Sri Lanka

Travel Guide Asia Sri Lanka





© KatetheCatLady

The Pearl of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka has regained that name after its bitter civil conflict ended in 2009. Beautiful beaches abound, especially around the southern coast. Steamy tropical rain forests are home to elephants, leopards, dugong and a massive population of migratory birds. The cities offer a glimpse into the influence of Dutch, Portuguese and British colonial times; Galle presents the finest example of an old Dutch fort, whilst the profusion of cricket pitches is the best indicator of Britain's legacy. Mostly, though, Sri Lanka remains in tune with its own heritage; they still make their curries hot enough to turn pale white folk into a crimson red.

Warning: On 21 April 2019, almost 200 people including foreigners died and hundreds were injured in a terrorist bomb attack against several churches and hotels in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa.



Brief History

That there were people on Sri Lanka in ancient times is proven by several excavations in several parts of the island. These were probably the ancestors of the Wanniyala-Aetto people, also known as Veddahs. Already in ancient times Sri Lanka was a economic powerhouse. It was the major supplier of cinnamon around 1400 BC, which was amongst other countries exported to Egypt. The island was ruled by kings, and frequently invaded. During the years several ethnic groups settled on the island, and in the third century B.C. Buddhism arrived.

In 1505 the Portuguese arrived to the island and founded a colony. Two centuries later the Dutch arrived and ruled over much of the island. In the hilly region of the island the Kingdom of Kandy remained independent. This lasted until the 1815, when the British who had in the main time taken over from the Dutch in 1796, sacked Kandy, and unified the Island.

During World War II Sri Lanka was an important base for the United Kingdom and the United States, in the battle against Japan. Soon after the war. Sri Lanka gained its independence in 1948. In the post independence era, Sinhalese majority, that consisted of about 80% of the population, wanted to regain the dominance of the political power they had before the colonization. One of the most discriminating acts was the enacting of the Official Language Act in 1956 which made Sinhalese the official language. Tamil politicians wanted equal status for the Tamil language and eventually led the Tamil people to fight an armed struggle against the Sinhalese. Another attempt was made to make Buddhism the only official religion, excluding Hindu and Islam. The constant discrimination against Tamils led to the desire of Tamils to create their own state in the north of the island. This desire also meant the surfacing of the LTTE who wanted to enforce this state through violence, and a civil war was fought between 1983 and 2009. On both sides many violations of human rights have been reported. In 2009 the civil war ended, leading to more than 300,000 Tamils being displaced and living in camps.




Sri Lanka is located in the Indian Ocean, south from the Indian subcontinent and separated from it by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait. It covers around 65,000 square kilometres and consists mostly of flat-to-rolling coastal plains, with mountains rising only in the south central part. Amongst these is the highest point Pidurutalagala, reaching 2,524 metres above sea level. There are over 100 rivers in all sizes, but the longest is the Mahaweli River, covering a distance of 335 kilometres. There are over 50 natural waterfalls, the highest of which is Bambarakanda Falls, with at 263 metres. The island's coastline is 1,585 kilometres long.

Lying within the Indomalaya ecozone, Sri Lanka is one of 25 biodiversity hotspots in the world. Although the country is relatively small in size, it has the highest biodiversity density in Asia. Remarkably high proportion of the species among its flora and fauna, 27% of the 3,210 flowering plants and 22% of the mammals (see List), are endemic. Sri Lanka has declared 24 wildlife reserves, which are home to a wide range of native species such as Asian elephants, leopards, sloth bears, the unique small loris, a variety of deer, the purple-faced langur, the endangered wild boar, porcupines and anteaters.




Sri Lanka consists of 9 provinces, subdivided into 25 districts.

