Sri Lanka is directly accessible by all major carriers from their closest hubs. The National Carrier SriLankan operates to all major cities in Europe, Far East and the Middle East. The national carrier also offers easy accesses on its services for travel originating in any point in the United States, Canada , Australasia and South America on code sharing flights via transit points London, Zurich and Paris in Europe, Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo.
Please be advised that Sri Lanka has introduced an online visa system for all travellers arriving in Sri Lanka from January 1, 2012.
Sri Lanka has introduced a compulsory online visa system for all travellers arriving in Sri Lanka from January 1, 2012. Visitors must apply for the Electronic Travel Authorization via www.eta.gov.lk established in the Department of Immigration and Emigration. There is a small fee for the visa. Children under 12 need a visa but it will be free of charge. Foreign nationals from the Maldives and Singapore are also entitled to a free visa.
Beware of breaking the 20kg baggage limit (plus one piece of hand luggage). Additional charges may be levied, or equipment left behind. Requests for a higher limit can be made on your behalf, but success is not guaranteed.
You are strongly advised to contact your own GP or vaccination centre in respect of required vaccinations for Sri Lanka. Check on recommended innoculations as least a month before travel. Malaria tablets, plus innoculations for tetanus, typhoid, hepatitis A and polio are all recommended. Top hotels can advise on reputable local doctors, or private hospitals in the event of serious illness. In case of diarrhoea, pack body-salt replenishment powder, such as Dioralyte, as well as Immodium or a similar product. Malaria tablets are also advised if visiting areas in the east or far north. Among the items you might pack are: suncreams (factor 12 and above), insect repellent, sting relief cream, antiseptic cream, a lightweight hat and sunglasses. The HIV rate is rising throughout Asia, so if you might be sexually active, pack condoms and practice safe sex. Discourage any trishaw drivers or hawkers who act on behalf of any illegal prostitution racket.
Sri Lanka’s genuine hospitality to tourists is renowned and the British are as popular as at any time since the country won independence in 1948. Take care to avoid religious offence, however. In particular, respect the Buddhist faith: do not touch a holy man, do not pose for photographs on religious statues and remove shoes and socks when entering temples. We recommend that you are informed as possible about the island before you arrive and try to learn some local language, read about the religion and culture and learn about local rules and values. Be sensitive to cultural difference. Note that patience, friendliness and courtesy are highly valued virtues that will win you the respect and confidence of many people.
Pack for heat and humidity. Long-sleeve shirts might be advisable after dusk because of mosquitoes. Daytime coastal temperatures generally range from 27-32C, slightly cooler in the hill country, especially Nuwara Eliya, where a light sweater is frequently required at night.
Topless sunbathing is officially illegal. The use of bikinis is generally considered acceptable while on the beach. When swimming inland, in rivers or lakes, ask for local advice regarding swimwear as covering with a sarong may be necessary. Away from the beach, be aware that dress standards are comparatively conservative and it is respectful to wear loose, long and lightweight clothing. Shorts should always be knee-length. Be especially careful about modest dress when visiting religious sites.
Credit cards are widely accepted and there are ATM machines in major centres. Scottish and Northern Irish notes are NOT accepted. Travellers cheques are still widely used, but not as direct transactions. Sterling, Euros and US dollars are all equally advisable. Guard your tc’s and money carefully, use hotel safes where possible, and do not flaunt unnecessarily large amounts of money, as casual thieving can occur. The bank booths in the airport arrivals hall generally offer the most competitive rates and quick service. Beware credit-cards fraud whenever you pay direct. Red Dot offers a strict anti-fraud policy for your maximum protection. Sri Lanka remains one of the safest tourist destinations to walk around at night.
Bartering over the price of goods is widely expected for a variety of transactions, including the hire of trishaws and the purchase of handicrafts. Note though that not all sellers will quote you a price that is inflated and that therefore requires bargaining. Modern shops, for instance, have adopted Western habits where bartering is not welcomed. We recommend you try to ascertain the guide prices for goods or services before purchasing. Remember that a small and inconsequential saving for you could be an extremely important amount to the seller. Bargaining is best carried out in a light-hearted and courteous manner. Aggressive haggling will offend the seller and ultimately increase the price. If you make a purchase, beware extra import costs for tax, handling charges, customs, and delivery fees. In Australia, for example, fumigation certificates may also prove a problem. Red Dot makes no official recommendations about casual shopping.
Predominantly, but not exclusively, based around the top hotels, which offer nightclubs, a range of restaurants, bookshops, bars, sports facilities ranging from swimming pools to floodlit tennis courts, health clubs, as well as traditional Sri Lankan entertainment. But do not automatically limit yourself to the hotel – in Colombo especially, and in other major tourist areas, there are smaller, independent alternatives. The beaches are some of the finest in the world, but when swimming consider dangerous currents and cleanliness.
Casinos are sanctioned for tourists, primarily in Colombo, and English race meetings are avidly followed in tiny bookmaking shacks. Sri Lanka also offers game parks, activity holidays, bird-watching sanctuaries, hill-walking and outstanding historical and religious sites. Shopping: consider gems, spices, clothing, including linen and batiks, art galleries and hand-made carvings. Check our online Colombo guide for entertainment in the capital.