The island of Sri Lanka lies off the coast of the Indian sub-continent is a unique place to visit. Less well known than its neighbouring countries, Sri Lanka has a fascinating history dating back some 125,000 years. Formerly known as Ceylon, its location meant it was a strategic stopping point on many trade routes, and consequently the island has for many years of its long history been under rule from foreign powers. This has created a unique blend of histories, cultures, languages and beliefs. The country is dotted with ancient temples and ruins and bold colonial buildings alike. It has amazing beaches, verdant rainforests and is a great place to spot wildlife, especially elephants. It is of course famous for its tea, as well as a good, hot curry!! Its incomparable mix of elements make it a definite destination to put on your list!
Your passport should be valid for at least six months beyond the expected date of departure from Sri Lanka. There should be 1 blank page for entry stamps. Please be sure to fill out the "Emergency Next of Kin" section in your passport
US, Canadian, Australian and European citizens require a visa to enter Sri Lanka for up to 30 days for tourist purposes. It must be applied for prior to travel and details can be found on this website: http://www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/visainfo/center.jsp
The current fee is USD 35 per person. Applications can also be made to your relevant embassy or consulate. All nationalities must check the visa entry requirements before your departure. You need sufficient funds and a return airline ticket.
• Consular Information
There are a number of major international embassies located in Colombo, including those for the US, Canada, Australia and UK. However, embassies for other countries including New Zealand are located in other Asian cities, offering coverage to Sri Lanka. Please check with your relevant government for the relevant contact details.
N.B. Please note, visa and entry requirements, regulations and restrictions can vary on a regular basis. Please ensure you check in good time prior to travel the current requirements applicable to you.
HEALTH, INSURANCE AND SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS
• Travel Insurance
It is company policy that all passengers must have valid travel insurance prior to travelling, to include but not limited to health insurance and cancellation insurance. It is vital that ALL members of the travelling party are fully insured for the dates of travel. All pre-existing medical conditions must be declared to the insurer and the correct cover must be taken in regard to the specific type of holiday you are taking.
The details of your insurance must be advised to The Big Journey Company at least 6 weeks before your departure date. Please make sure to write down important information from your insurance policy, such as the company’s 24hr emergency telephone number (including dial code from abroad) and your policy number and take these with you on tour.
• General Health
Please talk to your doctor or travel health clinic in person at least eight weeks before you travel, where a health professional can provide you with the necessary health information for your personal needs.
Wearing sunscreen, drinking plenty of water, washing your hands properly before eating and avoiding insect bites should keep you healthy on tour.
Dengue fever and malaria are also present in Sri Lanka - your best defence for avoiding mosquito borne-diseases is through the use of a good insect repellent and keeping well covered during dawn and dusk.
We recommend you carry a simple travellers’ first-aid kit containing any basic items that you feel may be required, including remedies for minor stomach complaints.
If you do need to see a doctor during the tour, please speak to your Big Journey Company tour escort.
• Passengers with Disabilities or Reduced Mobility
The Sri Lanka Tour is an Activity Level 2 tour and will require moderate physical activity and include various forms of transport. Please check our Activity Levels description page to see if this level is suitable to you or contact us if you require further information on the activities involved in the tour.
If you or any member of your party has any medical problem or disability which may affect your holiday, please provide us with full details before we confirm your booking, or as soon as possible at the time they occur, so that we can try to advise on the suitability of your chosen arrangements. Please note, we may require you to produce a doctor’s certificate certifying that you are fit to participate in the tour.
• Medical Conditions and Personal Medication
Please advise us prior to travel if you have any medical conditions requiring special attention during your trip. If you have a specific medical condition, it is wise to carry the relevant doctor’s prescription with you.
- Pack a sufficient supply of any medications you are taking, copies of the prescriptions and the telephone/fax numbers of your doctor.
- Please note, some countries require that prescription drugs be carried in their original container, with the label clearly visible. In the event of you losing your medication, a qualified pharmacist should be able to source a replacement.
Prior to travel, please consult your doctor to discuss the destinations you are visiting, the latest immunisation information and requirements as well as advice according to your unique medical needs.
There are currently no specific certificate requirements under International Health Regulations however please take note of the information below:
Yellow Fever Certificate. Depending on the area you are visiting, or areas you have previously travelled to, you may need a Yellow Fever Vaccination certificate to show you have received said vaccination prior to travel. Check whether you need a Yellow Fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
Travellers should be up to date with routine vaccination courses and boosters as recommended. These vaccinations include for example measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and diphtheria-tetanus-polio vaccine. Vaccinations for Tetanus, Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, Cholera, Japanese Encephalitis, Tuberculosis, Rabies and Malaria may be recommended depending on the tour you are taking and your medical history. For further information, please see: wwnc.cdc.gov/travel/countries
You should follow the advice of the National Travel Health Network and Centre and discuss your travel plans with your healthcare provider, particularly if you're pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Any feverish illness during or after returning from travel must be reported to a doctor immediately
• Travelling with CPAP or other Medical Machines
Please inform The Big Journey Company that you are travelling with such a device as early as possible, and well before you travel. This is especially important in places where there may be issues with power supply, such as on safari or smaller cruise ships. Also,
- Check that you have the correct electrical and voltage adapters for the country and accommodation you are visiting;
- Check with your airline that they allow your device to be carried as additional hand luggage and ensure that your device is easily accessible and properly labelled as medical machinery;
- Always carry a letter from your medical practitioner prescribing its use for you;
- Ensure you have details of your machine separately in case of the need to secure repairs/replacements whilst you are travelling;
- Check with your medical practitioner about the use of tap or bottled water in the event that distilled water cannot be sourced in the country you are travelling to.
