Money and Banking

What currency is used in Sri Lanka?

The Sri Lankan currency is the Rupee (Rs), divided in to 100 cents. Notes come in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000 & 2000. Breakdown larger notes when you change money as it can sometimes be a problem to breakdown a larger note (500, 1000 or 2000).

Hotels and other tourist establishments will quote you the price in US$ or Euro and collect in Rupees at the prevailing exchange rate.

Is Rupee the only currency used, or is the US$/ Euro also widely used?

Rupee only. US$/ Euro etc., is accepted in most large hotels, and tourist establishments, but not in outlets catering to locals. Advice to bring in US$/ Euro and change as and when needed.

If it is Rupee only, what is the best currency to bring – US$ / £ Sterling / Euro?

It depends on your primary account currency, if your account is in Singapore Dollars, bring that (or you’ll lose on converting to a third currency). You can change the currency to Rupees on arrival at the airport. However, if your currency is a non-freely convertible local currency (not freely traded in international foreign exchange markets) it’s better to bring a freely convertible currency like the US$/ Euro. There are many currency exchange counters at the arrival lounge (after passing baggage clearance and customs).

Internationally accepted currencies and credit cards are easily accepted at most tourist establishments. Travelers cheques are also recommended. We recommend you change some of your money into local currency for tipping, shopping and other miscellaneous expenses.

The exchange of foreign currency is only permitted at banks, money changes and Hotels. You’ll have no problem changing Travelers Cheques at any major bank. Thomas Cook and Visa are the most widely accepted. Banks charge a 0.5% handling fee and generally a commission, which varies from bank to bank. Change only that amount of money you require for spending.

How much of money can I bring in to/ take out of the country?

There is no restriction in bringing money in foreign currencies into Sri Lanka. This sum could be in TCs, Bank drafts or currency notes. However, if the total exceeds US$ 15,000, that sum must be declared to the Sri Lanka Customs.
If you wish to take out from Sri Lanka a sum in excess of US$ 5000 in currency notes (out of the money brought in), you must declare the entirety of the sum brought in, even if it is less than US$ 15,000.

The foreign currency amounts indicated in US$ may be in equivalent amounts in other convertible foreign currencies.
Please retain whatever receipts of exchange (including ATM receipts) for monies declared. This will be helpful when re-exchanging to foreign currency and taking your money back out of the country. The Re-Exchange (purchase of foreign currency) can only take place on your departure at the Bank counters at the airport. Do note that they will only accept bank receipts (not Money Changer receipts).

Are credit cards widely accepted?

Credit Cards are widely used and accepted by local establishments (even in small towns). The most widely used card types are Visa and MasterCard, with Amex to a lesser extent. It would be a convenient option to use your Credit Card (valid for international use) whenever possible.

Due to currency regulations in Sri Lanka, credit card charges cannot be made in foreign currency Local tourist establishments (including Dream Vacations) will apply the daily exchange rate on the day of your payment and convert foreign exchange rate to Sri Lankan Rupees. Please use the exchange rate indicated in the currency converter only as a guideline as we will apply the prevailing bank exchange rate at time of transaction.

Are ATM machines widely available and do they issue cash against my debit/ credit card?

ATM’s are available in most main cities. You can take cash against Visa / Mastercard in most ATM’S. However, as different banks accept different cards, we advice you ensure that your card is valid for use in Sri Lanka by contacting your bank. Watch out for the Maestro or Cirrus logo!

What are the business hours and days?

Institution Hours Open Days Closed
Banks 09:00 – 15:00 Mon – Fri (some open Sat morning) Sundays, Poya Days*
Government Offices 09:30 – 17:00 Mon – Fri (some open Sat morning) Sundays, Poya Days
Shops 10:00 – 19:00 Mon – Fri (most open Sat morning) (Some open Sun morning), Poya Days
Post Offices 10:00 – 17:00 Mon – Fri (Sat morning) Sundays, Poya Days

*Poya days (Full moon days)

Why don’t Sri Lankan banks have IBAN account numbers?

The International Bank Account Number (IBAN) is a bank account number structured according to the ECBS (European Committee for Banking Standards) standards. The IBAN was originally developed to facilitate payments within the European Union. Apart from most European countries, IBAN has now been adopted by a few other countries outside Europe as well. Only Israel, Tunisia, Mauritius, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia provide IBAN format account identifiers outside Europe (as at Aug 2009). You can download the latest update of countries supporting IBAN from the SWIFT website.

Sri Lanka like most other Asian countries, USA and Australia use the current Bank Identifier Code system (BIC or SWIFT code) in conjunction with the BBAN (Basic Bank Account Number).

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