Special Travel Circumstances in Ethiopia

Ethiopia does not recognize dual nationality. The government of Ethiopia considers Ethiopians who have naturalized as U.S. citizens to be U.S. citizens only. Such individuals are not subject to Ethiopian military service. The Ethiopian government has stated that Ethiopian-U.S. citizens in almost all cases are given the same opportunity to invest in Ethiopia as Ethiopians. Ethiopian officials have stated that Eritrean-U.S. citizens are treated as U.S. citizens and are not subject to arrest simply because of their ties to Eritrea although, as noted above, they are not permitted to receive tourist visas at the airport. For additional information, see our dual nationality flyer.

Currency: Ethiopia is still primarily a cash economy. Dollars and some of the more popular travelers checks can be changed at the airport, and at some banks. There are some ATM machines at the major hotels and commercial centers that accept the major international credit and debit cards, although connectivity problems sometimes limit their availability. While credit cards are gaining acceptance with some hotels, travel agencies, and merchants, it is best to check ahead and ensure you have sufficient cash reserves.

Foreign currency should be exchanged in authorized banks, hotels, and other legally authorized outlets and proper receipts should be obtained for the transactions. Exchange receipts are required to convert unused Ethiopian currency back to the original foreign currency. Penalties for exchanging money on the black market range from fines to imprisonment. Credit cards are not accepted at most hotels, restaurants, shops, or other local facilities, although they are accepted at the Hilton, Sheraton, and Radisson Hotels in Addis Ababa. Some hotels and car rental companies, particularly in Addis Ababa, may require foreigners to pay in foreign currency or show a receipt for the source of foreign exchange if paying in local currency. Many hotels and establishments, however, are not permitted to accept foreign currency or may be reluctant to do so.

All travelers are permitted to carry $3,000 in foreign currency in and out of Ethiopia with proper evidence of its source. Employees of embassies and foreign organizations or individuals entering into the country through embassies or foreign organizations on temporary employment (e.g., to attend seminars, to give training) may leave the country carrying more than $3,000 in cash only when they can produce evidence that they were paid directly from a bank. Residents may carry foreign currency upon departure, but only by producing evidence that the currency was purchased from a bank, or by producing a customs declaration not more than 45 days after it was issued. Travelers can only carry up to 200 Ethiopian Birr out of the country.

Ethiopian institutions have on occasion refused to accept 1996 series U.S. currency, although official policy is that such currency should be treated as legal tender.

Residence permit: Business travelers or employees of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who intend to stay for 90 days or more must apply for a residence card/work permit in order to continue working and living in Ethiopia. Travelers must apply for this permit within the first 30 days of their stay in Ethiopia and may not work until this permit is approved.

Travelers should check with their sponsoring organization to ensure they have the correct documentation in place, or risk penalties, including detention, fines, and deportation. The Government of Ethiopia’s regulations also allow for similar penalties for those who assist others to reside illegally in Ethiopia.


You are responsible for ensuring that you meet and comply with foreign entry requirements, health requirements and that you possess the appropriate travel documents. Information provided is subject to change without notice. One should confirm content prior to traveling from other reliable sources. Information published on this website may contain errors. You travel at your own risk and no warranties or guarantees are provided by us.

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2019 edition