Ancient, Bustling and Charming; these words perfectly describe the island nation of Sri Lanka, and also cover the ABC’s of reasons why you must visit the country. We have been saying this for quite some time now, Sri Lanka is one of the easiest countries to visit from India because of its close proximity and similarities to our country, and also because the process to get a Sri Lanka visa for Indians is fairly quick and quite hassle free.
But before you head over to book your Sri Lanka holiday packages, we would suggest going over the list of do’s and don’ts in the country. These will not only come in handy as important Sri Lanka travel tips, but will also help you to learn proper etiquettes, not to break any rules unintentionally and get in trouble with authorities or be a nuisance to the locals by disrespecting them unknowingly. Being mindful of the people, their culture and their country will aid you in a having trouble free experience while on your vacation.
Let us take a look at some of the Sri Lanka travel tips that you need to keep in mind when visiting the country.
Do’s when visiting Sri Lanka:
- Get your visa beforehand – The country has been offering Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) to its visitors since 2012, which means there’s no option for visa on arrival in Sri Lanka, so to save yourself trouble, apply for a Sri Lanka evisa before travelling to the country.
- Explore Colombo – One of the most overlooked Sri Lanka travel tips: Do Not Skip Colombo. No foreign trip is complete without exploring the capital city. Filled with amazing restaurants that serve mouthwatering Sri Lankan food, rooftop bars, good nightclubs, jazz clubs, and a happening night life, this city simply cannot be skipped. If you are going to Sri Lanka for parties and nightlife, this is the place to be. The iconic Galle Face Green is a popular hangout spot of locals who gather around to play cricket and binge on local street food.
- Do carry cash – Many small towns, eateries and restaurants prefer if you would pay in cash. A convenient Sri Lanka travel tip in such cases is, if you have an international credit card or debit card, you can visit Commercial Bank, People’s Bank or Sampath Bank to withdraw cash. Apart from these you always have the option of withdrawing money from ATMs or exchanging foreign currency at the airport which could be exchanged again upon departure.
- Pack accordingly – This is the most widely known of all Sri Lanka travel tips. Being a tropical country the temperature and humidity both are bound to run high. Loose and light colored clothes are preferable and while visiting sacred and religious places, make sure your shoulders are covered and wear pants. When visiting hilly regions its best to bundle up as the temperatures drop the more higher you go. If you are fond of trekking and hiking, pack a pair of comfy shoes and a pair of flip flops for when visiting beaches.
- Travel in the tuk-tuk – The best way to experience the land like a local is to travel like a local. One of the budget friendly Sri Lanka travel tips is to ride in a three wheeled tuk tuk and witness the land from a locals perspective. Don’t forget to discuss your fare and make sure the meters are working before travelling.
- Try the local Sri Lankan cuisine – This goes without saying as it is a common Sri Lanka travel tip no matter what part of the country you are visiting. Curry rice, sambol, hopper, moju, kottu, appa, pol roti, string hopper, and fresh sea food etc. are the go to dishes to try when visiting the country. Although the spice level may pack a punch, it will eventually subside, but the flavor and aroma will linger for a long time. Apart from food, locally produced fresh fruits and abundantly available coconuts will provide the necessary relief from the heat.
- Be mindful of Buddha – Amongst the important Sri Lanka travel tips for photography enthusiast, whenever standing near or clicking pictures with Buddha’s statue, be mindful as to not to take selfies, turn your back towards the statue or touch or kiss it. Always face the statue to avoid getting in trouble with the authorities. Some places even prohibit using flash while taking pictures in order to not to ruin old murals and paintings.
- Go wildlife spotting – The country of Sri Lanka is filled with diverse wildlife and blessed with bountiful marine life, it is the home of largest land mammals – elephants and a holiday home of the largest sea mammals – whales, a true paradise for wildlife enthusiast. The country has 26 national parks that work for preservation and protection of its flora and fauna alike. We have already covered the 10 Best National Parks In Sri Lanka for your convenience.
- Take a scenic train ride – Sri Lanka’s train routes are some of the most scenic routes in the world! Want proof? The Kandy – Ella – Kandy train route is one of the most pictured routes on Instagram! The same route where we spot the insta-famous people leaning out of the doorways surrounded by lush green vegetation and often times above the Nine Arch Bridge. A precautionary Sri Lanka travel tip for your next visit – do not attempt to lean out of trains and imitate those poses, it can be dangerous and fatal.
