Includes information on acceptable business etiquette, dress, business cards, gifts, etc.
Last Published: 7/22/2019

Business Customs

The language of business is English.  Business cards are a necessity.  Courtesy is highly valued in Sri Lanka and personal graciousness may play a role in securing deals.  While punctuality is not as highly prized as in the United States, most appointments and similar commitments are reliably honored. 

Travel Advisory

The Embassy Consular Information Sheet is available.

Visa Requirements

For current information on obtaining business visas to Sri Lanka, please visit the Embassy of Sri Lanka website.

Specific inquiries regarding entry and exit requirements should be addressed to:
Embassy of the Democratic Social Republic of Sri Lanka
3025 Whitehaven Street NW
Washington DC 20008
Telephone: (202) 483-4025
Telephone (Emergencies/After hours): (202) 580 9546
Fax: (202)-232-7181

There are several honorary Sri Lankan consuls general and consuls in the United States.  Visit the Embassy of Sri Lanka website for current visa information.

If you are going to live in or visit Sri Lanka, please take the time to tell our Embassy about your trip through the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).   If you enroll, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements.  It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. Smart

Traveler Enrollment Program:

U.S. Companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States are advised that security evaluations are handled via an interagency process. Visa applicants should go to the following link:

State Department Travel Website:

Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.
U.S. Embassy Colombo
210 Galle Road
Colombo 03
Sri Lanka
Telephone: +94 11 249 8500
Fax: +94 11 249 8590
Email for American Citizens Services issues: 

Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy Colombo:


The rupee (signs: රු, Rs.; code: LKR) is the currency of Sri Lanka, divided into 100 cents. It is issued by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka and is generally written Rs. (though SLRs. may occasionally be used for disambiguation).   

As of May 17, 2019:  $1.00 = Rs. 176.27

ATMs are widely available and generally accept U.S. ATM network cards (e.g. MasterCard and Visa).  ATM fraud (stealing card information) is a risk.  Be cautious of your surroundings while using ATMs and monitor your bank accounts closely.   

Major U.S. credit cards are widely accepted to purchase goods and services.  Be cautious of using credit cards as credit card fraud (stealing credit card information) is a risk.

International direct dialing and cellular telephones are widely available.  Mobile phones with GSM roaming facilities and wireless communication devices can be used in Sri Lanka.  Sri Lanka has 4G LTE internet network available in Colombo.  International mail and courier services (including FedEx, UPS and DHL) are also available.  A number of local providers offer Internet and e-mail services.  Because the phone-line quality varies, connections are sometimes unreliable.

In April 2019, Sri Lanka experienced several short-term power outages.  Power outages are more common outside of Colombo, especially in rural areas.


Sri Lanka is served by several airlines.  U.S. airlines do not serve Sri Lanka except indirectly through partner airlines.  There are no direct flights to Colombo from the United States or to the United States from Colombo.  A common way to travel to Sri Lanka from the East Coast is through London, Dubai or Doha.  Visitors flying from the U.S. West Coast may transit in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, or Bangkok.  

As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Sri Lanka, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Government of Sri Lanka’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. 
In-country air travel is extremely limited and road travel is relatively slow and dangerous.  Charter helicopter service is available as are rental cars with drivers.  Taxis are readily available in Colombo.  Ridesharing mobile applications, including Uber, Pickme, and others, are available in Colombo and Galle but are not generally available in smaller towns and rural areas. 

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  Vehicular traffic in Sri Lanka moves on the left (British style).  Traffic in Colombo is very congested.  Narrow two-lane highways, overloaded trucks, dangerously-driven buses, ox carts, motorcycles, and new four-wheel-drive vehicles, make driving challenging and dangerous.  Unexpected road blocks and one-way streets are common and may not be clearly marked.  Many visitors hire cars and drivers for long trips through the country.  Individuals choosing to hire three-wheeled vehicles (“trishaws”) should negotiate prices beforehand to avoid confrontations.  When renting a vehicle, working seatbelts must be specifically requested.

Please refer to the Embassy’s Road Safety page for more information.  We also suggest visiting the website of Sri Lanka’s national tourist office ( and the National Council for Road Safety (


The language of business is English.  Sinhala, Tamil, and English are official languages.


For up-to-date information on health services in Sri Lanka, please visit the U.S. Department of State’s website which contains information specific to Sri Lanka:
Good information on vaccinations and other health precautions can be found on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website ( or by calling the hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747).  For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website (  The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed, country-specific health information.

