Sri Lanka Travel Guide

Central Province (Kandy, Matale, Nuwara Eliya)
This is the highlands of the country with a lot of beautiful tea plantations, waterfalls, valleys and streams. Highest mountain piduruthalagala and the famous worlds end are situated in Nuwaraeliya.

Northern Province (Jaffna)
After end of the 30 year civil war this region is slowly returning to its status as an important tourist attraction. Some areas remain unsafe and have yet to be cleared from mines.

North Central Province (Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Dambulla)
The ancient kingdoms of Sri Lanka dating back over 2500 years. Rich in history, the area is known as the cultural triangle.

Eastern Province (Trincomalee, Arugam Bay)

Southern Province (Galle, Weligama, Matara, Tangalle, Unawatuna, Yala National Park)
the historic city of Galle and national parks

Uva (Badulla, Haputale, Bandarawela)
cool highland hill retreats

Western Province (Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte, Beruwela, Colombo, Gampaha, Negombo)
the administrative capital and the largest city plus some popular beach resorts


Anuradhapura — ruins of ancient capitals (partially restored)
Colombo — the largest city of Sri Lanka
Galle — a home for a Dutch fort, and a a gathering point for travelers from the nearby beach resort villages
Jaffna — Northern Capital ravaged by the civil war
Kandy — the spiritual heart of the country, home to a tooth of the Buddha
Nuwara Eliya – the most important location for Tea production in Sri Lanka
Polonnaruwa — ruins of ancient capitals (partially restored)
Ratnapura – City Of Gems

Other destinations

Adam’s Peak – the butterfly mountain of Sri Lanka
Yala National Park – wildlife Safari
Beruwela – beach resort not too far from Colombo
Haputale – small hill town in the cool highlands
Horton’s Plains and World’s End
Robolgoda– beach resort on the south coast
Sinharaja Rainforest – A world Heritage
Unawatuna – beach resort on the south coast very close to Galle
Mirissa – small beach village on the south coast close to Matara with two good surfing spots
Trincomalee – beautiful beaches in the north east
Batticaloa – called land of singing fish. beautiful sallow beaches, paddy fields, historical places.
Kitulgala – for pristine nature & adventure seekers – white water rafting – 4 hours from Colombo
Arugam Bay – Southeast coast beach town with several top surfing spots


Please be aware that to get into many of the tourist sites in Sri Lanka, there will be a fee for most of these sites.

Go to Kandy to see the Sri Dhalada Maligawa and Peradeniya Botanical Gardens.

Go to Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa to see ancient temples,ruins which are very beautiful.

Go to Nuwara Eliya to see beautiful villages which look like England. There are many tea estates and Hakgala botanical gardens too.

Go to Unawatuna, Galle, Trincomalee(Nilaweli Beach),Pasikuda and north areas to see extremely beautiful beaches.

Go to Mirissa and Kalpitiya and watch whales and dolphins.

Go to Jaffna and the islands in the Northern Province (Delft) to see unexplored Sri Lanka.

Go to Yala National Park , Wilpattu , Wasgamuwa for the best wildlife Safari experience. Udawalawe to see elephants and Kumana (Yala East) for birdwatching.

Go to Kithulgala for white water rafting.


There is nothing that you “”Can’t Do”” in Sri Lanka and there is variety of things that you can do depending on your preference.
Surfing from November to April you can surf in the western and southern coast. Best place for the beginners is Weligama on the southern coast. You can rent a board for 1500 Rupee per day or 400 Rupee per hour. Lesson costs 2500 Rupee for 1 h, but bargain.
Kitesurfing from April to September you can kitesurf eastern coast. Best place for the beginners is Kalpitiya (Sethawadi and Kappaladi lagoons), where you can find kiteschools and best conditions in Asia.


The currency is the Sri Lankan Rupee. The exchange rates are approximately 115Rs/ USD, 159Rs/ EUR or 183Rs/GBP(The exchange rate for dollar everywhere is 110LR/USD, hotels its 109/USD and only in casinos they give 115/USD which generally they give in the form of chips in the play tables). There are coins for 25 and 50 cents (bronze), 1 rupee (old version is big and silver, new version is small and gold,) 2 rupees (silver,) and 5 rupees (gold,) as well as banknotes ranging from 10- 5000 rupees. Coins that are more than a few years old are typically in quite bad condition.
Handicrafts Of Sri Lanka. For reed, cane, cotton, paper, leather, wood, clay, metal, and gemstones have been transformed and re-expressed in a array of batiks, toys, curios and jewelery, all exquisite hand made treasures.

