Information & Facts
Attractions in Sri Lanka have grown from a long and vibrant
history leaving many things to do and see including seven UNESCO
heritage sites. Sri Lanka's history can be experienced at the
ancient sites of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Dambulla and
Panduwasnuwara. The National Museum houses artefacts and explains
Sri Lanka's complex culture. This complexity is also apparent in
the capital city Colombo where exotic smells and goods are traded
in the Pettah bazaar district. Calmer attractions include the
seafront in Galle or the peaceful lake town of Kandy.
To leave the city and towns altogether attractions include treks
into Yala National Park and up Sigiriya or Adam's Peak. Of course
many leave the exertion of historic discovery in favour of sandy
beaches stretching hundreds of miles. These are best visited
outside of two rainy seasons May to August and October to
In Sri Lanka, due to a warm climate, the dress etiquette may
vary according to various sectors of business. In the more formal
sectors, men will be required to wear lightweight suits, but a more
casual approach is acceptable during the warmer months depending on
regulation. Appointments are to be made in advance and business
cards to be swapped upon first engagements. It is considered rude
to be late for meetings. Business hours are generally 9am to 5pm
Monday to Friday with an hour taken at lunch.
Sri Lanka has a tropical climate with high humidity, tempered by
sea breezes on the coast. The average temperature is about 81ºF
(27ºC). January is the coolest month, becoming especially cold in
the highlands, and May is the hottest time of year. Monsoon season
is between May and July, and December and January.
The international country dialling code for Sri Lanka is +94.
The outgoing code is 00, followed by the relevant country code
(e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). City or area codes are in use,
e.g. (0)11 for Central Colombo. International direct dial
facilities are available in Colombo and other major cities. Mobile
phone operators provide GSM 900/1800 frequency networks with
coverage across all the main parts of the island. Internet cafes
are available in the main towns and resorts.
Photography near government or military buildings is
prohibited. Homosexuality is illegal. Topless sunbathing is not
allowed, and visitors, particularly women, should cover up when
entering Buddhist sites. It is considered offensive to pose for
photographs in front of a Buddha statue. Smoking and drinking in
public are forbidden. Honour, or personal dignity, is extremely
important to Sri Lankans and causing an individual to 'lose face'
by public criticism or anger should be avoided.
Travellers to Sri Lanka over 18 years do not have to pay duty on
the following items
:2 bottles wine and 1.5 litres spirits; perfume up
to 59ml and 250ml eau de toilette; and souvenirs to the value of
US$250; 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars and 340g of tobacco. For family
members travelling together free import applies for two members.
Passengers must declare personal effects to ensure free export when
they arrive in Sri Lanka. Restricted items include firearms,
ammunitions, explosives and weapons, plants, fruits, birds and
by-products, medication (unless it is for personal use), and goods
for commercial purposes. Prohibited items include drugs or
narcotics, pornographic material, and material that ridicules
religious belief systems.
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Round,
three-pin plugs are used.
Food and waterborne diseases are a primary cause for ill health
in Sri Lanka. Visitors should only drink bottled water, avoid ice
in drinks, and take care to eat well-cooked food. Hepatitis A
vaccination is recommended for all travellers to Sri Lanka. Cholera
is regarded as a serious risk and precautions are advised, while
typhoid is more of a problem in rural areas. Yellow fever
vaccination certificates are required by travellers coming from
infected areas. Malaria, Chikungunya fever, Japanese encephalitis
and dengue fever are a risk and protection against mosquito bites
is essential. Prophylactics for malaria are also strongly
recommended. There is also a particular danger from contaminated
seafood. Travellers are strongly advised to take out good travel
insurance, and seek medial advice at least three weeks before
leaving for Sri Lanka.
Most people speak Sinhala, which is the national and
official language. Tamil is also spoken, and English is spoken at
most tourist establishments.
The unit of currency is the Sri Lanka Rupee (LKR), which is
divided into 100 cents. Major credit cards are widely accepted, and
travellers cheques in US Dollars are recommended. ATMs are becoming
more common, but outside the main cities they are unlikely to
accept international cards. Credit cards should be used with
caution due to the potential for fraud. Foreign currency can be
exchanged at bureaux de change, banks and hotels, but exchanging
cash is more expensive than exchanging travellers cheques. Banks
are closed on Sundays.
Visitors should be able to show the immigration officials proof
of sufficient funds for their stay in Sri Lanka (minimum USD 15 per
person per day). Passengers must also hold return or onward tickets
and all documents needed for the next destination. Visa-exempt
nationals should have a passport valid for three months beyond
period of stay, otherwise passports should be valid for two months
after expiry date of visa. It is highly recommended that passports
have at least six months validity remaining after your intended
date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration
officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel
agents and official sources.
There is a risk of terrorism in the country, and although
foreigners have not been the targets of previous attacks, there is
a risk of being caught up in incidents. There has been a dramatic
increase in political violence, and visitors should avoid public
gatherings and political demonstrations. The Sri Lankan Government
and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have been involved
in long-standing conflict which has resulted in indigenous
terrorism, particularly in the north and northeast of the country,
with attacks and abductions occurring almost daily, and fighting
between the rebels and the government. Visitors should keep
themselves informed of developments and remain vigilant. As a
result of the conflict much of the north and east remains heavily
mined, particularly around the A9 road to Jaffna; foreign
governments are advising against travel to the north or east of the
country. Fatal attacks in Trincomalee continue almost daily.
Attacks have also taken place in central and southern Sri Lanka, in
areas popular with tourists, and civilians have been targeted.
Attacks have also occurred in the south, including the tourist town
of Galle. Yala National Park is currently closed due to security
concerns; there have been a number of attacks since October 2007.
Security has been increased in the south of the country,
particularly in Colombo, and road check points are common. There
have been recent bomb explosions on public transport in central
Colombo. Violent crime against foreigners is infrequent, but there
have been cases of sexual assault and robbery in rural areas and
women are advised to take care when travelling alone.
Local time is GMT +5.30.
A 10% service charge is added to most restaurant and hotel
bills. Tipping is a customary way to show appreciation for almost
all services and small amounts are sufficient, otherwise 10% of the
amount due is standard. There is no need to tip taxi drivers.