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The unit of currency in Ethiopia is the birr. The birr is one of the strongest currencies in Africa, with exchange rates in August 2009 at birr 12.48 to US$1.00
Notes are printed in denominations of birr 100, 50, 10, 5, and 1; and 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 cents coins are minted.
Banks do not take US cash made after 1996 and there are few ATM’s in the entire country. Exchanges can be done at most branches of the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia and Dashen Banks. The most efficient bank for exchange is T he United Bank at the Hilton Hotel, taking ten to twenty minutes in a straight forward procedure. You can also take cash from your ATM card or cash advance from your visa credit card only, no master card. In small towns it can take ages to change money at banks and some of them handle strictly cash. It is wise to plan ahead to avoid getting into a situation where you would need money.
The other place where money can be changed legally is at government run hotels, but this is open to hotel guests only and the rates can be rather poor. Another area is the black market and it is strictly US dollar cash. I was asked by a taxi driver if I would like to exchange cash. I prefer not to use this system, but the black market can come in useful if you need to exchange money outside of banking hours which is 9 a.m-4 p.m. with a lunch break from noon to 2 p.m.