A Complete Travel Guide of Sri Lanka

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Updated on: 1 August, 2021

Ayubowan – The welcome greeting does’nt only mean “Hello” but literally means “I wish you a long and happy life”. On my backpacking for Sri Lanka tour I was always greeted with a friendly smile and this particular phrase.

Since the end of the civil war and the devastating tsunami , in which Sri Lanka was also badly hit, the country has developed rapidly over the past five years. Tourism is growing . You’d think almost too fast.

Sri Lanka has caused mixed feelings in me. I didn’t like everything here and I found it good. Here you will find all the travel tips and information you should know before traveling to Sri Lanka. In total, I was backpacking Sri Lanka on a round trip for 16 days. Due to the travel time (December – January) and the monsoons in the north and east, I was only traveling in the cultural triangle, the highlands and the south coast.

Here you will find important questions and answers about a Sri Lanka vacation. Topics such as entry requirements, money, security or transport: I’ve listed everything here.

Table of Contents (Jump Links)

Everything about Sri Lanka – data & facts
Why go to Sri Lanka?
Entry requirements and visa for Sri Lanka
Vaccinations, malaria and first-aid kit
Travel guide Sri Lanka recommendation
Book flights to Sri Lanka
Transfer from the airport in Colombo
Traveling around Sri Lanka with your own driver or individually?
Accommodation in Sri Lanka
Can I travel through Sri Lanka alone as a woman?
Packing list for Sri Lanka
Questions about money and credit cards when traveling to Sri Lanka
National parks in Sri Lanka
Dealing with animals in Sri Lanka
How does the transport work in Sri Lanka
Internet and local SIM card for Sri Lanka
Food and drink in Sri Lanka – Specialties
What language is spoken in Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka time difference
What I didn’t like so much about Sri Lanka
Rules of Conduct for Sri Lanka
Travel planning checklist for Sri Lanka

Everything about Sri Lanka – data & facts

Sri Lanka (Sanskrit for “Honorable Island”) was called Ceylon until 1972 and is an island state in the Indian Ocean, south of India. The capital is Colombo, where the Bandaranaike International Airport is also located.

The civil war between the Tamil separatists, who mainly live in the north, and the Sinhalese-dominated central government has been over since 2009. Since then, tourism has been growing rapidly – too fast for the small island?

Sri Lanka has about 21 million inhabitants, of which about 75% are Sinhalese. Mainly in the north live Tamils, who are in the minority with about 15% of the population.

The country is best known for its tea (Ceylon) , coffee and the king coconut and is rich in UNESCO World Heritage Sites and national parks . Many tourists are drawn to the island, which is as big as Bavaria, mainly because of the traditional healing art of Ayurveda.

More facts about Sri Lanka:

  • Telephone code: +94
  • German Embassy: +94 11 2580431
  • Currency: Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR or Rs for short); $1.5 corresponds to approx. 150 LKR
  • Time zone: UTC + 5:30 h, the time difference to Germany is 4.5 hours in winter and 3.5 hours in summer
  • Holidays: 4. February Independence Day, 13./14. April New Year, May 1st Labor Day, May 22nd National Day, December 25th Christmas Day, December 31st Public Holiday

Where exactly is Sri Lanka located?

Sri Lanka – formerly Ceylon (Ceylon until 1972, independent since 1948) is located in the Indian Ocean and south of India between the 5th and 10th parallel north. At its narrowest point, the distance to India by sea is only 50 kilometres.

Why should you visit Sri Lanka?

Although the island seems quite small, it is very varied and has something to offer for every type of holiday: Great beaches for a beach holiday, temples and history in the cultural triangle, tea plantations and mountains for hiking in the fascinating highlands, Ayurveda trips on the coasts, species-rich fauna in the numerous national parks or great surfing and diving spots for active vacationers.

The journeys are not long, because the roads are getting better and better. Therefore, Sri Lanka is ideal for a round trip. Whether individually, by train or with a private driver. No wonder Sri Lanka is also known as the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean” .

