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Cash and ATMs in Sri Lanka: Fees, limits, exchange – everything to visit Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka, a teardrop-shaped jewel in the Indian Ocean, just off the south coast of India, captivates with its lush landscapes, vibrant culture, and where cascading tea plantations meet pristine beaches in a harmonious splendor. To enjoy this beautiful little island nation, you will need cash in Sri Lanka to enjoy your self. With this guide, we tell you everything you need to know about Sri Lanka and money – notes, where to get the local cash, ATMs, cash or card, how to avoid fees, payment options and how to travel on a budget!

Also read: Ultimate guide on how to save money for travelling in 2024 und Ultimate guide on how to travel on a budget in 2024.

Will I need cash in Sri Lanka or can I use only card?

The million dollar question for any tourist to a new country. Here’s the answer. Sri Lanka is a cash centric country for travellers and foreigners. So, if you’re travelling from the US, UK, Europe or any other country, you will likely need to use an ATM or exchange some currency soon as you arrive to get some money in Sri Lanka.

You will need cash money for… non touristy cities, small shops, local restaurants and street markets. Many homestays, hostels, hotels and airbnbs will also ask for payments in cash.

You’ll also need cash for small ticket items like tuk-tuks, local taxis, public buses, local trains, and street food. Small vendors and local businesses prefer cash payment also.

So ensure that you have a good amount of cash on you at all times, especially outside Colombo.

You can swipe your card at… large local businesses, hotels, good restaurants, airline offices, and department stores. Certain tourist attractions may also let you swipe your card for entrance tickets. 
But note that many places might ask you for an extra fee to swipe your card. Simply because digital payments ecosystem in Sri Lanka is still behind. 

Due to currency regulations in Sri Lanka, it is illegal to perform a card transaction in a foreign currency in Sri Lanka. So when you swipe your card, local tourist establishments will apply the daily exchange rate on the day of payment and convert foreign exchange rate to Sri Lankan Rupees. In a way, this is a good thing. So you are automatically charged in the local currency and do not pay additional Dynamic Currency Conversion fees.

Which currencies are accepted?

The main currency accepted is the local currency Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR or Rs). Some resorts, hotels and local shops might accept dollars, euros or pounds but please note:

  1. As on date, it is illegal to transact in foreign currency in Sri Lanka
  2. The exchange rate you will get in these transactions will be very poor.

So do so, either at your own risk, or if you love losing a lot of money!

You may also come across establishments displaying their prices in US$, especially in more touristy regions. While it is convenient, you have to constantly ensure that the transaction is performed in the local currency.

How to get the local currency Sri Lankan rupees?

There are 2 main ways to get cash in Sri Lanka:

  • ATMs
  • Currency exchange – exchanging your home currency in Sri Lanka (and not at home, we’ll tell you why shortly)

Also read: Top 10 things to bring when travelling abroad.

Currency exchanges and ATMs in Sri Lanka

There are nearly 4,000 ATMs in Sri Lanka. This tiny nation has ATMs operated by its 25+ commercial and specialised banks that include some foreign banks as well. Its an interesting country when it comes to its ATMs. You will find one in nearly every town, on the main streets and groups of 2 or more ATMs usually together.

Fun fact: ATMs were first introduced in Sri Lanka in 1986! That’s only 37 years ago!

Currency exchanges
First rule: Use only authorised, approved and regulated currency exchange places. As in Sri Lanka you will come across a lot of unregistered and unauthorised places to do so. Why? So you avoid getting counterfeit notes or engage in any black market transactions unknowingly. Also, the Sri Lankan Rupee is not regarded as a currency with a high exchange rate, so it is not recommended to exchange currency outside of Sri Lanka as won’t get you a good exchange rate.

Also read: Top 8 things to avoid while travelling abroad.

Where do I find them?

To put it simply, everywhere – centre of nearly every town. That’s right! Getting money in Sri Lanka won’t need you to travel a lot, but of course, if you are planning to stay in the remotest retreat on the island, then get your cash before hand.

Here are some common places to find ATMs in Sri Lanka:

  • Airports
  • Market squares
  • Main tourist streets of every major town
  • On major highways connecting the country’s north to south, at the start of every town
  • Town squares
  • Shopping malls
  • Food lanes
  • Bank branches
  • Some corporate buildings

These are the places where it will be difficult to find ATMs:

  • Interior of the villages
  • In small towns, off the main streets
  • Religious places
  • Remote resorts and retreats

ATMs in Sri Lanka will typically have a sign in English called “ATM” along with the bank name. E.g. HNB ATM (ATM of Hatton National Bank), People’s Bank ATM (ATM of People’s Bank), and so on. Just look for the “ATM” sign.

Currency exchanges
You will find authorised money exchange places in every major town of Sri Lanka. Common places are around the area of York Street in Colombo or in Negombo, Kandy, Galle, and Jaffna. You can also walk into a licensed and commercial bank. Generally, the authorised establishments offer slightly better exchange rates compared to local banks. Exchange places at airports and hotels are also typically approved, but of course, the exchange rates are low, so keep these options as the last resort.

