Essential Travel Information For Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is quite rightfully a popular and well-traveled to country. There’s much to see in this small Indian Ocean nation and it’s important to arrive with some familiarization of the culture and the customs you’ll encounter. To help you plan your trip and enjoy a vacation to this stunning and unique land, the following article will give you a quick guide to all the essential travel information for Sri Lanka that you should know before traveling.

If you are planning to travel to Sri Lanka, be aware that you will need an appropriate visa in order to visit. In almost all cases, foreign travelers will require a Sri Lanka ETA. This functions in a similar way to a US ESTA, with an online visa application completed before travel into the country.

It’s a relatively straightforward process, with users needing only to fill in a form and submit some supporting documents (such as a valid passport). If successful, your authorization to enter Sri Lanka for up to 30 days can be sent to your personal email address just 96 hours after your application.

Quick Facts About Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a relatively large island found in the Indian Ocean. It is distinct in many ways with a unique culture and an unparalleled ecosystem, teeming with exotic animal life. It boasts a large and diverse population. Despite the relatively recent end of a civil war in 2009 and occasional sectarian unrest, it is a place where tourists can travel in safety. However, as with any foreign travel in an unfamiliar culture, it can still be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the potential safety risks you may encounter in Sri Lanka.

  • Capital:  Colombo
  • Population:  21.7 million
  • Size: 40764.7 KM
  • Currency: Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR)
  • Spoken Languages: Sinhala, English, Tamil.
  • Religions: 70% Theravada Buddhist, 12.6% Hindu, 9.7% Muslim, 7% Christian

What to Expect From the Sri Lankan Climate

Quite simply, it’s hot in Sri Lanka. Very hot. Whilst the weather in Sri Lanka is predictably tropical, there are two monsoon seasons in the country due to the regional variability of the climate. However, in most of the country, the temperature will average at around 20ºC in the higher altitude tea growing regions and a sweltering 25-20ºC in the coastal regions.

Cultural Considerations for Sri Lanka

One of the things that stands out about Sri Lanka is its culture. The island boasts a rich mix of different ethnicities, religions, and cultures. Therefore it’s important to be respectful to the local norms and behave appropriately. It’s especially important as some of the local laws can be quite strict on these matters. In order to enjoy the best trip be sure to follow these cultural sensitivity tips:

  • All drugs are prohibited (some offenses carry the death penalty)
  • Displaying tattoos of the Buddha or taking inappropriate photos and selfies with Buddist statues is highly frowned upon
  • You must dress respectfully in temples (read what to wear in Sri Lanka )
  • Drinking alcohol is permitted but public drunkenness is taboo
  • Sunbathing nude or sunbathing topless for women is forbidden
  • Homosexuality is illegal, although persecution of same-sex foreign couples is quite rare
  • You should carry personal identification at all times

Sri Lanka Public Holidays and Opening Times

Sri Lanka has quite a large number of public holidays per year. The country celebrates a full moon or “Poya” festival once a month on the day of the full moon, during which time shops and businesses will close. The other major festivals fall around significant events in the religious calendar such as:

Festival Religion Date
Tamil Thai Pongal Day Hindu Mid-January
Mahasivarathri Day Hindu Falls (February – March)
Good FridayChristian Christian Falls (March – April)
Tamil New Year Hindu Early April
Id-Ul-Fitr Muslim Falls (May – June)
Idul Adha Muslim Falls (July – September)
Deepavali Festival Day Hindu Falls (October – November)
Milad-Un-Nabi Muslim Falls (October – December)
Christmas Day Christian December 25th


Naturally, during these busier times, prices for travel to Sri Lanka can fluctuate. Therefore it’s important to plan your trip carefully around these special dates in the nation’s calendar. Additionally, the country celebrates a number of secular national holidays. These include:

  • National Day: February 4th
  • Labor Day: May 4th

Generally speaking the opening hours in Sri Lanka vary depending on the type of business. Shops tend to be open with more flexibility, depending on the owner, seasonality and whether there are local festivities happening or not. Banks, on the other hand, offer consistent but more restrictive hours, usually being open only during morning hours during the week.

Days Shops Banks
Monday – Friday 10:00 – 22:00 09:00 – 13:00
Saturday 10:00 – 22:00 Closed
Sunday Closed Closed


Sri Lanka has so many sights and experiences to enjoy, it’s almost impossible to fit everything into a trip. Therefore it’s important to be ready to travel. Be sure to familiarize yourself with all the essential Sri Lanka travel information above, apply for your eVisa online with enough time before flying and take advantage of a few expert travel tips to be fully ready for your vacation.

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