Travel money guide for Sri Lanka | finder.com

Travel money guide: Sri Lanka

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Take money to Sri Lanka and spend travel money for less on the ancient island.

Sri Lanka is packed with beauty, adventure and history, and is overall affordable for US tourists. You can exchange 1 USD for around 156 Sri Lankan rupee (LKR). That means more rupees to ride a tri-shaws to explore the cities, personal tours of the mountains and of course, more to eat and drink. Let us help you figure out the right combination of cash and credit cards to bring on your trip to Sri Lanka.

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Promoted

Compare travel cards for Sri Lanka

When planning your travel money strategy for your trip to Sri Lanka, make sure your cards don’t charge foreign transaction fees. Most strong travel credit cards will waive these fees while also offering perks and rewarding you for your travel spending.

Name Product Currency Conversion Fee Annual Fee APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases
None
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
17.99% to 24.99% variable
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
None
$450
17.99% to 24.99% variable
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
None
$0 annual fee for the first year ($89 thereafter)
17.99%, 21.99% or 24.99% variable
Enjoy 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
None
$0
14.99%, 18.99% or 24.99% variable
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases. See Rates and Fees.
None
$0
12.99%, 16.99% or 20.99% variable
An 18 months 0%% Intro APR period on both purchases and balance transfers, plus zero foreign transaction fees, makes this is a strong well-rounded card. See Rates and Fees

Compare up to 4 providers

Promoted
Travelex Money Card

Why we like: Travelex Money Card

Load GBP, EUR, CAD, AUD, JPY or MXN onto this prepaid travel money card and use it at millions of locations worldwide.

  • Not linked to your bank account for safety.
  • Convert currency with a 5.50% Foreign Exchange Fee
  • Contactless payments
  • Reload, withdraw, or replace your card for free.

    What currency can I use in Sri Lanka?

    The official currency of Sri Lanka is the rupee (LKR). The Sri Lankan government has tight control over the national currency and there are strict limits on the amount of rupees you can bring in and out of the country (up to 5,000 LKR). Because the Sri Lankan rupee isn’t an international currency, you’ll need to change your US dollars or withdraw rupees from an ATM when you arrive.

    How much rupee should you bring on your trip?

    You’ll get a lot for your dollar in Sri Lanka. Though, expect to pay upwards of 10 times more than the locals for sight seeing tours and excursions. If you’re traveling on a budget you can spend as little at $15 a day, midrange travelers can expect to spend around $35 a day, and for high end traveling plan to spend around $100 a day.

    Colombo Budget Midrange Expensive
    Simple guesthouse
    $5–$15 per night
    Double bed in a nice hotel
    $13–$25 per night
    5 star hotel
    $40 and higher
    to-eat

    Fish Curry and Mixed Rice

    $1–$4

    Meals at hotel or restaurant
    $9–$15
    Meals at top-end places
    $26 above
    car Bus fares
    $2 per day
    Tri-shaw, bike rentals and ride trains
    $.50–$5 per day
    Daily use of car and driver
    $59 for a day

    Based on the exchange rate of 1USD = 153.65 LKR

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    Should I bring a travel card, credit card or a debit card?

    If you’re traveling to Sri Lanka, learn the pros and cons of your travel money options. Compare prepaid travel cards, credit cards and debit cards to help you determine which option is right for you.

    A quick summary of your travel money options in Sri Lanka

    Travel money option Pros Cons
    Debit cards
    • Protected by PIN and chip
    • Best exchange rates
    • Ideal for managing your travel budget
    • ATMs in Sri Lanka charge a service fee
    Prepaid travel money cards
    • Protected by PIN and chip
    • Pre-load and secure your exchange rate in multiple foreign currencies
    • Accepted worldwide
    • Emergency card replacement and backup cards
    • Ideal for managing your travel budget
    • Local ATM and reloading fee
    • Does not hold LKR
    Credit cards
    • Protected by PIN and chip
    • Access to a line of credit
    • Accepted worldwide
    • No currency conversion/ transaction fees on some credit cards
    • Benefits including rewards points on spending, 0% purchases and frequent flyer perks
    • Can charge high withdrawal and cash advance fees
    • Easy to blow your budget
    Traveler’s checks
    • Accepted at most banks and hotels
    • Security
    • Can be costly with initial purchase charges
    • Not all merchants accept traveler’s checks
    • Takes a lot of time to cash them at banks
    Cash
    • Greater payment flexibility
    • Convenience
    • More difficult to manage expenses
    • Higher risk of theft

    This table is a general summary of the travel money products in the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.

