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Travel Tips

Travel Tips

All holiday or business travelers to Sri Lanka must have Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) for entering in to Sri Lanka. Please visit to obtain ETA visa.

Any payments made to other websites or agencies are not valid to process a valid ETA. Therefore, always ensure that the payments are made by accessing to the official website.

What is a Sri Lankan visa?

A Sri Lankan visa is an endorsement on a passport or a Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) document to facilitate the legal entry of non Sri Lankans into the country and to regulate the period of their stay and the conditions governing such stay.

What are the types of Sri Lankan visas?

The following categories of visas which permit a person to enter and/or stay in Sri Lanka.

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 visa

A Business Visa is issued to foreign nationals who visit Sri Lanka for commercial activities for short periods of time. This visa may be issued for single, double or multiple journeys.

Resident visa

Please see Department of Immigration website.

Department of Immigration and Emigration
"Suhurupaya", Sri Subhuthipura Road, Battaramulla
Tel: +94-11-5329000 Hunting Line
Fax: +94-11-2885358
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Photo permits & entrance charges

Permits are required before you can take photos at certain sites. Tickets to cover charges for photography and video recording.

Customs imports

You are allowed to bring into the country duty free 2.5 litres of spirits, two bottles of wine, a quarter-litre of toilet water, and a small quantity of perfume and souvenirs with a value not exceeding US $250. The import of personal equipment such as a camera and laptop computer for personal use is allowed but must be declared on arrival. However, personal equipment must be taken out of the country upon the visitor's departure. The import of non-prescription drugs and pornography of any form is an offence.
Sri Lanka Customs:

Customs exports

On leaving the country you are allowed to export up to 10kg of tea duty free.
No antiques, defined as anything more than 50-years-old - rare books, palm-leaf manuscripts and anthropological material can be exported without permission from the

National Archives,
No. 7, Reid Avenue, Colombo 07
Tel: +94-11 2694523/ 2696917
And the
Director General,
Department of Archaeology,
Sir Marcus Fernando Mw, Colombo
Tel: +94 11 2692840/1
Tel: +94 11 2694727, +94 11 2667155
Purchase and export without licence of any wild animal, bird or reptile, dead or alive also the export of parts of animals, birds or reptiles, such as skins, horns, scales and feathers is prohibited. It is prohibited to export of 450 plant species without special permits. The export of coral, shells or other protected marine products is also strictly prohibited.

Applications for special permission to export fauna should be made to the

Department of Wildlife Conservation,
811A, Jayanthipura, Battaramulla
Tel: +94 11 2888 585
Fax: +94 11 2883 3555
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

And flora should be made to the
Chief Conservator,
Forest Department,
82, Rajamalwatta Road,
Tel : + 94 11 2866 616

Foreign currency regulations

Visitors to Sri Lanka bringing in more than US$10,000 in cash 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.

Health precautions

The health risks in Sri Lanka are different to those encountered in Europe and North America. Watch out for bowel diseases such as diarrhea and amoebic dysentery, vector borne diseases such as dengue fever, and a variety of fungal infections. Sri Lanka's physicians are particularly experienced in dealing with locally occurring diseases. There are also well equipped private and Government hospitals throughout the country.

Before you go

No inoculations are compulsory unless you are coming from a yellow fever or cholera infected country. (Cholera is very rarely reported in Sri Lanka, so it is not considered a serious risk.) However, the following vaccinations are recommended, particularly if you plan a long trip or intend visiting remote areas of the forest:

Typhoid (monovalent), Polio, Tetanus, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Rabies
Children should, in addition, be protected against:
diphtheria, whooping cough, mumps, measles, rubella.

Remember to plan well ahead with vaccinations. Allow up to six weeks to receive the full course, for some vaccinations require more than one dose, and some should not be given together.