In addition, the country finally came to rest after the end of the civil war. Tourism is returning. Unfortunately too fast in some places. Infrastructures are getting better and better, new accommodations are springing up like mushrooms.

Entry requirements and visa for Sri Lanka

Do i need a visa for Sri Lanka?

To enter Sri Lanka you need:

  1. a passport that is valid for at least 6 months
  2. a visa
  3. a completed immigration card (you will receive it on the plane or upon arrival)
  4. a valid return or onward ticket (no one has ever wanted to see it)

You need a passport that is valid for at least 6 months.

Apply for a visa for Sri Lanka

Update 2019:

If you want to travel to Sri Lanka between August 1, 2021 and January 31, 2022, the visa is free for stays of up to 30 days. If you enter twice, it costs $50.

Make sure to use the official website  www.eta.gov.lk to apply . Other Visa providers charge excessive fees! 

Since January 2012 you have to apply for a so-called ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization, i.e. electronic travel registration) to travel to Sri Lanka. You can do this online at  www.eta.gov.lk  by filling out an online form.

Immediately after completing the form, you will need to pay the $30 visa fee by credit card. Only then is the application complete. You will receive an email reply within 24 hours as to whether your application has been approved.

For me this only took five minutes. I printed out the form and took it with me. I didn’t have to show the form when I entered the country. When the passport is scanned, the details are already in the computer.

Tip: Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, always have a printout or the e-mail ready.

If you do not have a credit card or have forgotten to apply for the visa, you can get the entry permit directly upon arrival at Colombo airport. Then the visa costs 35 dollars. The queues can also be very long. Since I landed around 4 a.m., there was no queue and entry was done in 5 minutes.

Apply for a Tourist ETA for Sri Lanka

How long can I stay in Sri Lanka as a tourist?

The maximum length of stay as a tourist is 3 months from the date of issue and entitles the holder to two entries (multiple-entry) for a maximum stay of 30 days.

You can extend your visa up to a maximum of 6 months at the  Department of Immigration and Emigration  and the Immigration Visitor Services Center in Colombo.

Vaccinations, malaria and first-aid kit

Recommended vaccinations for Sri Lanka

If you are traveling from Europe, no vaccinations are required for Sri Lanka. You should generally check the vaccinations tetanus, diphtheria, polio, hepatitis A and B, which are common in Germany, before each trip and refresh them if necessary.

Since there are so many street dogs in Sri Lanka, vaccination against rabies makes sense. Before my trip, the vaccine was out of stock, as was the typhoid vaccine . You should think about both vaccinations, even if they are not mandatory .

Doctors also recommend vaccination against Japanese encephalitis for longer stays .

Proof of a yellow fever vaccination is only required if you are arriving from a yellow fever area. Despite my trip to Uganda and Rwanda, which I only had 2 weeks before the trip to Sri Lanka, where yellow fever vaccinations are mandatory, no one was interested in entering the country. I scanned my vaccination book anyway and always saved it on my smartphone and in Dropbox.

Malaria prophylaxis for Sri Lanka?

Malaria prophylaxis is also being discussed for a trip to Sri Lanka. The German Society for Tropical Medicine has classified the risk for large parts of the country as low. Only in the northwest is there an increased risk. I advise you to seek vaccination advice from your doctor if you are unsure.

I didn’t have any malaria prophylaxis with me and only sprayed myself with Autan Tropical every now and then.

First aid kit for Sri Lanka

Due to the unfamiliar food, especially the spicy curries and partly poor hygiene, one or the other in Sri Lanka can get stomach problems. It caught me too on this trip, although I never have any problems with food while traveling. That’s why I advise you to have the most important medicines with you in your first-aid kit.

