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Sri Lanka

Country Profile: Sri Lanka

Ancient traders called the island of Sri Lanka Serendip—a land of happy accidents and chance meetings. Located 18 miles off the southeast coast of India, the independent nation offers a beguiling blend of influences—from ancient Sinhalese fortresses and Buddhist holy men to English colonists and Portuguese traders. It’s no wonder that travelers make surprising and fortuitous discoveries while visiting here.

Most guests arrive in Sri Lanka via Colombo, on the west coast. The financial and commercial capital of the country—though the administrative capital is technically in the nearby suburb of Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte—it’s a bustling city of over 750,000. Visitors here enjoy strolling along Galle Face Green, a ribbon of park fronting the beach, or exploring the riotous Pettah market, an open-air bazaar where you can find anything from dried chilies to handmade saris.

Inland, the central highlands northeast of Colombo offer a spectacular perspective on the island’s ancient history. Known as the Cultural Triangle, this region encompasses many ancient forts, temples, and statues, including the ruined city of Anuradhapura, Dambulla Cave Temples, and the striking Sigiriya Rock Fortress, which rises from jungle like a massive dome of stone and conceals countless frescoes, statues, and ancient fortifications.

Southeast of Kandy, a region of plunging hills lushly carpeted in tea plants awaits. The heart of Ceylon tea country, it is perhaps the wildest part of Sri Lanka and is best accessed by train (itself a memorable and beautiful journey). Travelers here are charmed by century-old British plantations, shimmering green fields, and soaring mountain vistas.

Sri Lanka’s southern coast presents an interesting contrast with the rest of the country. The region’s physical distance from the mainland has protected it from Indian invasions over the centuries, and so it presents the most traditional Sinhalese culture. The European influence of Dutch, British, and Portuguese traders can be found as well, especially in the UNESCO-preserved city of Galle.

Yala National Park offers 378 square miles of lush beauty unfolding along the island-nation’s southeastern coast. Semi-arid forest, grassy plains, wetlands, lagoons, and coastal dunes host an astonishing menagerie of wildlife; the park is home to the highest leopard concentration in the world. Yala National Park jeep safaris offer adventures into the wild in search of this spotted cat, as well as Asian elephants, golden-backed jackals, plentiful peacocks, gray langur monkeys, and more.

Read more about Sri Lanka

View Our Sri Lanka Tour

Country Highlights & Attractions
  • Explore the ancient walled city of Anuradhapura, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the ancient Sinhalese capital of the island.
  • Climb the 1,200 steps to the top of Sigiriya Rock Fortress...or simply enjoy the numerous frescoes, gardens, and statues around its base.
  • Explore the terraced tea fields of the central highlands, watching locals harvest the crop by hand.
  • Spot leopards, saltwater crocodiles, wild elephant, and more on safari in Yala National Park.

Why Walk With Us

  • Trust our expertise with 38+ years in active travel.
  • Immersive experiences with our local guides.
  • Virtually everything is included, even beer and wine with dinner.
  • Your departure is always guaranteed.
  • We take care of our solo travelers.
  • Past guests and referrals always save.

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Country Facts

About Sri Lanka:

Sri Lanka is a developing country. Infrastructure, including modern roads, is fairly good, but poverty is apparent. The Country Walkers tour has been designed to maximize exposure to the diversity, land, people, and culture of Sri Lanka, both on foot and during the travel days. The most important tools that a traveler can bring are a sense of humor, flexibility, and an open mind to cultural differences. While the itinerary in Sri Lanka has been created in collaboration with our local expert guides, each experience is unique and requires patience on the part of the traveler.

U.S. citizens: Passports are required and must be valid for at least three months beyond the dates of travel as the actual Visa will be stamped in your passport. Visas are required. To obtain a Visa you first need to secure an ETA (Electronic Travel Authority) which can be quickly and easily done through the following website: http://www.srilankaetavisa.com/english. Then, upon arrival, you will be issued a 30 day Short Visit visa at the port of entry in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka uses the Sri Lanka Rupee (Rs.). For current exchange rates, visit oanda.com.

It is not recommended to change money on the street. Instead, exchange houses or banks. Some international businesses no longer accept credit cards without PIN numbers (chip and pin cards).

For up-to-date exchange rates, see oanda.com.

Always contact your bank or your credit-card company for details on fees and  card use when traveling.

Sri Lanka is 10 ½ hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. You can follow this link for more information on worldtimezone.com.

Sri Lanka Country Code: +94

Cell phone coverage throughout Sri Lanka is extensive, but we cannot guarantee adequate signals on all American phone models or while on walking trails or in remote areas. For more information regarding international phone use, please refer to this blog post www.countrywalkers.com/the-best-international-phone-options-for-travelers/.

All of the hotels on tour provide internet in the lobby and/or rooms but it can be intermittent and quite slow.

The official languages of Sri Lanka are Sinhalese and Tamil.

While knowledge of the local language is not necessary, you may want to learn some fun and useful phrases. Follow insightguides.com/destinations/asia-pacific/sri-lanka/useful-phrases for helpful hints.

