Sri Lanka

The tropical island of Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon, is rich in history and tradition. It is the place where the original soul of Buddhism still flourishes and where nature’s beauty remains abundant and unspoilt. Old colonial powers have long since decamped, but the Portuguese, Dutch and British influences still impact on the culture, religion, architecture and cuisine of this fascinating country. Picturesque beaches dot the coast, while majestic mountains, tea estates and rainforests cover the interior.

When to Visit

Sri Lanka is a typically tropical country with distinct wet and dry seasons but has two monsoons. The southwest monsoon, called Yala blows from May to August with the dry season in this area from December to March. The northeast monsoon called Maha blows from October to January and the dry season in this area is May to September.

Highlights

BEACHES Sri Lanka’s coastline is lined with superb beaches, and fantastic resort experiences. The south coast from Colombo to Tangalle has some of the best swimming beaches and the widest choice of accommodations. Further east, Arugam Bay is a surfers’ mecca, and Passikudah offers endless ocean beaches with just a handful of hotels. Bentota is a good choice for restaurant and shopping options with the beach experience.

WILDLIFE EXPERIENCES A safari in one of the island’s national parks offers the chance to see some of Sri Lanka’s amazing wildlife - sloth bear, sambhar and chital deer, civet cat, loris, and monkeys such as the purple-faced leaf monkey and grey langur. Yala National Park offers some of the best chances of Leopard sightings in the world, while Uda Walawe and Minneriya are particularly good for Asian Elephant.

GALLE FORT Superbly located on the Arabian Sea, and lovingly preserved with its historic architecture, cobbled lanes and imposing ramparts, Galle’s fort is a fantastic place to explore by foot. Shop for local crafts and antiquities, stop for a coffee or cool drink, take in sunset from the fort walls, and stay in one of the fort’s atmospheric and intimate heritage hotels.

ANCIENT CITIES Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya, in the island’s Cultural Triangle, their once glorious townships, palaces, temples, monasteries, hospitals and theatres intricately carved and modelled out of stone lay abandoned and forgotten with time amidst the soaring jungles. A climb up Sigirya Rock is a signature Sri Lanka experience.

TEA COUNTRY Sri Lanka’s highlands are famous for their tea. Add a stay in Kandy, Nuwara Eliya or Hatton to visit historic tea factories, see the rolling green tea estates and their beautiful landscapes, or even stay on an active estate at the Tea Factory or the luxurious Tea Trails.

LOCAL PEOPLE The people of Sri Lanka possess a warm and friendly nature. Their smiling faces and eagerness to help will surely be one of the highlights of your journey. Don't be surprised if your driver or guide invites you for dinner!

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Useful Information

Visa's

Official travel advice regarding visas is available by calling 04 439 8000 or visiting their website www.safetravel.govt.nz

Sri Lanka has an online visa application process which is simple and efficient; details can be found at www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/ Alternatively, visas may be obtained on arrival, which is slightly more expensive and may involve longer formalities on your arrival.
 

Customs

Sri Lanka’s genuine hospitality to tourists is renowned and the British are as popular as at any time since the country won independence in 1948. Take care to avoid religious offence, however. In particular, respect the Buddhist faith: do not touch a holy man, do not pose for photographs on religious statues and remove shoes and socks when entering temples. We recommend that you are informed as possible about the island before you arrive and try to learn some local language, read about the religion and culture and learn about local rules and values. Be sensitive to cultural difference. Note that patience, friendliness and courtesy are highly valued virtues that will win you the respect and confidence of many people.

Communications

Country Code for Sri Lanka: +94 Offical Travel Advice: Visit www.safetravel.govt.nz Emergency Services: Ambulance / Fire - 110 Police - 118/119 Tourist Police - (011) 242 1052 These numbers are gradually being phased in throughout Sri Lanka and may not cover all areas. The Emergency Services may not have English speaking staff. To avoid delay it may be best to seek the assistance of a Sinhala speaker to call the emergency services.

Shopping

Sri Lanka is excellent for gemstones especially sapphires, moon-stones and cats-eye; however you should only buy if you have a good knowledge of the product. Other items to look out for include spices, wood carvings and other handicrafts, batik and hand-woven textiles, brassware, handmade lace from Galle and of course tea.

Tipping

Tipping is generally expected in Sri Lanka. In temples, you should leave money in donation boxes, particularly if you have been taken on a tour by a resident monk. While tipping of guides and drivers is not mandatory, it is an important source of income.  The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline LKR 300  per person, per half day (more for a full day) can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of the service quality and the length of your trip. Porters may be given around LKR 150.

Restaurants: We suggest adding LKR 100-200 to your bill, depending on service.

Getting around

Given Sri Lanka’s fairly modest size, getting around can be a frustratingly time-consuming process. The island’s narrow roads, congested with pedestrians, cyclists and tuktuks make bus travel laborious, while in many cases travel by rail is even slower. Even with your own vehicle you shouldn’t expect to make rapid progress. Getting from Colombo to Kandy, for instance (a distance of not much over 100km), takes around three hours by bus or train, while the bus trip across the island from Colombo to Arugam Bay takes at least ten hours by public transport for a distance of 320km.Buses are the standard means of transport. Services reach even the remotest corners of the island, though they’re generally an uncomfortable way of travelling. Trains offer a more characterful, if generally slower, means of getting about, and will get you to many parts of the country – eventually. If you don’t want to put up with the vagaries of public transport, hiring a car and driver can prove a reasonably affordable and extremely convenient way of seeing the island in relative comfort. If you’re really in a rush, consider SriLankan Airlines’ network of “air taxis”, which offer speedy (albeit inevitably pricey) connections between Colombo and other parts of the island.

Language

Sinhala, Tamil. English is widely spoken.

Health

The following information is intended as a guide only and in no way should it be used as a substitute for professional medical advice relative to a travellers individual needs and vaccination history. No guarantee is made as to its accuracy or thoroughness. For further information, please contact The Travel Doctor on  (+64) 9 373 3531. Vaccination against Hepatitis A is recommended for travellers to Sri Lanka. Vaccination against Hepatitis B, Rabies (particularly if working with animals) Typhoid (particularly when travelling to areas with poor sanitation and hygiene) and Japanese Encephalitis may be considered depending on itinerary. Care with food and beverage selection is recommended. There is a medium risk of Malaria in Sri Lanka and Dengue Fever also occurs, as such insect avoidance measures and anti malarial medication may be necessary depending on itinerary. Please consult a medical practitioner or contact The Travel Doctor for your specific risk to these preventable diseases and the appropriate avoidance measures. New Zealanders travelling to Sri Lanka should ensure that they have adequate travel insurance to cover the length of their stay. Medications that are legal in New Zealand may be illegal in other countries. 

Electricity

Electrical Socket type: European Voltage: 220-240 volts (same as New Zealand, no voltage/frequency converter required). Modem Socket: UK and USA. Tip: The Indian/old British socket may also be found in some areas, usually at a lower voltage. Source: Korjo Travel Products. To purchase electrical/modem adapters, or for further information on this matter, please view the Korjo adapter guide at www.korjo.com.au

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