The currency used in Sri Lanka is the Sri Lankan rupee (LKR or Rs). There are notes in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000 & 2000. One Rupee (Rs1) is made up of 100 cents, with coins in 25 cents, 50 cents, Rs1, Rs2, Rs5 and Rs10.
Foreign money can be brought into the country but must be declared at customs if the the sum is more than US$ 15,000.
ATMs are quite accessible in Sri Lanka as the banking system has been modernized. Visa and MasterCard are the most commonly accepted cards. It is illegal to perform a card transaction in a foreign currency. Expats do not need to carry too much cash and can pay by card at most places except for markets and small shops.
Initially, you are subject to ATM access fee and a foreign exchange transaction fee. There are transaction fees every time you withdraw money, usually Rs200 and Rs300. So, it makes sense to take out a bigger amount in one go, but there are frequently cash withdrawal limits to contend with as well. Limits range from Rs40,000 and Rs60,000 depending on your bank. A solution to this might be if your bank operates in Sri Lanka, or has a partner.
Withdrawing money from an ATM is the easiest and cheapest way to change money. However, you do need to be aware of fees that your bank charges, as well as the machine you are using.
There are also exchange counters at the airport and tourist areas, but these tend to be expensive. Read all terms and fees carefully before proceeding.
Electronic transfers are a facility offered by most banks in Sri Lanka. Every bank would, however, charge a fee for transferring money overseas from Sri Lanka, or to Sri Lanka from overseas.
To open a Sri Lankan bank account, you can do it quite easily if you have a work or resident visa. You will be asked for the following documents:
Some banks might require extra documentation and in certain cases it may be necessary to pay a minimum account-opening deposit amount. An account for Sri Lankan rupee would be easier to open than an account for a foreign currency.
With a savings bank account in local currency, you will be issued a cheque-book, a debit card and your bank account pass book. A debit card can be used for withdrawal at ATMs, once it is linked and activated. For foreign investors in Sri Lanka, the SFIDA or Special Foreign Investor's Deposit Account can be opened.
There are many banks operating in Sri Lanka, including international chains like HSBC, Deutsche Bank, and Standard Chartered. The largest Sri Lankan bank is Commercial Bank of Ceylon.