Sri Lanka Travel Tips

1 Visa                                   

1.1 Visa Application                
For a short visit to Sri Lnka travellers should obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA). An application for an ETA can be done online at The Eta is initially limited to 30 days validity from the date of arrival, althoug it may be extended for up to six months. Please note that your passport must be valid at least six monthson the time of your visit in Sri Lanka.

1.2 Tourist Visa                         
A Tourist Visa is issued to bona-fide tourists who want to enter Sri Lanka for sightseeing, excursions, relaxation, visit relatives or yoga training for a short period of time.

1.3 Business Visit Visa           
A Business Visa is issued to foreign nationals who visit Sri Lanka for business purposes for short periods of time. This visa may be issued for single, double or multiple journeys. For further information:

Department of Immigration and Emigration 
Ananda Rajakaruna Mawatha
Maradana, Colombo 10. 
Tel: +94-11-5329000 / +94-11-5329316/20/21/25


2 Customs

2.1 Import                           
You are allowed to bring into the country duty free 1.5 litres of spirits, two bottles of wine, and a small quantity of perfume and souvenirs with a value not exceeding US$ 250. The import of personal equipment such as cameras and laptop computers are allowed but must be declared on arrival.

2.2 Export                           
On leaving the country you are allowed to export up to 10kg of tea duty free. No antiques antique, defined as anything more than 50-years-old – rare books, palm-leaf manuscripts and anthropological material can be exported with permission from the: 

National Archives                                    
7 Reid Avenue                                           
Colombo -07.                                             
Tel: +94-11 2694523/ 2696917                                

Director General        
Department of Archaeology
Sir Marcus Fernando Mw   
Tel: +94 11 2692840/1, +94-11-2694727, +94-11-2667155 

Purchase and export of any wild animal, bird or reptile, dead or alive without licence is prohibited. Also, the export of parts of animals, birds or reptiles, such as skins, horns, scales and feathers are prohibited. Occasional exports are, however, permitted exclusively for bona fide scientific purposes. It is prohibited to export of 450 plant species without special permits. The export of coral, shells or other protected marine products is also strictly prohibited.

Applications for special permission to export fauna should be made to the: 

Department of Wildlife Conservation 
382, New Kandy Road
Tel: +9411 25060380 
And flora should be made to the: 

Forest Department
82, Rajamalwatta Road
Tel: + 94 11 28666 16/ 2866632


3 Health                                

The health risks in Sri Lanka are different to those encountered in Europe and North America. Watch out for bowel diseases such as diarrhea and amoebic dysentery, vector borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, and a variety of fungal infections.

3.1 Vaccination                   
No inoculations are compulsory unless you are coming from a yellow fever or cholera area. (Cholera is very occasionally reported in Sri Lanka, so is not considered a serious risk.) However, the following vaccinations are recommended, particularly if you plan a long trip or intend visiting remote areas:

  • Typhoid (monovalent)
  • Polio
  • Tetanus
  • Hepatitis A & B
  • Rabies

Children should in addition be protected against:

  • Diphtheria
  • Whooping Cough
  • Mumps
  • Measles
  • Rubella

Remember to plan well ahead with vaccinaions!

3.2 Health Precautions       
As most stomach upsets are due to the unsanitary preparation of food, it is useful to know what to watch out for. Under-cooked fish (especially shellfish) and meat (especially pork and mince) can be hazardous. Salads can be risky unless purified water has been used to wash the various vegetables. Fruit that has already been peeled should be avoided. Be careful of ice cream, in particular the varieties sold by street vendors and served at cheap restaurants. Sometimes there are power outages in Sri Lanka, especially away from urban centres, so it pays to be suspicious of all refrigerated foods if you know there has been a recent outage in your area.

3.3 Water                                     
Tap water is not safe to drink and boiling and filtering is sometimes done too hastily in some hotels and restaurants, so the best solution is to drink bottled water. There are now many brands available, mostly using spring water from the highlands of the island. Make sure that the bottle carries an SLS certification and that the seal is broken only in your presence. Beware of ice unless you are satisfied it has not been made from tap water.