Are ATMs and currency exchanges in Sri Lanka open 24x7?

ATMs – Yes, almost always, unless the ATM is inside a bank branch (and not a bank foyer) and it is closed outside banking hours. Most of the ATMs in Sri Lanka are standalone ATMs so accessing them any time of the day or week should not be a problem. Please keep in mind most banks in Sri Lanka are only open from 9.00 am to 3.00 pm.

Currency exchanges are not open 24×7. You will find them open typically between 9 am and 7 pm.

Do ATMs in Sri Lanka accept foreign debit and credit cards? And do currency exchanges also?

Yes! Most of the ATMs do so. The good news is you have a choice of a variety of ATMs in Sri Lanka operated by many banks.

Only some specialised banks don’t, but they only have a handful of ATMs so you will likely not encounter them at all.

Authorised money changers also tend to accept credit and debit cards. But typically this comes with high fees. So its best avoided. Exchange with money of your home currency if you need to.

Which type of cards are accepted?

ATMs in Sri Lanka will mainly accept Visa and Mastercard. So please come prepared with cards with one of those logos. In fact, some ATMs only accept Visa and some only Mastercard, so you are better off getting at least one of each type on your travel to Sri Lanka. Do not expect a lot of them to accept Amex or Diners cards.

To swipe, the situation is similar. Mastercard and Visa are widely accepted. You may be able to use your American Express but don’t expect that everywhere.

Currency exchanges prefer hard cash for exchange. Visa is accepted at many places, mastercard next. Please be mindful of the fees you will pay if you use your card at a currency exchange.

Are ATMs in Sri Lanka similar to other countries?

Absolutely, ATMs in Sri Lanka are fitted with up-to-date technology, mirroring the look and functionality of those found in countries like the US, UK, Europe, and Australia, ensuring a familiar and effortless money withdrawal experience.

Moreover, when faced with the currency conversion choice at Sri Lankan ATMs, you’ll typically see options like ‘With Conversion’/’Accept Conversion’ or ‘Without Conversion’/’Decline Conversion’. It’s generally advisable to opt for ‘Without Conversion’ or ‘Decline Conversion’ to avoid optional additional extra fees.

Banks with ATMs in Sri Lanka

The most popular ATMs in Sri Lanka are:

  • Bank of Ceylon
  • Hatton National Bank
  • DFCC Bank
  • Commercial Bank
  • Sampath Bank
  • People’s Bank
  • Nation’s Trust Bank

There are other banks with ATMs that also accept international debit and credit cards.

Some international banks also have their ATMs in Sri Lanka, namely:

  • HSBC
  • Standard Chartered

If you have an account with these banks, then you might be able to get free withdrawals.

Global ATM alliance: Global ATM Alliance is a partnership among many banks in the world to allow its customers to withdraw cash from all partner banks abroad without any ATM fee. Many banks in the US, UK, Europe, Australia, and Latin America are part of the Global ATM Alliance, including Bank of America, Barclays, Deutsche Bank, and others. BUT, there is no local bank in Sri Lanka part of this network. So don’t rely on this.

Sri Lanka ATMs and PINs type

Sri Lanka ATMs accept 4-digit PINs. Only some ATMs accept 6 digit PINs. So if you have a 6 digit PIN, request your bank for a 4 digit PIN to be able to use your credit or debit card in Sri Lanka.


ATMs in Sri Lanka allow 3 language options by default – English, Tamil and Sinhalese. You get to choose this option at the start of the transaction itself. Do not expect any other foreign language options. If you don’t understand any of these 3 languages, not to worry, you can use Google Translate’s camera function and translate the ATM screen, on your phone, live! Just note that these translations are not always 100% accurate, so take your time and don’t rush through the transaction.

At currency exchange places, you can interact in the 3 language mentioned above too to get your money in Sri Lanka.

Withdrawal limits and ATM fees in Sri Lanka

Withdrawal limit: ATMs typically restrict the withdrawal per transaction to Rs. 40,000 to Rs 60,000. Some ATMs allow as high as Rs 100,000 per transaction.

ATM fees: Here’s the good news! In Sri Lanka, the range of ATM fees goes from Rs 0 to Rs 1000 per transaction. which means there are ATMs that charge absolutely no fees!

Don’t forget: When utilizing ATMs abroad, you may encounter four distinct types of fees:

  • ATM Usage Fee and Currency Conversion Fee from the ATM.
  • Foreign Transaction Fee and Currency Conversion Fee (Forex Mark-up Fee) from your bank.

Also read: ATM fees abroad: All charges to use cards at ATMs abroad detailed.

Opting for fee-free ATMs can save you significant amounts, as some charge no fees at all. So how do you find them?