Central ProvinceKandy District, Matale District, Nuwara Eliya District
Eastern ProvinceTrincomalee District, Batticaloa District, Ampara District
North Central ProvinceAnuradhapura District, Polonnaruwa District
North Western ProvincePuttalam District, Kurunegala District
Northern ProvinceJaffna District, Killinochchi District, Mullaitivu District, Vavuniya District, Mannar District
Sabaragamuwa ProvinceKegalle District, Ratnapura District
Southern ProvinceGalle District, Hambantota District, Matara District
Uva ProvinceBadulla District, Moneragala District
Western ProvinceGampaha District, Colombo District, Kalutara District




  • Anuradhapura - ruins of ancient capitals (partially restored). UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Batticaloa - called land of singing fish. Beautiful shallow beaches, paddy fields, historical places.
  • Colombo - commercial capital and the largest city of Sri Lanka. Hotels, cafés, restaurants, night clubs and shopping.
  • Dambulla - A city of historic importance with fabulous hotels, close to Sigiriya. Both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  • Galle - famous Dutch fort. Host city of the Galle Literary Festival. UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Jaffna - northern capital. On display is the rich heritage of the Tamil speaking community.
  • Kandy - spiritual heart of the country, home to a tooth of the Buddha. UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Negombo - beautiful landscape and great blue oceans.
  • Nuwara Eliya - Little England. Cool climes, Victorian architecture, top hats, tails and fascinators on race days.



Sights and Activities


There are plenty of opportunities for the adventurous traveller in Sri Lanka. Climbing Adams peak (Sripada) offers a 6.5-kilometre-long hike and is largely done at night.

Nature and wildlife

Yala National Park

Yala National Park

© sandaruwan

There are also lots of wild parks in the country. Yala and Wilpattu are the largest ones and if you're lucky you can spot elephants, leopards, bears, deer and wild buffaloes. Sinharaja is one of the oldest rain forests in the world. Horton Plains National Park is a large 3,160 hectare park in the highlands of the country. This is the highest plateau in Sri Lanka and was declared as a National Park in 1988.

Sinharaja Forest Reserve
The Sinharaja Forest Reserve is located in the southwest of the country and contains most of the country's primary tropical rainforest. More than 60% of the trees are endemic and many of them are considered rare. Endemic wildlife includes many birds and over 50% of Sri Lanka's endemic species of mammals and butterflies. To end, there are smaller creatures including insects, reptiles and some rare amphibians. For this reason the park is on the Unesco World Heritage List.

Yala National Park
Yala National Park is the most visited and second largest national park in Sri Lanka. Actually it consists of five blocks, two of which are now open to the public, plus adjoining parks. The blocks have individual names also, like Ruhuna National Park for the (best known) block 1 and Kumana National Park or 'Yala East' for the adjoining area. It is situated in the southeast region of the country, and lies in the Southern Province and Uva Province. The park covers 979 square kilometres and is located about 300 kilometres from Colombo. Yala NP was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900, and, along with Wilpattu it was one of the first two national parks in Sri Lanka, having been designated in 1938. The park is best known for its variety of wild animals. It is important for the conservation of Sri Lankan Elephants and aquatic birds. There are six national parks and three wildlife sanctuaries in the vicinity of Yala NP. The park is situated in the dry semi-arid climatic region and rain is received mainly during the northeast monsoon. Yala NP hosts a variety of ecosystems ranging from moist monsoon forests to freshwater and marine wetlands. It is one of the 70 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Sri Lanka. Yala harbours 215 bird species including six endemic species of Sri Lanka. The number of mammals that has been recorded from the park is 44, and it has one of the highest leopard densities in the world. The area around Yala has hosted several ancient civilisations. Two important pilgrim sites, Sithulpahuwa and Magul Vihara, are situated within the park. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami caused severe damage on the Yala National Park and 250 people died in its vicinity. The number of visitors has been on the rise since 2009 after the security situation in the park improved.

Wilpattu National Park
Wilpattu National Park is one of the unique wildlife parks. Nearly sixty lakes (Willu) and tanks are found spread throughout the park. Wilpattu is the largest and one of the oldest national parks in Sri Lanka. It is also among the top national parks in the world renowned for its leopard population. As per unofficial reports, the leopard population has been named as a total of 60 in 2013. The park is situated in the northwest coast lowland dry zone of Sri Lanka, about 30 kilometres west from Anudradhapura and 26 kilometres north of Puttalam. The park can be claimed as “untouched” by humans for the pure reason of terrorism that plagued the island for nearly 30 years. Hence, the park was closed down in the early 1980’s until 2009. Therefore, Wilpattu is a place that has not been accessed frequently by the public. And fortunately, even at the aftermath of 30 years of war, the historical artefacts and places were protected.

