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Sri Lanka Travel Guide – Useful Travel Tips for First Timers

access_time February 3, 2019 chat_bubble_outline 1 comment 12093
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Sri Lanka, the beautiful tropical island, is a sparkling jewel in the Indian Ocean. Here is the ultimate Sri Lanka travel guide to help you know everything about this amazing place.

Sri Lanka

Get a glimpse of the natural wildlife beauty of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Travel Guide

Sri Lanka is home to pristine golden beaches, alluring tea plantations, barren landscapes, lush green rainforests, rich national parks, Buddhist temples and colourful festivals. Does it sound exactly like your dream destination? Well, if you are keen to know more about this appealing place, here is our Sri Lanka travel guide to help you know everything.

Interested in women-only tour to Sri Lanka?

See Sri Lanka Tour Package
Table Of Contents


Best Time To Visit Sri Lanka

The wildlife, sunshine and fragrance of Sri Lanka will fill your heart with peace and joy

The wildlife, sunshine and fragrance of Sri Lanka will fill your heart with peace and joy

The weather in Sri Lanka varies extremely from place to place throughout the year as the country experiences two monsoon seasons- the monsoon which brings rain to the west and the south-west coasts from May to September and the monsoon that brings rain to the east coast and northern region between October and February. So, the best time to visit the west, south and the central part of Sri Lanka is in between the months of December and March, when the rains are replaced by pleasant, enjoyable temperatures and clear blue skies.

Sri Lanka Travel guide - beaches

Revel in endless scenic beaches of Sri Lanka

And the best time to visit the north and east coast of Sri Lanka is in between the months of April and September. There is also an inter-monsoon period, where there are clear-cut chances of rainfall throughout the island. So, it is better to consider the activities and the places you want to visit before planning your Sri Lanka trip.

St Clair Falls in Sri Lanka`

Marvel at the St Clair Falls in Sri Lanka

That being said, if you are planning to travel around the entire country, the best time to visit Sri Lanka is during January to April and mid-July to September as the island remains dry all through. The days are long and sunny and it is a good time for sun bathing, exploring wildlife and experiencing the south mountainous regions. Since it is a dry season, make sure you are always hydrated and do not forget to pack light cotton clothes.

Go on a women – only tour to Sri Lanka?

See Sri Lanka Tour Package

Planning to visit Sri Lanka?

See Sri Lanka Tour Package


Travel Documents For Sri Lanka

sri lanka travel guide - Mirissa

Mirissa on the south coast of Sri Lanka is the place to be, if you are on the lookout for the most reliable whale watching spot

Travellers need the following documents for their Sri Lanka trip:

  • Passport: Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry to Sri Lanka and should have at least one blank page.
  • Visa: You need an ETA or Electronic Travel Authorisation that allows you to enter the country for 30 days.
  • Travel insurance: It is advisable to carry travel insurance for a safe and secure travel.


Where To Stay In Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has comfortable stays for all kinds of travellers

Sri Lanka offers an array of accommodation options from top class five star hotels and boutique hotels to heritage bungalows, home stays, guest houses and rented apartments. The island is one of the most beautiful places on earth and staying at chic Sri Lanka hotels simply adds to an otherwise special experience. And if you don’t mind splurging and want to experience the rich Sri Lankan hospitality, then Taj Samudra, The Kingsbury, Marino Beach Colombo, Movenpick Colombo and Cinnamon Grand Hotel are some of the best hotels in Colombo. Travellers on a budget can stay in family-run guest houses, home stays and motels.

sri lanka travel guide - budhha statue

The fascinating view of the Buddha statue at the Seema Malaka Temple will make you forget everything

The concept of spending your holiday at a villa or a bungalow is becoming quite popular in Sri Lanka. These are large country homes with about 3-8 big rooms, hall, kitchen and a spacious garden. For big groups and bachelorette parties, staying at these villas and bungalows is the best option.

Interested in women – only tour to Sri Lanka?

See Sri Lanka Tour Package

Planning to explore Sri Lanka?

See Sri Lanka Tour Package


Travelling Within Sri Lanka

sri lanka travel guide - tuk tuk

Experience the fun side of Sri Lanka by taking a ride in a tuk tuk

Sri Lanka offers a range of travel options to all its visitors. Let’s have a look at all possible options.


Sri Lanka is a small country with very few domestic flights. However, charter flights can be arranged to reach anywhere in Sri Lanka through Deccan Aviation Lanka.


Trains are a great way to explore Sri Lanka. Trains connect Colombo with most tourist towns, but first-class carriages and air-conditioning is available only on few rails. The most enjoyable routes are from Colombo to Kandy, Kandy to Nanu Oya and Nanu Oya to Ella.

