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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon, is in Southern Asia. It is an island country in the Indian Ocean, south of India.

Regions

Sri Lanka is divided into 9 administrative provinces:

Cities

  • Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte — new capital of Sri Lanka
  • Anuradhapura — ruins of ancient capitals (partially restored). UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Batticaloa - called land of singing fish. Beautiful shallow beaches, paddy fields, historical places.
  • Colombo — commercial capital and the largest city of Sri Lanka. Hotels, cafés, restaurants, night clubs and shopping.
  • Galle — famous Dutch fort. Host city of the Galle Literary Festival. UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Jaffna — northern capital. On display is the rich heritage of the Tamil-speaking community.
  • Kandy — spiritual heart of the country, home to a tooth of the Buddha. UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Negombo - beautiful landscape and great blue oceans.
  • Nuwara Eliya- Little England. Cool climes, Victorian architecture, top hats, tails and fascinators on race days.

Other destinations

  • Arugam Bay - southeast-coast beach town with several top surfing spots
  • Dambulla - A city of historic importance with fabulous hotels, close to Sigiriya. Both UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  • Horton Plains - A cloud forest in the central highlands with many endangered fauna and flora and endless hikes
  • Kitulgala - known for pristine nature & adventure seekers and white-water rafting - 4 hours from Colombo
  • Mirissa - beach village on the south coast close to Matara with two good surfing spots
  • Pasikudah - Famous beach resort in Sri Lanka's east region with white beaches and upscale hotels
  • Sinharaja Forest Reserve - A UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Unawatuna - beach resort on the south coast very close to Galle
  • Yala National Park - wildlife safari

Understand

Located in the Indian Ocean just south of India, Sri Lanka is an island that is a popular holiday destination. Well known for its natural beauty, Sri Lanka has stunning beaches all along its coastline, great wildlife and biodiversity and a rich culture and heritage dating back several millennia.

Sri Lanka was engulfed in a bitter civil war for 30 years between the government and the Tamil Tigers, who were fighting for an independent state for the Tamil speaking minority. The war ended in May 2009 when the Tamil Tigers were bloodily defeated, and heavy emigration is still slowing Sri Lanka's population growth.

History

Sri Lanka has more than 2,500 years of continuous written history by means of the Mahawansha, and was also mentioned in several ancient Indian texts. One of the most famous is the Ramayana, in which the island, which was referred to as Lanka, was the island fortress of the king Ravana, who captured the wife of Rama, an incarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu. Legend has it that Hanuman the monkey flew over to Lanka and destroyed the capital by setting it on fire, while Rama and his remaining troops later crossed over from the mainland by building a land bridge across the sea.

There is however a school of thought, though largely unsupported, that Sita the wife of Rama, eloped with Ravana while Rama was away. It is argued by those who support this view that, this is why Rama subjected Sita to undergo an "agni pariksha" (test of fire) to prove her purity. Nevertheless, this theory is widely criticized by believers of Valmiki's version of the episode.

The Sinhalese arrived in Sri Lanka late in the 6th century BC, probably from northern India. Buddhism was introduced starting from the mid-3rd century BC, and a great civilization developed in cities like Anuradhapura (kingdom from c. 200 BCE to c. 1000 CE) and Polonnaruwa (c. 1070 to 1200). Other later notable kingdoms are the DambadeniyaYapahuwa, Gampola, Kandy and Jaffna Kingdoms.

Occupied by the Portuguese in the 16th century and the Dutch in the 17th century, the island was ceded to the British in 1796, and became a crown colony in 1802. As Ceylon, it became independent in 1948; its name was changed to Sri Lanka in 1972.

Climate

Since Sri Lanka is a tropical country, you can expect the rain anytime of the year in most parts. However, the two major rainy seasons are the North-East monsoon (October to January) and the South-West monsoon (May to July).

Being an island, the climate of Sri Lanka changes dramatically from one part of the country to another. For example at Nuwara Eliya, in the hills of Central Sri Lanka, has a temperature around -5 to 20°C throughout the year, whereas Hambantota, located in the dry zone, has a temperature consistently around 30-35°C.

In general, Sri Lanka also has very hot temperatures all year long, which is why most Sri Lankan men wear sarongs while Sri Lankan women dress lightly with a long dress.

Terrain

Mostly low, flat to rolling plain; mountains in south-central interior.

  • Highest point: Pidurutalagala, 2,524m.
  • Second highest peak: Kirigalpoththa (Horton Plains) 2,388m.
  • Third highest peak: Thotupola Kanda (Horton Plains) 2,357m.

Get in

Visa rules

Online tourist visa can be obtained by all countries nationals, except Maldives and Singapore. It allows to stay in the country for 30 days and is valid for six months since it was approved. Application should be lodged in advance before entering the country and shall be done online. After this applicant will receive an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) which should be present at the port of entry in Sri Lanka and exchanged for a tourist visa. Visa charges are US$20 for SAARC countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Pakistan) and US$35 for others (2016). Officially ETA gets ready in 2 days, however, they usually send it in 10-20 minutes after the payment is done.

Besides, tourist visa can be obtained without getting a prearranged ETA right at the Bandaranaike International Airport (at a visa desk in the arrival zone before customs), US$40. Therefore online visa is not a pre-condition to board a flight/vessel to Sri Lanka.

Important: immigration authorities at Colombo airport are very demanding with respect to the accuracy of the passport number on your electronic travel authorization obtained online. A single digit mistake is taken as a reason to force you to buy a new visa and refer you to some obscure government office in Colombo for refunds of your online payments. Be careful about 1 vs. I and zero vs. O. The number should exactly match the machine-readable section of your passport, and not anything else (for example, Russian passports have a non-alphanumeric number sign that should be completely excluded).

Visa extension

Extensions can be made at the Department of Immigration, +94 11 532-9300; M-F 09:00-16:30, 41 Ananda Rajakaruna Mw, Col 10, Punchi Borella, Colombo.

A visa extension gives you an additional 2 months in the country beyond the initial 30-day entry visa (so in total, you can stay in the country for 3 months). You can apply any time from immediately after entering the country until the expiry of your visa. An additional 3-month extension is possible (so in total, 6 months), but you must again pay the extension fee plus another Rs10,000. Extensions beyond this are at the discretion of the department, and incur a Rs15,000 fee plus the extension fee. See above for fees for the first 90-day extension.

The department sets the cost in US dollars, but you pay in Sri Lankan rupees. To process the extension, the immigration office requires your passport and an onward ticket. Your proposed stay in Sri Lanka must end at least two months before the expiry date of your passport.

