Sri Lanka Travel Tips

Sri Lanka is a year round destination with an abundance of sunshine. 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. 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, Sri Lanka has no off season per se as clear blue skies and sunny days can be seen even during the wet season. Sri Lanka is 5½ hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Median Time), 2½ hours behind Singapore and 4½ hours behind Australia EST (Eastern Standard Time).
The peak season is between December to March as many European travelers prefer the warm sunshine and the golden beaches of Sri Lanka. It is common that most popular hotels are overbooked due to the limited room inventory in the country especially along the coast (Beach Resorts) and in Kandy the Hill Capital of Sri Lanka. Apart from this period, the months of July & August could be also considered a peak period in Kandy due to the famous “Esala Perahera” which is a must to see for all travellers. Therefore, it is advisable to book in advance if you are visiting Sri Lanka during the peak season.
Sri Lanka has a tropical country and cotton clothes are the most ideal to wear and of course your bathing suits are a must if you are visiting the beaches. Sun tan lotion could be very handy as it can be very hot sometimes. If you are visiting the cultural and religious sites, it is a must that you wear appropriate clothing. Gents are required to wear trousers to cover their knees or a “sarong” with a shirt or T-shirt. Ladies should ideally wear decent attire such as a trouser or a skirt to cover the knees and a blouse or t-shirt. It may not be advisable for ladies to wear deep necked or a sleeveless top.
If you are interested in booking a Round Trip programme, the flight times are an important component when making 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 Airport. Most travellers prefer to drive up to Habarana directly from the airport when they arrive in the morning. Most European and Middle East carriers arrive early morning to Sri Lanka which is ideal for most travelers. Overnight stays close to the airport or in Colombo is considered practical for late evening arrivals.
It is not a huge problem to obtain a visa to visit Sri Lanka as many nationals are granted a visit visa on arrival valid for 30 days. However, please visit the Sri Lanka Visa page for more information and to check if you are required to obtain a visa prior to arrival.
Foreign currency and Traveller’s Cheques may be changed at any hotel, although commercial banks offer better rates. Converting Sri Lankan rupees back to a selected foreign denomination could be done at the airport bank which is open 24 hours of the day. Please retain your money changing receipts. Currency notes are in 10s, 20s, 50s, 100s, 200s, 500s, 1000s, 2000s ,5000s.
All major hotels and shops accept most international credit cards, but don’t expect your local shopkeeper to take one. No surcharge is required for their use. Cash advances may be acquired against credit cards at certain bank ATMs. Most widely accepted cards are American Express, Visa and MasterCard. It is advisable to enquire if your card type is accepted by the establishment before the use of 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. Banks are closed on Saturdays, Sundays, all public holidays and special bank holidays, and on June 30th and December 31st. ATMs are most found adjoining bank branches island-wide.
Most shops open at 10.00am and close at 6.00pm. 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 and public recreational areas on this day.
You may be required to open your baggage for inspection. Refrain from carrying prohibited or restricted goods. Certain types of animal products, antiques and gold are not allowed to be taken out of the country. Important: Retain your shopping receipts, especially for gems.
Embarkation forms are available at the airport check-in counter and need to be filled and handed over to the immigration desk prior to departure.
Filtered, mineral and bottled drinking water is available at most retail shops. Avoid drinking water from the tap.
Mostly used - 230/240 volts AC, 50Hz. Round two and three pin plugs are usual, with bayonet lamp fittings
A list of embassies is given in the local telephone directory which is provided in most hotel rooms. If not, one may be obtained at the hotel concierge’s desk. Please contact us if further assistance is required.
The professional standards of doctors and surgeons are excellent with specialist hospitals including Eye, Children’s, Ayurvedic and Maternity. For emergencies call:
Fire & Ambulance: (011) 2 422222
Police: (011) 2 433333 / 119
Tuk tuk and taxi drivers will know of the nearest hospital.
International Direct Dialling (IDD) facilities are available at all city hotels, resorts, post offices and telecommunication centres. Postal services are provided at most hotels and at the local post office or authorized sub-post offices. Telegrams and faxes can be handed over to the hotel reception for transmission.
A service charge of 10% is added to all restaurant and hotel bills. A small tip (no more than 10%) above this is appreciated. It is customary to tip drivers, guides and hotel housekeeping / restaurant staff if the service is satisfactory. Drivers expect a tip if you have bargained well. This is solely at your discretion. The average tip is 100 rupees for Housekeeping and 10% of your meal bill for restaurant staff.
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.

Taxi

Radio cars can be called by telephone and are very good value. The minimum charge is approximately Rs. 50 per kilometer. Other taxis are available, but are not metered, so it is wise to agree on the fare. Cabs from the airport taxi counter at Bandaranaike International Airport cost from Rs 1,500 – 2,500 for the journey into Colombo. Other taxi counters may charge more. Always ask before.

Rentals

Self-drive hire cars are readily available, but if it’s your first time here, consider hiring a car and driver from the counters at the airport or from your hotel. Drivers offer excellent insight into the island and great flexibility, staying in dedicated drivers’ rooms at the same hotel(s) as you.

Tuk-tuks

You’ve not been to Sri Lanka if you’ve not travelled in a tuk-tuk. Rs. 40-50 per km. Bargain for the best prices.

Trains

Many places of interest are served by trains from Colombo Fort station.

Buses

A comprehensive network covering the island with express services between principal towns. Buses can get very crowded during peak hours - but it's definitely part of the Sri Lankan experience.