3.4 Sunburn                                 
When you flop onto the beach or poolside lounger for a spot of sunbathing, always remember to apply a sunscreen product with a sun protection factor of at least 15. Remember you are just 600km from the equator. Even with sunscreen, your sunbathing should be limited in time and longer sunbathing may put yourself at risk of serious dermatological disease.

3.5 Heatstroke                           
Sometimes those who have spent too long in the sun suffer a heatstroke, the most common form being caused by dehydration. This condition can occur if the body’s heat-regulating mechanism becomes weakened and the body temperature rises to unsafe levels. The symptoms are a high temperature – yet a lack of sweat – a flushed skin, severe headache, and impaired coordination. In addition, the sufferer may become confused. If you think someone has a heatstroke, take that person out of the sun, cover their body with a wet sheet or towel, and seek medical advice. To avoid heatstroke, take plenty of bottled water to the beach.

3.6 Prickly Heat                         
Prickly heat rash occurs when your sweat glands become clogged after being out in the heat for too long or from excessive perspiration. The rash appears as small red bumps or blisters on elbow creases, groin, upper chest or neck. To treat it, take a cold shower, clean the rash with mild soap, dry yourself, apply hydrocortisone cream, and if possible, a product that contains salicylic acid. Repeat every three hours.

3.7 Local Health Care         
Minor health problems can always be treated by doctors with practices in the resorts and elsewhere in the country. If you have a more serious problem, main cities in Sri Lanka now boasts a selection of modern, well-equipped private hospitals offering the latest in conventional medical and surgical therapies.


4 Barrier-Free-Travelling 

Travellers with special needs, especially if they visit Sri Lanka without a companion, should note that the country has relatively few facilities for disabled people, although greater awareness and improvements are evolving. There is no need to worry at Colombo’s Airport as wheelchairs and assistance in boarding and disembarking are available. Buildings, offices, and banks are becoming better-equipped with wheelchair ramps and suchlike. If you aren’t travelling with a companion, you’ll find that Sri Lankans will be only too eager to assist.


5 Money

5.1 Currency                       
The local currency is the Sri Lankan Rupee, divided into 100 cents (you rarely come across scents today). Currency notes are Rs.5,000, Rs2,000, Rs1,000, Rs500, Rs100, Rs50, Rs20 and Rs10. Beware of mistaking the Rs500 note for the somewhat similar Rs100 one. To check whether notes are genuine when not given at a bank, look for a lion watermark. Coins, should you have received them, will be in denominations up to Rs10. Make sure you have plenty of lower denomination notes (Rs50, Rs100, Rs500), especially when travelling and you need to buy small items, fruit, and eat cheap meals, because change is often hard to come by apart from at hotels and big shops. 

5.2 Foreign Currency Regulations 
Visitors to Sri Lanka bringing in more than US$10,000 should declare the amount to the Customs on arrival.

5.3 Banks                                      
Banks are open from 0900 hrs to 1300 hours Monday to Friday. Some city banks close at 1500 hrs, while some are open on Saturday & Sunday mornings. It is easy to withdraw money across the island at ATMs using international credit cards or debit cards.

5.4 Credit Cards                        
Most hotels, restaurants and shopping centres accept credit cards. Some establishments may try to add a surcharge, which is illegal.


6 Photo Permissions

6.1 Photography                 
Sri Lanka is a tremendously photogenic island, so it’s hardly surprising that most tourists bring a camera of some kind when they visit the country. The stunning landscapes, the captivating fauna and lush flora, and the stupendous archaeological remains provide great opportunities: a bonus is that Sri Lankans love to be captured on film. So it’s easy to capture the traditional rural lifestyle. You’ll find villagers, farmers, fishermen and tea pluckers will readily stand in front of your viewfinder. Your subjects will often ask to have a copy of picture sent to them. This may be laborious, but it is a reasonable courtesy as many may never have seen a picture of themselves. It is also understandable that many will also expect a token recompense for allowing themselves to be photographed.         

