SRI LANKA TRAVEL GUIDE

SRI LANKA TRAVEL GUIDE AND INFO: COSTS, ITINERARIES, AND FAVORITES

Table of Contents

Any Sri Lanka travel guide revolves either around northern Sri Lanka or southern Sri Lanka. Due to the amount of information that should be wrapped up, it would be a daunting task to cover both northern and southern parts of Sri Lanka in one trip. In case you try to cover the northern and southern part of the island in one trip it would be at least 30 days venture. There is so much to see and to do on both travel routes, you need 7 days to 14 days on each circuit. This Sri Lankan travel guide you the vital information plan your memorable Sri Lanka trip in northern travel route or southern travel route.  

Sri Lanka Travel Guide

Visiting the island is an amazing experience for most visitors, not only for the travellers of today but also for the travellers, who explore the island in the past. That’s why the ancient seafarers named the island “serendipity”. Most travellers fall in love with this tropical island: the verdant landscape, the delicious food; the crumbling, overgrown ruins; the abundant wildlife; and (especially) the welcoming locals who took hospitality to the next level.

Guide to Getting around Sri Lanka

Travelling in Sri Lanka be difficult, especially if you choose public transport such as buses and trains, usually, they are overcrowded, slow and behind the schedule most time. Driving pattern on chaotic Sri Lankan roads is different in many ways, compared to roads other countries. For instance, the lanes are a mere suggestion for Sri Lankan drivers.

There are three languages are spoken on the island Sinhalese, Tamil and English and English widely spoken in Sri Lanka, and therefore if you know English, as a traveller life going to be very easy for you.

But there is a certain thing that you need to know before visiting Sri Lanka thereby you can stop being a victim of various scams, overspending and missing beautiful places and important tourist attractions. In this Sri Lanka travel guide, we talk about some of them.

SRI LANKA TRAVEL GUIDE AND INFO: COSTS, ITINERARIES, AND FAVORITES
Scenic Nuwara Eliya is one of the best places on the island to feel the healing climate and it is included in most Sri Lanka trips such as 4 days Sri Lanka trip and 7 days Sri Lank tour.

Here is the guide to visiting Sri Lanka:

  • Facts you Need to Know
  • How Much Does it Cost?
  • What to See and Do in Sri Lanka
  • Where to Stay in Sri Lanka
  • Where to Eat in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Travel Guide: 17 Things to Know for Your Visit

Sri Lanka Travel Guide Tip 1: Don’t drink running water

You shouldn’t be drinking the running water in Sri Lanka, stick to mineral water all the time. Sri Lanka is a tropical island, therefore, it is warm and humid, it is essential to take plenty of fluid into the system to prevent dehydration. You can get hold of mineral everywhere on the island and it is cheap too. It might cost you around $2 per day on a few plastic bottles. However, most hotels are now providing drinking water on a complimentary basis for their customers, you will get at least 1 litre of mineral water per day.

Sri Lanka travel guide

Sri Lanka Travel Guide Tip 2: Eating local food

It might be difficult to find Non- Sri Lankan food options outside of popular tourist areas such as Sigiriya, Kandy, Bentota, Galle. However many international food chains maintain thriving food outlets and they could be a bit overpriced. If you can stick to Sri Lankan food you save a lot of money but on the other side, they bit spicy.

Sri Lanka offers non-spicy food specialities as well, be careful when you choose your food. Sri Lankan food is a lot similar to Indian food but spicier. The mixed seafood platter is one thing you should never miss because it comes with many varieties of fresh seafood and delicious. The best place to sample a seafood plate is Hikkaduwa, where you find hundreds of beach-kissing restaurant with fresh seafood. 

  • Kandy, Pinnawala elephant orphanage, tooth relic temple, royal botanical garden, Water rafting, jeep safari at Udawalawe national park, Boat tour at Madu river estuary, Bentota beach
  • Duration-4 Days
  • Places- Kandy, Udawalawe, Kitulgala, Bentota, Colombo
  • Start/End-Colombo
  • Transport-Private vehicle
  • Accommodation 4-star hotel
  • Meals-Breakfast and Dinner

Special Price US$ 690, save $60, Regular Price US$750

Sri Lanka Travel Guide Tip 3: More about food

Food, local food is cheap and tasty, most of they are very cheap in Sri Lanka! A whole portion of rice and curry cost around $2 per person, and the menu includes many vegetables, with fish, chicken, egg or meat, take a portion you will be full, most of the time you are not able to empty the plate. Cooked Rice is not spicy however some curry can be spicy and mixed with chill and pepper, so ask the waiter what is spicy and what is not. And always ask for non-spicier curry varieties. 

