Matara Travel Information
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Round, three-pin plugs are used.
Most people speak Sinhala, which is the national and official language. Tamil is also spoken, and English is spoken at most tourist establishments.
Food and waterborne diseases are a primary cause for ill health in Sri Lanka. Visitors should only drink bottled water, avoid ice in drinks, and take care to eat well-cooked food. Hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for all travellers to Sri Lanka. Cholera is regarded as a serious risk and precautions are advised, while typhoid is more of a problem in rural areas. Yellow fever vaccination certificates are required by travellers coming from infected areas. Malaria, Chikungunya fever, Japanese encephalitis and dengue fever are a risk and protection against mosquito bites is essential. Prophylactics for malaria are also strongly recommended. There is also a particular danger from contaminated seafood. Travellers are strongly advised to take out good travel insurance, and seek medial advice at least three weeks before leaving for Sri Lanka.
A 10% service charge is added to most restaurant and hotel bills. Tipping is a customary way to show appreciation for almost all services and small amounts are sufficient, otherwise 10% of the amount due is standard. There is no need to tip taxi drivers.
There is a risk of terrorism in the country, and although foreigners have not been the targets of previous attacks, there is a risk of being caught up in incidents. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) suffered a defeat by the Sri Lankan government in 2009, however there is still the possibility of scattered attacks. Visitors should keep themselves informed of developments and remain vigilant.
As a result of the conflict much of the north and east remains heavily mined, particularly around the A9 road to Jaffna. Attacks have also taken place in central and southern Sri Lanka, in areas popular with tourists, and civilians have been targeted. Attacks have also occurred in the south, including the tourist town of Galle. Some areas of Yala National Park are closed due to security concerns; there have been a number of attacks since October 2007. Security has been increased in the south of the country, particularly in Colombo, and road check points are common. There have been recent bomb explosions on public transport in central Colombo. Violent crime against foreigners is infrequent, but there have been cases of sexual assault and robbery in rural areas and women are advised to take care when travelling alone.
Photography near government or military buildings is prohibited. Homosexuality is illegal. Topless sunbathing is not allowed, and visitors, particularly women, should cover up when entering Buddhist sites. It is considered offensive to pose for photographs in front of a Buddha statue. Smoking and drinking in public are forbidden. Honour, or personal dignity, is extremely important to Sri Lankans and causing an individual to 'lose face' by public criticism or anger should be avoided.
In Sri Lanka, due to a warm climate, the dress etiquette may vary according to various sectors of business. In the more formal sectors, men will be required to wear lightweight suits, but a more casual approach is acceptable during the warmer months depending on regulation. Appointments are to be made in advance and business cards to be swapped upon first engagements. It is considered rude to be late for meetings. Business hours are generally 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday with an hour taken at lunch.
The international country dialling code for Sri Lanka is +94. The outgoing code is 00, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). City or area codes are in use, e.g. (0)11 for Central Colombo. International direct dial facilities are available in Colombo and other major cities. Mobile phone operators provide GSM 900/1800 frequency networks with coverage across all the main parts of the island. Internet cafes are available in the main towns and resorts.
Travellers to Sri Lanka over 18 years do not have to pay duty on the following items: 2 bottles wine and 1.5 litres spirits; perfume up to 59ml and 250ml eau de toilette; and souvenirs to the value of US$250; 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars and 340g of tobacco. For family members travelling together free import applies for two members. Passengers must declare personal effects to ensure free export when they arrive in Sri Lanka. Restricted items include firearms, ammunitions, explosives and weapons, plants, fruits, birds and by-products, medication (unless it is for personal use), and goods for commercial purposes. Prohibited items include drugs or narcotics, pornographic material, and material that ridicules religious belief systems.
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