You will need a Visa to enter Sri Lanka. You can get a Visa on Arrival, but it is best to get one beforehand to avoid delays. Visas are usually issued for 30 days.
The primary airport servicing Sri Lanka is Colombo International Airport, just north of Colombo and south of Negombo.
For those traveling south to Galle or Matara, or into the interior towards Kandy – trains service the island for very low fare. Be aware, these trains are not modern and not advised for those who don’t like adventure.
Sri Lanka can be a surprisingly expensive country for travelers. While regular amenities are cheap compared to western nations; accommodation, eating out and visiting tourist sites will cost more than expected.
Individual sites such as Anuradhapura and Sigiriya are quite expensive, running at $20 or more per person. If planning to visit multiple sites, consider investing in a Cultural Site Pass which, while still expensive, will allow you to visit multiple sites for a single discounted rate.
Sri Lanka uses the Sri Lankan Rupee. No other currency is accepted, though you may be able to use USD in some locations catering to tourists or for tipping. This is not a norm however.
$1USD = 150 LKR (Sri Lankan Rupee)
A local meal will cost 250 LKR
A mid-range meal will cost 1500 LKR
A 1 bed apartment in the city center will cost $220 per month
Sri Lanka has been inhabited for nearly 500,000 years. Sinhalese history began with the arrival of Prince Vijara in 543 BCE. This began the Anuradhapura Kingdom which lasted until 993 CE. Multiple invasions occurred over the next 500 years which saw the expansion but also slow decay of Sri Lankan power.
The Kandyan period began with the arrival of Portuguese colonists in 1507. The Portuguese settled a fort in Colombo, prompting the Sri Lankans to move their capital to Kandy. The British managed to occupy and take control of then Ceylon during the Napoleonic Wars. Sri Lanka remained under British rule until declaring independence in 1948.
Ceylon was a Marxist nation at this point and remained so until declaring itself a republic in 1972 and renaming to Sri Lanka. Ethnic tensions built during this time, resulting in the beginning of a civil war in 1983 between the Sinhalese and Tamil Tigers. The civil war would continue until 2009 when peace was finally achieved. In 2004, the island suffered greatly in the Indian Ocean Tsunami. Today, Sri Lanka is a growing and developing country.
Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country that takes itself seriously. Anything sacrilegious can be punished by fines or jail time. Don’t turn your back to statues of Buddha to take pictures, and don’t have tattoos of Buddha. Modesty is expected.
Being an ex-British colony, many Sri Lankans can speak at least a moderate amount of English. The older generations are more likely than the younger to speak English. Singhalese is also extensively spoken, with most signage in both languages. Tamil may be spoken in the north.
Tourism is still developing. While the capital city of Colombo – and Kandy – both cater to many tourists, do not be surprised to find little in terms of tourist amenities. Live like a local, or a pay a steep price.
Food is highly variable in quality. Excellent local food can be found, as can awful food. Western dishes are not typically available and will be expensive and highly processed if you encounter them. There are many excellent dishes in Colombo and Negombo.
The nation offers excellent chances of seeing wildlife. Yala National Park hosts the highest concentration of leopards in all of Asia; and a visit is guaranteed to offer intimate views of elephants and other safari animals.
Previously a tea planation colony under British rule – Sri Lanka offers an excellent selection of local tea. Expect an offering multiple times a day during your visit.