Welcome to Sri Lanka!

If golden beaches, rising waves, misty mountains, mighty elephants, stealthy leopards, giant whales, a majestic past, lovely tea and warm smiles could sum up a country, that would be Sri Lanka.

It is one of the only countries, which has a written history. Sri Lanka’s documented history spans 3,000 years, with evidence of pre-historic human settlements dating back to at least 125,000 years. Its geographic location and deep harbours made it of great strategic importance from the time of the ancient Silk Road through to the modern Maritime Silk Road. The smiles and hospitality of Sri Lanka is world famous and so are biodiversity, diversity of landscapes, its spicy food, exotic fruits and array of sweetmeats found nowhere in the world. Sri Lanka provides an array of holiday experience from sun kissed beach holidays to a marathon of wildlife watching, adrenaline pumping adventure sports and pilgrimage to some of the oldest cities in the world. With so many cultures living next to each other life in Sri Lanka continues among a series of festivities throughout the year, an ideal recipe for fun and leisure.

 

QUICK FACTS

Official Name:Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Capital:Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte (administrative), Colombo (commercial)
Location:Sri Lanka, is an island country located southeast of the Republic of India and northeast of the Maldives
Government:Unitary semi-presidential constitutional republic
Dialing Code:+94
Time Zone:GMT -05.30
Climate Weather:Tropical and consists of very distinctive dry and wet seasons
Population:21 million
Land Area:65,610 km2
Official Language:Sinhalese, Tamil & English
Currency:Sri Lankan Rupee (SLR)
Foreign Currency Accepted:Major currencies are accepted but not the travellers cheques
Entry requirement:Visitors to Sri Lanka visiting for tourism purposes must obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) prior to arrival or on arrival to Sri Lanka. Holders of ETA from all countries except the 3 exempt countries obtain a visa on arrival that is valid for 30 days. Maldives and Singapore (30 days, extendable up to 150 days) Seychelles (60 days up to 90 days in a single year)

All visitors must hold a passport with at least two blank pages valid for at least 06 months beyond the date of your arrival. If your passport does not meet these requirements, you will be denied entry.

Health Tips:Be aware of mosquito borne illnesses & water borne illnesses . For most short-term travellers the usual recommended vaccinations for Sri Lanka include cover against the childhood diseases (Tetanus, Diphtheria and Poliomyelitis, Measles, Mumps and Rubella)

General information

Sri Lanka is an island in the Indian Ocean lies approximately 32 kilo metres off the southeast tip of India, with tropical and warm climate. The narrow Palk Strait divides Sri Lanka from India. Sri Lanka may be a small island in the Indian Ocean but that’s the only thing small about it. Sri Lanka is slightly smaller than Ireland. The country, formerly known as Ceylon, boasts an ancient civilization, golden sandy beaches with their swaying coconut palms, mountains, and rubber and tea plantations. While visiting the island, you’ll see colonial architecture from the days when the Portuguese, Dutch and English ruled. You’ll see lots of elephants, some of which participate in local festivals and, if you’re lucky, perhaps a leopard or two at a wildlife sanctuary. An overview of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka.

The history of Sri Lanka goes back to pre-historic times with a recorded history of over 3,000 years, with evidence of pre-historic human settlements dating back to at least 125,000 years. Its geographic location and deep harbours made it of great strategic importance from the time of the ancient Silk Road through to World War II.

Sri Lanka was known from the beginning of British colonial rule until 1972 as Ceylon. Sri Lanka has a population of 21 million people. Buddhism is practiced by many Sri Lankans; manifestations of this faith can be found throughout the island in the form of Buddha statues, monuments, sculptures, stupas, etc. Introduced into the country 2,230 years ago, Buddhism is maintained in its purest form. It has a total area of 65,610 km². It’s coastline is 1,340 km long.

