Currency in Sri Lanka : A Guide On Using LKR

January 26, 2024
sri-lanka
  • Introduction on Sri Lankan Currency
  • Currency Notes of Sri Lanka
  • Currency Exchange in Sri Lanka
  • Places to Exchange
  • ATM Machines & Other Electronic Payment Methods
  • General Tips

As a small island nation located in the south of Asia, the currency of Sri Lanka is not familiar with the other people around the globe. Similarly, Sri Lankan people also not familiar with the other currencies as most of the countrymen are not exposed to the world. This article is to help whoever would like to know about the Sri Lankan currency mainly for those who travel in Sri Lanka and search the information for educational purposes.

“RUPEE” – The Name of the Currency of Lots of Countries in Asia

“Rupee” is a word derived from the Sanskrit language and its basic meaning is “Silver Coin”.

Rupee used to be the official currency name of several countries in Asia, the Middle East, and East Africa from the colonial period. But it is still being used as the currency in countries such as Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Maldives, Mauritius, Nepal & Seychelles.

Even though the name is the same, the value of the currency is different from each other. Ex – Sri Lanka Rupee to Indunesian Rupiah exchange rate is 1- 72**.

(** Rounded spot exchange rate on 06th May 2021)

1. Introduction to Sri Lankan Currency

LKR is the only valid & accepted currency in Sri Lanka and it is vital to note that none of the other Rupee currencies such as the Indian Rupee or Nepal rupee are not accepted in Sri Lanka. On the other hand, LKR currency can not be used in any other country outside Sri Lanka.

History of the Currencies in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has a rich history and economic prosperity which goes back to ancient times. More than 2500 years of written history prove that the strategic location of the island used to be a busy economic activity since ancient civilizations of the world.

A detailed article about the history of Sri Lankan Currency including the types of currencies, their usage, and evaluation is available on the website of Sri Lankan Central Bank.

Sri Lankan “RUPEE” – LKR

The international currency code for Sri Lankan Rupee is – LKR. Please visit the list of all the currency codes on the IBAN website.

Historical Movement of Exchange Rate

The Sri Lankan rupee has had a negative trend against the United States Dollar for more than 70 years after its independence from British colonial rulers in 1948. Please find below the rate chart from xe.com

Even though a historical trend has a huge negative trend after the war ended in 2009, the overall economy looks healthy as the economy is boosting. The strengthening of the US dollar in recent years has hurt all the currencies in the world including Sri Lanka.

 

Current Condition of LKR

The currency exchange rate has a strong connection with its economic condition. Soon after ending the war, there was a capital flow into the country, but the country could not capitalize on the opportunity by maintaining constant economic development with a long-term strategic plan. While, industries like tourism, clothing, and information technology have been maintaining a healthy development rate, total exports are still negative against the imports. Therefore current and near future condition of LKR looks vulnerable.

02. Currency Notes of Sri Lanka

After 1948 when Sri Lanka gained independence from the British Colonial days, there have been plenty of different prints of Sri Lankan currency. Some of these have been outdated by now, however, there are many versions currently in circulation as well. Since you are new to the currency, you might find it a tad hard to memorize all the valid notes.

If you would like to know about the currency notes in detail – Please visit the page of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka.

Invalid notes in Sri Lanka

Unlike in India, the issues of using old or expired currency notes have not been reported in Sri Lanka. Therefore there is minimal risk of catching expired currency notes in Sri Lanka. However knowing the currency is always helpful to use it when you are travelling in Sri Lanka.

03. Currency Exchange [ Advantages of Exchange Rate ]

One of the main reasons to travel to a South Asian country is to get the advantage of the value of the currency against the currency you hold. You get higher value in most cases against the currencies like Indian Rupee, Pakistan Rupee, or Sri Lankan Rupee. But my experience is most foreign tourists who travel to these countries won’t get the advantage due to a lack of knowledge. This is a detailed guide about currency in Sri Lanka for the people who are planning to travel to Sri Lanka.

Where Can I buy Sri Lankan Currency LKR?

Sri Lankan rupee is a closed currency, which means it is not available to buy or sell outside of Sri Lanka. (Read More on Closed Currency) If you try to buy the currency in a Currency Exchange Outlet outside Sri Lanka, it is impossible or too expensive.

Best Rates for LKR

If you are a regular traveler you might be aware that buying the currencies at the Airport is one thing you have to avoid or make it a minimum wherever you travel. Every currency bureau in the Airport has ridiculously high-profit margins. So if you can manage to come outside from the Sri Lankan Airport at Katunayake, there are a couple of currency bureaus in Negombo and lots in the capital city Colombo -Fort. My advice is to get support from your agent or guide to find those places. At Feel SL Holidays our dedicated team will guide you to buy LKR at the best rates most importantly with higher transparency. Just keep in mind that if you are changing the currencies from the outlets in Colombo Fort, make sure to bargain for a better rate. My advice is just to visit them by yourself only if you are confident about the foreign currencies, rates and also about Sri Lanka. I can tell you that buying currencies in this way is a bit risky as you could lose some money if you were cheated at one of those points.

Be aware that, visiting Sri Lanka can be one thing on your bucket list. However, make sure you will get the full benefit of its exchange rate. You can understand how expensive it can be if you are not concerned about the exchange rate of LKR.