    Travel money options in Sri Lanka

    ATMs accepting Visa and Mastercard are widely available in cities and towns. Be sure to notify your bank that you’ll be traveling so they don’t flag any Sri Lankan purchases as suspicious. Because the Sri Lankan government tightly monitors money that is brought in and leave the country, keep all certificates you get when exchanging your money. You may be asked for it when you leave.

    Using credit cards

    You’ll find that Visa and Mastercard are accepted in the major cities and some towns. It’s best to reserve credit cards for purchases rather than cash withdrawals, as they come with hefty fees. Some credit cards charge 3% currency fees when you make purchases in rupees, so look at cards that waive those fee. Some cards offer rewards or frequent flyer programs and can be a good way to pay for flights for future vacations. Always notify your credit card company whenever you plan on using your card abroad.

    • Tip: Before you leave on your vacation check to see if your credit card offers any travel protection or insurance.

    Using prepaid travel cards

    No travel cards support Sri Lanka rupee, so look for a card which waives the currency conversion fee, such as Travelex, if you’re set on taking a travel card when you visit Sri Lanka. These products won’t apply the additional charge for currency conversion when you spend in rupees, which can be higher than what you’d pay if you use your regular debit or credit card. The compromise is these cards will charge you to use an international ATM withdrawal in Sri Lanka, which is a couple of dollars for each withdrawal. You can load these cards with another currency to use at some merchants— but don’t count on it. And you won’t get the best exchange rate.

    Using debit cards

    Debit cards can be a good way to access your bank account overseas, making it easier to stick to a budget while on vacation. If you have a bank that offers no foreign transaction fees, like Charles Schwab, you can save on your withdrawals. You’ll find that most banks in Sri Lanka charge a withdrawal fee, so limit the amount of transactions you make. And unless your card is designed for overseas use, you’ll be charged a currency conversion fee if you use your card to make purchases.

    Taking cash to Sri Lanka

    Sri Lanka is unique in that you are not allowed to bring more than 5,000 LKR, about $30, in or out of the countries without a exchange receipt. Exchange your US dollars at exchange bureaus at the airport or at a bank. There isn’t a commission and they offer fair exchange rates. Changing your money at a hotel is possible, but you won’t get the best rate.

    Travelers checks

    Once upon a time travelers checks were a popular way to take foreign currency overseas. Today, this type of travel money has been replaced by plastic. travel cards, debit cards and credit cards offer the same security features and are more convenient. In Sri Lanka, traveler’s checks can be cashed at most banks, but be aware that you may wait in long lines and pay a commission.

    Get familiar with the Sri Lankan rupee

    Sri Lankan rupees are exotic currency and you may find it difficult to find a bank or exchange office that can sell you LKR. You’ll get a far better deal if you wait till you arrive in Sri Lanka to purchase rupees. The Sri Lankan rupee comes in the following denominations: 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000.

    sri lankan rupee

    Exchanging money

    Exchange offices at Colombo and Hambantota airports offer competitive rates, so don’t be afraid to get your cash changed as soon as you get off the plane. Exchange offices at Colombo airport are open 24/7.

    Licensed money changers such as jewelers and designated exchange offices may offer a better rate than banks. And sometimes the rates depend on the denominations you want to change. For example, you may be able to get a better rate exchanging $100 bills compared to lots of $20 bills.

    Hotels and street money changers

    If you can, avoid changing money at your hotel, as they usually offer a worse rate than banks and dedicated money changers, and charge a commission.

    Street money changers may offer an attractive rate, but there’s a higher chance of being ripped off. We’ve been told that tourists have a good chance of being short changed. So get to know the exchange rate and what the rupee notes look like and count your money before you leave the transaction.

    • Tip: Be sure to keep your exchange slip when you get money changed so you can re-exchange cash when you leave the country.

    Withdrawing cash from an ATM

    Getting your LKR from an ATM is the best option. If you make large withdrawals each time you use the ATM, you’ll save on fees charged by the ATM and your bank. You can save even more if you find a debit card that waives the international fee and withdrawal fee like a Charles Schwab account.

    The banks to use to withdraw cash

    Not all banks accept foreign cards. You can make cash withdrawals using your US card at these popular Sri Lankan banks:

    • Sampath
    • Commercial Bank
    • Hatton
    • National Bank
    • HSBC
    • Standard Chartered Bank

    Make sure you check to see whether the ATM takes your card. The Visa and Mastercard logo should be displayed on the front of the machine.

