1. The best time to travel
Climatically, the best & driest seasons are from December to March on the West & South Coasts and in the hill country, and from May to September in the East Coast.
Sri Lanka is subject to two monsoons, the rainy season in the East coast is the dry season in the south west coast & vise versa. This means Sri Lanka is a year around destination, and there is always a 'right' season somewhere in the island.
Out of season travel has it's advantages, not only do the crowds go away, but many airfares & accommodation prices too go down, with many special offers thrown in.
On the coast the average temperature is about 27o C. The temperature rapidly falls with altitude. At Kandy (altitude 450m) the average temperature is 20o C and at Nuwara Eliya (altitude 1890m) it's down to around 16o C.
2. Baggage Allowance
The in-hold baggage allowance permitted on most airlines is 20 kg in Economy Class and 30 kg in Business Class.
ONE item only of cabin (carry-on or hand) baggage is permitted through the airport security search point, the dimensions of this item must not exceed: a maximum length of 56 cm, width of 45 cm and depth of 25 cm (including wheels, handles, side pockets etc.). Other bags, such as handbags, may be carried within the single item of cabin baggage.
Due to tightening of security regulations, no sharp objects are allowed in your hand luggage (e.g. nail scissors, manicure sets etc.) and all items carried by passengers will be x-ray screened.
3. What to take
Travel light because most of the essentials are available in the cities, items are cheap and laundry services generally speedy.
Light cotton clothes are useful at any time of the year. It is a good idea to have some lightweight long sleeve cotton tops and trousers in pale colours for evenings, as they give some protection against mosquitoes. It can be cool at night in the Hill Country around Nuwara Eliya and some warm clothing is essential.
Dress is usually informal, although one or two hotels expect guests to be formally dressed at evening meals and for functions. For travelling, loose, lightweight clothes are most comfortable.
Women should dress modestly. Even on the beach, very revealing swimwear can attract unnecessary attention.
All everyday toiletries, including condoms and tampons, are available in the larger towns but you may prefer to take your own supply.
Carry personal medicines and inhalers and a copy of your prescriptions.
4. Passport and Visas
All visitors to Sri Lanka require a valid passport, with at least 6 months remaining before expiry. Nationals of over 70 countries are issued with a free, 30-day visa upon arrival, including:
Australia , Austria
Canada , Czech Republic
Finland , France
Germany , Greece
Ireland , Italy
Netherlands , New Zealand , Norway
Poland , Portugal
Singapore , Slovakia , Spain , Sweden , Switzerland
UK , USA
The Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR) is not traded abroad and so it is not possible to purchase local currency before your arrival in Sri Lanka . Sri Lankan Rupees or Rs come in denominations of Rs 1000, 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 (notes) and Rs 10, 5, 2, 1 and 50, 25 cents (coins), although 10- and 5-cent coins may still be seen. Visitors bringing in over US$10,000 into Sri Lanka should declare the amount on arrival. All Sri Lankan Rupees should be reconverted upon leaving Sri Lanka .
On arrival, at the airport you can change money at one of the many exchange counters in the arrivals hall, which are open when flights arrive. The exchange rates here are normally some of the best on the island and there is usually little difference between the various banks represented.
Around the island. Private banks, like Hatton National Bank and Sampath Bank, are generally more efficient and offer a quicker service than their government-run competitors (Bank of Ceylon, People's Bank and National Savings Bank). Banking hours are generally 09.00 to 13.00 Monday to Friday, although some banks in Colombo and Kandy have extended opening hours and also open at the weekend. However, most banks are closed on Saturdays and Sundays, monthly Poya days, national holidays, 30 June and 31 December, and other days throughout the year. Therefore, it is best to ask locally for accurate opening times.
Encashment receipts . All foreign exchange transactions must be done through authorised banks or exchanges with the provision of an encashment receipt. Changing money through unauthorised dealers is illegal. Unspent rupees may be reconverted at a commercial bank before you leave Sri Lanka , but you will need at least one encashment receipt to re-exchange any rupees.
