Banks, ATMs & currency in Addis Ababa

1. Officially there are restrictions on how much hard currency you can bring in BUT it is very very rare for any checks at airport.
2. NO ATMs at airport. So change some cash into birr in bank there – near immigration desks. Virtually no difference in rates in Eth locations.
Airport arrivals bank is always open BUT beware of departure area bank which has a habit of being “closed” on your departure..
3. Now nearly 30 ATMs in Addis. Also in major regional cities but not tourist spots like Lalibela. All international ATMs are put in by Dashen Bank – see their website for locations. ( CBE the government owned high street bank also has them BUT only for locals,.) A few hotels have them, Sheraton,Hilton,Harmony.
4. BUT do not totally rely on ATMs they often break down…
5. Addis ATMs do now take credit as well as debit cards, but as elsewhere it is a good idea to have at least two cards.
6. Best place for ATMS is Hilton.  Two international ones are to be found outside,  near its  Hairdressing Salons. Turn right as you come out of main door.
7. Nib and United Banks on HILTON ground floor are best / quickest place to change cash or Travellers Cheques.They are forex bureaus that ONLY do exchange and open early, close late. Open Sat/Sunday.
8. Banks will always give you wads of Green 100br notes. Good idea to hand a few back and ask for  say 100 in 1s and 200 in 10s.
Vital if going to Omo…
9. Cash or Tr Cheques ?   Cash is best.  Banks can usually do TChs but it takes longer and you need passport.   OCCASIONALLY the government says only the CBE can do TChs !!
10. Which currency.    $ £ or Euro are  all ok in Addis. Some dollars good for emergencies in rural areas.
11. Good idea to tell your bank and credit card providers you are going to Ethiopia !!!!  This summer UK banks  have been blocking cards when first used in Majorca never mind Addis. !!!!!
12. Whether you use credit or debit card, when pushing the buttons use “credit card transaction” whatever card you are using.
Frank Rispin


3 thoughts on “Banks, ATMs & currency in Addis Ababa

  1. Alistair Nicoll says:

    Sound advise here.

    Just to add about the airport departure banks not only might they be shut but when they are open they often do not have any Western currency (or clain not to). I would suggest that if you have a lot of Birr left you go to the Hilton or Sheraton and change your money there. Once you leave Ethiopia then Birr are worthless.

  2. Adrian Greenwood says:

    The new One Birr coin

    On September 11th 2010 (The Ethiopian New Year’s Day) Ethiopia issued a brand-new one Birr coin. It will run in parallel with the One Birr note for a while but clearly the hope is that it will take over.

    The coin is pretty and two-tone, very similar indeed in size and weight to the European 2 Euro coin. Surely they would have done better with a smaller lighter coin for One Birr, allowing future 5 Birr and 10 birr coins to be of this size? Anyway it exista and I saw several over the last two weeks.

  3. Barbra says:

    There IS an ATM at the airpost in the arrivals hall just next to the foreign exchange kiosk and across from the visa application center. On December 5, 2010 it took my Visa debit card and gave me brand new bills (only big ones though.

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