is accepting more foreign currencies than other banks: AED, CAD, CNY, DKK, EUR, GBP, JPY, NOK, SAR, SEK, USD, and CHF.

Be aware it might be not so straightforward to change your birr back to your own currency. You need to keep your exchange slip and have to go to the same bank where you exchanged your money in the first place. Sometimes they might not be able to produce enough cash. Your best bet might be one of the banks at the Sheraton or Hilton Hotel. Besides this your driver/ guide doesn’t mind getting his tip in foreign currency, this might help you to balance your budget.

It is advisable to carry enough small notes (10 birr notes are very handy) for small payments and tipping. For southern Ethiopia, you need to carry enough 5 and 10 birr notes to pay for photographs. Only reasonable new notes are accepted.

Local spending varies greatly from person to person, depending on personal preferences and of course, what is included in the tour price. For an average spending pattern calculate around 1,100 – 1,600 birr (USD 20 -30) per person per day on additional spending. When you stay at the high-end accommodation and take your meals there it will be more. This amount includes lunches, dinners, drinks, and small personal spending. It does not
include breakfast, excursions, entrance fees, etc. which are usually included in our tour price. Tips and expensive souvenirs are also not included as this is very personal.

Some average prices:

1 course lunch300-6005-10
2 course dinner500-80010-15
Water (1l)300.50
Soft drink400.75
Local beer501
Wine (bottle)from 600from 10
High-end accommodation and Addis Ababa are more expensive, and local restaurants are cheaper.

A guideline for tipping:

  • ‘Ferenji’ (‘foreigner’) restaurants: about 10% if a service charge is not already included.
  • Local restaurants: rounding up the bill, about 5%
  • Porter: 25 birr (USD 0,50) per piece of luggage, more for considerable distances at lodges or ie to the cultural guesthouses in Harar.
  • Small service (ie taking you somewhere): 50-100 birr (USD 1-2).
  • Local guides: This is very personal and should be based on satisfaction, our suggestion is 300 – 600 birr (USD 5 – 10) for half a day to 600-1000 birr (USD 10-15) per day. Needless to say, higher tips are greatly appreciated.
  • Driver/ guide and escort guide: Even more personal, you are spending a lot of time with them. You share special moments and you learn about their life. You can follow the suggestions above but we very much encourage you to follow your own feeling and budget.