Sri Lanka has maritime borders with India to the northwest and the Maldives to the southwest. Sri Lanka is one of the handful countries you can watch Whales and Dolphins within a close proximity off the shores. Dondra Point of down south in Sri Lanka is the main port of Whale Watching in Sri Lanka during December to April. Out of these months December, January and April are the peak months of sightings. During these months, there is 98% chances of spotting Sperm Whales and great chances of spotting Blue Whales as their migration path is just off Dondra Point.

Kalpitiya is the best places if you are interested in seeing Dolphins. During November to March is the best season to go Dolphin Watching off Kalpitiya. At a time, you can witness 1000-1500 Dolphins. Sri Lanka is great for water sport like diving, snorkeling, kiting and surfing. Inland you can stretch your legs taking hikes among tea plantations high up in the mountains. Sri Lanka`s culture is influenced by India, Portuguese, the Netherlands and of course United Kingdom (it was a British colony until 1948). Unesco has recognized eight World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka, pretty impressive for a relatively small island! Sri Lanka has a five-day week.

In addition to Saturdays and full moon (poya) day of each month is a public holiday. All places of entertainment (including cinemas) and bars are closed on Poya day. Hotels make special arrangements for customers to order their drinks the day before a poya Holiday.

 

Time defference

GMT +05:00

Compare to Indonesia, Sri Lanka is 1 hour and 30 minutes behind compare to local time. (When it is 12:00 noon in Jakarta it is 10:30am in Colombo.)

Compare to France, Sri Lanka is 4 hours and 30 minutes ahead of France (That means when it is 8:00am in Paris France, it is 12:30pm in Colombo, Sri Lanka.)

Please note that Daylight Saving Time (DST) / Summer Time is taken into account for the calculation of hour difference.

 

When to visit

Best time to visit (Dec-Mar)
South and west coast beaches and the hill/up Country is dry and busy. Spring Festive season starts in the up country during March/April every year with many locals visit Nuwara Eliya during this period of the time.

Hot period (Apr-Sep-Nov)
April and September is generally considering as good weather months throughout the country, but in April there can be occasional showers time to time. New Year’s celebrations in mid-April cause transport to fill beyond capacity. A good time to wander without a set schedule.

Law season (May-Aug)
The Yala monsoon season (May to August) brings rain to the south and west coasts plus the Hill Country. The weather in the North and East is best.

 

Money and currency

US$1 = 153.00 Sri Lanka Rupee (LKR) (currency rate may vary depending the day you search)
Euro€1 = 170.15 Sri Lanka Rupee (LKR)

Sri Lanka Rupee (LKR) 1 = IDR 86 Sri Lanka has a decimal currency system. One Sri Lanka rupee is divided in to 100 Sri Lankan cents.

Currency notes are in the denominations of Rs.10/-, Rs. 20/-, Rs. 50/-, Rs. 100/-, Rs.200/-, Rs.1000/-Rs.2000/-and 5000/-Denominations clearly marked in additional to Sinhala and Tamil .

Coins commonly in use are the following Denominations; 5cents, 10cents, 25 cents,50cents, One Rupees, Tow Rupees, Five Rupees and Ten Rupees.

Currency Regulations

Visitors to Sri Lanka bringing in excess US$ 10,000 cash should declare the amount to the Customs. All unspent monies, which were converted from foreign currencies declared on arrival, can be re-converted to original currency. You are required to produce encashment receipts.

Credit cards

Many hotels and shops accept reputed Credit cards. No surcharge should be permitted for its use. Cash advances are possible against Credit cards in certain banks.

ATM

Major cities have ATMs, although not all will accept international cards, especially the national bank. It is advisable to try to have some cash at hand whilst travelling, particularly in rural areas. Travellers cheques Travellers cheques are often not accepted so are not recommended.

Banking hours

Banks keep increasingly flexible hours to suit computer convenience. All banks are open from 09000 hrs to 1300 hrs Monday to Friday. Some city banks close at 1500hr, while still others have night banking facilities too. Some banks are open on Saturdays for limited number of hours for transactions. Banks are closed on Sundays, all public Holidays and bank holidays on June 30 and December 31.

