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Facts

Population

20,278,000

Capital City

Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte

Language

Sinhala

Plug types

Voltage: 230V, Frequency: 50Hz

Religion

Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Christian

Currency

Rupee (LKR) exchange rates

Timezone

UTC +5:30 hours

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  • What to expect

    Visitors to Sri Lanka are invariably struck by the tremendous natural beauty, tropical greenery, rich culture and relaxed warmth with which they are greeted - in contrast to the images portrayed by the international media over Sri Lanka’s turbulent years of civil war. Roads can be busy and cities incredibly crowded - a visit to the Pettah in Colombo or even some regional trading districts can be overwhelming in terms of colour, crowds, noise, smells. However the island’s sparkling natural beauty is rarely far away, and only a short drive beyond Colombo’s bustle you will find vast ocean beaches, jungle-clad hills and emerald rice paddies.

    The country’s religious and cultural diversity also add to the unique atmosphere of Sri Lanka - there are ornate Buddhist monasteries and towering stupas, white-washed cathedrals, and domed mosques echoing the call to prayer, and delightful farm house gardens, grand tea estates, and fine traders’ mansions. Most importantly, there is a palpable sense of optimism and relief at the country’s newfound peace which makes this a fine time to visit.

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Flight times

From Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne

approximately 11 hours

From Perth

approximately 8 hours

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Events

Banks, public offices and some tourist sites will be closed on the holidays listed below. In addition, the full moon day of every month, Poya, is a Buddhist public holiday. On this day practising Buddhists visit a temple, many shops are closed, and alcohol and meat sales are prohibited. As major holidays are set according to the lunar calendar, dates change every year. Please check with our Australia-based Asia specialists for details.

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  • 1 January

    , New Year's Day.

  • January (full moon day)

    , Duruthu Perahera. In Colombo, there is a festival to celebrate Buddha’s first visit to Sri Lanka.

  • 4 February

    , Independence Day. Commemorates Sri Lanka’s independence from British rule in 1948.

  • February (full moon)

    . Navam Perahahera. A parade takes place over two nights in Colombo for this Buddhist festival.

  • February/March (full moon)

    , Maha Shivarathri. A Hindu festival in honour of Lord Shiva and his wife, Parvati.

  • March/April

    , Good Friday.

  • 13-14 April

    , Sri Lankan New Year. This is a big celebration, with parties, feasts and fireworks. Expect some disruption to your travel plans and heavy traffic.

  • 1 May

    , Labour Day

  • May (full moon)

    , Vesak Poya. Buddha’s birthday.

  • July/August

    , Kandy Esala Perahera. This month-long festival revolves around the country’s most important Buddhist shrine, the Temple of the Tooth, and includes daily rituals, processions, and dancing.

  • 25 December

    , Christmas Day. There may be a compulsory dinner at your hotel.

  • Health & Fitness

    Travellers to Sri Lanka should take precautions as they would elsewhere in Asia. Western medical facilities are available in the major cities. In most areas of Sri Lanka, medical facilities are basic. Some of the diseases known to exist in Sri Lanka include hepatitis A and B, typhoid, tuberculosis, Japanese encephalitis, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, rabies and HIV/AIDS. We recommend you take adequate preventative measures to minimise your risk of exposure to these health risks. You should also consult your doctor with regard to malaria risk.

    We are a travel company and we are not qualified to provide detailed medical information appropriate to your individual needs; it is recommended you consult with your local doctor or a specialist travel medical centre for current health information on vaccinations and medicine for your trip at least one month prior to departure.

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  • Visa Information

    An Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) can be applied for either online before you travel or on arrival at Bandaranaike International Airport. Please refer to the following website for more information and for applicationswww.eta.gov.lk (30 USD for a 30 day visa) The application process is simple and a USD 30 fee is charged and payable via credit card. Once this is approved you will be notified by email and the approval notice issued. This should be carried with you and presented on arrival at the immigration counter (although a paper copy may not be necessary as immigration officers can access all ETAs via their computer system). A slightly higher fee of about USD 35 is payable if you apply for your visa on arrival at Colombo’s airport. Forms for on arrival application are carried on most flights into Colombo.

    Note: Sri Lankan visa regulations are subject to change. We strongly advise that you check with the Indian embassy or consulate closest to you in Australia prior to travel. It is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct visa.

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  • Safety and security

    Sri Lanka is generally a safe country with helpful and hospitable people; however petty street crime does occur especially in larger cities like Colombo. In larger cities and crowded areas we recommend you wear as little jewellery as possible and make sure your spending money is kept in a secure place close to your body.

    In larger centres, we recommend you travel by taxi at night rather walk. Taxis usually aren’t metered so you will need to agree to a price first. It is always a good idea to carry a hotel address card, in case you have trouble communicating.

