Before you travel

 
Travel questions arise regardless of whether you are a seasoned traveler or it’s your first trip, so we’re here to put your mind at ease. What do I do about visas? How much do I tip? For frequently asked questions, this is the spot. But if you can’t find the answer you’re looking for then please get in touch - I’m here to help.
 

 
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DO I REQUIRE A VISA?

You will need to obtain an ETA (Electronic Travel Authorisation) prior to your visit to Sri Lanka. You can apply directly for an online ETA by visiting the following website www.eta.gov.lk

Do not apply too early as it is only valid for 90 days from the date you apply. The cost of the ETA is $20. Payment is made by either credit card or e-commerce enabled debit cards. Only Visa, Master and American Express Cards are accepted. When applying, you will need your passport details, flight details and the name and address of your first hotel on your tour. Children under the age of 12 are free. Please do take the ETA with you when you travel. As at January 2012, if you find that you can’t apply for one before you travel, you can obtain a Visa on entering Sri Lanka, for $25.

Your passport must be valid 6 months beyond your intended date of departure from Sri Lanka. A 60 day extension can be requested (variable fee) at the Dept. of Immigration and Emigration in Colombo. It is your responsibility to have the correct personal documents and obtain your Visa, if necessary. As with all foreign travel, it is wise to take a copy of the details page of your passport which will help the  Consulate in providing a temporary one in case of loss.

WHAT VACCINATIONS DO I REQUIRE?

Please consult your doctor for up to date information before you travel.

DO I NEED TO TAKE PRECAUTIONS AGAINST MOSQUITOES?

As with all tropical countries, you need to apply mosquito repellent regularly. Those containing DEET can often be very effective.

DO I NEED INSURANCE?

It is your responsibility to ensure that you have adequate travel insurance for the activities that you are doing on your tour such as white rafting, elephant rides, game drive etc. All travellers booking with me need to notify me of their insurance arrangements prior to travelling.

WHAT WINES AND SPIRITS CAN I BRING INTO SRI LANKA?

You are allowed to bring in 1.5 litres of wines and spirits per person.

WHERE IS THE AIRPORT?

All international flights arrive at Colombo International Airport (CMB), also known as Bandaranaike International Airport located at Katunayake on the west coast, about an hour’s drive north of Colombo and 30 minutes south of Negombo.

WHAT LANGUAGE IS SPOKEN?

Sinhala is the official language; Tamil is spoken by about 25% of the population. English is used as a second language but you will find that the locals are keen to try out their English on you.

WHAT IS THE TIME DIFFERENCE?

It is GMT + 4.5 hrs in summer and + 5.5hrs in winter.

CAN I GET INTERNET ACCESS?

Hotels increasingly offer internet wi-fi, and internet cafes exist in Colombo and many towns, although connection speeds can be slow outside Colombo.

WHAT IS THE ELECTRICITY SUPPLY?

230/240 volts AC. Small 3 pin round plugs are used as well as 2 pin plugs. A European 2 pin Adaptor can be used in the bottom 2 holes of the socket. Adaptors are available at Hotel Reception or in local shops such as Arpico.

WHAT OPPORTUNITIES ARE THERE FOR PHOTOGRAPHY?

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There are so many opportunities for photography whether it is of scenes of everyday life by the roadside, spectacular vistas or of the amazing wildlife. Do please take a memory card of sufficient size as you will find you will take so many photographs. It would also be a good idea to bring some small binoculars to view the wildlife in the National Parks as with all wild animals, you will only be able to view them from a distance.

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WHAT ARE POYA DAYS?

Every month, the Full Moon Day, known as “Poya Day”, which celebrates various important days in the life of Lord Buddha, will be celebrated by the Buddhists on the Island. All Poya Days are national holidays and no alcohol is served.

WHAT IS THE WEATHER LIKE?

Sri Lanka's climate is tropical but with no seasonal variations. It has a north-east monsoon from late October to January which is mainly effective in the north and the east and south-west monsoon from May to late June which is very wet and most of the country receives lot of rain.

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The average temperature in Colombo is 27 degrees C (80 degrees F) with high levels of humidity. However, the higher you go through the country, the cooler it gets. Nuwara Eliya in the mountainous area has an average temperature of 16 degrees C (61 degrees F).

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WHAT CLOTHES DO I NEED TO TAKE?

Light cotton or linen clothing. It can be chilly in Nuwara Eliya (the hill country) at night, so a sweater is recommended. Shoulders and knees must be covered to enter temples. Socks may also be a good idea for walking round places such as Polonnaruwa – the ground can be extremely hot for bare feet. Cotton t-shirts and shorts. Trousers to visit temples. Sandals. Trainers for walks. Socks. A fleece. Umbrella. Waterproof jacket.

WHAT IS THE CURRENCY?

1 Sri Lankan rupee consists of 100 cents. Rupee coins come in denominations of one, two, five and 10 rupees. Notes come in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000 and 5000 rupees.

WHERE CAN I CHANGE MONEY?

You can only purchase Sri Lankan Rupees in Sri Lanka as it isn’t an International Currency. On arrival at Colombo Airport, it is best to change some money at the Banks just before the Arrival Hall where there are 24hr facilities.

Banks in towns are generally open 9am-1pm or 3pm Monday-Friday. All banks are shut at weekends and public holidays. Changing Traveller’s Cheques can be a time-consuming process in a Bank, however most hotels will change these but the rate may not be such a good one.

ATMs accepting Visa and Mastercard are widely available in cities and towns. If you wish to use Visa or Mastercards in ATMs, (as with all overseas travel) it is best to notify your bank that you will be travelling to Sri Lanka, prior to your departure.

When changing currency in Sri Lanka it is advisable that you keep a copy of the money exchange certificate with you. Always demand this certificate when you change money as you may be asked for this when you leave. You are not allowed to take Sri Lankan Rupees out of the country.

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HOW EXPENSIVE ARE THINGS IN SRI LANKA?

Sri Lanka offers tremendous value for money. Hotels are a little more expensive than local shops. A typical lunch will cost you about 800 rupees and a typical dinner will cost you about 1000 rupees, depending on the hotel. A cocktail will cost about 300 rupees.

CAN I USE MY MOBILE PHONE IN SRI LANKA?

Yes, your mobile phone will connect to one of the local phone providers such as Dialog or Mobitel though you should be aware that phoning overseas can be expensive. If you are staying in Sri Lanka for a longer period, it would be better to consider purchasing a Sri Lankan SIM card. Top-up cards are readily available from Telecom shops.

CAN I DRIVE IN SRI LANKA?

An international driving licence is required. A local driving licence is also required which can be obtained from the AA in Colombo. Vehicles drive on the left. Driving is not for the faint-hearted as there are many pedestrians, bikes, motorbikes, cars, lorries, buses as well as cows and stray dogs, all doing the unexpected!

IS SRI LANKA SAFE FROM TERRORISM?

Up till May 2009, Sri Lanka had a conflict with the LTTE who wanted a separate state for the Tamils in the North and East of the country. A lot was written in the press as to how dangerous it was to travel to Sri Lanka. It must be remembered that, throughout the conflict, not one single tourist has been injured or killed. As from May 2009, this conflict ended and Sri Lanka is now at peace.