Information on bargaining, tipping and taxes in Sri Lanka
Bargaining is not always the norm. Bargaining is also a way of interacting between buyers and sellers. So, try to keep it as a pleasurable experience than a haggling contest. Also bear in mind that as a person perceived as having a higher purchasing power, locals expect you to pay a bit higher than their usual clients.
However, there are quite many who might try to get their way around and charge you a price beyond reason. In such a situation, keep calm and either pretend you are no longer interested or just step out of the shop. The same applies to tuk-tuk rides, hotels, etc.
Tipping is expected for most services. Unless you are dissatisfied by a particular service, in which case it is better to explain why in a polite manner, tipping can be in the range of between 5 to 10% of the bill. If a stranger insists on showing you around, you can either opt to ignore you or give him Rs.100 (less than $1) as an indication that you will not pay anything more. Some priests might offer to show around temples in which case it is polite to make an offering in a donation box (as monks as not supposed to handle money). If your chauffeur proved to be knowledgeable and took you to places where you pay less price and did not insist on you visiting shops where he gets a cut on your purchases, you can tip him in the range of Rs.500 per day. If he has been extremely useful and of great help with your luggage and children, do not hesitate to pay him double the amount.
Service charges of up to 12.5% are levied in most restaurants. When you book a hotel, it is better to check if the quote is inclusive of ALL taxes to avoid last-minute surprises that can spoil your stay.
If you are entering Sri Lanka, you are allowed to carry 1.5 litres of alcohol, two bottles of wine but no cigarettes.
Duty Free shops at the airport sell regular international brands of wines, whiskeys, perfumes, chocolates, etc. to be taken back home. Although local tea and handicraft are also available, you will probably pay higher prices at the airport counter. There are a few limits about what you can carry back home. While 10 kg of tea can be carried by each passenger, no living or dead animal or plant species can be exported. This applies for ivory, coral, shells, skins or other animal parts. When it comes to antiques (the authorities consider as antique anything older than 50 years), you will need to obtain an authorisation from the Archaeological Department in Colombo www.archaeology.gov.lk