For the past ..mm… I don’t really remember how many months – because I always tend to overdo things – I’ve gone through so many articles on Sri Lanka preparing our trip later this January. Everything from itineraries, food, culture, do’s and don’ts, a whole lot of information to drill down and narrow down. So, just before we leave, I decided to share with you my learnings, all the Sri Lanka Travel Information- the things you need to know!
Sri Lanka Travel Information
– Visa – do you need a visa for entering Sri Lanka? Of course, you do! And how do you get it, you ask? Well, there are 3 possibilities: you apply online for the visa here, in which case you will have to fill in a form and make a payment of 35 US dollars; at any Sri Lanka overseas Mission (if any in your country) where the fee is as well of 35 US dollars; or on arrival at the airport, where you will have to pay 40 US dollars.
– Vaccines – for Tanzania and Zanzibar we took quite a few vaccines (even though I know people who have chosen not to without having any problem, but at the end of the day you choose what you wish to expose yourself to or how much attention you pay to details such as water, cleanliness and so on), but for Sri Lanka we didn’t really do anything extra. Of course, since I read that cleanliness is not in the European standards, I can imagine extra attention should be paid to what you eat and where you eat from (this might be a risk for Hepatitis A & B). On the other hand, they had a rather big problem with Dengue Fever, transmitted by mosquitoes, this disease spreads in the wet season and a vaccine has been developed recently for the people living in endemic areas. Even so, the main prevention and control method you should opt for is combating mosquitos by using mosquito repellent spray or bracelets and covering yourself. And of course, visiting the island during the dry season.
– When to visit Sri Lanka? – talking about seasons, in order to choose the best period for traveling to Sri Lanka you should probably know the split. Depending on where you want to go on the island and which part you want to explore, Sri Lanka has 2 monsoon seasons: May to September in the South and S-W regions, and October to February in the Eastern and Northern regions.
On the other hand, the High Season can be determined as being between December and March and probably this is when you will want to visit. If you prefer more tranquil periods, from the number of tourists point of view, maybe you could go for the inter-monsoonal period during October and the first half of November, just bear in mind that rain and thunderstorms can occur across the island at any point in time.
Since we chose to visit the S-W and the center part of the island, we went for January.
– Dress code – since the weather is very warm and humid, you should expect to wear very thin clothing, just try to dress modestly and, as always, follow and respect the local traditions and customs. I am mainly referring to the fact that, as usually it is recommended to respect the local religion without trying to stand out in any way. Also, pay special attention when you visit temples because most of the times you will need to be fully covered and wear no shoes or hats. Nude or topless sunbathing is generally not allowed.
– How to travel in Sri Lanka – everything I’ve read was stating that it is not recommendable driving on the island, and also that it is rather hard and expensive to rent a car. The safest, cheapest and most used means of transportation on the island is the train and in some cases also one of the most picturesque. From what I’ve learned, I would say that taking the train in Sri Lanka is a must, especially from Kandy to Ella. Also, try organizing ahead of time transfers by car from one point to the other and you will see it is rather cheap (we had all our transfers arranged by a local travel agency that has all the contacts and got the whole package at half the price as a rating received from a travel agency from Sri Lanka I had contacted).
– What to pay special attention to – as in most of the places I have been to and traveled by taxi or tuk-tuk, drivers will try to rip you off and ask for much more than the ride actually costs. Also, when shopping for souvenirs or clothing, bargaining is a custom, thus never agree for the first price.
Other facts worth knowing about Sri Lanka
– More than 80% of the world’s supply of cinnamon is produced on the island.
– Sri Lanka is one of the biggest exporters of tea leaves.
– Rice is also one of the main foods produced in Sri Lanka.
– The famous fisherman you see almost everywhere when talking about Sri Lanka, with their unusual and unique way of fishing, are nowadays fake. Indeed, they are just man being paid by tourists to get up on their “stage” for you to take a picture.
– The country has the first female prime minister in history, elected in 1960.
– Up until 2009, for 25 years the country has been embroiled in a bloody civil war.
– Avoid wearing shirts, bags or anything with a Buddha print (if you have tattoos, hide them, people have been arrested and deported for displaying this kind of tattoos ). Also, it is recommended not to pose for photographs by standing in front of a statue of Buddha (usually with your back at the statue).
– Plugs – some useful information and a place where you can check whether you need a plug adaptor you can find here
– Same-sex relations are illegal (as stated on the FCO website)
Want to learn more about Sri Lanka?
Learn and practice the Sinhalese language
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