Sri Lanka Travel Guide Tip 4: Consuming alcohol in Sri Lanka

Alcohol is mostly restricted hotels and wine stores, the wine stores are not selling any wine sometimes but they have a good stock of all varieties Arrack and other sprits. You will find a couple of wine stores in cities, but outside of the city is difficult to spot them. There is not much nightlife in Sri Lanka except Colombo; even in Colombo, it is restricted to few places. A few nightlife opportunities available in resort areas such as Bentota and Hikkaduwa, but it would be a modest one. Expect your nights to be tame.

Travel Guide Tip 5: Avoid Tuk Tuk

Tuk tuk can be very handy to travel on the island on short distance tours, but with caution. Don’t trap in a tuk tuk scam and negotiate the price before you get into the vehicle. Be clear with the rice before starting the trip. Usually, a tuk tuk will cost you around $20 for a day but it did not agree on the price at the start, the driver might charge you 2-3 times more than the regular price.

Sri Lanka Travel Guide Travel Tip 6: Take the airport bus

Travelling bus airport bus is easy, fast and cheap too because the airport bus using the highway. You can reach Colombo in 30 minutes from the airport and vice-a-versa. Buses are plying at regular intervals between 2 places.

There will be direct highway buses to other destination on the southern and western coast of Sri Lanka very soon. Because with the opening of outer circular of the southern expressway on 7th November 2019, now travellers can directly drive to any resort in western and southern Sri Lanka.   

Sri Lanka travel guide

Sri Lanka Travel Guide Tip 7: Travel by train

Travelling by train is cheap but they are behind the schedule all the time and very crowded. But the upcountry railway journey, especially the train trip between Ella and Nuwara Eliya considered being one of the most scenic train journeys in the world and it is a highlight for the more travellers. Even though travelling by train is cheap we do not recommend it for travelling around Sri Lanka, except for the upcountry scenic train trip.

Some typical routes: Colombo to Jaffna is 150-445 rupees ($1-3 USD), Jaffna to Anuradhapura is 150-295 rupees ($1-2 USD), Kandy to Nuwara Eliya is 85-280 rupees ($0.60-1.90 USD), and Colombo to Galle is 150-295 rupees ($1-2 USD).

Sri Lanka Travel Guide Tip 8: Book your train in advance: 

That’s the best I can give you as a local, with regards to the train journey in Sri Lanka. The train is crowded most of the time and not easy to get a seat unless you get into the train at the starting place. If you make the upcountry train journey this rule is extremely important because of a lot of travellers (local and foreign) book this train trip other than the regular passengers.

The seats can be obtained on the day of the trip at the station, however, subject to the availability, but it is highly unlikely to happen. Having a seat in the 2nd or 1st class compartment allows you to have a comfortable ride and most importantly you can enjoy the spellbinding scenery, without any disturbances. Otherwise, you have to travel in fully packed 3rd class compartments while rubbing shoulders with your neighbours.  

If you need a seat contact Seerendipity tours and they will arrange your seat at a very nominal fee. In case you serve a tour with them they will arrange the train seats without nay additional fee.     

Sri Lanka travel guide
Sigiriya rock hike

Sri Lanka Travel Guide Tips 9: Hiking at Sigiriya: 

Visiting Sigiriya is in the bucket list of most travellers because Sigiriya is the most important tourist attraction in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka. However, you have to start the hike early Morning (at 0700 pm) or late afternoon (at 03.00 pm) in order to avoid the scorching heat. If you get late in the morning, you may have to stay in the queue for a long time due to the large concentration of visitors. And it can happen if you start the journey in the afternoon too. Therefore try to make it early morning, earlier the better.

Sri Lanka Travel Guide Tips 10: Buy the ticket for all sites: 

If you are heading to other historical places such as Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa purchase the ticket at the ticket counter. The entrance ticket will cost $25 per person and it is mandatory. Entrance tickets are not checked most of the time if you have purchased them, but if you enter the site without purchasing the tickets, the officers from the archaeological department ask for your ticket.

Sri Lanka Travel Guide Tips 11: Bring flip-flops to temples

Visiting a temple is mandatory on Sri Lanka trips because most UNESCO world heritage sites are religious sites and Cultural triangle of Sri Lanka is a purely religious site. Taking off shoes, taking off head covers, hiding your legs up to the knee and having an attire to hide your shoulder is mandatory when you visit a temple. You’ll have to take your socks and shoes off before visiting temples, even if they are outdoors, so bring flip-flops to keep your socks clean!