Beaches and marine activities

Sunset in Weligama

Sunset in Weligama

© AlexT

Sri Lanka contains some beautiful beaches including Hikkaduwa, Benthota and Unawatuna on the southern cost. These beaches are safe for swimming, surfing, diving and other water related sports. An impressive coral reef can also be found at Hikkaduwa. Negombo north of the capital Colombo attracts many package tourists from Europe as well. There is wreck diving available in Mount Lavinia just south of Colombo with over 10 shipwrecks from modern freighters to World War I wrecks. The west coast season runs from November to April.

The east coast season runs from May to October with some world class surfing in Arugam Bay, pristine beaches in Trincomalee and Passikuda. Diving is available in Passikuda with some easy reef diving as well as a chance to dive some World War II wrecks such as the British Sergeant.

Cultural sights

There are 100 rivers in this small country and more than 10,000 'wawa' (man made lakes). Some of them are more than 3,000 acres. Most of them were built by the ancient kings more than 1,500 years ago. Sri Lanka is one of the oldest civilizations in the world with a history going back over 10,000 years. There are ancient capitals all over the country. Some of them are Anuradapura, Polonnaruwa, Yapahuewa, Kandy, Kurunagala, Dambadeniya & Jayawardanapura. A lot of the culture is based on Buddhism. Ancient temples and ‘Dagaba’s can be found all around the country. The Jethawana, Abhayagiri and Ruwanwali Dagaba’s are even larger than the great Pyramids of Egypt.

Ancient cities
The Ancient cities of Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya are on the Unesco World Heritage List as well and are of important historical and cultural value for the country. Polonnaruwa was the second capital of Sri Lanka after the destruction of Anuradhapura in 993. Sigiriya is famous for its 370-metre-high granite peak, called the Lion's Peak, which can be climbed by stairs. Kandy is home to a tooth of Buddha as well.

Sacred cities
Anuradhapura and Kandy are the two sacred cities on the UNESCO list. The first one was the first capital that flourished for 1,300 years and was abandoned after an invasion in 993. This sight with its palaces, monasteries and monuments is one of the cultural highlights in the country. Read more about the second one in the Kandy article. Galle is an old town with fortifications including a Dutch fort. It is a perfect place to combine culture and beaches.



Events and Festivals

Galle Literary Festival

Starting off the festivals in January, the Galle Literary Festival is an event that takes place annually. Well-known internationally as one of the best literary festivals in with world, the event plays host to some of the most famous names in literature, including Richard Dawkins, Joanna Trollope, and Meera Syal. Local Sri Lankan writers are also showcased. Visitors to the festival can enjoy readings, discussions, and a host of interesting and informative workshops.

Nawam Maha Perahera

February marks the arrival of the most colorful festival in the country, Nawam Maha Perahera. Held annually in Colombo, the festival takes the form of a pageant in which hundreds of elephants are adorned with beautiful materials and walked through the streets of the city. The streets are taken over, in fact, not only by elephants but by a plethora of dancers, drummers, musicians, acrobats, and flame throwers. Visitors who are lucky enough to be in the region during this time should not miss out.

Aluth Avurudda (Sri Lankan New Year Festival)

Sir Lankan New Year takes place in April and is celebrated all over the country. Perhaps the most important festival during the entire year, New Year is marked with several rituals which aim to bring happiness and prosperity to the country and its people. Once the rituals have been completed, the party starts. Streets are closed off all over the country and everyone from young children to the elderly takes part in the music, the dancing, and most famously, the feasting.


Vesak is the Sri Lankan Buddhist festival which celebrates the day Buddha was born, the day he attained Enlightenment, and the day he passed away. Held every year in May, the anniversary is commemorated with the lighting of colorful lanterns in homes and streets across the island. Some towns also put on free public theater performances which honor the life and work of Buddha.

