12 best places for Sri Lanka 2-day trips, Exploring Colombo

23 essential pieces of information prior to visiting Sri Lanka

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23 essential pieces of information prior to visiting Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, situated in tropical waters near the southernmost point of India, is renowned for its amiable populace, tranquil Buddhist society, and relaxed pace of life, notwithstanding its recent turbulent past.

A small amount of knowledge is extremely beneficial in ensuring a smooth journey to this island in the Indian Ocean. An exceptionally diverse nation, Sri Lanka is surprisingly tiny in size. With the added benefit of proximity to beaches, forested national parks, temple-studded plains, and jungle-covered highlands ascend from pounding coastlines.

Although the majority of tourists begin their journey at the coast and venture inland to explore tea gardens, ancient cities, and national parks, it can be difficult for newcomers to navigate Sri Lanka’s chaotic public transportation system and cultural nuances. Here are a few pieces of information that may be of assistance to you prior to your trip to Sri Lanka.

Apply in advance for a visa
Check the most recent visa requirements for Sri Lanka before proceeding. Fortunately, obtaining an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) prior to departure is not difficult for the majority of nationalities.

  1. Verify your vaccinations for travel
    As Sri Lanka is a tropical destination, ensure that your travel vaccinations are current by consulting your physician. Vaccinations against diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and polio are advised for Sri Lanka. Additionally, extended-stay visitors may wish to contemplate vaccination against rabies and typhoid, both of which are potentially fatal and are carried by canines, felines, and monkeys in Sri Lanka.
  2. Plan your journey in consideration of the monsoons
    The southwest monsoon, which brings abundant precipitation and turbulent seas, strikes the southern and western coasts of Sri Lanka from May to September. In contrast, the northern and eastern regions of the island remain relatively arid and temperate. Between November and March, when the northeast monsoon strikes Sri Lanka, the south and west are at their peak, while the northern and eastern regions experience light precipitation.

Monsoon precipitation in Sri Lanka is, in fact, quite sporadic; one can anticipate brief, intense downpours interspersed with extended, scorching sunny periods. There are advantages to visiting various regions of Sri Lanka during their inclement “off-seasons”; both hotel rates and visitor numbers decrease substantially.

  1. Alcohol sales are prohibited on full moon days and religious observances.
    Nearly half of the numerous bank holidays in Sri Lanka are poya days, which commemorate the advent of the full moon, which is considered an auspicious occasion in Sri Lankan Buddhism. Alcohol is not available in stores, restaurants, or bars on poya days; however, hotel guests may still utilize the minibar. Additionally, alcohol is prohibited at other religious gatherings, including the Buddhist festival of Vesak in May.
  2. Carry cash; the Sri Lankan rupee is the official currency.
    When you arrive in Sri Lanka, stock up on rupees, not before, and do not exchange more than you require. The exchange of Sri Lankan rupees outside of Sri Lanka is challenging. Although ATMs are prevalent throughout the nation, whenever possible use Bank of Ceylon ATMs, as they do not levy a fee. In larger hotels, restaurants, and tourist-oriented stores, card machines are prevalent.

Whenever possible, attempt to accumulate a supply of banknotes with a reduced denomination (for instance, withdraw LKR5900 instead of LKR6000). Tips and small bills are required when using tuk-tuks, purchasing items from local markets and businesses, and tipping. Additionally, it is prudent to carry dollars, euros, or pounds sterling as currency, as all three are extensively accepted in tourist areas.

  1. Anticipate the amount of territory you can actually cover.
    Around Sri Lanka, travel time is unexpectedly lengthy due to the limited number of roads that traverse the interior and the serpentine routes. Additionally, traffic must contend with numerous obstacles, such as poorly maintained roadways and free-roaming fauna, including buffaloes, cows, feral canines, and elephants. Do the island justice by not hastening. An inland circuit of the island, including diversions to national parks, ancient cities, and tea plantations, will require at least one month to complete.

The expanding expressway infrastructure in Sri Lanka has significantly accelerated road travel from Colombo to southern municipalities, including Galle, Matara, and Tangalla. The Sri Lanka Hill Country, due to its winding, congested roadways, is the most time-consuming region to traverse; instead, consider exploring by train.

