Wherever you go go with all your heart. Confucius
Sri Lanka - A bird's eye view
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ABOUT SRI LANKA
Sri Lanka lies between the northern latitudes 5 55’ and 9 55’ and the eastern longitudes 79 42’ and 81 52’ 650km north of the equator.
1,215km to the west are the Maldives, and to the south nothing but thousands of kilometers of ocean until Antarctica
Sinhalese constitute the largest ethnic group in the country, with 74.8% of the total population.
Sri Lankan Tamils are the second major ethnic group in the island, with a percentage of 11.2%. Sri Lankan Moors comprise 9.2%.
Tamils of Indian origin were brought into the country as indentured labourers by British colonists to work on estate plantations.They are distinguished from the native Tamil population that has resided in Sri Lanka since ancient times.
There are also small ethnic groups such as the Burghers (of mixed European descent) and Malays from Southeast Asia.
Moreover, there is a small population of Vedda people who are believed to be the original indigenous group to inhabit the island.
Sinhalese, known natively as Sinhala, is the native language of the Sinhalese people (language of 74% of the population)
Tamil is a Dravidian language predominantly spoken by the Tamil people of India and Sri Lanka, and by the Tamil diaspora, Sri Lankan Moors,
The Constitution defines English as the link language. English is widely used for education, scientific and commercial purposes.
Sri Lanka is a tropical country with almost the same season all year long except for monsoon seasons kicking off at different times during the year, despite showers a warm sunny climate is always guaranteed.
So if you wish to enjoy the western and southern coastal resorts when the weather is best, come between December and April.
However, even during the monsoon, sunny, warm days are common, although occasional evening showers can be expected.
Sri Lanka generally offers warmth and sunshine throughout the year.
Temperatures average between 27-30C in Colombo and on the coasts, and peak in April.
They average about 18-22C in the hill country.
Sri Lanka lies 400 miles north of the equator and is affected by two South-East Asian monsoons.
The south-west monsoon (Yala) brings most rain to Colombo and the south and west coasts in May/June and the inter-monsoon affects October/early November, although at all times of year sunshine can be plentiful and most of the rain falls in heavy bursts at night.
The north-east monsoon (Maha) affects the north and east between December and February.
Rainfall is becoming increasingly unpredictable. Sri Lanka averages about 240cms a year.
The North and East are dryer, while the western slopes of the Central Highlands are wettest.
Humidity ranges between 70-90 percent in Colombo, lower in the highlands and cultural triangle.
(Our site provides regular update about the weather in the principal cities of the Island (click here)
Tourist advice: Protect yourself from the sun with creams, hats and sunglasses, drink plentiful bottled water to avoid dehydration and stay safe in the event of a thunderstorm.
Sri Lanka’s compact size and the accessibility of most major attractions means that even a week will allow you to visit a number of different areas. But to experience the island properly, a minimum two-week stay is advisable.
BEFORE YOU DEPART
What is the Visa Requirement to visit Sri Lanka?
As of January 1st 2012, all travelers must be in possession of a visa upon arriving in Sri Lanka.
Visitors must apply for the official Electronic Travel Authorization (visa) via www.eta.gov.lk. There is a small fee to pay, and you must have at least six months left on your passport at the time of travel to obtain one. Citizens from Singapore, Seychelles and the Maldives are exempt.
The non-refundable ETA processing fee for a Tourist visa with Double Entry for 30 days for citizens of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries will cost US$ 15, all other countries will cost US$ 30. Children below 12 years of age are exempt from the ETA fee.
A complete list of ETA processing fees could be obtained from the ETA website.
You can submit the ETA application online through the ETA website. Select the language, click ‘Apply’ and follow the instructions.
What are The Types of Sri Lankan Visas?
A Visit Visa
is an entry permit signifying the consent of the Sri Lankan Government for the admission of a foreign national to the country. The Visa contains details of the period of time and the condition/s of the stay.
A Business Visa
is issued to foreign nationals who visit Sri Lanka for business purposes for short periods of time. This visa may be issued for single, double or multiple journeys.
What is the Institute I have to deal with to obtain a Visa?
Department of Immigration and Emigration
Ananda Rajakaruna Mawatha,
Tel: +94-11-5329000 / +94-11-5329316/20/21/25
Sri Lanka is a tropical county and requires certain considerations.
The following advice is intended as a helpful guide. (It is recommended to get more clarifications from your Doctor / GP)
Commonly recommended vaccinations for short term visits include:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Japanese Encephalitis if travelling in rural areas.
Malaria & Dengue Prevention
You should only consider taking anti-malarial drugs if travelling to the far north of the country (Vavuniya and beyond).
Dengue fever is present, particularly after the monsoon rains, and it is important that you protect yourself from being bitten by mosquitoes by using mosquito repellent.