Esla Festival

Held every year at the shrine of the god Kataragama, the Esla Festival spans two weeks in July and is characterized by devotees of Kataragama walking over burning coals. After the coal-walking ceremonies, the devotees, in their hundreds, submerge themselves in the local river, shouting praises to the god. This is quite an event to witness and travellers who are in the country during July should make a point of attending.

World Spice Festival

Travellers who are gastronomically inclined will love the World Spice Festival which takes place every October in Colombo. Bringing together the best local and international chefs, who together make a variety of local dishes using indigenous spices, the festival celebrates the vibrant cuisine that Sri Lanka has to offer. The event is open to the public and there are sure to be many tasting sessions.

Deepavali Festival

One of the last festivals on the calendar, Deepavali is held in November nationwide. Known alternatively as the Festival of Lights, Deepavali is celebrated in many eastern countries to welcome spring as a signifier of the victory of good over evil. In Sri Lanka, Deepavali is celebrated mainly by the Tamil population. Locals cleanse themselves by taking oil baths, wearing new clothing, and giving each other gifts. The most recognizable characteristic of the festival is the burning of firecrackers at night time and the lighting of oil lamps which invite blessings and prosperity.

Other Events and Festivals

  • Thai Pongal festival - A harvest festival celebrated by Hindus on January 14.
  • Milad-un-Nabi - Birth of Prophet Mohammed.
  • Maha Sivarathri - Hindu festival in March.
  • Good Friday in April.
  • Esala Perahera - celebrated during the July full moon time at the Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Tooth) in Kandy.
  • Id-ul-Fitr - End of holy fasting in the month of Ramadan.
  • Christmas
  • February 4: Independence Day (from the English in 1948)
  • May 1: Labour Day
  • Full moon day each month is a Buddhist religious public holiday to allow practicing Buddhists to observe 'Sil' (the 5 Buddhist precepts)
  • Historical Sittamgallena Randoli Perahara Pageant (11 Oct 2016 - 17 Oct 2016) - The annual historical Sittamgallena Esala Randoli Perahera Pageant will take place on the Poya day of October each year and parading the streets in and around the vicinity of the ancient lake and the Sittamgallena Sacred area, situated in Southern Province. Address: Historical Sittamgallena Raja Maha Vihara, Sittamgallena, Rammala-Warapitiya, Hours: 24hrs (Day & Night)




Sri Lanka has a tropical climate, meaning hot and humid weather year round. Temperatures average around 30 °C during the day and around 20 °C at night, slightly more at the coast, slightly lower more inland. In the mountains it can get a bit chilly though. Rainfall is possible year round, but is higher during the April to June and September to December period. January-February and July-August are somewhat drier.



Getting There

By Plane

Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB), also known as Katunayake International Airport and Colombo Bandaranaike International Airport, is the main gateway to Colombo and in fact of Sri Lanka as a whole.
Sri Lankan Airlines is the national airline of Sri Lanka. It operates international flights to and from Abu Dhabi, Bangalore, Bangkok, Beijing, Chennai, Coimbatore, Doha, Dubai, Delhi, Dammam, Frankfurt, Goa, Hong Kong, Hyderabad, Kuala Lumpur, London Heathrow, Male, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Karachi, Kuwait, Singapore and Tokyo Narita. Other airlines serving the country are Emirates, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Martinair, Condor, Cathay Pacific and low cost airlines Air Arabia from Sharjah. Expo Aviation operates many charter service to and from the following destinations: Abu Dhabi, Australia, Bangalore, Bangkok, Beirut, Cairo, Kozhikode, Chennai, Chittagong, Kochi, Dhaka, Dubai, Hyderabad, Islamabad, Jakarta, Jeddah, Karachi, Kathmandu, Kuala Lumpur, Lahore, Malé, Manila, Mumbai, Muscat, several cities in Africa and Europe, Sharjah, Singapore, Tiruchirapalli and Thiruvananthapuram. Domestically, Expo Aviation and Aero Lanka offer scheduled flights to Jaffna and Trincomalee from Colombo. Chartered flights are also available.

