Sri Lanka is a fantastic, exotic destination with a long history, profound culture, unspoiled nature, abundant wildlife and hospitable people. Before you travel to this relatively undiscovered gem, you should know 12 things about it.
1. Sri Lanka is a safe country to travel to.
There is a big misconception about the safety in Sri Lanka for travelers. Yes, the country went through an almost 26-year civil war between 1983 and 2009, but since the end of the war, life has returned to normal, and tourism has been rebuilding steadily. More and more travelers enter this wonderful country each year, and leave after having a memorable experience. People here are friendly and hospitable. Just as with any destination that you are unfamiliar with, take necessary measures and exercise a reasonable amount of caution to ensure safety. Keep an eye on your personal belongings at all time when you are in public areas. Don't flash money around. Leave precious jewelry and other valuables in your hotel or at home. And look both ways before crossing busy roads.
A local shy girl with smiling face
2. You will need a visa to travel to Sri Lanka.
Most visitors will need a tourist visa to travel to Sri Lanka, but it is very easy and straightforward to apply for it all online for a fee. It usually takes about 5 minutes for the application process, and 24-48 hours for the visa approval to come through. So it is appropriate to apply 1-2 weeks before your vacation.
3. Sri Lanka has 2 monsoon seasons and different climates.
Sri Lanka is a tropical country with lots of blissful sunshine and blue skies almost year round. Technically, the country has 2 monsoon seasons (wet season): May to September (for western and southern areas), and October to January (for northern and eastern areas).
As the climate varies in different areas, the recommended time to visit varies accordingly. For western, southern and central areas, the best time to visit is December to March; for northern and eastern areas, the best time is May to September. But you can visit this island anytime during the year.
The beautiful and tranquil city of Nuwara Eliya in the tea country hills
4. You have great chances to spot wildlife.
Thanks to its varied landscapes, Sri Lanka has incredibly diverse wildlife and is a perfect destination to spot some of the world's biggest animals you may only connect to Africa. You can go on a safari to spot leopards in the Yala National Park in the south, which has the highest concentration of leopards in Asia, peek at hundreds of elephants hanging out by the main lake in Minneriya National Park near Dambulla, watch whales and dolphins in Trincomalee in the east and Mirissa on the southern tip, and encounter various monkeys in towns.
Go on a wildlife safari in Yala National Park
5. Keep in touch in Sri Lanka.
The Internet in Sri Lanka is surprisingly good in most places, and enough for most work, publishing blog posts or looking something up.
For mobile Internet, you can buy a local SIM card at the airport in Colombo. After picking up your luggage, just walk up to a mobile carrier's booth in the arrivals hall, and buy an Internet package from them.
If you just want to call home rather than surf the Internet, a tourist SIM card is fine.
The ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya, a landmark of Sri Lanka
6. Get Sri Lankan rupees.
The official currency of Sri Lanka is the Sri Lankan rupee (code: LKR). 1 US dollar is worth about 176 LKR, and 1 euro is worth about 198 LKR (updated June 2019). You can use ATMs in Sri Lanka to withdraw money with your credit card, as ATMs here usually do not accept regular debit cards. A few credit cards offer free withdrawal and payment, so you can check with your bank to use the right credit card to save money abroad.
In case there are no ATMs available nearby or your card does not work in ATMs, I suggest you carry a few US Dollars or Euros, so that you can head to a bank to exchange currency. Please note that most of the banks in Sri Lanka close at 3:00 pm.
You can also exchange money at the airport, and the exchange rates there are said to be very impressive.
7. You will need a universal adapter.
There are three kinds of electrical sockets that you can find in hotels and buildings in Sri Lanka: three-prong UK socket, two-prong European socket, and rounded three-prong socket used in India and Nepal. So it is recommended to carry a good quality universal adapter.
8. There is varied fresh produce and seafood.
Local Sri Lankan cuisine is very varied and delicious, comparable to Indian cuisine in some senses, and often described as a milder version of Indian cuisine. Popular dishes in Sri Lanka include rice and curry (a huge mound of rice with 3-10 small but different curries), kottu (a relatively spicy roti dish, often served with vegetables, fish or chicken, and several thin strips of bread), egg hopper (little pancakes served with an egg) and string hoppers (steamed rice noodles). There are also various kinds of fresh seafood from the Indian Ocean and wonderful tropical fruits to choose from.
Good news for vegetarians: it is easy to find many great vegan dishes prepared with vegetables and fruits, beans, grains and more.
If you want to eat like a local, go where the locals eat, be it a small restaurant or stall. If you want western dishes, you will also find many places to go.
For drinks, you should try the famous king coconuts, fresh fruit juices and Lion Beer (the most popular beer brand in Sri Lanka and available almost everywhere in the country).
Local children and king coconuts
9. Dress for the occasion.
Sri Lanka is still a conservative country, so always make sure to dress conservatively and appropriately, especially outside major cities. Short skirts and brief shorts are frowned upon. So remember to pack modest clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. Loose, lightweight, long clothing is strongly recommended as it is both respectful and cool in the hot climate in Sri Lanka. When entering temples and religious sites, you may be required to cover your shoulders, legs and knees. Thus, a sarong might come in handy.
10. Don't drink the tap water.
In Sri Lanka, please use bottled water for drinking and even tooth brushing, as tap water may contain micro-organisms that your body is not used to. You may find most locals drink tap water, but you had better not take a health risk while traveling. And don’t settle for a salad if your tummy is sensitive as it is very likely the greens will have been rinsed in tap water.
11. Don't bring up or get involved in political conversation.
The civil war only ended a few years ago, so it is still very raw and emotional for many people impacted by it. So I'd advise being respectful to its political past, and avoid any type of political conversation.
12. There is a myriad of things to see and do in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka has something for every interest: travel back in time in the ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya, go on a wildlife safari in Yala National Park, take a spiritual journey to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy, taste famous tea in Nuwara Eliya in the tea country hills, encounter adorable whales in Mirissa on the south coast, learn traditional stilt fishing on the way from Tissa to Galla, lounge on amazing white-sand beaches... So pack for every occasion!
The legendary stilt fishermen on the way from Tissa to Galla
Now is the perfect time to visit this gorgeous island before it tops travelers' must visit lists. We are pleased to customize a private Sri Lanka vacation according to your specific interests. For any inquiry and question, you can reach us at .