SRI LANKA – In translation: 'Happy Land', 'Honourable Island', 'shining, sparkling'
Sri Lanka is a tropical island state that lies in the Indian ocean, in front of the Indian mainland. The country is generally referred to as the pearl of the Indian ocean. Sri Lanka is a tropical paradise and due to its warm temperatures all year long, it’s an ideal tourist destination.
Holidays in Sri Lanka are always full of peace, wide landscapes and breath-taking nature trips. Sri Lanka's natural diversity contains rainforests, mountains and long rock plateaus; great biodiversity, mountain forests, bushy areas and beaches lined with palm trees.
Sri Lanka is an island with a wide natural variety, which can be discovered during hikes. However, Sri Lanka also has a lot to offer beyond its idyllic beaches and green landscapes. The country has a rich culture and history. There are several UNESCO world heritage sites on the island.
Thus, Sri Lanka offers its visitors many historical attractions as well as notable religious or cultural sites, which tell their visitors their long history.
There are numerous temples, statues, Royal historical sites, monasteries, old caves with historical stone carvings and also the natural monument of Sri Maha Bodhi. This monument is believed to be the oldest tree in Asia and also a popular Buddhist pilgrimage site.
Sri Lanka offers nice and comfortable accommodation. There are several central backpacker hostels, large hotel facilities at the beach, holiday homes in the jungle or smaller ones at the heart of the country. Furthermore, many travel agencies offer round trips to discover the country. The island can also easily be travelled on one’s own.
The island nation can be reached via Colombo Airport or Bandaranaike International Airport in Katunayake.
SRI LANKA’S POPULATION
Sri Lanka, officially the democratic socialist republic of Sri Lanka, is a tropical island state in the southeast of the Indian subcontinent. Up until May 22, 192, the state was called Ceylon. Sri Lanka is separated from India by the ‚Gulf of Mannar’ and ‚Palk Strait’. The only loose connection are the rocks of Adam’s bridge, which brings you to the Indian mainland. The island is located in the Indian ocean. It lies between the 6th and the 10th line of latitude; between the 9th and the 82nd Eastern line of longitude. The island covers an area of 65'610 square kilometres. It’s approximately 435 kilometres long and 240 kilometres wide. The island has a population of more than 19.5 million inhabitants (figure of 2004). The major part of the population is living in the Western province. Colombo is the capital city of that province. At the same time, the city is the political and economical centre of the island state.
Sri Lanka’s official capital is Sri Jayewardanepura, however, Colombo is the de facto capital. A rough 72% of Sri Lanka’s population are living in the countryside, only 22% live in cities and 6% on plantations. Most people of the country (70%) are Buddhists. 13% are Hindus, 9% Muslims, 7% Christians. Together with other religions, these are the religious minorities of Sri Lanka. The democratic, socialist nation emphasises tolerance and religious freedom. The Republic of Sri Lanka is divided into nine provinces and 25 districts. The provinces of the country are Western, Southern, Sabaragamuwa, Central, Uva, Eastern, North-Western, North-Central and Northern.
The official languages of Sri Lanka are Tamil and Sinhala. The most part of the population consists of Sinhala speakers. All official street signs, towns and vehicles are labelled mainly in Sinhala, Tamil and English. Since June 18, 1969, the Sri Lanka Rupee is the currency of the nation by law. Sri Lanka gained independence on February 4th, 1948. At this time, the Sri Lanka Matha, the country’s national anthem, was put together.
The tribes of the Naga and the Yakkas are considered the native population of Sri Lanka. The Veddas, who are the offspring of the Yakkas, still live on the island. However, the natural habitat of the indigenous population of Sri Lanka was destroyed early on with the clearing of the rainforests. Thus, the Veddas had to settle in villages many decades ago. Those initial jungle areas are now arable land. Furthermore, a large part of the area that used to be inhabited by the indigenous population was taken by settlers in the 20th century. In contemporary Sri Lanka, only an approximate number of 600 Veddas still live there. Like many other natural tribes, the tribe of the Vedda is in danger of dying out. Only a few indigenous people still adhere to their ancient customs.
The first Indorians to populate the land of Sri Lanka arrived as early as 500 AD. The Indorians are today’s Singhalese population and they make up a substantial part of Sri Lanka’s population. Buddhism reached the island around 247 AD, when the son and daughter of the Indian Maurya emperor arrived.