For up-to-the-minute exchange rates, check out www.xe.com
Travellers' cheques (T/Cs) issued by American Express and Thomas Cook (in UK£, US$ or Euro €) are best and are accepted without difficulty and give a slightly better exchange rate than currency notes in Sri Lanka. They also offer the security of replacement if lost or stolen. Always change T/Cs at banks rather than hotels or elsewhere as the exchange rates can vary dramatically, and never in your favour! A 1% stamp duty is payable on all T/C transactions plus a small commission which varies from bank to bank. Passports need to be shown when encashing T/Cs.
If you are travelling with T/Cs, it is probably best to retain all encashment receipts and to make a note of the numbers of all your T/Cs cashed, keeping this information separately from the T/Cs themselves. In case of loss or theft, you will need to get a police report and inform the T/C company with this information.
Major credit cards (Visa and MasterCard are best) are increasingly accepted in the main centres of Sri Lanka both for shopping and or purchasing Sri Lankan Rupees. No surcharge should be applied when making purchases but the 1% stamp duty is applicable when obtaining cash against a credit card.
Automated Telling Machines (ATMs) are becoming increasingly common in Sri Lanka , especially in Colombo and other larger towns or
tourist centres (e.g. Bentota, Galle , Kandy , Nuwara Eliya, Tissamaharama). However, before you travel to Sri Lanka , ensure that your ATM (cashpoint) card is valid for use in Sri Lanka by contacting your bank. ATMs also give cash advances on credit cards, although different banks accept different cards (ask your credit card company for details). A small fee, less than the commission charged for changing T/Cs, will be charged on your bill at home.
6. Customs and Excise
On arrival, visitors to Sri Lanka are officially required to declare all currency, valuable equipment, jewellery and gems, but it is very rarely checked.
Visitors are not allowed to bring in goods in commercial quantities, or prohibited/restricted goods such as dangerous drugs, weapons, explosives, obscene or seditious literature or pictures, or gold. Drug trafficking or possession carries the death penalty, although this is very rarely carried out on foreigners.
You are allowed 1.5 litres of spirits, 2 bottles of wine, 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250 g rolling tobacco, a small quantity of perfume and 250 ml of toilet water. You can also import a small quantity of travel souvenirs (may be as gifts) not exceeding US$250 in value.
Professional photography or filming equipment must be declared and will be allowed entry on a valid Carnet, Bank Guarantee or a refundable deposit of the duty payable on the items.
7. Health & hygine
Many drugs available in Developed Countries are also available from pharmacies in Sri Lanka . However, always check the expiry date and buy from reputable pharmacies because the shelf life of some items, especially vaccines and antibiotics, is markedly reduced in hot conditions. Many locally produced drugs are not subjected to quality control procedures and so can be unreliable.
ALWAYS consult your doctor or a specialist travel clinic before travelling. The following vaccinations are strongly recommended for a trip to Sri Lanka :
The following vaccinations may also be required, depending upon your chance of exposure or seasonal variations. Consult your doctor or a specialist travel clinic for more information:
Japanese B Encephalitis (JVE)
You may be asked for an 'International Certificate of Vaccination or Revaccination Against Yellow Fever' if you have visited a country affected by yellow fever immediately before travelling to Sri Lanka (normally within the previous six  days).
Children should, in addition, be properly protected against the following:
whooping cough, mumps, measles and HIB.
Teenage girls should be given rubella (German measles) vaccination if they have not already had the disease.
If you require any of these recommended vaccinations, see your doctor well in advance of your travel. Most courses must be completed in a minimum of four weeks. Travel clinics may provide rapid courses of vaccination but are likely to be more expensive.
One of the best mosquito repellents is Citronella Oil which is freely available at most pharmacies island wide. Most of the hotels are air-conditioned and have mosquito nets and electric mats to use if needed.
The private healthcare system is very good in Colombo with English speaking staff but treatment may be costly. Most major towns have well stocked pharmacies and in most cases you will only require a prescription to purchase sleep medication.
All general antibiotics can readily be bought anywhere on the island.
8. Food & Drink
Do not eat what is not boiled, well-cooked, or peeled. Raw seafood and milk products usually are high-risk foods for bacterial contamination. Dry foods, such as breads, or fruits that you can peel are safe to eat.
Always use bottled water for drinking and brushing of teeth. Most hotel rooms have boiled water in thermos flasks, which is safe to drink.
