Sriseeker Guide to Well-travelled Journeys in Sri Lanka
To prepare for your journey, consider the following travel insider tips:
Tourist Visa to Sri Lanka
All tourist or business travelers to Sri Lanka must present the Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) at the port of entry into Sri Lanka.
Online ETA Visa Application:
for group travel, we strongly advise to request your ETA a minimum of 1 month prior to your departure, to avoid any last minute complications.
Visa on arrival:
For travelers who wish to visit Sri Lanka without prior ETA approval, a limited facility to obtain ETA at the airport is available. Additional fees will apply.
Your international passport must be valid a minimum of 6 months from the date you arrive in Sri Lanka.
While you are responsible for purchasing your own international airfare, we have some practical suggestions on searching for your flight.
Sri Lanka has only one international airport - Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB). It is located 1h30min drive from Colombo itself. Our representative will meet you at the airport, and you will be transferred to your accommodations.
From most major airports in the world, you will be able to find easy connections via the Middle East: Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait. While some European connections are also available via Amsterdam, Turkey, and the UK. For those residing in China, Japan, India or on the West Coast of the North-American continent, it may be convenient to look into transfers via Hong-Kong, Mumbai and New Delhi. A few flights are available via Bangkok and Singapore if you are coming from Australia and the Pacific.
Sri Lanka is conveniently placed in proximity to the Maldives islands, a mere 1h30min flight. You can consider a great combination with an extension in these paradisiac islands.
Please keep us informed of your flight arrangements and possible changes as soon as your flights have been purchased. If you are joining one of our group retreats and wish to arrive a day or two early, please request arrangements for your accommodations and private airport transfers before the arrival of the rest of the group.
Weather in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a year-round destination for visitors who seek out the tropical sun. The high season is from December to April. The central highlands are pleasantly cool and relatively dry from January to April. The peak season is mid-December to mid-January with a mini peak season in July and August when festivals and pageants are held throughout the country.
Since Sri Lanka is a tropical country, showers can be expected any time of the year irrespective of the usual weather predictions based on the seasons. Any outdoor activities cancelled due to bad weather cannot be refunded, however we will make alternative arrangements to ensure that your stay is memorable with us.
The temperatures stay in the range of 25-35 Celsius, however it can feel more hot in the arid areas such as Anuradhapura and parts of the Cultural Triangle. Low season which primarily falls during the months of May to June and September to October is an ideal time to explore the island on a quieter less-crowded journey. Occasional monsoon showers can still be experience up to the middle of December.
What to pack
Light cotton or linen clothing is recommended with the warm climate in Sri Lanka. When visiting Buddhists temples both males and females are expected to be dressed modestly. The attire should cover well below the knees. Sleeveless garments are not allowed. When entering shrines or temples you are also expected to take off shoes and caps.
For all other visits, regular clothing can be worn. A hat and sunscreen are ideal when you are traveling around the coastal side of Sri Lanka.
For special temple ceremonies, we strongly recommend white color clothing that is customary for temple observance days. White color signifies purity and increases the effects of meditation and spiritual contemplation. “White color” can be a combination of light-colored clothes, or a white scarf/shawl over the shoulders can be an option.
On special temple days, we strongly recommend to have a very light meal the night before, no meat, no egg or dairy – a vegetarian light meal will be most beneficial the night before and throughout the day. No alcohol should be consumed the night before.
Food in Sri Lanka
During your travels, you will mostly encounter traditional Sri Lankan dishes, such as rice & curry. The curries range from a large variety of vegetable dishes to fish and meat options. The national desert is curd & honey. The national drink is Ceylon tea.
Some restaurants also offer European & Chinese menus. All food is safe to be consumed, however if you have a particular sensitivity to spices, you may want to limit your consumption of Sri Lankan red curries, which use a larger amount of red chili pepper.
Drinks & Beverages
Safe drinking water is widely available everywhere in form of bottled mineral water.
Thambili (King Coconut) and Ceylon tea are popular local beverages. We recommend a daily water intake to stay well hydrated during your visits. The use of sun- screen and sun hats is also recommended during the daily excursions.
Local and foreign wines and spirits are also widely available throughout the country, except on full moon days which are considered religious holidays.
The vehicle provides a comfortable air-conditioned environment.
Safety in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a popular destination, especially with families, and is practically safe to travel. You will find the local people welcoming and very helpful. They are often just as curious to meet you, as you are to meet them. Any travels require you to be careful and proceed with caution in most touristic locations & situations. Keep your belongings where you can see them, don’t take lone walks at night unaccompanied, and trust your instincts when met with an uncomfortable situation.
Travel & Medical insurance
We recommend that you travel with an insurance cover of your choice when visiting Sri Lanka.
All major cities in Sri Lanka provide access to the general hospitals. However, you must travel with your own medical insurance in case of any emergency or health concerns.
Pharmacies provide a large selection of over the counter and prescription medication, which can often be prescribed directly at the pharmacy for such symptoms as fever, inflammation & general infections. If you have specific medical issues and require daily medication, we recommend bringing a supply from home to last you throughout the journey. Not all medication sold in Europe or North America can be found in Sri Lanka. Not all pharmacies have specific hygienic products such as female hygienic pads, tampons or contact lens solution.
