Know Sri Lanka

Airport / Departure Tax

All applicable Airport Taxes and Departure Tax applicable to Sri Lanka are included in your air ticket price.

Cameras

It would be prudent to ask for permission before photographing locals and respect their wishes. You will find most locals amenable to requests to take photographs. A small tip on such occasions might be well appreciated. Sharing one or two photos containing locals might also be appreciated. Please do check rules relating to photography displayed at tourist / religious sites and be guided by the instructions displayed.

Clothing

Light cotton garments are ideal for heat and humidity generally found during the day. Something slightly warmer such as a sweater is often required in the hill country – especially in Nuwara Eliya. Topless sunbathing is against the law. Use of bikinis is acceptable around hotel swimming pools and on the beach. However, customers are advised to seek local advice before getting into rivers, lakes etc. inland in bikinis. Shorts should be knee length. Please do be mindful that modest attire is mandatory when visiting religious places.

Communications

Give some thought to the purchasing of a Sri Lanka SIM card and top up cards. Mobile phone call rates in Sri Lanka for both domestic and international calls are relatively cheap. Should you decide to purchase a SIM card, it is recommended that you purchase it from the Dialog and Mobitel communication shops who are two of the leading service providers in the country, located in the arrival hall after customs clearance prior to leaving the airport. You have to produce your passport for the initial purchase. IDD and fax facilities are available in most tourist hotels. Many hotels offer internet and wi-fi facilities. Cyber cafes too, are found in Colombo and some tourist resorts and major towns. Connection speeds may be slow outside Colombo.

Emergency

Police: 011-2433333
Fire: 011-2422222
Hospital: 011-2691111

Entertainment

Book shops, bars, restaurants, night clubs, health clubs, massage parlours and sporting facilities such as gyms and tennis courts are available mostly though not exclusively at major hotels. Most tourist hotels also provide traditional cultural performances in the evenings. Some hotels do charge an entrance fee. Sri Lanka is well known for its beautiful beaches but customers need to be mindful of rough seas and strong undercurrents during rainy weather. Casinos are available for the use of foreigners. Game Parks, Bird watching sanctuaries, Elephant, Whale and Turtle watching, biking, white water rafting are some of the outdoor activities available for tourists. A wide range of historical and religious sites are available for the culturally minded tourist. Shoppers may consider gems, jewellery, tea, spices, linen including batiks, handmade wood carvings and handicrafts.

Food & Drink

Rice is the staple food of Sri Lankans. It is usually eaten with vegetable curries and fresh fish cooked with spices, chilli and coconut milk. International dishes are available at all tourist hotels. Most foreigners adapt to local food and drink. Nevertheless we recommend that you comply with the following,

  1. use bottled water (available much cheaper at outside stores than at tourist hotels but make sure that the seal has not been tampered with) for drinking and cleaning your mouth
  2. avoid all forms of raw food – especially meat items and fresh salads
  3. consume cooked food
  4. drink plenty of water throughout the day
  5. wash your hand thoroughly using an antibacterial hand wash even if you plan to use cutlery
Free Baggage Allowance (FBA)

Please check your FBA entitlement on your eticket and plan your purchases. Some carriers permit 30 kgs + one hand baggage in Economy Class and 40 kgs + two hand bag gages in Business Class. Others permit 20 kgs + one hand baggage in Economy Class and 30 kgs + two hand bag gages in Business Class. Additional payment could be levied in case of exceeding FBA or baggage left behind in the event of non-payment.

Health Precautions

Customers are advised to consult their GP or vaccination centre for inoculations against hepatitis A, polio and tetanus, as well as Malaria tablets, at least one month before travel. All major hotels and most tourist hotels do have a doctor on call and could be summoned at short notice if required through the hotel reception. In addition, customers who require a daily dose of medications are advised to carry an adequate stock to last during the entire vacation as your regular type of medications may not be available at your destination. It would also be to your advantage to take with you; sun cream / lotion, antiseptic cream, a hat, sunglasses and body-salt replenishment tablets. Some tablets against diarrhoea such as Imodium or similar could become useful. In case you are sexually active, do ensure you take a supply of condoms and practice safe sex. Do not encourage trishaw and taxi drivers who promote illegal prostitution rackets.

Language & Religion

Sinhala is the main language and spoken by around 80% of the population. Tamil is also spoken. Both these languages are the two national languages of the country. In addition, English is widely spoken except in the most rural of areas. The main religion of the country is Buddhism followed by Christianity, Hinduism and Islam.

Laundry

All major hotels and most tourist hotels offer same day laundry service. Low cost launderettes too are available in most major cities though quality of service may be poor.

Local Customs & Culture

Sri Lankans by nature are a hospitable and good natured people. However, extreme care must be taken to avoid religious offence especially in respect to the Buddhist faith. Do not attempt to pose for photographs standing on religious statues and remember to remove your shoes before entering Buddhist, Hindu and Muslin places of worship. We recommend that you invest in a reputed destination guide and inform yourself about customs, traditions and values of Sri Lankans which will be helpful in winning the trust and friendship of locals.