Medical Insurance
Do not assume that your insurance will go with you when you travel.  It is very important to find out BEFORE you leave.  Be sure to ask your insurance company two questions:

  • Does my policy apply when I’m out of the United States?
  • Will it cover emergencies such as a foreign hospital stay or an evacuation?

In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service.  Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover visits to hospitals and doctors in other countries.  If your policy does not go with you when you travel, consider taking out another one for the trip.  For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.

Local Time, Business Hours and Holidays

Prior to travel to Sri Lanka, businesspersons should check whether any local holidays will occur during their trips.  There are about twenty public holidays during which government offices and banks are closed.  Private companies also close on most of these holidays.  

Sri Lankan holidays are connected with the country’s four religions:  Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity.  Dates change from year to year.  Holidays with fixed dates include Independence Day (February 4th), Labor Day (May 1st) and Christmas (December 25th).  Each full moon is marked by a Poya Day holiday.

Sri Lanka is GMT+5.30 hours.  Sri Lanka does not observe daylight-savings time.  Business hours are generally from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Monday through Friday).  Government offices are open for business usually from 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. (Monday through Friday).

Holidays – June 2019 to December 2020
05-June 19                                            Ramazan Festival
16-June 19                                            Poson Full Moon Poya Day*
16-July 19                                             Esala Full Moon Poya Day*
12-August 19                                       Hadji Festival Day
14-August 19                                       Nikini Full Moon Poya Day*
13-September 19                                 Binara Full Moon Poya Day*
13-October 19                                      Vap Full Moon Poya Day*
27-October 19                                      Deepavali Festival Day
10-November 19                                  Holy Prophet’s Birthday
12-November 19                                  Il Full Moon Poya Day*
11-December 19                                  Unduvap Full Moon Poya Day*
25-December 19                                  Christmas Day*

Holidays 2020
10 January 20                                      Duruthu Full Moon Poya Day*
15 January 20                                      Tamil Thai Pongal Day
4 February 20                                       National Day*
8 February 20                                       Navam Full Moon Poya Day*
21 February 20                                     Mahasivarathri Day
9 March 20                                           Madin Full Moon Poya Day*
7 April 20                                             Bak Full Moon Poya Day*
10 April 20                                           Good Friday
13 April 20                                           Day prior to Sinhala & Tamil New Year Day*
14 April 20                                           Sinhala & Tamil New Year Day*
1 May 20                                               May Day*
7 May 20                                               Vesak Full Moon Poya Day*
8 May 20                                               Day following Vesak Full Moon Poya Day*
24 May 20                                            Id Ul-Fitr
5 June 20                                               Poson Full Moon Poya Day*
4 July 20                                               Esala Full Moon Poya Day*
31 July 20                                             Id Ul-Alha
3 August 20                                          Nikini Full Moon Poya Day*
1 September 20                                    Binara Full Moon Poya Day*
1 October 20                                         Vap Full Moon Poya Day*
29 October 20                                      Milad un-Nabi
30 October 20                                      Adhi Vap Full Moon Poya Day*
14 November 20                                  Deepavali
29 November 20                                  Ill Full Moon Poya Day*
25 December 20                                  Christmas Day*
29 December 20                                  Unduvap Full Moon Poya Day*

Note: Private companies are closed on holidays marked with *

Temporary Entry of Materials or Personal Belongings

Temporary entry for exhibition material is allowed under the Carnet system of the International Chamber of Commerce.  The exporter should ensure that required documents under the Carnet system are certified in the country of origin of the material.  These documents should be presented at the time the goods are being cleared from Customs.  Goods brought into the country under the Carnet system must be re-exported within six months.  For additional information, contact the approving authority: Director General of Customs, 40 Main Street, Colombo 11, telephone 94-11-2347881, fax 94-11-2446364; e-mail: .

Business travelers and visitors can enter with a portable computer, with or without encrypted software, as personal baggage.  No duties or taxes are charged.  Customs does not check for installed software which comes as personal baggage but, removable software has to be declared.  Global Positioning System or similar devices are technically prohibited from entry into country without prior special permission. 

Travel Related Web Resources

U.S. Embassy in Colombo
Consular Information Sheets                                           
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Sri Lanka Tourism
Sri Lankan Embassy in Washington DC
United States Visas                                                            
United States Travel Documents
Department of Immigration Sri Lanka                           
Electronic Travel Authorization                                      

Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting

More Information

Sri Lanka Trade Development and Promotion Business Travel and Etiquette