Srilanka – the island country is an incredible mix of beaches, heritage sites, Buddhist temples and monasteries, wildlife national parks, European styled hill towns with sprawling tea plantations . The weather is totally unpredictable . The day begins bright sunny followed by afternoon showers ,the very character of tropical rains.The mist clad tea no and the temples in the rocky plateaus have 2 extreme climatic conditions.
So , we are here to help you with how to plan and what to pack.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Air Tickets :
Air tickets to Srilanka are one of the not so expensive ones in the Asian countries. We booked our flight from Chennai to Colombo via AirIndia , which is a 1.5hours journey.
Srilankan Airlines are affordable when you plan to fly in from the other Asian countries.
As you reach Colombo, you will be received by the blue green lagoons and swaying palms on the shores. Ayu Bhuwan!
Srilankan visa procurement can be done in two ways.
1. e-visa – Visa can be obtained through their e-portal by paying a fee of 30 USD for SARC country nationals and 60 USD for non-SARC country nationals.
2. Visa upon arrival – Visa can be obtained upon arriving at the airport paying a fee of 40 USD for SARC country national and 80 USD for non-SARC country nationals.
e-visa system is the easiest. You get your visa approval in less than 3 working days. Before you apply for the e-visa, keep your air tickets ready, stay planned and booked.
What to pack for your Srilankan vacation :
Basic mantra – “Never Over Pack”. Here are the basic clothes you’d need to pack on a trip to Srilanka
Tops – Carry a few basic tee-shirts with short sleeves . All religious places do not permit sleeveless clothing. A pair of easy breezy tops will be helpful while you are travelling around the country from one place to another.
Bottoms – Chinos, ankle length trousers, palazzo, skirts will be perfect for a Srilankan escapade. Shorts and short skirts can be avoided while visiting Buddhist temples or monasteries. You may use a wrap around like a sarong while visit a temple or a religious site in a short wear.
Dresses – Considering the tropical weather prevailing in most of the regions in Srilanka, its perfect to have a set of breathable cotton dresses.Choose those boho-style flowy dresses for a dinner where you may want to dress up a bit.
Active wear – Take a pair of tights and tees that are breathable and quick dry if you have a hike in your itinerary. Keep a pair of quick-dry towels. They come in handy.
Swim Wear/Beach Wear – How can you miss to dip in the pool and in the sea in a tropical island. Get those bright colored swim wear and saraong to wrap around.
Leisure clothing & Lounge wear – These come in handy on days when there are no plans but just to relax and chill out .
Accessories – Remember to carry a scarf to keep you safe from the harsh sun or to throw it around a dress as a statement piece.
Light tote bags will be helpful in carrying those essentials without space crunch. Take a small backpack if you are planning to do a hike.
Sunglasses and umbrellas are obligatory.
Footwear – Most of the tourists in Srilanka are found to be comfortable in flip-flops. But again, if you are hiking, get a pair of sturdy shoes. Take a pair of flip-flops, a good pair of shoes and a nice pair of sandals for those dresses.
Hygiene products & toiletries – While most of the hotels & resorts provide toiletries, it is advisable we carry our own re-fill bottles. Carry your sanitary napkins/tampons for you may not get your preferable brand may not be easily available.Wipes& tissues and sunscreens are a must.Insect and mosquito repents to be not missed.
Cards & Currency :
Apart from the Srilanka rupees,US dollars are widely accepted .Indian currency is not used in Srilanka. So,carry Lankan rupees or US Dollars. 5000LKR and 100USD is the permissible amount for an adult. But remember to carry your debit cards for cash with drawl.
Commercial Bank ATMs are found even in the smallest town and it provides hassle free transaction on any master/visa cards.There is a small amount charged as transaction fee. Approximately 300-400 LKR per transaction
Must see places in Srilanka :
Srilanka as a country is a melange for tourists.If you are keen on doing historical and religious sites, here’s what you should to add to your itinerary.
- Sigiriya – the lion’s rock citadel & Piddurangula rock
- Dambulla cave temples
- Anuradhapura temple relics and ruins of the ancient Lankan civilization
For those seeking adventure and fun, here’s what Srilanka has to offer
This stretch is mountainous with a variety of hill ranges and tea plantations to hike and wander.
For the wildlife lover, Yala is the go-to place. Located in the southwest province of Srilanka, Yala National park is famous for leopard spotting and the pristine beach that was once washed away by the 2004 Tsunami.