The immigration office begins processing visa extensions Monday through Friday a bit before 08:30 in the morning. However, a worker usually starts to give out queue numbers and forms some time between 07:00 and 07:30, so arrive early to be among the first processed.

Based on several extensions done in summer 2015, total time is about 2.5 hours if you arrive by 07:00: get ticket around 07:15, submit documents at 08:30, make payment at 09:00, get passport back around 09:30. If you arrive at 08:30, the room usually has started to fill and it could be around 3-4 hours. Arriving after 09:30, it'll be full and total time can be at least 4 hours. Arriving after 11:30 is usually not worth it, because the payment counter closes at 14:30; if they haven't finished the pre-processing necessary to get you to the payment stage before 14:30, you'll have to return the next day.

Note that you can leave the room to go outside for a break, but if you miss your number being called, it could add more time to your wait.

Agents can do the visa extension for you: they take your passport and documents, wait in line, pay the fees, etc, then return the passport to you. Larger tour groups often use these agents for extensions. The agents know the system: they arrive early and get the first queue numbers. Because of this, being behind one local agent representing a group of 25 foreigners needing extensions could make your wait time significantly longer. Best advice as an independent traveller is to get your queue number before the local agents: arrive before 07:00, immediately stand waiting at the wooden desk which is on the left just after the entrance, and don't let the agents cut in front of you.

By plane

The first and the biggest Sri Lankan airport is Colombo-Bandaranaike International Airport (IATA: CMB), the journey to Colombo (35 km) will take about an hour by taxi. Besides, there is one more international airport opened in 2013 — Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (Hambantota International Airport, IATA: HRI), located in the southern part of the country, approximately 250 km away from Colombo.

SriLankan Airlines is the national flagship carrier, operating flights from the cities throughout Europe, Southeast Asia, China, Japan, the Middle East, India, and Pakistan. SriLankan Air also flies to the nearby destinations such as Chennai, Trivandrum, Mumbai, Delhi, Cochin, Bangalore and the Maldives.

Emirates Airlines connects many major European cities and others worldwide to Colombo with several flights daily from Dubai and Singapore to Colombo. The airline operates 777-300ER wide body aircraft on these routes.

Indian carrier Jet Airways or its offshoot Jetlite flies to Sri Lanka.

FlyDubai Airlines connects Dubai to Colombo at least since 2016.

Qatar Airways has 3 daily non-stop flights from Doha to Colombo.

Jet Airways has many flights a day to Colombo from Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai.

Tiger Airways, the Singapore-based LCC, flies three times a week between Colombo and Singapore, increasing to four times a week starting November 2012.

The budget airline Air Asia now operates from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Colombo, Sri Lanka. This opens ups cheap flight for visitors from South East Asia as well as those who are visiting South Asia and then heading to South-East Asia (or vice-versa).

Oman Air has announced flights to Colombo via Muscat and Male, they seem to have special prices for their new destinations' start (Frankfurt, Munich, Paris, Male, Colombo)

Royal Jordanian has a daily flight from Amman to Colombo.

Ukrainian International Airlines now has a flight from Kiev to Colombo via Dubai.

Other airlines such as Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Thai International Airways, Cathay Pacific, Saudi Arabian, Condor (Germany), Spicejet (India), Meridiana (Italy), and JetAirFly (Belgium) operate to Colombo-Bandaranaike from their respective home bases.

From America

There are no direct flights that reach Sri Lanka from cities outside Asia, the Middle East and Europe. From the American West Coast, the distance is almost half the globe. Depending on your preferences and how much spare time you have, you can consider a stopover in Europe or SE Asia or take a non-stop flight over the North Pole to New Delhi or Mumbai from Chicago, Newark, New York City (JFK), or Toronto. In many cases, this may be the fastest route, but check if an Indian transit visa is required. Another fast and easy idea is to use Middle Eastern airlines from the US with stopovers in either Qatar, Bahrain, or the UAE (no transit visa required). For example the Dubai-based Emirates offers daily flights from SFO, LAX, Houston Hobby (IAH), and Toronto (YYZ) with a very short stopover before the short flight to Colombo. Emirates Airlines offer non-stop service to Colombo two to three times daily from Dubai. SriLankan Airlines is part of the Oneworld alliance which allows through ticketing with American Airlines, and several Asian, European, and Middle Eastern airlines.

By ship

The Tuticorin (India)—Colombo passenger ferry service has been suspended and will commence once the requisite infrastructure is put in place on both sides, which might take years (2016).

According to the customs office in Tuticorin it is illegal for a cargo ship to transport passengers from the Tuticorin Port to Sri Lanka.

Get around

Sri Lanka is rapidly expanding its infrastructure and public transport services, making independent travel easier over time. As of now, however, many roads are still thoroughly potholed and at times terrifying due to local driving traditions. Together with occasional massive crowds (especially on holidays), often lacking luggage space and occasional harassment of women travelling alone, buses may not seem like the most appealing way of travel for some. Yet, they offer great opportunities for interaction with locals, are cheap, plentiful and come in different qualities.

By plane

Sri Lankan Airlines operates seaplane service to destinations such as Nuwara EliyaKandyGalle and elsewhere. This is perfect for photography trips because you can get a bird's eye view of the island and takes less time to get to a destination than using the road. Also the seaplanes land on picturesque lakes and tanks around the island.

Aero Lanka operates domestic flights between Colombo City Airport - Ratmalana, Jaffna and Trincomalee

  • Cinnamon Air (air taxi), No 11, York Street, Colombo 01, ☎ +94 11 2 475 451. A Domestic Airline offering daily scheduled flights from Bandaranaike International Airport to Sri Lanka's most popular destinations.

Ratmalana Airport (IATA: RML, ICAO: VCCC) is a major domestic airport in Colombo.

By bus

For those on a budget buses are everywhere. They're sometimes crowded and uncomfortable, but they get you around for almost nothing; it costs about a dollar to get half-way across the island. If you're planning on splashing out, AC buses run most routes for twice the price, which offer air-conditioning and a guaranteed seat. However, they're still uncomfortable. Bus stations are confusing places, especially the big ones, but almost everyone will be delighted to practise their English and help you. Also, when travelling by bus, it is local etiquette in most buses to provide or give up the very front passenger seats to members of the clergy such as monks or priests if they are present. You may be overcharged as a foreigner from the bus attendant, ask for a printed ticket if available to see the correct fare. If a ticket machine isn't available try to ask a female passenger for the fare price as they are usually honest.

