Sri Lanka has a unified exchange rate for foreign currencies which floats in response to basic change market developments (rates available at Banks/Hotels).
Sri Lanka Currency
Sri Lanka has a decimal currency system. One Sri Lanka rupee is divided into 100 Sri Lanka cents. Currency notes are in the denominations of Rs. 20/-, Rs. 50/-, Rs. 100/-, Rs. 500/-, Rs. 1000/- and Rs. 5000/-. Denominations are clearly marked in figures on both sides of notes and stated in English in addition to Sinhala and tamil. Coins commonly in use are the following denominations; 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents, 50 cents, One Rupee, Two Rupees, Five Rupees and Ten Rupees.
Visitors to Sri Lanka bringing in excess of US$ 10,000 should declare the amount to the Customs. All unspent monies, which were converted from foreign currencies declared on arrival, can be re-converted to original currency. You are required to produce encashment receipts or payment bills.
Many hotels and shops accept reputed Credit Cards. No surcharge should be permitted for its use. Cash advances are possible against credit cards in certain banks.
Retain some of your hotel and shopping receipts, especially for gems. These would make Customs clearance easy.
Banking facilities have grown and widened tremendously to cope with the sophisticated needs of today’s businessman. Sri Lankan and foreign banks provide an expanding range of services to investors.
Banks keep increasingly flexible hours to suit customer convenience. All banks are open from 0900 hours to 1500 hrs Monday to Friday. Some banks are open on Saturdays for a limited number of hours for transactions. Most of the banks are closed on Sundays, all Public Holidays.
T: 2439541. Open from 0900 to 1600 hrs on weekdays for encashment & issue of Travellers Cheques.
T: 2422730. Open 365 days (8.30 am to 6.00 pm on weekdays, 8.30 am to 4 pm on weekends).
T: 2252424. Open 24 hrs on all days of the year for Issue & Encashment of Foreign Exchange.
BOC TRAVEL (Pvt) Ltd – 1st Floor, Bank of Ceylon, Super Grade Building, Baseline Rd, Colombo 08. T: 2688155. Open from 0830 to 1700 hrs on weekdays & 0900 to 1300 hrs on Saturdays for Airline ticketing.
City Office: 76, York Street, Colombo 01. (365 Day Banking) T: 4711402/7
The new Electronic Travel Authorization System was introduced recently, to grant prior approval for Visa online for foreign nationals instead of the ‘on arrival visa’ system. Visa fee for SAARC nations will be US$20 and for other countries US$35. T: 5329000. Anyone could log on to www.eta.gov.lk to obtain your Visa. For details contact: the Department of Emigration and Immigration, Ananda Rajakaruna Mw., Maradana, Colombo 10. The Government of Sri Lanka will take action against visitors to the country who overstay their visas.
Entry to the Bandaranaike International Airport, Katunayake, is restricted except for embarking passengers. Those who wish to meet incoming passengers may do so by purchasing a ticket.
Is currently Rs. 1500/- at Airport, included in the ticket. (subject to change).
Departure and Transit Lounge
There are several shops in the Transit & Departure Lounge of the Bandaranaike International Airport, Katunayake which sell gems, ceramics, handicrafts, batiks, cut-flowers, books and picture postcards of Sri Lanka. Payment is accepted only in Foreign Currency.
Duty Free Shops
The Duty Free Shop at the Transit & Departure Lounge of the Bandaranaike International Airport, Katunayake has an extensive range in well known brands of liquor, hi-fi equipment, wrist watches, cameras, films, perfumes, cosmetics, electrical appliances, cigarette lighters and souvenirs.
Payment is accepted only in Foreign Currency. Passengers arriving in Sri Lanka could also buy their requirements of duty free liquor from the duty free counter which is situated after immigration checkpoints.
Visitors are required to re-export articles brought in as personal effects. Make sure that you take back cameras and photographic equipment and any transistor radios, recorders and sound equipment declared on arrivals. The customs check is usually oral. However, random examinations of baggage are carried out.
Do not carry dangerous Drugs. Drugs mean death by law & effect.
Purchases made in Sri Lanka out of foreign currency brought in, can be exported duty free, up to a certain limit.