Buddhism became the official religion of the state as early as 200 AD. This is how Sri Lanka’s first Buddhist monastery was built at the capital city Anuradhapura. At the time after the 13th century, several kingdoms emerged, as for example the Tamil kingdom or the kingdom of Kotte. The island lost its independence in colonial times and the coastal regions were ruled by colonial powers.
In the beginning, the highlands were still ruled by the kingdom of Kandy. However, Kandy was defeated in 1815 and King Wikrama Rajasingha was arrested. Thereafter, the entire island was under British control fro 1818 onwards. The British improved the island’s infrastructure and a lot of coffee and tea plantations came into existence. At this time, the Indian Tamils arrived at the island as plantation workers. Together with the indigenous Sri Lanka Tails, they still are the largest minority within Sri Lanka’s contemporary population. Eventually, Ceylon became a British dominion in June 1947. On February 4th, 1948, the country gained independence. Since May 22, 1972, Ceylon is a republic named Sri Lanka. February 4th, which is the day of independence, is Sri Lanka’s national holiday.
Sri Lanka offers countless attractions for visitors. The country is home to a large variety of historical and cultural sites. There are many historical buildings, parks, old royal sites, ancient religious places like temples and monasteries as well as breath-taking constructions and natural memorials. They are all part of Sri Lanka’s long history.
During a stay in Sri Lanka, many attractions can be visited. Most religious attractions of Sri Lanka may only be visited without shoes and with an uncovered head. Therefore, tourists should always bring socks when visiting temples. Due to the warm temperatures, the rock can get really hot.
We would like to introduce you to the following attractions: the sacred mountain Adam’s Peak, Anuradhapura and its natural monument, the Sri Maha Bodhi fig tree, the erect Buddha Aukana, Colombo, the rock temple of Dambulla, Ella’s mountainous region, Mihintale’s monastery, the Galle Fortress, the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, Matale’s rock temple, Nuwara Eliya’s tea plantations, the elephant orphanage in Pinnawela, Polonnaruwa’s sites, the pines of Ratnapura, the rock fortress of Sigiriya, Tangalle, Trincomalee, Batticaloe, Yala-Park, Uda Walawe’s elephants, the Sinharaja rainforest, World’s End in the Horton Plains and last but not least, the whales of Mirissa.
Click here to learn more about these attractions.
FIRST TIME IN SRI LANKA
There’s certainly someone you know who has been to Sri Lanka before and has experienced one thing or another. You might have heard some mythical fairy tales which were passed on from generation to generation, maybe in exaggerated or understated versions, to make sure the audience doesn’t cancel their flight and book a coffee trip at the riverside of the Danube instead. Like every country, Sri Lanka is always subject to change, maybe even more than other tourist destinations. Therefore, no two travellers will experience the sae journey, even if the route is exactly the same. In a nutshell: Sri Lanka combines all goodness, beauty and culinary delights which are only found separately in other countries. There are the people, its’ safe, culture, flora, fauna, food and more. We pledge to treat the pearl of the Indian ocean with respect and care.
FIRST CONTACT - SRI LANKA
As long as your passport is valid for another six months and you found a cheap flight with Qatar Airways (for example), there’s almost nothing standing in your way. The easiest thing would be to apply for a 30-day visa via http://www.eta.gov.lk. Be aware that you need a credit card for that and that it can take up to 48 hours until you receive your confirmation e-mail. If you get your visa in advance, you don’t have to worry about your transit to Sri Lanka. However, you also have the opportunity to apply for and fill in your visa at the transit airport, but it can be stressful. Good to know: Qatar checks visas prior to the flight to Sri Lanka.
Regular visas are valid for 30 days. Contact us if you need to extend your visa so that we can help you.
As soon as you have your visa sorted, you need nothing more than a few Euros in your travel funds and your stay in Sri Lanka can come! 600.- Euros should be enough for a 14-day holiday for two people. You can of course travel on a lower budget too as this will still allow you to enjoy the tasty curries for approx. 350.- rupees (Euro 2.30) at local restaurants or snack bars. If you’re a hygiene freak, just close your eyes for the first bite. This will let you forget about your concerns quickly.