Please note, if you require distilled or ionised water, you must inform The Big Journey Company of this at least two weeks ahead of travel, so we are able to make preparations with our ground agents. There will be an additional charge for this.
• Special Dietary Requirements
Please let us know in good time prior to travel if you have any special dietary requirements (e.g., vegetarian, vegan, diabetic, gluten-free, etc.). We will make every effort to accommodate your request with the resources available to us.
• What to Pack and Wear
Cool, lightweight clothing is the most comfortable attire for travelling in Sri Lanka. Shawls, long skirts, long trousers and long-sleeved shirts are recommended for temple visits. We also suggest carrying 2-3 pairs of socks since shoes must be removed when entering religious buildings. Comfortable, soft soled walking shoes with low or no heels are ideal for sightseeing. In city restaurants, a lightweight jacket, with some smart casual attire is recommended. The weather should largely be warm and sunny throughout the journey, however it is always good to be prepared for every eventuality, so make sure you pack a light jacket in case of rain and the fact that it may be cooler in the evening. Warmer clothing is necessary in the hill country where the temperature can go down as low as 10C. Insect repellent, a wide brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunblock sun cream are also essential items. Don't forget your camera, with charger/spare batteries and memory cards.
• Luggage Allowances
International airlines are often strict about the size and weight of checked in baggage and carry-on luggage. Prior to your departure, please contact your airline or visit their website for specific luggage requirements, as size and weight limitations may vary according to the airline and destination.
Luggage handling is not included in our Sri Lanka tour. It may be available at the hotel for a local charge.
Laundry services may available in some hotels on the tour.
The main languages of Sri Lanka are Sinhala and Tamil. However, English is widely used for official and institutional purposes. Regional communities speak forms of Portuguese, Dutch and Malay, showing the nation’s heritage.
The time zone in Sri Lanka is GMT+5.30, 5.30 hours ahead of London GMT.
Sri Lanka has a hot, humid and tropical climate. The island is divided into a dry zone to the north and east and a wet zone to the south west and central parts of the island. Each has its own distinct weather patterns. Between May and September, monsoons bring rain to the south-west part of the island, while the dry season occurs between December and March. In the north east coastal regions, the monsoon season occurs between October and January and the dry season runs between May and September. In the tea country, elevations affect the temperature and it is much cooler in this part of the central highlands. Overall in Sri Lanka, the best weather can be found from December to mid-April.
In Sri Lanka, the standard voltage is 230V and the frequency is 50Hz. They use a number of plugs in Sri Lanka – Type D (3 round prongs, used in some African countries and parts of the central Asia), type M (like type D but with fatter prongs) and type G (UK style with 3 square prongs). You will need to bring a plug adapter, and/or converter depending on which electrical appliances you bring with you.
MOBILES & INTERNET COMMUNICATION
Sri Lanka has a good communications infrastructure. A number of cellphone/mobile phone providers offer national coverage and there are well-established landline phone networks. In populated urban areas, there should be good mobile signal but as we head into rural areas, signal may fluctuate and be patchy. It may be better to purchase a local SIM card; your guide can help with this. Internet and Wi-Fi are easily accessible in most urban areas and most hotels and restaurants provide free WIFI. Please check data roaming charges for Sri Lanka with your service provider before leaving home as these can quickly become very expensive. Please note, there will be no internet access on boats nor at remote homestay locations.
The currency of Sri Lanka is the Sri Lankan Rupee Rs (LAK). It is still mostly a cash-based society, but credit cards are accepted at mid-high range establishments. The currency is restricted, and it is only possible to exchange your money for Sri Lankan Rupees once in Sri Lanka.
ATMs are available in cities, but not so in smaller villages, and they will not accept all cards. Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted credit cards however many places do not accept cards such as Diners Club or American Express. If you intend to use any of your debit or credit cards whilst away, please make sure that you contact your bank before you leave to inform them that you will be travelling in order not to cause any problems using your cards or whilst on the trip. Travellers cheques are not normally accepted.
Sri Lanka is still relatively inexpensive for most western travellers, though as always, prices can be higher in tourist destinations.
• Bank Opening
Banks in Sri Lanka are usually open 8.30am – 3pm Monday to Friday.
After feedback from previous guests, we offer a group tipping package for this tour. Look out for more information in your pre-tour emails.
