Find Your Answers

To take full advantage of a holiday destination, especially to a richly diverse country as Sri Lanka – the small miracle – you need to know some basic facts. To help you understand what to expect, below are answers to frequently asked questions by tourists who book a holiday in Sri Lanka. What’s more, there is a complementary list of tourist information.

Sri Lanka lies between the northern latitude 50 55’ and 90 55’ and the eastern longitudes 790 42’ and 810 52’, 650 km north of the equator. It comprises 65,610 sq kms and has 1,330 kms of coastline. There is a 30 km divide between the Island and India, 1,215 km to the west are the Maldives, and to the south nothing but thousands of kilometers of ocean until Antarctica.

Yes, under British rule the country was called Ceylon. The name was retained after independence in 1948 until 1972, when it changed to Sri Lanka – “Resplendent Land” in Sanskrit. The name Ceylon sometimes applies – “Ceylon Tea” for instance.

Sri Lanka is a year-round destination as it has two monsoons that occur in different halves of the island at different times. 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 evening showers can be expected. When the monsoon sets in the West and the South western half of the island the eastern half experiences a fine weather with warm sunny days. This begins from May to October.

Whatever accommodation-type you seek is available in Sri Lanka. Five-star hotels, resort hotels, boutique properties, villas, and guests houses can be found, especially along the western and southern coasts and Kandy and the hill country. In a category of their own are are government-run rest houses, originally used by British colonists. As a result many are colonial buildings, set in peaceful locations.

Sri Lanka is a very child-friendly country. People make a special effort to fuss and entertain children, when it comes to foreign children the effort is doubled. Hotels and guests houses often have family rooms. Children are well-catered for in restaurants. Baby food and nappies are available in supermarkets. Bring mosquito repellent and sunscreen. The main highlight for children is, inevitably, the beaches and all the delights that go with them. However, there are other attractions; a winding train journey into the hill country, the elephant orphanage in Pinnawela and the Dehiwala Zoo in Colombo. There are specialty kiddies parks in Colombo, the Excel world situated in the Colombo city and a park with many water activities etc located in Kaluaggala about 30 Km away from Main Colombo city.

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 monkey and grey langur. The largest of 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 and Minneriya National Park.

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 passing away. Well worth seeing are the illuminated pandols (bamboo frame works), hung with pictures depicting events in the Buddha’s life. Sri Lanka’s best known traditional festival is the Kandy Esala Perehera, 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, dancers, 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. There are many Hindu festivals taking place in the Hindu Kovils at different times of the year

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.

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 of 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 oneself hydrated by drinking plenty of safe, clean water, or king coconut- a cheap, healthy alternative. Bottled water is freely available in hotels and all shops.

Always use sunscreen with sun protection factor at least 15. Remember you are just 600 km from the equator.

Do not pet or play with stray dogs.

It is advisable to bring a mosquito repellent along with you.

Sri Lanka’s compact size and the accessibility of most major attraction means that even a week will allow you to visit a number of different areas. But to experience the island properly, a two-week stay is advisable.

Sri Lanka’s cultural depth is recognized by UNESCO, which has declared six archaeological World Heritage Sites. The remains of the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa feature enormous dagobas (dome-shaped structures) and statues of the Buddha. Dambulla has an awesome stairway, while Sigiriya is a rock with the remains of a place on the summit and sensual frescoes. In the hill country lies the royal capital of Kandy, home to the Dalada Maligawa, which houses the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha. In contrast, experience the colonial heritage of the country by heading south to the mid -17th C. Dutch Fort at Galle, the best preserved in Asia. There is a seventh World heritage site-an ecological example, the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. Similar sites include the Knuckles mountain range and Horton Plains. Sri Pada (Adam’s Peak) is a holy mountain climbed by pilgrims – join them and appreciate the stunning view from the peak.

The island, with a constant sea temperature of 27 c, is an ideal location for wind surfing, water skiing, Jet Skiing, surfing, sailing, scuba-diving (including wreck-diving), snorkeling, speed-boating and banana-boating. In addition there are fresh water opportunities in rivers and “tanks” (reservoirs), such as kayaking and canoeing, and white-water rafting.

Yes, There’s rock climbing, caving, mountain biking and paragliding and Ballooning for the daring. For those who enjoy golf there are three courses across the country Colombo Golf Club, Nuwara-Eliya Golf Club and Victoria Golf Club near Kandy. There are excellent opportunities for trekking. Nature trails of interest include the Sinharaja rainforest, the cloud-forests of Horton Plains, the Knuckles mountain range, the Ella with its beautiful scenery and Hakgala Strict Natural Reserve.