Sri Lanka Travel Guide Tip: First-class carriages sell out pretty early, so it is best to book your tickets in advance.

sri lanka travel guide - train ride

Enjoy the scenic view on your train ride


Buses are inexpensive and a fun way to get around in Sri Lanka. Local buses go to most places including far away villages and towns.


Sri Lanka has a widespread road network with nearly 95% of land transport across the country. It is possible to rent a car in the country and drive yourself through several international car rental agencies like Hertz and Dollar and Thrifty. To hire a car, one must be 18 years of age and must have a valid driving license. In case you are uncomfortable with driving, you can always hire a driver through “Chauffeur Guides” system. These drivers can speak English and have a rough knowledge about the roadways of the country.


In Sri Lanka the taxis have yellow tops along with red and white plates. Most taxis are metered, but it is always advisable to agree on a rate before the trip. The taxi drivers here expect a 10% tip.

sri lanka travel guide

The captivating view would definitely be the highlight of your journey

Auto Rickshaw

Auto rickshaw or tuk-tuk as they are called in Sri Lanka, is ideal for short distances within towns and cities. They are plentiful and you will find many waiting in every corner of the street. Use your bargaining skills and negotiate on the fare before you start.

Sri Lanka Travel Guide Tip: Walk a few 100 metres to get a better deal.

Almost all public transport gets crowded around full moon holidays and weekends, so avoid travelling around that time. With so many options to choose from, select what suits you the most and do keep our versatile Sri Lanka travel guide handy.

Go on a wome-only tour to Sri Lanka?

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Things To Do In Sri Lanka

1. Visit The Yala National Park

Sri lanka travel guide - yala national park

Spot the giants at the Yala National Park.

The gripping Yala National Park promises an unrivalled thrill and brilliant adventurous experience with a visual treat of watching the Sri Lankan Leopards. It is the only place in the country where these ferocious creatures can roam free in their natural habitat. The park provides captivating visuals of rocky pools, grassy plains, fresh water lakes, lagoons and stunning ravines.

sri lanka travel guide

It is an experience of its own to witness the exotic wildlife in Yala National Park

Taking a jungle safari in the park is a must for all nature and wildlife lovers. One can spot a number of animals like elephants, turtles, Indian cobra, Sri Lankan sloth bear, black dear, monitor lizards, crocodiles and many others. A visit to this beautiful park will capture your heart and make your Sri Lanka trip an unforgettable experience.

2. Explore The Sigiriya Rock Fortress

Spot the lion's face; Sigiriya Rock in Sri Lanka

Spot the lion’s face; Sigiriya Rock in Sri Lanka

Sigiriya Rock is referred to as the eighth wonder of the world. It is a historic site that has dealt with many wars and invasions. It offers a 360 degree view of the nearby hills, lakes, forests, canals and other waterways. Climbing the rocky steps may definitely seem very difficult and tedious, but once you reach the top you will be mesmerised by the beauty of the place. With such amazing views, it is certainly one of the best things to do in Sri Lanka.

sri lanka travel guide - fort

Get mesmerised by the paintings in the Sigiriya Fort

Enjoy Sri Lanka with your gal pals!

See Sri Lanka Tour Package

3. Seek Blessing In The Gangaramaya Temple

sri lanka travel guide - budhha statue

Let the Ganagaramaya Temple transport you to a world of spirituality

The Gangaramaya temple is one of the most iconic Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka. Considered to be an epitome of architectural brilliance, the temple has many buildings including a library, a display hall for gifts received from the followers and a museum. The ceiling and the walls of the temple have pictures and paintings that describe stories from the Buddhism religion.

sri lanka travel guide - budhha temple

Seek blessings at the Ganagaramaya Temple

There is a huge Buddha statue in the main sanctorum that emanates a sense of tranquillity to all the devotees. The temple depicts a variety of architectural styles including Indian, Chinese and Thailand. It is not only a place of worship but also a Buddhist learning centre which makes it one of the finest things to do in Colombo.

Planning to visit Sri Lanka?

See Sri Lanka Tour Package

Want to explore Sri Lanka with your girl gang?

See Sri Lanka Tour Package


Places To Visit In Sri Lanka

1. Colombo

sri lanka travel guide - colombo

Get a little bit of everything in Colombo

Colombo, the commercial capital of the country is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka. It is a vibrant city with an amazing blend of rich history, old age colonial buildings, diverse cultures, buzzy culinary scene and today’s modern life. Do visit the National Museum and Galle Face Green, a strip park along the Indian Ocean.

sri lanja travel guide - lake

Experience the serenity of Beira Lake

Take the pleasurable tuk tuk ride and check out the stunning Gangaramaya Temple, which is renowned for its ethnic architectural styles. Experience the simplicity of Beira Lake and get lost in the charm of the Old City Hall. It is an excellent place to soak in the dynamic vibe of the city’s nightlife with great mix of drinks and happening music.