Bring with you sun screen, insect repellent (preferably containing 50% DEET) and a hat.
Long sleeved, full-length clothes are widely available, but please consider bringing some clothing that will help protect you from the mid-day sun and from biting insects.
Travel insurance is considered to be essential.
Drinking water in sealed plastic bottles is freely available in much of Sri Lanka.
What is the SrI Lankan Currency?
Sri Lankan Rupees is the local currency, which can only be exchanged in Sri Lanka. You would be best to bring Euros, US Dollars or British Pounds and change them at the bank booths at the airport arrivals hall.
The Sri Lankan Rupee (Rs), divided in to 100 cents. Notes come in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000 & 5000. Breakdown larger notes when you change money – it can sometimes be a problem to breakdown a larger note (500, 1000 or 2000).
US$/ Euro etc., is accepted in most large hotels, and tourist establishments, but not in outlets catering to locals. Advice to bring in US$/ Euro and change as and when needed.
What are the Bank business hours and days?
|Banks||09:00 – 15:00||Mon – Fri (some open Sat morning)||Sundays, Poya Days*|
|Government Offices||09:30 – 17:00||Mon – Fri (some open Sat morning)||Sundays, Poya Days|
|Shops||10:00 – 19:00||Mon – Fri (some open Sat morning)||(Some open Sun morning), Poya Days|
|Post Offices||10:00 – 17:00||Mon – Fri (Sat morning)||Sundays, Poya Days|
Where can I re-exchange?
The Re-Exchange (purchase of foreign currency) can only take place on your departure at the Bank counters at the airport. Remember that they will only accept bank receipts (not Money Changer receipts).
What’re requirements for re-exchanging?
Please keep with you whatever receipts of exchange (including ATM receipts) for monies declared. This will be useful when re-exchanging to foreign currency and taking your money back out of the country.
How much of money can I take out of the country?
If you intend to take out from Sri Lanka a sum exceeding US $5000(or its equivalent in Euro or some other currency) in currency notes (out of the money brought in), you must declare the total amount brought in, even if it’s less than US$ 15,000.
How much of money can I bring into the country?
You can bring any amount of money in foreign currencies into Sri Lanka. It could be in TCs, Bank drafts or currency notes. But, if the total is more than US $15,000 (or its equivalent in Euro or some other currency) that sum must be declared to Sri Lanka Customs.
How about the bank fees for foreign currency exchange?
Banks take 0.5% handling fee and generally a commission, which differs from bank to bank. We recommend you to convert only that amount of money you need for spending.
We strongly advise you to change only that amount of money you require for spending.
Credit Cards are widely used and accepted by local establishments (even in small towns). The most widely used card types are Visa and MasterCard, with Amex to a lesser extent. It would be a convenient option to use your Credit Card (valid for international use) whenever possible.
Due to currency regulations in Sri Lanka, credit card charges cannot be made in foreign currency.
Local tourist establishments will apply the daily exchange rate on the day of your payment and convert foreign exchange rate to Sri Lankan Rupees.
Please use the exchange rate indicated in the currency converter only as a guideline as we will apply the prevailing bank exchange rate at time of transaction.
Sri Lanka’s electricity runs at 220-240 V, 50 cycles AC current.
Round, three-pin sockets are normally used although you may occasionally find square three-pin sockets as well.
If you have a rectangular plug (UK – Type G) and the hotel base is round pin (India – Type D) or vice versa, just ask the reception to send you an adapter, which will solve the problem. Alternately, adapters are freely available in supermarkets/ hardware shops.
If you have a Euro plug (Type C), you can stick a pen into the Earth socket (either UK Type G or India Type D) to open the shutters and insert the plug; Do not forget to switch off the power before you do this!
The Type I plug (two slanted pins) used in countries such as South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and parts of China is not compatible with Sri Lankan plug base and need an adapter. Its better you bring a ‘Universal Adapter’ if you have this type of plug, as it will be difficult to find adapters for Type I plugs in the local hardware shops.
A word of caution; do not insert a 110V – 120V appliance (E.g. hairdryer) into a Sri Lankan 240V plug base, you might find it catching fire in your hands!
What is the country code and how do I dial area codes?
Dialling in – Sri Lanka’s country code is 94, (E.g. If you need to call a number in Colombo, dial ++94 11 2XXXXXX).
If you are calling a mobile number, you dial the number after the country code (E.g. dialling a Dialog number, dial ++94 77X XXXXXX).
Dialling within/ out – If you need to take an overseas call, you’ll have to dial ’00’. You do not have to dial the area code if you are within the area.
However, the area code must be dialed if you want to take an outstation call (e.g. calling within Colombo, dial 2XXXXXX, Calling Kandy from Colombo, dial 081 22XXXXX).