Street money changers

Street money changers may offer an attractive rate, but there’s a higher chance of being ripped off. These people are practised at sleight of hand and have been known to short-change tourists. It’s better to be safe than sorry and get your money changed at the airporT, authorised money changer or at a bank. Spend a few extra dollars to ensure you end up ahead.

 

Electricity

Electrical sockets (outlets) in Sri Lanka usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC and 50Hz. If you’re plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need. Adaptors are readily available at markets, supermarkets and tourist shops for under Rs 500.

Telephone and how to call

Sri Lanka country code +94 and area code in Colombo is 11, Kandy 81, Galle 91 and Nuwara Eliya 52 Calls to cell phones registered in another country are often charged much higher rates than calls to fixed lines. Our advice: make sure you know what type of number you are calling – this website shows you what mobile phone numbers look like in most countries.

Be aware of extra charges incurred when using a service such as a calling card to place international calls. Often they advertise low rates, but will charge additional connection or maintenance fees.

 

Visa requirement

Visitors to Sri Lanka visiting for tourism purposes must obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) prior to arrival or on arrival to Sri Lanka. Holders of ETA from all countries except the 3 exempt countries obtain a visa on arrival that is valid for 30 days. On the basis of reciprocity, citizens of the following 3 countries are exempt from the requirement to obtain the Electronic Travel Authorization and can obtain a visa on arrival free of charge. Maldives and Singapore (30 days, extendable up to 150 days) Seychelles (60 days up to 90 days in a single year)

 

Vaccines and Travel insurance

For most short-term travellers the usual recommended vaccinations for Sri Lanka include cover against the childhood diseases (Tetanus, Diphtheria and Poliomyelitis, Measles, Mumps and Rubella) as well as cover against the food and water borne diseases of Typhoid and Hepatitis A. When travelling Sri Lanka, it is very important to take out travel insurance. An emergency can be extremely expensive.

 

How to go to Sri Lanka

Indonesia to Sri Lanka

Air travel distance between Indonesia to Sri Lanka is 3301 Kilo Metres. Nonstop flight time from Jakarta/Colombo is around 04 hours 15 minutes.

Fastest one-stop flight between Jakarta and Colombo takes close to 07 hours.

However, some airlines could take as long as 18 hours based on the stopover destination and waiting duration.

Airlines operated from Indonesia to Colombo
Sri Lankan airlines, Garuda Indonesia, Qatar Airways, LAPA

France to Sri Lanka

Air travel distance between France to Sri Lanka is 8529 Kilo Metres.

Non-stop flight time from Paris to Colombo is around 12 hours 25 minutes. Quickest one-stop flight takes close to 13 hours.

However, some airlines could take as long as 35 hours based on the stopover destination and waiting duration.

Airlines operated from Paris to Colombo
Sri Lankan Airlines, Etihad, Emirates, Oman Air, Qatar Airways

 

Transportation in Sri Lanka

Public transportation in Sri Lanka is based mainly on the road network which is centered on Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo. Buses, three-wheelers and trains make up the public transport system. Airports, harbors and waterways are also there. Most of the roads in Sri Lanka are in good condition; however, some roads in the rural areas might not be up to standards.

Train

The railway network comprises three principal lines :

  1. The coast line which runs along the west coast from Colombo to Puttlam and Negombo and then to Galle, Matara, Weligama and Kataragama,
  2. The hill country line runs from Colombo to Kandy then on to Hatton to Badulla
  3. The northern line runs from Colombo through Kurunegala to Anuradhapura and Vavuniya before terminating at Omantai but recently government extended the railway line to Jaffna which was destroyed by a 30-year civil war with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) a terrorist group fought to create a separate homeland for the Tamils in the northern and eastern parts of Sr Lanka.

