Do you plan to use only local transport during your holidays in Sri Lanka? If so, forget the suitcase and focus on the backpack. You will be able to slip it more easily under your feet in the trains where luggage compartments are non-existent or in the buses where the luggage racks above your heads are not suited for bulky objects. However, if you will travel exclusively by plane or in a private car with a driver, like our Shanti travellers, take a suitcase! Tropical climate means heat and humidity - choose light clothing in natural materials such as linen or cotton in white or light colours. Take care though, it is always chilly in the mountains. A sweatshirt, a jacket or even a fleece can be useful for your evenings in Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Ella and the Knuckles Range.
Swimwear is of course a must. If you plan to swim in the waterfalls, prepare shorts and a T-shirt. Sri Lankans bathe with their clothes too, especially in less touristic areas, it is better to avoid bikinis so as not to shock the locals. Pack a lightweight wind-resistant raincoat or umbrella that will protect you from the rain and sun. If you want to keep your shoes in good condition, opt for plastic flip-flops that are more resistant to rain. Don’t forget a hat/cap/bandana and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun, which can be scorching at midday. For temple visits: men can wear T-shirts or a long-sleeved shirt, ladies should have shoulders and knees covered and avoid low-cut tops.
Our tip: always have a shawl on hand during your holidays in Sri Lanka! You will be required to take off your shoes before entering the sanctuaries. If you are afraid of burning your soles, prepare a pair of socks! If your program involves one or more days of trekking, choose comfortable clothes and bring a pair of sneakers. A small backpack will be convenient for carrying extra clothes, toiletries and a towel. A flashlight can also be useful, especially in rural areas. Don’t forget mosquito repellent (however, this is easy to find on the spot and much cheaper than in Europe), high protection sunscreen and your personal medical kit (intestinal disinfectant, anti-diarrhea, analgesic, etc..).
As long as you have an unlocked mobile phone, you can get a local SIM card (Shanti Travel offers it for all our travellers). You can reload credit very easily in small shops. This SIM card allows you to have 3G internet access. Telecommunications are cheap in Sri Lanka. Thanks to your SIM card, you can call internationally at unbeatable rates during your holidays in Sri Lanka. Telephone coverage is generally good except in Knuckles Range, mountainous areas and rural areas. Most hotels will provide WiFi, at least in public areas, and usually for free. If you plan to connect to the Internet with your international mobile phone, it is best to get in touch with your operator before you travel to Sri Lanka to know the price of this service.
The voltage in Sri Lanka is 230 volts, single phase and the frequency is 50 Hz. There are two types of plugs: typical British plugs with rectangular prongs and the general European-type plugs with three round prongs arranged in triangle. Even though most hotels lend adapters, they can be purchased locally at tourist shops and supermarkets. If you want to anticipate, you can buy one before your departure.
A trip to Sri Lanka does not present any particular health risk if you follow basic precautions. Nevertheless, we recommend that you consult your doctor before your departure and bring along your usual medications and prescriptions. General health information is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
No vaccine is required for European nationals. However, it is recommended to be up-to-date with the following vaccines: tetanus, poliomyelitis and diphtheria. Vaccinations against hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid are also recommended. Antimalarial preventive treatment is generally ineffective. On the other hand, it is essential to protect yourself from mosquitoes, some of which can carry viruses such as dengue or chikungunya (rare). You must bring mosquito repellent products and, as a precaution, use them throughout the day. Most hotels regularly spray against mosquitoes and non-air-conditioned rooms are usually equipped with mosquito nets.
For more information and to buy medicine on-site, visit local pharmacies which are usually located inside supermarkets. To avoid digestive problems, refrain from buying freshly cut fruits from street vendors, opt for cooked foods rather than raw food, and pay attention to chili peppers. Generally, you will be asked if you want your dish "spicy" or "not too spicy".
Drinking tap water is strictly prohibited. However, you can use it to brush your teeth. You can consume filtered water, but to avoid any risk, it is recommended to stick to bottled water. Make sure that soda bottles are always uncapped in front of you. For personal hygiene products: the choice is very limited. Tampons are almost non-existent in Sri Lanka, so take your precautions! If you are traveling with young children, baby food and general child-care products can be found in local supermarkets. However, if you are attached to a specific brand, it is better to bring these with you from your home country during your holidays in Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR) is the unit of currency used in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan Rupee can be bought exclusively in Sri Lanka either by visiting a currency exchange kiosk or withdrawing local currency with your credit/debit card at ATMs. You can convert your currency at the airport currency exchange kiosks which are open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Unlike other destinations, the exchange rates at the airport are quite competitive. Euros and dollars are usually welcome but you cannot pay for general purchases in foreign currency. You can check the current price of the Sri Lankan Rupee by clicking on the following link: www.xe.com.
ATM machines are widespread throughout the island and generally accept Visa, American Express and MasterCard. An important point to note is that you can only withdraw LKR 40,000 (around US$ 230) at a time. It may be prudent to inform your bank in advance that you will travel to Sri Lanka to prevent your card from being blocked. At the same time, ask for the weekly withdrawal limit and the amount of fees charged for each withdrawal transaction, which may save you some surprises. Keep in mind that outside of hotels and large shops, small change can be hard to come by. Make sure you have enough notes in lower denominations (LKR 20 to LKR 500), especially if you plan to shop at local markets or in rural areas during your holidays in Sri Lanka.
At tourist sites and beaches, you will be invariably solicited by sellers of handicrafts. Do not hesitate to haggle! On the other hand, in malls and shops where products have prices labelled on them, it will be more difficult if not impossible. At “Laksala”, a chain of state-owned handicraft and souvenir shops present in Colombo, Galle and Kandy in particular, you will find a fine sample of Sri Lankan handicraft products. What to bring back from your holidays in Sri Lanka? Ceylon tea, spices, carved wooden objects and copper products, batiks, traditional masks, pottery and elephants made from all possible materials. A quick tip: take your time before buying and compare prices. From one city to another, and even from one shop to another, prices can be very different!
Regardless of the season, it is always sunny somewhere in Sri Lanka. The humid tropical climate of Sri Lanka is marked by two monsoons: "Yala", the southwest monsoon from May to September and "Maha", the south-east monsoon from November to March. These periods give rise to sporadic rainfall (although it never rains all day!), resulting in strong tides. When the ocean is rough, it is strongly recommended to take a dip in the pool rather than the ocean. If you are planning a trip to the beach during your holidays in Sri Lanka, it is recommended to visit the east coast from May to September and the west or south coast from December to April. The months of October and November experience the so-called "little monsoon", a transitional period when the weather is more unpredictable with stormy episodes all over the island that are welcome after sunny and hot days! If the island is so green, its vegetation so verdant and its landscapes so beautiful, it is thanks to the sun ... and the rain!