What mobile technology is supported in Sri Lanka?
All mobile operators support the GSM technology on GSM 900/ 1800 bands.
WAP & GPRS is widely supported.
4G and wireless broadband is available in Colombo.
Wifi zones are available in selected spots in major towns.
Can I purchase a local mobile connection while on holiday?
It’s a good option to purchase a local SIM card and top up cards while you are on holiday.
The mobile call rates are relatively cheap for both local and IDD calls.
There are many mobile operators in the country (E.g. Dialog, Mobitel, Airtel, Hutch etc.,).
Dialog has a counter at the Colombo Airport and you can obtain a connection on arrival. A Dialog connection will cost about Rupees 1500. Top up cards are freely available island-wide. You can buy top-up cards for denominations of Rupees 100, 400 & 1000. Be sure that your phone is `dual band’ and unlocked.
Can I access the internet freely?
Most hotels provide internet facilities. There are internet cafes in most towns with ADSL connection.
Connections in smaller towns will be slow.
The average cost of surfing in a Cyber Café is about US$ .50 per hour.
Many large 5 star and some boutique hotels provide Wifi facilities. Dialog also provides WiMAX Broadband wireless connections
WHILE ON TOUR
How should I respect cultural differences?
Things are done differently in Asia, and Sri Lanka is no exception.
Please make sure in your dealings with local people you accept these differences and not try to change them for your own benefit or comfort.
The traveler who wishes to have a happy and successful trip in Sri Lanka should keep as calm, cheerful and friendly as humanly possible.
Patience and courtesy are virtues that open many doors.
Demanding tourists do not get smiles, service or respect.
How do I greet a Sri Lankan?
“Ayubowan” is the word used in Sri Lanka to greet someone. It means Long Life.
One is Generally greeted by joining two hands in prayer-like manner and saying “Ayubowan”.
This phrase can be used any time of the day.
What are the dos and don’ts when mingling with locals?
Always give and receive and eat with your right hand.
It is extremely bad mannered to use your left hand for eating.
Respect cultural differences, the local laws & import regulations and make sure your behavior doesn’t violate environmental responsibility.
What do I need to know about verbal and non-verbal communications?
It is quite common to see people shaking hands with others before starting a meeting, a conversation or a discussion.
It is also common to see people greet by bringing both hands together and saying “Ayubowan” (literally meaning “have a long life”) when they first meet with someone.
Thus, it is always important to be pleasant and welcoming, and maintain a smiling and happy face in both verbal and non-verbal communications.
Eye contact is the best way of communicating with a person in Sri Lanka. However, in some cases a person (particularly women) may not make eye contact when meeting with someone for the first time, particularly someone not from their own culture. This will improve as they get to know the person better and work in teams.
Refrain from touching anyone during conversations unless both people already know each other well.
What are the conversations that I can have with with locals?
Discussion topics vary according to the person(s) or the situation(s) in Sri Lanka. Talking about one’s family has always been a popular topic among all Sri Lankans due to the fact that the social fabric is often woven around the extended family.
Talking about the goals of your visit / assignment in Sri Lanka is another useful topic that will help build good relationships, particularly when meeting your team for the first time.
Cricket being the most popular sport in Sri Lanka, just like ice hockey in Canada, it is a very popular topic in any leisurely conversation, particularly among young Sri Lankans.
Humour is always welcome in Sri Lanka and thus it is also a nice way to help establish friendly ties with those around you. In fact, if humour is effectively used it would show one’s approachability and openness to dialogue.
Person’s gender would not matter much in conversations… both men and women are equally receptive to good conversations.
But avoid subjects that may offend certain people based on their sexual orientation, educational background, occupations, appearance, political affiliations,
Are public displays of affection, anger or other emotions acceptable?
Emotional displays by individuals are not very common, thus not generally seen as acceptable.
People do not show too many emotions in public, e.g. no kissing or hugging.
However, it is common to see young people of same-sex holding hands with their friends while walking in public.
How should I show my respect to Buddhism in Sri Lanka?
Do not pose for a “cool” photo on the image of Buddha Statue. It is considered extremely disrespectful.
Your body language should be respectful when near Buddha images and/or statues.
It is quite common for foreigners to buy figures of the Buddha when on holidays as they want a nice ornament to display in their house or garden. However, do not treat Buddha as merchandise
It is considered disrespectful to use Lord Buddha’s name in a discourteous way or to have a tattoo of Buddha on ones body.
What are the Environmental responsibility issues I need to be aware of?
We suggest avoiding plastic packaging where possible and take along your own bag when shopping. Plastic bags will be offered for everything! Collect and dispose in the next town.