Mihin Lanka is a low cost airline which focuses on providing low cost flights from Colombo to Dubai and a number of cities in India. Its future base would have been Weerawila International Airport (WRZ), which would have been ready in 2009. However, the project faced significant environmental concerns, and was eventually scrapped. The site of the proposed airport was moved to Mattala, Hambantota, and a new Hambantota International Airport/Mattala International Airport is currently under construction there.

By Boat

There are shipping lines you could use between the Indian city of Trivandrum and Sri Lanka, but no regular passenger services exist. Ask around in the port in India or Sri Lanka.



Getting Around

By Plane

Expo Aviation and Aero Lanka offer scheduled flights to Jaffna and Trincomalee from Colombo. Chartered flights are also available. Deccan operates flights by plane or helicopter to the major tourist locations and can save hours in road transport but is very expensive.
There are airport taxis and vans in operation. They are cheaper for transporting you and your luggage to or from the airport.

By Train

There are trains connecting the major southern cities, the central, the east and Colombo. Popular routes include Colombo to Kandy vv. At present, there are no trains going beyond Anuradhapura to the northern places like Jaffna.

By Car

Travelling by car is the best option for getting around Sri Lanka. You have the freedom to stop when and where you want. Hiring a vehicle with driver is advisable, as it is best to go about with a driver familiar with the roads and you have a company that you can hold accountable for to ensure a safe drive for you. If you want to drive yourself, it is possible and several companies offer cars at the international airport and resort areas. Most roads are tarred, traffic drives on the left and you need an international driving permit.

Taxis, depending on the distance, can be reasonably cheap within Colombo city limits. There are numerous cabs now in service in the city. Some have a starting rate above which prices are added by the km and others start off from zero and go by the km. The latter is especially useful for shorter distances.

By Bus

Public buses are the cheapest mode of public transport. However, they can be quite crowded. As a tourist, if you don't need to be travelling in the morning or evening or afternoon rush hours, then you can find that travelling during the in-between hours can be very cheap as well as giving a good glimpse of the city.

Intercity buses start and end in Colombo from the Fort area. You can get on one in-between but if you want a seat, better to go to the Fort bus stand. There are two stands: one for the inter-city buses that travel shorter distances, less than four hours and the the other for longer distances. Each city has a main bus stand where inter-city buses depart from or arrive at.
Visit the Central Transport Board for more information about companies and fares.

Other public transport by land

A popular mode of transportation for both tourists and local residents is the three-wheeler/auto/ tuk-tuk. It is a convenient means of getting around within a city, when one does not want to go on the crowded public buses or more expensive taxis. Just be sure to agree on the price before you get onboard, as some drivers have a tendency to overcharge if you ask for the price at the end of the drive. It is usually also safer to get an auto from the stand that is usually located at the top of the streets, as that means that they are registered under the auto-drivers group of that area and should any misfortune befall, it will be much easier to locate the area and auto.

By Boat

There are no scheduled passenger services around Sri Lanka, but chartered a boat for diving and fishing is a popular way. Of course, you can also join a tour.



Red Tape

Online tourist visa can be obtained by all countries, except Maldives, Seychelles, Singapore. It allows a stay in the country for 30 days and is valid for six months. Application should be lodged in advance before entering the country and shall be done online. After this the applicant will receive an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) which should be presented at the port of entry in Sri Lanka and exchanged for a tourist visa. Visa charges are US$20 for SAARC countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Pakistan) and US$35 for others (2016). ETA is supposed to be ready in 2 days, though in practice they can be issued in only 10-20 minutes after the payment is received.

Alternatively, tourist visa can be obtained without getting a prearranged ETA right at the Bandaranaike International Airport (at a visa desk in the arrival zone before customs) for US$40. Therefore online visa is not a pre-condition to board a flight/vessel to Sri Lanka.

Important: immigration authorities at Colombo airport are very demanding with respect to the accuracy of the passport number on your electronic travel authorization obtained online. A single digit mistake is taken as a reason to force you to buy a new visa and refer you to some obscure government office in Colombo for refunds of your online payments. Be careful about 1 vs. I and zero vs. O. The number should exactly match the machine-readable section of your passport, and not anything else (for example, Russian passports have a non-alphanumeric number sign that should be completely excluded).

