Sri Lanka Travel Tips  

Sri Lanka Travel Guide

 

A quintessential Southeast Asian holiday destination in the throes of massive change, there’s a myriad of things to do in Sri Lanka and with its heady mix of British colonial influence, breathtaking landscapes and friendly locals makes for a beguiling holiday destination. The tropical paradise has only recently cropped on traveler’s radars, following the end of the country’s three decade long civil war. With more tourists heading down to the beautiful island every year, here are some Sri Lanka travel tips to help first-time visitors:

Visa

Nationals from 80 countries who visit Sri Lanka as tourists are exempted from visa requirements and automatically receive a free 30-day visa on arrival. Nationals from these countries who visit for reasons other than tourism should get prior visas from a Sri Lankan Consular Office. For nationals of other countries, there is a varying fee for the 30-day visa.

The 30-day visa can be extended up to 90 days on the payment of a fee. You’ll need to show a return or onward airline ticket out of Sri Lanka along with proof of funds and provide a copy of the bio-data page of your passport and two photographs.

Tourists from 80 countries could obtain their visa on arrival at the BIA (Bandaranayke International Airport). Travellers visiting Sri Lanka can also get their online visa via electronic travel authorisation system which is also known ETA. Visit the ETA website https://www.eta.gov.lk/ and follow further instructions. Any tourists visa to Sri Lanka will be issued only for a maximum period of 30 days while can be extended up to 90 days with an additional charge and handing over the application of visa extension to the Department of Immigration of Sri Lanka.


When to visit Sri Lanka?

The weather condition of the country does not stick to the book. However, the good news is, the weather patterns are not similar all through the island. This means; if it is sunny in the west, it may be raining in the East. So, in case of bad weather, travellers may visit the other part of the country and enjoy the attractions of Sri Lanka.

Nevertheless, we highly recommend talking to your Sri Lanka travel guide for planning an uninterrupted holiday. They are well aware of the details and can help you plan a perfect itinerary filled with maximum excitement.

The weather condition of the country does not stick to the book. However, the good news is, the weather patterns are not similar all through the island. This means; if it is sunny in the west, it may be raining in the East. So, in case of bad weather, travellers may visit the other part of the country and enjoy the attractions of Sri Lanka.

Nevertheless, we highly recommend talking to your Sri Lanka travel guide for planning an uninterrupted holiday. They are well aware of the details and can help you plan a perfect itinerary filled with maximum excitement.


What to pack?

 Being a tropical island, cotton clothes are the most ideal clothes to wear. When visiting cultural and religious sites, gents are required to clothing that covers their knees with a shirt or t-shirt. Ladies are also required to cover the knees with decent attire. It may not be advisable for ladies to wear sleeveless or deep necked tops.

Sun tan lotion can also come in handy because it can get very hot sometimes.

As a tropical country, cotton clothes are most suitable to wear, and you may require a few modest outfits to visit religious places. Both gents and ladies should wear attires covering their knees and shoulders. Sleeveless, deep-necked and transparent tops are not recommended at all.  Carry a pair of bathing suits if you are planning to visit beaches.


Foreign currency regulations

Visitors to Sri Lanka bringing in more than US$10,000 should state the amount to the Customs upon arrival. All unspent rupees converted from foreign currencies can be re-converted to the original currency upon departure as long as encashment receipts can be shown.

Individuals bringing in any sum of cash exceeding US$ 15,000 should inform the customs upon arriving in Sri Lanka. Foreign currency and cheque exchanging facilities are available at the airport bank which is operating around the clock. Please keep all your currency exchange receipts for future references.


Customs

Visitors may be required to open their baggage for inspection. Certain kinds of animal products, antiques and gold are not allowed to be taken out of the country. Remember to retain your shopping receipts, particularly for gems.

During the security check-ups at the airport, travellers may be asked to expose their baggage for examination. Certain pharmaceuticals items and medicines (except for individual medical use), antiques, gold, gems, plants, animals and animal products are restricted to carry out from the country.


Accommodation

 Accommodation facilities range from luxury boutique hotels, tea planter bungalows to private beach villas and low budget accommodations complete with all amenities. In the peak season, bookings can be very difficult to it’s best to reserve accommodation well in advance through tour operators and online booking.


Food & Drink

Sri Lankan food is heavily influenced by India cuisine and is generally spicy, pungent and curry-related. Visitors can also find plenty of Chinese, Continental, Indian and Japanese cuisines served in Colombo and most hotels and resorts. Roadside food can be risky to eat but there are plenty of places by the side of the road which have delicious, hygienic food.