Sri Lanka Travel Guide Tips 12: Accommodation

Accommodations: the variety of accommodation is vast and the prices differ a lot. Cheap dormitory type of accommodation cost around $5 per night and the rates increases as the star rating of the property getting higher. The average 3-star hotel would cost around $60 per night with breakfast and a 5-star hotel cost around $100 with breakfast, however, demand is crucial factory when it comes to deciding the rates. The room rates are high from November to April and December and January are the most expensive months.

Sri Lanka Travel Guide Tips 13: Day trips

If you base in the west coast (like most travellers), you can make day trips to most tourist attractions on the island, because most places are within easy reach of west and south coast beaches. Most hotels organize day trips to their guests and tour operators too.

Sri Lanka Travel Guide Tips 14: Say no to Beach Boys

Beach boys better known as touts are every on the island, especially in the beach areas. Touts can be a trouble if you do not handle carefully and they can be helpful in some cases but you should negotiate carefully with them. Usually, touts are well organized and working as gangs in the resort areas.

In one resort there can be only one gang and outsiders are not allowed to operate in that particular resort. Only the members of the particular gang can talk to the foreigner in the resort. Most of the times, individual beach boys are assigned to the guests who arrive at the resort. Therefore, whether you know or not there is one young guy always dedicated to serving you! These beach boys offer various services such as tours and excursion, accommodation, meals and take their commission upon selling it to the customers. Basically same what the tour operators do, it is their main income and it is their full-time job.

If you book a tour with a local tour operator you are in the safe hand until you finish it, because they have professional staff and most importantly they are legally allowed to carry such businesses. On the other hand, Sri Lanka tourist board regulate all tour operators and has set the minimum standard when they carry out their services.

Travel companies have their permanent office in Colombo allowing you to reach them anytime during the trip. But with regards to the beach boys lack of credibility is a huge shortcoming. They have no legal backing to carry out services and therefore you are helpless if a difficult situation arises on the trip. If you are lucky you will finish the tour with beautiful memories otherwise it can be a total mess in the hands of touts.

Sri Lanka Travel Guide Tips 15: Keep mosquito away from you

Mosquito repellent is always handy when you travel around the island. The mosquitos occur all parts of the island and can disturb you at any time of the day. Applying some mosquito repellent make sure that you keep them away from you. During the rainy season, you will meet them often mainly in the cities. However, the mosquito population is minimal in the beach resorts. However, the hotels provide mosquito nets and mosquito coils on demand without any extra charge.

Sri Lanka Travel Guide Tips 16: Money exchange:

Even though you can use hard currency such as USD and Euro everywhere on the island it is strongly advised to keep some local Currency (Sri Lankan Rupees) in the hand. Ther are many instances that you need to make payment with around 25 rupees ($ 0.2 USD) for instance the payment for shopkeepers at the temple. rather than paying a $1.00 being able to pay him by local currency helps you to save money.

The money changers are available in all major cities and every corner in the tourist resort areas. Banks also provide the money changing facilities but they have a complicated, lengthy process requiring you to fill a few formulas. And can take up to around 30 minutes or more. In the hand of private moneychangers the life easy, it required only a few minutes nor formula to fill up. Usually, their exchange rate is similar to the bank rate or better.

Sri Lanka Travel Guide Tips 17: Tourist Visa

The travellers from most countries are not required to pay the visa fee from August 2019. Earlier it was mandatory to obtain pay $30 USD before entering the country for all travellers around the world except few countries such as Maldives and Singapore. The government of Sri Lanka relax visa formalities and remove visa fee in order to encourage the foreigners to visit the island. Visa fee is waived off for Below countries.

Austria, Australia, Belgium, Bulgarian, Canada, Cambodia, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iceland, Ireland Israel, Italy
Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Netherland, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romanis, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Ukraine, United Kingdon, USA

Visiting Sri Lanka: How Much Does it Cost?

Sri Lanka is a cheap country to visit; Sri Lanka is one of the cheapest long haul holiday destinations in the world, for most travellers. Sri Lanka is a very affordable holiday destination compared to most other Asian countries such as the Maldives, Thailand Singapore and Malaysia. Even when you are a splurge, like to have a luxury tour, while staying in 5-star hotels and eating in a high-end restaurant, a tour of you 10 days would not exceed $2000 (all-inclusive prices) for a couple, on a private tour.

If you are on a tight budget and try to keep the cost at the lowest ebb, you can restrict the budget to around $20 per day, fulfilling all daily requirement of your Sri Lanka tour, however with basic facilities. The food is very cheap in Sri Lanka, a full course local menu cost around $3 per person, and however, you have to dine in local restaurants.