Planning to visit Colombo?

See Sri Lanka Tour Package

2. Kandy

sri lanka travel guide - kandy

Get charmed by the simplicity of Kandy

Kandy, the second largest city in Sri Lanka is located on a plateau surrounded by mountains and is a World Heritage Site. The city is home to one of the most sacred Buddhist temples in the world, The Temple of the Tooth Relic. If you happen to be in the city in July and August, do experience the spectacular Festival of the Tooth, which involves taking the tooth relic around the city along with beautifully adorned elephants, drummers, dancers, stilt walkers and fire eaters.

Inside sri Lanka travel guide - Temple of the Scared Tooth Relic in Sri Lanka

The Temple of Sacred Tooth Relic radiates tranquility inside out

Movie enthusiasts will be delighted to know that Kandy was a major location in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Kandy is one of the best Sri Lanka tourist places with a temperate climate, lush green flora and fauna, awe-inspiring tea plantations and spice gardens.

Interested in women – only tour to Kandy?

See Sri Lanka Tour Package

3. Bentota

sri lanka travel guide - Bentota

Get fascinated by the enchanting vibe of Bentota

The coastal town of Bentota is popular for its wonderful beaches, lavish hotels and unharmed beauty. Bentota is one of the most popular Sri Lanka beaches with water activities such as surfing, snorkelling, water skiing, kayaking, canoeing and sailing.

sri lanka travel guide - dolphin

A marine life enthusiast? Bentota won’t disappoint you

Take a sneak peek at the country’s coral reefs and explore the underwater caves. Do take time out to visit the Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery and conservation centre, which observes five of the seven species of sea turtles in the world. The 17th century fortress and old Buddhist temples are among the best places to see in Sri Lanka.

Planning to tour Bentota?

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What To Eat In Sri Lanka

sri lanka travel guide - sri lankan food

Nothing can beat the satisfying bowl of rice and curry

Did you know that Sri Lanka is also called the’ Island of Rice and Curry’? Well, Sri Lankan food is a melting pot of rich flavours, accurate zing, and superb textures. Whether it is a home cooked curry or an epicurean dinner, Sri Lankan food is a treat for all taste buds. Making excellent use of local ingredients like coconut, jackfruit, seafood along with magical spices, Sri Lankan cooking delivers an abundance of unbelievable dishes.

  • Do not miss trying the very famous Appam, a bowl shaped rice flour and coconut milk pancakes served with a soft-baked egg on top.
  • Kottu roti, a stir-fried delicacy made with vegetables, eggs and pieces of roti is absolutely mind blowing. It is often served with a spicy curry sauce.
  • You simply cannot leave Sri Lanka without trying Lamprais, a satisfying dish with rice, curry and meatballs wrapped in a banana leaf and baked in the oven.
  • Pittu or cylinders of ground rice layered with grated coconut and steamed is also worth trying.
  • Other significant dishes include Fish Ambul Thiyal (sour fish curry), Parippu (Dhal curry), Pol Sambol (coconut relish), Idi Appa (rice noodle nests), Polos (jackfruit curry) and Kukul Mas Curry (chicken curry).
sri lanka travel guide - parippu payasam

Gorge on Parippu Payasam on your holiday in Sri Lanka

  • Apart from the local fare, the country has loads of restaurants serving different cuisines like South Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, American, Continental and Mexican. Chutneys (Colombo), Bedspace Kitchen (Unawatuna), Cafe Japan (Bambalapitiya), Ministry Of Crab (Colombo), Flamingo House (Colombo), Helga’s Folly (Kandy) and Mangrovia Lagoon Restaurant (Hikkaduwa) are some of the best restaurants to visit.
  • Do try the fresh coconut water that is served straight from the shell. Toddy, a mildly alcoholic fermented drink that is tapped from the palm trees and Arrack, a liquor made from the sap of the palm trees are definitely worth trying. Beer lovers shold try Lion, the country’s national beer.

We are sure that the exotic aroma of the Sri Lankan food will tickle your nose with contentment and the spicy flavours will keep you craving for more.

Sample Sri Lankan cuisines!

See Sri Lanka Tour Package

Indulge in Sri Lankan cuisines with your besties!

See Sri Lanka Tour Package


Nightlife In Sri Lanka

sri lanka travel guide - nightlife

The glittering nightlife of Sri Lanka

An otherwise hushed nation, Sri Lanka has many bars, clubs, discos, casinos and pubs spread over various parts of the country.

  • The capital city, Colombo is the main hub to enjoy the Sri Lankan nightlife. The place is full of glitzy bars, trancing cafes, live music, themed pubs and great bands. Do check places like Zaza Bar ( Casa Colombo Hotel), Bally’s Casino, Loft Lounge Bar, Rhythm and Blues Nightclub, Sky Lounge, ON14 Rooftop Bar and Molly’s Pub.
  • Other than Colombo, the main nightlife scene can be found in Kandy and along the west and south coast of the country.
  • Beach resorts such as Negombo, Bentota and Hikkaduwa are popular for classic beach bars and rustic restaurants.
  • Mirissa and Arugam Bay in further east also have a vibrant nightlife.


