Currency in Ethiopia - A Full Guide 2024

Claire Millard
Şeyma Mektepli
Last updated
20 May 2024

Planning a trip to Ethiopia? Whether you’re heading there for work or pleasure, you’ll need to know how to pay your way as you travel.

This guide covers all you’ll need to know about the official currency in Ethiopia, where to get it and how to keep your costs down during your trip.

What is the currency in Ethiopia?

The official currency in Ethiopia is the Ethiopian Birr, which is issued and overseen by the National Bank of Ethiopia. If you’re buying your travel money online you may also see the official code being shown - ETB. In stores and restaurants, Ethiopian Birr prices are likely to use the currency symbol Br.

Once you’re in Ethiopia you’ll see costs of items shown in ETB and you’ll need to start paying for things in local coins and notes which are often found in the following denominations:

banknotes - 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and coins - 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 santim.

Can you officially pay in MYR when you are in Ethiopia?

You’re unlikely to be able to officially transact in MYR in Ethiopia, which is why it’s time to start getting used to ETB and learning more about the currency exchange rates so you’ll know what you’re spending on your trip.

This guide will walk through all you need to know, including Malaysian ringgit/Ethiopian Birr rates and where best to get your travel money from.

Ethiopian Birr
Currency nameEthiopian Birr
Central BankNational Bank of Ethiopia
Best travel cards to take to EthiopiaWise

Ethiopian Birr coins and banknotes

Here’s a full rundown of the ETB coins and banknotes you’ll need to be familiar with when you’re in Ethiopia.

ETB banknotesETB coins
1, 5, 10, 50, 1001, 5, 10, 25, 50 santim

Is MYR accepted in Ethiopia?

As we’ve seen, the official currency in Ethiopia is ETB. If you carry Malaysian ringgit with you on your trip, you’ll probably need to exchange it before you can spend.

Sometimes when you’re away on a trip abroad you’ll find that merchants will take payments in a selection of major foreign currencies. However, the chances are that where this is offered, you won’t get a good exchange rate for your MYR. Planning smart and convenient ways to spend in ETB when you’re away is likely to mean you save on costs in the end.

Usually, having a few different ways to pay and get cash is the best option for travellers and tourists. That’s because you’ll have a back up plan in case one payment method isn’t accepted for any reason, and you can pick the method that’s best suited to the specific transaction. Having a multi-currency card from a provider like Wise, plus your normal bank debit card, and some local cash in ETB should mean you’ve always got options. You can use your cash for small purchases and tipping, and make low cost payments and cash withdrawals with your multi-currency card, while keeping your bank card in reserve for emergencies.

Use a travel card on your next trip to Ethiopia

Using a travel debit card in Ethiopia is usually cheap, safe and convenient. A few providers in Malaysia offer multi-currency cards which come with a linked payment account that lets you convert, hold and spend in ETB. That allows you to add a balance in MYR and switch over to ETB to lock in the exchange rate and set your travel budget.

Once you have ETB in your account there are no extra fees to make payments, and you’ll not have foreign transaction charges to worry about, either.

Here’s a quick overview of a couple of handy travel debit cards you may want to order and use in Ethiopia.

Wise travel card

Order a Wise travel card online or in the Wise app, to hold and exchange 40+ currencies and manage your money from your phone. You’ll be able to spend conveniently in ETB - and all currency exchange uses the mid-market rate with no markup.

Card holders get some free ATM withdrawals available every month, and there’s no annual or monthly fees to pay, and no minimum balance requirement.

Read a full Wise review here

Go to Wise
Wise prosWise cons

✅ Currency exchange uses the mid-market rate

✅ No foreign transaction fees apply

✅ Free to hold and spend 40+ currencies

✅ Receive payments to your Wise account in a selection of global currencies

✅ No minimum balance or ongoing fees

❌ Card order fee applies

❌ ATM fees apply once you’ve exhausted your free monthly withdrawals 

What is the currency exchange rate for £ 1 MYR/ETB?

It’s helpful to get to know the live MYR/ETB rate so you can easily calculate how much things are costing you while you’re on your trip abroad.

The rate you need to focus on is the mid market rate, which is the one banks and major currency services get when buying and selling currencies. This rate isn’t always passed on to customers. Instead you may find that the MYR/ETB rate you get when exchanging travel cash includes a markup - an extra fee.

Find the MYR/ETB mid-market rate from a currency conversion site or a website like this, so you can keep an eye on the market and compare the rates you’re offered as you travel against the mid-market rate easily.

Should I exchange MYR to ETB before traveling to Ethiopia?

It’s a good idea to exchange Malaysian ringgit to Ethiopian Birr before you head off to Ethiopia, as you can often find a better exchange rate and lower overall costs before you travel.

