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Practical information Sri Lanka

Amy Adejokun
Amy Adejokun Section editor

Sri Lanka : Travel Information before you go!

Area

65600.0

Flights

A direct flight takes 12 and a half hours. Colombo is 5,454 miles from London.

Population

19700000

Airports

Katunayake international airport is just over 21 miles from Colombo. It takes about an hour to get to the town-centre. The taxi fare is about 12. Buses leave the terminal for Colombo at irregular hours, and take around one and a half hours. The airport is highly protected, all buses are checked.

Security

The military conflict between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam officially ended in May 2009. While the country has been more or less at peace since, the last incident occured in mid-June 2014 where violent disturbances caused four deaths and multiple injuries in Aluthgama and Beruwala, both of which are close to tourist resorts. There is no reason to believe that something like this will reoccur although if in any doubt, simply avoid military areas and High Security Zones. As in most parts of the world, there is an underlying threat from terrorism but no immediate danger.
Watch out for snakes and monkeys in the jungle which can inexplicably become aggressive. Around the beaches and tourist sites, beware of people pretending to collect money for charities. Most of them are imposters. Road checks are intensified after 11.00pm. Comply with officials and be polite. You risk being shot at if you do not stop.
Good to know:
Alcohol consumption is authorised except during days of full moon (Poya Day) when alcoholic drinks are neither served nor sold. Possession and consumption of drugs are severely sanctioned.

Languages

Most of the population speaks Sinhalese. About 20 % speak Tamil, mostly in the north of the island.. 10% of the population speak fluent English, which is also widely used in hotels.

Required travel documents for

According to the latest information on the Foreign and Commonwealth Organisation's website, Sri Lanka's visa policy is changing. Visas are now required for trips to Sri Lanka.

British nationals used to be able to receive a 30-day visit visa, free of charge, on arrival. This arrangement has been phased out and replaced with an online visa application process, the Electronic Travel Authority (ETA), to enable foreign nationals to obtain short stay visas to Sri Lanka. This facility was introduced on 1 October 2011 on a trial basis and will become fully operational from 1 January 2012. Further details can be obtained from the ETA official website of the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

All other visas, including for those undertaking voluntary activity and paid or unpaid work, should be obtained at a Sri Lankan High Commission or Embassy before you travel.

You must hold a valid passport to enter Sri Lanka. Your passport must be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of exit from Sri Lanka.

Religion

The island is 70 % Buddhist, 20 % Hindu, 5% Muslim and 5% Christian.

Currency

The local currency is the Sri Lankan rupee (LKR). Travellers cheques are accepted and pounds can be exchanged everywhere. Credit cards (Visa, MasterCard and American Express) are accepted in more upmarket establishments. Some banks have a cash machine, mostly those in Colombo and Kandy, and all hotels offer a currency exchange service. Banks are open from 9:00am to 3:00pm, Monday to Friday.

Local transportation

By train:Train and bus lines link Colombo and the other major cities on the island as well as tourist sites. Try to avoid coaches - they are crowded and drive at breakneck speed. The two train lines are really the best way to get around, and travel across fascinating landscapes.
By car:Cars can be practical to visit remote areas of the island. It is a good idea to rent a chauffeur-driven car which is less than 280 per week. Local people drive (on the left) very quickly and roads are constantly filled with cows and dogs. Plan your journey and stopovers with the driver before leaving.
By bus: The inter-city buses travel directly from one town to the other under good (air-conditioned) but risky conditions (they do not respect speed limits).
Types of accomodation:
Several hotels have been built recently and the island now welcomes quite a high number of tourists. Luxury hotels can be found at very competitive rates. For those with tight budgets, rest houses are good: old fashioned and at relatively cheap. In Sri Lanka, it is easy to lodge in a local's home. The proprietors are very caring and it is an excellent opportunity to learn more about the Ceylonese.

Health

No particular vaccine is required before entering Sri Lanka. However, vaccination shots against typhoid and tetanus are recommended. Usual recommendations: drink mineral water, avoid eating ice cubes and raw vegetables, wash your hands frequently. Do not forget to protect yourself from the sun (hats, sunglasses and sunscreen).
Malaria rages in Sri Lanka: it is strongly recommended to take a treatment against malaria and to protect yourself from mosquitoes once in the country.
The dengue virus rages in Sri Lanka, where it is especially endemic in Colombo, and experiences an upsurge during the monsoon season.

Electricity

Voltage is 220-240 V. An adaptor is sometimes needed. Power cuts are common.

Tourist numbers

654,477 tourists visited Sri Lanka in 2010.

Taxes and tips

Tips are absolutely essential on the whole island, from the biggest city to the smallest village. Luggage carriers, waiters and house cleaners expect them as a matter of course. Hotels ands restaurants are taxed at 10%, the tax being included in the bill.

Telephone

Numbers often change and it is difficult to call a local telephone number. It is easier with international numbers. Use card-operated phone booths for international calls and also find small shops called "Agency post office"
To call Sri Lanka from the UK, dial 00 + 94 (country code) + town code (Colombo : 01 ; Kandy : 08 ; Galle : 09 ; Mount Lavinia, Bentota : 034 ; Nuwara Eliya : 052) + the 4, 5 or 6 digit number you are calling.
To call the UK from Sri Lanka, dial 00 44 + the number you are calling without 0.
Preferential call rate in the night from 22:00 and at weekends from Saturday midday and holidays.

Sri Lanka : Useful addresses in the country

Before leaving

High Commission of Sri Lanka
Consulate Section 13 Hyde Park Gardens, London W2 2LU
Tel.: (020) 7262 1841

Open Monday to Friday 9:30am to 1:30pm.

Sri Lankan Tourist Office
3rd Floor 1 Devonshire Square London EC2M 4WD UK
Telephone: 0845 880 6333
www.srilanka.travel/

At the destination

British High Commission in Sri Lanka
389 Bauddhaloka Mawatha Colombo -7
Telephone: (94) (11) 539 0639