Tips for travelling in Sri Lanka

Everything you need to know for travelling in Sri Lanka. Message us if you would like more details or if you have a specific question.

What to wear

Sri Lanka is a very casual country, so no smart attire is required at any of the hotels. That said, you may like to change for dinner at certain hotels – simply to make it more of an occasion. This is a personal decision.

Because of the tropical climate light cotton and linen clothing is ideal. You will need some sturdy shoes for the climb up Sigiriya Rock, and any other hiking you might do.

We recommend you carry a sun hat and sunglasses & a light weight sweater for the cooler evenings in the hill country areas.  We also suggest you pack an umbrella as rain is always a possibility in Sri Lanka (and they are very handy for the sun).


Visitors of both genders must wear decent clothing to cover the body appropriately when visiting religious places and shorts and sleeveless tops are not acceptable. Knees & shoulders are often required to be covered. 

Visitors should remove hats, caps, shoes and slippers when entering buildings and sites with religious monuments. Most of these places have a secure facility at the entrance for visitors to leave behind shoes and slippers for a very small fee.

Topless sunbathing is officially illegal. The use of smaller swimwear on the beaches is generally acceptable. When in rivers & lakes as locals for advise.

Visas

Visas are required for visiting Sri Lanka for all passport holders. The easiest way to obtain a visas is to apply online before arrival. 

. Please ask us for details or visit www.eta.gov.lk for more details.

Your general tourist visa will be valid for 30 days , starting from the date of your arrival in Sri Lanka. For additional days spent over this time you will need to apply for an extension. Please note;

  • Your visa must be utilised before the date of expiry noted on the visa.

  • Validity of your visa is subject to entry into Sri Lanka during the indicated entry period.

  • Applications for the extension of visas should be made to the department of Immigration and Emigration.

Money in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s currency is the 'Rupee', abbreviated as ‘Rps’. Rupees. Notes (Bills) are in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 & 1000 and 2000 Rupees. It is not possible to purchase Sri Lankan Rupees outside of the country.

Visiting foreigners can exchange money at the international airport where 24-hour exchange facilities are available and through banks and approved money changers. If you will not be spending any time in the cities we suggest you get all necessary currency at the airport on arrival.

The larger hotels and shops generally accept Major Credit Cards like American Express, Master Cards, and Visa. Smaller shops, street food vendors and tuk tuks etc will only accept cash. The bank booths at the arrival halls generally offer competitive rates and quick service.

Electricity & Plugs

In Sri Lanka voltage is 230 volts AC, 50 cycles, though some areas also have DC supplies. Visitors are advised to check the voltage before using electrical appliances. Socket sizes vary, so it is as well to take a set of plug adapters, available from most electrical stores.

Electricity & Plugs

In Sri Lanka voltage is 230 volts AC, 50 cycles, though some areas also have DC supplies. Visitors are advised to check the voltage before using electrical appliances.

 

You will find throughout your travels in Sri Lanka that socket sizes vary, so we recommend that you take a set of plug adapters, available from most electrical stores. The best idea is to purchase one before you arrive in Sri Lanka.

Photography

Visitors to Sri Lanka find varied subjects for photography including people, monuments, wildlife, festivities, and landscapes.

Asking permission before taking photos of people is the courteous thing to do. Some minority groups are actually really unhappy about having their photos taken.

 

Remember that Buddhism is a living religion and most ancient monuments are still venerated. Photography should not be done in a manner causing disrespect to the shrines, images or monuments. Posing of models in front of statues and paintings are strictly prohibited.

It is extremely disrespectful to take a selfie with Buddha statue behind you or your back turned to it.

Expect to pay the ladies picking tea if you want to take up their time for your photos, they are working & taking time out costs them. They are happy to pose for photos if you give them a little bit of money.

Communication & WIFI

A pre purchased Sri Lankan Sim can be purchased at the airport outside airport arrivals or at various shops, be warned though, it is a time consuming process!  The airport is the easiest place to arrange a sim. 

 

A local Sim will give you access to data while your out and about. If you would like us to arrange one for you before arrival please contact us.

 

Most accommodation providers also offer WIFI. We find the wifi strength varies. Sri Lankan telecom shops sell scratch cards for immediate internet access, these are more readily available in the larger centres. (Eg the World Trade Centre in Colombo).