Sri Lanka is famous for it's tea, and pride ourselves in producing 'Ceylon Tea', the finest tea in the world. There is a local version of coffee, which is a bit strong. But Colombo is the only place that you could get a really good espresso. Highly recommended are the fresh fruit juices. Popular international soft drinks are available even in little village boutiques.
Eating the local yoghurt in any country usually reduces the chances of developing diarrhea.
All forms of drugs including Marijuana are illegal in Sri Lanka . Drug trafficking carries the death penalty in Sri Lanka . The judicial system is extremely slow and if caught with possession of a narcotic you may be remanded for up to 48 hours prior to being produced in courts.
Sri Lanka has a wide variety of very attractive handicrafts on sale. Sri Lankan masks are a very popular collector's item. Other recommendations are batiks, wood carvings, gemstones, semi- precious stones, lacquerware, hand made Silver- and Brass objects and don't forget the famous 'Ceylon Tea'. Please avoid ornaments made from tortoise shells & ivory.
Never buy turtle shell, we even suggest you not to purchase any woodcarving made from ebony, in order to preserve this scarce hardwood.
Sri Lanka is a major garment manufacturer and exporter of all kinds of clothing. There is an excellent selection of children's and casual clothing for men & women, beach wear and even warm padded jackets at extremely attractive prices. Colombo is fast becoming an attraction for garment hunters.
Important: Retain some of your hotel and shopping receipts, especially for gems. These would make customs clearance easy.
Although a 10% service charge is included in bills for food and accommodation, tipping is a customary way of showing your appreciation for services rendered.
A rule of thumb is to tip 10% of the total amount due. Your housekeeping staff, doorman, bellboy all expect a little tip. A tip between 20 - 50 rupees for each service is considered sufficient. Your guide or driver on tour will expect something between US $ 3 to 12 a day (depending on your level of satisfaction with his service).
For more information of the country in general visit our Tourist board website: www.srilankatourism.org
• Below 2 years – Free
• 2 - 6 years - 80 % discount on adult rate
• 7 - 12 years - 70 % discount on adult rate
• 12 - 17 years - 10 % discount on adult rate
• Children 12 years and below must share room with parents/ guardian to enjoy above discounts.
• A maximum of two children per party are granted such discounts.
• One child in his/ her own room receives a 10% discount, but pays a full (adult) single supplement.
• Baby cot - Most places provide a baby cot (if you child is below 2 years). Some hotels provide this free, whilst some charge a nominal rate. Please contact us if you need a baby cot, as these are handled on a case by case basis.
13. Language of the people
• English is generally understood by most people and is easy to get by. Off the beaten track knowledge of it thins. English is spoken at all hotels, major restaurants and shops.
• We provide guides in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian and Japanese languages to foreign visitors requiring assistance.
• Road signs are written both in Sinhalese & English throughout the country, with few exceptions.
14. Poya Holiday
Once every month we celebrate a Poya Holiday which is a Full Moon day. On these days no alcohol will be sold or be purchased in public markets and not served in Restaurants and Hotels. Sometimes most of the shops could also be closed and it is not a good day for shopping etc.
15. Safety on the beach
The Sea can be very appealing, at the same time very dangerous. Do not swim where warning signs such as red flags are put. There have been many occasions where tourists have been cheated by beach boys and touts. We strongly advice our guests not to associate with them for personal safety reasons, doing so will be at your own risk and Leader Travels & Tours will not take the responsibility for any tours booked outside our organization.
16. Physical fitness
Before you undertake a trip think carefully about your physical fitness and your special interests. Consider also your experience in travelling in a foreign tropical country. The clash of cultures, new cuisine, temperature and humidity can place demands on you. For the less experienced or fit, an easy paced tour with time for relaxing may work out better than a grueling tour that would leave you exhausted rather than exhilarated. Don't forget that Sri Lanka has many hotels which are good bases for adventure and eco activities whilst having the benefit of excellent accommodation and cuisine.
We have a variety of accommodation options varying from small family run guest houses (approved by the Sri Lanka Tourist Board), Eco lodges, Heritage Homes, Plantation Bungalows, Regular star class, Boutiqe Hotels to Luxury Villas and luxury suites. We always strive to create a balance so that all hotels we visit benefit equally.
