Travel Tips for Sri Lanka Traveler

At Ceylon Peregrine we take Customer Support very seriously. In fact, one of our core values states that if our customers are merely satisfied, we haven't done our job. Total customer elation is our goal, and we work tirelessly to ensure that each and every customer is so elated with their experience that they stop conversations to tell others about us.

It’s impossible to take full advantage of a holiday destination, especially to such a richly diverse country as Sri Lanka without knowing some basic facts. So to help you understand what to expect, below are the answers to frequently asked questions by tourists who have booked a holiday in Sri Lanka. What's more, there is a complementary list of tourist information.

This page is your guide to Ceylon Peregrine Customer Support Services. It has been designed so that you may find the answers to most common questions, easily - without ever picking up a phone. Of course, if you need to speak to an agent, free assistance is available.

What Is A Sri Lankan Visa ?

A Sri Lankan visa is an endorsement on a passport or a similar document to facilitate the legal entry of non Sri Lankans into the country and to regulate the period of their stay and the conditions governing such stay.

What Are The Types Of Sri Lankan Visas ?

There are four kinds of visas which permit a person to enter and/or stay in Sri Lanka.

Visit Visa

A Visit Visa is an entry permit signifying the consent of the Sri Lankan Government for the admission of a foreign national to the country. The Visa contains details of the period of time and the condition/s of the stay. There are two sub-categories which come under visit visas – Tourist Visit Visa

A Tourist Visa is issued to bona-fide tourists who want to enter Sri Lanka for sightseeing, excursions, relaxation, visit relatives or yoga training for a short period of time.

Business Visit Visa

A Business Visa is issued to foreign nationals who visit Sri Lanka for business purposes for short periods of time. This visa may be issued for single, double or multiple journeys.

Department Of Immigration and Emigration

Ananda Rajakaruna Mawatha,
Maradana,
Colombo 10.
Tel: +94-11-5329000 / +94-11-5329316/20/21/25
www.immigration.gov.lk

Photo Permits & Entrance Charges

Sri Lanka is a photographer’s delight. However, permits are required before you can take photos at certain sites. Entrance tickets to individual sites are available only from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. These tickets cover charges for photography, recording and parking. Rates are quoted in US Dollars and rupee parities are subject to fluctuation.

Custom Imports

you are allowed to bring into the country duty free 1.5 litres of spirits, two bottles of wine, a quarter-liter of toilet water, and a small quantity of perfume and souvenirs with a value not exceeding US $250. The import of personal equipment such as cameras and laptop computers is allowed but must be declared on arrival. However, personal equipment must be taken out of the country upon the visitor.s departure. The import of non-prescription drugs and pornography of any form is an offence.

Sri Lanka Customs: www.customs.gov.lk

Custom Exports

On leaving the country you are allowed to export up to 10kg of tea duty free.

No antiques antique. defined as anything more than 50-years-old - rare books, palm-leaf manuscripts and anthropological material can be exported without permission from the

Director,
National Archives,
7 Reid Avenue,
Colombo -07.
Tel: +94-11 2694523/ 2696917
www.archives.gov.lk

And the

Director General,
Department of Archaeology,
Sir Marcus Fernando Mw,
Colombo
Tel : +94 11 2692840/1
Tel. +94-11-2694727, +94-11-2667155 ,
www.archives.gov.lk

Purchase and export without licence of any wild animal, bird or reptile, dead or alive . also the export of parts of animals, birds or reptiles, such as skins, horns, scales and feathers is prohibited. Occasional exports are, however, permitted exclusively for bona fide scientific purposes. It is prohibited to export of 450 plant species without special permits. The export of coral, shells or other protected marine products is also strictly prohibited.

