Travel Money Guide: Sri Lanka

Rates and Fees verified correct on October 25th, 2016

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

Be free to explore Sri Lanka’s breathtaking landscapes and rich history by organising your travel money before getting on the plane. You’re not strapped for options when it comes to accessing your funds overseas, but the right one for you will depend on a number of factors. Use this guide to learn how you can take your money with you on your next holiday in Sri Lanka.

Which option is right for your next trip?

Bankwest Zero Platinum MasterCard

Bankwest Zero Platinum MasterCard

$0 foreign transaction fee with a $0 annual fee.

  • $0 p.a. annual fee
  • 17.99% p.a. on purchases
  • 2.99% p.a. for 9 months on balance transfers
  • Cash Advance Rate of 21.99% p.a.
  • Up to 55 days interest free

Compare travel cards for Sri Lanka

Rates last updated October 25th, 2016
Foreign Currency Conversion Fee (MC) Foreign Currency Conversion Fee (VISA) Overseas ATM Withdrawal Fee Annual fee
Bankwest Zero Platinum MasterCard
An introductory offer on balance transfers with $0 annual fee. Complimentary travel insurance & 24/7 Concierge service and $0 foreign transaction fees.
0% of transaction value $0 $0 p.a. Go to site More info
28 Degrees Platinum MasterCard
Benefit from no international transaction fees on purchases, no currency conversion fees and no annual fee.
0% of transaction value $0 $0 p.a. Go to site More info
Bankwest Qantas Platinum MasterCard
Receive 50,000 introductory bonus Qantas Points when you apply before 30 November 2016. Earn 0.50 rewards points per $1 spent on eligible purchases.
0% of transaction value $0 $160 p.a. Go to site More info
Rates last updated October 25th, 2016
Monthly Account Fee Debit Card Access ATM Withdrawal Fee Fee Free Deposit p.m. Details
Westpac Choice
$0 Overseas ATM fee when you withdraw from the Global ATM alliance network.
Mastercard $0 $2,000 No ATM fees when using St.George, Westpac, BankSA or Bank of Melbourne ATMs in Australia. Deposit at least $2,000 per month and enjoy no monthly service fee. Open More
St.George Complete Freedom Account
$0 Overseas ATM fee when you withdraw from the Global ATM alliance network.
Visa $0 $2,000 No account keeping fees, if you deposit $2,000 per month plus no minimum balance required. No ATM fees when using St.George, Westpac and BankSA ATMs. Open More
Bank of Melbourne Express Freedom
$0 Overseas ATM fee when you withdraw from the Global ATM alliance network.
Visa $0 $1,000 No ATM fees when you use Bank of Melbourne, St.George, Westpac and BankSA ATMs. No monthly fees if you deposit $1000 into your account each month. Open More
Bankwest Qantas Transaction Account
No overseas ATM withdrawal fees (charged by Bankwest), 3rd party ATM fees and international transaction fees may still apply.
Mastercard $0 $2,000 No monthly fees when you deposit at least $2,000 into your account each month. Free access to Bankwest and CommBank ATMs in Australia. No overseas ATM withdrawal fees (charged by Bankwest) though third party fees may apply. Open More
Citibank Plus Everyday Account
No international transaction fees and no overseas ATM withdrawals fees if you use a Citibank ATM overseas.
Visa $0 $0 No ATM fees using Citibank, Westpac, BankSA and St.George branded ATMs in Australia. Use overseas Citibank ATMs for free. More
Rates last updated October 25th, 2016
Available Currencies ATM Withdrawal Fee Reload Fee Initial Load Fee
Flight Centre Key to the World Currency Card
Flight Centre Key to the World Currency Card
AUD, USD, SGD, NZD, JPY, THB, GBP, EUR, HKD, CAD USD 2.50, EUR 2.50, GBP 2.00, NZD 3.50, THB 80.00, CAD 3.50, HKD 18.00, JPY 260.00, SGD 3.50, AUD 3.50 1.1% of the total amount $0 Go to site More
Travelex Travel Card
Travelex Travel Card
AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD Travelex does not charge an ATM withdrawal fee when you use your Travelex Multi-currency Cash Passport to withdraw currencies that are loaded on the card at overseas ATMs where MasterCard is accepted. The greater of 1.1% of the initial load / reload amount or AU$15.00 $0 Go to site More

What currency can I use in Sri Lanka?

The official and only 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 LKR 5,000). You’ll need to change Australian dollars to LKR or withdraw rupees from an ATM when you arrive.

How much rupee should you bring on your trip?

