Money in Sri Lanka
Currency of Sri Lanka
The rupee, LKR, is the official unit of currency of Sri Lanka. The currency is subdivided into 100 cents. The currency is unique in that it is the only currency that is printed vertically on the back. Like most currencies, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka issues the Sri Lankan rupee.
The Sri Lankan currency is the rupee (Rs), divided into 100 cents. Coins come in denominations of five, 10, 25 and 50 cents and one, two, five and 10 rupees. Notes come in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 rupees. Break down larger notes (Rs 500) when you change money as most vendors never seem to have change. Dirty or torn notes might not be accepted, except at a bank.
Commercial Bank has a wide network of ATMs accepting international Visa, MasterCard and Cirrus/Maestro cards. Other options include Bank of Ceylon, NationsTrust Bank, People’s Bank, Hatton National Bank, Seylan Bank, Sampath Bank and HSBC. ATMs have spread to all of the cities and major regional centres, though you can’t rely on the network paying up every single time. Major cities have ATMs, although not all will accept international cards.
Any bank or exchange bureau will change major currencies in cash, including US dollars, euros and pounds sterling. Change rupees back into hard currency before you leave the country for the best rates.
Mon-Sat 0900-1300. Some city banks close at 1500, whilst some even have night bank facilities.
MasterCard and Visa are the most commonly accepted cards. Other major cards such as American Express and Diners Club are also accepted. Major cities have ATMs, although not all will accept international cards. The tourist board urges caution when paying by credit card due to the potential for fraud.
The import and export of local currency is limited to Rp5000. The import of notes from India and Pakistan is not allowed. Otherwise, the import of foreign currency is not restricted but all amounts over US$5,000 are subject to declaration. Export of foreign currency is limited to the amount declared on import.
The rate of exchange for traveller's cheques can be better than the rate of exchange for cash. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in US Dollars or Pounds terling. Travelers Cheques and foreign currency can be exchanged at various commercial banks and hotels. Banks charge a 0.5% handling fee and a commission, which varies from bank to bank, while encashing Travelers Cheques. The use and acceptance of credit cards is widespread. While visiting a remote area it is advisable to arrange for an alternative mode of payment apart from credit card.
Although a 10% service charge is added to food and accommodation bills, this usually goes straight to the owner rather than the worker. So tipping is a customary way of showing your appreciation for services rendered. Drivers expect a tip, as do people who ‘guide’ you through a site. A rule of thumb is to tip 10% of the total amount due. If there’s no money involved use your other thumb for this rule: Rs 10 for the person who minds your shoes at temples, and Rs 20 for a hotel porter.
Moneychangers can be found in Colombo and the major cities, as well as in tourist centres such as Hikkaduwa. They generally don’t charge commission and their rates are usually competitive.
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