Standard medicines in my first-aid kit:

  • Hand disinfectant gel, for cleaning hands without water
  • Pain relievers such as paracetamol
  • Medicines for diarrhea, e.g. Immodium or Lopedium
  • Electrolytes to make up for fluid loss from diarrhea
  • Travel tablets against nausea for the serpentines in the highlands, e.g. Vomex

Travel guide Sri Lanka recommendation

Since tourism in Sri Lanka is developing rapidly, I recommend that you travel with an up-to-date travel guide . Accommodation is springing up and departure times for tours, trains and buses are constantly changing. I prepared myself for the trip with three travel guides. During the trip I only had the travel know-how printed and the Lonely Planet as an ebook on my smartphone.

Book flights to Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan Airlines currently has direct flights from Germany four times a week from Frankfurt to Colombo to Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB). The flight time is almost 10 hours . The airport in Colombo is located approx. 35 km north of Colombo city center. This means that you can avoid the traffic jam if you first travel north towards the Cultural Triangle or Kandy.

I traveled to Colombo via Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airway s. There are also flights with Emirates via Dubai, Qatar Airways via Doha, Oman Air via Muscat and Turkish Airlines via Istanbul.

I always first look at Skyscanner to see which flights are offered to me at which flight times. Since I only booked 2 weeks before departure (and for the main travel season) I was lucky that the flight cost “only” $800. Usually the tickets are cheaper.

I usually book the flight with the best price / performance ratio. If the cheapest flight has a 10-hour stopover, I skip it and choose the flight with the shortest flight time if the price is still reasonable.

Transfer from the airport in Colombo

If, like us, you fly home in the middle of the night (4.35 a.m.), you have to get to the airport somehow. There are no trains or buses at these times. I wouldn’t recommend tuk tuks. Our last stop was Tangalle, which means a journey time of about 3 hours in the evening.

The driver was minimally expensive than if our accommodation had organized this transfer. But with “Get Your Guide” I can be sure that the driver has all the necessary licenses, the car is in good condition and everything is serious and at no additional cost.

Traveling around Sri Lanka with your own driver or individually?

It depends on how long you have time for your trip. For the cultural triangle to Kandy , I definitely recommend hiring a private driver . From Kandy (or like us Nuno Oya, then you can visit tea fields and factories) I advise you to take a train ride through the highlands . This is not only beautiful, you also avoid the serpentines and daring overtaking maneuvers of the drivers, including nausea.

For shorter distances, a tuk tuk or, in the best case, a bus is recommended . The bus is definitely the cheapest way to travel to Sri Lanka. Buses run regularly, but can be quite crowded depending on the time of day.

Accommodation in Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka there is accommodation for every budget: hostels for budget travelers as well as luxury resorts. In my experience, there were seldom real low-budget backpackers. But I didn’t stay in hostels either, but in guest houses or hotels. I like my own bathroom and room.

An alternative to hotels and guesthouses are apartments or rooms that can be  booked with AirBnB . An alternative to a hotel, especially in Galle or Colombo. There are also many offers in Tangalle or Mirissa. Unfortunately, almost all of them are out of stock here.

I have booked all of my accommodations for Sri Lanka on booking.com . Since I started looking for accommodation just a week before leaving, most of them were no longer available during the main travel season (New Year’s Eve).

The hotels and guest houses were also appropriately too expensive or overpriced compared to other trips and the standard. In Galle Fort you pay for the location in the old town (accommodation: Mango House ; perfect location, great accommodation, only the room smelled musty and was very small), in the Yala National Park the location directly at the park entrance ( accommodation: tent ). The accommodations themselves were fine.

Can I travel through Sri Lanka alone as a woman?

I haven’t had any bad experiences as a woman on my Sri Lanka trip. Prepare to be stared at especially at men. A man stood in front of us for minutes at the train station and pierced us with his gaze. As soon as I took off my sunglasses, my blue eyes were literally staring at me. As a woman, you are also often asked whether you have a boyfriend or a husband.

It is generally advisable to wear long trousers and not tops. I haven’t had any of these experiences, especially in the south. I had the feeling that everyone here was very open and friendly. In the highlands and cultural triangle I always wore T-shirts with sleeves and now and then long pants, as visiting temples without covered shoulders or knees is not tolerated.

