Between May and September, and December and February, Sri Lanka enjoy its two monsoon seasons. The former is the South West Monsoon, while the North East Monsoon visits closer to the end of the year. This means that while one side of the island is getting rain, the other would generally be enjoying more temperate weather. Travellers are advised to plan the timing of their visit depending on their travel priorities.
Sri Lanka’s warm and dry weather spells begin from February to April, punctuated by rains in May, before another dry spell hits the island from June to November.
What to Pack
If you, traveller, are coming to Sri Lanka fleeing winter then, chances are, you are coming to our island looking for warm weather and sandy beaches. In such cases, we recommend lots of beachwear, sunscreen, hat, insect repellent, and sunglasses.
Casual clothing is fine when walking the streets, but provocative clothing isn't advisable. When visiting places of worship, please wear shirts along with long skirts/trousers as it is imperative to dress modestly in such places.
Travelling to Sri Lanka's interior, particularly its mountainous region, should demand warmer clothing though temperatures rarely drop below 10°C (50°F).
Visitors coming to Sri Lanka require a visa to visit Sri Lanka.
The ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) is an alternative to the 'on-arrival' visa system. Please log on to www.eta.gov.lk to obtain your visa prior to departure- payment transaction for the visa fee is handled on this site, thus saving time for visitors. Upon approval, visitors will receive an ETA approval notice that allows them to stay in the country for 30 days.
Visas can still be obtained on-arrival, but it is strongly advised for travellers to obtain their visas in advance through the ETA.
All modern communication means are available to travellers in Sri Lanka.
Wi-Fi is available across the island, and local telecom companies have made great strides in ensuring connectivity even in the most remote parts of the island.
International Direct Dialling (IDD) is also available in most hotels.
Hotels also offer limited postal services. If more extensive postal services are required, you'll find postal offices and authorized sub-post offices across the island.
An ancient land, its Eden-like interiors, its diverse people offer plenty of inspiration for photographers.
It is, however, important to follow a few ground rules: photography of religious places generally has restrictions - please ensure you have appropriate permissions before shooting.
General rules of thumb to follow:
It is forbidden to pose next to religious statues and murals
Ask villagers, farmers, fishermen and tea pluckers permission to take their photo - they may ask for you to send a copy of the photo to them or be compensated for the photo
Flash photograph damages old murals - please ensure that your camera flash is turned off
A Different Pace of Life
Sri Lankans are courteous and friendly, but laidback – an island people whose pace of life is distinctly different to that of most travellers. Understand this, and you'll find yourself smiling to the gentle pace at which checking-out, ordering food or paying bills is done.
Check-In / Check-Out
Hotel Check-In : Between 02:00 pm
Hotel Check-Out : Between 11:00 am – 12 :00 noon
Airport Check-In : 03 hours prior to the flight
Touts & Swindlers
Whittalls Travels doesn’t recommend entering or accepting trade wares and/or money changing services with unauthorized persons. You may be accosted in the streets and beaches by such individuals. We will not accept responsibility for any excursions/activities arranged by people not affiliated with us.
On the Beach
Bikinis are generally acceptable while on the beach, but please note topless sun-bathing is illegal. When swimming in rivers or lakes ask for local advice, as covering up may be necessary.
Sri Lankans are mostly Buddhist but coexist with Hindus, Muslims and Christians.
Please note, the monthly full moon is considered a day of pious reflection - no alcohol will be served on such days, and most businesses do close for business. The full moon in the months of May and June are among the most important - the former marks Vesak (a day to commemorate The Buddha's Birth, Enlightenment and Death) while the latter (called Poson) marks the arrival of Buddhism to these shores.
Being multi-religious, Sri Lankans mark the following non-Buddhist holidays as well:
Hindu Festivals - Thai Pongal (January) and Diwali/Deepavali (November)
Muslim Festivals - Ramadan and Hajj
Christian Festivals - Christmas is celebrated by the entire country, while Sri Lankan Christians also celebrate Easter
Most shops open at 10.00 am and close by 06.00 pm. Shops are usually closed on Sundays and Full Moon (Poya) days.
