How to prepare for your holiday in Sri Lanka

by | Feb 10, 2024

From visa to vaccination, currency exchange to cellular connectivity, here’s all the information to prepare and enjoy your holiday in Sri Lanka. We are answering the FAQs about visiting Sri Lanka, from A to Z. Relax, immerse, indulge and pamper yourself on a stress-free holiday under the tropical sun.

Visa Application:

How do I apply for a visa to Sri Lanka?             

Short visits to Sri Lanka that include sightseeing and holidaying require you to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA), which is valid for 30 days.

You or a third party can apply for this visa online at

Alternatively, you can submit your ETA application to your nearest Sri Lanka Overseas Mission.

Additionally, you can apply for an ETA at the point of arrival at BIA, Sri Lanka’s international airport. Additional fees (an extra US$10) may apply for this service.

We recommend a prior arrival visa to reduce wait times and avoid any last-minute snags.

Citizens of The Republic of Singapore, The Republic of Maldives and The Republic of Seychelles are exempt from the requirement of ETA based on reciprocity.

What are the required documents for the visa application?

  • A passport valid for not less than 6 months from the date of arrival
  • A confirmed return air ticket
  • Sufficient funds to meet the expenses during the stay

How long does it typically take to process the visa?

It usually takes 3 working days to process a regular tourist visa to Sri Lanka. The processing fee for a tourist visa with Double Entry for 30 days for non-SAARC country residents is US$50. For those from SAARC nations, it costs US$20. A transit visa with Single Entry for 2 days is free.

Currency Exchange:

Where can I exchange foreign currency in Sri Lanka?

Colombo airport money exchange counters – many local banks in Sri Lanka operate exchange counters at the airport.

Local banks – almost all local banks provide money exchange facilities. Bank of Ceylon, Sampath Bank, Commercial Bank, People’s Bank and National Savings Bank are some of the most popular banks in the country.

Registered finance companies – Official list

Selected hotels – Official list

Authorised money exchangers – Official list

ATMs – you can use the island-wide network of ATMs to withdraw Sri Lankan Rupees. You will get a similar exchange rate offered by the bank. Make sure to inform your bank that you are travelling to Sri Lanka and ensure your funds are accessible from here. If not, their automated fraud protection system blocks transactions from overseas locations.

What is the current exchange rate?

You can check the exchange rate online or using Sri Lankan bank websites.

SIM Card and Connectivity:

Which sim card network is best for tourists in Sri Lanka?

If you have activated global roaming, you can use your current network in Sri Lanka. However, if you want lower charges, you may want to use a local SIM. There are 4 mobile operators in Sri Lanka – Dialog, SLT-Mobitel, Airtel and Hutch.

You can buy a sim by producing your passport. Your sim will activate within 5 mins. Alternatively, you can use an eSIM for Sri Lanka, such as Airalo, Holafly or Nomad, if your phone supports it.

Where can I purchase a SIM card, and are there any tourist packages?

You can buy a pre-paid SIM card from any mobile operator outlet in Sri Lanka. The three major mobile operators in Sri Lanka – SLT-Mobitel, Airtel and Dialog, offer tourist plans. They also have outlets at the Bandaranaike International Airport.

How is the network coverage, especially in the areas I plan to visit?

Sri Lanka offers good network coverage across the island. While 5G is available predominantly in cities, 4G is available throughout. Reception may not be great in remote areas. However, Dialog and SLT-Mobitel are known to have better coverage.

Payment Methods:

Are credit cards widely accepted, or should I primarily use local currency?

Credit cards are widely accepted. VISA and Mastercard are the most commonly accepted, while AmEx has limited acceptability. While you may see prices marked in US Dollars in certain establishments in touristy areas, always choose Sri Lankan Rupees to make your transaction.

It’s illegal in Sri Lanka to make card transactions in a foreign currency, so choose rupees whenever possible. If you choose payment in your home currency, the exchange rate will not be based on the mid-market range but on Dynamic Currency Conversion, resulting in an unfavourable exchange rate.

In what situations is it advisable to use cash instead of cards?

Cash is still an important payment method in Sri Lanka. It is useful when paying for tuk-tuk rides, public transport, entrance fees, street vendors and buying items in bazaars & small shops.

Are there ATMs readily available for cash withdrawals?

Yes, ATMs are readily available in all cities and towns.

Clothing Attire:

What is the general dress code for tourists in Sri Lanka?

Casual wear is culturally acceptable clothing in Sri Lanka. Light, breathable material suited for hot climates will keep you comfy.

The dress code for tourists is fairly relaxed. However, we recommend modest dressing in public to ensure locals feel comfortable. Beach wear, sundresses, hotpants, low-cut and tank tops are permissible inside resorts and on the beach. Some star-class hotels require you to be in evening wear for dinner.

When heading to the cool Central Hills, you might want to pack warm clothes like jumpers, sweatshirts or cardigans. When hiking, rock climbing, walking trails, going on safari and cycling, dress fittingly to be safe and comfortable.

Are there any specific clothing items I should pack for cultural or religious sites?

Religious sites require an extra measure of respect in the form of clothing. Long-half-short-sleeved tops and shirts, loose jeans, long skirts, long dresses, long trousers and shirts are permissible.

You can carry a shawl to cover your shoulders if wearing a low-cut, short-sleeved or sleeveless top. A long wrap skirt can also help cover up shorts or short skirts and dresses. Lighter colours are more appropriate for Buddhist temples.

Always be considerate to remove footwear and hats when entering religious and holy sites.

