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How much foreign currency cash is allowed in Ethiopia for travelers?

Travelers of Ethiopian origin residing abroad and Ethiopian residents are included in the new regulation on the “limits on Birr and Foreign Currency Holdings in the territory of Ethiopia” 

U.S. dollars _ British Pound and Euro _ Ethiopian foreign currency restrictions
U.S. dollar, Swiss Franc, British pound and Euro bank notes ( File/ source -REUTERS/Kacper Pempel)

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The seizure of alleged illegal foreign currency has been making headlines in Ethiopian public media for over three years now.  Most of it was seized at entry points ( air and land) but there are cases where foreign currencies are seized locally where illegal exchange services ( “black market”) are offered. 

The Nationals Bank of Ethiopia has updated its regulations on foreign currency holdings in the country – apparently with the aim to foster a controlling mechanism against illegal foreign currency. 

The new directive is applicable to travelers into Ethiopia ( including Ethiopians resigning in other countries and naturalized citizens of other countries) and Ethiopians and Ethiopian residents as well. 

Non-resident foreign nationals of Ethiopian origin will need a customs declaration if the amount of Foreign currency holding is more than $10,000 or any other convertible currency equivalent to that amount. 

There is a little more flexibility toward diplomatic staff and other work-related presence in the country. However, a document attesting to it is required. 

If it is under $10,000  or an equivalent amount in other currencies, the holdings are allowed. 

The regulation is different for Ethiopian residents in the country.  Ethiopian residents bringing more than $4,000 into the country will have to declare it. 

For the purpose of traveling abroad, Ethiopian residents need to provide documents from a bank issued for the purchase of foreign currency. It can, however, only be accepted if it is within thirty days.  Also, when they enter the country, they should convert it to Ethiopian birr at the forex bureau. 

The maximum amount of Ethiopian birr to be carried when traveling abroad is only 3000 Ethiopian Birr. The equivalent amount in U.S. dollars is $57.  Djibouti is an exception as residents are allowed up to 10,000 Ethiopian birr. 

The latest National Bank of Ethiopia directive on “limits on Birr and Foreign Currency Holding in the territory of Ethiopia” is available HERE in a PDF format. (Source : National Bank of Ethiopia)

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