Communications And Connectivity In Sri Lanka

sri lanka travel guide

Looking for exotic experiences in the lap of nature? Head to Sri Lanka

Worried about how to keep in touch with your loved ones during your holiday in Sri Lanka? If you are planning to get your own mobile phone, you just need to check with your home service provider whether it will work in Sri Lanka or not. Alternatively, it is best to buy a local SIM card. The calling rates are cheap and it is very convenient for making calls locally for booking accommodations or even for calling a taxi, for that matter. Just make sure that you have an unlocked GSM phone and you are good to go.

Planning to visit Sri Lanka?

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Money In Sri Lanka

sri lanka travel guide - Stilt fishing

Stilt fishing- the traditional form of fishing in Sri Lanka

The official currency of Sri Lanka is Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR). Notes come in the denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000, 2000 and 5000. It is a closed currency which means that it can be only bought once you arrive in Sri Lanka. All major debit cards and credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted. ATMs are widespread. Currency can be easily exchanged in airports, banks, hotels and money exchangers.

Discover Sri Lanka’s hidden gems!

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Sri Lanka Travel Guide – Useful Tips

sri lanka travel guide - sri lankan fisherman

Warm-hearted, helpful and hard workers, the local fishermen will win your heart

  1. Keep your money and other important documents in a safe place.
  2. Make sure you carry a suitable ID with you at all times.
  3. Sinhala, Tamil and English are three most spoken languages in the country.
  4. Do not drink tap water here.
  5. While visiting temples and other places of worship, do not forget to take off your socks and shoes
  6. Make sure that your shoulders and legs are covered inside a Buddhist temple.
  7. If you have a Buddha tattoo make sure you hide it because Sri Lankans have zero tolerance for tourists with a Buddha tattoo.
  8. Voltage in the country is 230V 50Hz AC.
  9. Do not forget to change your money back before you leave, since you are not allowed to take the currency out of the country.
  10. Foreign currency over USD 15000 must be declared.
  11. In case of an emergency, dial 110 (Ambulance) and 118/119 (Police).
Sri Lanka travel guide - hindu temple

Skeptical about the Ramayana stories? Visit sites like Seetha Kotuwa & Ussangoda to witness it all

Sri Lanka is a tourist hub that will never cease to amaze you. So, plan your Sri Lanka holidays soon and do refer to our Sri Lanka travel guide.

Tips For Women Travellers:

Sri Lanka, a year-round destination, brims with culture, wildlife, nature and warm locals. It is one of our favourite destinations and once you visit it, we’re sure it’ll be your favourite too. If you’re planning to explore Sri Lanka, here are a few tips to know beforehand:

1. It’s ideal to dress modestly to avoid unnecessary attention, especially when you plan to explore temples.

2. If you’re travelling alone, a pleasant attitude will go a long way. You will find locals to be genuinely kind and helpful all around.

3. It’s always good to know basic phrases in the local language of the place you’re travelling to. In this case, it would be Sinhalese and here are few basic phrases:

– Hello – “Ayubowan” Pronunciation : Aayu-bo-wan
– Please – “Karunakara” Pronunciation : Karu-nah-kara
– Thank you very much – “Bohoma Istuti” Pronunciation : Bo-hoh-mah Iss-too-tee
– How much is it – “Meeka Kiyadha” Pronunciation : Meka Kiyada

4. Colombo is a shopper’s paradise. Odel is the fashion house of Colombo and for beachwear you can opt for Barefoot or Arugam bay label. For handmade items and souvenirs, you can head to the Eco Maximus store and Pettah for jewellery, perfume and cosmetics. Also, it is a normal practice to negotiate while shopping in Sri Lanka, you can offer  50% of the price quoted by the vendor.

5. If you’re planning to travel by a local bus in Sri Lanka, do make a note that the front seats, closer to the driver, are reserved for monks and they are well respected by the locals.

Interested in women-only tour to Sri Lanka?

See Sri Lanka Tour Package

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Cox & Kings

Cox & Kings is the longest established tours and travels company in the world. Established in 1758, we are headquartered in Mumbai with a presence in over 13 countries worldwide. Our services include destination management, domestic and international holiday packages, luxury travel, business and MICE, NRI and foreign exchange solutions, as well as insurance.

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1 Comment

  1. Kiran
    January 15, 07:19 Kiran

    Excellent article. Thanks for the valuable information. This is very useful when someone is planning for a trip to Sri Lanka.

    reply Reply this comment

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