Sri Lanka: Important Bits

If you’re planning a trip to Sri Lanka then you’re in luck. We’ve researched all the important bits that you need to know, and written them down for you. All of those boring things that you’d much rather someone else do. You can thank us later.

Best Time To Visit

Take this with a pinch of salt. What with global change, we found a few times that destinations that were promised to be enduring downpours were actually pleasantly warm with not a raindrop in sight.

December to March is known as the high season. The weather is dry in the Hill Country as well as on beaches in the west and south.

April & September to November are, generally speaking, the best weather countrywide.

May to August and it’s monsoon season time. Most people head northward to avoid the rains which are supposed to hit particularly hard in the south and west coasts as well as the Hill Country. That being said, we visited in late May to early June and rarely got stuck in a downpour – though we certainly would’ve welcomed it at times.

Visa

This is something you’ll need to look into yourselves, as we may not share the same nationality. For us, we needed to sort out an ETA (Electronic Travel Authorisation) before we arrived in Sri Lanka. Emphasis on before. You need to do this beforehand or risk spending an extra lump of money. Follow the link here to start your application.

Currency

Sri Lanka uses the rupee (LKR or Rs). The denominations are: 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 1000, 2000 and 5000. If, like us, you’re not mathematically inclined, you’ll spend many minutes counting the zeros on each note to make sure you’ve got the right number.

Prices

We checked out the prices of transport, activities and accommodation before coming to Sri Lanka from blog posts that were a couple of months old and in that short time, there’s been a pretty big increase. Tuk tuk rides that were referenced at 400 LKR were now 1000 LKR – the same can be said for ticket entrance prices too. Locals told us that the country was in the midst of inflation. Bear this in mind when different blogs (ours included) reference prices. 

Getting Money

Finding an ATM is no issue in the cities and larger town. Bank of Ceylon don’t charge a fee on foreign cards, so that’s a good first point of call. Personally, we’d always suggest looking into getting a Monzo or Revolut card to avoid any hefty withdrawal fees.

Cash is widely used – more so than card. When you get the chance, break 50,000 LKR notes down. Small, independently owned restaurants, cafes etc. will sometimes not give change if you’re paying with a large note, so don’t get caught out.

Wifi

Wifi access in Sri Lanka is a bit like its monsoon season – there’s either a hell of a lot or practically none at all. We bought a sim card at the airport for 2800 LKR (8,3 euro) which ticked us over nicely. 50 MD worth of data and at a 4G speed. We did find that in the quieter places like Nuwara Eliya and Habarana, the service would be a lot patchier with the wifi being equally bad too.

Health

Thanks to our decision to stay in hostel, we met a lot of people during our Sri Lanka trip. We can count on one hand the number of people who didn’t have diarrhoea at some point. Sharing stories of breaking into a sprint for a toilet at the worst possibly timed moment certainly made for some funny conversations. But let’s be honest. We’d all rather avoid it.

Avoid drinking tap water. Stick to bottled. As tempting as it is to start trying the food from one of the many stalls – resist the urge. Start off with supermarket food and bland roti, then work your way up to the spicy stuff. It was the advice given to us by some locals we met and one that we followed religiously.

Women Travellers

You’ll get stared at. Whether you’re in a group with other travellers or going solo. Some stares will be curious, some will be the ‘other kind’ – you’ll know what I’m talking about. We’ll just say this. Is it anyone worse than what you’d experience back in your home country? A depressing fact, but one to think about. For us, the stares we received here paled in comparison to the verbal catcalls and straight-up harassment in our own countries. 

LGBTQIA Travellers

It depresses us that in this day and age we have to write the sentence: same-sex relationships are illegal in Sri Lanka. Same-sex couples will need to be mindful and keep their relationship discrete. Speaking from experience, we know how this feels and it sucks. We’re sorry.

Poya

These full moon days are public holidays. Some businesses may close on this day, and there will be changes to the opening times of museums, attractions and so forth – and busier crowds too. Buying alcohol will be difficult too with many establishments refusing to sell in case of some legal retribution.

Wrap Up

This should be enough to get you started for your Sri Lanka travels. If there’s any other important information that you think we’ve missed then let us and fellow readers know in the comment box.

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