Find free ATMs in Sri Lanka with ATM Fee Saver

You can find the fee-free ATMs in Sri Lanka with ATM Fee Saver mobile and web app. The app shows ATMs in Sri Lanka with their fees for foreign card holders along with withdrawal limits.

Even better, you can use its easy calculator to know the exact fees you need to pay for the amount of withdrawal of money in Sri Lanka. Once you pick an ATM, the app guides you to it from where you are using the navigator. It covers info for about 45+ countries, including Sri Lanka.

Lade jetzt die App kostenlos herunter oder melde dich online an

Best ways to avoid high fees at currency exchanges and ATMs in Sri Lanka

For ATMs, visitors with foreign cards can avoid ATM fees through simple steps:

  • Utilize fee-free ATMs in the country
  • Download the ATM Fee Saver app to find fee-free or low-fee ATMs
  • Opt for “Decline Conversion” or “Without Conversion” during ATM transactions
  • Consider obtaining fee-free cards from your home country.

For more in-depth insights and alternative methods, check out our detailed article –  Withdrawing cash abroad? 9 best ways to save foreign ATM fees.

For currency exchanges:

  • Avoid no-fee exchange offices at all costs to get your money in Sri Lanka – If they say no fee, which means they account for their fee in the exchange rate. Nothing is ever free in currency exchanges.
  • Avoid using credit and debit cards for direct transactions.
  • Don’t buy Sri Lankan rupee in your home country – its not a popular currency and you will get poor exchange rates.
  • Don’t carry a lot of Sri Lankan rupee back home – again, the exchange rate you will get to sell will be poor. And mostly, it won’t even be bought back by currency exchanges outside of Sri Lanka.

Are currency exchanges and ATMs in Sri Lanka safe to use?

In general, yes. You will find many ATMs with cameras and security guards. Crime rates around ATMs are low. Pick-pocketing is more common.

There have been certain isolated cases of cameras being placed near the keypad of ATMs in Sri Lanka to find out your PIN. So cover the PIN pad when you use an ATM in Sri Lanka!
But whenever you use an ATM abroad, it is best to follow certain precautions. And this very much applies to Sri Lanka too! We have two entire articles dedicated to this topic. You can read them here: Top 8 things to avoid while travelling abroad

For currency exchanges, only used authorised and registered exchange places.

Safe to carry cash while travelling in Sri Lanka?

Yes, it is generally safe to carry money in Sri Lanka while travelling. But do not carry a large amount of cash unnecessarily that you do not need.

Of course, you will need to carry some cash around at all times as you might need it for various things mentioned earlier in the article. Here are some tips to keep your cash safe while traveling in Sri Lanka:

  • Spread your cash across different pockets or wallets instead of keeping it all in one place.
  • Consider carrying some cash in a safety belt or a fanny pack.
  • Avoid showing a lot of cash in public.
    When paying, try not to reveal all your cash.
  • It’s safer to keep your wallet in your front pockets.
  • In crowded areas, like streets, trains, and buses, keep your purses, wallets, and bags secure and close to your body.


Are US, UK, Europe, Australia and other credit cards accepted in Sri Lanka?

Absolutely yes! You can usually use credit cards from the US, UK, Europe, Australia, and other countries at ATMs in Sri Lanka. Most ATMs accept major cards like Visa, MasterCard. American Express and Diners are going to be harder to be accepted. Just look for the symbols on the ATMs – they’ll show you which cards are accepted.

It’s smart to tell your bank you’re traveling and check if your card works at ATMs, especially in smaller places. But in general, you should be able to get cash with your card at many ATMs.

Make sure your cards have a chip-and-PIN, and a 4-digit or 6-digit PIN for a smooth transaction.

Can I withdraw cash in Sri Lanka free of cost?

Yes, there are many ATMs in Sri Lanka that are free for foreign debit and credit card holders. Use ATM Fee Saver to find those free ATMs. Of course, there might be fees from your bank and also from the ATM if you “accept conversion” offered by that ATM. So hit “Decline Conversion” or “Without Conversion” when the ATM offers you that option, and you will have no extra fees, from the ATM’s side.

Are there any Bank of America ATMs in Sri Lanka?

No, there are no Bank of America ATMs in Sri Lanka.

Any Citibank ATMs in Germany?

There is a Citibank office in Sri Lanka but they do not have any ATMs there. Citibank mainly operates their corporate business in Sri Lanka

Any Barclays Bank ATMs in Sri Lanka?

No, there is no Barclays bank ATM in Vietnam. But you can use a Barclays bank card at local ATMs of a local Sri Lankan bank.

Any HSBC ATMs in Sri Lanka?

Yes, there are 15-20 HSBC ATMs in Sri Lanka, mainly in Colombo, in all major tourist towns of this island nation.

Any Standard Chartered ATMs in Sri Lanka?

Yes, there are 7-8 Standard Chartered ATMs in Sri Lanka, mainly in the tourist towns of the country.

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