If you're on a very tight budget, the standard public buses (CTB) lack air-con and are regularly pretty overcrowded, but they're dirt-cheap for western standards and run everywhere all the time. As a foreigner you maybe be overcharged, simply ask for a ticket to your destination to get the correct fare. Private buses charge about double but are still cheap and often do have air-conditioning and often guaranteed seats. Your best bet is to inform upon arrival in a destination about your way out, and if possible secure a seat already. In all cases, arrive early and preferably travel light. If you're carrying a lot of luggage, you might have to purchase a seat for your backpack if you don't want to keep it on you lap or under your feet.

By rail

Sri Lanka has an extensive railway system serving all major towns and cities in the island except for the North. The railway system in Sri Lanka is picturesque when entering the hill country because of the winding tracks along the mountains especially on the Badullu-Nanu Oya line. Make sure, if you can, to sit on the right side of the train, as it offers the better view. Travel by train is itself a journey to remember, be it travelling to Central Sri Lanka or travelling on the coastal line is just amazing. Highly recommended to travel by train outside Colombo. The Hill train to Badulla is an amazing journey. Preferably choose the express trains, and try to get a reservation beforehand, if you can. There are special Observation cars for tourists to take in the scenery. Trains can be slower than buses, depending if you are on a line that offers an express train or not, but more comfortable and even less expensive than buses.

You can look up train schedules on the official site: or using one of the two Android apps available: [1] [2]. Be advised, however, that these will only give you results for direct connections between stations.

There are three classes of railway cars, although 1st and 2nd class are only available on some Intercity and Express trains. Travelling 3rd class is not as bad as it may sound. Often the difference between 3rd and 2nd class is only a missing armrest between seats.

Trains are sometimes crowded, especially in the morning and late afternoon. Also, observation car seats for the lines popular with tourists (like the Colombo-Kandy line) are often booked out several days in advance in the high season. So whenever possible you should get a reservation beforehand: see [3] and [4] for more information

Privately owned train services such as Exporail and Rajadhani Express operates air-conditioned and serviced first-class railway cars to major destinations daily. While this is costlier than travelling by air-conditioned bus, it is much cheaper than hiring a car and offers facilities such as online reservations, friendly on-board services, spacious seating, on-board meals and wireless internet.

Trains offer good alternatives when they are available, and the standard trains are only slightly more expensive than the private buses, if at all. One of the advantages is that 1st and 2nd class train tickets can be reserved several days in advance. Sri Lankan Railways has a useful website in English. There are also more expensive private trains with 1st class wagons and good service to some of the destinations. These obviously come at higher prices, but are still a reasonable and convenient option for travellers on a mid-range or higher budget, with a trip from Colombo to Kandy costing around Rs1700.

By three-wheeler

The most common mode of transport in Sri Lanka is via a three-wheeled automobile appropriately referred to as a three-wheeler (tri-Shaw). Also known as tuk-tuks from the noise of their motors. These operate in a manner similar to taxis, and in many situations are a convenient and highly cost-efficient way to get around. Safety is a concern however, as none of them have seat belts and they are open to the sides. Three-wheelers are ubiquitous in Sri Lanka. On any given street, you'll hardly have to wait more than a couple of minutes without one going by that you can wave down. If you're travelling with luggage, there are slightly larger three-wheelers with more space for your bags that you can look for. While it may be the most novel way to get around, it may not be the most cost efficient in every situation. Public transport is cheaper by far, and most Three-wheel drivers tend to over-price foreigners, so never agree to the first estimate. The best price you can get is about Rs50-75 per km for short journeys and about Rs30-50 for long journeys (more than 15 km). If you do come across a metered tri-shaw make sure the meter is switched on. Taxis are slightly more expensive but surely a lot safer. Having said that, you probably have not experienced everything Sri Lanka has to offer until you travel in one.

By car

Rented cars usually turn out cheaper than three-wheelers, and are less prone to road accidents--and are recommended by most hotels. Rented cars often come with their own drivers. Often the automobile itself is free, whereas the driver will charge a fee for his services. Some drivers/guides are government-licensed; some are extremely knowledgeable and multi-lingual, specializing in historical and cultural knowledge, and environment/natural history for your visits to the ancient sites and the natural reserves. Driving yourself is very adventurous as the driving style is very different from wealthier countries. Of course, if you're not on a budget and especially if you're pressed for time, renting a car with driver for the whole or part of the route can offer a convenient way to follow this itinerary, and will in some cases allow to see two sites on one day. Daily rates vary between Rs5000 and 10,000 per day excluding fuel, depending on the kind of car you want and whether you book via a hotel or travel agency that will take a commission.

You can also rent a car without driver but you will need to bring your international driving license and get it validated by the Automobile Association of Sri Lanka in order to be able to drive by your own. You can opt to pay an agency to do this for you in advance; otherwise, you must do it in Colombo, and it will take a day. You will find international car hire agencies in Colombo Airport and some local companies in Negombo's beach area.

Tour operators

Tour operators are happy to get you a van and a driver who will take you all over the island but beware, the roads are bumpy and slow. If you book off-the-cuff when you arrive, ask to be shown on a map where you are going before agreeing to any 'tour' of the island and research before you arrive so that you have a clear idea of where you might like to travel. Senseless backtracking to lengthen the trip and increase the cost is a real danger, as is a driver's wish to take you on unwanted shopping expeditions in an effort to gain commission. Travel websites specialising in Sri Lanka are easily found and have greatly increased the choice that is readily available to independent travellers seeking tailor-made tours. The best of them will produce clearly-stated travel itineraries and some are flexible enough to make late changes to itineraries. Ask to see their booking conditions and anti-fraud policies.

Taxi companies

Taxis are a better way of getting around Colombo than three wheelers as, due to the metering, they often turn out to be cheaper. Rates are about US$0.55 and they have full day packages (approx 8 hours and 80km) for around US$40. They will also take you outstation for around US$0.30-0.35 per km with no waiting charges. You can also set up your own itenary and travel around that way as opposed to whatever the tour operator tells you.

Talk

See also: Sinhala phrasebook, Tamil phrasebook

Sinhala, spoken by the majority Sinhalese, and Tamil, spoken by the minority Tamil and Muslim groups, are Sri Lanka's two official languages. English is commonly used in most cities, especially ColomboKandy and Galle, and by government and tourism officials. But while most of the people in Colombo can speak English, don't expect everyone, everywhere to be able to speak it fluently. In the beach and tourist areas you will have no problem with English. Most people in rural villages, however, cannot speak any English, beyond a few simple words.