In theory, you don’t need to pre-book your accommodation. If you’re spontaneous and open enough, you can always wait at the train station until someone comes and offers you accommodation. (Attention: It’s possible that no hotel representatives will come to the station if you’re in a non-touristic town. In this case it’s easier to take a Tuk Tuk and ask the driver to find accommodation for you. However, you should always insist on seeing the accommodation before making a deal.)
A handy way to book good accommodation is www.booking.com. Not only do we highly recommend this page because the COCOSTE Paradise guest house and lodges can be booked there, but also because our experiences with the site were good and uncomplicated. We found great deals like Kottawatta Resort at the Udawalawe Nationalpark and the world’s first elephant baby orphanage.
If you travel to Sri Lanka for the first time and haven’t booked a transfer to your hotel, there are several options to get into the country. Depending on your preferences, you can choose one of the following options:
Well organised: You are a well organised traveller with an eye for details. You organise your hotel transfer in advance because you think that travelling by public transport with all of your luggage is too time-consuming. In case your transfer is not there when you arrive for some reason, you use a large space taxi. These are slightly more expensive than normal taxis, but they have air-conditioning, music and are known to be safe.
Timeless: For you, the holidays start when your airplane takes off. Your hard suitcase is in the basement at home or being used as an indoor-beach. You love simplicity, openness, surprises, chaos and your instinctive behaviour at the airport, where you haven’t booked a transfer. There’s nothing you need to do except enjoy your arrival. Your instincts will tell you what to do next. Your fate will guide you, no matter whether that’s towards a taxi, Tuk Tuk or a connecting flight.
Low-Cost: You want to save your holiday funds for food rather than transport. This is our ultimate low-cost suggestion: There is a shuttle bus that will bring you from the airport into the capital city for just a few rupees.
TIP: Don’t forget to bargain. If you don’t want to pay the stated price, you can look for another option. The taxi driver will certainly find his transfer later. You’re lucky if your taxi driver wants to get home and you are going into the same direction. For your orientation; these are the prices that are normal for a journey in a private minibus with air-conditioning at the moment: 10'000 rupees are normal for a journey to Galle. Prices can be higher, however. You can get to Kandy for 6'500 rupees and to the city centre of Colombo for 2'000 rupees.
TRAFFIC AND MEANS OF TRANSPORT
In general, the streets of Sri Lanka are in a very good condition. However, Sri Lanka’s traffic situation often allows for a very slow average speed of 40km/h max in the countryside, regardless of the means of transport. Most roads run through villages and residential areas, which is why higher speeds are not advisable. Traffic is often dense and consists of a wild mix of different vehicles. For the most part, the roads are populated by Tuk Tuks rather than passenger cars, which prevents agile forward movement. Travellers should bring strong nerves and a lot of patience, especially when it comes to travelling longer distances in the countryside. But this is part of the reason why travelling on the road is advisable. Long bus journeys trigger casual conversations and will leave you with unforgettable memories.
The condition of the vehicles used in Sri Lanka is sometimes way below European standards. Sri Lanka is, however, constantly improving and new vehicles are subject to a strict import policy. But still, a lot of vehicles in use are in a wretched condition. The yearly check is similar to the one in Britain, but many inhabitants don’t do it regularly, which is why a lot of accidents happen, especially in the countryside. If you want to drive yourself, it’s advisable to inform yourself about the written and unwritten traffic rules in Sri Lanka.
A traffic accident can be a real problem because the infrastructure of rescue services does not work properly. The risk is highest in the dark and you should therefore avoid being on the road at night, except in cities. The streets are often only marginally lit. In order to avoid the risk of accidents, which is often triggered by venturesome bus drivers, we suggest you use railway services wherever possible.
The three-wheeled Tuk Tuks are the most popular vehicles in Sri Lanka. They are based on moped engines and usually have a bench with three seats plus the driver’s seat. They are also called „Three Wheeler“ or Trishaws and since they are so loud, you cannot miss their arrival.
If you travel with a lot of baggage, it’s a good idea to use larger Tuk Tuks with more storage space. Tuk Tuks are usually the most common and also a rather inexpensive way of travelling Sri Lanka. However, they may not always be the safest option. Tuk Tuks normally don’t have security belts, no crumple zone and they are open at the sides. However, they are certainly the most fun to travel with and you can find them everywhere and at any time.