Extensions can be made at the Department of Immigration, +94 11 532-9300; M-F 09:00-16:30, 41 Ananda Rajakaruna Mw, Col 10, Punchi Borella, Colombo.

A visa extension gives you an additional 2 months in the country beyond the initial 30-day entry visa (so in total, you can stay in the country for 3 months). You can apply any time from immediately after entering the country until the expiry of your visa. An additional 3-month extension is possible (so in total, 6 months), but you must again pay the extension fee plus another Rs10,000. Extensions beyond this are at the discretion of the department, and incur a Rs15,000 fee plus the extension fee. See above for fees for the first 90-day extension.

The department sets the cost in US dollars, but you pay in Sri Lankan rupees. To process the extension, the immigration office requires your passport and an onward ticket. Your proposed stay in Sri Lanka must end at least two months before the expiry date of your passport.

The immigration office begins processing visa extensions Monday through Friday a bit before 08:30 in the morning. However, a worker usually starts to give out queue numbers and forms some time between 07:00 and 07:30, so arrive early to be among the first processed.

Based on several extensions done in summer 2015, total time is about 2.5 hours if you arrive by 07:00: get ticket around 07:15, submit documents at 08:30, make payment at 09:00, get passport back around 09:30. If you arrive at 08:30, the room usually has started to fill and it could be around 3-4 hours. Arriving after 09:30, it'll be full and total time can be at least 4 hours. Arriving after 11:30 is usually not worth it, because the payment counter closes at 14:30; if they haven't finished the pre-processing necessary to get you to the payment stage before 14:30, you'll have to return the next day.

You can leave the room to go outside for a break, but if you miss your number being called, it could add more time to your wait.

Agents can do the visa extension for you: they take your passport and documents, wait in line, pay the fees, etc, then return the passport to you. Larger tour groups often use these agents for extensions. The agents know the system: they arrive early and get the first queue numbers. Because of this, being behind one local agent representing a group of 25 foreigners needing extensions could make your wait time significantly longer. Best advice as an independent traveller is to get your queue number before the local agents: arrive before 07:00, immediately stand waiting at the wooden desk which is on the left just after the entrance, and don't let the agents cut in front of you.




See also Money Matters

The currency is the Sri Lankan rupee: LKR. There are coins for 25 and 50 cents (bronze), 1 rupee (old version is big and silver, new version is small and gold,) 2 rupees (silver,) and 5 rupees (gold,) as well as banknotes ranging from LKR10 to LKR5,000.




The universities of Peradeniya and Kelaniya offer a variety of Buddhist studies and Pali language courses in English. Mahamevnawa Meditation Monastery is a good place to learn a popular version of Buddhism.




Sinhala and Tamil are the official languages of Sri Lanka. English is a working language for most private sector enterprises based in Colombo but out of Colombo, the local languages are used. However, as a tourist, one can get by with English as usually basic words and phrases in English are generally known to all, as English is taught as a third language in local schools.




Sri Lanka and South Indian food share a lot in common, and many local restaurants describe their menus as Sri Lankan & South Indian. There are a number of regional variations, though, the different types of hopper, devilled prawns/cuttlefish/chicken/etc. and the common fiery addition to any curry, pol sambol made of grated coconut, red chilli powder and lime juice.

Sri Lankan food is generally spicy, but you can always ask for less spicy options if you prefer. Note that Sri Lankans eat with their right hands - this isn't a major problem, because every eatery can provide cutlery if you can't eat otherwise. But try the Sri Lankan way (tips of fingers only!); it's harder than it looks but strangely liberating.

Food is generally very cheap, with a cheap meal costing about a US dollar. The most expensive tourist-orientated places seldom charge more than ten US dollars. The staple food of Sri Lankans is rice and curry - a massive mound of rice surrounded by various curries and delicacies. If you want to eat a cheap lunch you can follow the Sri Lankan crowds and duck into any of a million small cafes, confusingly called 'hotels'. These normally sell a rice and curry packet, as well as 'short eats', a collection of spicy rolls. This is ideal for backpackers and those who want to get past the touristy hotels selling burnt chicken and chips - you're charged by how much you eat, and unless you're absolutely ravenous it probably won't cost over a US dollar.

