Is it Safe to Travel to Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka is quite a safe destination to travel and one of the most picturesque countries on earth. There have been some localised incidents in the North and East of the country. Our tours are conducted in areas which are considered safe for tourists to visit. Most of our clients have returned after a many a trip more than happy and feeling safe in our care. Please visit our news page for latest updates.
When is the best time to travel?
Climatically, the best & driest seasons are from December to March on the West & South Coasts and in the hill country, and from May to September in the East Coast. Sri Lanka is subject to two monsoons, the rainy season in the East coast is the dry season in the south west coast & vise versa. This means Sri Lanka is a year around destination, and there is always a 'right' season somewhere in the island. Out of season travel has it's advantages, not only do the crowds go away, but many airfares & accommodation prices too go down, with many special offers thrown in. On the coast the average temperature is about 27° C. The temperature rapidly falls with altitude. At Kandy (altitude 450m) the average temperature is 20° C and at Nuwara Eliya (altitude 1890m) it's down to around 16°C.
What money should I take?
Currency Western currencies and credit cards are easily accepted at most tourist establishments. Travelers cheques are also recommended. We recommend you change some of your money into local currency for tipping, shopping and other miscellaneous expenses. The Sri Lankan currency is the Rupee (Rs), divided in to 100 cents. Notes come in denominations of 10 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 & 1000. Breakdown larger notes when you change money - it can sometimes be a problem to breakdown a larger note (500 or 1000). You should declare money in cash and cheques in excess of US$ 10,000 on arrival. Please retain whatever receipts of exchange for monies declared.
Currency Exchange The exchange of foreign currency is only permitted at banks, money changes and Hotels. You should retain the receipts for exchange of large amounts. There are several ATM's in Colombo and a couple in Kandy. You'll have no problem changing Travelers Cheques at any major bank. Thomas Cook and Visa are the most widely accepted. Banks charge a 0.5% handling fee and generally a commission, which varies from bank to bank. Change only that amount of money you require for spending. The Re-Exchange can only take place on your departure at the Bank at the airport.
What are the visa requirements & customs formalities?
Visa requirements Visa regulations are simple. Tourists visiting Sri Lanka can enter the country with minimum formalities Citizens of sixty four countries can enter Sri Lanka without a prior visa and will be allowed an entry visa for between 30 - 90 days (depending on country of nationality) at the point of entry without any payment. Nationals of countries not classified under the above (64 countries) are required to possess a valid visa, obtained from the respective Sri Lanka Diplomatic Missions, prior to entering the country irrespective of the purpose of visit. Tourists should have a return air ticket, sufficient foreign exchange reckoned at US$ 15/- per day, and a valid travel document to establish their bona-fide as tourists.
Customs & Duty Free allowances At the arrival you have to fill in the official entry form. Tourists who do not have anything to declare may choose the green channel for clearance.
You may bring into the country 1.5 litres spirits, 2 bottles of wine, small quantities of perfume, 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250 grams of tobacco, still/ video camera, films for personal use. You may take out of the country anything you declared upon entering. Up to 3 Kg of tea may be exported duty free.
What sort of clothes do I pack?
Lightweight, light coloured cotton clothes are best suited for the warm temperatures of a tropical country like Sri Lanka. Some warm clothes are recommended if you are heading for the hilly regions, where the evenings tend to get chilly. Given below are a list of essentials for your trip. Please see our comprehensive pack list for other handy items that you could pack for our other different types of trips.
2 pairs of cotton trousers pair of shorts (men only) 2 pairs long (ankle - length) cotton skirt (women) underwear & swimming gear few T-shirts or lightweight shirts sweater for cooler nights in the hills one pair of sneakers or shoes socks - useful for visiting temples, specially areas exposed to the sun sandals, slippers (flip flops, thongs) - handy to wear when showering set of 'dress-up' clothes sun hat or umbrella
What language will the people understand?