  • Sinhala language The greeting in Sinhala is "ayubowan". It means "May you live longer"; 'Thank you' is "bohoma sthuthi" and "how are you" is "kohomada", pronounced "Ko homede""
  • Tamil language: The greeting in Tamil is "vanakkam"; 'Thank you' is "nandri"

Sinhala writing is much more curved than Tamil. After a while, you'll learn how to distinguish between the two.

See

Please be aware that to get into many of the tourist sites in Sri Lanka, you, as a foreigner will be charged up to ten times more than locals.

Some popular sights in Sri Lanka are:

  • Sri Dhalada Maligawa and Peradeniya Gardens in Kandy.
  • The ancient temples in AnuradhapuraDambulla and Polonnaruwa which are very beautiful.
  • Ancient City of Sigiriya.
  • Sinharaja Forest Reserve.
  • Beautiful villages which look like England in Nuwara Eliya. There are many tea estates and Hakgala gardens too.
  • The beaches of UnawatunaGalle and northern areas.
  • Whales in Mirissa and Kalpitiya.
  • Wildlife in Yala National Park & Wilpattu for the best wildlife Safari experience. Go to Udawalawe to see elephants and Kumana National Park (Yala East) for birdwatching.
  • The unexplored Sri Lanka in Jaffna and the islands in the Northern Province (Delft).
  • See Negombo's beaches, all sandy and blue.

With a recorded history of more than 2,500 years, Sri Lanka has a rich cultural and natural heritage and its World Heritage Sites are among the absolute highlights in the country. With eight recognized entries, Sri Lanka currently has the second greatest number of listed World Heritage Sites in South Asia (only India, with 30, has more). The most recent addition however are the vast Central Highlands (including three highland parks: Horton Plains National Park, Knuckles Mountain Range and the Peak Wilderness Protected Area), which were inscribed in 2010. Other than these, Sri Lanka has identified two prospective World Heritage Sites: Seruwila Mangala Raja Maha Vihara and Seruwila to Sri Pada (Sacred Foot Print Shrine), an ancient pilgrim route along the Mahaweli river in Sri Lanka.

Itineraries

See also: Sacred sites of the Indian sub-continent
  • World Heritage Sites Tour in Sri Lanka

Do

There are a variety of things that you can do depending on your preference.

Surfing - from November to April you can surf on the western and southern coast. Best place for the beginners is Weligama on the southern coast. You can rent a board for Rs1,500 per day or Rs400 per hour. Lessons cost Rs2,500 per hour, but bargain.

Kitesurfing - from April to September you can kitesurf eastern coast. Best place for the beginners is Kalpitiya (Sethawadi and Kappaladi lagoons), where you can find kite schools and the best conditions in Asia.

White water rafting is also available.

Snorkeling - off the coral a sanctuary near Hikkaduwa is a popular spot to see turtles.

Hiking - Horton Plains National Park offers a nice hiking opportunity to the spectacular view at World's End.

Buy

Money

The currency is the Sri Lankan rupee, denoted by the symbol "රු" or " Rs" (ISO code: LKR). There are coins for 25 and 50 cents (bronze), 1 rupee (old version is big and silver, new version is small and gold), 2 rupees (silver), and 5 rupees (gold). Banknotes range from Rs. 10 to Rs. 5000. Coins that are more than a few years old are typically in quite bad condition.

Credit cards and ATMs, banking services

ATMs are located in many places (especially at bank branches) in the cities and suburbs, less so in the countryside. Be careful of using credit cards, as fraud is on the rise in Sri Lanka. You can withdraw from debit cards too (Cirrus, Maestro, Visa Electron, etc.) where the logos are displayed. Mostly your card will be replaced by your bank once you go back to your country. Not every ATM accepts international cards, try Commercial Bank they accept international cards. You can't send money by Western Union or Money Gram from Sri Lanka abroad. One can only receive money via international money transfer while in Sri Lanka.

Costs

Sri Lanka is a little more expensive than Southeast Asia for accommodation. However, food is comparable: local street food costs around €1, a meal in a local restaurant, €2-5, and a bottle of the local Lion beer is €1. All across the country there are simple accommodations, hostels and homestays. The prices vary depending on the equipment at €10-20. On the coast many small boutique hotels opened up in the last years with prices of €20-30 per night in a double room. For more comfort expect to pay more than €40.

Shopping

Handicrafts of Sri Lanka. For reed, cane, cotton, paper, leather, wood, clay, metal, and gemstones have been transformed and re-expressed in an array of batiks, toys, curios and jewelery, all exquisite hand made treasures.

Eat

Sri Lanka and South Indian food share a lot in common, and many local restaurants describe their menus as Sri Lankan & South Indian. There are a number of regional variations, though, the different types of hopper, devilled prawns, cuttlefish, chicken, etc., and the common fiery addition to any curry, pol sambol made of grated coconut, red chilli powder and lime juice.

Sri Lankan food is generally spicy, but you can always ask for less spicy options if you prefer. Note that Sri Lankans eat with their right hands - this isn't a major problem, because every eatery can provide cutlery if you can't eat otherwise. But try the Sri Lankan way (tips of fingers only!); it's harder than it looks but strangely liberating.

Food is generally very cheap, with a cheap meal costing about a US dollar. The most expensive tourist-orientated places seldom charge more than US$10. The staple food of Sri Lankans is rice and curry - a massive mound of rice surrounded by various curries and delicacies. If you want to eat a cheap lunch you can follow the Sri Lankan crowds and duck into any of a million small cafes, confusingly called 'hotels'. These normally sell a rice and curry packet, as well as 'short eats', a collection of spicy rolls. This is ideal for backpackers and those who want to get past the touristy hotels selling burnt chicken and chips - you're charged by how much you eat, and unless you're absolutely ravenous it probably won't cost over a US dollar.

If you are taking road trips outside Colombo, there are endless options for places to stop on the road for lunch. Rest houses and hotels along major roads throughout Sri Lanka have good restaurants that offer both Sri Lankan and Western menus. If you are less adventurous, you can easily get good sandwiches and soups at these restaurants. These places have excellent rice and curry plates, and you will be served many different types of curries over an extremely generous portion of rice. These meals are extremely delicious and will leave you full and happy at the end of the meal. Eating is definitely a memorable experience in Sri Lanka.