Alternating current of 230V and 50Hz is used in Sri Lanka. Plugs have three large round pins in a triangular configuration. For a full listing of electrical outlets worldwide, see electricaloutlet.org.

Warmed by Indian Ocean winds, Sri Lanka enjoys tropical warm days and cool nights year-round. But its ecological zones vary from equatorial rainforest to drier savannas. The north, where the Sigiriya Rock Fortress and Anuradhapura are located, east, and southeast, are considered dry zones despite that they receive 50-75 inches of rain per year. In the central, tea-growing highlands, temperatures are cooler, often in the 60s, and frost may occur in the winter months. Night-time temperatures can dip down to freezing in the highlands.

For up-to-date forecasts, see qwikcast.com. For historical average temperatures and rainfall, see weatherbase.com.

No immunizations are required to enter Sri Lanka. Always consult a travel clinic at a local university, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, and/or your personal physician for the most up-to-date recommendations and routine vaccinations. Hepatitis, tetanus, typhoid, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella vaccinations are generally recommended for all travelers. Be sure to let your physician know what parts of Sri Lanka you plan to visit, as recommendations may vary depending on the regions you are visiting.

Sri Lankan cuisine has been called “Indian food for beginners.” For breakfast, you will often find string hoppers. These paper-thin rice noodles are served with several condiments to bring bright flavors to your morning. Thosai, or flat pancakes of rice and lentil flour, are also common. Curry dishes at lunch and dinner time tend to be lighter and milder than their Indian counterparts, yet they bring out the vivid flavors of their ingredients. Each meal typically has up to a dozen curries; tasting them all can be sheer delight, a parade of lively flavors balanced by red or white rice. A standout at many meals is the brinjal, or eggplant, curry, caramelized from a perfect braising. Another delicious snack or side is roti, a simple wheat-flour flatbread. Often, the baker mixes ingredients into the dough, such as shredded coconut (to create a thengappu roti) or onions and chillies (uraippu roti). Crab is also quite popular in Sri Lanka, especially in seaside cities.

Steeped in leaves plucked from the island’s central highlands, tea doesn’t get much fresher than it is in Sri Lanka. The country boasts several different zones where the tea bush is cultivated and each leaf yields a different cup depending on the elevation in which it was grown. Fruit juices, especially from passion fruit, are also common. The ubiquitous coconut is used to make a distilled spirit known as arrack. And for a sweet treat, try faluda, a blend of syrup, ice cream, jelly and basil seeds.

Shopping and banking hours

Shops and stores are generally open Monday to Friday, between 10:00 a.m. and 8:00 or 10:00 p.m. Some shops are open Saturdays for a half day. Large supermarkets and department stores may also be open a half day on Sundays. Most banks are open Monday to Friday, between 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Meal-times: Breakfast is generally served at hotels from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. In restaurants, lunch is between 12:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., and dinner is usually served from 7:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Tipping

Tipping in restaurants and bars is not necessarily expected, but you may leave small change if you wish. Taxi drivers aren’t generally tipped, but you could round up the total to the nearest Rs. 150 or Rs. 200. For luggage assistance, a small tip of Rs. 50 to Rs. 100 per piece of luggage is appropriate, depending on the weight and distance carried.

Personal safety

Traveling in Sri Lanka requires the common sense and exercise of above-normal precautions for personal safety that apply in many countries and cities worldwide; in addition to being aware of your surroundings, keep your valuables close and hidden while in public (avoid dangling cameras or other “tourist bait”), and avoid walking alone at night. Please follow accommodation personnel and/or your guide’s suggestions about securing valuables.

The national Sri Lankan tourist board official site
srilanka.travel

Public holidays

To assist in travel planning, it may be helpful to be aware of public holidays, festivals, or calendars of events. Visit the Sri Lankan tourist board’s website, srilanka.travel/srilankan_public_holidays, for a list of public holidays and festivals.

A wealth of information is available at srilanka.travel.

Airports

Most international flights arrive at Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport (airport.lk) in Negombo. However, Hambantota’s Mattla Rajapaksa International Airport (airport.lk/mria) also has flights to neighboring countries.

Other Local Transportation

Taxis are available at all major airports, train stations, and in smaller towns, and can be reserved in advance (your hotel can usually provide assistance). For more information, visit srilanka.travel/getting_around.

Photos

Sri Lanka - 1 Tour Available

Guided Walking Sri Lanka Tea Trails
Asia & South Pacific

Sri Lanka: Ancient Temples & Tea Trails

Activity level: Easy to Moderate Terrain

3-5 miles daily

Flight + Tour

11 days, 10 nights

From $6,598 USD

per person

Tour Only

8 days, 7 nights

From $5,498 USD

per person

Tour Highlights:
  • Explore the ancient walled city of Anuradhapura, UNESCO World Heritage site, with an expert anthropologist, learning about its ancient temples and dagobas (bell-shaped stupas) as you go.
  • Soak up views of the Sigiriya Rock Fortress from your jungle resort, relaxing by its oversized pool.
  • Explore the terraced tea fields of a working plantation with a local expert, stopping to chat with workers along the way.

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Departure Dates
Flight + Tour Combo

2018

  • Nov 2
Tour Only

2018

  • Nov 4
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