Sri Lanka: useful information before your trip

There are quite a few things you need to know before planning your trip to Sri Lanka. Here you can find a quick guide about the requirements or things that you have to bear in mind:

Sri Lanka – General information

Weather

Sri Lanka climate is very interesting. Sri Lanka weather is dictated by two monsoons:

  • May to September: brings rain to the Southwest coast
  • October to February: brings rain to the Northern region and East coast
  • Rest of the year: dry and sunny

Monsoon is not a joke so please take it seriously. When I was in there last May-June there were floods and lot of people ended up injured or death due to the Southwestern monsoon. You may think that the country is prepared for the monsoon but it is not. I asked that to several locals and they told me that every year is the same. They are not prepared because they don’t have the money to invest in infrastructure.

Visa requirements

You need a Visa to get into Sri Lanka. You can request it online or it can be done on arrival. I recommend you to apply online as you are going to save $5 and avoid the queues and hassle at the airport after a long flight. It is quick and easy and you are going to receive an email back within 48h, for instance I received mine in less than 24h. You just need to print it and show it in the passport control in Sri Lanka.

Fees of a tourist Visa with double entry valid for 30 days:

Online: US $35

On arrival:  US $40

For information about the fees for other visa options (business, etc) click here.

Where can you submit your online application form?

Easy: click here to request your Visa online.

Vaccinations

Not my favourite subject as I’m afraid of needles but, even though my panic, I always make sure that I’m protected and have the vaccines I need in place before travelling. I went to my GP to check if I needed a new vaccine or any booster and I had all I needed.

So, which vaccines are required?

  • Mandatory:   Tetanus, Hepatitis A and Typhoid.
  • Other vaccines to consider:   Hepatitis B, Japanese Encephalitis or Rabies. I just only have Hepatitis B and about Rabies the doctor just recommended me to be careful with dogs (there are lots of dogs and most of them are not very friendly).
  • Yellow fever vaccination certificate required or travellers over 9 months of age arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission and for travellers having transited more than 12 hours through the airport of a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.

Dengue fever occurs throughout the country but there is no vaccination available so make sure you bring a high level mosquito repellent with you. I tried different ones as I’m easily bitten by mosquitoes (I can be in a room with one hundred people and be the only one bitten…) and my favourite one was Jungle Formula Maximum. If you can’t find it, this one Boots repel maximum also worked very well. Just so you know, wrist bands are useless so don’t waste your money buying them. Also, for the purpose of comparing I was recommended one mosquito repellent you can find in there (citronella oil) and it didn’t work for me. So be advised!

There is no to low risk of Malaria so antimalarial is not needed.

Useful websites about Health:

TravelHealthPro website

fitfortravel website

And last but not least, get a travel insurance. Loads of travel bloggers recommend travel nomads but I personally find them quite pricey. A friend of mine recommended me Compare the market, a comparison website where you will be able to choose the travel insurance that better fits with your pocket, coverage, excess and type of trip. You can also filter the results to make it easier for you to choose.

Compare the market example of the results
“Compare the market” example of the results

Unfortunately, I’m afraid this website is only for those living in the UK. I’m open to suggestions if you know a better travel insurance comparison website or provider.

Money

Sri Lankan currency is the rupee (LKR). It is very difficult, if not impossible, no find LKR outside Sri Lanka. I brought cash and my debit card with me and I didn’t have any problem during my trip. There are exchange stalls in the airport so you can exchange money there. The exchange rate is not great but not that bad. During your stay, you can easily find ATMs that accept foreign debit and credit cards in major towns and villages. If  you are staying at an isolated place make sure you have cash with you just in case. However, the worst case scenario is that you will have to pay a tuk-tuk driver to bring you to the closest ATM, which it’s a waste of time so if you are heading to an isolated place, check your cash beforehand. Exchange rates are fairly uniform across the different banks so there is no need for wasting your time shopping around.

If you have leftovers, change your rupees before passing the airport control in one of the exchange stands. Otherwise, you won’t be able to change your leftovers.

Accommodation

About accommodation, the main question is to book or not to book in advance. This is really up to you and your travel style. There are pros and cons of booking in advance vs not booking in advance. What I can tell you is that if you are looking for budget accommodations you are going to get better prices if you show up rather than booking. The better your bargaining skills are, the better the price. Also, you can get “discounts” if you stay at the same place for more than just 1 or 2 days.

Whilst I was there, I did my own research experiment. I had a look at the price at booking.com or Agoda and the prices were much higher than the price I got after showing up and bargaining. For instance, I paid 1,000 LKR per night for a double room at Tropicana Home stay in Arugam Bay whilst the price advertised on Booking.com was around 2,000 LKR or 1,600 LKR per, again, night in a double room at Alass Ga Rooms in Trincomalee (Uppuveli to be exact) and the price on Booking.com was about 2,500 LKR.

When to show up?

The best moment is between 10-11am, when the guests have left and there are rooms available or at least it’s more likely that someone had left the place. It doesn’t mean that you are not going to find a room after 11am, I’m just saying that it is the best time to look for it.

Public transport

The public transport in Sri Lanka is very slow, be aware of that. The distances are not big but the roads are not great and sometimes there are no direct buses so most likely you will have to take more than 1 to reach your desired destination.

Trains are more comfortable than buses but there are certain areas that are not covered by the rails and most cases the train is even slower than the bus.

Timetables!? Puff that’s a luxury. Bus timetables: they are very difficult to find, if not impossible, for some of the routes online. Best thing you can do is relax, do not plan to much and ask for indications in your guesthouse or homestay or hotel. They will help you to plan your itinerary. Train timetables: these are more establish. For train timetable you can have a look at the following website: Sri Lanka Railways.

Dress code

This is important to bear in mind when packing.

Apart from temples and sacred places, you don’t need to follow a specific dress code but if you are a woman dress sensibly (even more if you are travelling solo) if you want to avoid catching undesired attention.

For temples and sacred places, the dress code is the same around Asia: cover your legs and shoulders. For that, and because you never know where you’re going to end up, bring with you a sarong or a microfiber towel at all times – It will safe you in most of your possible unexpected situations. Also bring a pair of sock with you as most of the times you will be asked to remove your shoes.

And I think that’s all you need to know before your trip to Sri Lanka! Have fun and enjoy your trip 🙂 Oh! If you think I’m missing something relevant to you, let me know and I will try to help you with 🙂

In the meantime, stay tuned and see you around witties!

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Sri Lanka things you need to know before your trip general information

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