10 things you need to know about alcohol in Sri Lanka

Alcohol laws in Sri Lanka

Everyone loves a little drink while on holiday. However, rules related to alcohol consumption are different from one destination to another. Therefore, it is important getting to know them before taking any international trip.

We are a travel agency in Sri Lanka. Every once in a while, we get asked about alcohol rules in Sri Lanka from our guests. Since this is a topic that most tourists who visit Sri Lanka would be interested in, I thought of writing a short article covering this topic.

Without any further ado let’s get started!


1) What is the legal drinking age in Sri Lanka?

Similar to many western countries, the legal drinking age in Sri Lanka is 18.


2) Can female tourists buy and consume alcohol in Sri Lanka?

It is prohibited for females to purchase alcohol in Sri Lanka. However, it is just a symbolic low. Any female (including tourists) can purchase and consume alcohol without any problem.


3) Are locals allowed to consume alcohol in Sri Lanka?

According to Buddhism, consuming alcohol is a sin that people should try to avoid. However, both men and women have the complete freedom to do whatever they prefer.


4) Where can you buy alcohol in Sri Lanka?

You can buy alcohol from wine stores, restaurant bars, hotel bars and from some supermarkets.

The opening hours of these establishments differ depending on the type of license they have. Generally wine stores are open from 9.00 am to 9.00 pm. Restaurant bars are open from 11.00 am – 11.00 pm.


5) Can you buy wine in Sri Lanka?

Wine is not a very popular drink in Sri Lanka. However, some of the 3 star hotels, and almost all the 4 star and 5 star resorts have wine available for sale.

If you are staying in smaller hotels, it is recommended to buy wine at the airport or bring from home.


6) Can tourists bring wine, beer and hard liquor into Sri Lanka?

Yes, you can bring liquor into Sri Lanka in your luggage. Below are the allowed quantities (per person).

  • Hard liquor – 1.5 liters
  • Wine – 2 bottles (1.5 liters)
  • Beers – 4 beer cans

Note – It is banned to bring in cigarettes to Sri Lanka.


7) Is alcohol expensive in Sri Lanka?

Local spirits are not expensive. However, imported brands can be a bit more expensive than in your home country.

Pro tips – It will be less expensive to buy spirits and expensive wines from the duty free shops at the airport.


8) What are the local alcoholic drinks that you should try while you are in Sri Lanka?

Toddy (locally none as “ra”) is the most traditional Sri Lankan liquor. It is only a mild drink (4% alcohol) made by sap collected from palm trees. (Sap naturally ferments creating toddy.)

The below video shows how jaggery is made in Sri Lanka. Since jaggery is prepared by heating and reducing sap, you will get a good idea of how toddy is made by watching this video.

Even though toddy is the most traditional alcoholic drink in Sri Lanka, the most popular liquor is arrack. It is distilled from toddy / palm syrup and has a much higher percentage of alcohol (30% – 40%). DCSL Extra Special and Old Reserve are the most popular arrack brands in Sri Lanka.

Arrack is usually enjoyed with Coca Cola, Soda, with a dash of cold water, or with an ice cube.


9) It is prohibited to sell alcohol on Poya days

Poya days are the religious days of Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government has banned selling alcohol on these days. However, it is not prohibited to consume alcohol that you purchased prior to the Poya days in a private space (E.g. – In your house or in your hotel room).

If there is a poya day during your scheduled tour dates, purchase alcoholic beverages a day or two prior to the Poya day and store it in your hotel room mini bar. This way you can enjoy a drink on the Poya day if you like.


10) It is against the law to use alcohol and cigarettes in public places (streets, parks, buses, etc.)

You are free to drink and smoke in restaurants, bars, night clubs, and private commercial spaces. However, smoking and drinking in public places, such as streets, parks and buses is punishable by law .

If you are observed smoking or drinking in public, law enforcement personnel will probably just explain that it is prohibited to smoke / drink in public areas and let you go. However, it is always better to abide by the local laws.


Other than the ban of selling alcohol on religious days and the ban of using alcohol / cigarettes on streets, parks, and other public spaces there are no restrictions to alcohol consumption in Sri Lanka.

As always, feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions. Be sure to check our other articles for more information required for Sri Lanka holidays. Our article, "The best 10-day Sri Lanka itinerary" is a good place to get started.

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