If you are taking road trips outside Colombo, there are endless options for places to stop on the road for lunch. Rest houses and hotels along major roads throughout Sri Lanka have good restaurants that offer both Sri Lankan and Western menus. If you are less adventurous, you can easily get good sandwiches and soups at these restaurants. These places have excellent rice and curry plates, and you will be served many different types of curries over an extremely generous portion of rice. These meals are extremely delicious and will leave you full and happy at the end of the meal. Eating is definitely a memorable experience in Sri Lanka.

Kottu (Kothu) Roti (a medley of chopped roti, vegetables and your choice of meat) is a must-have for anyone - tourist or otherwise - in Sri Lanka. It is uniquely Sri Lankan and tastes best when made fresh by street vendors. However, several kottu roti restaurants have been closed down due to their use of stale and old roti, which made some patrons sick. Use caution, and even better, talk with the locals to figure out where the best kottu roti restaurants are.

Other foods that you should try include String Hoppers, Hoppers, Pittu and Kiribath.




Accommodation in Sri Lanka has been transformed in recent years. What would be recognized as the modern tourist industry began in the 1960s with traditional beach hotels built on the west coast which were aimed primarily at the package holiday crowd and traditional travel operators. But the past decade has brought a major change, with the growth of villas, boutique hotels, and small independent and individualistic properties offering a huge array of choice.




In Sri Lanka water from the tap is not considered to be safe to drink in the country. However if you are using bottled water (1.5 litre for 60-70 LKR in March 2012) please make sure SLS (Sri Lanka Standard Institute) label is present. Also in some parts of the country you'll find hard water due to the high presence of lime in the soil. Fresh milk, due to the climate, spoils easily, and so is often very expensive. Powdered milk, however, is safe and is often substituted.

Thambili the juice from king coconut, is very refreshing. It's sold at the side of streets throughout the island, you know it's clean as the coconut is cut open in front of you and it's cheaper than bottled drinks at about R30/- each. Soft drinks are available almost everywhere, normally in dusty-looking glass bottles. The local producer, Elephant, make a range of interesting drinks - try the ginger beer and cream soda. "Coca Cola" and "Pepsi" also available in large and small sizes (plastic bottles) including several local soft drink brands - all available at rapidly multiplying supermarkets all across the country and grocery shops.

The most common local beer is Lion Lager (140 LKR in "wine shops" or 200-300 LKR in restaurants in March 2012). For something a bit different try Lion Stout. It is characterized by its tar-like oiliness of body and chocolate finish. Other brews include Three Coins, which is brewed by the Mt Lavinia hotel chain, allegedly to a Belgian recipe.

The traditional spirit is Arrack, which costs about 4 USD for a bottle, and is often drunk with club soda. The quality can vary depending on how much you want to pay. However, widely recommended brand would be "Old Reserve" and worth paying 7.5 USD for it.




See also Travel Health

There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Sri Lanka. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Sri Lanka) where that disease is widely prevalent.

It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Sri Lanka. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and when travelling longer than 2 weeks also typhoid.

If you are staying longer than 3 months or have a particular risk (travelling by bike, handling of animals, visits to caves) you might consider a rabies vaccination. Vaccination against Tuberculosis as well as hepatitis B are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.

Malaria is no longer a concern, it was declared free from the island in September 2016. Buy repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net. Dengue occurs.

Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.

There are government hospitals in all the main towns of Sri Lanka. The medical facilities and doctors will be some of the best available in that particular district. However, as these medical services are provided free of charge by the Government, there are some drawbacks: very long queues, less maintenance of public spaces within the hospital etc. There are numerous private hospitals and health care clinics, which requires payment for service provided and these are generally not affordable for those living in the average income level in the country. Based on feedback from people from that district, one can choose one of these service providers if one wants faster service. The Colombo National Hospital is currently considered the best public hospital in Sri Lanka and Nawaloka Hospitals Ltd. the best private hospital.

