SRI LANKA TRAVEL GUIDE
Sri Lanka has more than 2,550 years of continuous written history by means of the Mahawansha and was also mentioned in several ancient Indian texts. One of the most famous is the Ramayana, in which the island, which was referred to as Lanka, was the island fortress of the king Ravana. And over many centuries Sri Lanka has had many names.
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island country in South Asia, located in the Indian Ocean southwest of the Bay of Bengal and southeast of the Arabian Sea. It is geographically separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait.
Sri Lanka has always epitomised the exotic – a place where the earth opens up to yield a precious bounty of 'pigeon blood' rubies and bright green emeralds, of yellow and blue sapphires as big as rocks and sloping tiers of rubber, tea, coffee and spice plantations on hillsides. Although tiny, Sri Lanka is one of the world’s major tourist destinations, with enough spice gardens, temples, elephants and tea plantations to hold its own against the rest of the Far East.
SRI LANKA QUICK FACTS
Capital: Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte, but Colombo is the commercial capital
Currency: Sri Lankan rupee (LKR)
Area: 65,610 km²
Population: 21,67 million (2018)
Language: Sinhala , Tamil , English (Official)
Religion: Buddhist 70%, Hindu 15%, Christian 8%, Muslim 8%
Electricity: 230V, 50Hz British G type plug most common + fewer (older) installations of D (round pin plug used in India).
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SRI LANKA PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
- 4 February, Independence Day (banks also)
- 13–14 April, Tamil and Sinhala New Year
- 1 May, May Day (banks also)
- 22 May, Proclamation of the Republic Day (1972)
Any of the above public holidays that falls on a Saturday is observed on the preceding work day; any that falls on a Sunday is observed on the following work day. The full moon day (Poya Day) of each month is a holiday in Sri Lanka.
FESTIVALS IN SRI LANKA
BEST TIME TO VISIT SRI LANKA
Sri Lanka has two main seasons: the wet monsoon season and the dry season.
- The monsoon season is from May to September and is characterized by heavy rainfall and high humidity. The southwestern coast and the hill country tend to experience the heaviest rainfall. This season is also known as the "Green Season" as the island becomes lush and green.
- The dry season is from December to March, and is characterized by warm and sunny weather with low humidity. This is the peak tourist season as the weather is ideal for beach and outdoor activities.
The two months of April and October are considered as "shoulder" seasons, in which the weather is more unpredictable, with occasional showers, but still good to visit.
The best time to visit Sri Lanka depends on your preferences and what you would like to see and do during your trip.
- If you are interested in visiting the beaches and experiencing the tropical climate, the best time to visit would be from December to March. This is the dry season and temperatures are typically warm and pleasant.
- If you are interested in experiencing the monsoon season and seeing the lush greenery and waterfalls, the best time to visit would be from May to September.
- However, if you are interested in visiting the ancient cities and cultural sites, such as the Sigiriya Rock Fortress and the Temple of the Tooth Relic, the best time to visit would be during the shoulder season (April-May, September-October), as the monsoon season can make it harder to explore these sites.
Please note that Sri Lanka is a tropical island nation and weather can be unpredictable. It is best to check the weather forecast and plan your trip accordingly.
SRI LANKA WEATHER SYNOPSIS
Sri Lanka is hot and humid with significant variation in climate over time and space. This variation is reinforced by the country’s topography, which creates its unique rainfall pattern. The average annual rainfall in Sri Lanka varies from less than 1000 mm in the semi-arid area of the northwest and southeast of the island to above 5000 mm on the southwestern slopes of the central hills. The country has four major rainfall seasons. The southwest monsoon period (May to September) accounts for up to 55% of the annual precipitation and often exceeds 3000 mm of rain. The inter-monsoon period (October to November) follows the southwest monsoon and contributes over 500 mm of rain in many places. The northeast monsoon period (December to February) contributes about 200 mm to 1200 mm of rain. The inter-monsoon period (March to April) follows the northeast monsoon. Based on precipitation patterns, Sri Lanka is divided into three zones: the wet zone, intermediate zone, and dry zone. The wet zone receives a mean annual rainfall of over 2500 mm, the dry zone receives less than 1750 mm, and the intermediate zone receives between 1750 mm and 2500 mm. Little or no seasonal annual variation of temperature is experienced in Sri Lanka, with mean annual temperature in coastal areas ranging from 26ºC to 28ºC. At higher altitudes, above 1500 m, temperature ranges between 15ºC and 19ºC.