The Western province of Srilanka is dotted with numerous beach villages that hosts international tourists. A few to mention are Tangalle, Unawatuna,Hikkaduwa, Weligama,Mirissa,Galle,Bentotta.
From surfing to whale watching, pristine beaches to the most photographed fort city with the Colonial charm, the Western province is for the leisure loving tourist in you.
Things to do in Srilanka
- Pinnawala elephant camp cannot be missed if you take the route from Colombo to Kandy.
- Take a tour up to the Sigiriya citadel witnessing the centuries old wall frescoes or hike up to the Piddurangula rock to catch a breathtaking view of the Lion’s rock.
- Visit the Dambulla cave temple for the well preserved centuries old wall frescoes and different forms of Buddha staring at you from all corners of the dimly lit caves
- The Kandy temple complex that houses the relic of Buddha’s tooth and the museum that houses the royal artifacts is a top attraction in Kandy
Book an evening show to witness the rich cultural and artistic form of Kandian dance.
- Research on reliable sellers before you buy gems and precious stones. Isini Gems & Hemachandras are a few reliable ones in the market
- Stroll through the tea gardens and the picturesque lake in Nuwarelliya
- Take a hike up to the Adam’s peak from Ella
- Do not miss to visit the 7 arch bridge in Ella via Kandy. One of the most photographed locations in Srilanka
- Jungle Safari in Yala National Park to spot the wild in its habitat
- Hikkaduwa and Welligama has one of the best surf schools for beginners and elite surfers. Head-over to get a suntan and some surf lesson
- Go out there in the deep blue Indian Ocean to spot the biggest mammal. Whale watching from Mirrisa starts at 6 in the morning. . Bookings can be done through Rajawhales.com
- The fishing villages near Bentota are famous for the turtle hatcheries.Touch,feel and play with baby Olive Ridleys
- Madhu Ganga boat ride is a half day tour along the mangroves and small native villages of Bentota. This can be tiring and exhausting on a hot summer day
- Stroll through the fortified town of Galle to feel the old Colonial style in architecture and care free life. Galle is a gem.
Monument entry fee
Like every other country Srilanka charges the foreign tourist a hefty amount as entry fee to its monuments and temples. The fee differs for SARC & non SARC country nationals. You may be shocked to see the locals pay a mere 25LKR as entry fee while a foreigner pay 1500LKR.
A list of fee for the SARC country citizens at the few important sites in Srilanka:
- Sigiriya Lion’s rock citadel – 1500LKR per adult
- Dambulla cave temple – 1000LKR per adult
- Kandy temple of the tooth relic – 1000LKR per adult
- Yala Safari – approx 3000LKR per adult. This varies from one safari operator to another
An approximate all inclusive cost for an adult will be between INR 40000-45000 (7nights/8days). Taking the train is an adventurous way to explore the country and yes, this will certainly take you through some scenic routes and definitely bring down the expense.
Food & Cuisine
Rice is the staple food for the Srilankans. Wide variety of curries are available as apart of a proper Lankan meal.Being vegetarians(read no eggs), we found no difficulty with dining options anywhere in Srilanka, except in Galle.
The rice string hoppers with ‘coconut sambol’ (authentic Srilankan cuisine) are one of the dishes served for breakfast and not to be missed.
If you are worried about the spice and the flavor of the Asian food, not to worry, tropical fruits are served during all three course of meals .A whole lot of continental food are available to carter foreign tourists. A word of caution, dining is an expensive affair in Srilanka. A decent vegetarian meals will cost you a minimum of 900-1500LKR.
People and Culture
Srilankans are warm and welcoming to foreign nationals. Contradicting to my assumption of a standoffish treatment to the Tamils post the Civil war, we received a warm treatment in all the places in Srilanka. And when you say you are from India Chennai, they start speaking about Dhoni & Chennai Super Kings,Shah Rukh Khan and Rajnikanth. We were also surprised to see the chaste form of Tamil used in speaking and writing,how law abiding they are and conscious in keeping their country clean.
Srilanka is a small island country, but the terrain is a combination of stunning beaches , a dozen national parks protecting the flora and fauna,century old monasteries where the soul of Buddhism is still flourishing and reflecting a culture that is 2000 years old. This country is a treat! It is not an easy one to explore and cannot be just done in one single trip. The turquoise beaches and the Buddha viharas will make you come back to the place again seeking adventure and solitude.
This is it for now, until we discover more of this magical island, Newatha Hamuwemu!
A few travel guides that you may enjoy reading.
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