Applications for special permission to export fauna should be made to the

Director,
Department of Wildlife Conservation,
382 , New Kandy Road,
Malabe
Tel: +9411 25060380

And flora should be made to the

Director,
Forest Department,
82, Rajamalwatta Road,
Battaramulla,
Tel : + 94 11 28666 16/ 2866632
www.environmentlanka.com

Foreign Currency Regulations

Visitors to Sri Lanka bringing in more than US$10,000 should declare the amount to the Customs on arrival. All unspent rupees converted from foreign currencies can be re-converted to the original currency on departure as long as encashment receipts can be produced.

Health Precautions

The health risks in Sri Lanka are different to those encountered in Europe and North America. Watch out for bowel diseases such as diarrhoea and amoebic dysentery, vector borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, and a variety of fungal infections. Sri Lanka.s physicians, though, many of whom have trained in the West, are particularly experienced in dealing with locally occurring diseases.

When You Are There.....

Stomach Pain

As most stomach pain are due to the unsanitary preparation of food, it is useful to know what to watch out for. Under-cooked fish (especially shellfish) and meat (especially pork and mince) can be hazardous. Salads can be risky unless purified water has been used to wash the various vegetables. Fruit that has already been peeled should be avoided. Be careful of ice cream, in particular the varieties sold by street vendors and served at cheap restaurants. Sometimes there are power outages Sri Lanka, especially away from urban centres, so it pays to be suspicious of all refrigerated foods if you know there has been a recent outage in your area.

Water

Tap water is not safe to drink, and boiling and filtering is sometimes done too hastily in some hotels and restaurants, so the best solution is to drink bottled water. There are now many brands available, mostly using spring water from the highlands of the island. Make sure that the bottle carries an SLS certification and that the seal is broken only in your presence. Beware of ice unless you are satisfied it has not been made from tap water, and remember the tap water you may be tempted to use to rinse out your mouth after brushing your teeth is unsafe. Keep a bottle of water in your bathroom for this purpose.

Sunburn

When you flop onto the beach or poolside lounger for a spot of sunbathing, always remember to apply a sunscreen product with a sun protection factor of at least 15. Remember you are just 600km from the equator: even with sunscreen, your sunbathing should be limited in time. If you don’t.t apply sunscreen you are liable to become so sunburnt that it will be painful to move, your skin will peel, you will have to start afresh to get that tan, and most importantly you put yourself at risk of serious dermatological disease.

Heatstroke

Sometimes those who have spent too long in the sun suffer what is termed heatstroke, the most common form being caused by dehydration. This condition can occur if the body’s heat-regulating mechanism becomes weakened and the body temperature rises to unsafe levels. The symptoms are a high temperature - yet a lack of sweat - a flushed skin, severe headache, and impaired coordination. In addition, the sufferer may become confused. If you think someone has heatstroke, take that person out of the sun, cover their body with a wet sheet or towel, and seek medical advice. To avoid heatstroke, take plenty of bottled water to the beach, or buy a thambili (king coconut) from an itinerant seller.

Prickly Heat

Prickly heat rash occurs when your sweat glands become clogged after being out in the heat for too long or from excessive perspiration. The rash appears as small red bumps or blisters on elbow creases, groin, upper chest or neck. To treat it, take a cold shower, clean the rash with mild soap, dry yourself, apply hydrocortisone cream, and, if possible, a product that contains salicylic acid. Repeat every three hours.

Local Health Care

Minor health problems can always be treated by doctors with practices in the resorts and elsewhere in the country. If you have a more serious problem, Colombo now boasts a selection of modern, well-equipped private hospitals offering the latest in conventional medical and surgical therapies. A growing number of foreigners are taking advantage of affordable, high quality private healthcare in Sri Lanka, and combining it with the chance to take a holiday. Though the medical tourism industry in Sri Lanka is still in its early days, a number of private hospitals in Colombo are geared to provide advanced surgery and other treatment to international clients (link to Medical Tourism article)

Travelers With Special Needs

Travelers with special needs, especially if they visit Sri Lanka without a companion, should note that the country has relatively few facilities for disabled people, although greater awareness and improvements are evolving. There’s no need to worry at Colombo Airport as wheelchairs and assistance in boarding and disembarking are available. Buildings, offices, and banks are becoming better-equipped with wheelchair ramps and suchlike. If you arent travelling with a companion, you’ll find that Sri Lankans will be only too eager to assist.