SRI LANKA TOURIST SEASONS
Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists.
Off Peak Season
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
SNOW SPORT IN SRI LANKA
HIKING & CYCLING IN SRI LANKA
There are plenty of incredible hiking opportunities in Sri Lanka, but you need to understand that the weather varies across the country! The Southwestern monsoon brings rain to the Southwest from May to September, with the dry season in this region being from December to March. The Northeastern coastal regions of the country are influenced by the Northeastern monsoon, which brings wind and rain from October to January, with drier weather from May to September.
BEACH OPTIONS IN SRI LANKA
Sri Lanka has some stunning idyllic beaches, but you need to understand that the weather varies across the country! The Southwestern monsoon brings rain to the Southwest from May to September, with the dry season in this region being from December to March. The Northeastern coastal regions of the country are influenced by the Northeastern monsoon, which brings wind and rain from October to January, with drier weather from May to September.
SURFING IN SRI LANKA
Sri Lanka has some fun waves for surfing with the consistent offshore winds during monsoon season. The best surf season on the Southwest is from November to March (check out Hikkaduwa), while the best surf season on the East coast is from May to September (check out Arugam Bay).
KITESURF IN SRI LANKA
Sri Lanka has two windy seasons suitable to kite and windsurfing. The best time to kitesurf is from mid May to the end of September, as the winds are most consistent. December until early March also has good winds, although less consistent.
For more details on kite surfing in Sri Lanka expand this section!
HEALTH RISKS IN SRI LANKA
Be aware of possible health risks in
Yellow fever - The yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America. The virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no medicine to treat or cure an infection. To prevent getting sick from yellow fever, use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and get vaccinated.
Zika Virus - Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
Malaria - Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can usually be prevented.
Dengue - Dengue is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe.
SRI LANKA TRAVEL COSTS
The cost of traveling to Sri Lanka can vary depending on your travel style, the time of year you visit, and the activities you plan to do.
- Accommodation: You can find a range of accommodation options in Sri Lanka, from budget-friendly guesthouses and hostels to luxury resorts. Prices start from around $5-10 for a basic guesthouse, $20-25 per night for a budget-friendly guesthouse or hostel, $50-100 per night for a mid-range hotel, and $150-200 or more per night for a luxury resort.
- Food: Food in Sri Lanka is relatively cheap and you can find a meal for around $2-5 at local restaurants, and even less at street food vendors. However, if you prefer to eat at more upscale restaurants, prices can be higher.
- Transportation: Sri Lanka has a well-developed bus and train system, which is a cheap way to get around the country. Prices vary depending on the distance and type of transportation. A train ride from Colombo to Kandy, for example, can cost around $5-10. If you prefer to rent a car or hire a driver, prices will be higher. Sample prices include $0.50-2 for a bus or train ride within a city, $5-10 for a train ride between cities, $25-50 per day to rent a car, and $30-50 per day to hire a driver.
- Activities: Entrance fees to national parks and cultural sites vary, but are typically around $10-25 per person.
- Visa fees: $35 for a 30-day tourist visa, $50 for a 60-day tourist visa.
Overall, it's possible to travel to Sri Lanka on a budget of around $30-40 per day, but if you are looking for a more comfortable and luxurious experience, you can expect to spend more.
Keep in mind that costs can vary depending on the time of year, with prices generally higher during peak tourist season (December to March) and lower during the monsoon season (May to September).
SRI LANKA TRAVEL TIPS
Here are some travel tips for your trip to Sri Lanka:
- Plan ahead: Sri Lanka is a popular tourist destination, so it's a good idea to plan ahead and book accommodation, transportation, and activities in advance to avoid disappointment.
- Pack appropriate clothing: Sri Lanka is a tropical country, so pack lightweight and breathable clothing. If you plan to visit temples or other cultural sites, it's important to dress modestly, so pack long pants or skirts and cover your shoulders.
- Be prepared for the weather: Sri Lanka has a tropical climate and it can be hot and humid, especially during the dry season. Be sure to pack sunscreen, a hat, and a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated.
