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Travel money guide: Sri Lanka

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.

Compare travel money options for Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka's currency, the Sri Lankan rupee, is a closed currency, meaning you can't get cash out before you depart Australia and you'll need to go to an ATM or exchange cash on arrival. We compare the options for travel-friendly credit cards, debit cards and pre-paid money cards below, so you can see ATM withdrawl fees, load/reload fees and currency conversion fees to find the best option for you.

Rates last updated October 23rd, 2018
Name Product Foreign Currency Conversion Fee Overseas ATM Withdrawal Fee Overseas Cash Advance Fee Annual fee Product Description
Bankwest Zero Platinum Mastercard
0% of transaction value
$0
2% of transaction amount or $4 (whichever is greater)
$0 p.a.
Offers a $0 annual fee, 0% foreign transaction fees, complimentary international travel insurance and a balance transfer offer.
28 Degrees Platinum Mastercard
0% of transaction value
$0
3% of the cash advance or $4 (whichever is greater)
$0 p.a.
No foreign transaction fees on international purchases including international purchases online, together with a no annual fee.
Bankwest Breeze Platinum Mastercard
0% of transaction value
$0
2% of transaction amount or $4 (whichever is greater)
$99 p.a.
Receive a 0% p.a. interest rate on purchases and balance transfers for 13 months, complimentary travel insurance and 0% foreign transaction fees.
ANZ Rewards Travel Adventures card
0% of transaction value
$5
$0
$225 p.a.
Receive 40,000 bonus Velocity Points, 2 yearly Virgin Australia lounge passes, plus enjoy $0 overseas purchase transaction fees.

Compare up to 4 providers

Rates last updated October 23rd, 2018
$
Name Product Product Description Debit Card Access ATM Withdrawal Fee Monthly Account Fee Overseas ATM Withdrawal Fee Overseas Eftpos Fee
ING Orange Everyday Account
Receive a rebate on any international transaction fees and international ATM fees when you deposit at least $1,000 a month and make at least 5 card purchases.
Visa
$0
$2.50
2.5%
NAB Classic Banking with Platinum Visa Debit Card
$10 cashback on contactless purchases, $0 foreign transaction fee and complimentary travel insurance.
$10 monthly account fee.
Receive $10 cashback when you spend $1000 on contactless purchases. Complimentary travel insurance, transport accident insurance, purchase protection insurance and more when you meet eligibility criteria.
Visa
$0
$5
0%
HSBC Everyday Global Account
No foreign ATM or transaction fees.
$0 monthly account fee.
Enjoy no minimum ongoing balance or transaction requirements and the flexibility to hold up to 10 currencies. Apple Pay and Google Pay available.
Visa
$0
$0
$0
Citi Global Currency Account
Hold up to 10 currencies.
$0 monthly account fee.
Enjoy one linked debit card to hold up to 10 currencies and receive foreign currencies for free. Earn up to 2.25% p.a. interest on your AUD balance.
Mastercard
$0
$0
$0

Compare up to 4 providers

Rates last updated October 23rd, 2018
Name Product Description Available Currencies ATM Withdrawal Fee Reload Fee Initial Load Fee
Hold up to 10 currencies and lock in your exchange rate. No load, reload or transaction fees on purchases and part of a worldwide ATM alliance.
AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD
AUD 3.50, USD 2.50, GBP 2.00, EUR 2.20, NZD 4.50, CAD 3.00, HKD 20.00, SGD 4.00, THB 95, JPY 260

0%
$0
Earn up to 15,000 bonus Qantas Points when you load foreign currency onto your Qantas Travel Money card before 31 October 2018.
AUD, AED, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD
AUD 1.95, CAD 2.00, EUR 1.50, GBP 1.25, HKD 15.00, JPY 160, NZD 2.50, SGD 2.50, USD 1.95, THB 70.00, AED 6.50

1%
$0

Compare up to 4 providers

Rates last updated October 23rd, 2018
Name Product Description Minimum Order Amount Maximum Order Amount Delivery/Pickup Method Commission Fees
Order over 60 currencies online at the best price against the Australian dollar and collect at one of over 130 locations across Australia.
$500
$10,000
In Store or At Airport
$0
Travelex makes it easy to exchange and get the best rate on over 40 currencies so you can be prepared for your next holiday.
$500
$5,000
In Store or At Airport
$0
Order multiple currencies in one transaction and have it delivered directly to your door anywhere in Australia.
$9,000
In Store or Home Delivery
$0

Compare up to 4 providers

What should I know about money for Sri Lanka

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 option Pros Considerations
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 on some credit cards
  • 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
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.

So, what's the best way to take money to 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 to 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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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.

Exchange rate history (AUD to LKR)

Year Average annual exchange Australian Dollar (AUD) to Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR)
2012 117.72
2013 132.77
2014 132.77
2015 107.17
2016 105.61
2017 106.94
2018 119.83

*Exchange rates are for 1 January of the years listed above.

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 24/7.

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.

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.

How much Sri Lankan rupee will you need?

Colombo Budget Midrange Expensive
Simple guesthouse
$13 - $35 per night
Double room in a nice place
$40 - $110 per night
5 star hotel
$110 above - per night
to-eat

Fish Curry and Mixed Rice

$1 - $4

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

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

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What else do I need to know about money for Sri Lanka?

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6 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    RobboApril 2, 2018

    I am going on extended holiday (up to 6 months) to Sri Lanka. What is the best way for me to access cash and make purchases whilst I am there without incurring too many fees.

    • finder Customer Care
      JoanneApril 2, 2018Staff

      Hi Robbo,

      Thank you for visiting finder, we are a financial comparison website and general information service.

      You can compare prepaid travel cards, credit cards and debit cards to help you determine which option is right for you on the table above. Here at finder we are unable to make recommendations, we can offer general advise. Choosing the best option would depend on several factors and you may review the benefits of each travel cards found on this page for you to determine the one that would suit your needs.

      Cheers,
      Joanne

  2. Default Gravatar
    DeniseJuly 24, 2017

    Can I use my Suncorp Debit card in Sri Lanka?

    • Default Gravatar
      ArnoldJuly 25, 2017

      Hi Denise,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      Yes, You can use your Suncorp Debit card at over 35.9 million locations around the world, which include around 2.1 million ATMs. To use your card, all you have to do is look for the MasterCard logo. This means you can use this card to shop and pay bills at restaurants and hotels. Plus, you can use the card when shopping on international websites.

      Please note that you may be charged Currency conversion fees if you use it for transactions in Sri Lanka.

      Hope this information helped.

      Cheers,
      Arnold

  3. Default Gravatar
    July 23, 2016

    What banks in sri lanka are affiliated with westpac

    • finder Customer Care
      MayJuly 24, 2016Staff

      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.

      Cheers,
      May

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