Learning 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 has been in continuous use 1945 and 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 Ethiopian birr.
The value of Ethiopian birr coins
This monetary system 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.
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 Ethiopian birr 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, in addition, it does not take up space or weigh much.
Where to get birr?
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.
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.