When you are there.....
Upset stomach

As most stomach upsets are due to the unsanitary preparation of food in small unlicensed cafes, it is useful to know what to watch out for. Under-cooked fish (especially shellfish) and meat (especially pork and minced meat) can be hazardous. Salads can be risky unless purified water has been used to wash the various vegetables. Fruit that has already been peeled should be avoided. Be careful of ice cream sold by street vendors and served at cheap restaurants. Sometimes there are power outages in remote villages of Sri Lanka.


Tap water is not safe to drink, and boiling and filtering is sometimes done too hastily in some hotels and restaurants, so the best solution is to drink bottled water. There are now many brands available, mostly using spring water from the highlands of the island. Make sure that the bottle carries an SLS certification and that the seal is broken only in your presence.


When you flop onto the beach or poolside lounger for a spot of sunbathing, always remember to apply a sunscreen product with a sun protection factor of at least 15. Remember you are just 600km from the equator: even with sunscreen, your sunbathing should be limited in time. If you don't apply sunscreen you are liable to become so sunburnt that it will be painful to move, your skin will peel, you will have to start afresh to get that tan.


Sometimes those who have spent too long in the sun suffer what is termed heatstroke, the most common form being caused by dehydration. This condition can occur if the body's heat-regulating mechanism becomes weakened and the body temperature rises to unsafe levels. The symptoms are a high temperature - yet a lack of sweat - a flushed skin, severe headache, and impaired coordination. In addition, the sufferer may become confused. If you think someone has heatstroke, take that person out of the sun, cover their body with a wet sheet or towel, and seek medical advice. To avoid heatstroke, take plenty of bottled water to the beach, or buy a thambili (king coconut) from an itinerant seller.

Prickly heat

Prickly heat rash occurs when your sweat glands become clogged after being out in the heat for too long or from excessive perspiration. The rash appears as small red bumps or blisters on elbow creases, groin, upper chest or neck. To treat it, take a cold shower, clean the rash with mild soap, dry yourself, apply hydrocortisone cream, and, if possible, a product that contains salicylic acid. Repeat every three hours.

Local health care

Minor health problems can always be treated by doctors with practices in the resorts and elsewhere in the country. If you have a more serious problem, Sri Lanka now boasts a selection of modern, well-equipped private hospitals offering the latest in conventional medical and surgical therapies. A growing number of foreigners are taking advantage of affordable, high quality private healthcare in Sri Lanka, and combining it with the chance to take a holiday. Though the medical tourism industry in Sri Lanka is still in its early days, a number of private hospitals in Colombo are geared to provide advanced surgery and other treatment to international clients.

Travelers with special needs

Travelers with special needs, especially if they visit Sri Lanka without a companion, should note that the country has relatively few facilities for disabled people, although greater awareness and improvements are evolving. There is no need to worry at Colombo's Airport as wheelchairs and assistance in boarding and disembarking are available. Buildings, offices, and banks are becoming better-equipped with wheelchair ramps and suchlike. If you are not travelling with a companion, you will find that Sri Lankans will be only too eager to assist.

Sri Lanka's currency

The local currency is the Sri Lankan Rupee, divided into 100 cents (you rarely come across cents today). Currency notes are Rs. 5,000, Rs. 2,000, Rs. 1,000, Rs. 500, Rs. 100, Rs. 50, Rs. 20 and Rs. 10. Beware of mistaking the Rs. 500 note for the somewhat similar Rs. 100 one. To check whether notes are genuine when not given at a bank, look for a lion watermark. Coins, should you have receive them, will be in denominations up to Rs10. Make sure you have plenty of lower denomination notes (Rs. 50, Rs. 100, Rs. 500), especially when travelling and you need to buy small items, fruit, and eat cheap meals, because change is often hard to come by apart from at hotels and big shops.


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. It's easy to withdraw money across the island at ATMs using international credit cards or debit cards.

Credit cards

Most hotels, restaurants and shopping centres accept credit cards. Some establishments may try to add a surcharge, which is illegal.