Sri Lanka's Currency

The local currency is the Sri Lankan Rupee, divided into 100 cents (you rarely come across scents today). Currency notes are Rs.5000, Rs2000, Rs1,000, Rs500, Rs100, Rs50, Rs20 and Rs10. Beware of mistaking the Rs500 note for the somewhat similar Rs100 one. To check whether notes are genuine when not given at a bank, look for a lion watermark. Coins, should you have receive them, will be in denominations up to Rs10.

Make sure you have plenty of lower denomination notes (Rs50, Rs100, Rs500), especially when travelling and you need to buy small items, fruit, and eat cheap meals, because change is often hard to come by apart from at hotels and big shops.

Banks

Banks are open from 0900 hrs to 1300 hours Monday to Friday. Some city banks close at 1500 hrs, while some are open on Saturday mornings. It’s easy to withdraw money across the island at ATMs using international credit cards or debit cards.

Credit Cards

Most hotels, restaurants and shopping centers accept credit cards. Some establishments may try to add a surcharge, which is illegal.

Time Difference

Sri Lanka Standard Time is five and a half hours ahead of GMT. (Allowance should be made for summer-time changes in Europe.)

Electricity

230-240 volts, 50 cycles AC. If you travel with a laptop computer bring a stabilizer.

Language

Sri Lanka has two official languages. Sinhala and Tamil - with English as a link language. Most people have some knowledge of English, and signboards are often in English.

Restrictions

There are some important restrictions that apply to photography regarding Buddhist imagery. When you visit a temple or other religious site, remember that photography should not be carried out in a manner causing disrespect. For instance, it is strictly forbidden to be photographed in front of or beside any statues and murals. Note that flash photography can damage old murals.

When to Visit

Sri Lanka is a round-the-year destination for the visitors who seek for sun and sea the best time to visit the island is from November to April. The Southwestern coastal area, where the most of the beach resorts are located Kalpitiya, located in the western (North Western) coast has been declared a new tourist attraction. Many development projects have also been planned such as hotels and other infrastructure to make the East a new tourist destination in Sri Lanka.

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 with a mini peak season in July and August when festivals and pageants are held through the country.

What to Wear

Cotton clothes are useful at any time of the year but you will need light woollens for the hills and waterproof clothing or an umbrella Modest dress for women is advisable especially off the beach and when visiting religious sites. Don't forget comfortable shoes, sandals or trainers and cotton socks. If you are planning to trek and climb go prepared with suitable gear. Water sports enthusiasts would do well to take their snorkels and diving equipment along.

Public Places

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 do not need them.

Safety

In general the threats to personal security for travelers in Sri Lanka are remarkably small. It is more pleasant to travel with a companion as it is advised not to travel alone especially after dark. The island including the North and East is safe to visit. If you have anything stolen, report it to the tourist Police, (a special tourist police set up to look after the needs of the tourists. Contact tel Number + 94 11 2382209)

Where to Stay

Sri Lanka offers visitors an excellent range of accommodation facilities to suit all budgets from luxury hotels to low budget accommodations. In the peak season (mid-January and during Easter) bookings can be heavy so it is best to reserve accommodation well in advance through Tour operators/ travel agents, booking online and through our travel planner.

Drink

Sri Lankan ‘Ceylon’ tea is prepared as in the West and coffee too. There are a huge variety of bottled soft drinks, including well-known international brands. Thambili (king coconut water) is a safe and refreshing option. Local beer and spirits are widely available. Bottled mineral water is available in 5 star hotels. Please note: Alcohol is not sold on Poya days (full-moon day of the month).

