Here we have a detailed guest post on 13 things to know before visiting Sri Lanka.
Thanks to Sri Lankan local, Mani Mughal, for this guest post.
What you can find in this post
Sri Lankan Weather
Regardless of generally being a tiny country, the weather conditions in Sri Lanka are fairly complicated as it has always two monsoons. The low season (May-Aug) is known as the Yala monsoon and brings rain to the South and West coast. During this time period, places in the North and the East hold the best weather, but in most cases, the prices are a lot lower during this time. The shoulder season runs from (April-September) and is generally a great time to check out as the climate is not too hot. High season runs from (Dec-March) and is when the southern coastline is the most hectic.
So the bottom line is, the optimum time to visit the west and south coasts and hill country is from December to March, while the best weather on the east coast is from April/May to September.
Sri Lankan VISA Requirements
Before planning a trip to Sri Lanka, ensure that you get your visa. While a few years back you could possibly arrive in Sri Lanka and obtain a visa on appearance, current ETA (Electronic Visa Authorization) becomes necessary.
It’s an easy process. Go to the ETA official website, click “apply”, fill out the form and pay a fee. The permit for entering the country will be sent to your email within 24 hours. Take a screenshot of that email and that’s all. Sri Lanka tourist visa expiry date is one year.
Recently Sri Lanka has announced to offer Free visa for 40 counties (Mostly European, USA, UK, Malaysia, Singapore, etc.). So you may be a lucky one.
I have written a detailed post on visa. Here is the link for the visa process.
Buy a local SIM card
Acquire a local Dialog SIM card. You can use data to call home via Skype or Whatsapp. Data is very handy if you are traveling and want to use Google Maps or simply remain connected with the world. A thousand Sri Lanka rupees Data Package is sufficient for a month in Sri Lanka. To obtain a SIM card, you’ll have to have a photo ID. It can be done right at the airport (there’s a Dialog stand more there), at the official office in Colombo, or in a small stand by the road. The dialog has the best tourist prepaid plans.
To Visit Colombo or not?
Colombo is worth a one day stop. Couple of days maximum. Even though many tourists skip Colombo completely, I believe the capital city, although occupied, filthy, and stressful, may be worth looking at for two purposes: foodstuff and shopping. No other city on the island has such different and energetic food scene as the capital.
Tuk Tuk Scams
Avoid getting into tuk-tuks near touristy locations. That’s where you generally discover that all the materials are “broken”. Move on, turn around the spot and catch a tuk-tuk that’s moving you on the highway. It’s imperative that you move on due to the fact there’s “tuk-tuk mafia” in such places. The driver you stop could easily get in trouble for picking you up if tuk-tuk drivers close to the tourist attraction.
Visit the North
The north and northeast of the country are way much less packed than the southwest. You’ll need to take more time getting there, but the serenity and the lack of tourists are worth it. Jaffna, the city on the northern tip of the country, is one of the most distinctive and fascinating places to check out.
Use a backpack
If you are intending to visit across the island significantly, get a backpack. Unless you are going to rent a car and hire a driver, it’s going to be difficult to hold your baggage from bus to train to take. The roads are considered unsuitable for rolling suitcases. Even when your plan is to stay in a hotel by the beach and take short day-trips from there, it’s comforting to have a small backpack to take all that’s necessary for the day.
To enter Mosques, temples, and Churches, your shoulders and knees ought to be protected. You’ll also need to eliminate your footwear before entering any temple, so wear something similar to Slippers, sandals or Birkenstock which are easy to slip off and on.
Dengue fever is common in Sri Lanka. It’s a mosquito-borne disease. There’s no vaccine, the one thing you can do is stay away from mosquito bites. The majority of the hotels across the island have mosquito nets hanging above beds to safeguard you at night. The nets are frustrating, however, you really should use them for your own protection.
Sri Lanka has a zero-tolerance for tourists with Buddha tattoos. In fact, there have been cases in the past wherein tourists with Buddha tattoos happen to be imprisoned and deported. So If you have Buddha tattoos Make sure you hide it. NEVER EVER show it. One of the pop musicians Akon had also been prohibited entry to Sri Lanka because one of his music videos showcased a Buddha statue beside skimpily clad women. Way back in 2012, three French tourists had been sentenced to 6 months in jail for clicking images of them are kissing a Buddha statue.
Catching a Sri Lankan Train
Absolutely nothing can match up with the experience of riding a slow-moving train through Sri Lanka’s panoramic hill countryside. It is probably not the quickest way, but it’s the most amazing way to travel internally. On the other hand, you are able to travel by buses too, but you’ll not be as comfy as compared to the train since the bus seats in Sri Lanka are extremely small.
Oh, and you should be aware that the train ride from Kandy to Ella is said to be the most beautiful one. Hill Tribe Travels has a post here on catching the train from Ella to Kandy.
Drinking the Water
In Sri Lanka, the local residences typically drinking plain tap water, but you should use bottled water. Even though it remains safe and secure for these people, but it is probably not for you since it could have micro-organisms that your body is unfamiliar with. Don’t take a hazard to health while on a trip and please stay with bottled water.
I have a few foreign friends whom cards refused to work in most of the ATMs in Sri Lanka. They changed Bank and it worked for them. Bank of Ceylon ATM accepts International cards without any issue. I suggest you carry a few US Dollars or Euros to be safe if such a scenario arises. It’s possible to head to a bank to exchange currency in case your card doesn’t work. In Sri Lanka Gold shops also do an exchange. Another significant point to note is that a lot of the banks in Sri Lanka close at 3 pm, which is somewhat early when compared with international standards.
Power Points in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka uses 230V/50Hz and most of the hotels in Sri Lanka, you will find two types of plug sockets – one with round holes (type D / M) and the other with rectangular prongs, which can easily fit UK plugs (type G socket). So It is certainly a smart idea to have a good quality universal adapter so that you don’t wind up damaging your devices.
About the Author
Mani Mughal is 25 years old a muslim travel blogger from Colombo Sri Lanka. He is an electrical engineer by profession. He has written dozens of Sri Lanka travel related post on his blog. You can read his Sri Lanka Travel Blog here.