Ethiopian Money and Foreign Exchange
- Ethiopian currency is the “birr” and comes in denominations of 10, 50, 100, and 200 birr notes.
- You can easily change your foreign currency for birr at any of Ethiopia’s banks. However, if you plan to change Ethiopian birr back to a foreign currency at the end of your tour, you should keep the receipt of your foreign currency exchange. The banks want to make sure you actually brought foreign currency into Ethiopia and will want to see the receipt as proof. For this reason, we suggest you only change funds that you are confident you will spend during your tour. If you later need more birr, banks are in all towns and cities.
- ATM machines are also widely available in Addis Ababa and are increasingly found in the larger towns. Before leaving home, you should inquire at your bank about any transaction fees for using a foreign ATM. At most banks, the total amount that can be withdrawn by any one ATM card is 3,000 - 4,000 birr per day.
- Credit cards are generally only accepted by Ethiopian Airlines, some travel agents, and at foreign hotels such as the Sheraton, Hilton, or Radisson Blu. You should not expect to use your credit cards at local restaurants or gift shops.
During your visit, there will be many situations in which people expect a tip. Some Ethiopians may indicate that they want one, or even ask for it. In many situations, tipping is not necessary, but there are a few in which it is appropriate. For drivers and guides a tip is expected, especially if you are hiring them for the whole day or longer. The drivers and guides will generally work very hard to make sure your tour goes as smoothly as possible. A tip is a great way to show your appreciation for their efforts. If you are not pleased, be sure to let them or their employer, know why. A few restaurants will include a service charge, but normally a small tip is appropriate. If you assign someone to do a task or to lead you somewhere, you should tip them a few birr for their service upon completion of the job. Small favors generally call for a tip. Tipping taxis is not necessary. Always agree on a price for their service before entering the taxi. If you are especially pleased with the job they’ve done, you may give them a tip although it is not expected.
Tipping for Photographs
If you see someone you would like to photograph, always ask before taking their photo. Many Ethiopians will be curious as to why you are taking their photo. A proud and resilient people, many Ethiopians are justifiably sensitive about being portrayed in a negative light. When practical, explain why you want to take their picture - they are especially photogenic; you like their traditional clothing; they are doing a task you find interesting; etc. - and offer one or two birr. Always feel free to negotiate, especially if you want to take numerous photographs. However, if you are taking pictures of a group of people - dancers, football players, etc. - tipping is not necessary. If you are not sure, ask your guide when a small tip for photography is appropriate.