Currency / Money Exchange
The local currency is the Sri Lankan Rupee. Currency notes are Rs. 5,000, Rs. 2,000, Rs. 1,000, Rs. 500, Rs. 100, Rs. 50, Rs. 20 and Rs. 10. Coins will be in denominations up to Rs. 10.
Tip 01: To check whether a currency note/s is genuine, look for a lion watermark. Do not accept currency notes that are damaged or have writing on them.
Tip 02: Make sure you have plenty of lower denomination notes (50s, 100s and 500s) to buy small items as change is often hard to come by apart from hotels and big shops.
Banks & Credit Cards
Most Sri Lankan hotels and cosmopolitan businesses accept major credit cards - VISA, MasterCard and American Express are well known and accepted. Travellers can also use these cards for cash withdrawals from select bank ATMs.
Bank Opening Times:
9 am – 3 pm on weekdays. Some city banks offer 365 days banking and even night banking facilities. On Saturdays, most banks are open till 1 pm. All local banks offer Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) facilities. The ATMs are found in all major towns and cities, and accept VISA, Mastercard, and/or American Express.
Bargaining over the price of goods is an art that most Sri Lankans have mastered - this is true in hawker-markets, tuk-tuk taxi rides, and purchasing of handicrafts. Please note that it is best to engage in bargaining in a light-hearted and courteous manner - annoyed or aggressive haggling over price will cause some sellers to keep increasing the price.
Tuk-tuk taxis are now generally fitted with a metre so bargaining over price is unnecessary. However, it is important to ensure that you check with the driver if the metre is working before getting into the tuk.
You may be required to open your baggage for inspection. Refrain from carrying prohibited or restricted goods such as the following:
Antiques - defined as anything more than 50 years old (ex: rare books, palm-leaf manuscripts and anthropological material)
Wild animals/ animal parts - dead or alive
Any of the 450 prohibited plant species, marine products (ex: corals, shells)
Important: Please retain your shopping receipts, especially for gems.
Beware of breaking baggage limits - your flight tickets should clearly state the maximum baggage weight. Additional charges may be levied, or equipment left behind. Requests for a higher limit can be made on your behalf, but success is not guaranteed.
You can ship excess baggage to your final destination through the excess baggage counter, as these service counters offer better rates than airlines. You can locate the counter prior to the check-in desks at the farewell area. Please note: any unaccompanied excess baggage will probably reach your final destination 3-5 days after the day of departure.
Mineral bottled drinking water is available at most retail shops. Safe bottled water will bear the SLS product certification mark issued by the Sri Lanka Standards Institution, based on SLS 1336: 2008 Sri Lanka Standard specifications.
Please avoid drinking water from the tap.
Food & Drink
Your hotel provides safe, hygienic and high quality food. You may choose to eat outside the hotel at your own discretion, but remember the following rules of thumb:
Always wash and peel fruit before consumption
Drink plenty of water during the day to avoid dehydration.
Sri Lankans use 230 Volts power supply at 50Hz. Sockets come in two forms:
D Type – Round pins in a triangular pattern
G Type – Square pins in a triangular pattern
The former is obsolete and is in the process of being phased out while the latter is the standard going forward. Travel adapters are recommended when plugging in expensive electronic equipment.
Water conservation is especially important in Sri Lanka. Water is a precious resource needed for personal use, industry, farming and power generation (the island is heavily reliant on Hydro Electric Power). Here are some tips to remember:
Avoid excessive use of water: consider taking a shower rather than a bath, or shorten the length of your shower, and consider asking for towels to be folded rather than washed each day.
Demand for electricity is enormous in the country. As a traveller, please try to conserve electricity where possible: make sure you turn off your lights etc., when you leave your bedroom, and consider limiting your use of air-conditioning – for example, cool down the room and then switch to an overhead fan.