If you make it clear to men right from the start that you have no intention of getting involved with anyone and that you have a friend in Germany, they usually leave you alone.

Packing list for Sri Lanka

You can enter many of the sights of Sri Lanka barefoot, without headgear and with covered knees and shoulders. If you are out on a hot day, you should have a pair of socks with you as the stones can get very, very hot. To do this, pack a sarong (tie around) or long trousers.

For visiting the cultural triangle and the highlands, I definitely recommend a rain jacket . Basically, I always think that you don’t need a rain jacket when traveling to a warm country, but in Sri Lanka I was glad to have one with me. The rain showers were not always entertaining and quite heavy. Alternatively, I recommend packing an umbrella . If necessary, you can also buy umbrellas on site (at overpriced prices) in all corners.

I also recommend packing a drybag . I always kept my camera securely packed in this for protection. A backpack with rain protection is also recommended.

If you plan on hiking, you can pack hiking or trekking shoes. Before the trip, I decided to only take my Nike Free sneakers with me except for flip flops  . The hikes, for example on the Ella Rock, were no problem. Tourists even hiked up here with flip flops, which I would not recommend.

Questions about money and credit cards when traveling to Sri Lanka
What is the currency of Sri Lanka?
The official national currency in Sri Lanka is the Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR) . 1 euro corresponds to approximately 155 LKR. Since the rate fluctuates, you can find the current exchange rate here .

In Sri Lanka you will find an ATM in every major town where you can withdraw cash in local currency.

In 2021 the best credit cards are the VISA card from DKB Bank (as an active customer) and the GenialCard from Hanseatic Bank . With these cards you can withdraw money from ATMs for free and pay on site without paying foreign fees abroad in foreign currencies!

My tip for a sustainable account is Tomorrow Bank . I like to use this credit card in Germany and Europe (Apple Pay also works with it).

Sri Lankan currency note

How do I take money to Sri Lanka – credit card, cash or dollars?

Cash? US dollars, credit card or should I exchange money before traveling to Sri Lanka? 

I didn’t change rupees before the trip. There are three ATMs at the airport when you leave the building, from which you can withdraw cash with the DKB Visa card (my tip for the best travel credit card) without having to pay fees that are due abroad.

Attention: Since the locals often do not have a passport, they cannot exchange foreign currencies such as euros or US dollars for Sri Lankan rupees. Prices are often quoted in US dollars, but local currency in rupees is always accepted. Therefore, I advise not to exchange dollars and take them with you.

Tip: Be sure to tip people in local currency and not in Euros or US Dollars!

Change money at home or in Sri Lanka?

I withdrew cash directly upon arrival at Colombo airport and never exchange money in Germany before traveling (unless I need US dollars in addition to the local currency).

How expensive is Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka is booming and is becoming more and more popular with German individual tourists. Compared to Thailand, Sri Lanka is not a cheap travel destination. Taxes, fees, high gasoline costs and excessive entrance prices in combination with completely excessive overnight prices in the main season drive the prices up.

Tickets in Sri Lanka are relatively overpriced

I wasn’t thrifty, had a driver for the Cultural Triangle and Kandy to Nuno Oya and didn’t stay in the cheapest accommodations. Since I was in Sri Lanka during the main travel season (end of December – mid-January), the accommodations were not always cheap and sometimes much too expensive for the standard. Entrance fees to the most famous sights (e.g. Sigiriya) and transfers by car were sometimes completely overpriced for my opinion.

If you eat street food that was really tasty for this, you will often pay no more than $2- $3 for rotis and you’ll be really full afterwards.

On average, I needed around $85 per day for accommodation, food, transport and other things.

How much tip is appropriate in Sri Lanka?

In Sri Lanka, as in many other countries, tips are a very important source of additional income , but they are always voluntary .