English is generally understood by most people and is easy to get by. Off the beaten track knowledge of it thins. English is spoken at all hotels, major restaurants and shops. Dream Vacations provides guides in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian and Japanese languages to foreign visitors requiring assistance. Road signs are written both in Sinhalese & English throughout the country, with few exceptions.
How about my health?
Medical Services Almost every town has a pharmacy selling common medicines. We recommend you use the private sector hospitals, which are likely to offer better care. However we advice you take an adequate health insurance cover.
Vaccinations You'll need to show a certificate to show that you have been vaccinated for yellow fever, if you are coming from an area infected with yellow fever. You need up-to-date Hepatitis A, Polio and Tetanus shots.
We recommend to take anti-malaria medication if you plan to travel off the beaten track. However an adequate health insurance cover is highly recommended.
What food will I find?
Food & Fruits Sri Lankan dishes are based on rice, with a large variety of vegetables, fish & fruits. The uniqueness of Sri Lankan food influenced by invaders and traders - Indians, Arabs, Malays, Moors, Portuguese, Dutch and English all whom have left a mark on the Sri Lankan diet, will surely make your trip a voyage of culinary discovery!
Sri Lankan food is good, perhaps a little too piquant for foreign palates, but worth trying. The Lankan food served in your hotel is toned down a little bit due to the sensitive stomach of most tourists, but nevertheless is delicious and you should try it.
International food of any kind is found in all major Sri Lankan Restaurants.
Most coastal towns have excellent seafood including prawns & delicious crab. Rates are quite inexpensive. Being a tropical country, Sri Lanka is blessed with a large variety of fruits. Some fruits like mangoes and Bananas (known an plantains here), come in over a dozen of sub varieties of shapes, sizes & tastes! Fruits such as Rambutan, Pineapple, Mangosteen, Papaya (Papaw), wood apple, melons, passion fruit, guavas, etc., are but a small sample of the amazing variety of fruits to be discovered and enjoyed.
Drinks We advice not to drink tap water unless it is purified. Bottled water is recommended. Only use water from containers with serrated seal- not tops or corks. Most hotel rooms have boiled water in thermos flasks, which is safe to drink.
Sri Lanka is famous for it's tea, and pride ourselves in producing 'Ceylon Tea', the finest tea in the world. There is a local version of coffee, which is a bit strong. But Colombo is the only place that you could get a really good espresso. Highly recommended are the fresh fruit juices. Popular international soft drinks are available even in little village boutiques.
Sri Lanka has it's own variety of local beer. Sri Lanka also has two extremely popular local varieties of intoxicating beverage - Toddy and Arrack. Toddy is a natural drink, produced from one or other palm trees. Fermented and refined toddy becomes Arrack. Some varieties are real "rocket fuel"! Imported beer and foreign liquors cost almost the same as in most western countries.
How is the shopping & what do I tip?
Shopping Sri Lanka has a wide variety of very attractive handicrafts on sale. Sri Lankan masks are a very popular collector's item. Other recommendations are batiks, wood carvings, gemstones, semi- precious stones, lacquer ware, hand made Silver- and Brass objects and don't forget the famous 'Ceylon Tea'. Please avoid ornaments made from tortoise shells & ivory.
Never buy turtle shell, we even suggest you not to purchase any woodcarving made from ebony, in order to preserve this scarce hardwood.
Sri Lanka is a major garment manufacturer and exporter of all kinds of clothing. There is an excellent selection of children's and casual clothing for men & women, beach wear and even warm padded jackets at extremely attractive prices. Colombo is fast becoming an attraction for garment hunters.
Important: Retain some of your hotel and shopping receipts, specially for gems. These would make customs clearance easy.
Tipping Although a 10% service charge is included in bills for food and accommodation, tipping is a customary way of showing your appreciation for services rendered.
A rule of thumb is to tip 10% of the total amount due. Your housekeeping staff, doorman, bellboy all expect a little tip. A tip between 20 - 50 rupees for each service is considered sufficient. Your guide or driver on tour will expect something between US $ 3 to 12 a day (depending on your level of satisfaction with his service).