The law protects certain endangered species of flora & fauna. Export & in even possession of these species as well as of wild animals, birds, reptiles etc., is illegal. The production and sale of items made from wild animals and reptiles, e.g.: Leopard skins, crocodile skins, elephant tusks etc., is also illegal.
Never break coral, or brush against it. Coral is basically a colony of living organisms and damaging them, might kill them. If you go out in a Glass-bottom Boat, encourage the pilot to steer well clear from the coral itself. Boats scraping over the top of the reef are doing damage especially at Hikkaduwa.
Never buy coral if it’s offered for sale. Similarly don’t buy sea shells or turtle shells (or eggs).
All of Sri Lanka’s five species of Turtle are endangered. If you happen to spot a turtle, when being take out on a boat, discourage the driver from circling it; this sort of harassment is very stressful to the turtle
What are the modes of travel you recommend?
The simplest and cheapest way to travel around Sri Lanka is by trishaw, or three-wheeler. Good-natured price bargaining is widespread. In towns, work on a rough guide of about Rs 40-50 a kilometer and agree the price before you set off.
Taxis are good value for longer journeys and operate on set charges – although taxis operating from 5-star hotels are dearer.
Buses are cheap and plentiful, at least during the day, but they are often overcrowded and unreliable.
Train journeys from Colombo-Nuwara Eliya and beyond, or Colombo-Matara are a peaceful way of enjoying some spectacular scenery. Prices are cheap, so the luxury of booking first-class in advance is advised.
Can I hire a car in Sri Lanka?
Independent car hire is possible upon production of credit card and International Driving Licence. (See below)
But chauffeur-driven cars can be arranged for similar cost, and are generally strongly advised.
Bicycle hire is also available, although not to be recommended on anything but the quietest roads, as accident rates on busy roads are high.
How can I get an International Driving Licence in Sri Lanka.
Getting a driving permit in Sri Lanka is relatively easy; there are two main options listed below.
- With an international driving license/permit (referred to as IDP)
- With your home-country driving license
Sri Lanka is one of the few countries that requires you to get your license verified in-country before you can drive.
This means, driving on an IDP or foreign national license is illegal in Sri Lanka. You need to get these “verified” in Sri Lanka before you can drive.
INTERNATIONAL DRIVING PERMIT (IDP)
|The permit that you get in your own country before travelling abroad usually at an Automobile association (eg. The Automobile Association of America).|
TEMPORARY DRIVING LICENSE
|The license issued by the Sri Lankan authorities that allows you to drive certain classes of vehicles in Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka there are two authorities that will issue this license, (1) Automobile Association of Ceylon and (2) Department of Motor Transport|
SRI LANKAN DRIVING LICENSE
|The license available to resident or tourists with over 6 months on their visa and is the same license that a local Sri Lankan would obtain.|
What is the traffic situation in Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka’s roads and traffic (especially in Colombo & Kandy) will seem chaotic to all but the most experienced traveler in Asia.
So it is recommended to leave your driving worries to a third party when on holiday here.
What are the road conditions like in Sri Lanka?
Although Sri Lanka is a small island, you must appreciate that many roads are still of poor quality, single-lane each way (at best), and populated with all kinds of ‘traffic’ – cows, dogs, bullock carts, bicycles, scooters, paddy tractors, motorcycles, vans, cars, lorries, buses, pedestrians etc – which slows the average speed to 30-40 km per hour.
In the Hill Country, the roads can be tortuous – very windy, and in some areas they are a series of hair-pin bends going on for many miles – and so you need to be patient when travelling on the road!
Therefore, we suggest that you gauge the length of your journey by time rather than distance.
Can we visit National Parks and what kind of animals can be seen?
Sri Lanka’s 14 National Parks offer the chance to see some of the country’s 91 mammals (16 endemic) – elephant, leopard, sloth bear, sambur, spotted deer, hog, mouse and barking-deer, wild boar, porcupine, ant-eater, civet cat, loris, giant squirrel, and monkeys such as the macaque, purple-faced leaf money and grey langur.
The largest of the parks is Yala, where jeep safaris provide close encounters with leopards and also abundant bird-life. The best park to see elephants is Uda Walawe.
Is it possible to witness traditional festivals?
Every full moon day is a Buddhist public holiday, a Poya.
The most important is in May Vesak Poya – a festival that marks the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death, worth seeing are the illuminated pandals (bamboo frameworks) hung with pictures depicting events in the Buddha’s life.
Sri Lanka’s best-known traditional festival is the Kandy Esala Perahera, held in Kandy over 10 days in late July to early August.
Perahera means “procession” and that’s exactly what occurs nightly – a magical passing-by of drummers, dancer’s whip-crackers, acrobats and robed elephants. A caparisoned tusker carries the reason for the festival, the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha for the people.
What are the available accommodation types?
