Sri Lanka Rupee
Sri Lanka uses the Sri Lankan rupee as its currency. Each rupee is then further sub-divided into 100 cents, which is pretty much the same as some other rupee systems, even though they may have different names.
The currency is issued and regulated by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka and it is a currency that comes in the form of both coins and notes. Coins are available in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25 and 50 cents, although in reality, you will usually just see the 25 and 50 cent pieces. Rupees in the form of coins are issued as 1, 2 and 5 rupees and then the notes come in the form of 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000 and 2000 rupees.
Internationally, the currency is identified by the letters LKR.
One interesting aspect of the rupee is that Sri Lanka is experiencing significant levels of inflation, with the level hovering at over 13% which means that the rupee is gradually becoming worth less and less. This will undoubtedly impact on a country that is as poor as Sri Lanka and it will mean that potentially the economy will become even more dependent on its tourism trade, if it is to survive.
History of the Sri Lankan Rupee
Sri Lanka was until the year 1972, known as Ceylon. It was actually granted independence much earlier than that (1950) and yet the rupee in the form of the Indian rupee had been in use in Ceylon/Sri Lanka, since 1837, with British currency also being used in between. However, by 1963, the Sri Lankan rupee, had seen off its rivals and by this time, it was the only legal tender in Sri Lanka.
Getting Hold of Sri Lankan Rupees
Since Sri Lanka is a destination that has attracted tourists for a number of years, there is a good financial infrastructure in place. This means that there are a lot of ATM machines dotted round the place, but the bad news is that not all of them will accept foreign cards.
Remember to notify your bank or card provider that you will be using your card in Sri Lanka, since it has sadly become a bit of a hotspot for credit card fraud. This means that if your bank picks up on the fact that it is being used in Sri Lanka, it would well be stopped, so a simple phone call should suffice to simply let them know that it is going to be used.
Traveller's cheques can also be taken in. If you take them in as US dollars, then you will generally have no problems changing them. Other currencies such as euros or British sterling will also be accepted, but US dollars just makes it all a little easier.
If you plan to take notes and exchange them for rupees then be careful only to take English banknotes. Bank staff are not familiar enough with either Irish or Scottish notes, to know if they are genuine or not, so they will generally decline them.
Sri Lanka was until recently viewed as an extremely safe country to visit. It was perceived as being idyllic, a little bit of paradise, the kind of country where honeymooners went, simply to relax and enjoy the incredible sunshine, beaches and romantic ambience. But sadly, those days have passed now and Sir Lanka is less safe than it used to be. The main risk is actually the risk of terrorism. In fact, as of 2008, Sri Lanka is actually designated as being at 'high risk' of terrorism and during the period November 07 until the end of January 08 (three months) there were no fewer than five attacks, but things have not calmed down since that time, there were actually five in the period April to June and since the start of 2008 some 167 people have been killed and around 365 injured. This is a country that is far from stable.
However, so far the main risk to travellers has been if they venture up into the north of Sri Lanka, but increasingly there has been a feeling that they are likely to occur anywhere in the country. Eastern areas may be particularly hit and the Yala National Park is also an area that should be avoided. Colombo, which is the capital of Sri Lanka has also been hit with terrorist attacks, so the situation is difficult.
Some people fear that Sri Lanka is actually on the edge of a massive civil war and that it will once again be torn apart, from forces inside the country, not outside of it.
The main problem with regard to terrorism involves the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which is usually abbreviated to the Tamil Tigers. They refuse to bow down to Sri Lankan authority and the result is that the attacks have continued. Sadly, this group may also want to specifically attack foreigners, because they feel that they will get more publicity if they do, so you should be aware of the risks.
However, the terrorist threat is not such that travellers are advised not to travel to Sri Lanka, they are merely warned that there is a high risk of terrorism and that people should be on their guard.
The advice is currently that you should avoid using public transport when you are in Sri Lanka, since bus bombings are becoming ever more prevalent and so the risk of there being a bomb on board, is relatively high.
To give some kind of perspective, there are around 90, 000 people from the UK who visit Sri Lanka each year and most of them simply have a good holiday, with no real problems. Indeed crime as a whole is relatively low in Sri Lanka and there is no reportings of people being attacked with force.
So the main way of staying safe in Sri Lanka is simply to exercise care, avoid public transport and be very alert, particularly when in crowded places and if you see anything that looks suspect or suspicious, it is better to simply alert someone in authority and quietly leave the area.
Out and About in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is certainly a very beautiful country with lots of stunning countryside and a real sense that you have landed somewhere incredibly beautiful and peaceful. When Sri Lanka's tourist industry started to take off, it did have a real sense of being very much a luxury destination and to a large extent, this reputation still persist even today, although there are lots of tourist facilities that also cater for backpackers who are making their way across the globe.
The main thing to realise about Sri Lanka is that it is mainly a Buddhist country and around 70% of its inhabitants are Buddhists, with only 15% or so who are Hindu with Christians and Muslims together making up around 15% of the population. This makes it an interesting country to visit from a cultural point of view alone.
However, the one thing that really makes Sri Lanka stand out is its beaches. This may sound pretty fatuous and as if it isn't really a serious reason for visiting a country, after all it is a long way to go, just to lie on a beach. But the beaches here are truly outstanding and once you have seen the beaches then you will understand that all the beautiful photos that you have seen of Sri Lankan beaches, simply does not do them justice and that they are in fact, absolutely stunning.
Sri Lanka is also full of Buddhist temples which are also very interesting and the fact that it has been inhabited for so long means that there are also a great many archaeological sites to see as well. One interesting one (but check before you travel that the area is indeed safe) is the Ridi Vihara which is actually were silver was discovered around 1800 years ago and there are some fantastic frescos to be seen in the cave here.
Of course the fact that it has been a popular tourist destination for many years, means that you have all the facilities that you would expect to find in a country that is geared up to tourists visiting, so there is plenty of nightlife and all ages are catered for. The advent of backpackers also means that there are more bars and clubs now, instead of just hotel based facilities.
One negative aspect to Sri Lanka is the fact that many people live either in poverty or on the edge of it and they see all Westerners as potential honey pots or cash cows and boy, do they know how to milk you! Even if they don't actively try to just get you to give them money, they will often hassle you to buy something and it can feel relentless: no matter how many people you give to, there is always someone next in line and so it goes on. Try to stay polite, even though at times it can be quite hard to do so.
Since Sri Lanka is such a really wonderful country in so many ways, it can only be hoped that the current situation with the Tamil Tigers actually settles down and the country does not end up plunged into a civil war, since this would set it back so much and the people who are effectively dependent on tourists for an income, will all be thrown out of work. The economy is already precarious and so if more and more people lose their jobs and the country has a civil war, it could effectively implode on itself.
However, in practical terms, it is important to check out whether or not is safe to travel to Sri Lanka, by checking out a website such a http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travelling-and-living-overseas/travel-advice-by-country/asia-oceania/sri-lanka just to be absolutely sure that it is safe to go there. Do this before you make any firm bookings, but regularly check the website before travel, since it is important to stay safe, rather than taking any unnecessary risks. And all we can all do is hope that the situation resolves itself, sooner rather than later.