Sri Lankan food not only cheap but also delicious, you may find is a bit spicy at the beginning, but however, you get used to it, no reason to grocery shop and cook your own meals. Food is cheap even in tourist board registered restaurant that caters especially to foreign travellers; a full course buffet lunch or dinner (included starter, soup, main course, dessert, and tea/coffee) would cost around $7 per person.     

One exception is foreign liquor, which is overpriced most of the time and it could be cheaper at your home town if you come from the UK. However local liquor is more affordable, all spirits can be categorized under expensive commodities.  

The entrance ticket to cultural sites, botanical gardens and the national park are very expensive and that rip-off your wallet. However, travellers cannot skip most of those places because they are important tourist attractions. The prices of entrance tickets to the most important sites are as below.

  • Highlights- Yala national park, Galle fort, pinnawala elephant orphanage, Spice garden, Tooth relic temple, Tea factory and plantation, Bentota beach, Galle, Madu River Estuary, Sea Turtle Conservation Center
  • Duration-8 Days
    Places- Yala, Galle, Kandy, Mirissa, Bentota, Colombo, Nuwara Eliya
  • Start/End-Colombo
  • Transport-Private vehicle
  • Accommodation 4-star hotel
  • Meals-Breakfast and Dinner

Special Price US$ 690, save $100, Regular Price US$790

Sri Lanka Travel Guide on entrance ticket prices:

Here is a list of prices to help you get an idea of costs in Sri Lanka:

  • Airport taxi – $15.00
  • Train from Jaffna to Anuradhapura 190 km– $4.00 (taxi $50)
  • Bottle of water – $0.40
  • Bus from Anuradhapura to Dambulla 65 km– $4.00 (taxi $40)
  • Tuk-tuk from Dambulla to Sigiriya 15 km– $10.00 (taxi $20)
  • Kottu chicken (and water) – $0.50
  • Lunch 2 – $2.00
  • Tuk-tuk – $ 15.00
  • Bus from Dambulla to Kandy 73 km – $01.40 (taxi 25)
  • Dosai dinner in Kandy – $1.50
  • Train to Nuwara Eliya, second class – $2.00
  • Beer – $2.50
  • Bus to Tissamaharama (Tissa) 250 km– $2.00
  • Bus to Galle 126 km– $2.50
  • Western lunch in Galle (burger and fries) – $8.00 

Inclusions

  • Anuradhapura historical city
  • Polonnaruwa historical city
  • Sigiriya Rock
  • Dambulla golden cave temple
  • The tooth relic temple
  • Entire ground transportation an air-conditioned and modern vehicle
  • All entrance fees
  • English speaking tour guide
  • 3 nights accommodation with daily breakfast and dinner

Sketch of the program

  • Day 1 Colombo-Anuradhapura-Dambulla-Habarana
  • Day 2 Sigiriya-Polonnaruwa
  • Day 3 Habarana-Kandy
  • Day 4 Kandy-Colombo

What to See and Do in Sri Lanka: Itineraries by Region

Where should you go to Sri Lanka? Everywhere – if time permits you too! Usually, most travellers consider western and southern Sri Lanka as the venue for the holiday because it offers pristine beaches. However other parts of the island are also equally important, there are many other interesting activities and things to see on the other parts of the island such as mountains, national parks, rain forests, and historical monuments.    

Most travellers mistakenly think that Sri Lanka is a flat land without considerable geographical upheavals (mountains and peaks), however, it is a huge misunderstanding.  The mountains of Sri Lanka rise up to 2245 meter above sea-level (highest mountain Pidurutalagala) and there hundreds other mountains in lesser height. Therefore Sri Lanka offers many places to see and activities to engage in, usually more than the visitors imagine.

Historical cities in the cultural triangle such as Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya offer amazing ruins. Kandy and other mountain resorts offer trekking sites, mountains, waterfalls, rivers and places for caving. Kandy is the cultural city with a large number of temples and part of Kandy show the British colonial influence.

Nuwara Eliya popular for healing climate and sits 1800 meters above sea level is a perfect destination for hiking, Tissanaharama is the gateway to Yala national park (which has elephants and leopards), Galle is the home to best preserved Dutch built Fort in Asia. Ella is becoming a hotspot for nature exploration and offers dozens of unspoiled sites for trekking and hiking. East coast of Sri Lanka pristine beaches is perfect places for leisure holidays, white beaches on south-east Sri Lanka such as Arugam Bay rank among the best surfing spots in the world.