Accommodation is usually in a shared twin-bed room with a supplementary charge for single occupancy.
Sri Lanka offers a wide range of accommodation from private boutique hotels, villas, eco lodge and tents.
Some of our nature & adventure trips include traveling to remote or undeveloped outstation destinations where hotel accommodation of International tourist standard may not exist & facilities are rudimentary.
Sleeping huts & tents are simple & often lack Western-style toilets or bathing facilities. In such places, tour participants will be provided with the best available facilities.
The package price may include meals as specified in each tour program.
How do I make a hotel booking ?
You need to inform your tour operator about your preferences who will handle your booking and send you a confirmation.
Alternatively, if you do not require a tour operator’s services you could make the booking online through a booking engine or contact the hotel directly and make your booking.
Why are all your hotels prepaid ?
By prepaying your reservation you are assured that the rate paid is secured and that you will not be subject to room rate increases.
How do I cancel a hotel booking ?
You need to inform or send an email directly to the person who handled your booking .
If I check out early on a reservation, can I obtain a refund for the nights I did not stay ?
Upon arrival and check-in at a hotel, you are responsible for consuming the entire length of stay. No refunds or credits will be issued for any nights reserved, but not consumed.
What food will I find here?
Rice and curry, and fresh fish, are the Sri Lankan staples, but a wide range of international dishes are available in all major Sri Lankan Restaurants.
The uniqueness of Sri Lankan food influenced by invaders and traders – Indians, Arabs, Malays, Moors, Portuguese, Dutch and English all whom have left a mark on the Sri Lankan diet, will surely make your trip a voyage of culinary discovery!
Sri Lankan food is good, perhaps a little too spicy for foreign palates, but worth trying. The Lankan food served in your hotel is toned down a little bit due to the sensitive stomach of most tourists..
Most coastal towns have excellent seafood including prawns & delicious crab. Rates are quite inexpensive.
Being a tropical country, Sri Lanka is blessed with a large variety of fruits. Some fruits like mangoes and Bananas (known an plantains here), come in over a dozen of sub varieties of shapes, sizes & tastes! Fruits such as Rambutan, Pineapple, Mangosteen, Papaya (Papaw), wood apple, melons, passion fruit, guavas, etc., are but a small sample of the amazing variety of fruits to be discovered and enjoyed.
Can I obtain vegetarian food?
Most large hotels and restaurants have a ‘vegetarian section’ in the menu. The smaller local ‘rice and curry’ restaurants may say the food is vegetarian but include a serving of fried fish or sprats (anchovies). The ‘South Indian’ vegetarian restaurants are 100% vegetarian.
Can I obtain ‘Halal’ food?
‘Halal’ food is usually available in most major hotels. The Galadari and Holiday Inn in Colombo serve halal food, as well a couple of hotels on the west coast. There are quite a few restaurants in Colombo and Kandy, but not much else. The best bet is to order seafood instead of meat to be on the safe side.
What sort of food can I expect in an ‘Ayurveda Resort’?
The food is exclusively based on Sri Lankan rice and curry menu. The curries are mostly Sri Lankan vegetables; Chicken and fish maybe included.
How about drinks?
Sri Lanka is famous for it’s tea, and pride ourselves in producing ‘Ceylon Tea’, the finest tea in the world.
There is a local version of coffee, which is a bit strong. But Colombo is the only place that you could get a really good espresso.
Also, highly recommended are the fresh fruit juices. Popular international soft drinks are available even in little village boutiques.
Sri Lanka has it’s own variety of local beer. Sri Lanka also has two extremely popular local varieties of intoxicating beverage – Toddy and Arrack.
Toddy is a natural drink, produced from one or other palm trees. Fermented and refined toddy becomes Arrack. Some varieties are real “rocket fuel”! Imported beer and foreign liquors cost almost the same as in most western countries.
Thambili or King Coconut is a sweet, clean and cheap natural drink that you’ll find by the wayside. It’s extremely cooling and refreshing!
We advice not to drink tap water unless it is purified. Bottled water is recommended. Only use water from containers with serrated seal- not tops or corks. Most hotel rooms have boiled water in thermos flasks, which is safe to drink.
Is it true that liquor is not served on Full Moon days?
True. Liquor is not served on Full Moon Days.
Full Moon days (known as Poya days), are of religious significance to Buddhists and devoted to prayer and meditation. In keeping with its significance as a religious day abstinence is practiced. As such places selling liquor (including hotel bars) and Meat shops closed.
Is it Safe to Travel to Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka is quite a safe destination to travel and one of the most picturesque countries on earth.
The country is at now at peace and we are experiencing record a record number of visitors; as Sri Lanka is considered one of the few ‘unspoilt’ destinations in Asia.
All of our tours are conducted in areas which are considered safe for tourists to visit.