Credit cards and ATMs, banking services

ATMs are located in many places (especially at bank branches) in the cities and suburbs, less so in the countryside. Be careful of using credit cards, as fraud is on the rise in Sri Lanka. You can withdraw from debit cards too (Cirrus, Maestro, Visa Electron etc) where the logos are displayed. Mostly your card will be replaced by your bank once you go back to your country. Not every ATM accepts international cards, try Commercial Bank they accept international cards. NOTE ! You can’t send money by Western Union or Money Gram from Sri Lanka abroad. One can only receive money via international money transfer while in Sri Lanka.

Comment: Compared to other countries we can find very few cases in credit card cheating.


Sri Lanka and South Indian food share a lot in common, and many local restaurants will describe their menus as Sri Lankan & South Indian. There are a number of regional variations though, the different types of hopper, devilled prawns/cuttlefish/chicken/etc. and the common fiery addition to any curry, pol sambol made of grated coconut, red chilli powder and lime juice.

The food is very cheap generally, with a cheap meal costing about a dollar. The most expensive, tourist-orientated places seldom charge more than ten dollars. The staple food of Sri Lankans is rice and curry – a massive mound of rice surrounded by various curries and delicacies. If you want to eat a cheap lunch you can follow the Sri Lankan crowds and duck into any of a million small cafes, confusingly called ‘Hotels’. These normally sell a rice and curry packet, as well as ‘short eats’, a collection of spicy rolls. This is ideal for backpackers and those who want to get past the touristy hotels selling burnt chicken and chips – you’re charged by how much you eat, and unless you’re absolutely ravenous it probably won’t cost over a dollar.

If you are taking road trips outside Colombo, there are endless options for places to stop on the road for lunch. Rest houses and hotels along major roads throughout Sri Lanka have good restaurants, and will offer both Sri Lankan and Western menus. If you are less adventurous, you can easily get good sandwiches and soups at these restaurants. These places have excellent rice and curry plates, and you will be served many different types of curries over an extremely generous portion of rice. These meals are extremely delicious and will leave you full and happy at the end of the meal. Eating will definitely be a memorable experience in Sri Lanka.


In Sri Lanka Water from the tap is not considered to be safe to drink in the country. However if you are using bottled water (1.5 litre for 60-70 LKR in March 2012) please make sure SLS (Sri Lanka Standard Institute) label is present. Also in some parts of the country you’ll find hard water due to the high presence of lime in the soil. Fresh milk, due to the climate, spoils easily, and so is often very expensive. Powdered milk, however, is safe and is often substituted.

Thambili the juice from King Coconut, is very refreshing. It’s sold at the side of streets throughout the island, you know it’s clean as the coconut is cut open in front of you and it’s cheaper than bottled drinks at about R30/- each.

Soft drinks are available almost everywhere, normally in dusty-looking glass bottles. The local producer, Elephant, make a range of interesting drinks – try the ginger beer and cream soda.

“Coca Cola” and “Pepsi” also available in large and small sizes (plastic bottles) including several local soft drink brands – all available at rapidly multiplying supermarkets all across the country and grocery shops.

The most common local beer is Lion Lager (140 LKR in “wine shops” or 200-300 LKR in restaurants in March 2012). For something a bit different try Lion Stout. It is characterized by it’s tar-like oiliness of body and chocolate finish. Other brews include Three Coins, which is brewed by the Mt Lavinia hotel chain, allegedly to a Belgian recipe.

The traditional spirit is Arrack, which costs about 4 USD for a bottle, and is often drunk with club soda. The quality can vary depending on how much you want to pay. However, widely recommended brand would be “Old Reserve” and worth paying 7.5 USD for it.


Accommodation in Sri Lanka has been transformed in recent years. What would be recognized as the modern tourist industry began in the 1960s with traditional beach hotels built on the west coast which were aimed primarily at the package holiday crowd and traditional travel operators. But the past decade has brought a major change, with the growth of villas, boutique hotels, and small independent and individualistic properties offering a huge array of choice.

With the end of the civil war and the defeat of the Tamil forces in May 2009, tourist arrivals have been going up,and as there still aren’t a great many decent hotels it’s probably better to book early.

The Elephant Corridor Hotel is located in Sigiriya in the cultural triangle, 4 hours from Colombo. It offers Deluxe Suite, Super Deluxe Suite and Romantic Suite. Some of its facilities and services are OM Wellness Spa, Gym, Hammocks, Private terrace and garden. Guests of Elephant Corridor Sigiriya will find many interesting nearby places to explore: Pothana Lake, Kandalama Hills, Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura, Elephant Safari, Minneriya elephant watching, Sigiriya Rock Fortress and Dambulla Rock.