Waste pollution is a serious problem in Sri Lanka. Disposal systems are often inadequate, whilst the recycling of many products is rare. Plastic bags, in particular, are a blight and offered for almost every purchase - try to take your own bags when shopping. Cotton bags are also readily available.
Ensure your shopping doesn’t encourage the wasteful destruction of important natural resources and/or endangered species. Avoid hard wood products likely to have been produced in an unsustainable manner, shells from beach traders or ancient artefact.
Sri Lanka enjoys a large number of public holidays, the most common being the monthly Full Moon; these are called ‘Poya’ Days, and entails restrictions in terms of the sale of alcohol and meat. Some businesses will be closed even if the full moon was to fall on a week day.
Smoking in public areas in Sri Lanka is not allowed, but there are designated smoking areas in restaurants/pubs/cafes etc., Some establishments have a designated smoking area inside.
Health risks in Sri Lanka are different to those in the West. Sri Lankan physicians, though many of whom have trained in the West, are equipped in dealing with locally occurring diseases: diarrhoea, dengue fever, influenza, amoebic dysentery and fungal infections.
If you need a doctor, please contact the hotel reception as the hotel will have a doctor on-site or nearby. If you have more serious problems, Colombo boasts of a selection of modern, well-equipped hospitals offering the latest conventional medical and surgical therapies. Additionally, pharmacies are generally found in city-centres across the Island.
Whilst the recently built highway has helped to quicken many of the journeys, in particular airport transfers, travel around Sri Lanka often entails several long drives, sometimes on rough roads. Bathroom facilities during the drives can at times be very basic; if you are uncomfortable in such a situation, alternatives to an overland journey to your destination in Sri Lanka can be considered.
An itinerary may call for a significant amount of walking on uneven paths, and you may encounter long and steep stairs at many of the sites you visit. Some of the historic sites - Sigiriya and Adam's Peak are prime examples - have challenging climbs, which you should assess with your guide before attempting.
Trishaw or Tuk Tuk: The simplest and cheapest way to travel short distances in Sri Lanka. Good-natured price bartering is widespread, although in Colombo this is often unnecessary, as many are fitted with a meter. In towns, work on a rough guide of about Rs. 50 a kilometre and agree the price before you set off.
Taxi: These taxis - sedans, hatch-backs and mini cars - are good value for longer journeys and operate on set charges. However, be aware that taxis operating from 5-star hotels are dearer.
Bus: Cheap and plentiful, at least during the day, but often crowded and unreliable.
Train: Prices are cheap, so booking the luxury of first-class in advance is advised. Journeys from Colombo-Nuwara Eliya are a spectacular way to enjoy Sri Lanka’s landscape.
Car: Travelling on Sri Lankan roads is similar to getting around in other South Asian countries – visitors will need to come to terms with the congestion, road-works, and eccentric motorists on the roads. It’s important to understand this, and how it can contribute to delays to your road journeys. Therefore, even if independent car hire is possible for those who want to drive, it is strongly advised that visitors choose chauffeur-driven cars; the costs are similar but the peace-of-mind is priceless.
Bicycle: Widely available though we recommend that you use this option only on the quietest of roads.
Scooters and Motorbikes: Scooters are, of course, as popular a form of transport for travellers as they are in the rest of Asia. However, it needs to be understood that renting of scooters/motorbikes are offered by individuals running independent businesses that haven’t been audited or validated for vehicle safety. In addition, those who hire from such independent businesses have to handover their passport to the respective business – we strongly advise against doing that. If visitors still do insist on hiring scooters/motorbikes, we recommend that you have prior experience riding in other parts of Asia.
Helicopters and Sea Planes: An interesting way of exploring the island, air travel allows travellers to bypass the long travel time on road when driving around Sri Lanka. Talk to our travel experts about charter flights and special scenic flights.
Sri Lanka, a former British colony, recognizes English as a ‘Link’ language between Sinhala and Tami speaker; therefore, visitors will find a large number of Sri Lankans speak English to some degree or another. Further, all signboards are generally displayed in all three languages – Sinhala, Tamil and English.