Many Tuk Tuk drivers use tricks in order to make visitors pay more for their journey. The price ranges from 30 to 100 rupees per kilometre, depending on the distance, the number of passengers and the mood of the driver. Especially in bigger cities, some Tuk Tuks have a taximeter. However, visitors need to make sure it is used correctly. If it is, then the price you will pay is often way below that you would pay if you bargain. In general, you should discuss the price before starting the journey. Since there are always several Tuk Tuks around, you don’t have to make a deal with the first driver you meet, even if he seems very convincing. The Tuk Tuk drivers that are waiting around hotels and tourist attractions usually demand prices that are way higher than usual. If you walk a few hundred meters away from attractions and hotels, you will probably find cheaper options. The easiest thing to do is to ask locals about the usual price per kilometre.
Around Colombo and in some other places, the number of taxis is on the rise. They are sometimes cheaper than Tuk Tuks because of their taximeter. If you want to travel long distances, you can always make an all-day deal, as for example 80 km in eight hours for 40 USD. Prices can be higher at certain times, especially at night and on holidays. Taxis (often vans) almost always have air-conditioning and they are safer than Tuk Tuks. However, you never know the driving style of your driver in advance and you can thus end up having a rather wild ride anyway.
It is possible to rent mopeds but it is less common than in other Asian countries. However, you will find many offers around Negombo, Hikkaduwa. The mopeds there can be rented for daily or weekly time spans.
Sri Lankan hotels commonly suggest rental cars as the preferred means of transport to their guests. Since hourly wages are generally very low in Sri Lanka, a rental car with a driver doesn’t necessarily cost (much) more than without one. Drivers with an official license should be preferred. Some of them have profound knowledge of the history, geography, culture and attractions of the country, know several languages and prove to be very helpful to international visitors. Unfortunately though, this is not always the case, so you should not expect too much.
Car Rental Services – Local Travel Agencies
The most comfortable method to get to know the island of Sri Lanka and its attractions is to book a van tour at a local travel agency.
Like in other South-East Asian countries, there are some black sheep among the providers. You should thus inform yourself in advance to get an idea about which places to visit, how long your round trip should be and what is included in the price. There are always accounts of visitors who want to book a round trip including interesting attractions but end up in an establishment that belongs to a friend, an acquaintance or a business partner of the driver. A sign of a good and informative round trip are clear maps that provide an overview of the journey.
The public bus network of large Sri Lankan cities is well established. Furthermore, there are long-distance busses for journeys all across the island. Busses will bring you to any place where people live or where there is something interesting to see. This is an inexpensive way of travelling long distances. The comfort of the journey cannot be compared to that of a rental car or a van, but suspension makes bus journeys comfortable sometimes. In local traffic, busses without air-conditioning are normal, however, it is a great way to get to know local people. You will not be able to escape the bumpy ride on the holey road even if you find a seat.
It is expected to leave the seats of the first row for monks and priests, should you meet any. More comfortable busses with air-conditioning and a guaranteed seat are available at double cost. If compared to Europe, this is still rather cheap and it will certainly make your journey more comfortable.
The railway system of the island is well established and connects all the bigger cities (except those in the North). Express trains are more likely to arrive than busses, but they’re not available on all routes. Trains are often more comfortable than busses and sometimes even cheaper.
Tickets can often be purchased in three categories. Third class isn’t necessarily less comfortable than second and also offers sufficient seating, which is usually a bit simpler (without arm rests). Special tourist compartments are on offer, which allow for great landscape photography. However, these should be booked early as they are sometimes fully booked several days in advance, especially on the popular route between Colombo and Kandy.
Air travel is probably the fastest connection between two distant places in Sri Lanka. Several airlines like Sri Lankan Airlines, Aero Lanka, Cinnamon Air and Fly Sri Lanka offer flights in smaller aircrafts between Colombo, Kandy, Jaffna, Galle, Nuwara, Eliya, Ratmalana, Trincomalee and other places in Sri Lanka. From the air, visitors can marvel at the beauty of the island from above and if they are lucky, it’s even possible to take home a few nice photographs.