When you’re in Ethiopia you may need ETB in cash for some of your spending - particularly when tipping or making smaller value purchases. Buying your ETB travel money in advance can get you better MYR/ETB exchange rates, and saves you wasting precious time shopping around for a good deal once you arrive in Ethiopia.

Get familiar with the exchange rates offered locally to you, and online, so you can decide whether it’s worth switching some funds in advance of travel, using a card to pay while you’re away, or converting cash on arrival. Both in Malaysia and in Ethiopia, steer clear of exchanging currency at the airport. A captive market means that MYR/ETB rates are often worse in the airport than in city centers.

Tips for exchanging money in Ethiopia

At merchants and ATMs, make sure you’re charged in ETB. If you’re asked if you’d rather pay in MYR instead, say no. That’s a sign of dynamic currency conversion, which usually means extra costs. Withdrawing money in target-currency can be easy, particularly in big cities and Addis Ababa, here’s a few other tips if you want to exchange money in Ethiopia

  1. Avoid using exchange providers at airports or hotels in Ethiopia as they usually offer pretty poor exchange rates because they have a captive market and little competition nearby
  2. Use a travel debit card like the Wise card while you’re in Ethiopia for fast and cheap conversion between currencies and easy ways to manage your money from your phone

Best place to exchange currency in Ethiopia

You can get your ETB in Ethiopia in a couple of ways.

You’ll be able to use a travel debit card from a provider like Wise to make convenient payments and cash withdrawals and to convert funds online.

Or if you prefer an offline solution you can carry some cash in MYR to exchange when you arrive. Currency exchange providers are often in airports and hotels, although the exchange shops in a city centre are likely to be cheaper overall.

How to pay in Ethiopia?

You’ll need to have ETB to spend in Ethiopia. However, generally having a few different payment methods is a good plan. That means that if a merchant won't accept one, you’ve got a back up. It’s also reassuring to know you have a different way to pay if you were unlucky enough to have a card or some travel cash stolen. Here are your key payment options in Ethiopia.

  1. Debit or credit card

    Card payments can be helpful in shops, restaurants and hotels but there will be places where cash is also important. Order a travel card from a provider like Wise for cheap and fast transactions, including card payments and cash withdrawals as and when you need travel money in ETB.

  2. Ethiopian Birr cash

    • You’ll usually find you can use a card to make payments in Ethiopia, but carrying some cash in ETB is also reassuring. It’s often easier for tipping and making smaller purchases, plus you’ve got a nice backup if your card is ever out of action for some reason.

    • It’s a smart idea to have both a card and some cash in ETB when you’re in Ethiopia. Some merchants will prefer cash, but having a card for higher value payments and in busier more tourist places is also convenient. Consider using a travel card from a provider like Wise alongside your cash for flexibility.

Paying for the trip in MYR

If you’re paying for things in Ethiopia with a MYR bank card you might find a foreign transaction fee is added. This pushes up your costs when you spend in a foreign currency, and can be tricky to calculate.

Travel debit cards don’t always work this way. When you make purchases in Ethiopia using the Wise card you can either choose to convert your account balance to ETB in advance in the Wise app, or just leave your balance in Malaysian ringgit and let the card handle the transaction when you pay. You’ll always get the lowest available fee and there are no extra foreign transaction charges.

Conclusion - Currency in Ethiopia

You won’t be able to pay in MYR when you visit Ethiopia - so learning about the currency you need is essential. Whether you decide to use a travel debit card from a service like Wise , or stock up on ETB in cash in advance, knowing the mid-market exchange rate can help you get the best available deal. Use this guide to learn all you need to know about the options, rates and fees for exchanging MYR to ETB, and make your money go further while you’re away.

The official currency in Ethiopia is ETB. You can’t usually pay in Malaysian ringgit in Ethiopia, so you’ll need to plan in advance to get your travel money sorted. Consider ordering a travel debit card from a service like Wise, for low cost conversions to ETB and convenient spending and withdrawals - and remember that knowing the MYR to ETB mid-market exchange rate is essential to check you’re getting a fair deal on currency exchange.

FAQ - Currency in Ethiopia

What is the currency in Ethiopia called?

The official currency in Ethiopia is the Ethiopian Birr. You may also see the code ETB and the currency symbol Br.

What's the currency in Addis Ababa?

The official currency in Addis Ababa is the Ethiopian Birr. You’ll only be able to spend in ETB while you’re there.

What is the old Ethiopia currency?

Today the currency in Ethiopia is the Ethiopian Birr. If you’re worried about currencies changing, why not get a travel debit card from a service like Wise which will automatically pick the currency needed in your destination when making a payment - with no penalties or inflated fees.

What is the best currency to take to Ethiopia?

You’ll only be able to spend in ETB while you’re in Ethiopia. Carrying some money in cash and using a travel debit card from a service like Wise is usually the best way to spend while you’re away from home.