How You Can Secure the Best Rates for LKR

According to my personal experience, the best way to secure the best LKR rate is to exchange your currency from Sri Lanka.

 

But, please note the below points if you are planning to exchange your currency in Sri Lanka.

  1. You will be able to get a better rate for all the major currencies only. Hard Currencies like USD, GBP & EUR will have the best demand from the currency outlets. Especially the higher value notes such as USD 100.00 note or GBP 50.00 may offer slightly higher rates than the other notes.
  2. If you are holding a Soft Currency such as INR (Indian Rupee), IDR (Indonesian Rupiah), or even THB (Thai Bath) you will not be able to get the best rate as the demand for those currencies is low in Sri Lanka.

Therefore it is advised to keep hard currency or USD in your hand when you are coming to Sri Lanka.

Things You Should Know Before Currency Exchange

  • You can bargain for the exchange rate. Make Sure you have an idea of the day’s exchange just by searching it online. You will get the spot rate online & if you are able to get a few rupees more than the spot rate available online, you have secured a very good exchange rate. Please note that any bank or airport will provide few rupees below to the spot rate which is available online.
  • Currency exchange can confuse you. Make sure you use your calculator to calculate the figure and ask for a receipt for the exchange transaction.
  • Do not confuse it with several notes. Be familiar with the notes first and count them.
  • Count it by yourself before leaving the exchange counter.

04. Places to Exchange Currencies in Sri Lanka – (Except the banks)

Colombo Fort

  • Crown Money Exchange – 0112 472 957
  • Capital Money Exchange – 0112 440 020
  • City Exchange – 0112 432 322
  • Asian Money Exchange – 0112 321 778

Wellawatta

  • Prasanna Money Exchange – 0112 591 420
  • Maruthi Money Exchange – 0112 362 086
  • Royal Money Exchange – 0112 587 107
  • Swiss Money Exchange – 0112 555 551

Negombo

  • Pushpa Jewellers – 0312 233 857
  • Jewel Lanka – 0312 226 335
  • Ran Lanka – 0312 222 202
  • Mayurie Exchange – 0312 226 555

Habarana/ Sigiriya

  • Athukorala & Sons – 071 836 8499

Kandy

  • Vasanthas Money Exchange –
  • Thomas Cook Lanka – 0812 205 811
  • SKS Ibrahim Jewellers – 0814 473 311

Galle

  • Galle Money Exchange – 077 219 6655

Selling back LKR back to your currency

After traveling in beautiful Sri Lanka, you hardly keep any money to take with you when leaving. You might have some change money with you and those are not worth exchanging back to your currency. However, in an occasion where you will have to exchange LKR back to USD or any other currency, please note some of the tips apart from the points mentioned above.

  1. Most of the foreign currency outlets outside Sri Lanka do not accept LKR. Therefore if you need to exchange them, Colombo Airport is the final location.
  2. You will get a lower rate when exchanging back to USD, therefore it is advised that unless you want better to use LKR to spend on your requirement.

05. ATMs and other Electronic Payment Methods in Sri Lanka

Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are widely available in almost all the towns of Sri Lanka. Most of them are VISA & MASTERCARD supported and you will be able to use them according to the conditions of your bank. There are limited AMEX & other payment methods also available in only a small number of ATMs available in Colombo city

Electronic Payment Methods.

Most of the reputed hotels, restaurants, and supermarkets accept Visa Cards or Master Cards as a payment method. However, the only security measure Sri Lankan service providers use is the customer’s signature. Hardly any person double-checks the signature with the signature on the backside.  Therefore be aware of ATM card thefts as anyone can use it after taking them from you.

Amex, Union Pay & Ali Pay

Even though there is an Amex service providing bank in Sri Lanka, most hotels and restaurants do not accept Amex credit cards. Therefore it is advised not to use Amex credit card as your main cash source when travelling in Sri Lanka.

Since China has become one of the largest traveling nationalities, most of their payment methods are popular around the World. However, there are selected hotels, restaurants, and some Gems and Tea shops that provide the Union Pay & Ali Pay facilities to their customers. But mainly those payment methods are not common in Sri Lanka.

Reputed Banks in Sri Lanka

Apart from the bank listed above which is available islandwide network, there are several other national & international banks available in the city of Colombo.

06. General Tips When Using Hard Cash in Sri Lanka.

Commonly Used Denominations

The highest valued denomination is LKR 5000.00 and the lowest denomination is LKR 20.00

If you wish to keep your hard cash in your pocket without making it too fat, LKR 5000 s are the ideal which you can keep large amounts without keeping lots of notes. But if you wish to use the money, I would suggest you keep at least in LKR 1000.00 notes which is much easier to use without any delays. I always think it is a social responsibility to buy from locals and small vendors while we are traveling around the world.

Double Check the Change

Normally Sri Lanka is a decent country that is famous for its immense hospitality for its visitors. However, commercialization has changed the culture, especially in cities and tourist areas. There can be some attempts to change scams, even though it is rare it is advised to double-check whether you have received the correct amount of change from anyoutlets, transport services etc.

07. Conclusion.

Using currencies has similar patterns all around the World. However, there are some unique practices too. Sri Lanka do not have more unique practices however, it is suggested to keep some hard cash with you as it always helps you to buy something from small vendors which helps the industry benefits to be distributed among the entire society.

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