  • Restaurants:  10% for the service is already included and shown on the invoice. Nevertheless, the money often does not end up with the service employees. Therefore, an additional tip of 10% is common.
  • Porter:  Approx. 50 LKR per piece of luggage
  • Housekeeping:  Around LKR 100 per day.
  • Tuk tuk or taxi driver: 100 LKR depending on the route.
  • Private driver: If you have booked a private driver for a few days, you should calculate 300 Rs per day depending on your satisfaction.
  • You should definitely set a fixed amount for guides for temples and sights.

Caution: Make sure that you always have rupees with you in small bills. This is not always easy, as there is generally “stingy” with small change and we were often asked to pay by credit card if we wanted to pay with a 5,000 rupee note in order to get the coveted change.

Please remember that the people in Sri Lanka depend on tips in order to be able to make a living.

National parks in Sri Lanka

The many national parks with their fauna and biodiversity are more reminiscent of East Africa and my Uganda trip than of Asia. Extensive grassy savannahs, herds of elephants, leopards, buffaloes, crocodiles, bears and birds can be found in the protected areas, which make up about 10% of the country’s area.

But the wildlife that was once so rich in species is now seriously threatened. The elephant population in particular has shrunk to below 3000 animals.

The most important and well-known national parks in Sri Lanka are:

  • Minneriya National Park
  • Sinharaja Rain Forest Reserve
  • Yala National Park
  • Uda Walawe National Park
  • Wilpattu National Park
  • Bundala National Park
  • Gal Oya National Park
  • Hortons Plain National Park
  • Kaudulla National Park

All of these national parks are administered by the Department of Wildlife Conservation.

The smallest of the three national parks in the Cultural Triangle is the  Hurulu Eco Park near Habarana. Since both the Minneriya and the Kaudulla National Park were flooded due to heavy rains, we had to evade here. We met a few elephants despite adverse conditions:

Hurulu Eco Park at Habarana

Dealing with animals in Sri Lanka

In the Yala National Park as well as whale watching or visiting the sea ​​turtles , I had the feeling that people are trying to respect and protect nature and animals, but tourism is growing too fast and uncoordinated, especially in this area.

Far too many safari jeeps jam, a leopard or bear is spotted. At 50 cars (!!) I stopped counting.

Traffic jam when seeing a bear in Yala National Park

Even when whale watching in Mirissa, I learned that there are 15 (!!) provider for tours. When we spotted two blue whales, I counted exactly these 15 boats, which were lined up at a distance from the animals, but which probably spread a lot of stress on the animals. The pauses between surfacing became longer and longer.

At the Turtle Conservation Project , I had the feeling that the local people really want to protect the animals. The beach at Rekawa is guarded by volunteers 24 hours a day to keep egg thieves (especially dogs and fishermen) away. Unfortunately there were over 50 people (!!) at the meeting point on the evening of our visit

After taking the sea turtle tour near St. Lucia in South Africa and knowing that only 2 groups of 10 people per night can participate, I was also very shocked by the crowd. We didn’t wait any longer and left.

 hope that those responsible in Sri Lanka will quickly understand what they are doing by not regulating their wildlife and preserving it. Otherwise the habitat of the animals and their preservation will probably be very threatened in the next few years.

Especially when visiting the turtles and whale watching you can achieve a lot by increasing prices and limiting the number of people per day …

Please avoid the following facilities and activities:

Elephant Orphanage in Pinnawala

Pro Wildlife advises against visiting the Pinnawela Elephant Show House. As an alternative, Pro Wildlife recommends the Elephant Transit Home. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to visit.

Riding elephants

The fact that you can ride elephants is offered in many places in Sri Lanka. I met elephants with tourists several times directly at Sigiriya Rock. Do you think elephants enjoy having people ride them? The elephants are tormented when they are trained. Read more at Peta.

European toad rearing stations

When I read reports about the “oh how cute” turtles, plus a picture with a baby turtle in hand, I feel sick. Gullible tourists are told that the newly hatched turtles are kept in catch basins so that they can be released into the sea under cover of night.

