Where Is Sri Lanka?
An island of 65,610 square kilometres, Sri Lanka lies in the Indian Ocean, off the southern tip of India.
How Do We Get There?
Sri Lankan Airlines operates regularly between Colombo and major cities in Asia, Europe and USA. National airlines from these major cities like Singapore Airlines fly daily to Colombo.
Do We Require A Visa?
Visitors except those from Singapore and Maldives, are required to apply online prior to arrival. The “Tourist ETA visa” is valid for 3 months starting from the date of approval and is double entry meaning you can enter the country twice during the 3 months. Each entry is for a maximum stay of 30 days. Visa fees range from US$15 to US$35.
A visitor wishing to stay more than 30 days may apply for an extension. Note that even with ETA visa, you still need to fill the Immigration Form which asks the very same questions.
When Is The Best Time To Visit?
- West & South is best between November to April
- East & North is best between May to October
- Island wide monsoon occurs in October & first half of November
- Peak season is between mid November and April
What Is There To See And Do?
- There is stupendous diversity – from timeless ancient ruins filled with fascinating temples and forts inherited from Sinhalese kings and queens, to rolling hills of tea plantations, and coastal towns architecturally enriched by Portuguese, Dutch and Colonial rulers.
- Wildlife enthusiasts, nature lovers and trekkers will revel in the wildlife-rich jungles and national parks, whilst beachcombers and surfers can head out to 1,340 km of golden pristine beaches.
Other Useful Information:
- Language: Sinhala spoken by the majority Sinhalese, and Tamil spoken by the minority Tamil and Muslim, are two official languages. English is commonly used in major cities, tourist sites and government and tourism offices. Most people in rural villages, however, cannot speak any English, beyond a few simple words.
- Currency: Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR) 1 USD = 134 LKR. 1 SGD = 98 LKR (June 01, 2015)
- Food: Sri Lankan cuisine is almost similar to Indian food. Central to both are the boiled or steamed rice served with a curry of fish, chicken, beef, or mutton along with other curries made with vegetables, lentils or fruit. Sri Lankan food is not for the timid eater given the fiery curries, sweet caramelized onion relish and sour lime pickles.
- Water: Preferably drink from bottled or boiled water.
- Accommodation: Options range from modern five-star hotels, iconic colonial-era hotels, boutique hotels, colonial homes, tea and rubber plantation buildings, jungle cabins, tree-houses and eco-lodges as well as camping under canvas.
- Electricity: 230-240 volts round 3-pin plugs; bring an adapter and a stabilizer for your laptop.
- Connectivity: International calls are largely expensive at most hotels but the use of GSM/3G/HSPA/4G LTE mobile phones are widespread and the coverage is good.Dialog, Mobitel, Etisalat, Airtel are four operators that have sales offices inside the airport arrivals lounge. Dialog Mobile (market leader) has the widest coverage in the country including rural areas and has the best quality GSM / 3G / HSPA + / 4G LTE network. Slow internet access is available at a cost which varies from cities, to rural areas where it can be more expensive.
- Travelling: Better, faster, smoother roads have been a central part of the government’s efforts to rebuild Sri Lanka after the civil war and tsunami. Sri Lanka has an extensive railway system serving all major towns and cities in the island except for the North. There are special Observation cars for tourists that like to take in the scenery. In areas like Nuwara Eliya, the roads can be winding with ascents and descents due to the mountainous terrain. Be prepared with suitable medication for motion and high altitude sickness if one has such tendencies.
- Etiquette: This is nearly a smoke free country and smoking in public places is prohibited including inside buses and trains.Photographing with your back to statues of the Buddha or posing in an inappropriate manner next to them is prohibited.Modest dressing is highly appreciated when visiting religious places. Remove footwear upon entering a temple or monastery; socks are recommended if you are uncomfortable walking barefoot.Modest swim wear is also recommended for the beaches.
It is highly controversial to discuss politics, particularly the Sinhalese/Tamil divide or the LTTE which lasted nearly 3 decades (the civil war ended in May 2009).
Shutterbugs should take due note of sensitive locations. If soldiers are guarding something, it probably shouldn’t be photographed. It will be wise all round to check with your guide.