Sri Lanka information

Sri Lanka’s time is 4 ½ hr. ahead of GMT.

Sri Lanka has a decimal currency system. One Sri Lanka Rupee (LKR) is divided into 100 Sri Lanka cents. Currency notes are in the denominations of Rs.10/-, Rs.20/-, Rs.50, Rs.100/-, Rs.500/-, Rs.1000/-, Rs.2000/- 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 (now on the decline), 50 cents, one rupee, two rupees, five rupees and ten rupees.


Currency regulations
Visitors to Sri Lanka could bring in an excess of US $10,000 but 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 at the airport. You are required to produce encashment receipts. Traveler’s cheques are still widely accepted, but not as direct transactions (these are only accepted at Banks throughout). Sterling, Euros and US dollars are all equally accepted (at banks and some larger and reputed hotels). The rate given for your currency at the bank is better than at hotels. Guard your Travelers cheques and money carefully, use hotel safes where possible, and do not flaunt unnecessarily large amounts of money, as casual thieving can occur (though uncommon). The bank booths in the airport arrivals hall generally offer the most competitive rates and quick service. Beware credit-cards fraud whenever you pay direct.

Credit Cards
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 and island wide network of ATM’s enable you to withdraw cash when required. Bird and Wildlife Team, tour leaders, chauffer guide or driver would be of assistance at your request.

Most Sri Lankans could speak English in most parts of the country particularly in towns. Names and signboards would be mostly in Sinhala the national language but surprisingly many would be in English as well.  Signboards in shops even in remote areas would have the name of the town at the bottom in English most often, this helps you, when using a map while travelling instead of stopping and asking. Bird and Wildlife Team, tour leaders, chauffer guide or driver would be of assistance, so you’d have less to worry and do not hesitate to ask question.

Mobile Phones
There are four mobile telephone services operating in Sri Lanka. All of them – Mobitel, Hutch, Dialog GSM- serve Colombo and the suburbs, and Kandy. Except for Hutch all others have Island-wide coverage. A wide range of services and packages are offered by all. The Katunayeke International Airport has desks of most networks, where you could obtain details and also purchasing your CIM cards apart from Information that can be sort through the wide network of centers in Colombo, suburbs and even in small towns throughout the country. Mobile phone call rates are relatively cheap, both for local and international calls. You could purchase scratch cards at any small kiosk or corner shop in order to update the value.

Telephone and internet
International telephone services are available International Direct Dial (IDD) telephone services are readily available through your hotel, or from the roadside public pay-phones situated in all parts of Colombo and its suburbs, and in several provincial towns, too. Many private Communication centers provide these facilities. Purchase of a CIM card (with roaming facility) at the airport would enable you to ease of complications further. Most hotels would have a desk providing your internet facilities some up market hotels would have WI-FI facilities too. If you bring along a dongle your SIM could be used where ever reception is good in order to access the internet.

230-240 VOLTS 50 CYCLES A.C. (most hotels would provide you with adaptors when required bringing a three pin round adapter is generally used in all hotels square pin may be of no use).There are electrical shops spread throughout the island where you could buy a suitable adapter or other electrical basic equipment.


Antiques, 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 Archaeological Commissioner, respectively, Articles more than 50 years old are considered antiques.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

International wildlife trade is estimated to be worth billions of dollars and to include hundreds of millions of plant and animal specimens. The trade is diverse, ranging from live animals and plants to a vast array of wildlife products derived from them, including food products, exotic leather goods, wooden musical instruments, timber, tourist curios and medicines. Levels of exploitation of some animal and plant species are high and the trade in them, together with other factors, such as habitat loss, is capable of heavily depleting their populations and even bringing some species close to extinction.

Because the trade in wild animals and plants crosses borders between countries, the effort to regulate it requires international cooperation to safeguard certain species from over-exploitation.

Occasional exports are, however, permitted exclusively for bona fide scientific purposes only.

Custom formalities
Visitors are required to re-export articles brought in as personal effects. Make sure that you take back cameras and photographic equipment and paraphernalia declared on arrivals. The Customs check is usually oral. However, random examinations of baggage is carried out.

It’s vice to declare your currency valuable jewellery, equipment and all other expensive belongings. If you have nothing to declare you could go through the green channel. It’s important to note that goods in commercial quantities are prohibited, restricted items such as Dangerous drugs weapons and explosive devices are universally prohibitive and is a general norm.        

Duty free shops
The duty free shop and several other shops at the Transit and Departure Lounge sell an extensive range of well Known brands of liquor, hi-fi equipment, wrist watches, cameras, films, perfumes, cosmetics, electrical appliances, cigarette lighters, souvenirs, gems, ceramics, handicrafts, batiks, cut-flowers, books, and picture postcards of Sri Lanka. 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 check points, Payment is accepted only in Foreign Currency.

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 Wild Life Conservation.