The reality is different: the turtles are often kept in the catch basin for up to three days so that enough tourists can marvel at them and pick them up beforehand. If the sweet babies survive these days at all, they will later be too weak in the open sea to be able to save themselves from natural enemies in the sea. Or they are so hungry that they start looking for food right on the beach and fall prey to birds of prey.

Some stations even go so far that tourists are released the turtle babies into the open sea who think that they are actively contributing to animal welfare and still pay money for it.

“Street artist” with monkeys

Especially in Galle Fort I saw so-called artists with trained monkeys in several corners. Please do not support this way of dealing with animals either and ignore people with their monkeys.

How does the transport work in Sri Lanka

Exploring the country is relatively easy. You have several options. For the cultural triangle, I recommend that you hire a driver. It’s super cheap by bus, but the journey on site is arduous.

Travel around Sri Lanka by bus

The cheapest way to travel in Sri Lanka is by bus. A ticket from Ella to Wellawaya cost me just 35 cents (with the state red bus). You can get from Colombo to Kandy for only about 90 cents. In comparison, you pay at least $60 for a taxi. For the equivalent of $3, you can cover the same distance with an air-conditioned intercity bus.

Disadvantage why we often didn’t use the cheap buses: They were mercilessly overcrowded. An unpleasant thing with a backpack and small hand luggage.

In the highlands, I wouldn’t advise you to take the bus. You need a good stomach here. The drivers really accelerate in the tight serpentines. Even I felt a slight nausea in our driver’s car. Somehow they all can’t really drive a car, I had the feeling …

By train

You should take the train at least once on your trip. They are a real experience in which you feel transported back in time and drive comfortably through the most beautiful landscapes with open doors.

The route between Kandy and Ella in particular is highly praised everywhere. The ticket prices are cheap (you always pay from start to finish), there are panorama cars and air-conditioned compartments in 1st class. Note that you cannot open the windows in 1st class.

This is what a train ticket looks like

Attention: Do not dispose of the train ticket, you have to hand it in at the platform when you get off.

Another tip: When booking, make sure you get a 2-seater row and not a 4-seater seating group. We had seats in a group of 4, where you sit across from each other. I and the other person both didn’t know what to do with the two of them. If you are a stranger it can be very uncomfortable. I got around this by sitting in the open train door most of the time and letting my legs dangle outside.

I also had the feeling that in 2nd class without air conditioning the rows of seats were a little further apart. And let’s be honest: it got pretty cool in the highlands, we wouldn’t have needed air conditioning most of the time. At least I don’t.

Traveling by train in Sri Lanka is a great experience

With the tuk tuk (three-wheeler)

Except in Colombo, tuk tuks do not have a taximeter. You have to be very good at negotiating here. Because here you will be ripped off mercilessly. Always ask locals you trust for a reasonable price. Then you name this to the driver and turn around if he refuses to take you with him.

The prices often got me mad. Even if it is not expensive for us and I can afford it. It’s annoying when the price rises many times over just because the skin color is white. Once our tuk tuk driver just raised the price by 500 rupees because he needed longer. He knew exactly where to take us. It wasn’t a traffic jam either, he just miscalculated. He still deserved us very well. I was angry and he didn’t get a tip for it.

Me the private driver

Renting a car in Sri Lanka is more expensive than renting a car with a driver. Especially for the trips in the Cultural Triangle to Kandy (here Colombo – Cultural Triangle – Kandy) the private driver was definitely worth it. Even if we were happy to get rid of him afterwards.

Drivers start at $50 per day. The accommodations usually provide the driver with accommodations. We never had to worry about the driver’s accommodation or food. Instead, we often discuss why we want to watch something and not the other. He always wanted to lure us to attractions, restaurants, and street food outlets where he could get commission. I have absolutely nothing against it if it is worth it. Unfortunately it never has.

A good driver who speaks good English is worth gold, a bad one can really spoil the tour for you. Ask your friends if someone can recommend a driver to you. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend ours. But I will organize the address of the driver from friends. They were in Sri Lanka exactly one week before me and they were absolutely satisfied. Unfortunately, your driver did not contact us any more. Presumably he already had the next tour.

