Planning your trip to Sri Lanka? Great! Find out all you need to know about this amazing island in this ‘quick guide to Sri Lanka’!
When to go?
Sri Lanka is affected by two separate monsoons. A northeast monsoon (December to March) bringing unsettled weather to the north and east, and a southwest monsoon (June to October) bringing bad weather to the south and west.
So the best time to visit the west and south coast and hill country is from December to March, while the best weather on the east coast is from April/May to September.
Temperatures remain fairly constant year round. Coastal areas enjoy temperatures of around 25 – 30 degrees. Central highlands (Nuwara Eliya, Ella) have the most pleasant temperatures of around 15 – 25 degrees. Nights there can be quite chilly.
What to pack?
Insect repellent (for mosquitoes) and medications. Wet wipes or antibacterial gel for your own sanitary provisions.
For coast: sunscreen and hat, flip flops, walking sandals, swimsuits and towel, light jacket (for evenings), summer dresses and shorts.
For temples: In Buddhist temples take your shoes off and cover your shoulders and legs. Bring a scarf to cover your shoulders and light long pants or long skirts to cover your knees.
For central highlands: light-weight sweater, cardigan and long pants (to keep you warm during chilly nights), umbrella or raincoat, comfortable walking shoes
Getting around the island?
Although Sri Lanka is not such a big island getting around from one place to another can be pretty challenging if you don’t have much time. For example, it takes at least 3 hours to get from Colombo to Kandy which is a distance of not much over 100 kilometers! Don’t look how much kilometers you have between destinations, but how much time you need to get there.
Public transportation is very cheap in Sri Lanka, costing only a few dollars.
Buses are generally faster than trains but don’t miss the train ride in Sri Lanka! Buses screech along the island’s major highways and you can reach every town and even remote areas with fairly regular connections. Buses come in a variety of forms. The basic distinction is between government or SLTB (Sri Lanka Transport Board) buses and private services. Bus fares are very low (50 – 70 Rupiah per hour’s travel)
Tuk tuks are suitable for short distances as they are not particularly comfortable. Except for in Colombo Sri Lankan tuk tuks are unmetered. The fare will be whatever you can negotiate with the driver. Always agree on a fare before you set off. A basic fare is 40 Rupiah per kilometre.
Hire a car is not recommended as you really need good luck in order to drive around the island (not just good horn and breaks). But if you don’t want to travel by public transport you have an option to hire a car and driver.
Where to stay?
Sri Lanka has an excellent range of accommodation in all price brackets. From guesthouses to elegant colonial villas, if you can afford it. You can easily find a room in a hostel for 10 $ per night (breakfast included). You can get comfortable hotels for 30 – 120 $ per night with air con, tv, and other amenities.
What and where to eat & drink?
Sri Lanka has one of the most delicious cuisines in the world. A hundred different and exotic flavors are the result of a unique fusion of local produce with recipes and spices brought to the island over the centuries by Indians, Arabs, Portuguese, Dutch and British.
Dishes you must try: Rice & curry (Sri Lanka’s staple dish, and it incorporates all the essential flavors that make up Sri Lankan cuisine), hoppers (appa, a small bowl-shaped pancake made from a coconut milk and rice flour batter), kottu rotty, lamprais, pittu, seafood, short eats (a range of savory and sweet snacks)
Drinks: tea, fresh fruit juices, arrack (alcoholic drink made from the fermented sap of coconut flowers), king coconut, Lion beer
Food is very cheap in Sri Lanka. Local street vendors will cost you about 0,5 – 2 $ per meal, and basic restaurant meals will cost between 5 – 10 $. In local cafes (often signed as ‘hotels’) you can eat meals for a dollar or two.
What not to miss?
Safari, endless tea plantations, beautiful, positive people on every corner, herds of elephants, delicious food, train rides… READ MORE
Cultural values and etiquette
All visitors to Buddhist and Hindu temples should be appropriately dressed. In Buddhist temples take your shoes off and cover your shoulders and legs. You should never have yourself photographed posing with a Buddha image with your back to the image. Do not use flash. Do not point your feet at a Buddha image. Walk around stupas in a clockwise direction.
Sri Lankans eat with fingers. If you want to eat like a local use only your right hand. As elsewhere in Asia, the left hand is for wiping your bottom, cleaning your feet and other unsavory functions (you also put on and take off your shoes with the left hand), while the right hand is for eating, shaking hands and so on.