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Sri Lanka Travel Information

The Basics

Time

Local time in Sri Lanka is GMT +5.30 hours.

Electricity

Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Round, three-pin plugs are used.

Language

Most people speak Sinhala, which is the national and official language. Tamil is also spoken, and English is spoken at most tourist establishments.

Travel Health

Food and water borne diseases are the 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 and hepatitis B vaccinations are recommended for all travellers to Sri Lanka. Typhoid is only really a problem in rural areas, but travellers should consider a vaccination depending on their itinerary. 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 for all regions, except the districts of Colombo, Kalutara, Galle and Nuwara Eliya.

Travellers are strongly advised to take out good travel insurance, and seek medical advice at least three weeks before leaving for Sri Lanka. Quality medical attention may be difficult to find outside of Colombo and other big cities and medications are often in short supply in Sri Lanka. Travellers should being any medication they may require with them.

Tipping

A 10 percent 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 percent of the amount due is standard. There is no need to tip taxi drivers.

Safety Information

The vast majority of trips to Sri Lanka are trouble free. However, there is some risk of terrorism in Sri Lanka, 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, but there have been scattered attacks since then. 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. Although terrorism has always been more of a concern in the north, attacks have also taken place in central and southern Sri Lanka, in areas popular with tourists, and civilians have been targeted. Attacks have also occasionally occurred in the south, including in the tourist town of Galle. 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 very rare, but there have been cases of sexual assault and robbery in rural areas and women are advised to take care when travelling alone. Credit card fraud is the most common form of crime against tourists in Sri Lanka.

Local Customs

Photography near government or military buildings is prohibited in Sri Lanka. 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.

Business

In Sri Lanka, due to the warm climate, the dress etiquette may vary according to various sectors of business. In the more formal sectors, men will be expected 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 meeting. 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.

Communications

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.

Duty Free

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.

Become our Sri Lanka Travel Expert

We are looking for contributors for our Sri Lanka travel guide. If you are a local, a regular traveller to Sri Lanka or a travel professional with time to contribute and answer occasional forum questions, please contact us.

Intrepid Travel

Intrepid Travel is one of the world's leading suppliers of small group adventures focused on getting off the beaten track and having real life experiences in Sri Lanka.

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