Access Environment Variables in React Native with TypeScript

Image credit: Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

React Native with Expo gives you a familiar JavaScript approach to developing native apps. Some things are quite different, however, since your app will be running on completely different hardware. You can’t just reference process.env.MY_API_URL like you might expect. So how are you supposed to do it?

My notes archive: I recently realized that I have actually written many blog posts that have never been published. Usually when I research a topic or resolve an issue, I write it up in a note which I keep filed away. This is one of those notes.

What I’m Trying To Do

I was writing a simple React Native app using Expo that accesses an API. I didn’t want to hard code the API URL, so I needed a way to set the value in a .env file as I would in other projects.

The react-native-dotenv Package

Once I’d verified that process.env.MY_API_URL didn’t work, a quick search led me to the react-native-dotenv package on NPM.

To install using with npm:

npm install -D react-native-dotenv

Or with yarn as I usually do:

yarn add -D react-native-dotenv

There’s a little bit of setup in your babel.config.js file.

module.exports = function (api) {
  return {
    presets: ['babel-preset-expo'],
    plugins: [
      ["module:react-native-dotenv", {
        "envName": "APP_ENV",
        "moduleName": "@env",
        "path": ".env",
        "safe": true,
        "allowUndefined": false,
        "verbose": false

You’ll import moduleName in your TypeScript modules and path is the filename (usually .env) for your environment variables. The rest of the options are described in the documentation.

Following this example, your variables will be set in a .env file in the project root.


Typescript Setup

Here’s the part where I initially ran into trouble. There’s some extra setup for TypeScript.

Create a type file, types/env.d.ts:

declare module '@env' {
  export const MY_API_URL: string;

Use the Environment Variables in Your Modules

With the setup in place, all you have to do is import the MY_API_URL from the @env module we defined earlier.

import { MY_API_URL } from '@env'

Not as simple as process.env, but things are a little different in the React Native world.