Sri Lanka Travel tips
Sri Lanka is 5 ½ hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.
In Sri Lanka the widely spoken languages are Sinhalese, Tamil and English.Here are a few useful Sinhalese words and phrases to impress the locals.
Sri Lanka is predominantly a Buddhist country and the culture and lives of the people are much fashioned by the faith. The introduction of Buddhism to the island took place during 250 BC. The Buddha became the central theme in every form of art, especially in sculpture and painting. The colossal Buddha statues finely carved out of granite and the massive 'dagobas' that house the sacred relics of the Lord Buddha are much venerated in this country.
Apart from the predominant Buddhists there are considerable number of the population that follows Christianity and Hinduism.
All visitors to Buddhist &Hindu Temples are expected to be considerately dressed when visiting any place of worship. Shorts, bare shoulders, caps and hats are a sign of a lack of respect so please cover up accordingly. Shoes have to be removed when entering the Temple premises and shoe keeping at a very nominal fee is a service granted at most of the temples.
Sri Lanka Currency
Sri Lanka has a decimal currency system. One Sri Lankan Rupee is divided in to 100 cents. Currency notes are in the denominations of Rs.10/0,Rs.20/-,Rs.50/-,Rs.100/-,Rs.200/-,Rs.500/-,Rs.1000/-,Rs.2000/-,Rs.5000/-.Exchange currency only at authorized outlets such as banks and hotels, and exchange what you think you will spend in the country. Currency exchange rates can fluctuate daily and we suggest you check the latest rates prior to your departure.
Reputed hotels, selected restaurants and shops in Colombo and other main cities such as Kandy and Galle accept US Dollars. Supermarkets, smaller boutiques and grocery stores however only accept local currency, as well as all entrance fees for site visits. (Unless otherwise already included in your tour)
All banks are open from 0900 to 1300 Monday to Friday. Some selected private banks are open for a limited number of hours during Saturdays. Banks are closed on Sundays and on all public holidays.
Like any other country in the world Sri Lanka too would have their share of the touts. Be cautious and do not accept their offers to give better deals for your foreign currency exchanges or let them lead you to shops which give special bargains.
Tipping is a very personal matter and should only be considered when our staff have gone above and beyond for you. Should you feel you would like to acknowledge their service, the below serves as a rough guide:
National guides: USD 10 -15 per guest per day
Chauffeur guides: USD 10 per guest per day
Chauffeurs only: USD 5 per guest per day
Most hotels and restaurant include 10% service charge to the bill. In the event that it is not included 3-4% of the total bill value would be a sufficient tip. If you are staying at a private boutique type of property, it is customary to thank the staff and leave a tip for the entire staff at the end of your stay an amount equal to USD 10-15 per room per day is appropriate.
For full details on climate, please see Best Time to Go.
Cool, light weight clothing is the most comfortable attire for travelling in Sri Lanka. A wide brimmed hat, sun glasses and sunblock, insect repellent are all highly recommended. Comfortable, soft soled walking shoes with low or no heels are ideal for sightseeing. Shawls, long skirts and trousers and long sleeved shirts are recommended for temple visits where shoulders and knees should be kept covered. We also suggest carrying 2-3 pairs of socks since shoes must be removed when entering religious premises. Warmer clothing is necessary in the hill country where the temperature can go down as low as 10c. If you are planning to dine in city restaurants or restaurants with dress codes, a light weight jacket and/or smart casual attire is recommended. Moreover the power voltage in Sri Lanka is at 240 V and three square pin plugs will come in handy.
Sri Lanka has a tropical temperature and higher level of humidity. Any physical disability and health conditions you may have should be clearly indicated to your local travel consultants. We recommend carrying a basic first aid kit whilst travelling. If you require a particular medication or prescription take an adequate supply to last through your entire trip as it may not be available locally. It is highly recommended that prescription medication be carried in its original container and that any over the counter medication be kept in its original packaging.
Vaccines recommended for those travelling to Sri Lanka include tetanus, typhoid, cholera or hepatitis .If a guest is travelling from a destination infected by Yellow fever, guests are required to present a proof of vaccination. Your best defence to avoid mosquito borne-diseases is through the use of a very good insect repellent.
Please advise of any special dietary requirements/allergies well in advance (at least 6 weeks) prior to the beginning of your journey so we can inform the hotels ahead of your arrival. We will take all measures to comply with your request.
For up to date information on latest health and vaccination recommendations, please contact your doctor.
The power voltage in Sri Lanka is at 240 V and three square pin plugs will come in handy.
Kindly remember that in Sri Lanka Buddhism is a living religion and most ancient monuments are still venerated. Photography or filming should not be done in a manner causing any disrespect to the shrines, images or monuments. Posing for photographs and videos directly in front of the statues and paintings is prohibited.
Arrival and Departure Formalities
The Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) system was introduced recently to grant prior approval for visa online for foreign nationals instead of the 'on arrival' visa system. You can log on to www.eta.gov.lk to obtain your visa. You may also obtain the visa on arrival in Sri Lanka, however we strongly advise you apply for your visa in advance. Once approved, you will receive an ETA approval notice allowing you a stay of up to 30 days from the date of entry to Sri Lanka. Please carry a print-out of the ETA as immigration officials may ask to see it upon arrival.
Thanks to Sri Lanka's tropical climate, fresh fruit, vegetables and spices are in abundance and all are used in many ways. Freshness is key, with households regularly shopping more than once a day for produce.Many families have a curry leaf tree and grow some vegetables themselves –some of which are virtually unknown outside Sri Lanka.
