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About Sri Lanka
The tropical island nation of Sri Lanka is located in the Indian Ocean in South Asia and its history dates back to the birth of time. It’s a place where nature’s beauty remains abundant and unspoilt and where the original soul of Buddhism still flourishes today.
Sri Lanka has an area of only 41,000 miles but within it there are 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 830 miles of coastline, 15 national parks showcasing an abundance of wildlife, close to 500,000 acres of lush tea estates, 250 acres of botanical gardens, 350 waterfalls, 25,000 water bodies and a culture that dates back over 2,500 years.
The best time to go to Sri Lanka is between December and mid-April, which is considered to be their peak season. Temperatures are fairly constant all year round, with coastal regions enjoying average temperatures of between 25 and 30°C and the highlands average between 15-18°C.
There is a 4 ½ - 5 ½ hour time difference between the UK and Sri Lanka depending on the time of year.
A tourist visa is required and you can apply for one online at www.eta.gov.lk. Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry to Sri Lanka.
For the most up-to-date passport and visa info, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/sri-lanka/entry-requirements.
Currency and Money
The currency in Sri Lanka is the Sri Lankan Rupee or LKR, which can only be obtained in Sri Lanka so while we would usually recommend exchanging your money before you fly, in this case you should pick up your spending money when you arrive.
Notes are used most often, ranging from Rs10 (less than a 5p) to Rs5,000, just over £20, coins are rarely used as they are of such low value.
The best way of getting your Sri Lankan spending money is to bring notes in your local currency and swap them for rupees at the airport, where the banks and money exchanges, are open 24 hours a day and they offer the same rate as the banks and exchanges across the island. Don’t do any deals with unlicensed money changers on the street as they may appear to offer a great rate, but you could end up out of pocket.
Tipping in Sri Lanka is generally around 10-15% and a service charge (approx. 12%) is often included in the bill, even in markets. As a general guide, tip around Rs 1500-2300 per day for driver guides, Rs 200-400 for waiters and porters and Rs 1000 for housekeeping.
While it is generally easy to exchange most currencies in Sri Lanka, they won’t exchange Scottish or Northern Irish banknotes and please note that travellers’ cheques aren’t normally accepted either. Most major banks will allow Visa and Mastercard cash withdrawals and there are ATMs in most major towns and cities but be aware that not all of them accept international cards.
Health & Safety
We recommend that you take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance to cover you while you’re away. It’s a good idea to visit your doctor a month or two before you travel for advice on vaccinations. For the latest health and safety information, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/sri-lanka/health.
There are very good and experienced doctors throughout the Sri Lanka, so should you feel ill they will be qualified to give you medication that you need. You may also have the option of getting a doctor visit arranged through your hotel as most hotels have doctor on call.
Same-sex relations are currently illegal in Sri Lanka but the FCO are not aware of any prosecutions, see the FCO’s information and advice page for the LGBT community before you plan to travel.
Sinhala is the official and national language of Sri Lanka and is spoken by 74% of the population, Tamil is the other national language and is spoken by 18%. English is used in government and spoken competently by about 10% of the population.
Travel, Transport and Getting Around
Traffic drives on the left in Sri Lanka, most roads are tarred and have a 56kph (35mph) speed limited in built up areas and a 75kph (45mph) speed limit outside of towns. Although many of the main roads have improved in recent years, travel around the island can be frustrating and time consuming due to some of the countries narrow roads which can be congested with pedestrians, cyclists, trishaws and animals, however once you leave the hustle and bustle of Colombo, you can enjoy many scenic drives around the coastal line or in the hill country.
There is an extensive bus network to most parts of the Island operated by the Sri Lanka Central Transport Board as well as private buses. The drivers are paid according to the number of passengers they have but they can often drive rather dangerously.
Taxis have yellow tops and red and white plates and it is advisable to agree a rate before setting off. Trishaws (Tuk Tuks) are ideal for short journeys within towns and cities and again it is wise to agree the fare before you set off.
Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice
When in Sri Lanka, you should choose your food and water very carefully: never drink water from the tap as the water in most areas of Sri Lanka is not as pure as it could be. Bottled water is readily available in most shops around the country.
If you would like to try the local cuisine, be sure to select good, clean restaurants or ask your travel guide to recommend a restaurant for you. Restaurants in all Sri Lankan hotels can arrange local cuisine, and many will also offer international cuisine.
There are a good selection of supermarkets in most town and cities where there are also many smaller shops for you to buy your groceries, and these can be cheaper than the big chains. Even in the smallest village you can find shops which can provide the basic necessities.
Alcohol and meat are not usually available on religious holidays. Drinking in public on these days would be seen by many as culturally insensitive.
Clothing and Dress Recommendations
Shorts and t-shirts are accepted in most places in Sri Lanka, however, beyond the beaches and the hotel swimming pool, you should be prepared to cover-up and to hide your shoulders and arms when necessary.
You will definitely need to cover up when visiting temples, so light trousers, sarongs or long skirts are recommended. We also suggest that if you are planning on visiting a temple that you wear sandals which are easy to slip on off quickly, you may have to take your shoes off when entering certain temples and religious sites.
It’s worthwhile packing a lightweight waterproof jacket to protect you from any sudden downpours, especially if you’re heading to Sri Lanka during monsoon season. If you’re planning on heading up high into the mountains, bring a warm layer along with you as the mornings and evenings can be cool.
Mosquitos are common in Sri Lanka, so we recommend that you take some effective mosquito repellent with you as it can be difficult to find when you get there, although there are some pharmacies where it is available.
Sun cream can also be another thing that can be hard to find in Sri Lanka and because the sun is strong, we suggest that you stock up before you leave home, preferably Factor 30 and upwards. Hats and light shawls can also provide valuable protection from the sun, especially when you’re on the beach or out on safari.
Electricity and Plug Standards
Sri Lanka operates on a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz; there are two associated plug types, types D and G. Plug type D is the plug which has three round pins in a triangular pattern and plug type G is the plug which has three rectangular pins in a triangular pattern. In order to ensure that you can use your electrical appliances we recommend that you take sufficient adaptors to cover your needs.
The mistreatment of Buddhist images and artefacts is a serious offence and tourists have been convicted for this.
British nationals have been refused entry to Sri Lanka or faced deportation for having visible tattoos of Buddha.
Don’t pose for photographs standing in front of a statue of Buddha.
Don’t take photographs of military bases, government buildings or vehicles used by VIPs (this includes numerous sites in central Colombo).
You can be fined if you ignore instructions not to smoke or drink in certain public areas.
To fly you to enjoy your Sri Lankan motorhome holiday we have partnered with a number of major airlines including Emirates, Singapore Airlines, British Airways, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, Sri Lanka Airlines, Malaysian Airlines, Etihad Airways, Lufthansa, and KLM. For more information see our Flights to Sri Lanka page which shows further information such as where the airlines fly from and luggage allowances.
Flying to Sri Lanka is a great but long experience. You can expect to be in the plane for at least 11 hours so make sure you get up frequently and walk around. One way of breaking the long flight up is visiting one of the stopovers. We highly recommend refreshing yourself ready for the last leg of your flight.
We have a number of stopovers available on our Stopover to Sri Lanka page which lists some amazing locations such as Dubai, Doha, Abu Dhabi and Istanbul. To discuss any of these please do not hesitate to get in touch.