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Facts

Population

20,278,000

Capital City

Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte

Another fact

Answer

Plug types

Voltage: 230V, Frequency: 50Hz

Religion

Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Christian

Currency

Rupee (LKR) exchange rates

Timezone

UTC +5:30 hours

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  • What to expect

    Visitors to Sri Lanka are usually in awe of the country's lush green foliage, rolling tea plantations, gorgeous beaches and friendly people - contrasting images to those portrayed during the country's recent civil war history.

    Road travel and the cities may seem congested, and market districts in Colombo can be an overwhelming experience with crowds and sensory overload. Escapes to the countryside and coastline are easily accessible though, and tranquillity is also easy to come by in Sri Lanka.

    Tourism is taking off in the country following the civil war and facilities are excellent, including wonderful accommodation options with an emphasis on style, design and heritage features. Service standards can be relaxed, though the people are friendly and warm. It pays to adapt and be patient in your interactions with people in Sri Lanka.

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Flight times

From London

approximately 11 hours

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Events

Banks, public offices and some tourist sites will be closed on the holidays listed below. In addition, the full moon day of every month, Poya, is a Buddhist public holiday. On this day practising Buddhists visit a temple, many shops are closed, and alcohol and meat sales are prohibited. As major holidays are set according to the lunar calendar, dates change every year. Please check with our UK-based Asia specialists for details.

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  • Every month - Each full moon day of the month is Poya

    a Buddhist public holiday in Sri Lanka. Practicing Buddhists visit a temple on this day. Shops are mostly closed and the sale of alcohol and meat is generally prohibited.

  • 1 January is New Year's Day

    , a public holiday. Banks, public offices and some businesses will be closed.

  • January (full moon day) is Duruthu Perahera

    , a holiday and major festival held in Colombo, honouring Buddha's first visit to Sri Lanka.

  • 4 February is Independence Day

    , celebrating Sri Lanka's independence from British rule in 1948. It is marked by parades and cultural events.

  • February (full moon day) is Navam Perahahera

    , a festival commemorating Buddha developing a code of ethics for monks. It is celebrated with a large parade spanning two nights in Colombo.

  • February/March (14th day of the lunar month Phalguna) is Maha Shivarathri

    , a Hindu festival commemorating the marriage of Lord Shiva to his wife Parvati.

  • March/April (first Friday after the Paschal full moon) is Good Friday

    , a public holiday. Banks, public offices and some businesses will be closed.

  • 13-14 April is Sri Lankan New Year

    , a major celebration which may impact travel plans with heavy traffic and businesses closing. There are family parties, feasts and firecrackers to mark the new year.

  • 1 May is Labour Day

    , a national holiday honouring workers for their contribution to society.

  • May (full moon day) is Vesak Poya

    , celebrating the birth and life of Buddha.

  • July/August (full moon day July to full moon day August) is Kandy Esala Perahera

    , Sri Lanka’s most spectacular festival, centred on the Temple of the Tooth and culminating in a grand procession.

  • 25 December is Christmas Day

    , where travellers may encounter compulsory dinners at numerous hotels. The cost of these should normally be directly settled with the hotel.

  • Health & Fitness

    Travellers to Sri Lanka should take precautions as they would elsewhere in Asia. Western medical facilities are available in the major cities. In most areas of Sri Lanka, medical facilities are basic.

    Some of the diseases known to exist in Sri Lanka include hepatitis A and B, typhoid, tuberculosis, Japanese encephalitis, diphtheria, malaria, tetanus, polio, rabies and HIV/AIDS.

    We recommend you take adequate preventative measures to minimise your risk of exposure to these health risks. We strongly recommend you consult your preferred doctor for the most up-to-date health advice at least one month prior to travel.

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  • Visa Information

    Citizens from nearly all countries are required to obtain and submit an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) via an online registration and payment system. This is easily completed in a few minutes at the following site www.eta.gov.lk.

    Visa fees are very reasonable and a 30 day Tourist Visa for most nationalities is currently 20 USD. Payment online is via credit card and the site is easy and efficient to use. Currently visas may still be obtained on arrival at Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport, but the on arrival visa fee is significantly higher (currently 75 USD for most nationalities).

    Please note Sri Lankan visa regulations and arrangements are subject to change and it is your responsibility to ensure your visa is in order before you travel. We strongly suggest that you check with the relevant embassies in your country of residence that these guidelines are applicable to you.

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  • Safety and security

    Sri Lanka is generally a safe country with helpful and hospitable people; however petty street crime does occur especially in larger cities like Colombo. We recommend you take taxis rather than walk at night in poorly lit or quieter areas.

    Taxis are mostly metered and inexpensive, but make sure the driver activates the meter and is clear on your destination. To assist in finding your way back to your hotel, make sure you obtain a hotel address card to show taxi drivers.

    Throughout your stay, always keep a photocopy of your passport, airline tickets and credit card numbers. These documents should be kept in a safe place separate from the originals. You should leave valuables in hotel safety deposit boxes wherever possible.

