Thinking jetting off to beautiful Sri Lanka for your next getaway? This jewel-shaped Indian Ocean island is pretty irresistible, with its pristine beaches, ancient temples and lush rainforests. And then of course, there’s the simply incredible food.
As you start researching some of the best things to see and do in Sri Lanka, it’s also important to read up on the practical stuff. This includes details of the climate, visa requirements, cultural etiquette tips and what to pack.
We’re here to help, with a quick guide to some of the most important things you need to know before you go.
You’ll need a tourist visa
Even if you’re only staying a few days, all visitors need to have a tourist visa to enter Sri Lanka. It’s pretty easy to get, although it does cost around £68 in fees. You’ll just need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) online before you travel.
You’ll also need at least 6 months validity on your passport, and complete a free online embarkation form before you arrive in Sri Lanka. You can find more info on the UK Government’s foreign office website.
You might need some travel vaccinations
Although you’ll need to check with your doctor, the recommended vaccinations for Sri Lanka as a tropical destination are Tetanus, Diphtheria, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Rabies and Typhoid. Find out more on the NHS Fit to Fly website.
Monsoon season is best avoided – although there are upsides
The period from May to September is monsoon season in Sri Lanka, especially on the island’s south and west coasts. And then between November and March, it’s the turn of the northeast to experience wet and rainy conditions.
During these months, you can expect lots of very heavy rainfall, choppy seas and short, sharp downpours. These can be quite sporadic though, with hot sunny spells in between.
If you’re not a fan of getting wet, it’s probably best to avoid monsoon season in Sri Lanka. But to look at it a different way, it’s during these ‘off’ seasons that you’ll get the island to yourself – with fewer tourists, cheaper hotel prices and perhaps even the chance of escaping the rain.
You can’t drink the tap water
The tap water isn’t safe to drink in Sri Lanka, so you’ll need to stick to bottled. However, it’s widely available and pretty cheap.
Some tips for cultural etiquette and respectful behaviour
Sri Lanka has a deeply rooted cultural heritage, and it’s important to respect local customs and traditions. When visiting temples or religious sites, remember to dress modestly and remove your shoes and hat before entering.
When interacting with local people, a friendly smile and a greeting in the local language (Sinhala or Tamil) will always go a long way. Remember that Sri Lankans are known for their warmth and hospitality, so you should feel at home wherever you go.
Try as much local food as possible
One of the most exciting reasons to visit Sri Lanka is the food. Simply put, it’s amazing – your taste buds will never experience anything like it.
Must-try local dishes include:
- Kottu – chopped roti mixed with vegetables and meat
- Hoppers – a type of pancake, although you can also get ‘string hoppers’ which are a kind of noodle
- Fish ambul thiyal – sour fish curry, made from the island’s world-famous seafood
- Lamprais- steamed banana leaf parcel of rice, meat and sambol chili sauce
- Sweets like kokis and bibikkan.
Transport is cheap – but prepare for a wild ride
Getting around Sri Lanka is an adventure in itself. The island has a well-connected network of buses, trains, and tuk-tuks (auto rickshaws) that can take you from bustling cities to serene countryside – but they’re often very busy and quite chaotic. If you want to see the picturesque hill country of Sri Lanka, take a train for the best views and an unforgettable experience.
Find the best things to do in Sri Lanka with our travel experts here at Blank Canvas – get in touch to start planning the trip of a lifetime.