Simple guesthouse
$13 - $35 per night
Double room in a nice place
$40 - $110 per night
5 star hotel
$110 above - per night

Fish Curry and Mixed Rice

$1 - $4

Meals at hotel/restaurant
$12 - $23
Meals at top-end places
$26 above
carBus fares
$3 per day
Hire bikes, ride trains and use acar and driver some days
$23 per day
Daily use of car and driver
$59 for a day

Based on the exchange rate of 1 AUD = 111.96 Sri Lankan Rupee

Exchange rate history (AUD to LKR)

YearAverage annual exchange Australian Dollar (AUD) to Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR)
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Should it be a travel card, a credit card, or a debit card?

Are you travelling to Sri Lanka and looking to find the best way to take your travel money? Let's 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 optionProsConsiderations
Debit cards for travel
  • Avoid currency conversion fees on foreign transactions
  • Emergency cash facilities
  • Ideal for managing your travel budget
  • Currency conversion and international ATM fees
  • Can't be used over the counter
  • No emergency cash
  • No backup cards
Prepaid travel money cards
  • Protected by PIN & 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 fee
  • Reloading time
  • No fee - Assuming cardholder is spending on a currency loaded onto the card
Credit cards for travel
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Access to funds up to your credit limit
  • Accepted worldwide
  • No currency conversion/ transaction fees
  • Benefits including rewards points on spending, 0% purchases, frequent flyer perks
  • Emergency card replacement
  • Can charge high withdrawal and cash advance fees
  • Higher spending limit (depends on your approved credit limit)
Traveller's cheques
  • Secure and can be easily replaced if lost or stolen
  • Photo I.D. needed to cash cheques
  • Can be costly with initial purchase charges
  • Not all merchants accept traveller's cheques
  • Greater payment flexibility
  • Convenience
  • More difficult to manage expenses
  • Higher risk of theft
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How travel cards, debit cards, credit cards and traveller’s cheques work in Sri Lanka

Using credit cards

Credit cards are another option to consider when travelling in Sri Lanka. Like all travel money options, it has its benefits and drawbacks. Consider some of the following factors associated with using your credit card overseas:

Currency conversion fees. Most Australian credit cards will charge a currency conversion fee of around 3% if you use your card to make purchases in a foreign currency. To reduce your expenses, look for a credit card designed for overseas use that doesn’t charge these fees.

ATM withdrawals. Credit cards aren’t designed for cash withdrawals, so you’ll probably accrue a high cash advance fee if you use your card for ATM withdrawals in Australia or overseas. As you’re most likely to use cash in Sri Lanka, you may want to consider carrying a debit or prepaid card for cash withdrawals and leave your credit card for large EFTPOS or emergency purchases. Compare credit cards that don’t charge overseas ATM withdrawals here.

  • Acceptance. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in Sri Lanka, so you should have no problem using this type of card while you’re travelling.
  • Rewards. Some credit cards are linked to a rewards or frequent flyer program, which could be a smart way to earn points on your holiday purchases. Some cards even offer bonus points for overseas transactions.
  • Insurance. Credit cards designed for overseas use often come with complimentary travel insurance for you and the family members travelling with you. You may be required to pay for a percentage of your travel costs with the card to qualify, so make sure to read over the insurance policy.

Using prepaid travel cards in Sri Lanka

You can load Australian dollars onto a prepaid travel card, which can be transferred to multiple supported currencies. Here are some of the benefits and drawbacks you should consider:

  • Supported currencies. Unfortunately, no Australian prepaid card currently supports LKR, so you’ll probably incur currency conversion or foreign transaction fees if you use a travel money card in Sri Lanka.
  • ATM withdrawals. Travel cards charge different ATM fees depending on the currency you’re withdrawing. You can check the review page or product disclosure statement (PDS) relevant to your card to see how much ATM visits will cost you.
  • Locked-in exchange rates. Prepaid travel cards lock in your exchange rate at the time of loading the funds, so your money is protected against negative exchange rate fluctuations while you’re travelling.
  • Access to your own funds. Unlike a line of credit, a prepaid card carries preloaded funds from your savings account. This can help curb overspending and give you a more realistic understanding of your travel budget when you’re overseas.

Using travel money debit cards

Debit cards can be a good way to access your savings overseas, but there are some drawbacks you need to be aware of. Consider some of the benefits and restrictions below:

  • ATM alliances. Some Australian debit cards belong to ATM alliances, so you can withdraw funds from specific ATMs overseas without incurring a withdrawal fee. Unlike a credit card, you can also enjoy withdrawing cash without the burden of a cash advance fee.
  • Currency conversion. Unless your card is designed for overseas use, you’ll be charged a currency conversion fee if you use your card to make purchases in a foreign currency.
  • Use your cash. Like a prepaid card, a debit card only has access to your savings. This can help you keep your travel budget in check and prevent you from overspending.

Taking cash in Sri Lanka

It’s prohibited to bring more than a small amount of LKR into and out of Sri Lanka. At some point, you will need to get money changed or make an ATM withdrawal.