GENERAL INFORMATION – MEDICAL – CLIMATE
Sri Lanka’s hospitality is unique and popular. You can stroll through a tourist site and you are likely to be invited to tea by some locals. Just keep in mind that you are a tourist and also that you are seen as such. It is thus not uncommon if you’re also seen as a ‚business partner’ with whom one can try to make deals. Be cautious and rely on your common sense. Nothing has to happen overnight.
Buddha is worshipped all over Sri Lanka and visitors should thus pay respect to representations of Buddha. This means that you cannot take pictures of people who stand with their backs turned on Buddha statues. As a visitor, you should be cautious and respectful when it comes to the statues, especially when taking pictures. By no means should you climb a Buddha statue. You need to wear appropriate clothing when entering Buddhist temples, which means that your shoulders and knees should be covered.
Ladies should consider the traditional rules that are followed on the island in public zones. They include the wearing of clothes that cover a lot of skin, especially shoulders and knees should not be visible. Common t-shirts and blouses are usually okay, as well as pants and longer skirts.
At the beach, women should wear bathing suits that cover both back and belly (don’t wear bikinis). Gents can wear shorter pants which don’t cover the kneew, but longer pants are considered more respectful. If you enter a temple or a special house, both men and women should take off their shoes.
Behaviour in Conversation
In spite of the fact that daily life in Sri Lanka’s large cities is usually loud and noisy, conversing in a very loud voice is considered impolite and should be avoided. The same is the case for immodest and pretentious behaviour. Furthermore, you ought not to use swear words.
Behaviour Between People of Different Genders
The open expression of love, also called PDA (Public Display of Affection), (close body contact, kissing etc.) is considered an insult in Sri Lanka as well as in other Asian countries and should thus be avoided.
Basic Medical Care
Even in a paradise like Sri Lanka, you can run into smaller or bigger accidents or fall sick, just like you can at home. It is important to have sufficient insurance that covers both illness and accidents. Transfers from Sri Lanka back to Switzerland should not be underestimated if you find yourself in an extreme situation. Our tip: Become a Rega sponsor. Further, the ETI World Charter offers options that are a lot better than those of other providers. It offers great compensation in collaboration with your health insurance company. You can find recommended vaccinations at www.safetravel.ch. In Sri Lanka, basic medical care is free for citizens. You will of course also receive treatment; medical care is exemplary in Sri Lanka. There are a few top private hospitals. However, in order to be treated there, you need to have sufficient insurance or funds.
There are a lot of mosquitoes both in the North-West as well as in swamps and mangrove forests. They can also occur at the seaside, but as long as certain things are considered, they are not disturbing at all. There are campaigns and law in Sri Lanka that prevent the spreading of mosquito larvae. Thus, no tubs and coconut shells may be stored with the opening facing up to prevent the accumulation of stagnant water. Joss sticks can help prevent a mosquito attack. Mosquito nets are present in moth rooms and they keep out 99% of the little brats. It makes sense to bring mosquito protection and appropriate clothing. You can also find highly effective, biological mosquito repellents in most Sri Lankan kiosks.
Travelling Sri Lanka on a vegan diet is particularly easy. Since most things are cooked using coconut milk, there are hardly any dairy products. However, if you are lactose intolerant, you should worry about your prophylactics (e.g. lacto tabs) in advance. You can find many things in local pharmacies, but if you are looking for lactose pills... you will find everything from laxatives to calorie shakes, but no lacto tabs...
As on any journey, our gastro-intestinal system has to adjust to many new things, which doesn’t necessarily go without problems. It is certainly a good idea to bring medication from home. However, our insider tip can be found at almost any kiosk: Siddhalepa gastro-intestinal juice... You can get a bottle of this Ayurveda-medicine for 70 rupees and it can do wonders!
Sri Lanka is generally a safe country to travel. The same rules like in any other country do apply: Theft and similar crimes are of course very ‚non-Buddhist’, yet an open door may tempt a saint. You thus need to to take the necessary precautions. It is easy to be safe from thieves with a few simple installations. Never leave things unattended at the beach and don’t ask strangers to take care of them. Furthermore, nocturnal strolls in dubious places are not advisable.
The Sri Lankan conflict between the government and the Tamil Tigers is officially terminated since 2009. Tourists where never the target of attacks at any point during the conflict. However, you need to be cautious, especially if you want to travel the North of the country. The North offers many beautiful places that are hardly visited by tourists, which is why it is worth a journey anyway.
