15 Important Things You Need To Know Before You Visit Sri Lanka
Traveling to Sri Lank for the first time? Then reading this comprehensive guide on 15 essential travel tips for visiting Sri Lanka would definitely help you for having a perfect holiday in this picturesque island country. Blessed with different scenic landscapes and a wide variety of tourist attractions, Sri Lanka is everyone's cup of tea. Travelers with varied tastes sure can go for this year-round holiday destination. Of course, you will be satisfied since the experience here would surpass all your expectations.
There is a lot to do in Sri Lanka! Unless you have clear-cut preparation, you are most likely to get less of your holiday trip. Tourism is quite new to this island nation, a beautiful destination full of culture, religion, wildlife, and beaches. For that, you are experiencing a genuine impression of nature and local life. The over-all climate, appropriate travel means, and choosing the right location. We have covered everything here. Travel safe and happy!
#1 Know The Country's Landscapes & Tourist Attractions
Sri Lanka is a small island country with diverse landscapes, like highlands, beaches, and plains. There is a wide variety of tourist destinations in the country - plenty of beaches, wildlife reserves, forests, tea plantations, cultural spots, religious sites, remnants of Buddhism, temples, and caves. The behavior of the landscape can play a role in the tourist attractions of the region. So you better have a thorough knowledge of the city you visit and its attractions.
#2 Be Meticulous! Don't Travel Around, Never Waste Time
Since the country has several equally important cities with various tourist attractions, lacking a meticulous plan will result in you traveling around aimlessly. If you plan to roam the whole country, you need 3 or 4 weeks as it is. It would require you hours to travel between all two major cities. Each tourist city or region might require at least one day to see around. Itinerary should not be lavish, neither too narrowed. Allot adequate time for each destination and city.
#3 Know The Weather & Climate For Perfect Holiday
What is the best time to visit Sri Lanka? The answer needs some clarity. Although the country is a year-round destination with pleasant sunshine and clear sky, the weather can be highly varying from region to region. For that reason, better know the weather unique to the city or region you plan to visit. The nation observes two monsoon seasons - the northeast monsoon in December through March and the southwest monsoon from June through October. If you are visiting its southern provinces, choose the months from November to January. Also, for the eastern province, the desirable season is June through August. Expect pleasant sunny days.
#4 Yes, You Need A Visa!
Unlike some of the tourist countries in Asia, Sri Lanka requires a Visa for you to enter the country. People from certain countries can avail of Visa. You can easily apply online at a fee of $35. On certain occasions, the government provides a free tourist visa as well. If you don't like the online thing, you can just get on-arrival-visa at Colombo airport at a fee of $40 in cash. But you have to waste time standing in line at the airport. It is always better to apply for a visa online a week prior to your trip. It might take 24 to 48 hours to process.
#5 Language, Airport, Time & People of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is pretty much safe to travel. The local people are nice to tourists. The people in here largely talk Tamil and Sinhalese. But most of them can at least communicate in English and they can give you directions. In the countryside, people are a bit more old-fashioned, yet are eager to help you. The major international airport in the country is Colombo (Bandaranaike) International Airport in the south region of the nation. For most tourists, their adventures kick off from here and most cities are accessible from here via rails, roads, and air. Sri Lanka observes India Standard Time all year, GMT +5:30.
#6 Careful About Currency Transaction
The official currency of Sri Lanka is Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR). Speaking about a standard comparison, 1 USD is equivalent to around 180 LKR. There are odds that ATM counters can reject you. It is always safe to carry a few bills of US dollars or Euros with you in order to cope up with such unpleasant situations. You can always approach the bank to exchange your currency. Remember, banks in Sri Lanka can shut at 3 pm, quite early than the international timing of banks. If you are using public transport or tuk-tuks, better keep Sri Lankan currency with you in order to ease the transaction. Although the currency from your country shall have higher transaction rates, Sri Lanka can be expensive compared to many Asian countries.
#7 Surprisingly, Sri Lanka Can Tend To Be A Bit Expensive
Compared to similar well-built Asian countries, Sri Lanka might be a bit more expensive, although tourism is not a full-fledged thing in here. The cost shall be dependent on what you choose to do here. You have to pay for everything. For activities, for entering tourist areas and transportation. Also, you have to vary of being ripped by locals if you buy souvenirs or taking tuk-tuks. Accommodation as well can be strangely on the rise compared to countries like India, Thailand, and Indonesia. A five-star hotel can charge you somewhere USD 300 to 1000 for a night. By western standards, it might feel affordable. You can avoid high-end resorts and stick to local foods in order to cut down on the expense.