- Respect the local culture: Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist country and it's important to be respectful of local customs and traditions. Be mindful of your behavior and dress when visiting temples and other cultural sites.
- Be aware of the risks: like any travel destination, Sri Lanka has its own set of risks, such as traffic, petty crime, and health hazards. Be aware of your surroundings, take precautions to protect yourself and your belongings, and be prepared for any emergency situation.
- Be prepared for the currency change: The local currency is Sri Lankan Rupee. It's a good idea to have some local currency on hand for small purchases, but many places also accept US dollars or Euros.
- Learn some basic words in Sinhalese: Sinhalese is the official language of Sri Lanka, and while many people speak English, it's always appreciated to learn a few basic words in the local language.
- Try the local food: Sri Lanka has a rich and diverse cuisine, with a mix of Indian, Dutch, and British influences. Be sure to try some of the local specialties such as Kottu, Curry, and Hopper.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF SRI LANKA
Sri Lanka is a small island nation with a diverse landscape that includes lush tropical forests, pristine beaches, rolling hills, and ancient cultural sites. Here are some of the main regions of Sri Lanka and the highlights of each region:
- Colombo: The capital city of Colombo is a bustling metropolis with a mix of modern skyscrapers and colonial-era buildings. Highlights include the Gangaramaya Temple, the Colombo National Museum, and the Independence Square.
- Kandy: Kandy is the cultural capital of Sri Lanka and is home to the Temple of the Tooth Relic, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other highlights include the Royal Botanic Gardens, the Kandy Lake, and the Peradeniya University.
- The Hill Country: The Hill Country region is known for its tea plantations, scenic train rides, and cool mountain climate. Highlights include the towns of Nuwara Eliya, Ella, and Haputale, as well as the Horton Plains National Park.
- The Cultural Triangle: The Cultural Triangle region is home to some of Sri Lanka's most important ancient cities and cultural sites, including the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, and the sacred city of Kandy.
- The South Coast: The South Coast region is known for its beautiful beaches and marine life. Highlights include the towns of Unawatuna, Mirissa, and Galle, as well as the Yala and Udawalawe National Parks.
- The East Coast: The East Coast region is known for its beaches and wildlife as well as the traditional fishing villages. Highlights include the towns of Trincomalee, Nilaveli, and Pasikudah.
- The North: The North region is known for its rich cultural heritage, ancient temples, and traditional way of life. Highlights include the Jaffna peninsula, the ancient city of Anuradhapura, and the Wilpattu National Park.
- The West: The West region is known for its beautiful beaches and wildlife, as well as the ancient city of Colombo. Highlights include the towns of Negombo and Bentota, and the Sinharaja Forest Reserve.
Keep in mind that Sri Lanka is small island and all these regions are easily accessible by car or by train, so it's possible to visit several of them during your trip.
Here are some of the best things to see and do when visiting Sri Lanka:
- Visit the ancient cities and cultural sites: Sri Lanka is home to a number of important ancient cities and cultural sites, including the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, the Temple of the Tooth Relic, the ancient city of Polonnaruwa and the sacred city of Kandy.
- Explore the national parks: Sri Lanka is home to a number of national parks that offer the opportunity to see a wide range of wildlife, including elephants, leopards, and a variety of bird species. Some popular national parks include Yala, Udawalawe, and Wilpattu.
- Visit the beaches: Sri Lanka is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, with crystal-clear waters and white sandy shores. Some popular beaches include Unawatuna, Mirissa, Nilaveli, Pasikudah and Trincomalee.
- Take a train ride: Sri Lanka has a well-developed train system that offers scenic routes through the country's beautiful hills and tea plantations. One of the most popular train rides is from Kandy to Ella.
- Take a safari: Sri Lanka is home to a number of national parks and wildlife reserves that offer the opportunity to go on safari and see a wide range of wildlife, including elephants, leopards, and a variety of bird species.
- Go on a Whale and Dolphin watching tour: Sri Lanka is a great place to see the Blue Whale, Sperm Whale, Bryde's Whale and the common Dolphin. They can be seen all year round, but the best time to see them is from November to April.
- Visit the tea plantation: Sri Lanka is one of the world's largest tea producers and a visit to a tea plantation is a great way to learn about the country's tea industry and sample some of the local teas.