Sri Lanka Gem & 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 center to facilities the export oriented gem and jewellery trade. The Gem testing laboratory, which is a part of the “SLGJE” and operated by the “NGJA”, offers a free gem testing facility to foreigners who may be in doubt. Sri Lanka Gem & jewellery Exchange, Level 4 & 5, East Low Block, World Trade Center, Echelon square- Colombo – 01

Please retain receipts of your purchases of gem stones or jewelry and other shopping bits and pieces, this may help at the custom clearance.

haggling is widely expected for a variety of transactions which includes purchase of handicrafts Etc. Most vendors will quote you a price that is higher. Reputed shops, adopt a western habits where bartering is not accepted. Ascertain the prices for goods or services before purchasing. Bargaining is best carried out in a light-hearted and courteous manner. Aggressive haggling will offend the seller and ultimately increase the price.

Tourist Police
A fully fledged tourist police force has been established throughout the island especially within thigh tourist zones which is to prioritize all complains and to take prompt action, making it much easy for the traveler and in order to take quick action. The division also ensures protection from all malpractices such as commercial sex, drugs scams of sorts and other undesirable activities. In such instances you should immediately contact TELEPHONE No.199 or Police Emergency Colombo: Tel: 2433333, then the nearest police station for assistance, subsequently the tourist Police division would take up the issue. Please note that Tourists who travel with Bird and Wildlife Team will have tour leader, chauffer guide or driver and all necessary assistance from office to rectify any issue.


Other useful information

Sri Lanka has a five day week. In addition to Saturdays, Sundays and special Public Holidays, the full moon day (Poya day) of each month is a public holiday. All places of entertainment (including cinemas) and bars are closed on Poya day.

Alcohol consumption
Alcoholic drinks are freely available at public bars, restaurants, wine shops, stores & super markets. However sale of liquor is prohibited on Poya days (Full moon days). Most hotel bars and restaurants also observe this rule.

Photographing people
Please do request for permission before taking photographs of people and respect their wishes if they refuse (very rarely would one refuse). Not often, though some minority groups may not like their photo taken. Sometimes a tip for taking a photo may be expected, further more share the picture with them if you have a digital camera as it is often greatly appreciated, especially with children in very rural areas.
Storage of Valuables
We always advice clients to keep Valuables in lock and key (money, laptops, tablets phones, jewellery, cameras etc) when not in use and whichever is necessary to be kept in the room vault or hotel vault.

Excess baggage
there is a general 20kg baggage limit (plus one piece of hand luggage). Additional charges may be levied, or equipment left behind (checking in early may sometimes help, but in not a guarantee). Requests for a higher limit can be made on your behalf, but success is not guaranteed.

Embarkation Tax
Presently this is included in your e-ticket and need not pay at the time of embarkation.

Useful Addresses
Sri Lanka Tourism- Colombo, Travel information center, 80, Galle road, Colombo 3. Tel: 011- 2437059, 011-2437060, 011-2437055.

Sri Lanka Tourism- Kandy, Travel information center, Cultural triangle office, 16 Deva veediya, kandy . Tel: 081-2222661 – Sri Lanka Tourism also maintains an information center at the Bandaranaike international Airport, Katunayake- Tel: 011-2252411.

Complaints regarding Tourist services could be made to: the Director, Corporate Division, Sri Lanka Tourism- Tel: 011-2437057.

Bandaranaike International Airport, Tel: 011-2252861/7(General) – 011-2255555.

Flight Information

Tel: 011-2263047


Entertainment and related features
Is exclusively, based around the top hotels, which offer nightclubs, a range of restaurants, bars, sports facilities ranging from swimming pools to floodlit tennis courts, health clubs, bookshops etc. Most tourist areas would have smaller, cheaper independent options available. Some of these feature are exclusively found in touristic zones only.


Sri Lanka has two state owned TV channels Rupavahini and the Independent Television Network (ITN). In addition to these, there are several private channels – MTV, Sirasa TV, TNL, ETV, ART TV, Swarnavahini, Derana, MAX TV, TV Lanka and Shakthi TV (Tamil) ART TV carries CNN news bulletins. Two satellite TV services are available.  English movies and documentaries are featured on other channels as well. Most hotels presently have satellite TV where one has access to most foreign channels CNN, BBC, Aljazeera etc.

In addition to the state run Sri Lanka Broad-casting 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 offer latest contemporary music and programming. Gold FM and Classic offer vintage music (English).

English Dailies: Morning Leader, Ceylon Daily News, The Island, Daily Mirror, On Sundays: Sunday Observer, Sunday Island the Sunday Times, the Sunday Leader, The Nation, Lakbima News.

Postal services
Courier Services

  • EMS Lanka (International) – D.R. Wijewardna Mw., Colombo 01, Tel: 2447844, 2328359 Ext. EMS (Domestic), Post Master General’s office, Colombo 01. Tel: 2447844. • FedEx Express- 65C, Dharamapala Mw, Colombo 07. Tel: 4522222, 2255846, 2487871. • TNT International Express – 315, Vauxhall St., Colombo 02.Tel: 2308444. • DHL- 130, Glennie St., Colombo 02. Tel: 4798600. 

For information on postal rates contact, the General Post Office or sub post offices island wide, Bristol Street, Colombo 01. Tel: 011-2326203. Speed Post Sri Lanka (domestic courier service) Tel: 011-2447766, 011-2440907.

Philatelic Bureau
The Sri Lanka Philatelic Bureau, General Post Office, Bristol St, Colombo 01, has an exhibition and sales outlet for all Sri Lanka stamps first day covers, special issues, etc. of interest to the philatelist. Tel: 2325588, 2326153, 2326177.