Traveling to Sri Lanka – Ten Tips & Tricks for Visitors
Traveling to Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) is certainly one of the things you should put on your bucket list. This island country nestled south of Republic of India, in the Indian Ocean, will catch your breath with diverse landscape, amazing architecture, rich history and exotic cuisine. Some things are simply ‘must do and see’ if you’re traveling to Sri Lanka. Here are top attractions and activities we recommend not to miss while on your exciting journey. In addition, bear in mind some useful tips while discovering this gem of the Indian Ocean.
1. Get Prepared
Before you begin your trip across the globe to explore this amazing country, you need to get ready. As any other country, Sri Lanka has its own laws, traditions and socially appropriate behaviors that every visitor needs to respect. Familiarize yourself with some basic facts about the country before you go. Get Sri Lanka’s map. This will save you time and help you organize your visit around the things you are most interested in.
2. Language – How to Communicate with the Locals?
Majority of the population, Sinhalese, speaks Sinhala language. Tamil speaks minority Tamil and Muslim groups as well. English is commonly used in the big cities and main tourist areas. For example, you’ll find that most people in Colombo or beach areas speaks English, while the majority of the people in rural areas doesn’t speak any English, apart from a few basic words.
3. Money – What’s Sri Lanka’s Currency?
The currency of Sri Lanka is rupee. Keep in mind that for you as a visitor, admission to most of tourist sites in Sri Lanka will be up to ten times higher than for the locals.
4. What about the Weather?
Sri Lanka’s climate changes dramatically from one part of the country to another. For example, if you travel to the dry zone of the country, you won’t need more than your summer clothes. This is because this region has the worm climate with the constant temperature of 30-35°C. On the other hand, if you’re planning on visiting Central Sri Lanka, be prepared for its hills with average temperatures of 5-20°C.
5. Do I Need a Visa to Sri Lanka?
If you are visiting Sri Lanka as a tourist, you need to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) prior or on arrival to Sri Lanka. This visa is valid for 30 days.
6. Colombo – Sri Lanka’s Capital
One of the places you should definitely visit when in this amazing country is Sri Lanka’s capital. Colombo is a beautiful city with the long history as a port on ancient trade routes between the east and the west. Through history Colombo was ruled by the Portuguese, British and Dutch. This influence is echoed in the city’s architecture and cultural heritage. Don’t miss visiting magnificent Colombo National Museum, Chan Clock Tower or National Art Gallery.
7. The Best Local Food and Drinks
Sri Lanka is famous as one of the biggest tea producers in the world. Interesting fact is that tea in Sri Lanka was introduced by the British who called the country Ceylon. People around the globe consider pure Ceylon tea as one of the world’s finest products.
As for the food, the central point of Sri Lankan cuisine is rice. They usually prepare it boiled or steamed with a curry of chicken, fish, goat or beef. Furthermore, dishes are commonly accompanied by chutney and pickled vegetables or fruits. A must-try definitely include original Sri Lankan street food, the feast for all the senses!
8. Main Tourist Sites
The best way to get to know one country is to visit its most important cultural and historical sites. Sri Lanka is well-known for its ancient Buddhist ruins. The fact is that the list of wonderful tourist attractions across Sri Lanka is very long. One of the most famous historic sites is the city of Anuradhapura, with its ruins dating back more than 2,000 years.
Visit Sigiriya, the 5th Century BC citadel in Kandy, and explore its palace and rock fortress.
Explore Polonnaruwa, a city whose kingdom once reigned supreme over the island from 11th to 13th Century. Visit its ancient tombs, artefacts and remains of city’s statues and temples.
9. Beautiful Beaches
Many people come to this amazing island country mainly because of its gorgeous beaches.
• Negombo is the beach closest to the Bandaranaike International Airport in Sri Lanka. For this reason, many tourists chose this beach as the first stop in their Sri Lanka beaches itinerary. Additionally, it is the ideal beach for those who want to stay urban while sun tanning and swimming.
• Hikkaduwa Beach is a very long and clean sandy beach ideal for snorkeling and swimming.
• Bentota Beach is well-known for its sea turtles farm. In addition, this beach offers a variety of water sports activities.
• Nilaveli Beach is nestled on the eastern side of the island. Here, you can enjoy turquoise clear waters and explore stunning coral reefs around nearby island of Pigeon.
Other beaches of Sri Lanka worth visiting include Unawatuna Beach, Galle Face Green, Arugam Bay Beach, Kalpitiya Beach and Beruwala Beach.
10. Famous Local Products
In addition to famous Ceylon tea, don’t miss to buy well-known true Ceylon Sri Lankan cinnamon is one of the most popular and first traded spices from the ancient world. Other things you should bring home with you would include Sri Lankan lace, local crafts souvenirs or famous gemstones from Galle.