What safety precautions must I take when travelling?
According to accepted norms of travel you should deposit your valuables like money, passport, tickets, jewels etc in the hotel safe deposit locker.In accordance with international custom the Hotels in Sri Lanka are not responsible for objects lost in the room.
You should also not leave your valuables unattended on the beach, the balconies or terraces.
Never leave your money or passport in your backpack or suitcase.
Always keep a record of your Travellers Cheque numbers separately from the Travellers Cheques.
It is wise to keep an amount of money (about US$ 200) stashed away separately from your money-belt or pouch.
What are the health precautions I should take?
You are strongly advised to contact your own GP or Vaccination Centre in respect of required vaccinations for Sri Lanka.Check on recommended inoculations as least a month before travel.
Malaria tablets, plus inoculations for tetanus, typhoid, hepatitis A and polio are all recommended.
Top hotels can advise on reputable local doctors, or private hospitals in the event of serious illness.
In case of diarrhoea, pack body-salt replenishment powder, such as Dioralyte, as well as Immodium or a similar product.
Malaria tablets are also advised if visiting areas in the east or far north.
Among the items you might pack are: sun creams (factor 12 and above), insect repellent, sting relief cream, antiseptic cream, a lightweight hat and sunglasses.
The HIV rate is rising throughout Asia, so if you might be sexually active, pack condoms and practice safe sex. Discourage any trishaw drivers or hawkers who act on behalf of any illegal prostitution racket.
What health issues must I be concerned with?
As a leading tourist venue, Sri Lanka has one of the best hygiene records in Asia and stomach complaints are uncommon.
Nevertheless, you might like to comply with the following guidelines.
Most importantly, drink (and clean your teeth in) bottled water only. This can be bought much more cheaply from local shops than top hotels, but check the seal has not been tampered with, and ensure you have adequate supplies at all times. Top hotels also supply flasks of boiled and filtered water.
Ensure you do not become dehydrated, especially after strenuous exercise.
Coconut water is renowned as a settler of a queasy stomach, although some may prefer to take their medicinal coconut in the form of arrack — the local firewater.
When eating, consider the old advice: `boil it, bake it, peel it or ignore it.’
Be particularly wary of salads and unpeeled fruit. Ensure your meat is thoroughly cooked.
If you have any doubts, overlook the buffet and order freshly-cooked… even if it takes a little longer.
Wash your hands thoroughly before each meal. You may even follow local customs and eat without cutlery if you wish
What is the level of health care system in Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka has an effective health care system which is considered a model for most developing countries across the world.
However, emergency medical facilities may not be found outside main cities. You may have to be brought to Colombo for treatment. We recommend you use the private sector hospitals, which are likely to offer better care.
It is mandatory for those travelling to Sri Lanka from Africa or Latin America to have a valid certificate of vaccination for Yellow fever and Meningitis prior to arrival in Sri Lanka. You need up-to-date Hepatitis A, Polio and Tetanus shots.
Mosquito borne diseases like dengue, chckengunya and malaria are common.
Almost every town has a pharmacy selling common medicines. However, we advise you to carry any special medication as the availability of medical supplies may vary.
You are strongly advised you take an adequate health insurance cover when travelling to Sri Lanka.
How do I safeguard myself from mosquitoes?
Most hotels will provide you with a plug-in mosquito repellent which will usually be switched on during turn down. You can buy the mats (small repellent tablet inserted to the plug-in unit), from most local supermarkets.
Mosquito nets in hotels are a rarity. You can also buy the burning mosquito coils or citronella candles from the supermarket.
It would be advisable to apply some mosquito repellent lotion if you plan to have dinner in an outdoor setting. The locally available ‘Siddhalepa balm’ is quite effective to take the itch out of mosquito bites.
Also wear loose, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. One of the best ways to keep mosquitoes from biting you is to simply cover your skin. Wear your sleeves and pant legs as long as possible to cover as much skin as possible. Also keep your clothing as loose as possible.
How about other pests, like leeches ?
A good remedy is to apply soap and left to dry or apply lime to exposed areas. You can wear leech socks. Which are pulled over the trousers to prevent leeches reaching the exposed skin of the legs.
If you find a leech sucking on your leg, do not pull it off, but wait for it to fall off after feeding. Else you can apply some salt; this will make the leech release its hold and fall off.
Sri Lanka has a wide variety of very attractive handicrafts on sale. Sri Lankan masks are a very popular collector’s item.
Other recommendations are batiks, wood carvings, gemstones, semi- precious stones, lacquer-ware, hand made Silver- and Brass objects and don’t forget the famous ‘Ceylon Tea’.
Please avoid ornaments made from tortoise shells & ivory. Never buy turtle shell, we even suggest you not to purchase any wood carving made from ebony, in order to preserve this scarce hardwood.
