Travel money guide for Sri Lanka | finder.com

Travel money guide: Sri Lanka

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

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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.

Our pick for use in Sri Lanka

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

  • Earn 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 2x miles on all purchases. You can also earn 10x miles on eligible hotel purchase at hotels.com/venture through January 2020
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
  • No blackout dates on travel bookings
  • Transfer miles to over 12 travel loyalty programs
  • Miles have no expiration date and no cap
  • No foreign transaction fees
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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 Foreign transaction fee Welcome offer Rewards Filter values
None
75,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
7x points on Hilton Honors purchases, 5x at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations, 3x on all other purchases
Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership. Rates & fees
None
20,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
1.25x miles on all purchases and 10x miles at hotels.com/venture
Earn 20,000 bonus miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
None
30,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months, plus $50 when you make a Delta purchase in the same timeframe
2x miles on Delta purchases and 1x miles on all other purchases
Earn 30,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months, plus $50 when you make a direct Delta purchase in the same timeframe. Rates & fees
None
50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
2x miles on all purchases and 10x miles at hotels.com/venture
Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
None
50,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
3x points at Marriott Bonvoy hotels, 2x on travel and 1x on all other purchases
50,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from your account opening.

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

    Name Product Trip Cancellation Emergency Medical Expenses Baggage Coverage Trip delay
    100%
    $15,000
    $500
    $500
    Essential travel coverage — with the option to customize — that can protect the cost of your trip.
    $10,000
    $1,000
    $100
    Protect the cost of your flight and choose the coverage amount that meets your needs — trip delay protection included.
    $50,000
    $2,000
    $1,000
    Budget-friendly policy designed for international and domestic travelers who want medical protection. Trip cancellation and trip interruption not included.
    $20,000
    $1,000
    $600
    Annual policy that offers affordable protection, but doesn't include trip cancellation or trip interruption.
    100%
    $15,000
    $750
    $500
    Basic policy with coverage that includes trip cancellation insurance, tourist health insurance and baggage insurance.

    Compare up to 4 providers

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    Frequently asked questions

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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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