    We recommend you wear as little jewellery as possible and keep your spending money close to your body in a secure place when out on the street. When travelling on trains, you may wish to take extra precautions with your valuables by using a money belt. Read our safety guidelines for further information.

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Reading

 

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  • Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje

    is a fictionalised memoir with elements of magical realism. It focuses on the author's return to his home country of Sri Lanka in the 1970s, weaving tales of his family with Sri Lankan history.

  • A Village in the Jungle by Leonard Wolf

    is a literary novel about his time working as a civil servant in Sri Lanka.

  • Sam’s Story by Elmo Jayawardena

    is a fictional novel focusing on the country's people and how their lives were impacted by civil war. It is told through the eyes of a young illiterate boy.

  • Serendip: My Sri Lankan Kitchen by Peter Kuruvita

    is a journey through the delicious traditional cuisine of Sri Lanka and the role of food in culture and family, by an acclaimed Australian chef with Sri Lankan roots.

  • Reef by Romesh Gunesekera

    is a coming of age love story set in Sri Lanka, covering politics, culture and class.

  • July by Karen Roberts

    is an insightful tale of two neighbours growing up together - one Sinhalese and the other Tamil.

Useful words & phrases - Tamil

  • Hello (or hi)/ goodbye

    Vanakkam/ poytu varukiren

  • Thank you

    Nandri

  • What is your name?

    Ungal peyr en-na?

  • My name is…

    En peyr

  • How much is this?

    Adhu evalavu

  • Where is the...?

    Adhu en-ghe irukaradhu

  • No

    lllay

  • Yes

    Aam

  • Help

    Udavi

  • Sorry

    Mannikavum

 

Useful words & phrases - Sinhala

  • Hello (or hi)/ goodbye

    Aayu bowan

  • Thank you

    lsthu tee

  • What is your name?

    Aayage nama mokka da?

  • My name is…

    Maaghe nama

  • How much is this?

    Ehekka keeyada?

  • Where is the...?

    ...koheda?

  • No

    Naha

  • Yes

    owu

  • Help

    Aaeeyoh/ aaneh

  • Sorry

    Kaana gaatui

  • Getting around

    Arrival and departure transfers

    All road travel in Sri Lanka is in comfortable minivans or smaller sized coaches. There may be some road journeys of up to six hours duration, and roads are mostly in good condition, albeit quite windy in hilly regions. In many towns, cities, beach destinations and natural sites, much walking will be involved, though activities such as climbing the rock fortress at Sigiriya are optional.

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  • Internet

    Internet services are readily available in Sri Lanka, with most hotels offering internet and most town's featuring telecommunications stores with public internet access. Some cafes in Colombo now feature Wi-Fi. International Direct Dial (IDD) is available in most hotels for a fee.

    A cheaper option to call overseas is to purchase a pre-paid card for a card-operated IDD telephone, which are sold at small roadside shops. Mobile phone coverage spans most of the country, though you need to ensure you have roaming enabled. Another option is to purchase a local SIM card upon arrival.

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  • Food & drink

    Sri Lankan food is tasty and varied, and makes excellent use of locally grown produce, particularly from the tropical lowlands and hills. Spices are prevalent, though not all dishes are hot with chilli, rather fragrant with other spice blends and pastes. Vegetarians are well catered for, with an emphasis on vegetable curries.

    Rice is a staple, as are hoppers, a local variety of pancake. String hoppers are like small clumps of fine noodles and are perfect for mopping up sauces and curries. On the coast, there is fresh, local seafood to try.

    Outside influences can be found in British-style bakeries featuring snacks called 'short eats', Muslim influenced dishes like rice-based biryanis, and savoury and sweet Dutch treats. Tap water should not be consumed in Sri Lanka, however bottled water is widely available.

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  • Tipping

    We believe tipping is a great way to show your appreciation for receiving great service, and while it is accepted practice in Asia, it should never feel like an obligation. At the beginning of each trip, your Western tour leader or local guide will ask for a small sum (around 50 cents a day) to cover tips for hotel porters and boat crews throughout the trip.

    This helps prevent over tipping and having to always carry small change. We are confident that you will be extremely happy with the service you receive from our guides, drivers and tour leaders, and in many cases will choose to show this through a tip, so we do not include compulsory tipping for any Travel Indochina representatives on any of our trips. The choice to tip is always completely up to you.

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  • Swimming

    Most superior and deluxe hotels have swimming pools, while standard and classic hotels sometimes feature them. Please note that modesty even around swimming pools is much appreciated in Sri Lanka. Topless bathing or sunbaking and/or very revealing swimwear may cause offence and should be avoided.

    For those visiting coastal Sri Lanka, there are many beautiful beach areas including some of Asia’s finest surf beaches. However please be very careful about local swimming conditions as most beaches are not properly patrolled, and undertows, rips or other dangerous currents may exist.

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