Kottu (Kothu) Roti (a medley of chopped roti, vegetables and your choice of meat) is a must-have for anyone - tourist or otherwise - in Sri Lanka. It is uniquely Sri Lankan and tastes best when made fresh by street vendors. However, several kottu roti restaurants have been closed down due to their use of stale and old roti, which made some patrons sick. Use caution, and even better, talk with the locals to figure out where the best kottu roti restaurants are.

Other foods that you should try include String Hoppers, Hoppers, Pittu and Kiribath.

There are many upscale restaurants to choose from in the city of Colombo. There are several fine dining restaurants at the 5-star hotels which offer both local and international cuisine. These establishments are found largely in western Colombo (along Galle Road), though more are located around Colombo and other major cities.

Fast-food outlets such as KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonald's, Subway and Burger King can be found in major cities.

Drink

In Sri Lanka water from the tap is not considered to be safe to drink in the country. However if you are using bottled water (1.5 litre for Rs60-70 in March 2012) always make sure SLS (Sri Lanka Standard Institute) label is present. Also in some parts of the country you'll find hard water due to the high presence of lime in the soil.

Fresh milk, due to the climate, spoils easily, and so is often very expensive. Powdered milk, however, is safe and is often substituted.

Thambili the juice from king coconut, is very refreshing. It's sold at the side of streets throughout the island, you know it's clean as the coconut is cut open in front of you and it's cheaper than bottled drinks at about Rs30/- each. Soft drinks are available almost everywhere, normally in dusty-looking glass bottles. The local producer, Elephant, make a range of interesting drinks - try the ginger beer and cream soda. "Coca Cola" and "Pepsi" also available in large and small sizes (plastic bottles) including several local soft drink brands - all available at rapidly multiplying supermarkets all across the country and grocery shops.

The most common local beer is Lion Lager (Rs140 in "wine shops" or Rs200-300 in restaurants in March 2012). For something a bit different try Lion Stout. It is characterized by its tar-like oiliness of body and chocolate finish. Other brews include Three Coins, which is brewed by the Mt Lavinia hotel chain, allegedly to a Belgian recipe.

The traditional spirit is Arrack, which costs about US$4 for a bottle, and is often drunk with club soda. The quality can vary depending on how much you want to pay. However, widely recommended brand would be "Old Reserve" and worth paying US$7.50 for it.

Sleep

Accommodation in Sri Lanka has been transformed in recent years. What would be recognized as the modern tourist industry began in the 1960s with traditional beach hotels built on the west coast which were aimed primarily at the package holiday crowd and traditional travel operators. But the past decade has brought a major change, with the growth of villas, boutique hotels, and small independent and individualistic properties offering a huge array of choice.

With the end of the civil war and the defeat of the Tamil forces in May 2009, tourist arrivals have been going up,and as there still aren't a great many decent hotels it's probably better to book early.

Learn

  • Buddhist Studies and Pali Language. The universities of Peradeniya and Kelaniya offer a variety of Buddhist studies and Pali language courses in English.
  • Meditation. You may find monasteries and meditation centres that offer meditation courses (generally free of charge) in the Lanka_monasteries_2008_jan.pdf Buddhist Publication Society guide .
  • Mahamevnawa Meditation Monastery is a good place to learn true Buddhism.
  • Dancing There are many foreign enthusiasts to learn Sri Lankan traditional dance under three categories which are Udarata, Pahatharata and Sabaragamu. And there are distinguished drumming for those categories.

Stay safe

In June 2009, the Sri Lankan government lifted travel alerts after the military defeat of rebel insurgents in the north of the country, though it is advisable to check with the local travel advisory bureau in your country if there is any doubt. Sri Lanka's lengthy and bloody civil war was ended one month earlier, when the government forces finally wiped out the Tamil Tigers. However, there might be land mines left, which can be troublesome, and the facilities in northern (and some parts of the east) cities and towns are war torn. These were the areas where the Tamils lived. The UN, NGOs and the Sri Lankan authorities are currently engaged in rapidly clearing landmines laid out by the warring parties. It's a long and difficult process.

Bombings and assassinations were a firm part of both sides in the conflict, and there is heavy security in all sensitive locations. While the separatists have never targeted tourists there have been deaths, notably in a landmine explosion at Wilpattu National Wild Park in 2006, and some have been wounded by terrorist actions. War is, after all, dangerous. In general, though, traffic accidents kill more people than terrorism. It's quite safe to travel in Sri Lanka and many tourists from all over the world started to come to the country after the end of the civil war. You'll see many foreign tourists at the tourists sites, mostly Westerners. Locals will greet foreigners with a smile and are generally helpful. It is recommended to avoid going alone after dark. Pickpocketing on public transport is uncommon, but take precaution.

Violent crime is not usually any more serious a problem for tourists in Sri Lanka than it is anywhere. There has been an increase in violent crimes involving tourists in the past few years, but it is still very rare. Tourists should exercise the same care and attention as they would at home.

Under colonial-era laws which are still in place, homosexual activity between consenting adults are punishable by fines and whipping. LGBT travellers should exercise discretion.

Con artists and touts

Con artists and touts are a serious problem throughout all tourist areas. Using the services of a tout for accommodation, local travel, etc. will most likely increase the price. First time travelers to Sri Lanka may find themselves the victim of scams, however seasoned travelers to Sri Lanka are very rarely scammed and it is simple to avoid becoming a victim of scammers by taking precautions:

  • Do not believe anyone who claims to be a professional (e.g., airline pilot), or in charge of a location (like a bus terminal) without proof.
  • Scams involving gemstones are common. Do not buy with the intention of selling them in your home country for a profit.
  • Be on guard for anybody trying to help you by giving you unsolicited directions or travel advice. Take any advice from taxi and auto drivers with a grain of salt, especially if they tell you the place you want to go to is closed, dangerous, non-existent, etc. If you are unsure, check a map.
  • If you have been told your hotel is closed or full, give them a call. If you are a first time visitor to Sri Lanka, don't admit it as it will make you a target for the scam artists.
  • Unless you absolutely have to, do not agree to hire the same driver for more than a day at a time. They are a dime a dozen at each city and the whole country is so small that you will not have trouble getting between towns via bus, train, tuk-tuk or another driver if you have to. Even though you agree on a daily or hourly rate, the drivers will all generally attempt to make more commission out of you by forcing you to visit one of their friends businesses (e.g., spice, carving or gem shops). Calmly and firmly say you are not interested and if they continue to force you to go then find another driver - they are very common and you will have no problem finding another one.

