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Sri Lanka Travel Guide

Sri Lanka – The Most Diversified Travel Destination in Asia

Sri Lanka is one of the 34 biodiversity hotspots identified in the world and has the highest biodiversity per unit area of land amongst Asian countries. The wet zone rain-forests are home to nearly all of the country’s woody endemic plants and about 75% of its endemic animals.

Sri Lanka’s location in the world map

Sri Lanka is a tropical island found off the southern tip of India. Part of the South Asian subcontinent, this pearl of the Indian Ocean, (as it has been described for time immemorial) is a travellers’ paradise and the scene of many a historic event. According to its earliest historical record the Mahavamsa, one of the first names it was called by was ‘Tambapanni’ because when invaders landed from India they noticed the copper (Tamba) coloured sea-sand. The golden beaches of Sri Lanka are a testament to the fact that although over 1000 years have passed since this incident was recorded not much has changed in the natural beauty of the island. Over the centuries Sri Lanka became a melting pot of cultures as it was continually influenced by outside travellers, traders and of course explorers. Early Settlers came from North India and South India, while ancient mariners, traders and travellers came from China, Arabia, Rome, Greece and Africa as Sri Lanka was on the famous silk route.

Travel Information

Weather and Climate in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka located in proximity to the equator has a tropical climate and two distinct seasons. Surrounded by the Indian Ocean the relatively small island has a blowing wind that makes you forget the high humidity and warm nights during your Sri Lanka holiday. As you reach the central hills the temperature drops along with the altitude. This part of the island has a pleasant climate for most of the year. The constant sea breeze alleviates the average temperature of 27 C to 30 C.The tropical climates of the Island is greatly affected by the Asiatic monsoon which reverses the wind direction at predictable periods.

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Rainfall in Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka receives most of its rainfall from the monsoon winds. In between May and July, the south-west monsoon winds bring rain to the western, central and southern areas of Sri Lanka. Again, in the months of December and January, most of the rain occurs in the northern and eastern part of the island which is brought by the northeast monsoon winds. Thus, it can be concluded Sri Lanka Weather is marked by very little diversity.

Food and Drinks in Sri Lanka

Though Sri Lankan food has parallels to South Indian food, yet it remains distinctly its own form of cuisine. Throughout years of colonization and influence from other countries, Sri Lanka has adapted its food culture into a blend of different curry concoctions and tasty dishes. 

Rice and curry is the traditional Sri Lankan staple dish, though various kinds of bread, both roti style flatbreads and even loaves of bread, are very common. Sri Lanka, being an island with a tropical climate, coconuts and fish are two of the most influential components of Sri Lankan cuisine. Fish is made into curries, and coconut in some form or another is a dominant ingredient in cooking. 

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Rice and curry refers to several small plates of curry yummies varying from chicken and fish to vegetarian dishes and always served with rice and a few small plates of pickled vegetables. It’s eaten everywhere, usually twice a day by almost everyone.

The Sri Lankan breakfast is similar to the English breakfast in that it is complete, memorable and unbeatable. With one main serving of a bread-type dish surrounded by curries and sambals, the Sri Lankan breakfast has become a major attraction when visiting the island. It is not difficult to find a good Sri Lankan breakfast, most hotels serve it and if not, there are plenty of restaurants that do too…

Culture of Sri Lanka

The culture of Sri Lanka mixes modern elements with traditional aspects and is known for its regional diversity. Sri Lankan culture has long been influenced by the heritage of Theravada Buddhism passed on from India, and the religion’s legacy is particularly strong in Sri Lanka’s southern and central regions. South Indian cultural influences are especially pronounced in the northernmost reaches of the country. The history of colonial occupation has also left a mark on Sri Lanka’s identity, with Portuguese, Dutch and British elements having intermingled with various traditional facets of Sri Lankan culture. Culturally, Sri Lanka, particularly the Sinhalese people, possesses strong links to both India and Southeast Asia.

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The country has a rich artistic tradition, with distinct creative forms that encompass music, dance, and the visual arts. Sri Lankan culture is internationally associated with cricket, a distinct cuisine, an indigenous holistic medicine practice, religious iconography such as the Buddhist flag, and exports such as tea, cinnamon and gemstones as well as a robust tourism industry. Sri Lanka has longstanding ties with the Indian subcontinent that can be traced back to prehistory.