#8 Choosing The Right Means Of Traveling
You need to drift from place to place in order to see this country. Hence choosing the apt traveling option might decide the outcome of your trip. If you are a first-timer, it is always better to go for licensed hired-taxi drivers. Because they are mostly part of tour agencies and know the way around very well. They know places like the back of their hand and can show you everywhere. Likewise, driving for yourself is not recommended even though you have IDP, because traffic is pretty much here. Trains give you a scenic journey. But you need to book them weeks before, otherwise, you need to travel in second class. That is not apt for a moving-around holiday. Buses and tuk-tuks are only good for short term travels.
#9 Be Vary of Overcharging by Tuk Tuks
Motorized rickshaws, tuk-tuks, are largely considered as the affordable way to get around between short distances. They are fun and give you a local experience. Since most of them appear not-metered, you better settle on the fair before you get in. Since the instances of tuk-tuk scams are quite common in Sri Lanka. They would try to charge you with around five times the normal fair. Sometimes they won't give you back the balance in hopes that you would let them keep it. Sometimes drivers can be booze and give you a horror time traveling, but not always. Always ask for a price like a local and avoid up-charging.
#10 Hiring A Car or Scooter! You Need License!
Unlike anywhere in the world, in Sri Lanka, you can't just get into a car and drive away at will. You need a valid driving license from your home country and a valid international driving permit (IDP) to rent a car or scooter in Sri Lanka. That is more like a life-saver because traffic and roads are not systematic here. Even though you have all the permits, it is better to take a taxi. Road rules in Sri Lanka are a bit strict and you should not incur unwanted fines. Hiring scooters can be fun if you are not a first-timer. While scootering, make sure you wear a helmet and have insurance covered. At returning, they might examine the vehicle for a scratch. So better rent a used one, not a brand-new one.
#11 Getting A SIM Card & Travel Packages
Getting a sim card is quite easier and affordable and you don't have to rely on Wifi. You can get one even getting out of the Colombo airport. Once you got back your luggage and made money exchange, walk up to the telecommunication company at the exit. You can find many outside as well. Submit the documents they ask for. Travel packages of cellular companies are quite convenient and have the best coverage. 1GB sim card can be purchased for around $3.3 with international and local credits. Local call charges are about $0.01 and as for the data charges, it is about less than $0.01 per MB. Top-ups can be done outside easily.
#12 Respect The Religious Values & Locals
Sri Lanka is very much a conservative country and filled with plenty of remarkable religious monuments and sites of all religions, like Islam, Hindu, and Buddhism. There are shrines, mosques, and temples. You need to consider the emotions of locals when visiting them. Avoid short-length dresses, remove sandals and keep reverence while visiting temples and cover your head at mosques. You need to dress for the occasion. Otherwise, there are odds of you being rejected of the entry. If you have a Buddha tattoo on, better hide it. It is not encouraged by the locals. Respect the statues and never clicks photos, if photography is prohibited.
#13 Carry With You What Are Necessary For The Trip!
You should be well prepared for your trips in Sri Lanka. At least have a basic knowledge about what sort of tourist attraction you are going to visit. You must be carrying with you the necessary things with you. You should not go around shops buying things prior to each visit. If you are exploring the countryside or highland hillside, you have to buy leech socks or repellents. Visiting beaches? Carry with you quality sunscreens. It is hard to find good ones in cities here. You must carry both shorts and long dresses. Because the weather in Sri Lanka can differ as you move from place to place.
#14 Tap Water Is Not Safe
Caring for your health, we recommend you do not drink tap water in Sri Lanka. Instead, go for bottled water of the reserved reservoirs of the country. You may see locals drinking from taps but you shouldn't. They are accustomed to it. Your stomach might be sensitive to tap water. You should not afford any health risks during a holiday. Neither rely on questionable street stall foods! Perhaps you would find that the cost of bottled water is a bit higher in Sri Lanka compared to other similar Asian countries. Taking a typhoid vaccination is preferable before visiting in order to protect you from contaminated water and food.
#15 Sri Lanka for Solo Female Travelers
Sri Lanka is largely a safe country to travel alone. But as for a female traveler, the answer needs some considerations. There are of course solo female travelers. People in the country are polite and co-operative except for the overcharging by tuk-tukers. Locals might come up to you for befriending you. But you don't have to be panic. But better don't follow them to parties. If any unpleasant situation arises, stay bold and confident and speak out. It is better not traveling at night if you are in remote areas. In public or when taking public transportation, dressing sensibly is a good option to ward off the troubles. It is recommended you befriend other travelers.