What is the best time of year to visit Sri Lanka ?

Sri Lanka is a year round destination as it is fortunate to have two monsoons that occur in different halves of the island at different times. So if you wish to enjoy the western and southern coastal resorts when the weather is best, come between December and April. However, even during the monsoon, sunny, warm days are common, although afternoon or evening showers can be expected.

Is Sri Lanka safe from Terrorism ?

Up till May 2009, Sri Lanka had a conflict with the LTTE who wanted a separate state for the Tamils in the North and East of the country. A lot was written in the press in the UK as to how dangerous it was to travel to Sri Lanka. It must be remembered that, throughout the conflict, not one single tourist has been injured or killed. As from May 2009, this conflict ended and Sri Lanka is now at peace.

Is it possible to combine a visit to Sri Lanka with the Maldives ?

Yes, this is a popular option for many travelers, who want to experience the diverse settings and unique culture of Sri Lanka, but also would like to experience the world renowned beaches and diving of the Maldives. Flights between Colombo and Male are numerous and take only 1 hour. You can book an itinerary taking in both countries.

What kind of food is available ?

Rice is consumed with curries (eggplant, potato, green banana, chicken and fish) that range from delicately-spiced to near-dynamite. There are also hoppers (a pancake-like snack), string hoppers (steamed rice noodles) and pittu (flour and coconut mixture). Lamprais - rice and accompaniments baked in plantain leaves - is a legacy of the Dutch. Fresh fish, prawns, crab, squid and crayfish are readily available. Desserts include buffalo curd topped with palm-honey, and the caramel-like wattalapam. Tasty snacks known as short eats are excellent for trips.

Delectable fruit includes the popular mango, pineapple, banana and papaya, and also the lesser-known but distinctive examples such as sapodilla, mangos teen, rambutan, wood apple, custard apple and beli. Colombo has an impressive range of restaurants specializing in international cuisine.

Are you contactable easily ?

Yes. We have a Customer Service number which can be found by clicking on the Contacting Us link on the top right of the website’s menu bar. However, Royal Travels operates primarily as an internet company, with the aim to use the benefits offered by IT. Therefore, wherever possible we prefer to communicate by e-mail allowing us to organize ourselves to be much more productive and increase savings which is reflected in our prices. Nevertheless, we do not believing in being impersonal, especially one conversation may kill off the necessity for several emails. So at any time if you would like to speak to one of our travel consultants please let us know and we will contact you at a time convenient to you.

Do I need to make the full payment before I arrive in Sri Lanka ?

Yes, please.

Local agents (Travel agents based in Sri Lanka engaged in Inbound Tourism to Sri Lanka)

On the other hand, the registered travel agents are legally bound to make the full payments, in advance of the arrival of guests, to the hotels. In view of this mutually beneficent arrangement, we are compelled to request our clients to make the full payment on room charges.

Once the full payment on room charges are settled with our agency, we make the necessary payment to the hotel in turn, and our client is guaranteed with hotel room confirmations. The job is done.

Secondly, we being a local travel agent, being on the destination, are geared to extend further assistance, if required, during your holidays in Sri Lanka

We are at your destination. We are well positioned to do still more jobs.

When is my holiday actually confirmed ?

Once you receive our confirmation invoice and made the deposit payment your holiday is confirmed. We will send you additional information on receipt of the deposit.

When and how do I receive my invoice ?

You will receive an invoice each time you make a payment i.e. deposit, full balance, etc. Invoices are sent via email. If you would like them posted to you please let us know and we are happy to do that.

Why do you advise 'book early' ?

During the Peak Season which is during Christmas and New Year it is nearly impossible to find rooms. Therefore we advice all our clients to make bookings at least 4 – 6 months prior to arrival for these particular seasons.

In almost all cases the earlier you book the better rate you will get for your holiday.

Do we have to travel with other holidaymakers or do we get our own vehicle ?