In Sri Lanka, ethnic identity and religious convictions are accepted as essential yet not overarching, stratified social compartments. Social equality and equal access to opportunity have reduced caste distinctions to near extinction among the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims of Sri Lanka. Yet, glaring income disparities have served to create class differences based on relative affluence and access to knowledge-based on acquired language skills, especially in English. The Buddhists and Hindus in particular share many cultural practices.

Travel Information - Sri Lanka

All major airlines fly directly to Sri Lanka making it easily accessible on major travel routes. Once you get to Sri Lanka public transport consists of buses and trains while personalized transport comes in the form of the ever-popular three-wheelers, taxi cabs and domestic passenger flights. Due to congestion on roads, the best time to travel around Sri Lanka is either after an early breakfast or after lunch. Tourist Police Units are located at specific locations throughout the island.

Travel Information Centres have been set up in Colombo, Katunayake (International airport) and Kandy. The centre’s primary task is to assist tourist in all aspects of their stay in the island. Sri Lanka has many embassies that represent foreign countries. Tourists can easily access their relevant embassy through the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA).

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Sri Lanka Tourism – Colombo

Sri Lanka Tourism, Travel Information Center,
80, Galle Road, Colombo 03.
Tel : (+94) 112 437059, (+94) 112 437060, (+94) 112 437055

Sri Lanka Tourism – Kandy

Sri Lanka Tourism, Travel Information Center Cultural Triangle Office
16, Deva Veediya , Kandy.
Tel : (+94) 812222661

Sri Lanka Tourism Information Center at the Bandaranaike International Airport, Katunayake

Tel : (+94) 112 252411

Awareness to health and safety issues

Awareness to Health and Safety Issues in Sri Lanka

After many years of war, Sri Lanka has finally returned to a state of peace and harmony. As such, security is no longer an issue; however please do be mindful of your belongings and person at all times.

Taking care of valuables

Always keep your valuables – money, passport, tickets, and jewellery in the hotel safety deposit locker. You should not leave your valuables unattended on the beach or leave your money or passports in your baggage which may be unlocked.

Driving in Sri Lanka

If you rent a car with the intent of driving on your own, please be fully briefed on all formalities you need to be aware of while driving in Sri Lanka. Please do inquire about road rules, traffic conditions and be aware of other drivers who may not be as careful as you.

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Eco Sensitivity

When enjoying the natural beauty of our island please remember to remain silent whilst in forest trails. It is best if nothing is left behind, and fires should be lit only in designated campsites. Always seek the assistance of a trained guide and try to avoid lone excursions. In case of an animal encounter, please do not try to harass, chase, touch, handle or feed.

Health issues

Generally, every town will possess a pharmacy and a qualified medical practitioner is not hard to find. If you are on medication please bring an adequate supply of your drugs. If you rely on prescriptions, make sure that your doctor indicates not only the brand name but also the generic name of the drug. It is advisable to always drink bottled water. While the water supply in cities is treated they cannot be guaranteed as portable. Boiling water for drinking is a common practice in homes in Sri Lanka. You are advised to use bottled water with its sealed top intact.

Sri Lanka Travel Information

Travel Tips for Sri Lanka Tours

While the distances are given in kilometres you should plan your travel in terms of time as well. While roads are being fast upgraded congestion in some main highways and cities can cause delays. The best time for travel after an early breakfast or after lunch. The public transport system is dependent on Buses and Trains. Generally, these tend to be crowded during peak hours and before and after weekends on long-distance routes.

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A relatively inexpensive mode of travel. Buses are operated by the state as well as by private operators. On main routes connecting cities such as Galle, Kandy, Kurunegala and Colombo you will find comfortable air-conditioned buses albeit at a premium price. The comfort when on long journeys is well worth the extra charge.


Slightly more expensive than travelling on a bus. There is a high possibility of a seat on long-distance trains. It is the most interesting way to enjoy the scenic beauty of the island as the Railway lines were intended to connect cities to bring produce to Colombo in the shortest possible time, in an age where packing crates and jute bags were the norm and refrigeration was not easy. The Railway lines run through scenic mountain passes and long tunnels into the hills, and on bridges built on over tranquil lagoons and winding rivers.