Both mobile networks and electricity is available nationwide and it is quite stable. The mobile network should work with any provider, however, it can get expensive. In Sri Lanka, you could simply get a local pre-paid card which can be bought and reloaded at any small store.
Electricity is a chaotic thing in Sri Lanka. Actually, Sri Lanka used to be a British colony, but British sockets are a rarity even in new buildings. The best thing to use are German plugs. The double-pole plugs fit into every socket, but their connection is not always as automatic as we are used to. You need an auxiliary tool, but you can certainly find out about that for yourself (as we don’t really want to bear liability for any electricity accidents...).
Based on our own experiences, we have collected a few tips concerning your packing list.
- Sun hat and sunglasses. You can find the same hat in Sri Lanka 1000 times, but certainly not the one you need.
- Water sports equipment like snorkelling equipment, body board, surfing and diving gear can easily be rented, but if you don’t want to break your habits, you can bring your own gear.
- Memory cards or Kodak film rolls, if you still use these.
- Batteries for your devices
- Sri Lanka is a land of tea, but not of coffee. Don’t forget your favourite beans if you can’t survive without them.
- Sun and mosquito protection is usually cheaper back home, and cheaper in Germany than in Switzerland. Especially if you use Nivea.
- Prophylactics against lactose-intolerance, charcoal tablets against diarrhoea and other medication.
Sri Lanka’s cuisine is one of the most complex ones in Southern Asia. Due to the geographical closeness, it has some South-Indian influences, but some dishes are different because of their ingredients and are thus of unique character. Due to its strategically important location in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka used to be one of the largest centres of trade, where a lot of spices and other ingredients were available in a constellation that couldn’t be found anywhere else in the world.
Rice can be eaten as a basis at any time of the day. However, spicy curries are usually enjoyed for lunch or dinner. The national cuisine does in fact have a few extremely spicy dishes ready for you. But those who don’t like it too spicy will also find great food. Even if you don’t want to eat rice, there are always alternatives. You can choose from several bread options, usually from flat pita breads like Paratha or Roti. As Sri Lanka is an island with a tropical climate, it is not surprising that the main foods also include a lot of fish and coconut.
Main Dishes, National Dishes
Below you will find classic main dishes which are usually served in Sri Lanka. Most of these are commonly served with rice, Roti or Paratha.
Fish and Meat Dishes
Fish-Curry with mixed rice
One of the most traditional dishes of the island is rice with one of the many forms of curry. Mixed rice usually comes with local vegetables.
Chili-Fish Curry with rice
Aromatic creations with spicy chilli are no rarity in Sri Lanka. Fish is an especially popular basis.
Fried, salted fish
A fish dish that appeals to fish lovers due to the special Sri Lankan frying and seasoning. The fish, which tastes great to seasoned rice, is crispy and mostly comes from local waters. Sometimes it is imported fish from the Maldives or other regions in the Indian oceans.
The curry consists of lamb meat, a spice mixture called Garam Masala, onions, curry powder, chillies, garlic, ginger, coconut and coriander. It can be very spicy.
Kottu with meat
Kottu is basically a vegetarian dish, but it can also be ordered with meat, cheese and egg.
This dish is very common in Sri Lanka. It consists of various ingredients, which are baked in banana leaves. The desired ingredients are placed on a banana leaf and are then mixed with rice. The leaves can be filled with lamb, chicken, mutton or vegetarian specialities.
The traditional Sri Lankan bread is called Paratha. Similar kinds of bread in the region are Roti or Chapati. These flat breads are ideal to dip or as a basis for other dishes.
Kottu is one of the most popular Sri Lankan dishes. It consists of small pieces of Paratha bread which are fried in oil and seasoned with an individual selection of spices.
Candied eggplant with rice (Brinjal Eggplant)
Candied eggplant on rice are often served together with regional vegetables and curries.
Daal-Curry is certainly one of the most typical dishes of Sri Lanka. It consists of lentils and coconut milk and is served with rice.
Pieces of jackfruit are used in curries that range from mild to very spicy.
You can get fried jackfruit-semen in various restaurants or hotels. They are salted and wrapped in small paper bags.