6.2 Restrictions                         
There are some important restrictions that apply to photography regarding Buddhist imagery. When you visit a temple or other religious site, remember that photography should not be carried out in a manner causing disrespect. For instance, it is strictly forbidden to be photographed in front of or beside any statues and murals. Note that flash photography can damage old murals.

6.3 Permits                          
Tourists who wish to visit and or photograph the principal ancient monuments in Sri Lanka are required to purchase a ticket from the 

Central Cultural Fund
212/1, Bauddhaloka Mawatha
Tel: +94-11 2587912 /2500733 /2581944 

 Central Cultural Fund offices at Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya and Kandy. 

A single round ticket for two months validity costs US$ 50 and will entitle you to visit and photograph historic monuments such as Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa,Sigiriya, Nalanda, Ritigala, Medirigiriya. There are separate charges at each site for those who do not obtain round tickets: Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya US$ 25, Nalanda US$ 5, Ritigala US$ 8, Medirigiriya US$ 5.


7 Getting There

Usually all visitors to Sri Lanka travel by air; flights arrive at the Bandaranaike International Airport, 35 km north of Colombo, and 6 km of Negombo.


8 Public Places

You may sometimes be overwhelmed by crowds of people in public places (railway stations, markets, bus stands, temples or simply busy streets). “Touts” and hawkers may jostle and push and clamour to show you a hotel and sell you things. Taxis and three – wheelers are often there when you do not need them.


9 Safety

In general, the threats to personal security for travellers in Sri Lanka are remarkably small. It is more pleasant to travel with a companion as it is advised not to travel alone especially after dark. The island including the North and East is safe to visit. If you have anything stolen, report it to the tourist Police, (a special tourist police set up to look after the needs of the tourists. Contact phone Number + 94 11 2382209


10 Overnight Stay

Sri Lank offers visitors an excellent range of accommodation facilities to suit all budgets from luxury hotels to low budget accommodations. In the peak season (mid-January and during Easter) bookings can be heavy so it is best to reserve accommodation well in advance through Tour operators/ travel agents, booking online.


11 Language

Sri Lanka has two official languages. Sinhala and Tamil – with English as a link language. Most people have some knowledge of English, and signboards are often in English.


12 Drink

Sri Lankan ‘Ceylon’ tea is prepared as in the West and coffee too. There are a huge variety of bottled soft drinks, including well-known international brands. Thambili (king coconut water) is a safe and refreshing option. Local beer and spirits are widely available. Bottled mineral water is available. Please note: Alcohol is not sold on Poya (full-moon day of the month) days.


13 What To Wear

Cotton clothes are useful at any time of the year but you will need light woolens for the hills and waterproof clothing or an umbrella.

Modest dress for women is advisable especially off the beach and when visiting religious sites like temples, clothing that covers knees and shoulders, shawl or scarf. Don’t forget comfortable shoes, sandals or trainers and cotton socks. If you are planning to trek and climb go prepared with suitable gear. Water sports enthusiasts would do well to take their snorkels and diving equipment along.


14 When To Visit

Sri Lanka is a round-the-year destination for the visitors who seek for sun and sea the best time to visit the island is from November to April. The Southwestern coastal area, where the most of the beach resorts are located, Kalpitiya, located in the western (North Western) coast has been declared a new tourist attraction. The central highlands are pleasantly cool and relatively dry from January to April. The peak season is mid December to mid January and March-April during Easter with a mini peak season in July and August when festivals and pageants are held through the country.


15 Time Difference

Sri Lanka Standard Time is five and a half hours ahead of GMT. (Allowance should be made for summer-time changes in Europe.)


16 Electricity

Power sockets are Type D, G and M and have 230 Volt with 50 Hz cycles. A travel adapter fort he mentioned Types of power sockets is needed. For laptops bring a stabilizer.