When to go?
Sri Lanka is a round-the-year destination. the best time to visit the island is from November to April. The Southwestern coastal area (where most of the beach resorts are located.) gets the monsoon rains from the end of May to October. The central highlands are pleasantly cool and relatively dry from January to April. The peak season is mid December to mid January and March-April during Easter.
Most travelers will return home having experienced no problems apart from travelers diarrhea. Health facilities are good in the main cities. Most hotels will arrange a local doctor in an emergency.
Visitors from most countries with a valid passport are issued with free entry visa for 30 days, on arrival. You may apply for an extension by paying a fee; the maximum stay is 6 months. You will need to have an onward or return air ticket, and sufficient foreign exchange (about US$20 a day).
What to wear
Cotton clothes are useful at any time of the year but you will need woolens for the hills and certainly waterproof clothing. Take some long sleeve lightweight cotton shirts and trousers for evening (preferably in pale colors) as they protect against mosquitoes. Modest dress for women is very advisable especially off the beach and certainly when visiting religious sites. Don't forget comfortable shoes, sandals or trainers and cotton socks; also take a sun hat and sunglasses. If you planning to trek and climb go prepared with suitable gear. Water sports enthusiasts would do well to take their snorkels and diving equipment along.
What will it cost?
Most food, accommodation and public transport especially rail and bus are very cheap compared to the west. There is a widening range of inexpensive but clean places to stay and eat at. Budget travelers (sharing a room) and using buses and trains to visits sites can expect to spend about Rs850/=-950/= (about US$ 14-15) a day to cover accommodation food and travel. Those sharing a double room in fairly comfortable hotels and hireling a car or a taxi for travailing should budget for around Rs. 3,000/= (US$50) a day.
Sri Lankan currency is Rupee (Rs.) It is not possible to purchase these before you leave home so it is best to get some local currency from the airport bank when you arrive. Shops and hotel in town accept most major credit cards although it can some time be more expensive than paying cash. It is fairly easy to get cash using a visa or MasterCard at and authorized bank and to cash dollar and sterling travelers, cheques issued by a well-known company.
Usually all visitors to Sri Lanka travel by air. Flights arrive at the Bandaranayake International Airport, 35 km north of Colombo, and 6 km of Negombo. A number of tour operators from UK and some West European cities offer good value package holydays between October and April.
GMT +6 hrs (altered for power saving)
Heat and humidity
Even in December - January daytime temperatures can be high and after a long flight it can be very trying.
You may sometimes be overwhelmed by crowds of people in public places (railway stations, markets, bus stands, temples or simply busy streets). "Touts" and hawkers may jostle and push and clamour to show you a hotel and sell you things. Taxis and three - wheelers are often there when you don't want them, much less when you do. It is best to remain calm and accept this as a part of south Asian life.
In general the threats to personal security for travelers in Sri Lanka are remarkably small. However, both men and women traveling alone have occasionally reported harassment so it is more pleasant to travel with a companion. The far North and most of the East of Sri Lanka have been subject to political violence and civil war and are not accessible to visitors. The rest of the island is still a very safe place to visit. Thefts do sometimes occur. It is essential to take good care of personal valuables when you are carrying them, and when you have to leave them anywhere. It is best to keep your passport, TCs and valuables with you at all times. as many hotels don't accept liability for valuables left in safe deposit boxes. Keep a record of vital documents (e.g. passport details, TC number). If you have anything stolen, report it to the police as soon as possible.
Compared with many other countries it is relatively easy and safe for women to travel around Sri Lanka, even on their own, though most people find it an advantage to travel with at least one companion. On the beaches and tourist centers, some women have experienced harassment form local men. By taking some simple precautions you can avoid both personal harassment and giving offence.
Where To Stay
Sri Lanka has a wide range of accommodation in the popular beach resorts though the choice diminishes as you move to less popular beaches and inland towns. You will find luxurious 5-star resort hotels in superb beach locations or clean, comfortable and safe mid-price hotels and family guest houses which are excellent value, or very cheap simple rooms if you are traveling on a shoe string or aim to stay several weeks.
In the peak season (mid-January and during Easter) bookings can be heavy so it is best to reserve accommodation well in advance, which you can do by fax either from abroad or in Sri Lanka itself. However, and always try to arrive as possible in the day, or your reservation may be cancelled.
Food And Drink
Most visitors are surprised - and often delighted - at the enormous variety of delicious food available in Colombo, the beach resorts and the hill stations. You can usually choose freshly prepared seafood delicacies along the cost and traditional Sri Lankan And Indian dishes as well as Continental, Chinese and sometimes even Thai and Japanese options. Rice and curry are the staple main course, while hoppers, String hoppers are Sri Lankan specialties. The desserts, often made from rice and coconut, can be excessively sweet, though local palm treacle ladled over fresh buffalo milk curd can be quite delicious.
Please note: Vegetarian food is much less common in Sri Lanka than in India and can be difficult to get in places.
A wide variety of delicious tropical fruit grows throughout the year, pineapple, papaya and banana being particularly good.
Sri Lankan tea is prepared as in the West and coffee too. There are a huge variety of bottled soft drinks, including well-known international brands. These are perfectly safe but always check the seal and never add ice cubes. Tender coconut 'milk' is a safe and refreshing option.
Local beer and spirits are widely available though imported wines are very expensive. Please note: Alcohol is not sold on Poya (full-moon day of the month) days but you can usually place your drinks order in a hotel on the previous day!
Drinking water used to be regarded as one of Sri lanka's biggest hazards. Water from the taps or wells should never be regarded as safe to drink. Bottled 'mineral water' is now widely available although not all bottled water is mineral water, it may be simply purified water from an urban supply.
Chartered aircraft and helicopters may fly some routes (contact Thomas cook, Lion air or Keels) but in early 1998 few were on offer.
Trains offer a unique experience, and are often an excellent and cheap way of traveling longer distances. The special Intercity Expresses are fast and comfortable. The hill country can be spectacular and the rout to Kandy is particularly scenic.
Roads offer the only way of reaching many sites of interest on the island. State and private buses reach most places you want to visit and very cheap. Car hire with a driver can be an ideal option, and is reasonably affordable when shared by 3 or 4 people.
This is fairly rare in Sri Lanka when compared to the west
Local Government buses are very cheap and equally uncomfortable. Three-wheelers are not metered so you need to fix a price in advance. Metered, air-conditioned radio-cabs are very efficient, comfortable and reliable, but only operate in Colombo, Kandy and the International airport.
Sinhala, Tamil and English are the official languages. English is widely used, especially in places visited by tourists.
Card Pay phones are the best option for local calls. For international calls it is quicker to go to one of the agency post offices, instead of waiting at a post office. Some countries are accessible on IDD from a Card Pay-phone. You can use IDD facilities from most hotels too.