Vacations in Sri Lanka
Apr 28, 2020
Long overshadowed by India, its giant neighbour to the north, the island nation of Sri Lanka is “The Pearl of the Indian Ocean.” Located just 35 kilometres southeast of the Indian subcontinent, this island has an extraordinary variety of places to visit within its small size. At only 65,610 square kilometres, the country formerly known as Ceylon is lined with undeveloped, idyllic beaches, lush lowland jungles, abundant wildlife, Buddhist monuments and colonial forts. The country also has more than 2,000 years of recorded history, as well as a rich cuisine, all of which will leave you with memorable experiences.
Sri Lanka provides one of the most varied vacation experiences in Asia, but thanks to its small size, travellers can experience it all and not feel rushed. With such a wealth of attractions, deciding where to go in Sri Lanka can be difficult. You can book more than one vacation here and still not see and experience everything.
The island was attached to India at one time via a low-lying strip of land called Adam’s Bridge. This feature is now mostly submerged with only a few limestone shoals remaining above sea level. According to Hindu mythology, the causeway, also known as Rama’s Bridge, was constructed during the rule of Lord Rama. Temple records indicate that the natural bridge was destroyed during a violent storm in 1480.
Getting to Sri Lanka
Visitors have long passed up Sri Lanka in favour of India. Despite this fact, Sri Lanka is easy to get to. Most people fly into Bandaranaike International Airport just north of Colombo, the capital. If coming from Australia, the only direct flights are from Melbourne via Sri Lankan Airlines. Otherwise, you’ll need to make a stop in another Asian country. The airline offers flights to many cities in Asia. You can also fly to Sri Lanka from several southern Indian cities.
Best Time to Visit Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a year-round destination with a tropical climate that is quite hot, as it sits between five degrees and 10 degrees latitude north, and tempered by ocean winds. The country has two monsoon seasons, but neither should prevent you from visiting. The main, or Yala, monsoon brings rains to the west and southwest coasts and the hill country from May to August. The secondary, or Maha, monsoon season occurs from November to March and hits the country’s east coast.
December through April is considered the country’s high season with December and January as the peak tourist months with relatively pleasant weather throughout the island. Note that the end of March through April can be unbearably hot. With the arrival of the Yala monsoons, the east coast of the island turns into a surfers’ paradise. August also sees a rise in the number of visitors due to the Kandyan Perehera, a local festival held in Kandy. Fewer people visit in October and November, but the weather is cooler, making it an ideal time to explore Sri Lanka.
The Perfect Destination If You Don’t Have a Lot of Time
Let’s face it; not everyone has a month or more to explore a destination. Most travellers either have to choose a beach vacation, a cultural destination, an adventure trek or a peaceful retreat. Sri Lanka can give you all of those, along with an extraordinary culinary experience, if you plan your holiday in the right manner. At the same time, you could also spend your time pursuing just one of those past times and still have the most memorable vacation of your life.
If you don’t have endless days to spend in this tropical paradise, even one of those options will provide you with a full experience. To that end, consider these top destinations in Sri Lanka when contemplating a vacation here.
Tips for Visiting
When visiting Sri Lanka, take note of these tips before visiting the country.
Don’t Drink the Local Water
You’ve heard this before about many countries, but you should bring a reusable bottle with a purifier. Although water is chlorinated and generally safe, it contains microorganisms that are unfamiliar and can lead to upset stomachs. Also, avoid ice. First off, because it’s usually hot, you need to carry water with you all the time to stay hydrated. Drinking bottled water is the norm, but individual bottles are expensive in Sri Lanka. Bring your bottle to save money as well as the environment.
Try the Local Food
Outside of the major cities, you’ll find mediocre and overpriced western-style food, so local food is your best bet. Stick to local Sri Lankan or Indian food because it’s delicious. In addition to the food being incredibly delicious, it’s also cheap, so you don’t want to miss an extraordinary chance to try local cuisine.
Don’t Come to Sri Lanka to Party
Outside of Colombo and the coastal tourist towns, you won’t find much opportunity to drink or partake of nightlife. If you like quiet evenings, this is the destination for you.
If you have been to Asia previously, you know that tuk-tuks are a comfortable and quick way to get around. Hiring a driver in Sri Lanka is inexpensive. You can hire one for the whole day for about $31 AUD. There is no need to bargain hard, except in Colombo where some drivers will try to scam you.