In the low country, loose cotton skirts or trousers and tops, and a long sleeved blouse for visiting temples, are ideal for woman. 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 the rural areas, very short skirts and shorts should be avoided. For hill country strip pack a light sweater, and if you intend to sample a natural trail, bring a pair of walking shoes or trainers. If you are travelling with children, a sunhat, loose cotton shorts and tops, including long-sleeved tops to protect them from mosquito bites, will be needed.

All hotels offer a wide variety of Eastern, Western and Sri Lankan food. The larger hotels will offer Italian and French gourmet food in specialty restaurants. Rice is the staple food of Sri Lankan people consumed with curries (eggplant, potato, green banana, chicken and fish) that range from delicately-spiced to fiery hot. There are also hoppers (a pancake-like snack), string hoppers (steamed rice noodles) and pittu (flour and coconut mixture). Lamprais – rice and accompaniments baked in plantain leaves – is a legacy of the Dutch. Fresh fish, prawns, crab, squid and crayfish are readily available. Desserts include buffalo curd topped with palm-honey, and the caramel-like watalappam. Tasty snacks known as short eats are excellent for trips. Fruit include mango, pineapple, banana, and papaya and the lesser-known but distinctive sapodilla, mangosteen, rabuttan, woodapple, custard apple and beli. Colombo has an impressive range of restaurants specializing in international cuisine. The Main cities will offer international fast food chains like KFC and Pizza Hut.

Souvenirs often combine traditional designs such as makara (a mythical animal, lion, swan, elephant, and lotus), evident in brass work (boxes, trays, lanterns, vases) and silverware (ornately carved and filigree jewelry, tea-sets). In addition, ritual masks, lacquer ware, batik and handloom textiles, lace, and wood carvings are popular. More importantly, Sri Lanka has the widest variety of precious stones among the world’s gem producing countries – blue sapphires, star sapphires, rubies, cat’s eye, garnets, moonstones, aquamarines and topazes being just a dazzling handful that can be purchased – with care.

Fast facts

Getting there:
Sri Lankan Airlines is the national carrier. Main international carriers to Sri Lanka are Emirates, Qatar, Cathay, Thai and Singapore.
Visas: Nationals from 24 countries are exempt from visa requirements and receive permission to stay in Sri Lanka for 30 days. They can extend their stay for varying periods. Usually not more than 90 days.

The local currency is the Sri Lankan rupee (Rs.), divided in to 100 cents. There are notes of many denominations from Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 10.

Banks are open from 0900 hours to 1500 hours Monday to Friday. Some banks are open on Saturday mornings. It’s easy to withdraw money across the island at ATMs using international credit cards or debit cards.

Credit cards:
Most hotels, restaurants and shopping centers accept credit cards.
Time difference: Sri Lanka standard time is five and half hours ahead of GMT. (Allowance should be made for summer-time changes of Europe)

It’s hot and humid in costal areas with average temperature around 270 C. However, as the land rises into the hill country the temperature drops to between 200 and 100 C.

Public holidays:
There are 27 public holidays. Apart from every poya or full moon day, there is the Hindu Thai Pongal in January, National Day in February, the two days Sri Lankan New Year in April, and the Hindu Deepawali in October /November.

230-240 volts, 50 cycles AC. If you travel with laptop computer bring a stabilizer.

Capital :
Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte is the administrative capital of Sri Lanka, while Colombo is the commercial Capital.

Language :
Sri Lanka has two official languages – Sinhala and Tamil – with English as a link language. Most people have some knowledge of English, and signboards are often in English. Sri Lanka boasts a literacy rate over 90%.

Getting around Colombo:
The best way to travel in the capital is either in a trishaw (often called “tuk-tuk” by visitors) or a taxi, either car or van.

Getting around island:
The most comfortable and independent method is to hire a chauffer-driven car.

Photo permits:
A ticket from the Central Cultural Fund is required to photograph archaeological remains. Photography should not cause disrespect to shrines and images. For instance, posing in front of statues is prohibited, as is the photography of military installation and many government buildings.

Forribidden exports:
No antiques, rare books, palm leaf manuscripts and anthropological material may be exported without permission from the National Archives and archaeological Commissioner.

Duty free:
duty free shops at the Bandaranayake International Airport stock an extensive range of liquor, electronic equipments, watches, perfumes and much more. Payments is accepted only in foreign currency.