Most Sri Lanka tour packages evolve either around northern Sri Lanka or southern Sri Lanka because it would be a daunting task to cover both northern and southern parts of the country in one shot. There is so much to see and to do on both routes, you need 7 days to 2 weeks on each circuit. However, if you wish to encompass entire island into one tour, you have to plan a tour that lasts at least one month.  

3 popular Sri Lanka Itineraries

  1. Southern Route (From 7 to 10 days): Colombo – Hikkaduwa – Galle – Mirissa – Tangalle – Tissa – Ella – Nuwara Eliya – Kandy – Colombo
  2. Northern Route (From 10 to 14 days): Colombo – Ella – Nuwara Eliya Kandy – Sigiriya – Anuradhapura – Trincomalee – Jaffna – Colombo
  3. North and South (From 21 to 30 days): Colombo – Jaffna – Trincomalee – Anuradhapura – Sigiriya – Kandy – Nuwara Eliya – Ella – Tissa – Tangalle – Mirissa – Galle – Hikkaduwa – Colombo
Southern Route (From 7 to 10 days)Colombo – Hikkaduwa – Galle – Mirissa – Tangalle – Tissa – Ella – Nuwara Eliya – Kandy – Colombo

Southern Route (From 7 to 10 days): Colombo – Hikkaduwa – Galle – Mirissa – Tangalle – Tissa – Ella – Nuwara Eliya – Kandy – Colombo

Northern Route (From 10 to 14 days)Colombo – Ella – Nuwara Eliya Kandy – Sigiriya – Anuradhapura – Trincomalee – Jaffna – Colombo

Northern Route (From 10 to 14 days): Colombo – Ella – Nuwara Eliya Kandy – Sigiriya – Anuradhapura – Trincomalee – Jaffna – Colombo

North and South (From 21 to 30 days): Colombo – Jaffna – Trincomalee – Anuradhapura – Sigiriya – Kandy – Nuwara Eliya – Ella – Tissa – Tangalle – Mirissa – Galle – Hikkaduwa – Colombo

If you have one month for the trip, you can explore the southern portion of the island (Colombo, Galle, Tissamaharama, Nuwara Eliya and Kandy) as well as the northern portion of Sri Lanka (Anuradhapura, Jaffna, Trincomalee). Sometimes you can easily add some relaxing either on the east coast of the west coast.  

With 2 weeks Sri Lanka tour, you can leisurely explore either Northern Sri Lanka or southern Sri Lanka while adding few leisure days on the beach.  

It is important to know that once you’ve done the major sightseeing and activities in a city, you have to rush to the next base. For example, Tissamaharama is the gateway to the Yala wildlife reserve. Usually, the jeep safari starts at Yala early morning (05.00 am) or afternoon (02.00 pm), in order to avoid the heat and to increase the chances of spotting animals, therefore you need spend only a half-day in Tissamaharama (unless you plan to do the full day safari). There is not much else to do in the town.

Things are pretty much the same as in other cities. Tick a few boxes and then move on. Galle is a tourist attraction and can be done in a day tour from Colombo or any other beach resort on the west coast. However, if you look for a place for a beach holiday, it is a good choice, Galle offers some fantastic, isolated beaches for relaxing beach stays such as Unawatuna, Hikkaduwa Koggala and Ahangama.

Sigiriya and Dambulla can be done in two nights (though I added an extra night because I liked the family I was staying with). Nuwara Eliya, Ella, Kandy, Arugam Bay, Trincomalee – those places have more activities and are worth spending a long time in.

Where to Stay in Sri Lanka

For accommodation, the opportunities are plenty, however, it is recommended to finalize the places before arriving on the island, especially during the peak holiday seasons from November to April. It could be difficult to find a place to sleep at the last moment during the peak holiday season.

The Surprising Truth About Sri Lankan Food

Where to Eat in Sri Lanka

Restaurants are plentiful in most places, where tourist hang around. There is a large number of restaurants in beach resort areas as well as in Ella, Kandy, Sigiriya, Colombo, Galle and Nuwara Eliya.  

Cost of meals in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is quite easy to visit compared to most other countries in the world, and with a few tips, you can travel there with ease. Sri Lanka is a budget-friendly country, even if you go nuts on the attractions and tours. A private tour with meals, sightseeing tours and comfortable accommodation, you would spend about $100 USD per day. You can handover the entire tour to a local travel agent and they do plan everything from A to Z, you just have to give your feedback.

Looking at the map of Sri Lanka, you might say, “Oh, it’s not that big. I bet you can cover a lot of ground in a short period of time.” You could, but you won’t “see” much. It will be too much of a blur. There is a lot to see and do in Sri Lanka and it takes a while to travel around. Don’t rush your trip. Sri Lanka may be small but it packs a powerful punch. Take your time to see.