Arrive Early at Sigiriya
The ancient palace ruins of Sigiriya that sit atop a 200-meter high rock surrounded by remains of gardens and reservoirs is one of Sri Lanka’s most popular sites. Arrive there when it opens at 8 a.m. to avoid huge lines and crowds. If you get there after 10 a.m., the crowds are often so overwhelming that it is not worth visiting. Note that it takes an entire hour to walk up to the top.
Skip the Ticket Line at Anuradhapura
Unless you intend to enter the museum, you don’t need tickets for this site. Enter without paying by using the tiny road just southeast of the museum.
Bring Flip-Flops to Temples
All temples require to you take off shoes and socks before visiting, so bring flip-flops to keep your socks clean.
How Much Does Visiting Sri Lanka Cost?
Although it isn’t as economical as some other Asian countries, Sri Lanka is still an inexpensive country to visit. This fact is particularly true if you stick to the delicious local or Indian cuisine and avoid the overpriced Western-style restaurants Sri-Lanka is budget-friendly, even if you take a lot of tours and visit many different attractions.
Sri Lankan Currency
One Australian Dollar equals about 123 Sri Lankan rupees. These typical prices show you how inexpensive the county is:
Airport taxi—2,500 rupees
Tuk-tuk from Dambulla o Sigiriya—1,000 rupees
Temple of the Tooth in Kandy—1,000 rupees
Dosai dinner in Kandy—200 rupees
Lunch of burger and fries in Galle—1,200 rupees
Tips on Spending Money
• Government taxes are sometimes added onto hotel and restaurant charges, so check beforehand on what’s included.
• Tourist prices apply for admission to various attractions. For example, the entrance fee to a site within the Cultural Triangle may cost you about $39, but for locals, it’s about 39 cents or sometimes even free.
• Bargain for everything from a rickshaw ride to a room in a guesthouse but remember to be courteous, as a few rupees here and there can make a big difference to someone living on a handful of rupees per day.
• Tipping is a way of life in Sri Lanka.
Where to Go in Sri Lanka
Anuradhapura – Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s small size is deceptive in that those unfamiliar with the country sometimes believe that they can see everything in one visit. Although you indeed can, you’ll end up having a frenzied vacation that will be less enjoyable. Few countries have so many UNESCO World Heritage sites packed into such a small space as there are eight of them here thanks to the country’s 2,000-plus years of culture. Safari tours can offer a glimpse of wildlife such as leopard, birds, water buffalos, elephants and all kinds of birds and primate.
Because distances are short, it’s possible to visit Anuradhapura, the world’s oldest living human-planted tree in the morning, meditate in a 2,000-year-old temple and stroll in a quaint village in the afternoon and then hit the surf and watch a gorgeous sunset on an unspoilt, secluded beach in the evening.
The country’s beaches and rainforests are particularly popular, yet as many tourists have not discovered Sri Lanka, you won’t be subject to huge crowds. The dazzlingly white beaches circle the island; no matter where you travel, you’ll find a sandy gem. You can also visit world-class surf and dive sites without the world-class crowds. When you’re ready to escape the tropical climate of the coast, it’s time head for the hills with their temperate, verdantly green charms. Tea plantations and rainforested peaks beckon to hikers and those who just want to see them via train or auto.
Top 10 Places to Visit
If you have limited time for your Sri Lanka vacation, you’ll want to make sure that you visit some of these popular sites.
Sinharaja – a UNESCO World Heritage site
This unique tract of tropical rainforest is a UNESCO World Heritage site has a treasure trove of flora and fauna. It’s precisely how you imagined jungle to be: intensely humid with continual sounds of insects and animals amidst dense foliage and trees. The rainforest is home to birds such as the Ceylon Hanging Parrot, Layard Parakeet, the Ceylon Wood Pigeon and many more, some of which are endangered. Many endangered species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians and butterflies also live here.
Yala National Park
Stunning scenery and abundant wildlife in Yala National Park
Yala National Park is Sri Lanka’s most exciting preserve with stunning scenery and abundant wildlife. The area hosts a variety of ecosystems ranging from monsoon forests to freshwater and marine wetlands. You’ll see elephants and leopards during your visit, as the park boasts one of the highest leopard densities in the world. Crocodiles and macaque and langur monkeys are also common. Yala is an exceptional destination for birdwatchers as it is home to 215 species. The area is also home to several ancient civilisations as two important sites, Sithulpahuwa and Magul Vihara, are located within the park.