Stay healthy

  • Vaccinations are recommended for Hepatitis A+B and Tetanus. Also, obtain the Typhus vaccination outside of tourist areas especially in the wet season. The CDC also recommends vaccination against Japanese encephalitis.
  • Dengue fever: During the rainy season use mosquito repellent. When head and joint aches occur get a blood check. There is no vaccination yet.
  • Malaria : since 2016 Sri Lanka is declared malaria free zone by WHO
  • Yellow fever: A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travelers over 1 year of age coming from infected areas.
  • Visitors should avoid drinking water from the tap. It is best to stick to bottled water for both drinking and tooth-brushing.
  • Although snake bites are extremely rare among tourists (comparable to being struck by lightning), anyone bitten should seek prompt medical care. This is true even if the bite doesn't result in any pain and swelling. The National Emergency number is 119. In Colombo, dial either 119 or if you want an emergency ambulance - 110.
  • There are tiny little flies that live in the sand (inland only, not on the beaches). Any contact with the dry sand usually results in bites and subsequent painful scratches. So avoid even a little sand on your skin, including legs.

Respect

There are several customs that, specially for Western travellers, would take a bit of getting used to.

  • It is customary to remove shoes and wear respectful attire (i.e., no miniskirts, tank tops, short pants) when visiting temples. It is also the custom to remove shoes before entering a home, though this is not as strictly followed as in places such as Japan.
  • Never touch or pat Buddhist monks, including younger monks and children who practice at a temple.
  • Do not display tattoos that depict the Buddha. This can be regarded as highly insulting in Sri Lanka, even if acceptable in other Buddhist countries and regions. Arrest and deportation are realistic scenarios.
  • Do not turn your back to a Buddha statue while within a reasonable distance. This includes posing for photos, where you should not make arm or body contact with the statue. It is advisable to photograph a Buddha statue with all persons facing towards it (as observing it), rather than posing alongside.
  • Public nudity is illegal in Sri Lanka - nude/topless sunbathing and skinny dipping should be avoided, except in the private beach resorts which allow it.
  • Although much latitude is given to tourists, it is more polite to use your right hand when handing money and small objects, etc... Of course you can use both hands for something big and/or heavy.
  • Be respectful to monks. There's no particular etiquette for Westerners - just be polite. Always give them a seat on a crowded bus (unless you're disabled or very elderly).
  • It is highly controversial to discuss politics, particularly the Sinhalese/Tamil divide or the LTTE. The 26-year civil war which ended in 2009 saw thousands of attacks throughout the country, including suicide bombings and massacres which have killed scores of politicians and civilians on both sides alike.
  • No photography of sensitive locations (inside and outside), and inside of shopping malls and tea factories (outside OK). Be especially careful in Fort, Colombo (except on the beach). If soldiers are guarding something, it probably shouldn't be photographed. Don't rely on signs alone, as sometimes they are old or missing. For example, one end of a bridge may have a "No Photography" sign, but not the other.
  • Seemingly innocuous public displays of affection between lovers such as kissing and/or hugging may be culturally frowned upon as it is considered to be private behaviour but it is acceptable in functions and establishments designated for adults such as nightclubs, casinos and beach parties. Much lenience is given to foreigners and holding hands and public affection between parents and their children is not frowned upon.

Connect

Phone

The country code for Sri Lanka is 94. Remove the intercity prefix (0) before the area code when dialling internationally into the country (i.e., 0112 688 688 becomes +94 112 688 688) when dialling from abroad). The two next numbers after 94 represents the area code, they are different for every district for more information see Telephone numbers in Sri Lanka.

Mobile

The use of GSM cellphones is widespread and the coverage is good.

Dialog and Mobitel are two operators that have sales offices at the airport inside the arrivals lounge. Dialog Mobile has the widest coverage in the country including rural areas and has the best quality GSM / 3G / HSPA +/4G network. Mobitel also has a 3G/HSPA+ network. All the mobile operators are having same call rates due to floor rate tariffs. Therefore it is advisable to go to the network which offers you the best quality. All Mobile Operators offers cheap IDD Call rates.

If you want to surf internet, best way is to buy a HSPA dongle and a Mobile Broadband connection. Dialog Mobile, Mobitel, hutch, Etisalat and Airtel offers prepaid Mobile Broadband services which can be activated and used immediately.

Dialog is the Vodafone Roaming Network in Sri Lanka and offers the best range of Value added services for Roamers and the rates are cheaper. Etisalat and Airtel also provide cheap roaming rates specially to India.

Mobile phones are cheaper and widely available.

Lonely Planet Sri Lanka (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet Sri Lanka is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Follow in the footsteps of Buddha and modern-day pilgrims to the summit of Adam's Peak, wander the crumbling ruins and lost cities of the cultural triangle in the heart of the island or explore undiscovered beaches on the recently reopened east coast; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Sri Lanka and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet's Sri Lanka Travel Guide:

Colour maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - tea, cuisine, wildlife, history More than 50 maps Covers ColomboGalle, South, West and East coasts, the hill country, Jaffna, the ancient cities and more

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet, Ryan Ver Berkmoes, Stuart Butler, Iain Stewart.

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travellers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Sri Lanka

DK

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Sri Lanka is your in-depth guide to the very best of this beautiful and diverse country.

Explore Sri Lanka region-by-region, from Colombo and the beaches on its idyllic west coast to Kandy and the Hill Country to Jaffna and the north. Visit Yala National Park to see wildlife, play a game of cricket, and take a pilgrimage to Adam's Peak.

Discover DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Sri Lanka.

   • Detailed itineraries and "don't-miss" destination highlights at a glance.    • Illustrated cutaway 3-D drawings of important sights.    • Floor plans and guided visitor information for major museums.    • Guided walking tours, local drink and dining specialties to try, things to do, and places to eat, drink, and shop by area.    • Area maps marked with sights.    • Detailed city maps include street finder indexes for easy navigation.    • Insights into history and culture to help you understand the stories behind the sights.    • Hotel and restaurant listings highlight DK Choice special recommendations.

With hundreds of full-color photographs, hand-drawn illustrations, and custom maps that illuminate every page, DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Sri Lanka truly shows you this country as no one else can.

Series Overview: For more than two decades, DK Eyewitness Travel Guides have helped travelers experience the world through the history, art, architecture, and culture of their destinations. Expert travel writers and researchers provide independent editorial advice, recommendations, and reviews. With guidebooks to hundreds of places around the globe available in print and digital formats, DK Eyewitness Travel Guides show travelers how they can discover more.