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    Get travel insurance quotes for your vacation in Sri Lanka

    Details Features
    Atlas Premium
    Atlas Premium
    Comprehensive coverage with higher limits and a range of additional benefits.
    • Trip cancellation: Not available
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $2,000,000
    • Baggage coverage: $1,000
    • Trip delay: $200/day up to $400
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Travel Max
    Travelex Travel Max
    The most comprehensive protection plan offered by Travelex. Offers optional Cancel For Any Reason upgrade.
    • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
    • Emergency medical expenses: $100,000
    • Baggage coverage: $2,500
    • Trip delay: $1,000
    Go to site More info
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
    Coverage includes trip cancellation insurance, tourist health insurance and baggage insurance.
    • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
    • Emergency medical expenses: $15,000
    • Baggage coverage: $750
    • Trip delay: $100/day up to $500
    Go to site More info
    STA Travel Standard International
    STA Travel Standard International
    Affordable coverage for the essentials needed when traveling outside of your home country.
    • Trip cancellation: Not available
    • Emergency medical expenses: $25,000
    • Medical evacuation & repatriation: $250,000
    • Trip delay: $100/day up to $250
    Go to site More info
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
    Increased limits of coverage, plus trip interruption insurance worth 150% of the trip cost.
    • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
    • Emergency medical expenses: $50,000
    • Baggage coverage: $1,000
    • Trip delay: $200/day up to $1,000
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
    Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
    Not 100% sure you're going to make your trip? Cancel For Any Reason upgrade is available with the Travel Select plan.
    • Reimburses up to 75% of the insured trip cost
    • Must cancel within 48 hours before scheduled departure
    • Offered on trips with a maximum value of $10,000
    Go to site More info
    Atlas Travel
    Atlas Travel
    Customizable policy that balances between the basic essentials and premium coverage.
    • Trip cancellation: Not available
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $2,000,000
    • Baggage coverage: Up to $500
    • Trip delay: $100/day up to 2 days
    Go to site More info
    Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
    Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
    Comprehensive coverage for the cost of your trip, your medical expenses and your belongings.
    • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $250,000
    • Baggage coverage: Up to $2,500
    • Trip delay: Up to $1,500
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Flight Insure Plus
    Travelex Flight Insure Plus
    Choose the coverage amount that meets your needs. Baggage and trip delay protection included.
    • Flight accident AD&D: Up to $1,000,000
    • Emergency medical expenses: $10,000
    • Baggage coverage: $1,000
    • Medical evacuation & repatriation: $100,000
    Go to site More info
    STA Travel Explorer Plus
    STA Travel Explorer Plus
    Premiere coverage for a range of travel mishaps with additional riders for sports and other leisure activities.
    • Trip cancellation: $3,000
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $100,000
    • Baggage coverage: $500/item up to $2,500
    • Trip delay: $200/day up to $1,000
    Go to site More info
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
    Make sure you're covered in case your planned trip unexpectedly goes awry.
    • Trip cancellation: $1,000
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $25,000
    • Baggage coverage: Up to $1,000
    • Trip interruption: Up to $1,500
    Go to site More info
    Allianz International Travel Insurance
    Allianz International Travel Insurance
    Customizable coverage that can give you peace of mind when traveling to popular or remote destinations.
    • Trip cancellation: $1,000
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $50,000
    • Baggage coverage: Up to $2,000
    • Trip interruption: Up to $1,500
    Go to site More info
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    Frequently asked questions

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    Kyle Morgan

    Kyle Morgan is a producer for finder.com who has worked for the USA Today network and Relix magazine, among other publications. He can be found writing about everything from the latest car loan stats to tips on saving money when traveling overseas. He lives in Asbury Park, where he loves exploring new places and sipping on hoppy beer. Oh, and he doesn't discriminate against buffalo wings — grilled or fried are just fine.

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    2 Responses

    1. Default Gravatar
      VickiOctober 29, 2018

      Will a taxi driver accept U.S. dollars for a short ride?

      • Default Gravatar
        joelmarceloOctober 29, 2018

        Hi Vicki,

        Thanks for leaving a question on finder.

        Generally, taxis could be payed with dollars but it would be convenient for you to have some extra Sri Lankan currency on hand too. You can have your USD exchanged in the airport as soon as you arrive.

        Please send me a message if you need anything else. :)

        Cheers,
        Joel

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