How conservative is the dress code in various regions?

Colombo and the suburbs have a more relaxed attitude to clothing. The rural Sri Lanka is more conservative in dress. You may want to stick to modest dressing in cultural destinations like Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Dambulla and Kandy. Sigiriya has no specific dress code, but you should wear clothing and shoes suitable for climbing the Rock.

Weather Update:

What is the current weather forecast for the period of my visit?

Sri Lanka is sunny and temperate most throughout the year due to its proximity to the equator. April and August are the hottest months. The island’s dual monsoon season means when one part of the country is rainy, the other is warm and dry.

Popular southern beach resorts like Bentota, Hikkaduwa, Mirissa, Galle, Tangalle and Weligama are at their peak between December and March. There is also fair weather in the hills. April sees a lot of locals heading to the hills for cooler weather and Sinhala & Tamil New Year holidays.

East coast beaches like Arugam Bay, Trincomalee, Nilaveli, Uppuveli and Passikudah come alive from May to September. It is when the south and southeast get its monsoon rains. The Great Gathering at Minneriya National Parks takes place between July and September. You may be able to see over 300 elephants.

The Yala National Park is at its prime between June and September. The park is fresh after the inter-monsoons yet dry enough for animals to gather at water holes.

Kaplitiya on the northwest coast also has perfect weather from January to April. There are kite surfing winds from May to October and mid-December to mid-March.

Sigiriya, Dambulla, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, a significant part of the Cultural Triangle, are in the dry zone and are sunny much of the year for exploring. It receives rainfall between October and December. February and March are less warm and more favourable for exploring these cultural sites.

From July to August, Kandy buzzes with the sights and sounds of traditional and ornate processions, with the main Esela Perahera taking to the streets in August. The Tea Country receives little rain from December to May and is ideal for climbing Adam’s Peak.

Are there any specific weather-related considerations or precautions I should be aware of?

Sri Lanka is relatively safe from weather hazards and extreme weather. Its tropical climate is mostly sunny, with average temperatures in lowlands ranging from 23 to 35 °C and in Central Highlands 20 -10 °C.

Sunhats, sunglasses and sunscreen will keep you protected and comfortable in the lowlands, while warm clothes will keep you snug in the highlands.

When trekking in rainy and wet regions like rainforests and cloud forests, you will need boots, waterproof clothing and rain gear.


What documents should I carry with me throughout the trip?

You will only need to carry the essentials with you:

  • Your passport
  • A copy of your ETA
  • Your return flight ticket
  • Travel insurance card
  • Proof of vaccination (in English) against Yellow Fever for all travellers 9 months of age and above obtained at least 10 days before arrival if you are travelling from an affected country or have transited for more than 12 hours through an airport of a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.

Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is valid for life, and you can still produce your vaccine card no matter how long ago you received the vaccine. You do not require boosters or revaccinations.

If you are planning to drive in Sri Lanka, you will need a valid International Driving Permit (IDP) endorsed by the Automobile Association of Sri Lanka (AA).

Is it advisable to carry physical copies, or are digital copies sufficient?

We recommend both.

Are there any specific permits or documents required for certain activities or areas?

You will need entrance tickets for national parks, bio reserves and heritage sites. Blue Lanka Tours facilitates these when you are travelling with us.


Are there any specific vaccinations required before travelling to Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka does not have widespread diseases that can cause health risks. However, it is important to undertake safety and precautionary measures to safeguard your health while travelling.

Update routine vaccinations and boosters recommended by health authorities in your country, including the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and diphtheria-tetanus-polio vaccine.

If you are from a yellow fever-affected country, you will need vaccination against Yellow Fever to enter Sri Lanka.

Which vaccinations should you get when travelling to Sri Lanka, and when should they be administered?

Safe drinking water, food hygiene, personal hygiene and sanitation will protect you from health risks. However, depending on the activities you are planning and how long you are staying, you may want to consider the following vaccinations;

Tetanus – at least a month before you travel

Rabies – a full course administered over 3 to 4 weeks.

Hepatitis A – initial dose at least 2 weeks before you leave

Hepatitis B – initial dose at least 2 weeks before you leave

Typhoid – at least 2 weeks before travel

Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) – at least 2 weeks before departure

Tuberculosis – BCG vaccine recommended for those staying in the country for longer (3 months and more). You should have it at least 3 months before leaving.

Full primary courses require time. But some multiple-dose vaccines (like hepatitis A) can still give you partial protection after just one dose. An accelerated schedule can complete vaccinations in a short time.

Mosquito-Borne Diseases:

Are there prevalent mosquito-borne diseases in Sri Lanka?

Dengue is the most prevalent mosquito-borne disease in Sri Lanka. Chikungunya is sporadic. Sri Lanka has successfully eradicated malaria. Dengue mosquitos come out two hours after sunrise and several hours before sunset.

What preventive measures can you take?

Mosquito repellents are invaluable in protecting yourself.

Vaccination against Japanese encephalitis, a mosquito-borne disease, can protect travellers who visit rural areas – the last shot administered at least 1 week before travel.

We hope this information helps you prepare for your holiday in Sri Lanka. And if you need more information about visiting Sri Lanka, please feel free to get in touch with us. Blue Lanka Tours tailor-made holidays offer wide, varied and unique experiences. Discover culture, heritage, wildlife, cuisine and people with responsible travel, smoother journeys, deeper insights and exotic luxury. From arrival to departure, we ensure your Sri Lankan break is personalised, detailed and catered for with the highest standards. What would you like to know about holidaying in Sri Lanka?