All meats served at all major hotels and restaurants are halal as are all meats sold through supermarkets, etc. Most restaurants would display the halal certificate acquired from the relevant authorities. Sri Lankans are used to eating with their hands. However, forks and knives are readily provided in almost all hotels and restaurants.

Filtered, mineral and bottled drinking water is available at most retail shops. Avoid drinking water from the tap and make sure you drink plenty of water during the day to remain hydrated.

Always keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of clean water. It is advisable not to drink water from the taps and drink filtered or bottled mineral water. Mineral water bottles can be purchased from many retail shops and restaurants.


Communication

IDD facilities are available at all city hotels, resorts, post offices and telecommunication centers island-wide. Postal services are provided at most hotels and at the local post office. Telegrams and faxes can be handed over to the hotel reception for transmission.

Calling overseas or International Direct Dialling (IDD) facilities are available around the country. Every city hotel, resorts, post offices and telecommunication shops are well-equipped with IDD facility.

Mobile phone and internet coverage is available island wide. Major telecommunication sectors of Sri Lanka offer reasonable IDD rates for many countries and internet packages. Foreigners could purchase their pre-paid SIM card from the airport counter or particular outlets.

Mobile coverage has extended beyond major cities. If you would rather not use your own mobile phone but still want to be reached, the cheapest option is to get a mobile phone connection with one of the major network operators in Sri Lanka. All these phone companies have a pay-as-you-go plan where you can buy a local SIM card and keep topping up the connection as you require. You will find recharge cards at any corner store throughout the country.


Language

The language difficulty wouldn’t be a big issue in Sri Lanka as most of the locals have moderate English familiarity including talking and reading. Even if you are unsure, there is nothing to worry; specific tours will be accompanied by English speaking Sri Lanka travel guide or chauffeurs throughout the journey.  


Medical Facilities

Most hotels will have a doctor within the hotel premises or nearby so when needed, you can contact the hotel reception. Pharmacies can usually be found at the commercial centre of most towns.


Banks

Banks are open from 9am to 1pm from Monday to Friday. Some banks close at 1500 hrs, while some are open on Saturday mornings too. It’s simple to withdraw money across the country at ATMs using international credit cards or debit cards.

Banks are operating across the country and open from 9.00 am to 3.00 pm on weekdays while certain branches are open on weekends for over the counter transactions. With the ATM’s spanning around the country, it is easy to withdraw money from anywhere using your card.


Shops

Most shops are open from 10.00am and close at 6.00pm and are normally closed on Sundays and Full moon (Poya) days.


Tipping

It is expected to tip drivers, guides and hotel housekeeping/restaurant staff if their service is satisfactory and is done only at your discretion. The standard tip is 100 rupees for housekeeping and 10% of your meal bill for restaurant staff.

Tipping is allowed in Sri Lanka while you may offer from Rs: 50 to 100 depending on your opinion and satisfactory level. It is not compulsory and relies solely on your decision. An additional 10% service charge will be added on total dining bills at restaurants and hotels.


Restrictions & Permits

Sri Lanka is an immensely photogenic island but there are some restrictions that apply to photography when it comes to Buddhist imagery. When visiting a temple or any other religious site, photography should not be done in a manner that will cause any form of disrespect. It’s strictly not allowed to be photographed beside or in front of murals or any statues. Flash photography can also cause great damage to old murals. Photos within military installations and bridges are not allowed either. Always ask before taking photographs or videos of people.

Although Sri Lanka is a photogenic island, some restrictions would apply when capturing photographs of Buddhist figures, religious, cultural and historical places. Photos are not allowed in temples, posing next to murals and statues and stay away from capturing any pictures which are offensive and casing security issues. It is wise to know the photo restrictions of the place you visit and always get permission before taking snapshots of individuals.  


Social Conventions & Etiquette

Modest attire is appreciated in all situations and cleanliness is highly valued. Scanty clothing and display of intimacy in public can offend some locals and will possibly draw unwanted attention.

Shoes and footwear must be removed before entering temples and other religious sites and you many need to cover your head in Hindu temples.

Use your right hand for giving, taking, shaking hands, or eating as the left hand is considered as unclean.


Safety

In general, threats to personal security for tourists in Sri Lanka are almost nonexistent. However, it’s advisable not to travel alone, especially at night. The island, including the Northern and Eastern regions of Sri Lanka is completely safe to visit. If you have something stolen or have run in to any form of trouble, it can be reported to the tourist police who can be contacted on + 94 11 2382209

 

Hot Tours & Adventures

EXPLORE A DIFFERENT WAY TO TRAVEL

People’s Choice