Sri Lanka is a major garment manufacturer and exporter of all kinds of clothing. There is an excellent selection of children’s and casual clothing for men & women, beach wear and even warm padded jackets at extremely attractive prices. Colombo is fast becoming an attraction for garment hunters.
Is tipping accepted?
Tipping is accepted. Although a 10% service charge is included in bills for food and accommodation, tipping is a customary way of showing your appreciation for services rendered.
A 1 US$ bill is roughly equal to Rs. 160, so giving this as a tip is also well received by the locals.
Tipping is discretionary, depending on your level of satisfaction)
How much should I tip?
Your housekeeping staff, doorman, bellboy all expect a little tip. A tip between 100 – 200 rupees ( 1-2 USD) for each service is considered adequate.
Your guide or driver on tour will expect something between US$ 5 to 15 a day (depending on your level of satisfaction)
Taxi cabs & tuk tuks run on a fixed price, so tipping is not required.
Don’t get overwhelmed by all the tipping advice, after all it’s purely discretionary.
How about the nightlife in Sri Lanka?
The places with some active night life are Colombo, Negombo and Hikkaduwa.
Colombo has some decent pubs, night clubs, karaoke lounges and bars. There is a growing pub-culture among the young crowd in Colombo. Friday and Saturday nights are the days for all night partying. The casinos offer a good combination of live entertainment, food and games of chance.
Negombo and Hikkaduwa have some good beach restaurants and bars. Negombo doesn’t have much of a party scene, but you will find regular beach parties in Hikkaduwa.
What are the do’s and don’ts of local photography?
Ask permission before taking photographs of people and respect their decision if they refuse.
Minority groups in particular are often unhappy to be photographed. If photos are taken, kindly send back copies (through our tour leaders or direct to the village) so that the people receive copies.
While we welcome travelers to pack their video cameras, there are some places where we do not allow you to film. In small villages, at home-stays or trekking, we do not permit the use of videos as local people have requested this and we ask for courtesy and discretion with still cameras
Are there any places I should avoid photographing for military reasons?
Never take photos of dams, airports, roadblocks or anything to do with the military. Don’t shoot with cameras around Colombo Fort
Can I photographs inside temples and monasteries?
Ask permission before taking pictures either of people or inside temples or other sacred places. For example, it is forbidden to take photographs inside the cave temple complex of Dambulla.
Never use flash on murals inside temples and other places; it can cause damage them.
You aren’t allowed to use flash at the frescoes at Sigiriya, but where there is no ban, please behave responsibly.
Never pose beside or in front of a Buddha statue (i.e. with your back to the statue). Such conduct is considered extremely disrespectful.
Don’t photograph a monk without asking permission.
Should I pay for taking photographs of people or places?
Tourists are sometimes asked for money for taking photos. Always ask before you photograph whether payment is expected.
Our accompanying representatives will be able to guide you on this.
Are there other options to process my digital photos?
It’s always advisable to bring a USB cord (camera to PC) so you transfer the pictures to a PC. Internet cafés are ideal for this. Simply copy the pictures to the PC and then burn them into a CD. This is much cheaper and can keep your memory cards empty.
Can I process my digital photos in Sri Lanka?
There are many franchised photo shops such as Kodak & Fuji with advanced digital imaging services in major towns. Almost all types of digital data storage devices are accepted. It’s always advisable to keep a backup of your pictures before handing it over for processing.
Are there any areas that I cannot travel to?
You may travel to anywhere in the island. However, travel to the North requires prior authorization from the Ministry of Defence (MOD).
Any Photography Restrictions?
There are some important restrictions that apply to photography regarding Buddhist imagery. When you visit a temple or other religious site, remember that photography should not be carried out in a manner causing disrespect. For instance, it is strictly forbidden to be photographed in front of or beside any statues and murals.
Note that flash photography can damage old murals.
Are the any Special Photography Permits?
Tourists who wish to visit and or photograph the principal ancient monuments in Sri Lanka are required to purchase a ticket from the
Central Cultural Fund,
212/1, Bauddhaloka Mawatha,
Tel: +94-11 2587912 /2500733 /2581944
Central Cultural Fund offices at Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya and Kandy
Is it true that liquor is not served on Full Moon days?
True. Liquor is not served on Full Moon Days.
Full Moon days (known as Poya days), are of religious significance to Buddhists and devoted to prayer and meditation. In keeping with its significance as a religious day abstinence is practiced. As such places selling liquor (including hotel bars) and Meat shops closed.
Can I smoke in public places?
No. Smoking and having liquor in public areas is banned in Sri Lanka. The smoking ban is also in effect at enclosed public places such as restaurants and social clubs.
