Currency in Sri Lanka : A Guide On Using LKR

Sri Lanka’s official Currency is Sri Lankan Rupee – LKR. This article explain everything you should know about LKR; the best way to exchange them, how practically use them when travelling in Sri Lanka and many more.

Contents of the Article

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 and educational purposes etc.

"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 the number of countries in Asia, Middle East and East Africa from the colonial period but still it is the name of 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 totally different to each other. Ex – Sri Lanka Rupee to Indunesian Rupiah exchange rate is 1- 77**. 

(** Rounded spot exchange rate on 06th December 2019)

1. Introduction on 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 Indian Rupees or Nepal rupees are not accepted in Sri Lanka. On the other hand LKR currency can not use in any other country outside the Sri Lanka.

History of the Currencies in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has a rich history and economic prosperity which goes back to the ancient time.More than 2500 years of written history proves that the strategic location of the island used to be busy economic activities since ancient civilisations of the world.

Detailed article about the history of Sri Lankan Currency including the types of currencies, its usage and evaluation is available in the website of Sri Lankan Central Bank.

Sri Lankan "RUPEE" - LKR

International currency code for Sri Lankan Rupee is – LKR. Please visit the list of all the currency codes in IBAN website

Historical Movement of Exchange Rate

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

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

Current Condition of LKR

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 capitalise the opportunity by maintaining the constant economic development with a long term strategic plan. While, industries like tourism, clothing, information technology has 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 in which 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.

LKR 20 note - Sri Lanka
LKR 20 Note
LKR 50 note - Sri Lanka
LKR 50 note - Sri Lanka
LKR 100 note - Sri Lanka
LKR 500 note - Sri Lanka
LKR 50 note - Sri Lanka
LKR 1000 note - Sri Lanka
LKR 5000 note - Sri Lanka
LKR 50 note - Sri Lanka

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

Invalid notes in Sri Lanka

Unlike in India, the issues on using old or expired currency notes has not reported in Sri Lanka. Therefore there is minimal risk of catch in to 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

Advantage of exchange Rate

One of the main reasons to travel in 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 in these countries won’t get the advantage due to lack of knowledge. This is a detailed guide about currency in Sri Lanka for the people who are planning to travel 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 traveller you might be aware that buying the currencies at the Airport is one thing you have to avoid or make it minimum wherever you travel. Each and every currency bureaus in 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 capital city Colombo -Fort. My advice is to get the support from your agent or guide to find those places. At Feel SL Holidays our dedicated team will guide you to buy LKR in  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 visit them by yourself only if you are confident about the foreign currencies, rates and also about Sri Lanka. I can tell you that to buy 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 of 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 concern on 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 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 are 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 on day’s exchange just searching it online. You will get the spot rate online & if you will be 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 own calculator to calculate the figure and ask for a receipt for the exchange transaction. 
  • Do not confuse with number of notes. Be familiar with the notes first and count it. 
  • Count it by yourself prior to leave 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 travelling in beautiful Sri Lanka, you hardly keep some money to take with you when leaving. You might have some change money with you and those are not really worth to exchange 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 forieng currency outlets outside Sri Lanka do not accept LKR. Therefore if you really 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 really want better to use LKR to spend on your requirement. 

05. ATM machines and other Electronic Payment Methods in Sri Lanka

Automated Teller Machines (ATM) are widely available 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 own bank. There are limited AMEX & other payment methods also available in only small number of ATMs only 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 back side.  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 been becoming one of the largest travelling nationality, most of their payments methods are popular around the World. However, there are selected hotels, restaurants and some Gems and Tea shops provide the Union Pay & Ali Pay facilties 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 available islandwide network, there are number of other national & international banks available in the city of Colombo. 

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

Commonly Used Denominations

Highest valued denomination LKR 5000.00 and 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 amount without keeping lots of notes. But if you wish to use the money, I would suggest you to 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 travelling around the world. 

Double Check the Change

Normally Sri Lanka is a decent country which is famous for its immence of hospitality for its visitors. However, commercialisation has changed the culture especially in cities and touristic areas. There can be some attempts 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 help you to buy something from small vendors which helps the industry benefits to be distributed among the entire society. 

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