26 Sri Lanka travel guide tips

1. Plan your Sri Lanka holiday package

Planning your Sri Lanka road trip is the first step of your holiday in Sri Lanka and it is the most important part of the trip. A well planned holiday enables you to have an enjoyable holiday that you dream of the same times it enables you to have the best value for your money. Below is This is a set of Sri Lanka travel tips that is very helpful to plan your trip.

At the Planning stage, you need to pay extra consideration; you have to think of your Sri Lanka travel budget, choose the best time for visiting Sri Lanka and where to go to Sri Lanka in order to get the best out of your planned tour. Choosing the best holiday destination in Sri Lanka is largely depending on the monsoon, it could be either East coast or West coast. If you visit the island from November to April, the west coast offers you the best weather, while the East coast offers you the best weather with a holiday vibe from April to November.

The next important decision is, whether you work with a tour operator such as Seerendipity tours or your own. Solo travellers can find it difficult to move around Sri Lanka especially due to the language barrier. If you plan to do a round tour or excursion, you better arrange it through a tour operator. Due to the Rules and regulation, only the tourist guides license holders are allowed to escort tourist on the island.

2. Take it Slow and Steady

Sri Lanka is small but large in diversity. From the central mountain range in the middle of the island to pristine beaches on the south and west to the crumbling historical monuments on the north-central province of Sri Lanka, the island is brimming with places to explore. Plan your tour sensibly and don’t cram all the things into a single trip, take it easy and explore bit-by-bit.

It is a good idea to start the trip with an exploration of the beginning of Sri Lankan culture while visiting Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle, that includes Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, Dambulla, Polonnaruwa and Kandy. If you are fascinated by spirituality, head to Kandy; for adventure activities Kithulgala; for shopping, Colombo; for diving and snorkelling, Bentota.

3. Plan According to the Weather

Travellers can expect diverse weather conditions on the island, but the tropical island does not have four primary seasons. The weather conditions can be differed based on the elevation and the region. The southern and western Sri Lanka has warm and sunny weather from November to April while the best time to travel to the east coast is from April to November.

4. Hire a qualified tour guide to have the best travel experience

This is one of the very important Sri Lanka travel tips, especially for newcomers. If your driver does not have a tourist guide license you have to hire site guides in every important tourist attraction, which adds unexpected expenses to your holiday budget. Unlike individual service providers, tour operators employ only the national tourist guide license holders, whenever their foreign clients are on the way.

Planning the places to visit during the tour is also very important and you need to have the help of local knowledge. You can book a pre-planned tour or a customized itinerary. If you need any assistance with regards to planning a tour itinerary, our guides and travel experts are ready to assist you. The tour with a licenced guide is definitely expensive than the tour with an un-licenced guide. Byt still worth if you are looking for the best travel experience.

5. Sri Lanka travel guide -obtaining visa or ETA

Foreign tourists need to obtain the visa for holidays in Sri Lanka. Tourists from several countries are exempted from this requirement. You can see whether the tourists from your country need to have visa on the official government website. You can use the online visa system through the website aforementioned or obtain the visa at the airport.

It is essential to have a renewed passport and travel insurance. Make sure your passport is valid for the number of days designated by the immigration department, beyond the return date. In fact, it can be useful in case you plan to extend your holiday.

6. Do you have travel insurance?

Even though it is not compulsory to have travel insurance, is highly recommended to have peace of mind during the holiday. There are instances people pay for holidays and ultimately unable to take the tour at the last moment. There is no refund unless you have travel insurance in a situation like that. A holiday to a distant destination such as Sri Lanka is expensive and paying a little bit more to travel insurance would definitely be a very wise investment. So, those are the first three (and easily the most important) items on your Sri Lanka vacation checklist.

7. You have to bargain virtually everywhere!

Learn how to bargain before you land in Sri Lanka. Bargaining is a traditional custom of the island. From the water bottle at the corner store to Souvenir shop at star class hotels, bargaining helps you to save money. It is difficult to say how much you save and it all depends on your capability of bargaining. There are some products such as pharmaceutical products are sold at fixed prices and the products sold in supermarkets are also not negotiable. After some days on the island, you will understand the importance of bargaining and where to do it and how to do it properly.

8. Sri Lanka travel tips: Beach boys

If you happen to spend your holiday at a beach resort, you will be approached by beach boys, when you jump on to the beach. For every beach hotel, there is a group of beach boys and they have a monopoly over the tourists come to that particular hotel. None other than the members of the group allow at least talk to the customers of that particular hotel. You will be approached by those guys and offered various excursions and tours.

