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Visiting Sri Lanka | A Brief Guide

Sri Lanka is known for its unique cultural landscape and curry-filled cuisine. Here’s all you need to know on how to plan your best trip to this tropical destination.

Things To Take With You

Make sure to bring a type G plug adapter to maintain a connection while traveling in Sri Lanka. The kind of converter you'll need will depend on the amount of voltage needed to run the device you're attempting to use in a Sri Lankan power outlet. You will also need to pay and take with you, your 30-day double-entry visa, an electronic travel authority required to enter Sri Lanka.

What Not To Do In Sri Lanka

  • Do not ride the elephants. Sri Lanka is concerned about the welfare of native wildlife. The exploitation of elephants is discouraged.
  • Do not take photos of others without getting their permission. It is considered insensitive.
  • Don’t drink the tap water and stay away from having ice in your drink when dining out.
  • Don’t refer to Buddhism as a religion. Sri Lankans practice Buddhism (especially Theravada Buddhism), as a way of life.
  • Don't overlook how far one destination is from the next. It may seem like a small island, but traveling will likely take more time than you expect.
  • Do not take a photo with your back facing the Buddha.
  • Don’t compare India and Sri Lanka.

What To Do In Sri Lanka

  • Do keep a scarf with you to cover your head and shoulders if you are a woman. Sri Lanka is very conservative, so you are expected to dress modestly in public and spiritual sites.
  • Do wear trousers in spiritual places if you are a man.
  • Do wear long pants and tops if you plan on visiting any sacred sites, (this goes for everyone).
  • Do remove your shoes upon entering sacred sites.
  • Do avoid emotional outbursts in public. Buddhism encourages people to prioritize peaceful, quiet living.
  • Do know that certain celebrated days each month prohibit the serving and purchasing of alcohol and meat.
  • Do cover any tattoos you have of the Buddha, as it is considered deeply disrespectful to have a tattooed image of the Buddha on one’s body.

What Is Illegal In Sri Lanka?

It is illegal to attend public beaches nude or topless, and modest bathing suits are encouraged. Public displays of affection are frowned upon. You may give and receive a peck on the cheek, but beyond this is inappropriate. Hotels and restaurants host many beach parties. Although these are meant to be social gatherings for tourists, public drunkenness is frowned upon as Buddhist, and conservative values remain at the forefront. Most drugs are considered illegal in Sri Lanka, including marijuana. Property crimes, including vandalism and theft, are also considered serious crimes.

Languages Spoken In Sri Lanka

Tamil and Sinhala are the top languages spoken in Sri Lanka. Tamil is spoken primarily in the north and east areas of the island. Sinhala is spoken throughout the central, western, and southern parts of the island. English is considered to be the link language of Sri Lanka.

Weather In Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has a tropical climate with wet and dry seasons. Coastal regions of the island maintain temperatures of 82 degrees, and upland regions rest at an average of 65 degrees. Weather changes may occur in response to monsoons which promote heavy rainfall in the southwest areas from late Spring to early Fall.

Food and Drink In Sri Lanka

Many meals in Sri Lanka are consumed without utensils. It is considered uncleanly to eat with your left hand as this hand is used for hygiene purposes. Your right hand is used for eating. Sri Lanka's national dish is 'rice and curry.' You can find street eateries that offer this dish in buffet form for $1-$2. Most of the rice and curry dishes are vegetarian, but you can pay a little extra for curries that contain meat. Sri Lanka is also known for its abundance of fruit, such as exotic raw jackfruit.

When To Travel

The ideal time to travel to Sri Lanka is between December and April if you are interested in seeing the west and the south. If you plan to visit the east coast, the best time to travel is between May and October for the best climate. The average hotel prices per night go from $32 to $207 and vacations rentals range from $40-$400 per night if you’re renting out an entire home. The cheaper times to travel and book a hotel room in Sri Lanka are from January 15th- March 25th (excluding the week of February 12th), and August 6th- December 2nd. You will find the absolute cheapest rates from the middle to the end of September.

Transportation And Traffic

The traffic in Sri Lanka can be hectic and crowded. Many tourists use helicopters and planes to travel faster to their destinations. One of the most congested areas is Columbo which continues to grow in population. Outside of the city, expect to see gorgeous beaches, mountains, and occasional wildlife unencumbered by the chaos.

Elevation In Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka can be categorized into three zones: central highlands, coastal belts, and plains. The highest peak in Sri Lanka is in the south-central area, resting at 8,281 feet. 

Sri Lanka’s Currency

Sri Lanka's official currency is the rupee (LKR), which is not an international currency. You will have to exchange your US dollars or withdraw rupees once you arrive. Withdraws can be made easily at an ATM. 1 LKR equates to 0.0050 USD.

Areas To Avoid

Single travelers and women traveling in all-women groups should stay away from certain beaches at night. Two beaches to avoid are Negombo and Hikkaduwa; these have bad reputations for muggings. While exploring, stay away from terrain that contains heavy undergrowth, as there are multiple species of poisonous snake in Sri Lanka.

From sandy beaches to authentic food, it's no wonder Sri Lankans make peace a priority. Follow the above travel tips to explore Sri Lanka in the best way possible.

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