All our holidays are individually catered for – this means you will have your own vehicle and an experienced English speaking driver guide. Therefore, you will not be traveling with any other holidaymakers.

Do we get an emergency contact number while in Sri Lanka ?

Yes – We have a 24/7 emergency mobile number to contact our local representatives. Please, note your driver guide will also be with you during the whole tour.

Who will be meeting us, at the airport in Sri Lanka ?

On arrival you will be met by one of our airport representatives or by your driver/guide. On arrival you will have to look out for your name board (paging board).

Are the hotel rooms Air Conditioned ?

Yes, all holidays that we offer comes with air conditioned (A/C) rooms apart from hotels in Nuwara Eliya and Ella – due to the cool climate in Nuwara Eliya and Ella most hotels do not provide A/C.

Can I get Internet Access ?

Hotels increasingly offer Internet Wi-Fi, and Internet cafes exist in Colombo and many towns, although connection speeds can be slow outside Colombo.

Do we get an Air Conditioned vehicle ?

Yes - all tourist vehicles are air conditioned (except safari jeeps). The vehicle is your own vehicle and could be either a car or a small 7 seater mini coach.

How easy will it be to get lunch on the tour ?

There are restaurants every few miles. However, our diver/guide will take you to the best restaurants catered for tourists in the area. At any time you wish to stop for a break please ask the driver/guide.

Do our belongings stay in the car/transport during the tours ?

If so, does the driver stay with them at all times? Your luggage will be staying in your vehicle when traveling in between hotels. When necessary the driver will remain with the car.

Can I drive my own car in Sri Lanka ?

In general we don’t recommend you drive in Sri Lanka unless you have previous experience driving in this part of the world.

Is English spoken in Sri Lanka ?

Communication is rarely a problem in Sri Lanka as English is widely spoken in most parts of the country including in hotels, restaurants and even by private transport providers. Signboards of locations are generally available displayed in English, Sinhala & Tamil.

How about money & foreign exchange ?

Foreign exchange and traveler’s cheques may be changed at any hotel, although commercial banks offer better rates. Concerting Sri Lankan Rupees back to a selected foreign denomination could be done at the banks at the Airport which is open 24 hours.

Are Credit Cards accepted in Sri Lanka ?

Hotels and popular shops and restaurants accept most international credit cards. ATM’s are available in Colombo and other major cities where cash advances could be obtained using your credit card.

However, it is advisable to inquire if your card is acceptable by the establishments prior to usage of any services.

What time do the Shops open in Sri Lanka ?

Usually, most shops open by 0100 hrs and generally close at 1700 or 1800 hrs. However, most shops are closed on Sundays and on Public Holidays. Insist on obtaining a receipt especially at gem shops.

How about tipping at restaurants for example ?

This is solely at your discretion and is subjective, however it is customary top tip drivers, hotel and restaurant staff if you are satisfied with the service. The average tip is Rs. 300 for housekeeping and up to 10% of your meal bill for restaurant staff.

What are the general guidelines when visiting Cultural sites ?

It is important that gents wear trousers to cover their knees or a “sarong” with a shirt or T-shirt. Ladies should wear decent attire such as a trouser or a skirt to cover the knees and a blouse or t-shirt. It may not be advisable for ladies to wear deep necked or a sleeveless top.

How about keeping / storing valuables at hotels ?

Most hotels provide a safety locker free of charge. We recommend that you use this service to place your valuables. Do not keep any valuables in your hotel room.

Are medical facilities available at Hotels ?

Most hotels will have a premise doctor or available nearby on a “on call basis”. Please contact the hotel reception for assistance. Pharmacies can easily be found in commercial center of most towns.

Do I need Insurance ?

It is your responsibility to ensure that you have adequate travel insurance for the activities that you are doing on your Tour such as white water rafting, elephant rides, game drive etc. All travelers booking with us need to notify us of their insurance arrangements prior to travelling.