DK Eyewitness Travel Guides: the most maps, photographs, and illustrations of any guide.

Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka Travel Guide: 101 Coolest Things to Do in Sri Lanka (Sri Lanka Travel, Sri Lanka Holidays, Colombo, Kandy, Galle)

101 Coolest Things

Congratulations! You've Found the Ultimate Guide to Sri Lanka Travel!You are super lucky to be going to Sri Lanka, and this guide will let you know all of the coolest things to do, see, and eat around the country, in places like ColomboKandyGalleElla, Tangalla, Mirissa, Utuwatuna, Jaffna, and more.Why You Need 101 Coolest Things to Do in Sri LankaThis Sri Lanka guide will give you the lowdown on:the very best things to shove in your pie hole, from comfort food like Sri Lankan chicken curry through to the best seafood restaurants to get a taste of the Indian oceanincredible festivals, whether you would like to party on the beach or discover Colombo’s burgeoning arts scenethe coolest historical and cultural sights that you simply cannot afford to miss like monasteries hidden away in caves or museums that can teach you about the history of Buddhism in the country the most incredible outdoor adventures, whether you want to have a canyoning adventure on the Kelani river or you’d like to try deep sea fishingand tonnes more coolness besides!GET Your Copy NOW!Tags: Sri Lanka Travel Guide, Sri Lanka, Colombo Travel Guide, Sri Lanka Beaches, Budget Travel Sri Lanka, Backpacking Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka & South IndiaGalleKandyElla, Sri Lanka Holidays, Sri Lankan Food, Sri Lanka Festivals, Sri Lanka History, Sri Lanka Temples, Buddhism in Sri Lanka, UnawatunaNegomboMirissaTangalle, Aguram Bay, Sri Lanka Surfing

The Rough Guide to Sri Lanka

Rough Guides

The Rough Guide to Sri Lanka is the most comprehensive and user-friendly guide to exploring this fascinating island country. Each chapter includes thoroughly researched travel information, hotel and restaurant listings, and thoughtful background on the environment, politics, culture, music and history, and a practical language guide ensures you can interact with locals. The full-color design combines glorious images to whet your appetite with a practical layout and dozens of accessible and accurate maps to guide you from the urban centers to the jungle, beaches and mountains.

Make the most of your time with The Rough Guide to Sri Lanka.

Elephant Complex: Travels in Sri Lanka (Vintage Departures)

John Gimlette

“Brilliant.” —The Daily Telegraph   No one sees the world quite like John Gimlette. In Elephant Complex, he ventures into Sri Lanka, a country only now emerging from twenty-six years of civil war. Beginning in the exuberant capital, Colombo, Gimlette ventures out in all directions: to the dry zones where the island’s 5,800 wild elephants congregate around ancient reservoirs; through cinnamon country with its Portuguese forts; to the “Bible Belt” of Buddhism; then up into Kandy, the country’s eccentric, aristocratic Shangri-la. In the course of his journey, Gimlette meets farmers, war heroes, cricketers, terrorists, a former president, survivors of great massacres—and perhaps some of their perpetrators. That’s to say nothing of the island’s beguiling fauna: elephants, crocodiles, snakes, storks, and the greatest concentration of leopards on Earth. Here is a land of beauty and devastation, a place at once heavenly and hellish—all brought to vibrant, fascinating life here on the page.

For 91 Days in Sri Lanka

Michael Powell

A collection of photos, advice and anecdotes from Sri Lanka, the jewel of the Indian Ocean. Mike and Jürgen are travelers who spend 91 days in various places around the world, capturing the history, culture and way of life of their temporary homes. With the enthusiasm of newcomers, they explore Sri Lanka from top to bottom, east to west, building a complete picture of the island and its people over the course of three months.Filled with information about the history, adventures, annoyances, culture and temples of Sri Lanka, practical advice, over 250 beautiful full-color photos and humorous stories, this e-book covers all of Sri Lanka's best cities and sights, and some unexpected treasures. For 91 Days in Sri Lanka is not a traditional guidebook, but an impartial and colorful account of three months spent on this amazing island. Come and slowly discover this incredible paradise with For 91 Days in Sri Lanka: an essential companion for anyone who wants to make the most out of their trip to the country.

Top 12 Places to Visit in Sri Lanka - Top 12 Sri Lanka Travel Guide (Includes Sigiriya, Kandy, Yala National Park, Galle, Colombo, & More)

Atsons

Are You Ready to Discover & Explore Sri Lanka?

“Top 12 Places to Visit in Sri Lanka” is an easy to use, no-nonsense travel guide showing you the 12 best destinations Sri Lanka has to offer. Packed full of interesting and useful information for each place, this Sri Lanka travel guide is the ultimate travel accessory for discovering this iconic country!

Inside Atsons “Top 12 Places to Visit in Sri Lanka”:Sri Lanka’s top 12 best places to visit listed in order of importance.High quality photos of the top 12 places. Easy to digest descriptions of every place. Essential historical information to provide you with a better understanding of each destination.Recommendations of attractions and activities to give you a better visiting experience. The best places to visit include SigiriyaKandyYala National Park, Galle, & Colombo. “Top 12 Places to Visit in Sri Lanka” Travel Guide features:Easy Navigation: Effortlessly jump from one attraction to another using the interactive contents. Add notes to the guide for a more personal guidebook. Use bookmarks to save your favourite pages. A Map of Sri Lanka showing the location of every destination. FAQsThere are lots of travel guides for Sri Lanka, why should I get this one?If you are looking for an easy-to-read and straight-to-the-point Sri Lanka travel guide, then this is for you. All the destinations listed contain high quality pictures, historical and background information, attractions and activities, and are listed in order of importance ensuring you’ll know exactly which place you want to visit when discovering Sri Lanka!I’ve never been to Sri Lanka, will this guide help me?If you’ve never visited Sri Lanka or plan on visiting but don’t know where to go then this Sri Lanka travel guide is the perfect starting point. Sri Lanka has so many interesting and unique places that it can often be difficult to decide where you want to go. This guide is here to help you with that decision by giving you 12 breathtaking destinations to choose from, with the added bonus of the guide being a top 12 list so you'll know exactly where to start your journey.