  • Living Heritage Koslanda, Egodawatte Estate, Naulla,  +94 (0) 779 355 785,. Their bed and breakfast accommodation in Sri Lanka offers rooms equipped with air conditioning, cable television, Wi-Fi access, sitting area, private toilet and bath. Some of its facilities and services are swimming pool, garden, restaurant, coffee shop, parking, WiFi in public areas, laundry service and 24-hour room service.

Stay healthy

  • Vaccination are recommended for Hepatitis A+B and Tetanus. Also, the Typhus vaccination outside of tourist areas especially in the wet season. The CDC also recommends vaccination against Japanese encephalitis[26]. Note the qualification that the CDC recommendation contains and decide accordingly:

“The overall incidence of JE among people from nonendemic countries traveling to Asia is estimated to be less than 1 case per 1 million travelers. However, expatriates and travelers who stay for prolonged periods in rural areas with active JEV transmission are likely at similar risk as the susceptible resident population (5–50 cases per 100,000 children per year). Travelers on even brief trips might be at increased risk if they have extensive outdoor or nighttime exposure in rural areas during periods of active transmission. Short-term (<1 month) travelers whose visits are restricted to major urban areas are at minimal risk for JE. In endemic areas there are few human cases among residents because of vaccination or natural immunity. JEV is often still maintained in an enzootic cycle between animal and mosquitoes. Therefore, susceptible visitors may be at risk for infection.”

  • Dengue fever: During the rainy season use mosquito repellent. When head and joint aches occur get a blood check. There is no vaccination yet.
  • Malaria : Gampaha (e.g. Negombo), ColomboKalutaraGalle, and Nuwara Eliya districts are considered malaria free, as is the city (but not the entire district) of Kandy. Elsewhere, malaria exists and is most likely in Anuradhapura. In the dry season, using DEET repellent for a mid-day road or train trip to Kandy (including visits to the Peradeniya Gardens) or Nuwara Eliya should suffice. Risk increases after sunset. Malaria prophylaxis (anti-malarials) are warranted for trips to the north (especially Anuradhapura), east, and southeast (however some types are not available locally, and it may not be as effective as what you could obtain back home.)
  • Yellow fever: A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travelers over 1 year of age coming from infected areas.
  • Filaria: Sri Lanka is the first country in the South Asia region to eradicate Filaria [27].
  • Polio: Sri Lanka is considered Polio free.

Visitors should avoid drinking water from the tap. It is best to stick to bottled water for both drinking and teeth brushing.


There are several customs that (for Westerners) take a bit of getting used to.

  • It is customary to remove shoes and wear respectful attire (i.e. no miniskirts, tank tops, short pants etc.) when visiting temples. It is also the custom to remove shoes before entering a home, though this is not as strictly followed as in places such as Japan.
  • Never touch or pat the top of the head of Buddhist monks, including children who practice at a temple.
  • Do not turn your back to (or be alongside) a Buddha statue when within a reasonable distance (observe what others are doing). This includes posing for photos. It’s OK to photograph a statue, but all persons should be facing it.
  • Public nudity is illegal in Sri Lanka – nude/topless sunbathing and skinny dipping should be avoided, except in the private beach resorts which allow it.
  • Although much latitude is given to tourists, it is more polite to use your right hand when shaking hands, handing money and small objects, etc. Of course you can use both hands for something big and/or heavy.
  • Be respectful to monks. There’s no particular etiquette for Westerners – just be polite. Always give them a seat on a crowded bus (unless you’re disabled or very elderly).
  • It is highly controversial to discuss politics, particularly the Sinhalese/Tamil divide or the LTTE. The 26 year old civil war which ended in 2009 has seen thousands of attacks throughout the country, including suicide bombings and massacres which have killed scores of politicians and civilians on both sides alike.
  • No photography of sensitive locations (inside and outside), and inside of shopping malls and tea factories (outside OK). Be especially careful in Fort, Colombo (except on the beach). If soldiers are guarding something, it probably shouldn’t be photographed. Don’t rely on signs alone, as sometimes they are old or missing. For example, one end of a bridge may have a “No Photography” sign, but not the other.
  • Seemingly innocuous public displays of affection between lovers such as kissing and/or hugging may be culturally frowned upon as it is considered to be private behaviour but it is acceptable in functions and establishments designated for adults such as nightclubs, casinos and beach parties. Much lenience is given to foreigners and holding hands and public affection between parents and their children is not frowned upon.


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