Trains comprise three classes. Most services consist exclusively of second- and third-class carriages. There’s not actually a huge amount of difference between the two: second-class seats are slightly more padded and comfortable, and there are fans in the carriages, but the main bonus is that the carriages tend to be (very slightly) less overcrowded. First class covers three different types of seating, which are only available on selected trains. These are seats on inter-city trains and in the observation car on hill country trains.

These comprise first-class sleeping berths and second- and third-class “sleeperettes” (fold-down seats), plus ordinary seats.seats in the air-conditioned carriage on trains to Anuradhapura and Batticaloa. Advance bookings are only available for first-class seats and sleeper berths, and for second-class sleeperettes and seats on inter-city express services between Colombo and Kandy. Reservations can be made up to ten days in advance at the Berths Booking Office (Mon–Sat 8.30am–3.30pm, Sun 8.30am–noon) at Fort Railway Station in Colombo.

You can also make reservations at other stations, though they’ll have to contact Colombo, so try to reserve as far ahead of the date of travel as possible. Tickets for all other types of seat can only be bought on the day of travel.

Cars

Cars are available for rent with or without a driver, most hotels provide this facility so that finding a place that rents cars aren’t necessary. As Sri Lankans say, in order to drive around the island you’ll need three things: “good horn, good brakes, good luck”. Although roads are generally in quite good condition, the myriad hazards they present – crowds of pedestrians, erratic cyclists, crazed bus drivers and suicidal dogs, to name just a few – plus the very idiosyncratic set of road rules followed by Sri Lankan drivers, makes driving a challenge in many parts of the island.

Three-wheelers

Similar to taxis but not as comfortable as them. Three-wheelers are also cheaper when compared to taxis. Taxis are also very common in almost any place around the country.

Air Taxi Service

If time is of the essence, Sri Lankan Airlines air taxi service offers convenient high-speed connections between Colombo and many other places around the country. All these flights use Twin-Otter water planes (carrying up to fifteen passengers), which are able to land on convenient lakes and lagoons, giving access to destinations without a fixed runway.

Scheduled flights currently run between Colombo and Trincomalee, Ampara, Arugam Bay, Tissamaharama, Hambantota, Dikwella, Koggala, Bentota, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya and Dambulla (with more destinations in the north and east planned). There are also thirty-minute scenic flights from Colombo, Kandy and Dambulla. The only other scheduled domestic air services in Sri Lanka at present are Expo Air’s flights to Jaffna.

 

Special Food and Drinks

Sri Lankan cuisine is a melting pot rich in flavours, spices & textures. Being an island with a tropical climate, coconuts, fresh seafood, vegetables and spices are the most influential components of Sri Lankan cuisine. Coconut is used in almost everything from bread to salads, dressings and inside curries. Rice and curry is a staple in Sri Lanka and the plates are always so colourful with a variety of different vegetables served around a centre piece and the master of all Sri Lankan cuisine – rice.

Rice & curry

Sri Lankans love their spices and a lot of preparation goes into making a good curry. The most commonly used spices are cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, chilli, mustard seeds, coriander, cumin, peppercorn, saffron (to get the colour) and curry leaves which are very good for lowering cholesterol. Some curries in Sri Lankan cuisine. Dhal curry, potato curry or potato fried, Eggplant curry or fried, chicken curry, jackfruit curry and Gotukola sambol

Hoppers

Hoppers are a Sri Lankan version of thin pancakes but with crispy edges. They’re shaped like a bowl and are made from fermented rice flour, coconut milk & coconut water. The batter is then fried in a very small wok and swirled around to cover the sides of the pan.

Kottu

Kottu is another traditional Sri Lankan dish made of roti (flat bread), vegetables, oil, spices and egg/chicken or cheese (optional). The bread is chopped very finely on a hot plate with two blunt blades and you can hear them rapidly chopping Kottu even few hundred metres away.