Location & Climate

Sri Lanka is located 640 kms north of the equator as a result of which warm weather and sunshine is generally found year round. Temperatures average from 27 to 30 C in Colombo and the coasts. Hottest month is April when temperature could on occasion go up to around 33 C. Temperature in the Hill country is around 10 C lower than in Colombo. The south-west monsoon rains occur during the months May / June. The North-East monsoon rains occur during the months of December, January and February. In addition, inter-monsoonal rains could occur usually in October / early November in the South-West and East coasts. Sri Lanka averages around 240 cm of rain annually. Unpredictable weather patterns have become common in the recent years. The north and east are dryer whilst the western slopes of the central highlands are the wettest. Humidity can range from 70% – 90% in the country excluding the highlands and cultural triangle where it could be lower. Customers are advised to use creams, lotions, hats and sun glasses for protection and to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. It would be advisable to avoid standing in open areas during thunderstorms.

Money & Credit Cards

Sri Lanka currency consists of the Sri Lankan Rupee and cents. The currency abbreviation is LKR and 100 cents equals to one Rupee. The rate of exchange against GBP, USD and Euro tends to fluctuate regularly. One GBP, USD and Euro would all fetch in excess of LKR 100. Credit cards are widely accepted in bars and restaurants. However, credit card fraud is increasing. We recommend you reserve your excursions etc. in advance with Travel Arcade Holidays Holidays. Extras incurred during your holiday at hotels as well as when shopping at major stores may be settled using credit cards. Cash settlement is recommended for all other extras incurred during your vacation. There are an increasing number of ATM machines in Colombo and other major centres such as Galle and Kandy. You should not rely on this option in remote) destinations. Note that Scotland and Northern Ireland notes are NOT accepted. Travellers’ cheques are still widely used, but are not accepted as direct transactions in bars and restaurants. If you are cashing a travellers’ cheque, bank rates are better than hotel rates but the process can take longer. The banks in the airport arrivals hall offer excellent value and your chauffeur / guide will wait until you have completed your currency transaction. As anywhere else in the world, guard your money, credit cards and travellers’ cheques safely and use safety-deposit boxes wherever possible. You cannot buy Sri Lankan rupees in advance.

Passports

Please ensure that the validity of passports of all those travelling is at least six months from date of travel.

Permit Adequate Time

Most people find Sri Lankans to be a very friendly and hospitable people. However, it would be best not to expect a rapid yet relaxed service when checking into hotels, ordering food, paying bills etc. Customers are advised to calculate some extra time to compensate for delays as it would in the long term make your holiday more enjoyable.

Public Holidays

Sri Lanka tops the list of countries having the most number of public holidays. All government institutions and banks are closed on all such holidays. The private sector remains closed on some but not all public holidays. The most common public holiday is the ‘Poya Day’ which is the full moon day of each month. No alcohol is sold in hotels and super markets on Poya Days. Entertainment such as night clubs and casinos too are closed on such days.

Safety Lockers

Most hotels in Sri Lanka provide safety lockers for their guests and this facility is generally free of charge. We recommend that you make use of this facility and secure your money, traveller cheques, credit cards, passports and valuables.

Security

Sri Lanka is one of the safest tourist destinations. Nevertheless, caution is advised from pickpockets in crowded places as well as when walking about alone in the night.

Shopping

Bargaining over prices is very common, especially in the hiring of trishaws, purchase of batiks and handicrafts etc. However, do bear in mind that it is best to bargain in a nonaggressive and friendly manner where applicable. Up market stores have fixed prices and bargaining is not welcome. Please do bear in mind of the weight factor when checking in for your return flight as well as customs formalities at your home destination. Sri Lanka too has export restrictions on items such as antique furniture, live animals etc.

Time Zone

Winter time: GMT + 5.30 hrs
Summer time: GMT + 4.30 hrs

Tipping

A 10% tip is common for hotel and restaurant staff. It is also customary to tip drivers for good service. Amount would depend on the time he spends driving you around (by hours or days).

Travel

The most economical way of travelling around cities is by trishaws also known as three wheelers. Customers are advised to agree on a price before setting off. Taxis too, are available in all major cities. Make sure to obtain a metered taxi or a taxi from the travel counter located at most tourist hotels as their prices are fixed or else based on a flat kilometre rate. Their taxis are relatively costlier than metered taxis. Train journeys are possible from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya, Kandy and Matara. You will enjoy some of the most beautiful and picturesque scenery found in the country.

Visas

An Electronic Travel Authorization is required for all nationals over the age of 12 years excluding Maldivian and Singaporean nationals who are eligible to receive their visa on arrival. Please visit www.eta.gov.lk for information and how to apply for your ETA.

The Sri Lankan High Commission in London contact no is 020 7262 1841 and their website www.srilankahighcommission.co.uk Contact details of other Sri Lankan diplomatic representation offices may be found in the website www.mea.gov.lk

Voltage / Power Sockets

Voltage in Sri Lanka is 230-240 Volts. A wide range of power sockets are used. As such, it is advisable to carry a travel adaptor which can be used in both two and three pin power sockets. UK sockets are found in some of the older hotels in the hill country. We recommend that you carry a universal adaptor which will prepare you for any eventuality.

Going through our 'Know Sri Lanka', FAQ and Reservation Conditions pages will be advantages to you and will keep you better informed on country, hotels, reservation procedures and much more...

01 January 2012