Travel Information

Language

There are two official languages in Sri Lanka, Sinhala (Sinhalese) and Tamil. However, you’ll usually be able to find someone who speaks good English.

Tipping

Tipping is part of life in Sri Lanka and most people offering a service will expect a gratuity.  Many hotels and restaurants will automatically add a service charge but it is worth bearing in mind that this will not necessarily find its way to the person who served you.  When visiting temples, you will normally be shown around by a resident monk or priest, who will expect a hundred rupees or so at the end of the tour. If you hire a driver to take you on tour they will expect a tip of around £5 per day.

Population and size

More than 20 million people live on Sri Lanka, just three million less than the population of Australia.  Around the same size as Ireland, you could fit Sri Lanka into Australia an incredible 117 times.

 

Currency

Rupee – The rupee is the currency in Sri Lanka but you will not be able to obtain any until you arrive and will not be able to take any home.  We therefore suggest you don’t change too much money at one time!  There are plenty of banks and foreign exchange places around and depending on where you go you may also find ATMS but please be aware of the charges your bank will make on cash withdrawals.

Culture

According to Muslim and Christian folklore, Adam took refuge on Sri Lanka when God kicked him and Eve out of the Garden of Eden (hence the mountain in the centre of the island being named ‘Adam’s Peak’). Around 70% of Sri Lankans are Buddhist, with Hinduism being the second most prevalent religion, largely in the northern Tamil region.  Sri Lanka is an important producer of coffee, gemstones, coconut, rubber, cinnamon and, of course, tea – which is considered to be the ‘cleanest’ in the world. Traditional drum-based music is performed in costume and the colourful Kandyan Dancers are an emblem of ‘the nation of smiling people’. Although the national sport is volleyball, by far the most popular game in the country is cricket.  History-wise, there are two main ethnic groups living in Sri Lanka – the Sinhalese and the Tamils – and both groups hold conflicting views as to the true history of the island. Beginning at the beginning, hunter-gatherer tribes have been traced back to around 30,000 BC, and it is widely thought that a land bridge linking Sri Lanka to India was submerged in around 5,000 BC. Buddhism came to the island in the third century BC and had a major impact, shaping the country’s culture and identity down through the ages.  Sri Lanka’s position at the foot of India, in the middle of the Indian Ocean, and almost midway between the Middle East and south east Asia, means that over the centuries it has been criss-crossed by trade routes carrying spices, gems, tea and coffee. As such it became a melting pot of peoples from all over Asia. Arab traders arrived in the seventh century and Muslim settlements were established. Then, in the 16th century, the Portuguese arrived, bringing with them Christianity. In 1602 came the Dutch and in 1796 the British took control of most of the island – eventually gaining full control in the mid-19th century. In the early 20th century a nationalist movement gained in strength and after several reforms Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948. However, soon after this the country fell into a long and bitter war fought between different factions of its main ethnic groups. The war raged on for nearly 30 years, before peace was finally accomplished.

Phrases

Impress the locals with a few words of Sinhala and Tamil…

Sinhala                                                                               Tamil

Yes – ow                                                                             Yes – amam

No – naa                                                                            No – Illai

Hello – ayubowan                                                            Hello – vanakkam

Thank you – istuti                                                            Thank you – nandri

OK/very good – hari hondai

Do you speak English? – ingirisi dannevada?

That is very expensive – anda vilai mikavum adikum

Timezone

Sri Lanka is five-and-a-half hours ahead of GMT, but only four-and-a-half during British Summertime.

Electricity

Mains sockets are generally the British-style 13-amp with three square holes, so you shouldn’t need an adaptor. Mains voltage is 230-250 volts, 50 cycles.

Climate

The high temperatures and humidity that come with a tropical climate are tempered by afternoon breezes on the coast and by altitude in the central highlands.  The south-western coast and mountains receive the greatest rainfall, especially from April to June and October to November.

Health

Tap water is generally not safe to drink outside of our resort so stick to bottled mineral water. Fruit bought in local markets should be peeled or rinsed well before eating.  As health information can change at any time, we’d advise you to consult your GP at least 12 weeks before departure.  Country-specific information and advice on possible health risks is also published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre – see www.nathnac.org, and The British Foreign and Commonwealth Travel Advice Unit provides important health and safety information for British nationals travelling abroad at www.fco.gov.uk/travel.

Passports and visas

It’s a good idea to carry a photocopy of your passport with you on holiday.  You will need a visa to enter Sri Lanka which can be applied for online before departure at the Electronic Travel Authority. If you wait until your arrival to apply, you will face a delay at the airport.

Smoking

Smoking is banned in some public places throughout Sri Lanka but most hotels and restaurants allocate separate areas for those who like a puff.

Flight  time

You’ll have time to take in a couple of films and a snooze – it takes around eleven hours to fly direct from London to Colombo.  Although there are several carriers who will stop over on the way for an hour or two.

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