Another tip: go shopping alone and if you have a driver, then only in the supermarket. There are fixed prices there. At street stalls, the driver often collects 30% commission, which you have to pay more.

Internet and local SIM card for Sri Lanka

When I travel, I always buy a local SIM card. I also bought one in Sri Lanka, as we often had to communicate with our driver, especially at the beginning.
You can buy a SIM card upon arrival at Colombo airport. There are several providers to choose from: Dialog, Etisalat, airtel …

I decided on the provider Dialog because, according to tips from Lokals, this provider offers the fastest mobile Internet. The SIM card with 5 GB and credit for making calls cost me 8 euros. According to friends, you can get the SIM cards cheaper in local Dialog shops. I didn’t want to wait because there was a lot to plan right after arriving and we needed the internet (we went straight to Sigiriya, which took about 4-5 hours).

What you need to buy a SIM card in Sri Lanka: 

  • A smartphone without a SIM lock
  • Your passport (the employee copies your passport so that it can be legitimized)
  • The employee inserts the SIM card for you and activates it directly
  • When your credit is used up, you can buy new credit at any kiosk. Each additional 1 GB costs approximately $1.

Attention: At the airport, tourists are given SIM cards for free. These must first be activated and there is no credit available yet. The provider is also not the cheapest and the card is often only for making calls and not for using the mobile Internet.

Food and drink in Sri Lanka – specialties

Sri Lanka is known as the spice island! Not only curry is great here, Sri Lanka’s cinnamon is also considered the best in the world. By the way, Sri Lankan cuisine is considered to be the spiciest in the world. When ordering, always ask how spicy the dish is.

Breakfast in Sri Lanka

For breakfast you eat hoppers . These are thin rice dough cakes in the shape of a shot. There are also sambol and coconut or chilli chutneys. You fill the whole thing in the hopper and eat everything together.

If there is an egg on the hopper, it is an egg hopper . If the dough is pressed into thin threads, this is called a string hopper . There is often a coconut roti and dhal curry like this:

Of course, you can also get a “Western Breakfast” with omelets, scrambled eggs or sausages everywhere. Sometimes jam and very light slices of toast with it. There was seldom freshly baked dark bread in better accommodations.

Having lunch

Sinhalese eat rice with curry for lunch . The great thing is that in Sri Lanka you get a large plate of rice and around it many small bowls with curries and delicious papadam (“crackers” made from lentil and chickpea flour).

Street food in Sri Lanka

Be sure to try the food that is being sold in the small stalls next to the street. Not only is it incredibly cheap (we paid less than $1 for a bag of rotis, samosas and Ulundhu Vadai) but very, very tasty.

I love fresh fruit

You can get fresh fruit everywhere in Sri Lanka. Bananas, pineapples, guava, mango, papaya, melons, jackfruit and avocados. Whether as freshly squeezed fruit juices, a fruit plate for breakfast or like the guava with chilli and coconut oil as street food. I love it!

Eat with your right hand!

Traditionally in Sri Lanka people eat with the right hand. The one on the left is considered unclean as it is used to wash unclean parts of the body. If you’re wondering why there are sinks everywhere in the restaurant: Here people wash their hands before eating. People are now more open to tourists. I’m left-handed and I’ve often forgotten that you eat with your right hand. Nobody looked at me wrongly because of that.

Drinks in Sri Lanka

Because of the heat, cold drinks are very important! Thambili juice (the juice of a fresh king coconut) is available on every corner.

Freshly squeezed fruit juices and lassies are also on every menu. Lime juice with mint is especially delicious (it also helps with stomach problems).

Sri Lanka is best known for its Ceylon tea . Locals drink this with a lot of sugar and milk. I also drank a lot of tea (without sugar and milk), visited a tea factory and of course brought tea with me to my home.

What language is spoken in Sri Lanka?

