Sri Lanka Travel Tips and Guides

When to Visit Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a year round destination with an abundance of sunshine all year round. The average temperature is around 27°C – 30°C in most parts of island. The temperature gradually drops as the land rises towards the hill country, with some parts of the highland as low as below 10°C at night. The island has two wet monsoon seasons: briefly between May and July in the south-west region and between December and January in the north-east. However, clear blue skies and bright sunny days are usual even during the wet season, when tropical showers and storms don't last long. Sri Lanka is 51/2 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time), 2½ hours behind Singapore and 4½ hours behind Australia EST (Eastern Standard Time).

Booking in Advance

The peak season is within the months of December – March, when many European travellers that prefer the warm sunshine and the golden beaches of Sri Lanka to their freezing winters, visits us. Hotels in popular tourist destinations, such as the West coastal resorts, Kandy and Nuwara Eliya should be booked in advance to secure desired accommodation. July and August could be also considered peak months, especially in Kandy due to the famous Esala Perahera which is a “must-see” for all visitors.

What to Pack

As little as possible! As we already know Sri Lanka is a tropical country and cotton clothes are the most ideal wear and, of course, swimwear if you are visiting the beaches. Casual but not provocative attire is acceptable everywhere. You should bring your favourite brand of sun tan lotion as it might not be available in local shops. WiFi is available at all hotels so bring your essential gadgets to keep in touch. If you wear glasses, pack a spare pair in case of loss or damage. Bring enough of your prescribed medicines too as the brand might not be stocked by local pharmacies.

Organizing your Trip

When booking a Round Trip Tour in Sri Lanka, the flight arrival time is an important component to make the maximum use of your stay. Habarana is a central point when visiting cultural sites such as Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, and Dambulla and is approximately 3 hours away from the International Bandaranaike Airport.
Most travellers prefer to drive up to Habarana directly from the airport which is possible when your arrivals are in the morning. For arrivals which are in the evening, the best option is to stay in Colombo (about 40 minutes drive to the centre via the new expressway from the airport) for the first night or longer.

How About Visa

All visitors (except those holding Maldivian or Singaporean passports) require a visa to visit Sri Lanka. Obtaining a visa is remarkably simple as it can be done in advance through the official government website: (www.eta.gov.lk) by using a credit card for the required fee. Do not use other websites as they will charge extra. If you haven’t been able to obtain a visit visa in advance, it can be obtained by queuing at a special desk in the immigration arrivals hall.

Currency/Money/Exchange

Foreign currency and Traveller’s Cheques may be changed at any hotel, although commercial banks offer better rates. Converting Sri Lankan rupees back to foreign currency can be done at the airport banks which are open 24/7. Retain receipts when changing foreign currency into rupees so you can exchange rupees back into foreign currency as necessary. Currencies notes are in circulation are for 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000, 2000s and 5000 rupees. Please note that the Sri Lankan rupee is not the same as the Indian rupee and has a different value.

Credit Cards

Most widely accepted credit cards are American Express, Visa and MasterCard. Cash advances may be obtained against credit cards at bank ATMs. It is advisable to check if your card is accepted by an establishment before using any services. Banks are generally open from 9.00am to 1.00pm from Monday to Friday. Some city banks close at 3.00pm, while others offer night banking facilities. Most banks are closed on Saturdays, Sundays, all public holidays and special bank holidays. ATMs are found in banks island-wide.

Shops

Most shops open at 10.00am and close at 06.00pm. Shops are usually closed on Sundays and Full moon (Poya) days. The full moon Poya day has religious significance for Buddhists and alcohol is not served in hotels, bars, restaurants and public recreational areas on this day.

Customs

You may be required to open your baggage for inspection on departure as well as on arrival. Tobacco products are not part of a tourist’s duty free allowance. Certain types of animal products, antiques and gold are not allowed to be taken out of the country. It is important that you retain your shopping receipts, especially for gems.

Immigration

Immigration forms must be filled in by arriving foreign nationals but not by Sri Lankan passport holders. On departure, only Sri Lankan passport holders have to fill in embarkation forms.

Water

Filtered, mineral and bottled drinking water is available at most retail shops and supermarkets. Avoid drinking water from the tap.

Electricity

220 Volts/50 Hz Ac. Two and three pin round and square plugs are used.

Embassies /Consulates

A list of embassies is given in the local telephone directory which is provided in major hotel rooms, or the information can be obtained from hotel reception.

Medical Facilities

If you need a doctor, please contact the hotel reception. The hotel will have a doctor within the hotel premises or on call. Pharmacies are available in all towns.

Communication

International Direct Dialing (IDD) facilities are available at all city hotels, resorts, post offices and telecommunication centers. There are several mobile telephone companies selling local sim cards available to use in your own mobile phone device. WiFi is available island wide except in remote areas. Postal services are provided at most hotels and at the local post office or authorized sub-post offices. Faxes can be handed over to the hotel reception for transmission or via a fax bureau.

Tipping

It is customary to tip drivers, guides and hotel housekeeping/restaurant staff if the service is satisfactory. The average tip is 100 rupees per guest per day for Housekeeping and half of the added 10% service charge in cash to your waiter at a restaurant. This is solely at your discretion.

Food & Drink Tips

Your hotel provides safe and high quality food and we, as a policy, do not recommend restaurants outside the hotel. Always wash and peel fruit before consumption. Drink plenty of water during the day to avoid dehydration.