Sri Lanka has a population of around 20 million which is made up of roughly 74% Sinhalese, 8% Tamil, 7% Muslim, and 1% Burghers and Veddahs. The majority religion is Buddhism, however there is also a large Hindu population (mostly in the North), and a reasonable Muslim and Christian population too.
The local currency in Sri Lanka is Sri Lankan Rupees and prices throughout the country are pretty reasonable, meaning that you get a lot more for your money than you might in your home country. Travellers cheques can be exchanged at most banks, however there are ATM machines in almost every town making it extremely easy to take out money. Most large hotels and resorts will also accept payments on card, and offer currency exchange. There is also a wealth of places to exchange foreign money on arrival at the airport. If you do plan on using your card in Sri Lanka, make sure you inform your bank in your home country beforehand as banks can sometimes block cards that are used abroad.
Sri Lanka has a good system of government and private hospitals, dental practices and clinics. There are also numerous well-stocked pharmacies selling internationally recognized brands in most towns. Many of the larger hotels also offer on-call doctors should you get ill on your holiday.
Although the risks of disease in Sri Lanka are generally quite low in comparison to its other South Asian neighbours, it is important that you visit your doctor in your home country before you visit to find out whether you need any vaccinations. You should also get travel insurance which covers health care, because although Sri Lankan treatment is fairly cheap, should anything serious happen it is wise to be insured. Many insurance companies offer special insurance plans for divers and surfers, so be sure to read up on this before you arrive.
There are no ferry connections to the Maldives or India so all transport into Sri Lanka is by air. The Bandaranaike International Airport is Sri Lanka’s main airport and it is located 35km North of Colombo. For those wanting to stay closer to the airport, the beach town of Negombo – just 15km away from the airport – is a much easier option, and is an excellent place to start your trip with a wide range of accommodation and tourist attractions on offer.
The Sri Lankan transportation system is generally very good, with large numbers of trains and busses linking travellers to all areas of the country. Public transport can also get very crowded, with large numbers of commuters traversing the island daily. Larger travellers and those with a lot of baggage may also struggle with the lack of space and painfully small seating offered on public transport. Private vehicles offer a more relaxed and efficient way to travel and are very reasonably priced.
Staying in touch with the outside world is no problem in Sri Lanka, where internet is widely available all over the island and wifi access is becoming more and more frequent in hotels, restaurants and bars. Local sim cards can be bought very cheaply almost everywhere, and the local network providers offer very reasonably priced calls both locally and internationally, making this easily the cheapest way of staying in touch with those back home and making in-country calls. The international dialling code for Sri Lanka is +94.
Sinhala and Tamil are the national languages spoken in Sri Lanka, however English generally acts as the bridging language between them. English is widely spoken across Sri Lanka and travellers may be surprised to find just how often it is used – especially in the commercial capital Colombo. Menus in restaurants and cafes are almost always written in English, and usually everyone from shop owners to tuk tuk drivers will be happy to practice their English skills on you. You will have no trouble getting around Sri Lanka on English alone. In the main tourist areas there are always a few locals who are able to speak a few different languages, and it is not uncommon to also see tours and menus with German translation, as well as the occasional other European language.
Sri Lanka boasts a fertile landscape – watered by its regular monsoons and warmed by the hot sun, everything grows here. The island is made up of a web of rivers, jungle, mountains, rainforests, cloud forests, wetlands, coconut plantations, rice paddies, lagoons, beaches, plains, and the iconic hills of tea plantations. This diverse environment is home to an eclectic assortment of birds, fish, mammals, butterflies and more, making it the perfect place for diving, bird watching, safaris, etc. Spot elephants lounging in their natural environment at one of Sri Lanka’s many national parks, or visit the colossal heard of almost one hundred elephants at the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage. Go on a safari to try and find the illusive leopard, or take a lagoon trip and look out for crocodiles and tropical birds hiding in the mangrove trees. Home to an extensive coral reef, Sri Lanka is also an excellent place to go diving to take a look at some of Sri Lanka’s bio diverse marine life, where it is possible to see giant sea turtles, brightly colored tropical fish, octopuses, and even the occasional reef shark, amongst other things.
From tangy curries to freshly-baked snacks sold on the side of the street, Sri Lanka offers an excellent range of delicious food. Fruit and vegetables are in abundance, and vegetarians won’t be disappointed by the large number of vegetarian dishes on offer. Meat and fish are also plentiful, and on the coast there is always a wealth of freshly caught seafood.
Rice and Curry is the Sri Lankan staple, and this encompasses a wide range of different curries and rice varieties, alongside a mouth-watering range of pickles and sambols. However if you are not akin to spicy food, there are many other options on offer. Most restaurants boast a range of Eastern and Western cuisine, and in the main tourist areas it is not too hard to find food from home. In Colombo you can find everything from spaghetti to sushi, where as the smaller villages offer more limited options. In the north and east you will find more Indian-influenced dishes, and along the coast the seafood BBQs will be sure to get your taste buds tingling. Sri Lanka also has a wealth of fruit on offer from juicy mangos and chunky bananas to strawberries grown in the hillier areas such as Nuwara Eliya. A fresh fruit juice is never far away in Sri Lanka, and restaurants and hotels often serve a wide range of fresh fruit for breakfast.
