Traveller Information
Sri Lanka Fact File

Geographic Location

On the world map, Sri Lanka is among the largest islands in the northern reaches of the Indian Ocean and the biggest close to the Subcontinent itself. Sri Lanka is at least 880 kilometers north of the Equator and is about 65,610 square kilometers in size.

Demographics

It is currently home to a multi-ethnic population of over twenty million people. Racially, it is home to the Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and Burghers as well as smaller Malay and Kaffir groups and the indigenous peoples.


Religiously, the largest faith is Theravada Buddhism, while Hinduism, Islam and Christianity have smaller but equally prominent followings.

Capital of Sri Lanka

There are two capitals in the country, both located in the Western Province of the island. The admininistrative capital in Sri Lanka is Sri Jayawardenapura, Kotte while the far more dynamic commercial capital is Colombo.

Sri Lanka Weather

The climate in Sri Lanka is mostly determined by the monsoons. There are two monsoon seasons and inter-monsoonal rains. The main rainy seasons are the South West Monsoon (May to September and rain falls in the hill country, West & South Coast) and North East Monsoon (November to February and rain falls in the Ancient Cities, North and East Coast). April and October are inter-monsoonal month and it is in April that the traditional Lunar New Year, the end of the harvest, is celebrated.

The country has numerous biogeographical zones, from the dryer scrublands of the north to the misty central highlands and the wet zone forests in between.

Traditional Greeting

The traditional way of greeting is by saying "Ayubowan!", which means "may you live long!"

Time zones

+5.5hour ahead of GMT and during summer daylight saving it is +4.5hours ahead of GMT.

Sri Lankan visa information

Except citizens of Singapore, Maldives and Seychelles all other nationals should obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA). The process is simple and you need to log on to www.eta.gov.lk to obtain your visa. Visa fee for SAARC countries US$15 and other countries US$30.

International flights to Sri Lanka

The main international airport in Sri Lanka is the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) in Katunayake, Cololmbo. BIA is also the hub for the national carrier of the island, SriLankan airlines. Other popular airlines that fly to the Bandaranaike International Airport are Air India, Jet Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, Oman Air, Kuwait Airways, Singapore Airlines, Malaysian Airlines, Thai Airways, Cathay Pacific, Air China, and Korean Airways. Some of the budget carries that call over at the airport are Air Asia, Fly Dubai, Spice Jet and Mihin Airlines.

Sri Lanka customs and duty-free allowances

Visitors to Sri Lanka are officially required to declare all currencies, valuable equipment, jewellery and gems etc. Visitors are not allowed to bring goods in commercial quantities or prohibited/restricted goods such as dangerous drugs, weapons, explosive devices or gold. You are allowed to bring 1.5 litres of spirits, 2 bottles of wine, 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g rolling tobacco, a small quantity of perfume and 250ml of toilet water.Professional photography or filming equipment must be declared and will be allowed entry on a valid carnet, bank guarantee or refundable deposit to the tune of the duty payable on the items.

Exchanging Money in Sri Lanka

Visitors bringing in excess of $15,000 in TC, bank drafts or currency notes into Sri Lanka should declare the amount on arrival. You can convert your foreign currency at authorized money changes located at the arrivals hall in the airport or in some of the key cities. Most hotels and some shopping malls offer money changing facilities albeit at a lower rate than the official rate.

Sri Lanka Currency Notes

Local currency exists in the form of Rupees (LKR). Notes are available in LKR5000, LKR 2000, LKR 1000, LKR 500, LKR100, 50 & 20. Coins are available for the smaller denominations such as LKR10, LKR5, LKR2, LKR1 & 50Cents.

Credit Cards

VISA& Master cards are widely accepted in most hotels and shops and no surcharge should be permitted for its use.

Mobile SIM cards

Pre-paid cards are available at the airport and starting from LKR500 upwards. Dialog and Mobitel have island wide coverage. Sri Lanka’s international dialing code is +94.