  1. Bring the proper equipment to the highlands and religious sites of Sri Lanka
    The mountains of Sri Lanka attain heights exceeding 2,000 meters (6,560 feet), and the highlands experience comparatively lower temperatures than the coast. For cooler evenings and early morning beginnings, bring along a lightweight jumper (especially between December and March). Additionally, remember to bring a sarong, which can serve multiple purposes: as a towel or beach blanket, a shawl or skirt to drape over your shoulders or knees while visiting temples, and a warm layer for pre-dawn safari jeep excursions or air-conditioned bus rides.
  2. Anticipate the highland country trains in advance
    Sri Lanka Railways runs the country’s trains, including those on the magnificent Main Line, which winds eastward from Colombo and passes through the island’s tallest mountains, cloud forests, and tea plantations. This is an incredibly popular journey among both tourists and locals, especially the segment between Kandy and Ella. It is a breathtaking journey.

To ensure a seat in air-conditioned first class or fan-cooled second class, purchase tickets in advance. This can be done in person at stations or online through booking sites like seerendipitytours.com. Tickets are made available ten days in advance and rapidly sell out.

  1. Swimwear is exclusively for seaside use
    Socially and religiously, Sri Lankans are predominantly conservative. Swimwear is appropriate for lounging at the shore, but not for exploring the city. No topless or nudity-wearing is authorized on any beach in Sri Lanka.
  2. Avoid disruptive behavior and public displays of affection
    Public displays of affection, boisterous or arrogant conduct, and outbursts of anger are all unacceptable. When engaging in negotiations, keep this in mind as anger should never be present.
  3. Adhere to proper attire when visiting temple
    When visiting places of worship, visitors should don attire that completely envelops the shoulders, upper limbs, and legs. Before entering any Buddhist or Hindu temple or mosque, including historic ruins, remove your footwear and headdress. Socks are permitted; in fact, they are essential for extremely humid, sunny days.

In the north and Jaffna, where a distinct Sri Lankan Tamil Hindu culture predominates, tourists are uncommon. It is imperative to observe local etiquette when visiting Hindu temples; non-Hindus are prohibited from accessing certain shrines and must obtain permission before entering. Men are additionally expected to enter certain temples bare-chested and shirtless (e.g., the expansive Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil in Jaffna).

  1. Display reverence for Buddha images
    Depictions of the Buddha are held in the highest regard by Sri Lankan Buddhists and must at all times be regarded with reverence. Deportations from Sri Lanka have occurred in response to the display of “disrespectful” Buddha images; therefore, refrain from donning garments bearing Buddha images and conceal any tattoos depicting Buddhist iconography. Similar regulations pertain to statues; engaging in photographs with a Buddha statue is unequivocally prohibited, as is directing one’s back toward an image of Buddha.
  2. Exercise caution when capturing images
    Before photographing individuals, you should always obtain their consent. Keep in mind that you may be required to pay to photograph the renowned stilt fishermen at Koggala (authentic stilt fishermen are becoming increasingly rare). Flash photography is strictly prohibited in temples and areas adjacent to military installations. Additionally, certain Hindu sites may strictly prohibit the taking of photographs. It is imperative that, when photographing temples, one does not position themselves with their back toward a Buddha statue during the moment.
  3. Eat with your right hand
    By custom, Sri Lankans consume with their right hand, forming rice and curry balls with the tips of their fingers and inserting the food into their mouths with their thumbs. For the sake of hygiene, before attempting this, wash your hands thoroughly. If you are invited into a local household for a meal, you may be encouraged to do so. It is not recommended to use the left hand for activities that require less attention to hygiene, such as personal hygiene or hand washing.
  4. It is customary to tip
    In Sri Lanka, tipping is an integral part of daily life, and numerous restaurant employees depend on the additional revenue it generates. Standard tipping at the majority of larger hotels and restaurants is 10%; use this as a guide when dining at establishments that do not charge this.
  5. Allow wildlife to roam
    A British journalist perished in 2017 when a crocodile ensnatched him from a lagoon near Arugam Bay. Although such assaults are uncommon, they do occur; therefore, maintain vigilance in lagoons and rivers. Hazardous sharks do not pose a significant concern in Sri Lanka; however, inland regions prone to flooding, such as paddy fields, harbor venomous snakes.

When walking or traveling through hilly regions or along roads that lead to national parks, maintain a heightened awareness for elephants. When you spot one, maintain a safe distance and be prepared to retreat. Never feed a wild elephant, as doing so will condition them to associate humans with sustenance and provoke them to attack.