Sri Lankan Samosas
These small triangular dumplings are filled with meat or vegetables and can be enjoyed everywhere in Sri Lanka. They taste great even when they’re cold.
Roti are similar to Samosas, but they aren’t fried. Instead, they are cooked in a pan. They are usually filled with fish, meat or vegetables.
Delicate mutton with tomato and spices is sold at many small stands all over Sri Lanka.
As one of the world’s most important tea manufacturers, Sri Lanka offers a bountiful variety of tasty tea variants which can be tasted directly on-site. Ceylon-Tea got its name from the name Sri Lanka bore until 1972. Most people in Sri Lanka enjoy Ceylon-Tea with milk or ginger.
The tropical climate of Sri Lanka enables a variety of fruits to grow. The most popular for fruit juices are passion fruit, mango, oranges, black currant and pineapple.
This lightly alcoholic drink is based on palm juice.
Arrak, which is called „rice brandy“ in German, is an alcoholic speciality of Sri Lanka. It’s produced on the basis of palm sugar juice and rice mash. Sri Lanka is the oldest and most prolific producer of coconut Arrak in the world. Some of the most notable providers are brands like DCSL, IDL, Rockland and Mendis.
Many people own private water springs which offer drinking water of great quality. However, you need to be aware that Sri Lanka also offers public water supply, but this water has to be cooked first. It is thus advisable to buy bottled water. In Sri Lanka’s stores, you can find a variety of different kinds of bottled water. It is advisable to buy water with the health ministry label SLS / SLS 894. These bottles are produced with oxidised well water and a kation – anion structure, which is why they can be consumed without concerns. In a nutshell: If you buy bottled water, make sure you buy bottles with the SLS / SLS 894 label.
King Coconut, Cocos nucifera (‚King’), also called „Thambili“ in Sri Lanka, is a special kind of coconut that builds little coconut flesh because it is an artificially selected drinking coconut. You cannot find a better or a more natural drink in Sri Lanka. The water of the coconut is germ-free and it contains a lot of potassium, calcium, magnesium and fibre. They are offered in the streets at very low prices (approx. 40 rupees).
FLORA AND FAUNA
Sri Lanka’s flora and fauna is, in correspondence with the country’s nature and climatic conditions, varied and species-rich. Thus, you shouldn’t close your eyes to the plants and animals around you when you travel Sri Lanka. There are tropical mountain- and rainforests in the West because there is a lot of precipitation in this region. In the East and North of the country, you will find bushy areas and valuable mahogany trees.
Sri Lanka is also home to the oldest tree of Asia. The tree is called Sri Maha Bodhi and it is located in Anaradhapura. The tree is an important pilgrimage site for many followers of Mahayana Buddhism. This Ficus religiosa is an offshoot of the Bodhi Tree of Bodh-Gaya from India. It is said that this was the tree that helped Buddha Shakyamuni find enlightenment.
There are a lot of plant species on the island. However, these can also be found in India and South East Asia. Sri Lanka also has many useful plants like tea, coconut, rice, coffee, indigo, cinnamon or tobacco. These agricultural plants play a pivotal role for the income of Sri Lanka’s population.
The country’s lush nature is protected in large national parks. The biggest and oldest one is the Yala Nationalpark.
This national park is located in the province of Uva. It protects Sri Lanka’s nature within an area of approx. 1500 km². It is a popular place for tourists because it is populated by many birds and several mammalian species like elephants, leopards, peacocks and painted storks. There are footpaths within the park that cover 100 km. The paths lead visitors to the feeding grounds of the animal. The park can be discovered in a jeep with a park guide. It is closed during the dry period between August and October.
In addition to Sri Lanka’s varied flora, the country is also inhabited by many different kinds of animals like crocodiles, monitor lizards, snakes like tiger pythons, herons, elephants, leopards, boar, bears, jackals, different monkey species like Hanuman Langures and geckos. Sri Lanka’s numerous reservoirs are home to a wide variety of fish, which fall prey to the countless cormorants. In Sri Lanka, you can find comfortable holiday homes in the middle of the country’s tropical nature and even in rainforests. If you choose accommodation like that, you can start your nature discovery right from your doorstep. Moreover, there are many providers of guided hikes through the paradise.