Ceylon tea is considered the best in the world. It is sold everywhere. The Ceylon Tea Promotion Bureau sells special high quality gift tea packs at their sales points at the bandaranaike International Airport, Katunayake, at the Colombo Passenger Jetty and the office of the Bureau, 574, Galle Road, Colombo 03. Monday to Friday 0900 – 1700 hrs. Saturdays 0900 – 1300. Tel: 2553652.
The Ceylon Tea Counter situated at the Lobby of the airport sells the best Ceylon Tea. Packeted tea is available at this counter.
Note: Tea could be purchased for local currency at the airport, only at the Tea Counter in the outer lobby. No local currency is accepted at the Tea Counter within the transit & Departure Lounge. Tea can be the best gift to buy from your last Sri Lanka rupees. If you intend to take more than 7 kg you need to obtain a letter of permission from the Tea Bureau.
No antique could be exported. Also restricted is the export of rare books, palm leaf manuscripts and rare anthropological material. For the export of rare books and palm leaf manuscripts and antiques (sometimes allowed on special application), permits are necessary from the Director of National Archives and the Archeological Commissioner, respectively. Articles more than 50 years old are considered antiques.
Sri Lanka Gem and Jewellery Exchange (SLGJE) is a Government Institution, which comes under the purview of the National Gem and Jewellery Authority of Sri Lanka (NGJA). It functions as a Service Centre to facilitate the export oriented gem and jewellery trade.
The “SLGJE” houses 38 shops which offer for sale a wide range of precious and semi precious gems as well as jewellery both handcrafted and machine made. There are 52 members of the Exchange out of which 32 are Life Members. Gem Testing laboratory which is part of the “SLGJE” and operated by the “NGJA”, offers a free gem testing facility to foreigners. Sri Lanka Gem & Jewellery Exchange, Level 4 & 5, East Low Block, World Trade Centre, Echelon Square – Colombo 01.
Export Facilitation Activities
The National Gem & Jewellery Authority (NGJA) has widened its scope by moving into its new Head Office Building and centralizing, following facilities needed for the Export activities on a common floor.
For Further Details:
Contact: Manager (Export Promotion)
National Gem & Jewellery Authority, 25, Galle Face Terrace, Colombo 03. T: 2390645/8.
Protected Flora and Fauna in Sri Lanka
Purchase and Export without license of any wild animal, bird or reptile dead or alive; also the export of parts of such animal – bird or reptile, such as skins, horns, scales and feathers is prohibited under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance. Occasional exports are, however, permitted exclusively for bona fide scientific purposes. It is prohibited to export over 450 plant species without special permits. All applications for special permission to export Fauna should be made to Director, Department of WildLife Conservation, 811/A, Jayanthipura, Battaramulla and Flora should be made to Director, Forest Department, 82 Rajamalwatta Road, Battaramulla. T: 2866632.
Permits for Photographing, Filming & Recording at Historical Sites
Tourists who wish to visit and/or photograph the principal ancient monuments in Sri Lanka are required to obtain a ticket from the Central Cultural Fund. Remember that in Sri Lanka, Buddhism is a living religion and most ancient monuments are still venerated.
Photography should not be done in a manner causing disrespect to the shrines, images or monuments. Posing of models in front of statues and paintings is prohibited.
There will be separate charges at each site. The cost of entry tickets Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa US$ 25 Sigiriya is US$30 per adult and half rate per child per site (accepted in rupee value per adult and half rate per child). Tickets are available at the office of the Central Cultural Fund, 212/1 Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 07. T: 2587912, 2500732/3, or Central Cultural Fund Project Offices at Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya and Kandy.
These permits will not cover photography at Dalada Maligawa (the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic), Kandy and the Aukana Temple. In Kandy permits are obtainable daily at Temple entrance. Rs. 1,500 for European nationals and Rs. 500 for nationals from SAARC Countries. Only authorised guides attached to the Temple are permitted within the Shrine.
Aukana & Dambulla
The Permit could be obtained at the temple premises. (Above rates depend on existing exchange rates and are subject to change).
All visitors to Bddhist and Hindu temples are expected to be unshod and have their heads covered. Buddhists do not object to visitors offering flowers at the feet of the Buddha. If you wish to make any donation or contribution, put it into a till in the temple. You may not be allowed entry to the inner sanctum of Hindu temples.
It is best to be decently clad when visiting any place of worship. Sun and beachwear are not the ideal for temples and shrines. Briefs, shorts, bare shoulders and backs may not be appreciated. You may not be stiff and overdressed. Just comfortable and decently covered.