Are there any restrictions by Customs on Imports?
You are allowed to bring into the country duty free 1.5 litres of spirits, two bottles of wine, a quarter-litre of toilet water, and a small quantity of perfume and souvenirs with a value not exceeding US $250.
The import of personal equipment such as cameras and laptop computers is allowed but must be declared on arrival. However, personal equipment must be taken out of the country upon the visitor.s departure.
The import of non-prescription drugs, firearms and pornography of any form is an offence.
For more information please visit Sri Lanka Customs : www.customs.gov.lk
What are Custom restrictions on Exports?
On leaving the country you are allowed to export up to 10kg of tea duty free.
No antiques (antique. defined as anything more than 50-years-old – rare books, palm-leaf manuscripts and anthropological material) can be exported without permission from the
7 Reid Avenue,
Tel: +94-11 2694523/ 2696917
Director General, Department of Archaeology,
Sir Marcus Fernando Mw,
Tel : +94 11 2692840/1
Tel. +94-11-2694727, +94-11-2667155 ,
Purchase and export without licence of any wild animal, bird or reptile, dead or alive . also the export of parts of animals, birds or reptiles, such as skins, horns, scales and feathers is prohibited.
Occasional exports are, however, permitted exclusively for bona fide scientific purposes.
It is prohibited to export of 450 plant species without special permits.
The export of coral, shells or other protected marine products is also strictly prohibited.
Applications for special permission to export fauna should be made to the
Department of Wildlife Conservation,
382, New Kandy Road,
Tel: +9411 25060380
And flora should be made to the
82, Rajamalwatta Road,
Tel : + 94 11 28666 16/ 2866632
What clothes should be worn?
In the low country, loose cotton skirts or trousers and tops, and a long sleeved blouse for visiting temples, are ideal for women. Men should wear cotton trousers or shorts and a T-shirt, or even the local sarong.
Take a sunhat and sandals, slippers or open shoes that are easy to slip on and off.
Being a conservative society, especially in rural areas, very short skirts and short should be avoided. Modest dress for women is advisable especially off the beach and when visiting religious sites.
For hill country trips pack a light sweater.
if you intend to sample nature trails, bring a pair of walking shoes or trainers.
If you are traveling with children, a sunhat, loose cotton shorts and tops, including long-sleeved tops to protect them from mosquito bites, will be needed.
How can I stay healthy in Sri Lanka?
With common sense precautions it is easy to stay healthy in Sri Lanka.
Minor health problems can be treated by doctors with practices in the resorts and elsewhere in the country.
If you have a serious problem, Colombo boasts well-equipped private hospitals offering the latest in conventional medical and surgical techniques.
- Never drink tap water and avoid ice and juices in places where bottled water isn’t used.
- Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of safe, clean water, or king coconut – a cheap, healthy alternative.
- Always use sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15. Remember you are just 600km from the equator.
- Do not pet or play with stray dogs – they may have rabies.
- Mosquito repellent is essential since malaria exists throughout the country apart from the districts of Colombo, Kalutara and Nuwara-Eliya.
How can I avoid Sunburn / Heatstroke?
When you flop onto the beach or poolside lounger for a spot of sunbathing, always remember to apply a sunscreen product with a sun protection factor of at least 15. Remember you are just 600km from the equator. Even with sunscreen, your sunbathing should be limited in time.
Sometimes those who have spent too long in the sun suffer what is termed heatstroke, the most common form being caused by dehydration.
The symptoms are a high temperature – yet a lack of sweat – a flushed skin, severe headache, and impaired coordination. In addition, the sufferer may become confused.
If you think someone has heatstroke, take that person out of the sun, cover their body with a wet sheet or towel, and seek medical advice.
To avoid heatstroke, take plenty of bottled water to the beach, or buy a “thambili” (king coconut).
Prickly heat rash occurs when your sweat glands become clogged after being out in the heat for too long or from excessive perspiration.
To treat it, take a cold shower, clean the rash with mild soap, dry yourself, apply hydrocortisone cream, and if possible, a product that contains salicylic acid.
Is it possible to obtain Ayurvedic Treatment?
Yes. Ayurveda is practiced more widely than Western medicine.
Many hotels offer Ayurvedic treatment for guests and have qualified practitioners to advise you on how to improve your health, or give various types of baths and massages.
Travelers With Special Needs?
Travelers with special needs, especially if they visit Sri Lanka without a companion, should note that the country has relatively few facilities for disabled people, although greater awareness and improvements are evolving.
There is no need to worry at Colombo’s Airport as wheelchairs and assistance in boarding and disembarking are available.
Buildings, offices, and banks are becoming better-equipped with wheelchair ramps and suchlike.
If you aren’t travelling with a companion, you’ll find that Sri Lankans will be only too eager to assist.