Banks and ATMs are common in cities (like Colombo and Kandy) and larger towns will usually have at least one ATM. Moneychangers can be found in major tourist areas and offer cash-only rates that are a little higher than you’ll get from a bank. If you choose to go this route, avoid unlicensed moneychangers as there is a good possibility that you'll get ripped off. ATMs are safer but often only issue large bills, but you can always break these in a bank. Use your credit cards in top-end hotels and restaurants; smaller establishments don't accept plastic.

Currency and Exchange

The national currency of Sri Lanka is the rupee (Rs). It is divided into 100 cents, although you are unlikely to see these. Bills come in 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, and 2000 rupee denominations. Coins come in 1, 2, 5, and 10 rupee denominations. At this writing the exchange rate was Rs 130 to $1.


A sales tax (VAT) of 12% is added to nonessential goods and services in Sri Lanka. VAT is added to hotel room rates, along with 4.87% city tax, and often a 10% service charge. While this sounds confusing, all these additions are usually included in quoted prices.


Unlike East and Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka is a tipping nation. A 10% service charge is usually added to food and accommodation bills at most mid- and top-end establishments, but this may not be passed on to the person serving. Leave a few rupees extra for the waiter. Taxi drivers also expect a tip. As a rule of thumb, tip 10% of the total amount due. Tip hotel porters Rs 50, and if visiting a temple, leave a donation and also offer something (Rs 20 is enough) to the person who minds your shoes.

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