Taxis (Radio Cabs):

Please do inquire with your Hotel Front Desk/ Reception, as many would be happy to provide you with a taxi cab. Cars may be hired for your visits to places of interest on a predetermined itinerary at an agreed price, with information being readily available through maps and guidebooks.


This is an option that many visitors are comfortable with. The drivers of these ‘TUK TUKs’ (an appropriate name resonant with the noise made) are capable of communication no matter which language you speak. The gesticulations and the ingenious expressions they devise to explain a point is a form of entertainment in itself. Most of these now have fare meters and thus spares you the pain of negotiation, and are quite reasonable.

Domestic Passenger Flights:

Those who would like to arrive at a destination faster and see the island with a scenic eye can use chartered flights from the Ratmalana Airport near Colombo. There is also an option to charter a light aircraft or book a private helicopter for transfers or day trips.

Information Service

• The Tourist Information Center (TIC) run in Colombo by the Ceylon Tourist Board is located at 78, Steuart Place, Galle Road, Colombo 3. Tel:(+94) 112 437059(+94) 112 437060 , (+94) 112 437055

• Kandy TIC – Headman’s Lodge, 3, Deva Veediya, Kandy, 0812 222661. Open 900 hrs. to 1645 hrs. on weekdays. Saturday 0900 to 1300 hrs.

• Negombo TIC – 12/6, Lewis Place, Negombo. Open 0900 – 1715 hrs.

• Hikkaduwa TIC – Commercial Bank Bldg., Galle Road, Hikkaduwa. Tel : 09122-223397

• Airport TIC – Located in the arrivals lounge of the International Airport, Katunayake and open day and night. Tel:11 2 452411 Tourist Police Units

• Special Tourist Police Units are available to assist our visitors – Hotline +94112421451

• Regional tourist units can be found –

• Entry fees and photographic permit to archaeological sites Starting from $5 which will go up to $30 (Age Limit 06 – 12 Years – 50 % of above value)

• Currency used: Sri Lankan Rupees (LKR)

• Time difference: Sri Lanka is 5.30 hours ahead of Greenwich Time (GMT +05.30)

• Working hours & days: Normal working hours are from 8.30 am to 5.00 pm from Monday to Friday. Saturdays are half working days from 9.00 am to 1.00 pm With Sunday being a statutory holiday. These working hours may not be observed by all service providers that you will mostly be in contact with. It is therefore advisable for you to inquire what their working hours are.

Sri Lanka Shopping

Shopping Information - Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka offers a wide array of shopping items, the most recognized being gems, batik, tea, and handicrafts. The most popular items among tourists are handloom fabrics, leather products, reproduction antiques, jewellery and ceramics.

Gems: Sri Lanka has the widest variety of precious stones among the world’s gem producing countries – blue sapphires, star sapphires, rubies, cat’s eye, garnets, moonstones, aquamarines and topazes being just a dazzling handful. What’s more, Sri Lanka naturally has a tradition in jewellery-making, so you can bring your gems to life. In these days of derivatives diving for cover, a precious stone of Beauty, clarity and durability is an investment for life.

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Handloom Products: Wraparounds, sarongs, kurtas and a wide range of blouses and shirts in tasteful colour contrasts form the apparel choice. Table linen and upholstery materiel promise both quality and value not forgetting the fact that they are hand-spun cotton.

Antiques: You can look for the porcelain and pottery as well as furniture of the Dutch period. You can always settle for the reproductions of furniture at much lower prices. If you are the type who can wait for the paperback instead of the hardcover the latter is a wise proposition.

Spices: All the aromatic spices first sought by Romans who found that the Arabs had beaten them by a length and half are now available in attractive gift packs that can convey a charming message to the recipient.

Tea: Tea is available in all the blends and flavours beginning with Earl Grey once sought as the stuff from the Jewel of the Empire in the salons of Victorian England. The trendy teas that go as Sri Lanka Exports have more exotic flavours. The Tea can be bought in ingenious and innovative containers made of softwood, polished hardwood, metal, leather, cloth and even reeds. The tea is vacuum packed.

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