Tipping Guidelines in Sri Lanka
Tipping drivers, chauffeurs, guides, jeep drivers, naturalists, trackers, hotel housekeeping, and hotel staff will be appreciated. Tipping, though, is totally at the discretion of travellers – tip based on your satisfaction of the services rendered.
Note the following:
Average tip is US$ 1.00 per client per hotel for housekeeping
US$ 1.00 per client per hotel for bellboys
10% service charge at restaurants and bars is added to your bill
No matter how many precautions are taken, some excursions and experiences may create unexpected scenarios. We expect our clients to act in a sensible manner at all times, and listen to all instructions provided by guides. Here are some basic rules of thumb to follow:
Be watchful when walking or crossing the road. Traffic in Sri Lanka is on the left
Having meals outside your hotel or recommended restaurants is at your discretion
Ensure you take necessary measures to protect your valuables at all times
Refrain from transacting or securing the services of touts, beach boys, un-licensed roadside guides, and other unauthorized persons
While on 4x4 safaris, please pay heed to the ‘Safety Instruction Customer Acceptance Form’ which requires your consent prior to the safari
Do not ever step out of the vehicle in national wildlife parks as it is an offence under the Wildlife Act of Sri Lanka
Please refrain from feeding animals within national wildlife parks, transit homes, orphanages, hatcheries, hotel premises and road-sides – as difficult as it may be to understand, unsupervised feeding of wild animals does more harm than good
Police: 011 2433333
Fire: 011 2422222
Hospital: 011 2691111
Colombo Tourist Information: 011 2252411
Kandy Tourist Information: 081 222 2661
Department of Motor Traffic: 011 2694331
Automobile Association: 011 2421528/9
Department of Immigration: 011 2503629
The Tourist Information Centre (TIC) run in Colombo by the Ceylon Tourist Board is located at 78, Steuart Place, Galle Road, Colombo 3. Tel:(+94) 112 437059(+94) 112 437060 , (+94) 112 437055
Kandy TIC – Headman’s Lodge, 3, Deva Veediya, Kandy, 0812 222661. Open 900 hrs. to 1645 hrs. on weekdays. Saturday 0900 to 1300 hrs.
Negombo TIC – 12/6, Lewis Place, Negombo. Open 0900 – 1715 hrs.
Hikkaduwa TIC – Commercial Bank Bldg., Galle Road, Hikkaduwa. Tel : 09122-223397
Airport TIC – Located in the arrivals lounge of the International Airport, Katunayake and open day and night. Tel:11 2 452411
Tourist Police Units
Special Tourist Police Units are available to assist our visitors – Hotline +94112421451
Sri Lanka's location close to the equator ensures sunny weather throughout the year. However, within the island the temperatures can vary depending on where in Sri Lanka: the coastal regions experience temperatures ranging from 27°C to 30°C (roughly between 80.6°F and 86°F) while the inner, mountainous regions of the country can experience temperatures as low as 10°C (50°F).
Tour Guides & Chauffeur Guides
For Chauffeur Guides (CG), we recommend a tip of Rs 1500 – Rs 2300 per day per couple, depending on the quality of the service. If the CG exceeds expectations, then clients are free to increase the amount as they wish.
Please note: For Car and Driver Tours (C&D Tours), the Chauffeur cum Guide is licensed by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (Tourist Board) to guide tourists at all sites Island-wide.
National Guide Based Tours:
Rs. 350 (Approx. US$ 2.50) for the driver per day per client
Rs. 200 (Approx. US$ 1.50) for the helper per day per client
If any jeep safaris are included on tour, a tip of Rs. 1000 (Approx. US$ 7.00) is recommended per jeep in total for the jeep driver and tracker/naturalist
For guides it will be at the client’s own discretion
Taking Care of Valuables
It is essential that you keep your valuables in a safe place. Money, passport, tickets and electronic equipment should be in the hotel safety deposit locker. Do not leave your valuables unattended on the beach. Do not leave money or passports in your unlocked baggage.