Currency and Money Matters in Sri Lanka: A Complete Guide

currency and money

When planning a trip to Sri Lanka, understanding the local currency and money-related matters is essential for a smooth and enjoyable travel experience. This comprehensive guide will provide practical information on currency exchange, ATMs, credit card acceptance, tipping customs, and advice on budgeting and managing finances while traveling in Sri Lanka.

Currency in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR)

The official currency of Sri Lanka is the Sri Lankan Rupee, abbreviated as LKR. It is symbolized by the symbol “₨” is available in both coins and banknotes.


  • 1 Rupee (₨1)
  • 2 Rupees (₨2)
  • 5 Rupees (₨5)
  • 10 Rupees (₨10)


  • 20 Rupees (₨20)
  • 50 Rupees (₨50)
  • 100 Rupees (₨100)
  • 500 Rupees (₨500)
  • 1000 Rupees (₨1000)
  • 5000 Rupees (₨5000)

Currency Exchange

Where to Exchange Currency

  • Banks: Major banks in Sri Lanka offer currency exchange services. They provide competitive rates and are generally safe and reliable.
  • Exchange Bureaus: Licensed exchange bureaus are found in major cities and tourist areas. Ensure they are authorized to avoid scams.
  • Airports: Currency exchange counters at Bandaranaike International Airport provide convenience, but the rates may not be as favorable as those in the city.
  • Hotels: Some hotels offer currency exchange services, though rates are often less competitive.

Tips for Currency Exchange

  • Compare Rates: Exchange rates can vary, so it’s wise to compare rates at different locations.
  • Check Fees: Be aware of any service fees or commissions that may apply.
  • Keep Receipts: Always keep your exchange receipts, as you might need them to convert leftover LKR back to your home currency.

ATMs and Credit Cards


ATMs are widely available in cities and towns across Sri Lanka. Major banks like Commercial Bank, Hatton National Bank (HNB), Sampath Bank, and Bank of Ceylon have extensive ATM networks.

Tips for Using ATMs

  • International Cards: Ensure your debit or credit card is enabled for international use.
  • Fees: Be aware of withdrawal fees charged by your home bank and the local bank.
  • Safety: Use ATMs located in well-lit, secure areas. Avoid using ATMs late at night.

Credit Card Acceptance

Credit cards are widely accepted in urban areas, major tourist spots, hotels, restaurants, and larger shops. Visa and MasterCard are the most commonly accepted, while American Express and Diners Club might be less so.

Tips for Using Credit Cards

  • Notify Your Bank: Inform your bank of your travel plans to prevent your card from being blocked.
  • Exchange Rates and Fees: Be aware of foreign transaction fees and exchange rates applied by your card issuer.
  • Cash Backup: Always carry some cash, as smaller vendors and establishments in rural areas might not accept cards.

Tipping Customs in Sri Lanka

Tipping is appreciated in Sri Lanka, though not mandatory. Here’s a quick guide:

  • Restaurants: A 10% service charge is often included in the bill. If not, leaving a 5-10% tip is customary.
  • Hotels: Tip bellboys, housekeeping staff, and porters around 100-200 LKR.
  • Taxis and Tuk-Tuks: Rounding up the fare or adding a small tip (50-100 LKR) is appreciated.
  • Tour Guides and Drivers: For full-day services, a tip of 500-1000 LKR is appropriate, depending on the level of service.

Budgeting and Managing Finances

Estimated Daily Expenses

  • Budget Travelers: 3000-5000 LKR ($15-$25) per day.
  • Mid-Range Travelers: 5000-10,000 LKR ($25-$50) per day.
  • Luxury Travelers: 10,000 LKR ($50) and above per day.

Money Management Tips

  • Plan Ahead: Set a daily budget to manage your spending and avoid running out of money.
  • Keep Emergency Funds: Always have some emergency cash hidden separately from your main wallet.
  • Use a Mix of Payment Methods: Carry a mix of cash and cards to ensure you’re covered in all situations.
  • Track Spending: Use a travel expense app to keep track of your spending and stay within budget.

Safety Tips

  • Avoid Large Amounts of Cash: Only carry as much cash as you need for the day.
  • Use Hotel Safes: Store valuables, including extra cash and passports, in the hotel safe.
  • Stay Alert: Be aware of your surroundings and safeguard your belongings in crowded areas.


Understanding the currency and money matters in Sri Lanka is crucial for a hassle-free travel experience. By familiarizing yourself with currency exchange options, ATM usage, credit card acceptance, and tipping customs, you can manage your finances effectively while enjoying all that this beautiful island nation has to offer. Remember to plan your budget, use a mix of payment methods, and stay vigilant with your money to make the most of your Sri Lankan adventure.

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