Customs & Cultural Difference

Take care to avoid religion offence. Be sensitive to cultural difference. Patience, friendliness and courtesy are highly-valued virtues.

Please in particular respect the Buddhist faith, do not touch a monk, do not pose for photos on religious statues & always remove shoes when entering temples.

Sri Lanka's genuine hospitality towards tourists is renowned, please respect their country & people.

Environmental Responsibility

Waste pollution is a serious problem in Sri Lanka & we are trying to do our bit to reduce the footprint our guests leave. We have re-useable bottles and our drivers carry lists of water refill stations throughout Sri Lanka.

Please carry a small shopping bag with you, plastic bags will be offered for every purchase, by carrying your own bag you are able to say no to this single use plastic. Cotton bags are readily available & make a nice souvenir.

Electricity conservation is essential in Sri Lanka. Power is a precious respires at present and the demand for electricity places an enormous strain on the economy. When you leave a room turn off the lights & the air-conditoner. Every little bit helps.

Water conservation is especially important in Sri Lanka. The island is heavily reliant on water for hydro power aswell as the day to day tasks of drinking, washing & cooking. Shorten the length of your shower, and consider asking for towels to be folded rather that being washed each day.

Ethnic Conflict

Sri Lanka's 20 year Guerrilla war by the Tamil Tigers was ended by the Sri Lankan government in 2009. Even at the height of the conflict the majority of the island was violence-free. There has been no renewal terrorism since the end of the war and Sri Lanka has experienced a large rise in tourist numbers. The conflict touched many lives with sadness and should not be regarded as a topic for casual conversation.

Emergency Numbers & Health

A handy list to keep readily available during your travels in Sri Lanka is a copy of Sri Lanka's emergency numbers.

  • Police 011 2433333

  • Fire 011 2422222

  • Hospital 0112691111

  • Department of Immigration 0112503629

We advise our guests to pack;

Sunscreen, insect repellant, sting & bite relief cream and antiseptic cream. Also some good waterproof bandaids, antiseptic wipes & a packet of tissues.

We also recommend that you take some body replenishing powder (electrolyte) and Immodium or similar to be used for cases of diarrhoea.

Festivals & Dry Days

Sri Lanka has more public holidays than anywhere else in the world. most common being Poya Day which is important to Buddhists for religious observation.  Poya (full moon day) each month which is categorised as a public & bank holiday. Generally shops & businesses are closed on these days. These holidays are referred to as 'dry days' as the sale of alcoholic beverages at shops, hotels & restaurants is prohibited. Your driver can assist you with these days & purchasing alcohol in advance if you wanted a drink on these days.

For the dater of up coming national holidays contact us.

Food and Drink

Rice & curry is the Sri Lankan staple, but a wide range of international dishes are available throughout the island. Bear in mind that purchasing local food supports the locals rather than promoting costly imports. When eating, consider the old advice; boil it, bake it, peel it or ignore it'. Be particularly wary of salads and unpeeled fruit and ensure your meat is thoroughly cooked.

Most importantly, drink and clean your teeth with filtered water only. There are various refill stations throughout Sri Lanka and in drivers vehicles. If you need to purchase water then ensure the seal is not broken.  Most hotels provide filtered water in their dining rooms. Coconut water is renowned as a settler of a queasy stomach.

Personal Safety

Travelling in Sri Lanka is extremely safe, but caution should always be exercised when visiting a foreign country, particularly if you find yourself in an unfamiliar environment. Please take extra care when in an area with wild animals and keep a safe distance away should one cross your path. Follow the instructions of your driver or safari guide in the even of a wild animal crossing your path unexpectedly.

Females should take caution when travelling without a male on public transport and walking around at night.

Shopping & Tipping

Bartering over the price of goods is widely expected Forna variety of transactions, including the hire of tuk-tuks, and the purchase of handicrafts. Please note however that not all vendors offer an inflated price that therefore requires bargaining. Modern shops for example have adopted western habits where bartering is not welcome.

Bargaining is best carried out in a light-hearted, courteous manner, aggressive haggling will often offend the seller and may increase the price.

For taxi drivers, hotels & restaurants 10% is common. Often the service charge is included on your bill air hotels & restaurants. If you hire a driver & car, please consider tipping for good service. A good tip is anything upwards of $15USD per day.

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