This large fishing port on the south coast, initially known for its tuna, mullet, snapper and butterfish has a picturesque harbour that is the embarkation point for whale watching cruises. If you take one of these cruises from December through April, you’ll see a variety of these magnificent mammals, including blue whales, sperm whales and Bryde’s whales, along with common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and spinner dolphins. Estimates indicate that as many as 26 different whale and dolphin species live in this region. Mirissa also has several unspoilt beaches.
The old Dutch quarter of this city is Sri Lanka’s best-preserved colonial landscape. Also called Galle Fort, it maintains a polished appearance, even after more than 400 years, thanks to reconstruction done by the Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. Enjoy sites such as historic Dutch colonial villas, the Groote Kerk, the National Museum in Galle Old Dutch Hospital and more. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its interaction of European architecture and South Asian traditions from the 16th through 19th centuries. Enjoy the laid back atmosphere here by strolling around the atmospheric streets.
Situated on the Indian Ocean, Arugam Bay is easily Sri Lanka’s most appealing an easy-going beach hangout. It’s also one of the top ten surfing points in the world with May to October being the best time to catch the waves. You’ll see quirky cabanas and mangrove-fringed lagoons here, while three natural attractions, The Point, Pottuvil Point and Crocodile Rock, are all within an hour’s ride by tuk-tuk.
The spectacular 200-metre high rock of Sigiriya, or Lion Rock, is the site of Sri Lanka’s most remarkable royal capital and palace, complete with water gardens, paintings of celestial nymphs and 1,200-year-old graffiti. The rock itself is a lava lug from an ancient extinct volcano. Sigiriya is also known for its ancient frescoes. The site was a rock-shelter mountain monastery beginning in the 5th century B.C. Sigiriya Museum houses photos of the site excavation, fresco reproductions and translations of the some of the graffiti. Access is by a narrow trail and is not for those afraid of heights.
The intriguing bazaar district in Colombo is packed full of merchandise of all types. Each street concentrates on a particular category of merchandise ranging from jewellery and colourful fabrics to Ayurvedic herbs and mobile phones. Navigating the busy streets here can only be done slowly. At times the constant din of vendors and buyers and the general press of humanity can become overwhelming, yet it’s all part of the unique experience that is Sri Lanka.
Dambulla Cave Temple
The treasure trove of Sinhalese Buddhist art
This enchanting series of caves, dating back to the first century B.C., is situated within the Cultural Triangle at Dambulla. These five temples house a treasure trove of Sinhalese Buddhist art, along with shrines, colourful murals of gods and goddesses and more than 100 Buddha statues.
Adam’s Peak – Sri Lanka’s most striking natural landmarks
Rising from the southwestern edge of the hill country, Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada) is simultaneously one of Sri Lanka’s most striking natural landmarks and one of its most celebrated places of pilgrimage to see the Sacred Footprint. Buddhist believe it is the footprint of Buddha, Hindus claim it is Shiva’s while, while Muslims say it is Adam’s. The journey is spectacular at night as you can see spectacular sunrises from the top of the mountain. It’s even better during pilgrimage season between December and May as the route is illuminated and you can stop for tea at the many little shops along the way that are open through the night.
Jaffna and the Islands
This capital city of northern Sri Lanka is unlike anywhere else in the country as it offers insights into the Tamil culture and reveals much of its colonial and civil war history. The peninsula on which it sits is full of palmyra palms, technicolour temples, holy springs and endless coastline. Visit the sacred Oceanside Keerimalai Spring and the beautiful coastal road between Valvettiturai and Point Pedro. The northeast shore has gorgeous beaches, while a journey to the island of Kayts, Karaitivu, Nainativy and Delft are worthwhile for the secluded beaches, colonial fort and Hindu temples.
Sri Lanka by Region
Another way to visit Sri Lanka is to concentrate your travels on a particular region. Whichever area piques your interest, you’ll be sure to find a variety of unique experiences as there is more to see and do than you can imagine. Visit the fantastic ruins at Anuradhapura and Sigiriya. Go on a hiking trek at Kandy or Nuwara Eliha. Tissa is the gateway to Yala National Park. Be sure to enjoy the charm of Galle. You’ll find an incredible selection of things to see and do wherever you go.
Sri Lanka’ s West Coast
Wilpattu National park – home to leopards, elephants and sloth bears
This venture is the easiest for visitors to accomplish as virtually all ventures in this island nation begin at the international airport just outside of the capital of Colombo, the nation’s largest city. The sprawling metropolis has several contrasting districts that offer myriad cultures along with the country’s varied history.
The main attractions here include many beaches with a selection of resort hotels. Popular beaches include Negombo and Beruwala, stylish Benotata, and the old hippy hangout of Hikkaduwa. Also try the small fishing village of Kappalady, home to a long sandbank and turquoise waters.
