Before you book your holiday in Sri Lanka, you need to be informed of the preliminaries and what to expect during your travel. Being a colourful and culturally rich destination, Sri Lanka has its own unique characteristic features and before you leave keep these important tips in mind.
All Holiday or Business travelers to Sri Lanka must have Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) for entering into Sri Lanka. Please visit www.eta.gov.lk for more information. When applying ETA by third parties payments are to be made through the arrangement made in this website and obtain acknowledgement of ETA application. Any payments made to other websites or agencies are not valid.
A Visit Visa is an entry permit to Sri Lanka for visiting purposes. The Visa contains details of the period of time and the conditions of the stay. There are two sub-categories which come under visit visas.
Tourist Visit Visa
A Tourist Visa is issued to bona-fide tourists who want to enter Sri Lanka for sightseeing, excursions, relaxation, visit relatives or yoga training for a short period of time.
Business Visit Visa
A Business Visa is issued to foreign nationals who visit Sri Lanka for business purposes for short periods of time. This visa may be issued for single, double or multiple journeys.
Regarding visa information, you can contact the official source for visas and immigration in Sri Lanka.
Department of Immigration and Emigration
Ananda Rajakaruna Mawatha,
Tel: +94-11-5329000 / +94-11-5329316/20/21/25
Photo permission and restrictions
There are many places in Sri Lanka that require photo permits, especially religious sites. So, make sure to inquire about photo permission and restriction, before capturing these sights. There are important restrictions that apply to photography concerning Buddhist imagery. When you want to take a picture of a Buddhist statue or image make sure to photograph it alone without posing alongside. This includes selfies with Buddha images, which are considered disrespectful. Buddha tattoos are strictly an offence in Sri Lanka.
Customs at Arrival: What you can bring with you
You are allowed to bring into the country duty free 1.5 litres of spirits, 2 bottles of wine, a quarter-litre of Eau-de-Toilette, and a small quantity of perfume and souvenirs with a value not exceeding US $250. The import of personal equipment such as cameras and laptop computers is allowed but must be declared on arrival. The import of non-prescription drugs and pornography of any form is an offence.
What can’t you take with you when leaving?
On leaving the country you are allowed to take up to 10kg of tea duty free. Antiques older than 50 years, rare books, palm-leaf manuscripts and anthropological material can be exported without permission. Purchase and export without licence of any wild animal, bird or reptile, dead or alive, export of parts of animals, birds or reptiles, such as skins, horns, scales and feathers is prohibited. Occasional exports are, however, permitted exclusively for bona fide scientific purposes. A 450 plant species are prohibited to be exported without special permits. The export of coral, shells or other protected marine products is also strictly prohibited.
Visitors to Sri Lanka bringing in more than US$10,000 should declare the amount to the Customs on arrival. All unspent rupees converted from foreign currencies can be re-converted to the original currency on departure as long as encasement receipts are produced.
Most hotels, restaurants and shopping centers accept credit cards. Some establishments may try to add a surcharge, which is illegal.
Banks are open from 0900 hrs to 1300 hours Monday to Friday. Some city banks close at 1500 hrs, while some are open on Saturday mornings. You can withdraw money across the island at ATMs using international credit cards or debit cards.
Sri Lankan currency
The local currency is the Sri Lankan Rupee and notes include Rs.5,000, Rs2,000, Rs1,000, Rs500, Rs100, Rs50 and Rs20 and occasionally Rs10. To check whether notes are genuine when not given at a bank, look for a lion watermark. Coins start from Rs. 1 to Rs. 10. Make sure you have plenty of lower denomination notes (Rs50, Rs100, Rs500), especially when travelling and when making everyday purchases.
There are certain health risks to be aware of when visiting Sri Lanka, especially if you are from Europe and North America. You need to watch out for bowel diseases such as:
- Diarrhoea and amoebic dysentery
- Vector borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever
- Variety of fungal infections
The following vaccinations are recommended, particularly if you plan a long trip or intend visiting remote areas:
- Typhoid (monovalent)
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
Children should be protected against:
- Measles and rubella
Please remember that food available from street vendors, unwashed vegetables and fruit, under cooked fish and meat, peeled fruit at markets and ice creams and milk products at cheap restaurants can be unhygienic.
Tap water is not safe in Sri Lanka. Make sure to drink bottled water or filtered water. Avoid using ice made form tap water, as well.
Travelers with special needs
There are very few facilities in Sri Lanka for travelers with special needs. Although wheel chair access and mobility assistance is available at the airport and in certain buildings and hotels, it is not widespread. So, make sure to travel with a companion who can assist you.
Sri Lanka Standard Time is five and a half hours ahead of GMT.
230 – 240 volts, 50 cycles AC. You might also want to bring a stabilizer if you are bringing a laptop or an iPad.
Sri Lanka has two official languages – Sinhala and Tamil. Although English is spoken and used, it is a link language, rather than an official language. Most people can understand and speak it and you will find signs in all three languages.
Make sure to bring plenty of SPF-high sun protection and remedies for prickly heat. Wear hats and caps and use umbrellas, and keep yourself well-hydrated to avoid heatstroke.
Generally, there are no security threats to tourists within Sri Lanka, but it is generally advised to travel with a companion or as a group. It is not safe to travel alone or with little company at night. There’s a special Tourist Police set up for complaints of lost items and you can contact it on this number + 94 11 238 2209.
There is only one international airport in Sri Lanka and that is the Bandaranaika International Airport, 35 km north of Colombo, and 6 km off Negombo.