Time difference

Sri Lanka Standard Time is five and a half hours ahead of GMT. (Allowance should be made for summer-time changes in Europe.)


230, 240 volts, 50 cycles AC. If you travel with a laptop computer bring a stabilizer.


Sri Lanka has two official languages . Sinhala and Tamil - with English as a link language. Most people have some knowledge of English, and signboards are often in English.

Photography, restrictions & permits

Sri Lanka is a tremendously photogenic island, so it's hardly surprising that most tourists bring a camera of some kind when they visit the country. The stunning landscapes, the captivating fauna and lush flora, and the stupendous archaeological remains provide great opportunities: a bonus is that Sri Lankans love to be captured on film. So it's easy to capture the traditional rural lifestyle. You'll find villagers, farmers, fishermen and tea pluckers will readily stand in front of your viewfinder. Your subjects will often ask to have a copy of picture sent to them. This may be laborious, but it is a reasonable courtesy as many may never have seen a picture of themselves. It is also understandable that many will also expect a token recompense for allowing themselves to be photographed.

There are some important restrictions that apply to photography regarding Buddhist imagery. When you visit a temple or other religious site, remember that photography should not be carried out in a manner causing disrespect. For instance, it is strictly forbidden to be photographed in front of or beside any statues and murals.

Tourists who wish to visit and or photograph the principal ancient monuments in Sri Lanka are required to purchase a ticket from Central Cultural Fund offices at Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya and Kandy issue permits or this could be arranged through your travel agent.
When to visit

Sri Lanka is a round-the-year destination for the visitors who seek for sun and sea the best time to visit the island is from November to April. The South, Western and Eastern coastal areas is where most of the beach resorts are located.
The central highlands are pleasantly cool and relatively dry from January to April. The peak season is mid December to mid January and March-April during Easter with a mini peak season in July and August when festivals and pageants are held through the country.
What to wear

Cotton clothes are useful at any time of the year but you will need light woollens for the hills and waterproof clothing or an umbrella. Modest dress for women is advisable especially off the beach and when visiting religious sites. Don't forget comfortable shoes, sandals or trainers and cotton socks. If you are planning to trek and climb go prepared with suitable gear. Water sports enthusiasts would do well to take their snorkels and diving equipment along.

Getting there

Usually all visitors to Sri Lanka travel by air; flights arrive at the Bandaranaike International Airport, 35 km north of Colombo, and 6 km of Negombo. A number of tour operators from UK and some West European cities offer good value package holydays throughout the year. There are also several domestic airports and more cities are reachable through domestic flights. The roads in most parts of the country are in a good condition and you could easily rent a self-drive car or chauffeur driven car. Rail transport is limited but prior reservations are necessary. Tourists usually travel in the Observation Carriage, which is better than the first class section. Bus services are also available but tend to be overcrowded.

Public places

You may sometimes be overwhelmed by crowds of people in public places (railway stations, markets, bus stands, temples or simply busy streets). "Touts" and hawkers may jostle and push and clamour to show you a hotel and sell you things. Taxis and three - wheelers are often there when you do not need them. Also be aware of pickpockets.


In general the threats to personal security for travellers in Sri Lanka are remarkably small. It is more pleasant to travel with a companion as it is advised not to travel alone after dark. All parts of the island are safe to visit. If you have anything stolen, report it to the Tourist Police (Tel: Hotline: 1912 / +94 11 242 1052).

Where to stay

Sri Lank offers visitors an excellent range of accommodation facilities to suit all budgets from luxury hotels to home stay. In the peak seasons, bookings can be heavy so it is best to reserve accommodation well in advance directly online or travel agents.

Local drinks

Sri Lankan 'Ceylon' tea is brewed and served in good restaurants without sugar or milk. There are a huge variety of bottled soft drinks, including well-known international brands. Thambili (king coconut water) is a safe and refreshing option. Local beer and spirits like Arrack (made from coconut) are widely available. Alcohol is not sold on Poya day (full-moon day of the month).



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