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Get familiar with the Sri Lankan rupee

The Sri Lankan rupee comes in the following denominations. 1, 2, 5, 10, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000. 10 rupees is the lowest denomination banknote.

sri lankan rupee

Exchanging money

You should wait until you arrive in Sri Lanka to get the bulk of your money changed. Money exchange offices in Sri Lanka can change Australian dollars to rupees. You can bring up to LKR5,000 to Sri Lanka from Australia, which is approximately AUD$50, or you can bring up to the Australian dollar equivalent of USD$5,000.

LKR is a minor international currency. Exchange offices in Australia charge a higher commission compared to getting your money changed when you arrive in Sri Lanka. Exchange offices at Colombo and Hambantota airports offer rates that compete with what you can get on the street, 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 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Licensed money changers such as jewellers and designated exchange offices may offer a better rate than banks. The rate may change depending on the denominations you want to change. For example, you may be able to get a better rate exchanging AUD$100 notes compared to multiples of AUD$20.

Hotels and street money changers

If you can, avoid changing money at your hotel. Hotels usually offer a worse rate than banks and dedicated money changers, and a commission may also be applied to the transaction.

Street money changers may offer an attractive rate, but there’s a higher chance of being ripped off. These people are practised at sleight of hand and have been known to short-change tourists. It’s better to be safe than sorry and get your money changed at the airport or at a bank. Spend a few extra dollars to ensure you end up ahead.

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

The other option to get LKR is to withdraw cash from an ATM when you arrive. Cash withdrawals using your credit card (not recommended) or debit card are subject to the Visa or MasterCard foreign exchange rate. The Visa and MasterCard rate is close to the interbank rate. The downside is the charge for using an international ATM. A local ATM operator fee and international ATM fee will apply.

Find cash and ATM's in Sri Lanka

The banks to use to withdraw cash

Not all banks accept foreign cards. You can make cash withdrawals using your Australian 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 holiday in Sri Lanka

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Frequently asked questions

How can I send money to Sri Lanka from Australia?

You can easily send money from Australia to Sri Lanka using an online money transfer service. We answer this question in more detail in our guide to transferring money to Sri Lanka.

What’s the best way to get LKR in Sri Lanka? Cash or card?

If you’re asking whether it’s better to take Australian dollars to change when you arrive in Sri Lanka or make ATM withdrawals, it depends on the card you use to make a withdrawal and ATM fees vs the exchange rate on offer plus any commission.

What’s the best place to exchange cash in Sri Lanka?

You have a couple of options. Hotels, licensed money changers, street exchange vendors and banks all accept Australian dollars. Hotels can be convenient, but you’ll pay more. Banks and licensed money changers are a safe bet. These places usually offer a rate somewhere in the middle in terms of value for money. There are exchange offices at the international airports where you can get your money changed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

When are banks open in Sri Lanka?

Most banks are open 9am to 1pm, Monday to Saturday. Banks in the city may stay open until 3pm. Some services at some banks are available 24 hours a day.

How much can I withdraw from an ATM in Sri Lanka?

ATM limits in Sri Lanka vary depending on the ATM provider. Some ATMs can dispense up to LKR40,000 - LKR80,000 at a time. Limits may be higher, and you will be advised about transaction limits when you insert your card into the ATM. You can make multiple withdrawals up to your bank’s maximum daily withdrawal limit.

What do I do with my leftover LKR?

There are restrictions on the amount of LKR you can take out of Sri Lanka, so you should get any leftover rupees changed to another currency before you leave the country. You can do this in the departure lobby of the airport before you board your plane. You should have been provided with an exchange slip when you first changed your money to LKR. Show this slip to get your money changed back before you leave the country.

How much should I tip when I’m in Sri Lanka?

A tip can be a great way to show your appreciation for a job well done. It’s not compulsory to tip, but there is some expectation of a reward for most direct services such as room cleaning, carrying bags, drink and food service and guided tours. An additional ‘service charge’ is included in some bills, like when you dine out at a restaurant or when you settle your hotel bill. This additional charge is collected by the owner of the business and the money may not end up in the hands of the people who have served you. Tip waiters, cleaners or staff directly to make sure they get the money.

Guidelines for tipping:

Tip restaurant and bar staff and drivers 10% of the total bill, 100 rupees a day for cleaners and 50 rupees (per bag) for porters. If you’re visiting a temple or shrine, tip shoe minders 20 rupees. Island car tours will expect a little more, but it’s your decision to tip as much as you feel is necessary to show your gratitude for a service well (or not so well) done.

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This page was last modified on 19 April 2016 at 12:08.

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2 Responses to Travel Money Guide: Sri Lanka

  1. Default Gravatar
    | July 23, 2016

    What banks in sri lanka are affiliated with westpac

    • Staff
      May | July 24, 2016

      Hi Ron,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      Unfortunately, Westpac does not have a bank affiliate in Sri Lanka. Please visit their website to find out their Global ATM Alliance Partners instead.


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