What Can I Buy With 1 Singapore Dollar In Ethiopia?

Ethiopia is one-of-a-kind.

Officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, the country is located in the Horn of Africa. It is the only country to have 13 months a year, making it about 8 years behind the rest of the world (Yes, they are still in 2008!)

It is also one of the only two nations in the world never to have been occupied (the other country is Russia).

They measure time from when the sun rises, and there are 80 different languages spoken in the country.

As of today, the exchange rate is… Ethiopian Birr

1. 500ML of domestic Beer

Ethiopia Beer Beer in Africa, particularly lager, is produced commercially in most African countries and also made by indigenous tribes. Try a pint of St. George Beer or Harar Beer. The former is named after the patron saint of Ethiopia, and has been brewed since 1925.

2. 1.5KG of potato

Potatoes No surprise there, potatoes are cheap in most places.

But in Ethiopia, the humble potato is helping to transform the lives of thousands. Deessie Zuria, a city in Ethiopia, faces food insecurity.

90% of the population is dependent on rain-fed agriculture in the area, while drought is a perennial problem.  The potato is now becoming the main crop in Dessie Zuria, and nutrition has improved tremendously for their farmers and their family.

3. 2 cups of coffee

mokarar-coffee-addis-ababa-ethiopia-10-640x427 If you know your coffees, you probably know that Ethiopian coffee is one of the best in the world. If you don’t know which coffee house to choose from, visit Tomoco (TO.MO.CA) coffee. This small antique looking coffee house is the gold standard of Ethiopian coffee in Addia Ababa.

Everyone knows where it is.

4. 100g of Coffee beans

Ethiopia_coffee beans Bring some caffeine goodness home by purchasing some coffee beans. Conveniently purchase some Harar Coffee Beans from Tomoco, or head to the Merkato Market for more selection.

This place is the largest open-air market in Africa and is always flooded with tourists. Bargaining is expected!

5. 3 bus rides

alliance-bus-addis-ababa An average bus ride in Ethiopia will cost you around SGD$0.30. Ethopia has a relatively good network of buses that connects to most towns. Unlike most African countries, it is illegal for passengers to sit in the aisles of long-distance buses, making your trip more comfortable and safer.

6.  8 Natural Ethiopian Toothbrush (Mefakia)

miswak-seller Mefakia is the Amharic word for the natural wooden Ethiopian toothbrush. This natural toothbrush is made from fibrous twigs, roots and stems of plants.

It comes with toothpaste, and is even available in different grades!

Mefakia is still the main tool for oral hygiene even in the city of Addis Ababa, and it is one of the main reasons behind the beaming and beautiful smiles of Ethiopians. 

7. 1 second hand book

Second Hand Book Get a second hand book from the Africans Bookshop.

While selection is limited, it is the best place to get unique and novel titles from the store, particularly those that are already out of print. If you are not quite of a fan of second-hand reads, try the Mega Book Shop for the most eclectic range of literature you’ll find.

8. 5 postcards (You get to post them out directly too!)

Postcards The Ethiopian Trading Enterprises is well known for their spread of fantastic and cheap postcards. It is government-owned shop (no tax!) and easily accessible.

Add to your purchase with some cheap posters and artworks from the place too! 

9. A platter of Mahaberawi

MahaberawiRestaurants are usually surrounded by a wall and a gate but take a peek inside each of them! Also, most restaurants serve Mahaberawi, a platter of various meat dishes, potatoes, and plain rice, all atop a blanket of injera.

The dish is so good, you won’t stop munching until you polish it off.

10. A ticket to the National Museum of Ethiopia

GoBeyond.SG Ethiopian Museum For 10 ETB, head over to the National Museum of Ethiopia, voted as one of the best museums in Addis Ababa. The facility is home to many significant relics and art from around the country.

Enjoy an hour or two appreciating the variety of different art and displays, including statues from Axum, skeletal remains from early hominids as well as a collection of royal family memorabilia from the former emperors of Ethiopia.

11. 5 stalks of Ethiopian Roses


Roses have boomed in Ethiopia recently, however 90% of Ethiopia’s roses go to Holland for auction before being distributed to Europe and the rest of the world.  Seifu Bedada, a general manager of a flower farm and company not far from Ethiopia’s capital of Addis Ababa says, “The high altitude of my country is what makes it perfect for the roses to grow in abundance.”

The high elevations of many regions near the capital are why Ethiopian roses have sturdier, thicker skin and can grow up to 6 feet tall. They also have a longer shelf life of 30 days which is amazing, compared to many other varieties.

12. 3 shoe-shines by listros

listros A sight that is as ubiquitous as Singapore’s comfort cabs are the thousands of listros or “shoe-shine boys” who roam the streets of Addis Ababa.

Walking around with distinctive wooden boxes that house their gear, the boxes double as stools for clients to rest their feet on. In some areas, some listros have gone as far as setting up strings of stools and using plastic sheets to create umbrellas to guard against the rain and sun.

Shoe polishing costs as cheap as a 2 birr. Many boys are often there to earn an income for their family, choosing not to beg but to offer a service to customers, with much pride, so do take up their service should you travel to Ethiopia, even if you are only wearing sneakers!

Catch an interview with a boy who has been shining shoes for a year.


Experience Ethiopia for yourself!

  1. Since Dec 2013, Singaporeans travelling to Ethiopia can fly directly to Addis Ababa, the capital.
  2. There are 3 direct flights to Addis Ababa operated by Ethiopian Airlines.
  3. Total travelling time is about 13 hours, with an hour-long stopover in Bangkok.

Here are more things you can buy with 1SGD in:

  • Monica

    Curiously, you say that Ethiopia & Russia are the only 2 countries never occupied.
    Was Thailand ever occupied? Just for my own knowledge, thanks.

    • Yuri Yamaguchi

      Hey Monica! Sorry for the delayed reply. To our knowledge, depending on which version of history you read, the interpretation may be different. Thailand may or may not have been occupied by the Japanese during World War II.