Shopping in Sri Lanka and Consumer Advisory

Some of the goods you may consider buying when in Sri Lanka are Ceylon Tea, Spices, Gems, Garments, Batiks, Ayurveda products, Handicraft, and Porcelain Ware. In most reputed malls and shops the pricing is clearly displayed on the goods and there is minimum room for negotiating. Whereas in some of the smaller merchant outlets, you have the option of negotiating, however it is recommended that you be mindful of the quality of goods you are purchasing, since a handful of traders can resort to unethical trading practices.

Insurance Coverage

It’s a good travel practice to have insurance policy that covers for loss of luggage, theft, accidents and medical problems. If you plan on engaging in any excursions such as white water rafting, diving, surfing or even caving, make sure your insurance policy covers you for these activities. TLC.lk ensures that all vehicles available on its travel platform have the required passenger insurance cover to support any hospitalization expenses for all passengers in the unfortunate event of an accident.

Traveling in Sri Lanka

If you plan on visiting Sri Lanka to purely enjoy a particular holiday destination for a few days then it is recommended that you hire a vehicle for the transfer or one-way trip and use public transport for your city tours at the holiday destination. Sri Lanka railways also have good coverage to some of the popular tourist cities such as Kandy, Galle, Hikkaduwa, Nuwara Eliya, Ella in Sri Lanka. While the trains offered by Sri Lanka railways are mostly non-ac trains, there are air-conditioned compartments offered by Expo Rail and Viceroy on certain selected frequencies and routes.


If your interest is to travel around the country and see as many places of interest, then it is recommended that you obtain the services of a professional chauffeur who in addition to driving you around, will have the skill set to explain some of the places of interest as well. On average if you are traveling more than 100kms a day during your holiday, then it is cheaper and more cost effective to retain the services of a dedicated chauffeur.

Accommodation

In the absence of a recommendation or user review on an accommodation, it’s always good to inquire if the property is a Sri Lanka tourist board approved property. If you plan on hiring the services of a chauffeur, it’s recommended that you inquire from the hotels if they provide accommodation for the chauffeur as well. Most tourist board approved hotels have chauffeur quarters and the chauffeur accommodation is provided for free.

Sun screen

If you are planning on sun bathing or engaging in any excursions where you would be exposed to the sun for long durations, then it’s recommended that you carry a good sun block cream with you.

Smoking

Smoking is prohibited in air-conditioned areas such as restaurants, shopping malls, cinemas and most public places. Please observe non-smoking rules.

Bars

Alcoholic drinks are freely available at bars, restaurants, wine shops, stores & super markets. Sale of liquor is prohibited on Poya days (full moon days) and most hotel bars and restaurants observe this rule.

Main Electricity

230 Volts 50 Hertz AC. Some hotels have transformers/ converters enabling visitors to use their appliances, however it is advisable to take a universal adapter.


Sri Lanka is known for

Ancient civilization

The Island has a rich history stretching back across over 2500 years; maybe more if the Ramayana legends are to be believed. The last remnants of these great monuments lie mainly in the north and in the centre of the island. Some of the best-known sites are part of the Cultural Triangle, uniting Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy, places which in reality are many miles apart. Many of these are religious buildings but there are plenty of secular constructions in these areas too although these become overshadowed on a regular basis.

Wildlife

Furthermore there are still wilder areas in the country where one can spot the largest subspecies of Asian elephant. Sri Lanka is famous for its elephants and especially leopards although these are harder to spot.

Whale watching

The country is surrounded by warm, tropical seas which are used as birthing grounds for whales when they return from their feeding areas in polar waters. On these tours one can catch a glimpse of even the blue whale itself, the largest animal on Earth. Mirissa, Kalpitiya & Trincomalee are popular whale & dolphin watching places in Sri Lanka.

Beaches

The country also boasts among the world’s best beaches and there is a continuous coastline running the length of the island. In some places the water is incredibly clear and only a few inches deep. Some of the beautiful beaches in Sri Lank are Unawatuna, Hikkaduwa, Mirissa, Bentota, Negombo, Arugambay, Pasikudah and Kalkudah.

Sun screen

If you are planning on sun bathing or engaging in any excursions where you would be exposed to the sun for long durations, then it’s recommended that you carry a good sun block cream with you.

Garments

Made in Sri Lanka garments are exported to many European and US markets and many locally produced clothes are of excellent quality. There are many factories as well as wholesale and retail outlets all over the country. Some of the popular shops that sell locally manufactures garments are Odel, House of Fashion, Hameedia and Factory Outlet Store.