No vaccines are required when traveling to Sri Lanka. However, dengue fever still poses a risk in certain areas. Use of mosquito repellent & mosquito nets in the rooms is recommended for additional protection. Most rooms are air-conditioned and do not require mosquito nets.
Culture in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is known for its hospitality and general disposition toward foreign travelers. You will be met with a lot of smiles and will encounter a generous warmth from the local population.
You will encounter a healthy variety of cultures & faiths, landscape & bio-diversity, climate & natural environment.
Visible tattoos of Lord Buddha are looked down upon and can cause critical reactions from the population & temple authorities. If you happen to have a tattoo of Lord Buddha, please wear clothing that can cover it.
Currency / Money Exchange
Sri Lankan rupee is used for all domestic transactions in Sri Lanka.
Foreign currency may be changed at hotels; however, it is advisable to convert your money at the bank in major cities. On arrival, money can be exchanged at the airport for emergency purposes.
All cities have ATM’s that allow to withdraw cash in accordance with the day’s exchange rate. The airport also provides an exchange counter, but the rate is often less advantageous. The maximum amount per withdrawal is 20,000LKR and withdrawals can be processed multiple times. The ATM’s accept all major credit cards (Visa, MasterCard), however they do not accept AmericanExpress.
If you are making any credit card payments, it is advisable to enquire if your card type is accepted by the establishment before the use of any services.
Tipping in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has a traditional tipping approach where you’ll be expected to contribute various amounts depending on the service rendered. These are indicative amounts that can be judged based on the quality of the services rendered.
Local expert guide:
$30-35 daily tip or 2,000LKR per site excursion for a local site guide.
Driver & Assistant driver (for large coach):
$20 daily tip per driver/assistant
Hotel staff: 100LKR for carrying your bag; 250-500LKR for room services during your stay depending on the number of days
Restaurant staff: 10% of your bill
What to bring when you travel
Our Top Sri Lanka Highlights
Friendly people & hospitable cultures
Sri Lanka ranks in the top five most generous destinations in the world. You will find that the locals are often very helpful and offer their assistance unconditionally. Although English is widely spoken across the island, some remote areas may still present a challenge in foreign language communication. But, this doesn’t hold back the children who are eager to interact and greet you with their sweetly shy smiles. The culture is permeated with the Buddhist philosophy of « loving kindness » and this often means that you are a welcomed guest in any local home.
Remarkable heritage & world-class archeological sites
For an island the size of a small European nation, Sri Lanka packs an impressive 8 UNESCO World Heritage sites. During your travels, you are likely to visit a good number of them, including Sigiriya, Dambulla, Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura, the Kandy Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, the Knuckles mountain range, the Horton National Park, and others. Positioned at the crossways of many important maritime routes, the island of Ceylon has witnessed the formation of a world-class cultural legacy. You will be surprised by an ancient history dating back millennia, which has been preserved in form of incredible archeological ruins.
Abundant wildlife & thriving biodiversity
If you were to visit Sri Lanka some two hundred years ago, you would most likely find yourself in the middle of one big national park. A lot has changed since those days, when the dense jungle used to cover most of the island. Centuries of colonial rule and continuous industrial development have reclaimed most of the wild areas. But nature has a way of persevering, especially in the tropics. The unique biodiversity of the island owes its resilience to the multiple climate zones that spread across its geographical domain. The government has equally done its share in declaring an impressive 26 protected zones as safe havens for the rare endemic species to thrive.
Traditional therapies & holistic wellness
Sri Lanka has inherited the age-old traditions of Ayurveda practiced for millennia in many regions of the Indian subcontinent. But, Sri Lanka also has many indigenous forms of holistic wellness that predate Ayurveda and are based in knowledge formed by the early monastic and forest dwelling communities. Some of the most ancient Buddhist practices of insight meditation have been preserved in their original forms and have deeply influenced all types of healing therapies available on the island. Close proximity to nature and self-cultivation through compassionate existence is at the heart of the local psychology of mindful living.
Sustainability hub & eco-conscious living
Given its proximity to the equator, the island has the perfect combination of traditional lifestyle customs that draw their wisdom directly from nature. In many rural areas, the homes are still constructed with mud clay and ventilation is sustained through upper openings in the walls. Of course, the tropical climate is a big help for easy living. But, the monsoon season often presents its challenges and demands annual renovation with eco-friendly materials, such as thatched roofs and clay tiles. Living on an island also means that water is a key conservation initiative and throughout your travels you will encounter a proud population who to this day commemorates its leaders for their water sustainability contributions.
Year-round travel & seasonal advantages
Sri Lanka is a tropical heaven for lush environments that thrive due to the consistent availability of rain showers. Throughout the year, you can find a coastline or a mountainous region that will be “in-season” for a pleasant adventure. The “lower” and “shoulder” seasons present excellent opportunities to visit the island when it is less crowded and offers a peaceful hassle-free experience. Your travel advisor will have the best recommendations for most advantageous weather locations, hotel availability and travel routes depending on your visiting dates. Sri Lanka is unique in that it offers year-round travel possibilities made easy with our well-travelled insider tips.