  1. Observe routine safety measures
    Sri Lanka ranks among the most secure nations in Asia with regard to minor criminal activities. Theft and robberies are unusual, albeit sporadic, while acts of violence against visitors are exceedingly rare. Use the hotel safe and wear a money belt as a precaution.

Particularly when using public transportation, female travelers should avoid traveling alone at night and exercise caution when traversing deserted beaches by themselves. Cultural sensitivity in Sri Lanka necessitates the wearing of long sleeves and garments, as they effectively mitigate the risk of harassment.

  1. Refrain from consuming municipal water
    While it is possible to use tap water from Sri Lanka to brush your teeth, we do not advise doing so because it is not suitable for human consumption. The availability of bottled water is abundant, and superior hotels supply their visitors with potable water. When purchasing bottled water, ensure the seal is securely fastened and search for the Sri Lanka Standards certification mark. It is preferable to fill your own drinking water bottle from a large bottle rather than purchasing numerous tiny plastic bottles. Empty bottles should always be disposed of responsibly.
  2. Be wary of pickpockets and cons
    Scammers congregate in Galle Fort, Kandy, and Galle Face Green in Colombo, attempting to defraud or entice travelers into parting ways with their money. Be sceptical of any establishment attempting to sell you gems for the purpose of “selling at a profit back home.” Gems hawked on the street are almost certainly compelling imitations made of colored glass. It is advisable to consult official tourist offices and operators directly for information before placing your trust in agents, especially if they initiate contact with you.

It is advisable to conceal valuables and cash when traveling on congested trains and buses, as well as when navigating densely populated streets, such as the Pettah market district in Colombo. Tuk-tuk drivers frequently overcharge tourists; request that they use the meter (and choose another tuk-tuk if they decline) or use the local apps PickMe or Uber to book a ride.

  1. Take precautions to avoid mosquito bites
    In Sri Lanka, mosquito stings are among the greatest health concerns. Despite the eradication of malaria, mosquitoes can still transmit dengue fever, a painful and debilitating illness with potentially fatal complications. Dengue is not preventable with vaccinations, and treatment consists solely of symptom reduction. For personal protection, it is advisable to lie under a mosquito net, cover up at dawn and dusk, and utilize potent repellents that contain significant concentrations of DEET (diethyltoluamide).
  2. Observe road safety regulations in Sri Lanka
    Traffic congestion is a significant peril that confronts individuals visiting Sri Lanka. Frequent accidents occur involving trucks and motorcycles, and bus collisions, which frequently involve pedestrians, are another concern. Frequent factors contributing to accidents encompass perilous overtaking, overloading, and abruptly turning in to assist passengers at the side of the road.

Typically, drivers for private bus companies are more careless than those working for the government-run SLTB. It is unwise to anticipate that vehicles will yield at pedestrian crossings; therefore, exercise caution when strolling along roadside areas, as sidewalks are uncommon in Sri Lanka.

  1. Remain cognizant of the ocean
    Although the beaches of Sri Lanka are picturesque, they are perilous due to the scarcity of lifeguards and the powerful currents, which are especially hazardous during the monsoon season. After road accidents, drowning ranks as the second most prevalent cause of mortality among tourists, as numerous beaches recede significantly. Before swimming in unfamiliar water, consult a local.
  2. Natural catastrophes pose a danger
    Sri Lanka was among the nations most severely impacted by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which devastated numerous coastal areas and claimed the lives of over 35,000 individuals. In response to the catastrophe, early warning systems for earthquakes and tsunamis have been activated in major cities and resorts, but not in rural, isolated regions; therefore, remain vigilant for such indications.

Localized flooding that occurs during the northeast and southwest monsoons is the most frequent natural calamity in Sri Lanka. This flooding can lead to landslides in highland regions. Additionally, periods of drought and tropical cyclones pose a threat to Sri Lanka. Bookmark the website of the nation’s Disaster Management Center for current weather advisories and situation updates.

Sanjeewa Padmal (Seerendipity tours)

This blog is all about travelling in Sri Lanka, I am trying to illuminate my readers with a wide range of information related to Sri Lanka travel. Please feel free to contact me at any time if you need more information. Furthermore, we can organize your holiday package or any travel related requirement in Sri Lanka. Please contact us on info@seerendipitytours.com... read more

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