    While on holiday in Sri Lanka, always keep a photocopy of your essential documents i.e. passport, airline tickets, credit cards and traveller’s cheques separate from the originals in a safe place. Most hotels have room-safes or deposit boxes at reception where you can store valuables.

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Reading

 

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  • Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje

    is a fictionalised memoir with elements of magical realism. It focuses on the author's return to his home country of Sri Lanka in the 1970s, weaving tales of his family with Sri Lankan history.

  • A Village in the Jungle by Leonard Wolf

    is a literary novel about his time working as a civil servant in Sri Lanka.

  • Sam’s Story by Elmo Jayawardena

    is a fictional novel focusing on the country's people and how their lives were impacted by civil war. It is told through the eyes of a young illiterate boy.

  • Serendip: My Sri Lankan Kitchen by Peter Kuruvita

    is a journey through the delicious traditional cuisine of Sri Lanka and the role of food in culture and family, by an acclaimed Australian chef with Sri Lankan roots.

  • Reef by Romesh Gunesekera

    is a coming of age love story set in Sri Lanka, covering politics, culture and class.

  • July by Karen Roberts

    is an insightful tale of two neighbours growing up together - one Sinhalese and the other Tamil.

Useful words & phrases - Tamil

  • Hello (or hi)/ goodbye

    Vanakkam/ poytu varukiren

  • Thank you

    Nandri

  • What is your name?

    Ungal peyr en-na?

  • My name is…

    En peyr

  • How much is this?

    Adhu evalavu

  • Where is the...?

    Adhu en-ghe irukaradhu

  • No

    lllay

  • Yes

    Aam

  • Help

    Udavi

  • Sorry

    Mannikavum

 

Useful words & phrases - Sinhala

  • Hello (or hi)/ goodbye

    Aayu bowan

  • Thank you

    lsthu tee

  • What is your name?

    Aayage nama mokka da?

  • My name is…

    Maaghe nama

  • How much is this?

    Ehekka keeyada?

  • Where is the...?

    ...koheda?

  • No

    Naha

  • Yes

    owu

  • Help

    Aaeeyoh/ aaneh

  • Sorry

    Kaana gaatui

  • Getting around

    Arrival and departure transfers

    Arrival transfer: If you have booked an arrival transfer for your holiday in Sri Lanka, you will find your driver waiting for you at Colombo’s International Airport. He or she will be wearing an Insider Journeys t-shirt and carrying an Insider Journeys signboard with your name on it.

    Road: Our standard vehicles for private touring are a late model sedan. For larger groups including our Small Group Journeys vehicle size and type will depend on group size but are generally in 15 to 30 seater mini buses or small coaches.

    Other: Three-wheelers (tuk tuks), and your own feet

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  • Internet

    Internet: Wifi is available in most hotels but there may be additional charges for this service which can be expensive in five star hotels. You may find free wifi in some more modern restaurants and cafes.

    Phone: SIM cards can be simply purchased at airports and in some shopping centres. Although you may choose to unlock your mobile phone for global roaming, you should check charges for this service carefully before leaving home or online, as charges are often exorbitant.

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  • Food & drink

    Sri Lankan food is varied, often but not always spicy, and is prepared with a mixture of wonderful fresh ingredients grown to perfection in the tropical lowlands and hills of this verdant island. For lovers of spicy food, you will be well catered to with delicious and varied spice blends and pastes; for those who prefer a milder cuisine, don’t worry - many Sri Lankan dishes are not chilli hot, while others are often ‘softened’ for less tolerant foreign palates!

    Please note that alcohol is generally not served on full moon days.

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  • Tipping

    If you are happy with the services provided by your local guides, drivers and your tour leader, a tip is appropriate and appreciated. While it may not be customary to you, tipping inspires great service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across Asia. You are free to tip as much or as little as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip.

    Please note that all of our Small Group Journey prices now include tipping of porters, boat operators, safari guides and any other local service providers used throughout your trip. Should you be dissatisfied with the services provided by your local guide, driver or tour leader, please let us know.

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  • Swimming

    Most four and five star hotels have swimming pools, while our Small Group Journey hotels usually feature these (except in some highland areas). Please note that modesty even around swimming pools is much appreciated in Sri Lanka.

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  • Responsible travel

    Insider Journeys practices a thorough, realistic responsible travel policy. We believe that travel should entail an exchange of knowledge and perspectives, a sharing of wealth, and a genuine appreciation of Asia’s beautiful natural environments. This philosophy underpins the heart and soul of our style of travel. It drives all that we strive to deliver to our travellers, and shapes the contact we have with our supplier colleagues in Asia. We recognise that poorly planned itineraries or poorly informed tourists contribute less to cross-cultural understanding and less to the livelihoods of local people. We also recognise that we largely work in a developing part of the world.

    Read more information on our approach to responsible travel in Asia.

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