It is advisable to get use mosquito repellants when travelling around Sri Lanka as the last decade has seen numerous mosquito-borne diseases spread through the country, such as dengue, chikungunya etc.




See also Travel Safety

Note: Sri Lankan police will arrest and may deport people sporting tattoos of Buddha or any other tattoos which can be interpreted as having religious significance. If you have such a tattoo then it is strongly advisable to cover it up or avoid visiting Sri Lanka.

Violent crime is not usually any more serious a problem for tourists in Sri Lanka than it is anywhere. There has been an increase in violent crimes involving tourists in the past few years, but it is still very rare. Tourists should exercise the same care and attention as they would at home.

Under colonial-era laws which are still in place, homosexual activity between consenting adults are punishable by fines and whipping. LGBT travellers should exercise discretion.

In June 2009, the Sri Lankan government lifted travel alerts after the military defeat of rebel insurgents in the north of the country, though it is advisable to check with the local travel advisory bureau in your country if there is any doubt. Sri Lanka's lengthy and bloody civil war was ended one month earlier, when the government forces finally wiped out the Tamil Tigers. However, there might be land mines left, which can be troublesome, and the facilities in northern (and some parts of the east) cities and towns are war torn.

On 21 April 2019, Easter Sunday, deadly bombings occurred at three churches and five hotels in several cities including Colombo. Later smaller explosions occurred at a housing complex and a motel, killing mainly police who had been investigating the situation and raiding suspect locations. At least 259 people, including 38 foreign nationals, were killed and 500 injured in the bombings. The church bombings were carried out during Easter mass in Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo; the hotels bombed included the Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury hotels in Colombo. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack but this has not been confirmed.



Keep Connected


Internet cafes are available in all the cities and these are cheap and easy to access. Most hotels have internet access as well but are relatively expensive. There are various internet service providers (Sri Lanka Telecom, Dialog, Mobitel etc.) providing different packages: ADSL broadband, dial-up, WiFi. Please contact a service provider to learn more about the packages and prices.


See also International Telephone Calls

The country code for Sri Lanka is 94. Remove the intercity prefix (0) before the area code when dialling internationally into the country (i.e., 0112 688 688 becomes +94 112 688 688) when dialling from abroad). The two next numbers after 94 represents the area code, they are different for every district.

The use of GSM cellphones is widespread and the coverage is good. Dialog and Mobitel are two operators that have sales offices at the airport inside the arrivals lounge. Dialog Mobile has the widest coverage in the country including rural areas and has the best quality GSM / 3G / HSPA +/4G network. Mobitel also has a 3G/HSPA+ network. All the mobile operators are having same call rates due to floor rate tariffs. Therefore it is advisable to go to the network which offers you the best quality. All Mobile Operators offers cheap IDD Call rates. If you want to surf internet, best way is to buy a HSPA dongle and a Mobile Broadband connection. Dialog Mobile, Mobitel, hutch, Etisalat and Airtel offers prepaid Mobile Broadband services which can be activated and used immediately. Dialog is the Vodafone Roaming Network in Sri Lanka and offers the best range of Value added services for Roamers and the rates are cheaper. Etisalat and Airtel also provide cheap roaming rates specially to India.


Sri Lankan Post is the national postal company. Each city/town has a main post office and the villages will have access to sub post offices, either at the village or nearby village. Local post, through normal mail, is cheap and fast. However, to ensure that the post has reached recipient, it is better to send by registered post which will allow you to have a reference number which you can later use to check with your post office that your mail has reached its destination. There are local courier services. Aramex and Pronto are some of the ones in Colombo and they deliver mail the same day or overnight. For better tracking and fast services companies like DHL, or TNT provide a good service but are more expensive.


Quick Facts

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Sri Lankan
19 886 000 [1]
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Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam
Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR) ₨
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as well as Peter (7%), Hien (6%), Herr Bert (4%), amilan (3%), hasbeen (2%), Sam I Am (2%), boulderman (1%), NarenG (1%), Kumudu (1%), dr.pepper (<1%)

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