Travelling to Sri Lanka is relatively easy. There are direct flights to Sri Lanka from London Heathrow daily on the national carrier Sri Lankan Airlines but just make sure that your flight is not stopping at Male in the Maldives if you really want a direct flight as sometimes it is not clear on the ticket. You do not have to leave the aircraft but if does add a couple of hours onto the flight.
There are several airlines that fly from the UK to Sri Lanka, among the largest are British Airways, Etihad, Emirates, Qatar and Sri Lankan airlines.
You can get flights from the majority of UK airports these being; London Heathrow and Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness and Belfast.
Until recently Sri Lanka’s main way of getting around was by a vehicle or train. But Cinnamon Air has recently re-introduced Air Taxi to Bentota, Koggala, Dickwella, Kandy, Sigiriya and Batticaloa. The newly opened Simplifly company offers flights as well as day excursions by planes, sea planes and helicopters and the Fits Air offers flights to Jaffna, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Matale and Weerawila from Ratmalana Airport.
If you would like to use Air Taxi for one of the legs on your journey please let us know and we will incorporate it into your itinerary. For more information please see , and
Many of our clients enjoy undertaking part of their journey by train. The best scenic route in Sri Lanka is the train journey between Colombo and Badulla which stops at Kandy and Nuwara Eliya. Most visitors take the Kandy – Nuwara Eliya or Nuwara Eliya – Colombo journey which makes an interesting alternative to travelling in a vehicle. The journey time is much the same, but the scenery is even more spectacular. Travel in the 1st class observation car is highly recommended, and if possible on an InterCity Express train. We can reserve your seats and arrange for your driver to follow the train with your luggage and meet you at the station at your destination. For more information please see and
Sri Lanka, on the whole, has a hot, tropical climate; however its proximity to the equator means that Sri Lanka’s two monsoons give the country its only seasons. These monsoons come from different directions at different times of the year, meaning that it is always perfect beach weather somewhere on the island.
Generally speaking, the best time to visit the south coast, west coast and hill country areas is between November and April, whereas the best time to visit the north, east coast, and ancient cities area is between April and September.
Despite this, Sri Lanka stays hot pretty much all year round, with the exception of the hill country areas such as Kandy and Nuwara Eliya. If you are not venturing into hill country you will need little more than sunglasses, light cotton clothing, open-toed shoes, and some good sunscreen. However if you are planning on going further inland to Sri Lanka’s central highlands, it would be wise to bring warm clothes and hiking boots, should you want to take a hike in the mountainous region.
During the monsoon season – April to October in the West Coast, South Coast and Hill Country, and November to January in the North, East Coast, and ancient cities area – it would be a good idea to bring an umbrella or raincoat.
VISAS AND IMMIGRATION
Visas are required to enter Sri Lanka. As of 1 January 2012, British nationals should obtain short stay visas (up to 30 days) to Sri Lanka through an online visa application process, the Electronic Travel Authority (ETA), and pay the appropriate processing fee. Further details can be obtained from the ETA official website of the Department of Immigration and Emigration. Please see
The ETA System was introduced on a trial basis on 1 October 2011 and became mandatory from 1 January 2012. Prior to this, British nationals received a 30-day visit visa, free of charge, on arrival.
All other visas, including for those undertaking voluntary activity and paid or unpaid work, should be obtained at a Sri Lankan High Commission or Embassy before you travel.
Entry Requirements – Passport validity
You must hold a valid passport to enter Sri Lanka. Your passport must be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of exit from Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka has a population of roughly 19 million of which 72% are Sinhalese, 20% Tamil, 8% Malays and less that 1% of other ethnic groupsIndependence from Britain was granted in 1948.
The highest point is at 2,524m at Pidurutalagala
5 species of marine turtles nest on Sri Lanka’s beaches.
More than 150 bird species can be seen in Sri Lanka of which 26 are endemic.
Sri Lankan Independence Day celebrated on 4th February commemorates the granting of independence from British rule and marks the end of 4 centuries of colonialism.
The first tea was planted at the Peredeniya Botanical Gardens in 1824 but tea growing didn’t become important until the 1860′s when the coffee crops failed.
The people who call themselves Annialato are known as Veddahs (primitive people) and are the aboriginal inhabitants of Sri Lanka.
The Sinhalese name for their island, Sinhaladvipa (land of the lion people) was corrupted into the Arabic “Serendib” by Muslim traders, then into “Ceilao” by the Portuguese, and from that version to “Zeylan” by the Dutch, before being anglicized as “Ceylon” by the British in the 18th century. In 1972 the island’s name officially became Sri Lanka.
Of all the spices that drew the Dutch to Sri Lanka Cinnamon was the most vital, by the late 18th Century, the island had a monopoly of the world’s cinnamon trade.