- Avoid sunburn, use sunblock – Not just Sri Lanka travel tip, but a general rule for whenever you are stepping out sun, wear your sunscreen. If you plan on getting tan at the beaches, we strongly advice not to skip on sunscreen or sunblock. Do remember the country is close to the equator and you can get sunburnt easily if you do not take proper precaution. Apart from the pain and irritation of peeling skin there could be other dermatological issues that may arise.
- Learn basic phrases in Sinhalese – Although English is spoken by many locals, speaking in their local language is a sure shot way to make an instant connection with them. It is a good conversation starter and may also help you in sticky situations. Here are some useful phrases you should know before you go:
“Kohomadha” means how are you?
“Hondayi” means very good
“Hari hari” means ok, fine
“Lassanai” means beautiful
“Istuti” means thank you
“Kiyeda?” means how much?
“Suba dawasak” means good day and
“Esema wewa” means same to you.
- Take your time – Sri Lanka has a lot to offer, and we are not exaggerating it. Whatever your interest be, there is something in store for you, be it exploring history in Sigiriya, or ancient cities of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura, or surfing in Arugam Bay, or experiencing wildlife in one of the many national parks in Sri Lanka, or white water rafting for adrenaline junkies in Keliya Ganga, or visiting Temple of the Tooth to see the most sacred relic of the Buddhist religion, tea connoisseurs can have their hearts fill of tea in Nuwara Eliya, or you can go for whale watching in Mirissa, or spend your day watching turtle eggs hatch in Kosgoda, and anything from trekking, hiking and cycling. Sri Lanka will always keep you on the move.
Don’ts when visiting Sri Lanka:
- Don’t disrespect Buddha’s images – In other words don’t wear clothes with Buddha’s image or show tattoos of Buddha. Sri Lanka is a Buddhist majority nation, Buddha is a highly sacred religious symbol, wearing clothes with pictures of Buddha and showing tattoos of Buddha on different body parts is considered highly disrespectful and sacrilegious and may even get you deported or arrested. Keep in mind to wear clothes that cover your tattoo and don’t pack clothes with pictures of Buddha on it.
- Don’t forget to keep the climate in mind – While planning a trip to Sri Lanka keep in mind, its a humid nation and temperatures range from 27-300 Celsius and it has 2 monsoons: 1- May through August in the west and southwest region and 2- October through February in the eastern and the northern region. So plan your trip accordingly.
- Don’t trust GPS – If your map app shows estimated time of arrival to be in 2 hours, be assured you won’t reach the destination in 2 hours. Sometimes the bus and tuk tuk drivers drive recklessly which causes problems, other times herds of animals such as cows and buffaloes, sheep or monkeys and even an adamant elephant that block the roads. So it is safe to say, if you want to reach your destination leave your location way before you normally would.
- Don’t click photograph without permission – this may seem an unusual Sri Lanka travel tip but there’s a reason for it. Many stilt fishermen charge you for taking pictures and sometimes locals may be vary of getting their pictures clicked, it is always better to be safe beforehand than being sorry later.
- Don’t drink the tap water – Sri Lanka’s tap water is not fit for drinking. It is best advised to buy packaged drinking water and to keep some extra bottles at hand when travelling to remote places so that you don’t run out of it. Keep yourself well hydrated if you don’t want to suffer a heat stroke, which is a high possibility considering the hot and humid climate of the country.
- Don’t forget your mosquito repellant – Although there is no major risk of Malaria in Sri Lanka, but there are incessant mosquitoes and mosquito bites can be very irritating and may cause Dengue. So to protect yourself slather on that mosquito repellant really nicely at all times be it dusk or dawn.
Apart from these the general rules of no comparing Sri Lanka to India, no discussion of politics, religion, race, no PDA, no skimpy or revealing clothing, no nudity, etc. also apply as you don’t want to offend anyone accidentally.
Also Read: Tips to get Sri Lanka Visa for Indians
As we can see the “Do’s” outweigh the “Don’ts”, meaning the country is quite laidback and not as strict or stringent as many believe it to be. Just being mindful of people, respectful of culture and being courteous to the country are enough to have a pleasant stay in the country.
We hope our Sri Lanka travel tips will come in handy to you. So when are you heading over for your next Sri Lanka holiday? Do let us know.
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