String hoppers

The paste is made purely with rice flour then put into a small container which has tiny wholes underneath in it and then is pressed through with another where the noodles comes out from the other end to a wooden or plastic round and then steamed. They are then eaten with coconut sambal, dahl curry and a coconut milk curry. Its one of the best delicacies if anyone can try in Sri Lanka.

Vegetable Roti

It’s made with flour, made in to a paste, which is sticky and elastic type.  Inside they are filled with spicy vegetables, although some comes with fish or egg. They’re in the shape of a triangle, square or cylinder.

Coconut sambol

Coconut Sambol which can also be called fresh coconut relish, is a simple blend of finely grated coconut, red onions, dried whole chillies, lime juice & salt. It is perfect to eat with absolutely anything. Bread, roti, rice, on curry, egg hoppers or even by itself.

Buffalo curd/curd

Buffalo Curd, another iconic local food is often served for breakfast, but also as a snack or dessert. It is a very thick, yogurt-like concoction made from the milk of a water buffalo and is sold throughout Sri Lanka in disposable pottery. Try it with treacle and treacle is made with coconut.

Place to go and things to do in Male City

Sigiriya

Every visitor must put Sigiriya in their must-see places to visit in Sri Lanka. This ancient city is built on a steep slope, topped by a plateau almost 180 meters (600 feet) high. This plateau is known as Lion’s Rock as it oversees the jungles below. Access to the site is through staircases and rooms emanating from the lion’s mouth. You’ll also see ponds, gardens and fountains. Pretty cool! Locals consider the site the eighth wonder of the world. This ancient rock fortress dates back to the third century BC when it was a monastery. It was later turned into a royal residence.

Polonnaruwa

The terms “beauty” and “beast” usually go together well, except at Polonnaruwa where beauty goes better with “ruins.” The second oldest kingdom in Sri Lanka, Polonnaruwa is known for the ruins of this ancient garden city. The 12th century ruins are some of the best preserved in the country. Polonnaruwa was a place where traders of exotic goods mingled with worshippers in the many temples. Start your tour of Polonnaruwa at the Archaeological Museum, then proceed to the massive (50 buildings) Royal Palace with its well-preserved audience hall. The stunningly decorated Sacred Quadrangl.

Kandy

Kandy, the second largest city in Sri Lanka, is the gateway to the Central Highlands and its tropical plantations that grow both tea and rubber. If you’re driving from Colombo, you’ll pass by rubber plantations on a road that is considered one of the country’s most scenic. The last capital of the ancient kingdoms, Kandy is home to the Temple of the Tooth Relic, one of the most sacred Buddhist temples in the world. A major, colorful festival involves taking the tooth relic around the city. Movie buffs may be interested to know Kandy was a chief location in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.It is considered by some as the cultural capital of Sri Lanka, and was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1988. A cooler climate and smaller size make it much more pleasant and accessible than Colombo.On your way to Kandy you can visit Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage which has about 70 semi-tame elephants roaming freely around this wonderful sanctuary. The best time to visit is the feeding time from 09:30-10:00AM and 01:30-02:00PM, and the bathing time from 10:00-10:30AM and 02:00-02:30PM when all the elephants are taken to the river close by.

Nuwara Eliya

Sri Lanka is famous for its tea. What better place to learn more about tea than the source itself: Nuwara Eliya. With a temperate climate and elevation of 1,900 meters (6,100 feet), Nuwara Eliya is the country’s tea production capital. You can tour a tea plantation and see how tea is made. Founded in the 19th century, this hill country town soon became a retreat for British colonists, earning the nickname Little England. April is a good time to visit, when visitors flock here to see the blossoms and celebrate Sri Lanka New Year. Other sights include Lake Gregory and Laxapana, Sri Lanka’s most famous waterfalls.