North of Colombo, you’ll find more unspoilt countryside at the Kalpitya peninsula and in the vast Wilpattu National park, which is home to leopards, elephants and sloth bears.
Sri Lanka’s South Coast
The south coast of the country is significantly less developed, especially if you venture beyond Hikkaduwa. The old Dutch city of Galle, the country’s best colonial town, is the gateway to this area. Beyond Galle lies a string of beaches, which includes Mirissa, Weligama, Unawatuna Hikkaduma as well as the secluded beach villages of Kiriketiyz, Thalla, Dikwell and Tangalle. East of this area, Tissamaharama is a convenient base for Yala and Bundala national parks, along with the temple town of Kataragama.
When visiting the south, start at the beautiful colonial town of Galle, with its wonderfully preserved colonial town that features Dutch and Portuguese influences. From there, head to the picturesque Mirissa, where you can spend several days swimming and relaxing on the beach before you go on a whale-watching excursion. From there it’s a short trek to Talalla, where the unspoilt beach is popular with surfers, Take in a yoga session or simply chill out on the wonderfully warm sands. Sri Lanka’s favourite national park, Yala, is also in this region. Take a guided jeep tour here to appreciate the diverse wildlife, ranging from magnificent elephants to elusive leopards.
The Hill Country
Travel inland from Colombo to witness the verdant highlands of the hill country, wrapped in tea plantations, which still play a vital role in the country’s economy. The city of Kandy, Sri Landa’s second city and the cultural capital of the Sinhalese, is the symbolic centre of the region. Here, you’ll find symbolic treasures such as the Temple of the Tooth along with the magnificent Esala Perhera, Sri Lanka’s most colourful festival.
The old British town of Nuwara Eliya is south of Kanday, close to the island’s point. The centre of the country’s tea industry is here. It is a convenient base for visiting places such as Horton Plains National Park as well as nearby villages such as Ella, Haputale and Bandarawela. This area offers an appealing mix of magnificent views, peaceful walks and old world British colonial charm. Adam’s Peak is at the southwestern edge of the hill country. At the same time, Ratnapura, the gem-mining centre, serves as the starting point to visit Uda Walawe National Park and the tropical rainforest of Sinharaja.
The Cultural Triangle
North of Kandy, the hill country moves down into the northern dry zone with its arid plains. This area, called the Cultural Triangle, is the location of Sri Lanka’s first great civilisation. If you love history and walking among ruins, this area is definitely the place for you as it has an extraordinary number of ruined palace, temples and dagobas that give visitors a compelling sense of its glorious past. Minneriya National Park, one of the country’s most popular and exciting nature reserves, is in this area.
Ancient Kingdoms and Capitals
Polonnaruwa – the ancient capital of Anuradhapura
The triangle’s north part is called Rajarata in Sinhalese, meaning King’s Land. The ancient capital of Anuradhapura, built in 380 B.C., was abandoned in the 10th century A.D. after Indian invasions. It was reclaimed by the jungle until cleared in the 1800s. Polonnaruwa was the second ancient capital. It’s much smaller but in a better state of preservation. Both are wonders to behold and are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The southern section of the triangle is where the Kandyan Empire ruled between the 14th and 19th centuries. The two kingdoms are not directly related but were both Buddhist in nature, as evidenced by their religious structures.
Dagobas and Sculptures
These large dome structures were built to house ancient relics of Buddha. Anuradhapura has three major dagobas, one of which is almost 3,000 years and only second in size to the pyramids at Giza. These spectacular structures are meant for contemplation.
Following Buddhist custom, the dagobas are decorated with sculptures of Buddhas in difference meditative poses. You’ll also find apsaras, elephants and remarkable moonstones at the entrances to buildings. One of the most spectacular is the giant standing Buddha at Polonnaruwa.
The Sacred Bodhi Tree
Sri Maha Bodhi, located in Anuradhapura, is believed to have grown from a branch of the Bodhi tree under which Buddha found enlightenment. It’s not only one of the major attractions in the Cultural Triangle but is the most sacred tree in the country. The tree is the object of many rituals and offerings given in worship.
The Cultural Triangle is also home to the famous Dambulla Cave Temple, which houses a giant resting Buddha statue surrounded by smaller standing statues and wall paintings depicting the life of Gautama Buddha. The Dambulla complex, consisting of five temples and a golden Buddha is the largest and most famous, but you can also find several other cave temples in the region.