Sri Lanka’s climate is typically tropical. Temperatures in the coastal areas are high all year long. The hilly regions are a bit cooler. Generally, there are two seasons – rain season and dry season. This was the ‚official’ climate data. Now let’s give you our ‚personal’ climate data. There is no single best time to travel Sri Lanka. It is heavily dependent on the regions you intend to visit.
The West, the South Coast and the South West Coast
The best time to travel these regions is from November until April. However, there can be heavy thunderstorms until the end of January, especially in the evenings. Maximum temperatures are around 38° Celsius.
Monsoon season starts in the middle of May and will be over at the end of June. During this time, you have to expect constant rain. From July until October, the region is comfortable to be in. There can be frequent rainfall, but average temperatures lie around 28° Celsius.
The East Coast
The ideal time to travel the Eastern Coast of Sri Lanka are the months from April until September.
The North of Sri Lanka
The North is the country’s best region to travel. Rainfall occurs from November until December. The region remains dry during the rest of the year.
These are all just general reference points. The weather can go crazy from time time, which can lead to uncommon climatic conditions at any time of the year.
Undercurrents in the Ocean
The sea is unpredictable and it can be very dangerous during monsoon season. There are always a lot of warnings during this time and you do yourself a favour if you take these warnings seriously. Wind, the tide, protection through reefs, bays etc., local undercurrents and especially the relief of the beach triggers different effects in each bay. In Sri Lanka, there are also some beaches that are monitored and internationally flagged.
PERSONAL CLIMATE DATA
Equatorial climate: Hardly ever under 25° Celsius, not even at night, together with high air humidity (imagine the tropical house at the zoo), average yearly temperature of 27.8° Celsius (Colombo).
Water: always warm, 26-28° Celsius
Southwest Monsoon: In the time from May until August, humid air masses arrive from the South West. The season is also called rain season. South Western winds whirl up the sea, there is more suspended matter in the sea, higher waves.
Maximum precipitation: May/June and October/November. Minimum precipitation: January until April.
The best time to travel the West coast of Sri Lanka: certainly December until April; little precipitation, the sea is calm, ideal for swimming and snorkelling, a lot of sunshine.
Note: April is often disregarded – a hot and dry month during which the English used to escape into the mountains whenever possible. So why not travel Sri Lanka during the Easter holiday?
Holidays during the rain season: One can and should travel Sri Lanka during the rainy season. There are countless reports about travelling the country during monsoon season, some of these reports are even ‚sunny’. Some travellers have prepared for the worst: Constant rain, killer waves, grey sky... but had dream weather every time anyway; 10 days of blue sky and more sun than one could wish for.
What you need to know about the rainy season is that heavy rainfall usually occurs in the evening and at night rather than all day long. More than three consecutive rain days are rather unlikely.
In Sri Lanka, any day on which rainfall occurs is counted as a rain day, no matter the duration and amount of rain. What seems more important to us is thus the daily sunshine duration: In the top months, this figure amounts up to an average of 8-9 hours, during monsoon season there are still 5-6 hours of intense, tropical sunshine.
Sri Lanka Facts
We have collected some facts about Sri Lanka for you. In some cases, we refer you to official sources. These facts are information and tips from our own experience. We suggest you visit Sri Lanka in order to be sure hat our facts are true. Please let us know if you find anything that is not true or not true anymore and we will happily adapt our information here.
Let’s start with two useful links, which can be visited if you are interested:
TRAVEL ADVICE EDA ABOUT SRI LANKA
The travel information collected here is a momentary suggestion of the EDA. They are checked regularly and adapted where necessary. You should also have a look at the following, not country-specific travel information and the focus-topics; they are a part of the travel information.
WIKIPEDIA ABOUT SRI LANKA
Sri Lanka (Singhalese ශ්රී ලංකා, śrī laṃkā, [ˌɕriːˈlaŋkaː]; Tamil இலங்கை, ilaṅkai) was called Ceylon until 1972 (it’s contemporary name is Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka). It is an island state situated in the Indian ocean, 237 km (Western coast of the island) east of India’s southernmost point. Sri Lanka counts 20.3 million inhabitants. The smallest distance between India (Kodiyakkarai) and Sri Lanka (Munasal) amounts to 54.8 km.