Anuradhapura

The sacred city of Anuradhapura, now in picturesque ruins, was once a major center of Sri Lankan civilization. The fascinating ancient ruins include huge bell-shaped stupas built of small sun-dried bricks, temples, sculptures, palaces, and ancient drinking-water reservoirs. Although people may have lived in this area since as early as the 10th century BC, Anuradhapura became a great city after the arrival of a cutting from the Bodhi Tree (‘tree of enlightenment’), the Buddha’s fig tree, in the 3rd century BC. The sacred branch was brought to Sri Lanka by Sanghamitta, the founder of an order of Buddhist nuns. Anuradhapura went on to become a Ceylonese political and religious capital (4th century BC) that flourished for 1,300 years. The Sri Maha bodhiya is perhaps the oldest living tree in the world. Around 245 BC, Sanghamitta Theri brought with her a branch of the Bodhi Tree under which the Buddha attained enlightment. The tree was planted on a high terrace about 21 feet (6.5 m) above the ground and surrounded by railings. Today, the tree is one of the most sacred relics in Sri Lanka, respected by Buddhists all over the world.

Colombo

Colombo has been the commercial capital of Sri Lanka for more than 2,000 years when its large natural harbor made it popular with ancient trades from Italy to China. It’s often referred to as the country’s capital, though the legislative capital is located in a nearby city. Ruled over by first Portuguese and then British colonists, Colombo is a popular tourist destination. One of the most popular attractions is Galle Face Green, a strip park along the Indian Ocean. Also not to be missed is Gangaramaya Temple, which is known for its mix of ethnic architectural styles.

Bentota

With coconut palms swaying in the breeze, Bentota is a multi-tasking tourist town on the southern coast of Sri Lanka. One of Sri Lanka’s most popular beaches, Bentota is first an Indian Ocean beach resort where water activities, such as surfing, sailing and snorkeling, abound. When it’s time for a change of pace, you can visit a sea turtle hatchery and conservation center, which monitors five of the seven species of sea turtles in the world. You can also take in a 17th century fortress, lush gardens and an old Buddhist temple that dates from medieval times.

Yala National park

Yala National Park, a wildlife sanctuary about 240 km (150 miles) from Colombo. Yala offers a plethora of things to do. Your visit begins with a safari to see animals, including elephants, water buffalo and leopards, found here in higher density than any other place in the world. Note: the park closes for September’s leopard breeding season. The park also is home to 215 bird species, of which seven are native to the park. The best time to spot leopards and other wildlife such as elephants and wild boar is from May to August. From October to December it is more likely to spot different variety of seasonal birds, crocodiles and deer. The park is often closed in September/October.

Galle

Galle’s most famous attraction is its 17th century fort built by Dutch colonists. Sitting on a promontory overlooking the Indian ocean, the fort is known for its architectural style. Galle is considered a prime example of a fortified city. The fortress is not just another pretty place, however; today the fort houses courts and businesses. Galle is becoming known as an arts colony and its expat community – about a third of the city’s homes are owned by foreigners. Other top sights include a natural harbor, Sri Lanka’s oldest lighthouse, a maritime museum, a key Shiva temple and the Jesuit built St. Mary’s Cathedral.

Mirissa

If you’re looking to holiday in a tropical paradise, Mirissa just might be the answer to your dreams: swaying coconut palms, beautiful golden sand beaches, days spent rocking away in a hammock. It doesn’t get much better than this. This crescent-shaped piece of paradise is famous for having the most stunning sunsets and sunrises in Sri Lanka. The pace picks up at night. Mirissa is the largest fishing port on the south coast and is one of the best places in the world to watch sperm whales, blue whales and dolphins in a close proximity off the shore. The whale-watching season in Mirissa runs from November through to April and July to September, with the best chance of sightings from December to March due to calm sea. You will have a chance of spotting Blue Whales, Fin Whales and even Sperm Whales in these waters along with variety of Dolphins.

Kalpitiya

Kalpitiya is the best places if you are interested in seeing Dolphins. During November to March is the best season to go Dolphin Watching off Kalpitiya. At a time, you can witness 1000-1500 Dolphins.