View from lions rock, Sri lanka
The majestic rocky outcrops of Sigiriya and Pinduangala are here among the dry grass and trees of the pains. The building remains are spectacular to visit, although the hike up to the summit can be more than challenging for some. Both have gorgeous views of the plain, while Pidurangala has the added advantage of providing a unique vantage point to see Sigiriya, which has been called the Eighth Wonder of the World.
Temple of the Tooth
In Kandy, travellers will find the Temple of the Tooth, a temple complex full of sculpture and paintings depicting the life of Gautama Buddha as well as the sacred tooth relic. The Temple of the Tooth and the city of Kandy are instrumental in the Poya Perahera, one of Sri Lanka’s most magnificent festivals.
Lesser Known Historical Sites
Within the Cultural Triangle, you’ll find several lesser-known historical sites that are more than worthwhile to visit. Yapahuwa, the fourth kingdom of Sri Lanka is a three-hour drive from Dambulla. This citadel sits on a 100-metre high granite rock in the Kurunegala District. Nearby is Jathika Namal Uyana, Sri Lanka’s largest ironwood forest and pink mountain in Asia.
Near Kandy, you’ll find the Ambekke, Lankatilake and Gadaladeniya temples. Giant Buddha statues of Aukana and Buduruwagala in Wellawaya are fascinating to behold. The nearby towns of Dikwella and Tangelle serve Mulkirigala, another impressive rock temple.
Several world-famous Hindu temples are here too, including Seetha Amman Temple in Nuwara Eliya and Nallur Kandaswamy Temple in Jaffna.
The East and the North
The gateway to this area is the colourful city of Trincomalee, set on a peninsula on the northeast side of Sri Lanka. Here you find Fort Frederick built by the Portuguese in the 17th century. Within its grounds is the Koneswaram Temple on Swami Rock cliff, a popular vantage point to watch blue whales. The complex contains ornate shrines and a massive statue of Shiva. Nearby Gokanna Temple also has panoramic views of the city and the coastline.
The area’s swathe of pristine coastline remains almost entirely undeveloped except for the sleepy villages of Nilavei and Uppuveli with their gorgeous beaches, and the surfing centre of Arugam Bay at the southern end of the east coast. The north is even less developed. Increasing numbers of visitors are making the journey to see the beauty of Jaffna and its nearby islands. Casuarina Beach in Karainagar is a popular option in the north. In the east, Komari Beach north of Potuvil and beaches in Oluvil offer authentic experiences. If you want to have a beach to yourself, simply rent a scooter and drive along the coastline as you’ll soon find one.
Festivals in Sri Lanka
The Festival of the Tooth: an Unique Symbol of Sri Lanka
One of the best ways to experience any country in Asia is to visit while a festival is in full swing. When you go to Sri Lanka, chances are you’ll see preparations for one or can participate in one that’s already underway. With four major religions coexisting here, each with its own calendar of festivals, along with a myriad of public holidays, you can plan your itinerary to coincide with one of these colourful events. The three biggest festivals are also pubic holidays:
• Sinhalese and Tim New Year—This beautiful family festival, which celebrates the Lunar New Year, encompasses festivities, games and traditional foods. Many businesses close during this time.
• Vesak PoyaAn important Buddhist festival in May that celebrates the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha. Homes hang colourful lanterns outside, while pandals, which are panels that depict scenes from Buddha’s life, are displayed all over the country.
• Esala Poya PeraheraAs Sri Lanka’s most extravagant festival, Esala Poya Perahera celebrates the Buddha’s first sermon and the arrival of the Tooth Relic in Sri Lanka. This festival lasts 10 days, with the city of Kandy coming alive with colourful and spectacular processions of elephants, drummers, dancers and acrobats. Dates vary according to the lunar calendar, but the festival usually occurs in July or August.
Sri Lankan Cuisine
One of the joys of visiting Sri Lanka is partaking in its cuisine, which is a culinary delight that reflects its geographical position, local traditions and colonial influences from generations of Arab, Malay, Portuguese, Dutch and British settlers. The nuanced flavours you’ll experienced result from a wealth of spices that are present in everything, while coconut, in various forms, also appears in a majority of dishes.