We suggest you try:
Rice and Curry
The island nation's staple diet mainly consists of boiled or steamed rice served with curry.But rice and curry is so much more than just 'rice and curry'.It usually consists of a 'main curry' of fish or meat, as well as several other curries made with vegetables, pulses and even fruit (try a mango curry!).Sri Lanka curries are known for their fiery hot spicy flavours and coconut milk is very distinct feature of Sri Lankan cuisine.Be warned, 'hot' is definitely not an understatement and can be challenging to a first timer's palate, so ask for your dish to be made up to your liking.But don't worry;there are plenty of mild curries on offer too!
This is a breakfast and dinner favourite of the locals. Light, crisp and bowl shaped, it is made by swirling a mixture of rice flour and coconut milk in a wok shaped pan. The sides are wafer crisp and the centre soft. Hoppers can be eaten with spicy pickles, curries or even with butter and sugar and are delicious when eaten hot.
A Dutch variation of rice and curry theme of boiled rice with cinnamon and nutmeg for taste and aroma, accompanied with dry curries such as chicken, boiled egg, pickle, are wrapped in a banana leaf and baked to enhance the flavour.
Milk Rice (Kiribath)
A breakfast favourite with the locals. Usually made for special occasions such as the first day of the month, New Year, auspicious event etc;White or red raw rice is boiled and thereafter the thick cream of the coconut milk is added with a pinch of salt to give the correct flavour. Once cooked the milk rice which now thick, will be laid on a flat dish and usually cut in to square or diamond shape pieces. It is usefully eaten with a spicy pickle or a mix of ground chilies, salt and onions.
Kalu dodol is a desert and a true delicacy. The dark and sticky dish consists mainly of kithul (a variety of palm) jaggery, rice flour and coconut milk. Making a traditional kalu dodol is a time-consuming process and requires a lot of patience skill that has been practiced for generations. Fish ambul thiyal (sour fish curry) This is a type of dry curry dish made of fish cut into cubes and simmered in spices and condiments. It is dark in colour and is a delicacy in the southern parts of Sri Lanka.
Kottu (or kottu roti)
Type of very thin roti (made out of flour) cut into pieces mixed with fried vegetables, sauce, meat or fish. The loud clanking sound when making this delicacy is a highlight as interesting as the food itself.
Kukul mas curry (chicken curry)
Chicken well-marinated in authentic spices and herbs and cooked in thick coconut milk. The curry gravy becomes thick and rich in taste mainly due to the coconut milk.
Parippu (dhal curry)
Parippu, or dhal curry, or yellow lentil curry is a must-try and it blends with anything and everything. It is usually a less spicy and a lighter curry where the lentil is cooked in fresh coconut milk flavored by turmeric powder, salt, fresh green chillies, onion and curry leaves.
Wambatu moju (eggplant/ brinjals pickle)
The purple-skinned, slender brinjal or eggplant is cut into chunky wedges, deep fried and then made into a pickle mixing vinegar, salt, pinch of sugar and mustard. Mostly eaten with rice and curry.
Pol Sambol (coconut relish)
Freshly scraped coconut mixed and ground finely with sliced onions, dried red chilli or chilli powder. A pinch of salt and lime juice is added for seasoning at the end.
Gotu kola sambol (pennywort salad)
This is a type of a small round shaped green leaf thinly chopped, mixed finely with scrapedfresh coconut, sliced onion and green chillies. A pinch of salt and lime juice is added for seasoning at the end and this is eaten as a fresh salad.
For locals the jack fruit is a delicacy; when ripe with a dark yellow shade it is a sweet juicy fruit that can be eaten raw with a sprinkle of salt. When it is unripeit is more like a vegetable and is best boiled or made into a tasty curry which is also called 'Polos' curry.
Make sure you stop and try the delightful tropical juicy fruits such as pineapple, guava, mangoes, wood apples, bananas, watermelons and seasonal fruits such as rambutan, durian and mangosteen.
Always wash your hands before you eat (for the sake of courtesy as well as hygiene) and always use your right hand to give and to receive. It's acceptable to use or to ask for cutlery, but if you're eating with your hand, always use your right hand. (It's acceptable to drink holding a glass in your left hand.) Alcoholic drinks are freely available at public bars, restaurants, wine shops, stores and super markets. However sale of liquor is prohibited on Poya Days (full moon day) which is of religious importance to Buddhists. Please notes all hotel restaurants and bars observe this rule too. If on AI meal plan we recommend stocking your beverages in your mini bar. Irrespective of precautions, change in water and food can result in mild abdominal hindrances and even nausea. It is preferable and safer to consume only bottled mineral water during your stay.
Popular cities such as Colombo, Galle, Kandy and Negombo have adequate restaurants for outside dinning (lunch or dinner). But in other smaller cities where restaurants are very limited we recommend that you book a half board tour or have a la carte meals at your overnight hotel. Once the specific itinerary has been finalised we are able to provide a list of restaurants for eating out.
Items made of silver, brass, ceramics, wood, terracotta are amongst the best and most authentic souvenirs of Sri Lanka. Ritual masks, lacquer wear, batik and handloom textiles, lace and wood carvings are popular in the country. When shopping in Sri Lanka you may feel that the best way is to immerse with the locals and buy from flee–markets to experience the people and culture along with souvenir shopping. If you are looking for a specific item, as a courtesy your guide/driver-guide can refer you to shop that carries merchandise that you want. Such a referral should not be taken as an endorsement of the shop or assumption of responsibility for the merchandise or shipping arrangements you may purchase there. Though we do not promote any shop or establishment, we have identified few shops on the basis of merchandise quality and value for money. Should you require our assistance with this, please contact your Tour Consultant on the number given on your welcome pack.