18. Eco villages
Eco villages are a growing attraction in Sri Lanka , which ensure that tourists do not disrupt village life or the environment. Organic farming, skilled craftsmanship, mud pavillions and natural spring waterfalls are all integral to village life, and living at one with nature.
19. Heritage homes
Heritage homes are generally ancestral houses of well-to-do Sri Lankan families. Often the retired owners have moved back to their country residences and enjoy sharing their homes with foreign visitors. The hosts are steeped in knowledge of the area and have an excellent command of the English language. Accommodation is comfortable yet simple, and as you enter their home, you should be ready to appreciate the character, style and idiosyncrasies of the family and architecture. The hosts are extremely hospitable and their staff and forefathers have often been loyal servants of the household for generations. Meals are taken with the family and are traditionally Sri Lankan, but with deference to the Western taste if requested. Indeed, they will enjoy showing off their culinary skills. Beautiful homes, often surrounded by orchards, plantations and well-tended gardens, allow you to spend evenings strolling, listening to birdsong or lazing on candlelit verandas.
20. Plantation bungalows
Plantation bungalows offer a "colonial" flavour, and many have been renovated into luxurious and characterful boutique residences. Our favourite is Ceylon Tea Trails, in the mid hill country. Service and cuisine are generally to a high standard suited to the stylish and seasoned traveller. Since the nationalization of the tea estates, the bungalows have been renovated as stunning boutique hotels. Enjoy the working community and walk through the tea/rubber/coconut estates to appreciate the produce.
21. Protection of the Environment
During trekking and snorkeling trips passengers are informed of the fragility of the ecosystem and required not to touch any thing at all - coral, shellfish or indeed any kind of flora and fauna unless under close supervision from a guide. Boatmen are strictly prohibited from anchoring on coral - a formerly common practice that is now thankfully rare. When trekking our guests are required to bring plastic zip-lock bags in which to keep used toilet paper. They are advised to keep cigarette butts in another container until appropriate disposal facilities are available. All transportation used is visually tested for smoke emissions. When visiting nature reserves we prohibit smoking to minimize risk of brush fires, and we also advice our guests from wandering off nature trails and other marked tracks to minimize damage on fauna and flora.
22. Friendly, smiling and pleasant people
As varied as their land, Sri Lankans are a piquant mix of many ethnic & cultural roots, namely Sinhala, Tamil, Moor, Malay, European-descent ‘Burgher' & forest-dwelling, aboriginal Veddah. Ethnic diversity enriches Sri Lankan heritage & life, endowing many unique & fascinating facets. Ancient irrigation systems which transformed sun-baked plains into lands of plenty, are still in everyday use.
All tourist vehicles are air conditioned (except safari jeeps). The vehicle is your own vehicle and could be either a car or a small 7 seater mini coach. All our vehicles are maintained to minimize emissions and all our drivers are instructed to obey the speed limits without exceptions, which has won us praises from our guests. Our drivers do not consume alcohol or smoke while on duty.
24. More Tourism Travel Tips
• Dress modestly in public places and religious sites and avoid topless sunbathing.
• Do not pose for photographs on religious sites.
• Do not consume liquor on Buddhist and other religious holidays.
• Do not ever touch clergymen.
• Enjoy local food cooked with local produce as much as possible.
• Conduct bargaining in a light-hearted and courteous manner.
• Always ask permission before taking pictures of people.
• Do not waste water – use showers; do not leave taps running, re-use towels.
• Do not waste electricity – turn off lights, TV etc
• Re-use plastic bags when shopping or buy cotton shopping bag.
• Only throw rubbish in litterbins
• Consider taking a bag with a zip lock when trekking to pick up litter.
• Be wary of purchasing wood artifacts and ornaments at sites of interest unless you are positive that the wood came from sustainable forests.
• Do not buy seashells, coral or any ancient artifacts from traders.
• Do not consume game meat, turtle eggs etc.
• Do not smoke or consume liquor inside national parks and nature reserves.
• Do not buy or use any sort of narcotics of any kind including marijuana when on holiday. Drug possession carries heavy penalties in Sri Lanka .
• Do not patronize local establishments of ill repute and engage the service of call girls. Prostitution is illegal in Sri Lanka and carries heavy penalties