Rice and Curry
Rice and curry is the country’s staple dish. Notice that rice comes first as it is the main ingredient. It’s served in virtually every café and restaurant nationwide and consists of a mound of rice, several dollops of vegetable curry, a piece of fish or chicken and a spoonful of sambol. It’s a miniature banquet with contrasting flavours, including coconut milk, chillies, curry, cinnamon, garlic and Maldive fish. The last is an intensely flavoured pinch of sun-dried tuna that can be too much for some people. The sambol that comes with your curry is designed to be mixed into your food to give it an extra kick, with the most common being pol sambol, or coconut sambol. Note that your curry will be more like a Thai red or green curry as opposed to the curries found in India. Choose medium for how hot you want your food as your dish will be neither bland nor burning.
You’ll often encounter curried pineapple, potato, aubergine, sweet potatoes, okra and dhal along with unusual local vegetables. Curried jackfruit is common as well as drumsticks called murunga. Other local ingredients you may encounter include ash plaintain (alu kesel), snake gourd (patolah), bitter gourd (karawila) and breadfruit del. Another common side dish is <mallung, which is shredded greens, lightly stir-fried with spices and grated coconut.
Other Must-Try Specialties
The country’s tastiest snack is hopper (appa), a small bowl-shaped pancake made from a coconut milk and palm toddy batter. Hoppers are cooked in a small wok-like dish and are soft and doughy at the base and crisp at the edges. They’re usually eaten at breakfast or dinner. Various ingredients are poured into the hopper such as eggs, yoghurt or honey. You can also eat plain hoppers with curry. String hoppers (indiappa) are little tangled nests of steamed rice vermicelli often eaten with dhal or curry for breakfast.
Pittu is another rice substitute. It’s a mixture of flour and grated coconut made steamed in a cylindrical bamboo mould. Lamprais is another local speciality; it’s a serving of rice baked in a plantain leaf with a chunk of chicken a boiled egg, some vegetables and a pickle.
Head to a Muslim restaurant for rotty, a fine doughy pancake with a dollop of curried meat, vegetable or potato on the middle. Its final shape depends on the whim of the chef. Rottys can also be stir-fried with meat and vegetables in a dish known as kottu rotty.
Devilled dishes are also popular and are usually prepared with a thick, spicy sauce with big chunks of onion and chilli. Devilled chick, pork, fish and beef are all common. Buriani is another staple dish, but it has little in common with the North Indian biryani as its generally a mound of rice with a piece of chicken, a boiled egg and a bowl of curry sauce.
Meal Etiquette and Costs
Sri Lankans will tell you that the proper way to enjoy the flavours and textures of food is by eating with your fingers, although Westerners are almost always provided with cutlery. There’s no real tradition of eating out, except in the larger cities like Colombo and Kandy, so you may spend most of your time eating at your lodgings. If you want to eat like a local, try a lunch packet at one of the many cafes and food stalls between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. These usually have a large portion of steamed rice with a piece of curried chicken, fish, beef or an egg, some vegetables and sambol.You may want to avoid trying one until your tastebuds and stomach have acclimated to the local cuisine.
Meals are generally reasonable as you can get a big rice and curry meal for a few dollars at a local café, while main courses at most guesthouse restaurants cost less than $15, and even the island’s poshest restaurants charge only a few dollars more.
Staying Safe in Sri Lanka
Some travellers may wonder about their safety here following terrorist attacks in early 2019. The government of Australia has downgraded its travel warnings, and tourists are no longer being advised not to travel to Sri Lanka. You should remain vigilant during your time on the island.
Take sensible precautions against theft, although petty theft here is lower than in other Asian countries. Use safes in hotels and guesthouses, avoid dark beaches at night and keep a copy of important information such as passports and insurance.
Wildlife doesn’t pose a significant threat, however, the country has many crocodiles, so keep away from waters where they are present. Always wear sturdy footwear, socks and long trousers when walking through dense undergrowth.
Entry and Health Considerations
You’ll need a visa to visit and can buy one in advance online that is valid for 30 days. You can obtain a 90-day visa by post or by visiting a Sri Lanka embassy or consulate. Your passport must be valid for at least six months after you arrive.
Hygiene standards in Sri Lanka are reasonable, yet you should take several health precautions before travelling. Be up to date with diphtheria, tetanus and hepatitis A vaccinations and consider getting those for tuberculosis, meningitis and typhoid. Get medical help if you have diarrhea that lasts longer than five days, if there is blood in your stools or if you have a fever, which are possible symptoms of giardiasis or amoebic dysentery.
Try to avoid mosquito bites as these insects can carry diseases such as dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis. Wear light-coloured clothing that covers you and sleep under a net. Use spray repellents, mosquito coils and plug-in devices when available. Use plenty of sunscreen and wear a hat and sunglasses to protect against harmful sunburn and possible heatstroke.