What to wear
Light cotton dresses of the drip-dry wash-and-wear variety and lightweight suits are the most comfortable year round attire. A wide-brimmed beach hat and sun-glasses are recommended. Slippers or sandals will be more comfortable than shoes. Medium weight slacks and pullovers will be necessary in the hill country where the temperature can go down to as low as 50oF (10oC).
Alcoholic drinks are freely available at public bars, restaurants, wine shops, stores & supermarkets. However sale of liquor is prohibited on Poya Days (Full Moon Days). Most hotel bars and restaurants also observe this rule.
230 – 240 VOLTS 50 CYCLES A.C.
Sri Lanka has a five day week. In addition to Saturdays and Sundays and special Public Holidays, the full moon (Poya) day of each month is a public holiday. All places of entertainment (including cinemas) and bars are closed on Poya day.
Hotels make special arrangements for customers to order their drinks the day before a Poya Holiday.
Sri Lanka has two state owned TV channels: Rupavahini and the Independent Television Network (ITN). In addition to these, there are private channels – MTV, Sirasa TV, TNL, ETV, ART TV, Siyatha, Swarnavahini, derana, MAX TV, TV Lanka & Shakthi TV. 11 Stations cable and Satellite TV services available. CCTV ART TV carries CNN news bulletins. ETV, ETV carries Fox News and ART TV are exclusive English channels. English movies and documentaries are featured on other channels as well.
In addition to the state run Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC), several new private radio stations are on the air on FM bands. Over 15 radio channels in Sinhala, English and tamil. Yes FM, E, TNL, Lite, SUN FM, Neth FM, Real Radio, City FM offer the latest contemporary music & programming. Gold FM and Classic offer vintage fare.
English Dailies: Ceylon Daily News, The Island, Daily Mirror. On Sundays: Sunday Observer, Sunday Island, Sunday times, Sunday Leader, The Nation, Lakbima News, Ceylon Today.
Colombo and most provincial towns are linked by direct dial telephone service. Each provincial exchange where direct dialling facilities are available has a Code number, which precedes the subscriber’s number. When dialling within the same exchange, do not dial the code.
There are five mobile telephone services operating in Sri Lanka. All of them – etisalat, Mobitel, Airtel, Hutch and Dialog – serve Colombo and the suburbs, Kandy na dhas island-wide coverage. A wide range of services and packages are offered by all. Information can be sorted through the wide network of centres in Colombo and suburbs. The four services offer varying tariff and service packages. Etisalat: 072 2123123, 072 2454154. Mobitel: 071 2755777. Dialog: 0777 678678. Hutch: 0785785785. Airtel: 0759557000.
For information on postal rates contact the General Post Office, Bristol Street, Colombo 1. T: 2326203. Speed Post Sri Lanka (domestic courier service). T: 2447766, 2440907.
The Sri Lanka Philatelic Bureau, Postal Headquarters, D.R. Wijewardena Mawatha, Colombo 10, has an exhibition and sales outlet for all Sri Lanka stamps first day covers, special issues etc. of interest to the philatelist.
Stamp Year Books
Four stamp year books covering the years 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 available for sale. A beautiful collector’s item. Contact: T: 4927248.
Tourist Guide Lecturers
Trained registered Guide Lecturers carry identity Cards issued by the Ceylon Tourist Board. They could be hired through the Travel Information Centre. T: 2437059/60 or Approved Travel Agents or President, National Tourist Guide Lecturers Association of Sri Lanka, 37/35, Temple Road, Colombo 10. Tel/Fax: 2681241, 2678174.
Tipping is optional. It is left to the customer to tip if satisfied with service. Most hotels and restaurants include a service charge of 10 % in any bill. In the event of your wishing to give a tip, about 10 percent of the bill is generally considered a fair tip.
Tourist Police Division
A tourist Police force is operated at the Sri Lanka Tourism premises to provide visitors, local and foreign to enjoy a hassle free holiday. Sri Lankans are also protected from negative practices such as use of children for commercial sex, drugs and other undesirable activities. You may contact the Tourist Police at T: 011-2421052. Hotline: 1912 (Open day & night).
Beware of touts. Avoid them. Do not accept their offer to give you more for foreign currency or lead you to shops which give you special bargains; it will all be for the tout’s bargain only.