Sri Lanka in detail

Money and Costs

Daily Costs

Budget: Less than Rs 6000

  • Simple guesthouse: Rs 2000–3500
  • Local rice and curry: Rs 150–350
  • Bus fares: under Rs 300 per day

Midrange: Rs 6000–20,000

  • Double room in a good place: Rs 3500–9000
  • Meals at hotel/restaurant: Rs 1000–3000
  • Hire bikes, ride trains and use a car and driver some days: average per day Rs 3000

Top end: More than Rs 20,000

  • Top-end hotel: Rs 9000 and up
  • Meals at top-end places: from Rs 3000
  • Daily use of car and driver: from Rs 9000


Sri Lankan Rupee (Rs)


Unless you are shopping at a fixed-price shop, you must bargain. Generally, if someone quotes you a price, halve it. The seller will come down about halfway to your price, and the last price will be a little higher than half the original price. Try and keep a sense of perspective. Chances are you’re arguing over less than US$1.


ATMs available in cities and large towns. Credit cards accepted at most midrange and all top-end hotels.


ATMs are easily found in towns and cities of any size. ATMs often issue Rs 5000 notes. Try to break a few as soon as possible as small vendors may not accept large notes: you can usually do this inside the bank that operates the ATM.


Any bank or exchange bureau will change major currencies in cash, including US dollars, euros and British pounds. Change rupees back into hard currency at the airport (before security, there are no exchange counters after) prior to leaving, as even nearby countries may not exchange Sri Lankan currency.

Credit Cards

MasterCard and Visa are the most commonly accepted credit cards. Cards are generally accepted at most midrange and all top-end hotels and restaurants.


The Sri Lankan currency is the rupee (Rs), which is divided into 100 cents; pricing in cents is rare. Rupee coins come in denominations of one, two, five and 10 rupees. Notes come in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000 and 5000 rupees.

Exchange Rates

AustraliaA$1Rs 114
CanadaC$1Rs 112
Europe€1Rs 166
Japan¥100Rs 136
New ZealandNZ$1Rs 105
UKUK£1Rs 195
USAUS$1Rs 152

For current exchange rates, see


Money changers can be found in Colombo and major tourist centres. Their rates are competitive, but choose carefully, as money-exchange scams abound. Stick to banks or reputable offices, such as those at the airport. ATMs are safer and more reliable.


Although a 10% service charge is added to food and accommodation bills, this usually goes straight to the owner rather than the worker.

  • Restaurants and bars 10% in cash to servers beyond the 'service charge'
  • Drivers 10%
  • Room cleaners Up to Rs 100 per day
  • Bag carriers/porters Rs 50 per bag
  • Shoe minders at temples Rs 30
  • Guides Varies greatly; agree to a fee before you set out