Top 10 Travel Tips Before Visiting Sri Lanka
Developing with each passing day and paving wider paths for tourism, Sri Lanka is now trying to walk hand in hand with serendipity. This lovely land of pristine beaches, lush green hilly regions, and 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites is now being noticed by every globetrotter. While wandering in the country, don’t be too surprised if you see an elephant causing a massive traffic jam. If you are a foodie who travels far and wide to taste a variety of cuisines, then visiting Sri Lanka should be on your bucket list. As opposed to the common conception that people of Sri Lanka eat only rice and curry, you will be treated to numerous cuisines that are rich in flavor and are absolutely satisfying. If you are planning to visit this land of serendipity any time soon, then here are a few things to know before going to Sri Lanka.
1. Sri Lankan Visa
To visit Sri Lanka as a tourist, you will require an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA). You may obtain this prior to your visit or upon your arrival in the country. It is highly recommended to complete the procedure of getting ETA online to avoid long queues. With ETA, you will get a travel visa which will be valid upto 30 days. If you stay beyond these 30 days, you may get deported on immediate basis, or you may have to face a fine. Besides visa, you will be required to have a passport which is valid for the next six months since the date of your arrival in Sri Lanka.
2. Arriving in Sri Lanka
Although your air ticket to Sri Lanka may say that you are arriving in the capital city of Colombo, you will be landing in a suburb area of Negombo. This is another city located on the west coast of the country and is quite close to Colombo. You need not worry about landing in Negombo, since the city is well connected to other parts of Sri lanka by trains and buses.
3. Travelling internally in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a slowly but steadily developing nation. While travelling within the country, you will come across narrow roads that packed with buses driven rashly, cows crossing the streets at their own pace, and numerous vehicles that are not driven in lanes, causing a massive traffic jam. Most of the tourists visiting Sri Lanka prefer hiring a cab to commute from one place to another. But cabs may prove to be too expensive.
Your best bet is travelling by train. They might be slow and not very classy, but they do take to your destination through beautiful landscapes, and that too at a very cheap price. You may reserve a train ticket directly at the station, 45 days prior to your journey.
While travelling within a city, you will have to use a tuk-tuk or a three-wheeler. Beware of the scams that are run by drivers of these vehicles. They tend to overcharge tourists and may even create a ruckus if you do not agree to pay them their demanded sum. Before getting into the tuk-tuk, haggle with the driver for the price and once you reach an agreement only then get into the three-wheeler.
4. Culture in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a culturally rich country. With 70% Sinhalese, 13% Hindu, 10% Muslim, and 7% Christians making the entire population, you will also find the culture to be highly diverse. You will find Sri Lankans to be people who strictly follow their traditions. As with any other country, it is very necessary to respect the culture of Sri Lanka.
You must be extra careful while attending a Buddha temple. Make sure that you are dressed properly and do not attempt to take inappropriate photographs like kissing a Buddha statue. Locals view such behavior as an insult to their religion and customs. Also, if you have a Buddha tattoo, make sure that you cover it while wandering anywhere in Sri Lanka. There have been serious incidents in the past with tourists who were seen with a Buddha tattoo.
5. Dressing in Sri Lanka
One of the few things to avoid in Sri Lanka is dressing inappropriately. While wandering in Sri Lanka, make sure that you wear full length clothes as much as possible. Locals are seen to frown upon those that are skimpily dressed. Try to cover your shoulders and legs, especially while visiting temples. And this applies to women as well as men. Dressing modestly is the key to be on friendly terms with the locals in Sri Lanka. If you are dressed up sharp, you might even receive a warm smile for passersby.
When you are at the beaches of Sri Lanka, you may wear the standard attire though. You will see people wearing tank tops, shorts, and sundresses. It would be wise to avoid wearing a bikini though, since you wouldn’t want to stretch the limit too much. As Sri Lanka is a warm, sunny place, be sure to carry a hat or a cap to keep yourself away from a headache. A buff or a bandana will also be a good option.
6. Safety in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is an absolutely safe country. Although having suffered at the hands of a 20 year long civil war which ended in 2009, there have been no cases of crimes against tourists in this humble country. Since the tourism is booming, locals are very warm and welcoming towards visitors. As mentioned earlier though, make sure that your attire is appropriate and that you strictly respect their culture.
Also, Sri Lanka has a public holiday on every full moon and the day is celebrated as Poya. Men celebrate it by drinking high quantity of liquor which leads to rowdy behavior. It is advised to not engage with such people and avoid roaming in the country at night during Poya. If you are a solo female traveller, then you must follow this rule. In fact, it would be wise to not travel late night anywhere in Sri Lanka if you are a female travelling all by yourself in the country. Else, this beautiful land is one of the safest place for ladies who embark on a solo journey.
7. Food in Sri Lanka
When in Sri Lanka, follow the rule which says ‘live like a local, eat like a local’. You may come across very few restaurants in Sri Lanka that offer western food. These dishes may not even match up to the western standards. Also do not be surprised if you come across boards outside restaurants that say ‘Our kitchen matches upto European standards’. This is because you will not find the restaurants to be following the basic hygiene practices.
During your visit to Sri Lanka, you must try their steamed rice and curry. This is the standard food consumed in every house of the country. Hoppers is another cuisine which comes in a variety of tastes and is offered at every local restaurant. A few other dishes that you must try include kottu, kool, sambol, and babath.
8. Nightlife in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has a buzzing nightlife in few major cities like Colombo and Bentota. Right from nightclubs to floating discotheques, you will find it all if you are living in the happening cities of the country. However, if you are exploring the rural side of Sri Lanka, then you may find the place to be sunk in ghostly silence just a few hours after sunset.
Another way of enjoying the nightlife in Sri Lanka is by heading towards the beaches in towns. Many beach activities are held on the sandy stretches during and after sunset. Since most of them are public beaches, you may even spend hours together lying on the soft sand, under the starry sky.
9. ATMs and banks in Sri Lanka
The Sri Lankan currency is rupee. You will find currency exchange kiosks at the airport and may have it exchanged even at few hotels. However, the currency exchange rate may prove to be too high at these places. Currency exchange service and ATMs are your go-to option. It would be wise to carry enough cash to the country although many credit and debit cards are widely accepted here. You are allowed to carry a maximum of 5000 rupees while entering the country as a tourist. While withdrawing cash from any ATM in Sri Lanka, you will be charged a fee for international transaction.
There are about 25 banks operating in Sri Lanka. A few of the major banks include Commercial Bank of Ceylon, HSBC, Standard Chartered, and ICICI Bank. You can use an ATM of a bank free of cost or at a reduced charge if it is partnered with your local bank. Before travelling to Sri Lanka, visit your bank and make the necessary enquiry.
10. Expenses in Sri Lanka
Expenses that you will have to bear in Sri Lanka will vary from place to place in the country. If you are staying the beach town of Sri Lanka, you will find everything to be too expensive. Right from accommodation to food, you will be charged more. If you move towards the hilly regions of the country, you will find it comparatively cheaper.
If you wish to reduce your expenses, then it would be prudent to avoid the beach towns of Sri Lanka. Other ways include staying at budget accommodations, doing self tours, and using the local transport system. If you travel on a budget in Sri Lanka then you may incur an everyday expense of about 30 USD.
With these Sri Lanka travel tips at your disposal, be ready to explore this beautiful country of warm people, diverse cultures, and breathtaking landscapes.
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