There are some genuine trustworthy guys, who provide a valuable service for tourists, while some guys are not trustworthy and cause some hardships for tourists. The best way to escape from them is ignoring them and says “No Thanks for whatever they offer.”

9. Know the price before you buy

Another important thing to do while shopping in the islands is to know the price beforehand. Especially when you buy things from small vendors on the road, they have no price tags on the goods. A t-shirt that usually cost 1500 RS can cost as much as 5000 with them. Ask the price and negotiate to get the maximum for what you pay.

10. Clothing guide for your Sri Lanka trip

Being a tropical country, Sri Lanka is warm and humidity rises up to 90%. Therefore, light cotton dress in the most suitable for wearing on the island. Sandals or flip-flops also can be worn on the island while the roads in Sri Lanka are clean at most of the time. Dress code should be changed while visiting a Buddhist temple. You need to remove shoes and hats upon entering the temple and shoulders and knee should be covered with the dress.

Normally Sri Lankans has a relaxed attitude towards the informal style of dresses. But it is highly recommended to cover shoulders and legs and have a modest dress code for women travellers. Take off shoes and hats before entering the religious sites. There are several other rules to know before entering the temples in Sri Lanka follow our blog post on 9 Sri Lanka Buddhist temple rules.

11. Where to eat

There are many possibilities when it comes to dining in Sri Lanka. The cheapest meals are sold at small boutiques along the streets. More hygienic and quality foods are sold in restaurants. Try to have your food in a good restaurant, because food poisoning is a common issue on the island and I believe you don’t want to ruin your holiday for saving a few bucks on the meal. In fact, Food poisoning cost you a large sum of money and it can exceed the whole amount you pay for the entire holiday.

12. Sri Lanka travel guide -Take a lot of fluid

Drink plenty of water. You tend to lose a lot of fluid during the daytime due to the sweating condition of the atmosphere. In fact, you tend to be thirsty very often if you are not familiar with the high humidity of Sri Lanka. King coconut is the most popular thirst quencher on the island. This natural drink contains a lot of water, mineral and vitamin and not added to any form of chemicals.

13. Crimes

Violent crime may occur targetting foreigners, although the frequency of such incidents is very rare. Tourists police posts are set up in all places where foreigners roam such as beach areas, cultural sites etc. Make your Sri Lanka road trip arrangements through the reputable travel company in order to have the peace of mind.

Every tour company take care of their guests during the entire tour and they appoint an employee to provide assistance to the customer during the holiday. The companies employ well experienced licensed guides and drivers in order to make sure your safety as you drive through the country.

Try to avoid solo journey with unknown people. Avoid drinks offered by strangers at bars, restaurants and beach areas. There are incidences in which the guests had made acquaintances with young boys on the beach and later subjected to various difficulties, especially the women should avoid the touts.

14. Keeping things safe

It is advisable to keep all the valuable and important items such as money, passport, flight tickets, jewellery in a safety deposit box. Usually, all hotels provide safety deposit boxes either free or at a nominal fee. Use a safety deposit box to keep things protected. Hotels do not take responsibility for lost items if it is left unattended.

Incase anything lost, you should report the incident to the nearby police station and seek the assistance of the police. Some hotels are not taking complaints seriously and therefore it is best to report the incident as soon as possible to the police.

15. Travelling in the northeast what you need to know

Travellers who are heading to Northern and eastern parts of the country should be careful due to the land mines. Millions of landmines were buried in those areas in the past and now they are been cleared by the security forces. It can be dangerous to walk in the uncleared areas. Several incidents reported in the past in which several people were affected due to the land mines.

16. Tips for swimmers in the Sea

Check the weather pattern before you reach the destination, especially the beach resort. The sea bath and other activities on the sea can be dangerous due to the high-tide and underwater current. Sea bath is extremely dangerous during the monsoon.

17. Sri Lanka travel guide-Driving in Sri Lanka

The international driving licence is a major requirement for foreigners to drive on the island. Apart from the international license foreigners need to make the local permit at the motor traffic department of Sri Lanka. wearing a seatbelt is essential.

Sri Lanka has a well-developed road network and roads are in very good shape. There is a large concentration of vehicles in the city areas and road are more or less empty outside the cities tempting you to drive fast. But be attentive on speed limits, it is 40 km within the city and 70km outside the city limit. Try to use highways as much as possible and you can save time.

Public buses and TUK TUK are notorious, they drive fast and not obey the traffic rules. Take care when passing through them, most road accidents are led by TUK TUK’s and buses.

