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Currency and Spending Money (Sri Lanka)

In Sri Lanka, the local currency is known as the ‘rupee’ and is written as LKR. 1 rupee is divided into 100 cents. Rupee notes are in the denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 1000 and 2000. Coins are in denominations of 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents, 50 cents, one rupee, two rupees, five rupees and ten rupees.

Here is a reference table of approximate exchange rate (for up-to-date exchange rates, please check xe.com before you travel):

1 Unit of currency Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR)
AU$1 219
US$1 329

Correct as of 04 December 2023.

We recommend that you have access to more than one source of money – bringing a combination of cash and a credit/debit card will give the most security and flexibility while travelling.

Exchanging money

We recommend exchanging money prior to departure at banks, money exchanges, or at international airports in Australia. It is possible to exchange money at your arrival airport and some banks in Sri Lanka, we recommend bringing USD which is more widely accepted.

Plan ahead

Be prepared with enough cash in hand for the next few days. Once you have started your tour, you will quickly get a sense of how often or how much you need to exchange money. Try not to leave this to the last minute: exchange desks can close, ATMs can run out of cash and your group could be scheduled to leave your hotel at 7am tomorrow morning!

Spending money

We recommend you take some local currency, where possible, for the country you are visiting as well as US Dollars. We also recommend taking a debit and/or credit card. Please ensure you have sufficient funds to pay for personal expenses such as drinks, snacks, souvenirs, additional tipping and optional extras. On an average two week tour, we would recommend approximately $500-1,000 per person spending money, depending on your needs.

Please ensure that you organise your spending money before you leave a major town and take enough cash in local currency to spend during your stay.

The cost of food and drinks in Sri Lanka can vary depending on where you are and what you are looking for. Here are some rough estimates of the cost of common food and drink items in Sri Lanka:

  • Tea: around 30 LKR 0.14 AUD) per cup
  • Meal at a cheap restaurant: around 500 LKR (2.32AUD)
  • Meal for 2 people at a mid-range restaurant, 3 course: around 4000 LKR (18.57 AUD)
  • Meal at a high-end restaurant: around 6.500 (30.18 AUD)
  • Cappuccino (regular): around 544 LKR (2.53 AUD)
  • Espresso coffee: around 381 LKR (1.77 AUD)
  • Bottle of water (500ml): around 15 to 20 INR (0.25 to 0.35 AUD)
  • Domestic beer (0.5 litre): around 450 LKR (2.90 AUD)
  • Imported beer (0.33 litre): around 650 LKR (3.02 AUD)
  • Soft drink (0.33 litre): around 157 LKR (0.73 AUD)
  • Water (0.33 litre): around 74 LKR (0.34 AUD)

It's important to note that prices can vary depending on the location and type of establishment. In general, eating at a local restaurant or street vendor will be more affordable than dining at a higher-end restaurant or café. Whilst inexpensive, it is important to check that street food is prepared in hygienic conditions.

Keep some of your exchange receipts

You can convert any unused notes at the international airport exchange desks when you depart. You will need to present your passport, airline ticket and some receipts of the money exchanged/withdrawn in Sri Lanka.

Counterfeit cash

This is a problem in Sri Lanka so shop owners and clerks at banks or exchange desks are very cautious and can refuse to accept notes in bad condition. It is a good idea to stand at the desk to count and check the condition of each note. Do not accept any notes which are torn, very faded, a different shade, have ink stamps or any writing on them. If you accept the notes and sign the exchange receipt, then notice a problem, you will not be able to exchange them.

Credit/debit card

Taking one credit/debit card is recommended in case of emergency and may be used for large purchases in most of your hotels, department stores and souvenir stores. The most widely accepted credit cards include Visa, MasterCard and American Express. However, please do not rely on a credit/ debit card as your only source of spending money and keep a photocopy of your card(s).


While most major towns and cities in Sri Lanka have ATMs, it's important to note that not all of them accept international cards. However, you can still withdraw cash from Visa and MasterCard cards at most major banks. Additionally, hotels and major shops in Sri Lanka generally accept credit cards. However, we advise against relying solely on ATMs as they can be unreliable, and the withdrawal fees for credit and debit accounts can be quite high. Before you travel, we recommend checking with your bank to ensure that your cards will work in Sri Lanka. It's also a good idea to regularly check your statements for any signs of credit card fraud or card-skimming incidents.

Remote areas

Banking facilities are very basic and you will need to plan ahead with more care. ATMs in remote areas or rural regions are unreliable and should not be used as a source of money. Few hotels, restaurants or shops are able to take credit/ debit cards and Australian currency is not well recognised.