Sri Lanka Currency exchange guide

Changing currency in Sri Lanka is no mean task. Like any other country in the world, you’ll be faced with a multitude of options.


In general, I’ve changed bulk of the money at the airport itself wherever I’ve gone in the world, and by and large this has been a sound strategy. In most countries, the currency exchange rate you get at the airport is comparable to the ones available at the money changers in the city.


Except in Sri Lanka. The dollar rate available at the airport, which was 1 dollar = Rs.127 when I visited Sri Lanka isn’t good enough. What makes it worse is that all the currency exchange at the airport are charging commission on top of the exchange rate.


This is ludicrous and I’ve yet to come across this deceitful practice anywhere else in the world. All the commissions of the money changer are included within the exchange rate. You don’t charge extra for getting your dollars converted to Sri Lankan rupees. And yet that is precisely what the money changers at the Chandranayake airport in Sri Lanka are doing.


So what’s the solution? Better get some of your own currency changed within your country before leaving for Sri Lanka. If Sri Lankan rupee is not available in your own country and city, just convert the bare minimum, 100 dollars would be sufficient to start with, from the airport. Then when you are checked in to your hotel or B&B, the first thing you need to do is go downtown and get your dollar changed to Sri Lankan rupees.


The Little Known Secret of Currency Exchange in Sri Lanka

 When you get to downtown, find a jewellery shop. What? Why not bank? Because banks give you awful exchange rate for dollars and you might as well have changed your currency at the airport. Why not money changer? You might get lucky and find a money changer that gives you a good rate, but the chances are slim.


Your best bet is a jeweler. Why? Beats me. But it’s the only place where you’ll get the best possible rates. I though it odd as well when people suggested this option to me, but I took their word for it and wasn’t disappointed. I’m not sure whether all the jewelers are willing to do this transaction, but I approached two of them and both were willing.

You do have to haggle with the jeweler and threaten to walk away to get the best possible rate. What’s more, you’ll also have to tempt him with getting more dollars converted if he gave you a good rate – 200 to 300 dollars.


So does this strategy work? Works like a charm. I was able to get 1 dollar to Rs.129 when the ongoing rate in the market was 1 dollar to Rs.127.

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  1. I generally avoid ATM because of the fees and the unfavourable rate at the exchange offices.

    Just discovered a new mobile app for my next trip Fairswap. It allows to exchange cash currency in real-time by meeting with each other at a pre-agreed location.
    Widely, you can post your need in foreign currency and if there is someone nearby facing the reverse need, then he can contact you and you will meet him and make the swap.

    Could be a good way to change before travelling or get rid of some leftover after holidays

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