Food

Local cuisine & sweets consist of a mix of both local and foreign delicacies. Some of the Must Eat Sri Lankan foods are Milk Rice, Kottu Roti, Pol Rotti, Hoppers, String Hoppers, Pittu, Ambulthiyal, Polos Curry, Coconut Sambol, Kola Kanda, Sri Lankan Chinese (A spiced up version of a traditional Chinese menu). Sri Lanka’s long history of having been invaded or colonized means that we now have Portuguese and Dutch dishes sold as normal treats. For example there are the Dutch Lampries, a famous rice dish wrapped up in banana leaves and also Dutch confectionaries such as Kokis, a crispy fried desert. Some of the local fruits and sweets to sink your teeth into are Pineapple, Mangos teen, Jaffna Mango, King Coconut, Kavum, Mung Kevum, Pani Walalu, Aluwa, Arsmi, Weli Thalapa, Bibikkan and Aggala.

Beverages

Arrack is a uniquely Sri Lankan alcohol, distilled from coconut water. It has been in production for centuries and historical records mention large-scale production. LION Lager is our chief beer brand. Our Ginger Beer is a famous soft drink for those who fancy them, with real ginger. Our primary brand of Ginger Beer is “Elephant House”.

Ayurveda

Ayurveda is a medicinal system that has been in use for centuries, ever since it was brought down from India. Surgeries have been carried out on patients and these have been reportedly more successful than those done in Europe at the time. Ayurvedic drugs are common in village areas and now many spas use these massages and lotions as part of their healing repertoire. A visit to an Ayurveda Spa run by a most rated hotels or reputed independent operators such as Siddhalepa, Vendol, Spa Ceylon is recommended if you like to pamper yourself to a Taste of Paradise.

Spices

Historically Sri Lankan has been part of the spice trade for thousands of years for its strategic location in the center of the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka is the world’s largest producer of Cinnamon. Sri Lankan Pepper is rated as the best in the world. Cardamom, Cloves, Nutmeg and Mace are some of the other spices you can find in Sri Lanka.

Gems

Sri Lankan blue sapphires grace the crown of Elizabeth II, Queen of England. Also, we have many gem sculptures in the gem museum in Ratnapura. Sri Lanka is also famed for rubies and the well-named Sinhalite. This is a topaz-like gemstone with a similar color, found only in our country. It is a brown version of the naturally green peridot, also found here. Sinhalite is not really favored in the market due to the low demand for brownish-green gems. Dambulla is the largest rose quartz mountain range in South Asia.

Tea

Ceylon Tea is regarded as the world’s finest tea.

Cricket

The most popular sport in Sri Lanka is cricket. Every local man has “cricket” on his lips and it is played widely by boys and young men of varying ages and levels of income. Some manage to make do with makeshift bats and wickets. International cricket grounds in Sri Lanka are located in Colombo, Galle, Kandy, Dambulla & Hambantota.


Travel tips

Popular tourist destinations in Sri Lanka:

Colombo: Commercial Capital of Sri Lanka and can be visited throughout the year

Negombo: Best time to visit is from December to May

Kandy: Best time to visit Dec to May & August is the Perehara month

Bentota, Kalutara, Kalpitiya: December to April. However, you can still visit these destinatios during the off season months of May to November.

Galle, Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna, Koggala, Tangalle, Mirissa: Best time to visit December to September. The Mirissa whale watching season is from December to April.

Udawalawe, Yala, Wilpattu: The three largest national parks can be visited all year around.

NuwaraEliya, Ella,Dickoya, Adam’s Peak: Best time to visit Dec to May. The rainy months are from June to October. The average temperature in the hill country is between 14 to 20 degrees and you may need warm cloths if you plan on visiting the hill country.

Sinharajah: The rain forest for Sri Lanka can be visited at any time, but its best to avoid the rainy months of June and November.

Sigiriya, Dambulla, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa: A visit to the ancient cities should be taken between the months of February to October.

Trincomalee, Arugam Bay: The best time to visit Arugam Bay and Trincomalee is from May to October


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