If you are looking for a taste of Sri Lanka, you should try rice and curry. Steamed rice and spicy curries are the staple diet of most Sri Lankans. Be warned, the term ‘hot’ when describing a curry is definitely not an understatement and can be challenging to a first timer’s palate! Just about anything can be curried. Be it fish, meat or vegetables can be cooked in coconut milk and seasoned with chilies, pepper, onions, cinnamon cardamom, garlic and turmeric. Being in a tropical country, juicy fruits are a delight. You can try pineapple, guava, mangoes, wood apples, bananas, watermelons and seasonal fruits such as rambutan, durian and mangostine. Alcoholic drinks are readily available at public bars, restaurants, wine shops, stores and supermarkets. However, the sale of liquor is prohibited on Poya Days (full moon day), which are of religious importance to Buddhists. All hotel restaurants and bars observe this rule too.
Some meals are included as part of your tour – please check your individual departure for the relevant meal inclusions.
The tap water in Sri Lanka is not safe to drink. Use bottled or filtered water instead. Please check that bottled water has a small round ‘SLSI’ logo on the label. This shows the water has been tested by the government’s Sri Lanka Standards Institution. Bottled water can be bought at supermarkets, kiosks and many shops.
Sri Lanka offers lots for visitors to buy. Amongst spices, vanilla and lots of local handicrafts, it is a good place to pick up gems and jewellery as well as Batik print materials.
• Opening Hours
In the cities and towns, most retail shops are open from 10am – 8pm Monday–Friday. Most shops are open on Saturday mornings, though may vary locally. Some shops are open on Sundays.
• VAT/Tax Refund:
Numerous shops in Sri Lanka offer a VAT refund when leaving the country. Please ask the salesperson whether tax-free shopping applies to the shop in question.
SAFETY & SECURITY
Whereas major crime levels in Sri Lanka are low, there’s a risk of petty theft, particularly in airports in popular tourist attractions and on public transport. Please take sensible precautions to protect your belongings, particularly your passport, money and credit cards. Credit card fraud is common – please take care if paying by card. Use cash wherever possible and only use ATMs attached to banks or major hotels.
As is widely known, Sri Lanka was sadly the target of a number of terrorist attacks earlier this year. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. However, security has been increased across the island following the April 2019 attacks, but the State of Emergency has since been lifted. Nevertheless, increased security measures including checkpoints are likely to be in place for events attracting large crowds, such as festivals and other cultural events. Political rallies may turn violent and it is best to avoid them.
When in large crowds or major tourist destinations, you should remain vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities.
Western women often report incidents of verbal and physical harassment by groups of men, happening most frequently happen in crowded areas. Please be aware that landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) were a significant problem for many years. Much of the countryside, and especially tourist areas, have now been cleared of landmines with a portion remaining in more remote areas. Nevertheless, we strongly recommend sticking to well-marked paths.
Smoking is banned in most indoor public places, but there are usually designated outdoor areas where people can smoke and in hotels with over 30 rooms. Smoking is prohibited on all means of public transport.
Sri Lanka is multi-cultural society. Buddhists comprise over 70% of the population. Hinduism is common in the north of the country, closer to India. Arab traders have brought Islam to the island and Christianity also exists through western colonizers and traders.
Sri Lanka offers photo opportunities one after another. You will return with many photos that can never be repeated. Remember to pack your camera, along with the charger, spare batteries and a spare memory card! Kindly remember that in Sri Lanka, Buddhism is a living religion and most ancient monuments are still venerated. Photography or filming should not be done in a manner causing any disrespect to the shrines, images or monuments. Posing for photographs and videos directly in front of the statues and paintings is prohibited.
ARRIVAL IN SRI LANKA
Please note, standard hotel check-in is around 3pm, so should you arrive earlier than this, your room may not be available upon arrival. For those arriving early morning, we will do everything we can to work with the hotel to get you an earlier check-in subject to availability.
TOUR HOTEL INFORMATION
Please check your tour paperwork for hotel information attaining to your tour departure.
OTHER COUNTRIES ON TOUR ITINERARY
For those continuing their stay in India or other Asian countries, please check the relevant Travel Tip pages for information on these countries.
FLYING & TRAVEL HINTS
• Photocopy the personal information pages of your passport; leave one copy at home with a friend or family member, and take a copy with you, but pack it separately from the passport itself.
• It is advisable to carry all your travel documentation as well as valuables and essential items in your hand luggage, such as camera, toiletries, reading material etc.
• Duty-Free shopping is always tempting, but please check the current Duty-Free limits applicable in the country of your destination.
• Longer flights can be made a little more enjoyable by wearing loose clothing and good, comfortable shoes. Walking in the aisles regularly, eating sensibly and drinking plenty of fluids (not alcohol) is also advised.
• Where possible, try to get some sleep during the flight and upon arrival at your destination, most people adjust better to the local time if they wait until the evening before sleeping – this should relieve some of the effects of jet lag.
If you have any other questions that we have not covered here; then please send us an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note, the above information is provided as a guideline only. Although every effort has been made to provide complete and accurate information, The Big Journey Company makes no warranties, express or implied, or representations as to the accuracy of content on this website. The Big Journey Company assumes no liability or responsibility for any error or omissions in the information contained in the website.
Updated November 2019