Sinhala, Tamil and English are spoken in Sri Lanka. Basic knowledge of English is therefore a great advantage. But even though English is officially the official language, I had the feeling that a conversation is often difficult.

Very few speak a passable English. More in-depth conversations with locals hardly came about or got stuck if you wanted to talk about things like everyday life in Sri Lanka or their families.

The most important words on Sinhala

Ayubowan – good morning! Hello
Isthuti (es-thu-thee) – Thank you
Samawenna – Sorry / Please excuse!
Ou – Yes
Na – No
(Bihama) Hondai – (Very) Good!
Mage nameh –
my name is … Obeh near monawada – what’s your name?
Kohmade – how are you?
Karunakara – Please
Meke gana ki yada? – How much is it?

Wesikiliya – toilet
Dumriyapola koheda? – Where is the train station?
Ella bus eka yanne kiyatada? – When does the bus go to Ella?
Hotalaya – Hotel
Kamaraya – Bed
Bankuwa – Bank
Koheda? – Where?

Eka – 1
Deka – 2
Thuna – 3
Hathara – 4
Paha – 5
Haya -6
Hatha – 7
Atha – 8
Namaya – 9
Dahaya – 10

Sri Lanka time difference

Indian Standard Time (IST) applies in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is thus 9.5 hours ahead of US (Washington). There is no summer time in Sri Lanka, which means that in summer the time difference to Sri Lanka is 5:30 hours.

What I didn’t like so much about Sri Lanka

Don’t get me wrong, Sri Lanka is beautiful and the people are friendly. Still, there are (few) things that I didn’t like:

  • Sri Lanka is getting expensive. Not only is tourism growing rapidly, the entrance fees for Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa are also completely overpriced at $25. Overnight stays in average hotels cost over $ 40 per night (sometimes up to $100 per person in high season). Sri Lanka is therefore more expensive than other Asian countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines or Vietnam.
  • Tourists pay far more than bars.  It is okay that as a tourist you pay more than a local. But it is not okay for you to pay more than twice as much.
  • Collect private drivers.  It is well known that drivers smuggle tourists to places in order to collect commissions. The fact that drivers want to earn money on EVERYTHING is annoying. Our driver simply lied to us when booking the train ticket, for example, and claimed that he had to pay another 900 rupees for the booking over the phone. The service fee of 300 rupees was already included in the train ticket and included. He even lied to us when we asked (one of many examples).
  • And as already mentioned above, dealing with animals and nature . An absolutely chilling example in which everyone just wants to enrich themselves. Without sending back to animals and nature.

Rules of Conduct for Sri Lanka

The shaking of the head of the Sinhalese

In Sri Lanka it is like in India: If your counterpart shakes his head, this does not mean “no” but “yes” and approval. This often leads to misunderstandings. I too have repeatedly caught myself answering offers with “no” and a shake of the head, which means approval.

Photographing people

If you want to take photos of people, you should generally ask for permission. Nobody wants to be photographed without being asked, right? Often money is required for this, as is the case with the stilt fishermen in the south, who only get on their stilts to fish for tourists.

Many locals (especially children) still like to be photographed. Just show them the picture you took of them.

Taking photos with Buddha

So-called “selfies” with Buddha figures are forbidden. You must never turn your back on a Buddha when posing for a photo. That counts as disregard for religion.

Also, watch out for signs on temples. Because sometimes photography is forbidden here.

Travel planning checklist for Sri Lanka

So that you don’t forget anything when planning, I have created a checklist here:

  1. Buy travel guides and search the Internet for reviews of Sri Lanka travel: – My travel reports on Sri Lanka travel
  2. Think about the approximate route and define “ must sees ” as the framework
  3. Check the best travel time – the rainy season is in the north and east when it is high season in the south and west!
  4. Book cheap flight
  5. Check and get your entry documents: – Valid passport (valid for at least another 6 months) – Apply for a visa – Print out
    the flight booking
  6. Book the first accommodation and print out the booking confirmation, save the address

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