Prepare your sri lankan trip
Before you fly to this beautiful island of the Indian Ocean, here are my tips to anticipate your trip : what season to go there, what papers to prepare, how to get a tourist visa or what to put in your suitcase…
WHEN SHOULD I GO?
We consider that the weather map of the island is divided in two according to a north-east/south-west axis: that is to say that when the monsoon falls on the first zone, the second is dry and vice versa. As a general rule, prefer the northeast half from May to September and the southwest half from December to March. If you want to enjoy the whole country, plan your trip between January and March.
Putting the monsoon into perspective: a tropical downpour doesn’t last for days, so you can still plan activities.
The average temperature is between 25 and 30° (and decreases in altitude) to reach up to 35° between March and June. You can swim in 27° water all year round!
PAYMENTS AND CURRENCY
Most of the higher-end tourist establishments (hotels and restaurants) accept international credit cards, but it is safer to pay in advance. All card payments are taxed, so if you have the money in rupees you will save money.
In Colombo, you will find exchange agents and ATMs, even more reliable for your withdrawals, in all the cities…now it is in the jewellery shops that you can get the best conversions 😏 Also check beforehand the tariffs of your bank concerning withdrawals abroad to avoid bad surprises in terms of fees.
The local currency is the rupee. Check the exchange rate before your departure and during your stay as the currency fluctuates a lot at the moment. This will protect you against possible – albeit rare – scams and you will be better able to negotiate 😊
In Sri Lanka, be aware that the prices displayed in restaurants and hotels do not include the 10% “service charge” which will therefore be added to your bill when you pay. This is both a disadvantage and an advantage, as there is no need to worry about whether to leave a tip or not 💁🏻
Before leaving, it is advisable to change your rupees in the exchange offices or to use your last rupees at the airport when making purchases in duty free (they accept payments in multiple currencies).
ANTICIPATE YOUR FLIGHT TICKETS
All major international airports offer flights to Sri Lanka, notably via SriLankan Airlines, Emirates and Qatar Airways.
Bandaranaike is the island’s main airport for international tourist travel, located 30 km north of Colombo.
To get the best rates, multiply your searches by changing your departure dates by + or – 3 days. Weekend departures can be cheaper. Also, don’t necessarily book from Saturday to Saturday but rather from Sunday to Tuesday for example.
I advise you to take out travel and health/repatriation insurance as soon as you have bought your tickets. Paying with your credit card only covers the cardholder, even if you buy tickets for everyone else. Insuring your trip, your health and that of your loved ones is not very expensive compared to what it can cost you not to have done so 🤦🏻
Diseases in Sri Lanka are mainly transmitted by mosquitoes:
- Dengue fever, which has flu-like symptoms and does not require specific treatment.
- Malaria, which usually occurs one month after exposure. It causes headaches, fevers, digestive problems and requires appropriate treatment. It should be noted that no case in the indigenous population has been recorded in the last three years.
It is therefore advisable to protect yourself from bites, which occur especially at dusk, by wearing covering clothes and applying repellent products.
Avoid drinking water other than from a bottle, even ensuring that the bottle is open in front of you. If you can’t do otherwise, boil the water before drinking it or bring purifying tablets.
WHAT TO BRING WITH YOU
For stays of less than 90 days, you need a tourist visa. I advise you to apply for it at least 5 days before your departure ($50 valid for 180 days). It often happens that the confirmation of visa registration, as well as their validation, arrive in your “Spam” folder. Do not hesitate to check regularly because in general the processing is quite fast. If by chance you do not receive anything, do not panic! Go back to the online visa site, select “check status” and fill in your passport number and nationality, then make a printout of the screen 😉 Here is the link to the visa application site: http://www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/
The last formality to complete before your departure: obtaining your immigration card! Simply go to this website Services.immigration to apply for one once your tourist visa has been validated. This will allow you to avoid queuing at the immigration counter at Colombo airport.
Your passport is obviously essential. Leave it in your hotel safe and keep a copy with you. For security reasons, the authorities recommend that your passport be valid for at least six months beyond the date of your arrival in Sri Lanka. You should also be able to show your return flight ticket.
In Sri Lanka it is no longer necessary to be vaccinated against Covid-19 or even to have a negative PCR test to visit the country.
As travel arrangements may change, I recommend this Sri Lankan website for foreign tourists which has the merit of conveying good information: https://www.srilanka.travel/helloagain
IN THE BAG
The visit of a Buddhist temple is done barefoot (you can leave your shoes at the entrance or put them in your bag), shoulders and knees covered and if possible dressed in white. Therefore, bring short-sleeved T-shirts and light pants. For women, a large scarf can be very useful to cover you. And don’t forget long clothes to face the mosquitoes at the end of the day.
Electrical standards are not the same, so bring a Sri Lankan or commonwealth adapter to plug in your appliances.
Finally, to face a possible tourista, a small first-aid kit containing anti-diarrheal and rehydration sachets (in their original box to avoid problems in customs) can be useful.