Changing Ethiopian Birr to US dollars

Nicola Carroll writes:

I wanted to write and let other travellers know that changing Ethiopian Birr back to US dollars in Addis is currently an absolute nightmare and was in my experience impossible through official channels. I spent two days trying to change money and public banks, private banks, all the major hotels, fx exchange at the airport and other branches all refused to sell me dollars, kenyan schillings or indeed any foreign currency. As Ethiopian Birr is not a convertible currency and cannot be changed outside of the country, in my experience this effectively meant foreign exchange in Addis was one way only. The black market rate quoted to me was 25 Birr to the Dollar so in the end, I approached other travellers in the arrivals hall of Bole International Airport and changed US$300 that way. While this may not affect all travellers (e.g. those who are carefully winding down their funds of local currency by spending toward the end of their trip), it was a problem for me as I was travelling on to Hargeisa, Somaliland where there were no reliable working ATMs and I needed to bring hard currency into Somaliland with me.. While I was aware that Ethiopia was experiencing a high rate of inflation, I did not anticipate that FX would be such a problem on a par with Zimbabwe! Banks and businesses in Addis seem to be hoarding dollars to counteract inflation and I was told that a lot of money can be made by hotels, etc selling dollars to local businessmen.


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