Currency: The Sri Lankan currency is the rupee and has an approximate exchange rate of £1=210 rupees (current as of August 2014). The Sri Lankan rupee is a restricted currency and so can’t be purchased outside of Sri Lanka. Colombo Airport has many bank kiosks however where you can change money. Dollars, Sterling and Euros can all be exchanged easily. After that ATMs are widely available and international credit cards are accepted by most hotels.
Vaccinations: Be sure to visit your GP six weeks before travel for general advice on travel risks, vaccinations and malaria. Make sure you take out comprehensive travel insurance with a good accident policy and that you know your blood group. In case of emergency the best hospital in the country is the Apollo in Colombo. For more information visit www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk & www.malariahotspots.co.uk .
Visas & Passports: It is recommended that you safely carry your passport at all times and ensure that it is valid for 6-months beyond the date of travel.Visitors to Sri Lanka need to purchase a tourist visa in advance from the Department of Immigration & Emigration (DI&E) Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. This is very easy and can be done online at – www.eta.gov.lk Should you have any questions though please feel free to contact us.
Insurance: A policy to cover theft, loss and medical issues is a must. You may also wish to check out cover for activities such as diving, white water rafting, cycling and abseiling etc.. It is a good idea to photocopy all relevant documents – passport, travel, insurance policy etc., and leave one copy at home. Carry another copy with you separate from the originals.
Language: Sri Lanka is a wonderful destination for British tourists because due to a good education system, English is widely spoken throughout the country and literacy levels are high.
Time Difference: Sri Lanka standard time is 4.5 hours ahead of GMT (in summer), 5.5 hours ahead of GMT (in winter)
Telephone & Post: Country code: 94, outgoing international code: 00. Airmail to Europe takes up to a week.
Electricity: 230-240 volts AC, 50Hz. It can be difficult to find appropriate adaptors in the UK, but they are readily available in Sri Lanka itself and most good hotels/villas have English sockets anyway.
Laws & Customs: Modesty is important in all situations. Nudity and topless bathing are prohibited and can incur hefty fines. Use your right hand for giving, taking, shaking hands and eating as the left hand is considered unclean. Blowing your nose in public is considered rude, but spitting is not and so visitors should not take offence to this.
When visiting religious buildings, both men and women must ensure that their shoulders and knees are fully covered. Shoes should be left at the entrance and the head should be uncovered. Do not attempt to touch or take photos with Buddhist monks, or next to Buddhist statues. Donations should be put in the temple offering boxes and not given to the monks as they are not allowed to touch money.
Tipping: It is not customary in Sri Lanka and in most hotels/restaurants a 10% service charge is automatically added to room charges and meals, therefore additional gratuities are not necessary but always appreciated. In the case of drivers and guides tour operators do recommend a suitable tip of about 1500 rupees per day. Not only does this supplement fairly low wages but it also helps to secure professional guides who are less likely to push commissionable trips to over-priced craft shops and spice gardens. Expect to tip mahouts at the elephant orphanage and street performers for creating what they believe to be a photo opportunity. 100 rupees is appropriate.
Crime & Nuisances: Although the vast majority of Sri Lankans are genuinely friendly and welcoming towards tourists, it is best to be wise to the fact that touting and hustling do occur, particularly in tourist hot spots. They usually pretend to offer friendship or help, often calling themselves guides. However, their real aim is to lead you to a hotel or shop where they hope you’ll spend money and they’ll get a commission. Don’t be too polite or made to feel pressured. Crime is not a cause for great concern, but it is a good idea to take the usual precautions against petty theft, particularly in Colombo.
Festival & Public Holidays: Sri Lanka must have more holidays than anywhere else in the world – about 72 including Sundays. All important Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian as well as national festivals are celebrated. Every full moon day (Poya Day) is also a Buddhist holiday. On these days all public places of entertainment are closed and no alcohol is sold. For more information on the different festivals and their exact dates please visit the Sri Lanka Tourist Board website – www.srilankatourism.org.