- Try the local food: Sri Lanka has a rich and diverse cuisine, with a mix of Indian, Dutch, and British influences. Be sure to try some of the local specialties such as Kottu, Curry, and Hopper.
- Visit the Buddhist temples: Sri Lanka is a Buddhist majority country and there are many temples spread throughout the island. Some of the most notable ones are the Temple of the Tooth Relic, the Gangaramaya Temple and the Kelaniya Temple.
- Surfing: Sri Lanka is known for its great surf spots with consistent waves all year round, such as Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna, and Weligama.
WHAT TO EAT IN SRI LANKA
Sri Lanka has a rich and diverse cuisine that offers a wide range of delicious dishes to try. Here are some popular traditional Sri Lankan dishes that you should try when visiting the country:
- Curry: Sri Lanka is famous for its curries, which are typically made with a mix of spices and coconut milk. Some popular types of curry include chicken curry, fish curry, and dhal curry.
- Rice and curry: This is a traditional meal in Sri Lanka, which typically consists of steamed rice and several different curries and side dishes. This meal is often served on a banana leaf.
- Kottu: Kottu is a popular street food dish made with chopped roti (a type of flatbread) and vegetables, and sometimes meat, that is stir-fried with spices. It's a hearty and flavorful dish that's perfect for a quick lunch or dinner.
- Hopper: Hopper is a type of bowl-shaped pancake made from a fermented batter of rice flour, coconut milk, and spices. It's typically served with a variety of curries and sambals on the side.
- Samosas: Samosas are a popular street food snack, made with a crispy pastry filled with a mixture of vegetables or meat and spices.
- String Hoppers: String hoppers are a traditional Sri Lankan breakfast dish made from steamed rice flour and served with a curry or dhal.
- Lamprais: Lamprais is a traditional Dutch-influenced dish that consists of rice, curry, and a variety of other ingredients such as meat, fish, or vegetables, all wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed.
- Fish ambulthiyal: Fish ambulthiyal is a traditional fish curry made with a unique blend of spices, tamarind and grated coconut.
- Wambatu moju: Wambatu moju is a popular side dish made with eggplant that has been fried and then cooked in a sweet and spicy mixture of spices and coconut.
- Kiribath: Kiribath is a traditional Sri Lankan dish made from milk rice, often served for breakfast or for special occasions like weddings.
There are also many international restaurants in the main cities and tourist areas that serve a variety of cuisines, such as Chinese, Indian, Italian, etc.
LGBTQ IN SRI LANKA
WHERE TO STAY IN SRI LANKA
When visiting Sri Lanka for the first time, it's a good idea to stay in a few different places to get a sense of the country's diverse landscape and culture. Here are some popular destinations and accommodation options for first-time visitors:
- Colombo: Colombo is the capital city of Sri Lanka and a great place to start your trip. Here you can find a wide range of accommodation options, from budget-friendly guesthouses and hostels to luxury resorts.
- Kandy: Kandy is the cultural capital of Sri Lanka and is home to the Temple of the Tooth Relic, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are many hotels, guesthouses, and hostels in the city, as well as some luxury resorts nearby.
- The Hill Country: The Hill Country region is known for its tea plantations, scenic train rides, and cool mountain climate. Some popular towns to stay in include Nuwara Eliya, Ella, and Haputale. There are a variety of accommodation options, from budget-friendly guesthouses to luxury resorts.
- The Cultural Triangle: The Cultural Triangle region is home to some of Sri Lanka's most important ancient cities and cultural sites, including the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, and the sacred city of Kandy. There are a variety of accommodation options, from budget-friendly guesthouses to luxury resorts.
- The South Coast: The South Coast region is known for its beautiful beaches and marine life. Some popular towns to stay in include Unawatuna, Mirissa, and Galle. There are a variety of accommodation options, from budget-friendly guesthouses to luxury resorts.
- The East Coast: The East Coast region is known for its beaches and wildlife as well as the traditional fishing villages. Some popular towns to stay in include Trincomalee, Nilaveli, and Pasikudah. There are a variety of accommodation options, from budget-friendly guesthouses to luxury resorts.
It's also worth noting that depending on the time of year you visit, some areas may be more crowded or have limited availability, so it's a good idea to plan and book your accommodation in advance.
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