The Sri Lanka Reader: History, Culture, Politics (The World Readers)

John Clifford Holt

The Sri Lanka Reader is a sweeping introduction to the epic history of the island nation located just off the southern tip of India. The island’s recorded history of more than two and a half millennia encompasses waves of immigration from the South Asian subcontinent, the formation of Sinhala Buddhist and Tamil Hindu civilizations, the arrival of Arab Muslim traders, and European colonization by the Portuguese, then the Dutch, and finally the British. Selected texts depict perceptions of the country’s multiple linguistic and religious communities, as well as its political travails after independence in 1948, especially the ethnic violence that recurred from the 1950s until 2009, when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were defeated by the Sri Lankan government’s armed forces. This wide-ranging anthology covers the aboriginal Veddhas, the earliest known inhabitants of the island; the Kings of Kandy, Sri Lanka’s last indigenous dynasty; twenty-first-century women who leave the island to work as housemaids in the Middle East; the forty thousand Sri Lankans killed by the tsunami in December 2004; and, through cutting-edge journalism and heart-wrenching poetry, the protracted violence that has scarred the country’s contemporary political history. Along with fifty-four images of paintings, sculptures, and architecture, The Sri Lanka Reader includes more than ninety classic and contemporary texts written by Sri Lankans and foreigners.

Exercise a high degree of caution

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.

Security situation

The conflict between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Sri Lankan army ended in May 2009. The island is now entirely under the control of the Sri Lankan government. The security situation has improved significantly since the end of the conflict. There have not been any recorded incidents of terrorist violence since the end of the war.

The Sri Lankan government has lifted restrictions on travel, but identification is required at some checkpoints. The nationwide state of emergency was lifted on August 25, 2011. However, the Sri Lankan Prevention of Terrorism Act permits prolonged detention without charge or trial. Roadblocks and searches are occasionally conducted without warrant. Carry personal identification at all times and comply with government and security force instructions.

In some areas, particularly in the North and East, there is a security force presence as well as a few checkpoints. Roads may be closed on short notice. Expect traffic disruptions due to security checks.

Maintain a high level of personal security awareness at all times, monitor local developments via local news reports and follow the advice of local authorities.

East and North

Special security measures remain in place in the East and the North, including in the Jaffna Peninsula. Demining operations are ongoing; however, unmarked landmines remain. Pay attention to signs warning of mines and avoid travelling off the main A-9 road. Caches of weapons continue to be found.

The resettlement of internally displaced persons is also ongoing. Reports of increased criminal activities and land disputes have been more frequent recently.

Some Canadians of Tamil origin report difficulties, including arrest or detention, during screening and security operations. Ensure that you carry proper identification at all times.

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

The 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting will be held in Colombo from November 15 to 17. Expect an increased security presence throughout the city and delays at the airport. Avoid all demonstrations and follow the advice of local authorities. It may be difficult to find accommodation in Colombo during this period.

Crime

Violent crime occurs. There has been an increase in the number of violent incidents (assaults) in remote areas of the country since August 2011, primarily in the northern, eastern and central provinces. There has also been a substantial increase in harassment and assault cases aimed at Western foreigners. Petty crime such as purse snatching and pickpocketing is on the rise, especially on public transportation. Theft has occurred in hotels and guesthouses. Ensure that your personal belongings, passports and travel documents are secure at all times. Credit card fraud is common. Pay very close attention when your credit card is being handled. Cash transactions are recommended.

Women’s safety

Women are often the target for unwanted attention. They should exercise caution when travelling alone. Consult our publication entitled Her Own Way: A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide for travel safety information specifically aimed at Canadian women.

Demonstrations

Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, as they have the potential to suddenly turn violent, and follow the advice of local authorities.

Transportation

Traffic drives on the left. Road conditions are usually poor outside major cities. Road accidents, often causing death and injuries, are common due to poorly maintained vehicles and erratic driving practices. Travel by bus is generally unsafe due to aggressive drivers and the risk of theft.

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Piracy

Pirate attacks occur in coastal waters and, in some cases, farther out at sea. Mariners should take appropriate precautions. For additional information, consult the Live Piracy Report published by the International Maritime Bureau.

Swimming

Swimming conditions may be unsafe. Follow the advice and warnings of local authorities.

Tourist facilities

Tourist facilities are widely available but quality varies, especially inland. Travel to remote areas should be arranged through a reputable travel agency.

Emergency services

Dial 119 to reach police and 011 2691111 for an ambulance.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Japanese encephalitis

Japanese encephalitis is a viral infection that can cause swelling of the brain. It is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Risk is low for most travellers. Vaccination should be considered for those who may be exposed to mosquito bites (e.g., spending time outdoors in rural areas) while travelling in regions with risk of Japanese encephalitis.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Rabies

Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in South Asia, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, leptospirosis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in South Asia. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in Southern Asia, certain insects carry and spread diseases like chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, leishmaniasis, and malaria.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

Dengue fever
  • Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.  
  • Mosquitoes carrying dengue bite during the daytime. They breed in standing water and are often found in urban areas.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine available for dengue fever.

Malaria

Malaria

  • There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
  • Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened, air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
  • Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.

Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in Southern Asia, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Medical services are below Western standards. Medical facilities in certain areas outside of Colombo are limited, particularly in the North. In the event of a major accident or illness, medical evacuation is often necessary. Medical transport is very expensive, and payment up front is often required.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

Laws

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict.

Smoking and alcohol consumption in public places are prohibited.

Homosexual activity is illegal.

Exporting antiques without a proper license is also illegal.

Photography and videotaping of government and military installations as well as in any designated high security zone is prohibited.

Respect religious traditions and artefacts. Posing for a photograph next to a statue of Buddha is a serious offence, punishable by a fine or an arrest. Tattoos, jewellery and clothing associated with Buddhism may be considered offensive. 

Carry official identification at all times.

An international driving permit is required.

Money

The currency is the Sri Lankan rupee (LKR). Most major banks will change U.S. dollar traveller’s cheques as well as permit Visa and MasterCard cash withdrawals. Credit cards are widely accepted in major urban and tourist centres. There are automated banking machines (ABMs) in major cities, but some do not accept international cards.

Climate

The monsoon season extends from December to March in the northeast and June to October in the southwest. Severe rainstorms can cause flooding and landslides. Typhoons usually occur between April and December. These storms can result in loss of life and extensive damage to infrastructure, and can hamper the provision of essential services. Keep informed of regional weather forecasts, avoid disaster areas and follow the advice of local authorities. Consult our Typhoons and monsoons page for more information.

The Department of Meteorology provides local weather forecasts.