18. Tips to avoid TUK TUK scam

TUK TUK is a very handy way to travel to the island on short-distance trips. It will be inconvenient on long journeys. Agree on a price before starting the journey or look for a metered taxi to avoid a big loss. If you are in the city book your taxi through taxi service providers it is the safest way to travel by TUK TUK and cheap too.  Never accept free rides offered by TUK TUK.

It is essential to know the price before starting a journey with a TUK TUK. TUK TUK is the cheapest form of taxis in Sri Lanka and they are very handy on the busy streets of the island. Most of the TUK TUK’s are private taxis and prices are decided by the taxi driver. They usually have no taxi meters and the price is decided on the distance of the journey. Knowing the price before the journey is very essential, otherwise, the commuters have no option than paying what demanded by the taxi driver and it is usually more than double the normal price.

19. Sri Lanka travel guide for wildlife tours

Wildlife can be dangerous sometimes. Wild elephants attacks and crocodile attacks are reported in remote areas of Sri Lanka. Therefore I decided to dedicate one paragraph on Sri Lanka wildlife in this article of Sri Lanka Travel Tips. Places like Sigiriya, Habarana, Tissamaharam, Matar are places such incidents are reported in the past.

Sigiriya and Habaran are very popular places, where tourist are based while they explore the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka. Avoid night walk and late evening walk in those places and try to use the vehicle whenever you move into those areas, in order to avoid wild elephant attacks.

There can be crocodiles in rivers, canals, and tanks and it is strongly recommended to be away from inland water resources such as tanks if you are not very sure that they are free of the crocodiles. Several crocodile attacks are reported in the island, every year, especially during the rainy season due to the flooding. The crocodiles have been sighted even in beach resort areas such as Arugambe.

Venomous snakes are also reported in most parts of the country and snake bites are recorded many times every year. Such incidents are very rare in populated areas but it is better to be vigilant.

Dogs, cats and monkeys are very frequently seen in many places on the island do not try to feed them they might carry rabies. If you are bitten by any of those animals you should report to the hospital immediately.

Usually, the drivers and guides have a very good idea of the locality you come across during the tour and they instruct you accordingly how to be safe in those areas.

20. Tips for tourists on Sri Lankan currency

Sri Lankan rupees is the local currency and most foreign currency types can be exchanged in all banks on the island. If you wish to change money in the bank, you need to fill out a form and produce the passport. The entire process might take about 30 minutes. Please be kindly informed that certain foreign currencies are not accepted by Sri Lankan Banks.

Change money at the airport on arrival is the most convenient way to do it. It is quick and no paperwork, in fact, you get the best exchange rate. Having Sri Lanka currency is essential during the holiday in Sri Lanka. You have to make payment in Sri Lanka Rupees at eateries, buses, trains etc. Make sure you have the local currency all the time with you.

There is a large number of local and foreign banks in Sri Lanka and most of them have a well-developed network with branches everywhere. All banks provide the facility to withdraw money from the teller machine using Master and Visa card. If you do not wish to change money at the bank because it takes a lot of time, you can use the Visa or Master cards to withdraw money from the teller machine.

21. Guide to your medication in Sri Lanka

In case you need to visit a doctor during the Sri Lanka tour ask a TUK TUK driver to take you to the hospital. The hospitals can be found in all cities. Apart from hospitals, dispensaries are also available in remote areas. Dispensaries are the places where doctors do private practising. Sri Lanka has a well-developed health system and it is free of charge at the government hospitals.

22. Tips on Laundry

You might need the laundry facilities during the tour. The guests have 2 options. The first option is washing cloth your own in the room. This method cannot be recommended because you will not be able to get it done properly without the necessary equipment. 2nd option is getting it done by the hotel, which cost around 100 LKR average for 1 kg of cloth. All accommodation facilitators provide the laundry facility.

23. Tips on handling drugs

Drugs related to offences and child-abusing are treated with severe penalties, which can lead to life imprisonment.

24. Nudity

Nudity is not allowed, therefore avoid topless sunbathing on the beaches. Do not walk through the cities and villages with your swimming suits or biking, it might offend the people of Sri Lanka when it comes to dressing they are very conservative.

25. Fullmoon day

Every full-moon day is a public holiday in Sri Lanka and No alcohol and meat served on Full moon days. In the hotels also alcohol will not be served, however, the meat will be available for in-house guests.

26. Sri Lanka Travel Tips – drinking alcohol

Avoid drinking alcohol and smoking in public places, severe fines are imposed if found guilty.

More Sri Lanka tour packages info can be obtained from Serendipity tours

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