Travel to Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Sri Lanka Sri Lanka Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka

Marco Polo described Sri Lanka as the finest island of its size in the world. The tropical island nation has a history dating back to the birth of time.  It is a place where the original soul of Buddhism still flourishes and where nature’s beauty remains abundant and unspoiled.

Colombo and the west coast Sri Lanka’s capital is the island’s front door and the current point of arrival for all visitors to the country. Colombo and the west coast is the most westernized and developed part of Sri Lanka.  The island’s principal coastal resorts form an unbroken 60 miles chain along the west coast. North of Colombo is the popular resort of Negombo, often the starting or ending point of an itineray. Beyond that is the Kalpitiya Peninsula with its pristine beaches well known for dolphin watching.  South of Colombo are many beach resorts catering to all budgets.  Most popular are Kalutara, Beruwala and Bentota.

Anuradhapura  The ruins of Anuradhapura are one of South Asia’s most evocative sights. The sprawling complex contains a rich collection of archaeological and architectural wonders: enormous dagobas (brick stupas), ancient pools and crumbling temples, built during Anuradhapura’s thousand year rule over Sri Lanka. Today, several of the sites remain in use as holy places and temples.

Galle  Gateway to the south is the atmospheric old port of Galle, Sri Lanka’s best-preserved colonial town, and beyond Galle stretch a string of lovely beaches including Unawatuna, Weligama, Mirissa and Tangalla.

Tissamaharama makes a good base from which to visit two of the country’s finest national parks: the birdlife-rich wetlands of Bundala, and Yala, famous for its elephants and leopards.

Kandy  The misty landscape here is dotted with tea plantations and hills which give way to surprisingly rugged and dramatic peaks. The historic city of Kandy was home to Sri Lanka’s last independent kingdom, which survived two centuries of colonial incursions before finally falling to the British in 1815. The cultural legacy of this independent Sinhalese tradition lives on today in the city’s distinctive music, dance and architecture, encapsulated by the Temple of the Tooth, home to the island’s most revered Buddhist relic.  Uda Walawe National Park is home to one of the island’s largest elephant populations.

Nuwara Eliya was once was the favored cool-climate escape for the hard-working English and Scottish pioneers of Sri Lanka’s tea industry.  The verdant surrounding countryside of tea plantations, carefully tended vegetable plots and craggy hills is highly scenic.

Ella is most traveler’s favorite hill country tea village, and a place to relax and enjoy scenic walks to waterfalls and temples.

Hikkaduwa is known for its strong surf and beaches, including palm-dotted Hikkaduwa Beach, lined with restaurants and bars. The shallow waters opposite Hikkaduwa Beach shelter the Hikkaduwa National Park, which is a coral sanctuary and home to marine turtles and exotic fish. Inland, Gangarama Maha Vihara is a Buddhist temple decorated with hand-painted murals.

Few places in the world can offer the traveler such a remarkable combination of stunning landscapes, pristine beaches, captivating cultural heritage and unique experiences within such a compact location.  Within this small island lie 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 900 miles of coastline - much of it pristine beach - 15 national parks showcasing an abundance of wildlife, nearly 500,000 acres of lush tea estates, 250 acres of botanical gardens, 350 waterfalls, and a culture that extends back 2,500 years.

People

The population of Sri Lanka over 21 million and consists of: Sinhalese Buddhists 73.8%, Sri Lankan Muslims 7.2%, Indian Tamil 4.6%, Sri Lankan Tamil 3.9%, other 0.5%, unspecified 10%

Language

Sinalase and Tamil are the official languages of Sri Lanka, but English is widely spoken in the tourist sector.

History

Sri Lanka was once known as Ceylon. The first inhabitants arrived around 500 BC. Buddhism came to Sri Lanka in the mid-third century BC and had a large impact on the culture.

The first great civilization to develop was at the city of Anuradhapura which ruled from 200 BC to 1000 AD. This was followed by Polonnaruwa until 1200.

The island had contact over the years with many civilizations including the Romans and the Arabs. In the 16th century the Portuguese arrived. They made settlements along the coast. The Dutch followed around 100 years later.

In 1796 the British arrived and ousted the Dutch. They made the island the British colony of Ceylon in 1815. The island was under British control until 1948 when Ceylon became an independent nation.
Ceylon began to adopt communism and made ties to the Soviet Union, however in 1972 it adopted a new constitution and became a republic. This was when the name of the country changed to Sri Lanka.

For more than 25 years in the late 20th century and into the 21st, the island nation tore itself apart in a brutal civil war. At the most basic level, the conflict arose from ethnic tension between Sinhalese and Tamil citizens.

Currency

The currency used in Sri Lanka is the rupee (LKR or R).  A convenient currency converter can be found at http://www.xe.com/currencyconverter/

Time Difference

Colombo is 10.5 hours ahead of US Eastern Standard Time and 13.5 hours ahead of US Pacific Standard Time.

Best Time to Travel

The best 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 Lanka’s position close to the Equator means that temperatures remain fairly constant year-round.

Health Requirements

No medications or vaccinations are required for entry to Sri Lanka from US.

Visa Requirements

US citizens are eligible for an e-Tourist Visa obtained prior to arrival if the sole objective of visiting Sri Lanka is for recreation, sightseeing, meeting friends or relatives, and no business purpose or activity.
Current cost is 30usd (subject to change without notice).

The link to the eVisa application is:
https://eta.gov.lk/etaslvisa/etaNavServ?payType=1

Tipping & Porterage

Tipping is appreciated, but not mandatory. Guidelines are:
  Hotel housekeeping staff : Rs. 100 a day
  Hotel porters : Rs.50-100 per piece of luggage
  Barman: Local tourists rarely tip a barman.
  Servers: Rs. 200. A percentage of the bill is not expected.
  Driver/guide: Rs. 500 per day.
  Taxis: There is no tipping culture with local taxis. But you can always round it up to the nearest Rs.150 or Rs.200.
Note: If you visit temples that don’t charge entrance fees a small donation – about Rs 500 - is always welcome.

Credit Cards

Sri Lanka is largely a cash economy and visitors are advised to withdraw Rupee from an ATM on arrival. Visa and Mastercard are accepted at international hotels, American Express less so.  Cash is needed for shopping at markets. ATMs are easily found in major towns. USD are often accepted, but at a poor rate of exchange.

Electrical Appliances

Sri Lanka plug type is D, M or G. Residential voltage is 230 V. Frequency is 50 Hz
For information on plugs and voltage, please visit http://www.worldstandards.eu/electricity/plugs-and-sockets/

Water

Bottled water is recommended, unless tap water has been boiled.


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Sri Lanka

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