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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…

Diane

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.

You will find money changers in Colombo and even more reliable ATMs for withdrawals in all cities. Check your bank’s rates for foreign withdrawals beforehand to avoid unpleasant surprises in terms of fees.

The local currency is the rupee. Check the exchange rate before your departure to avoid possible – albeit rare – scams.

In Sri Lanka, it is customary to give the equivalent of 10% of the bill in tips. And don’t worry, 10% is not much in euros because the cost of living is so low.

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.

I recommend that you book your tickets several months in advance to get the best rates.

HEALTHWISE...

Make sure that you have insurance covering your repatriation in case of hospitalization (via your credit card for example). Immigration rules in 2021 also require you to take out insurance to cover you in case of hospitalization and/or repatriation if you were infected with COVID-19.

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 must obtain a tourist visa. I advise you to apply for one at least 5 days before your departure (+/- 35$). Moreover, if you are not vaccinated for the COVID-19, you will also need to take out a compulsory health insurance (+/- 12$) https://visitsrilanka.gov.lk, without the proof of your payment and the validation of the reservation by your Level 1 hotel, your visa will not be validated. Here is the link to the visa application website: http://www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/

For those who have been fully vaccinated, it is necessary to print your certificate and the negative result of the PCR test carried out within 72 hours before your arrival in Sri Lanka. 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 six months beyond the date of your arrival in Sri Lanka. You should also be able to show your return flight ticket.

Finally, the last formality for all, the registration on your “health pathway” becomes compulsory from 1 January 2022 in order to obtain a QR code to facilitate the controls on arrival https://airport.lk/health_declaration/index
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.

Photo by Brandless on Unsplash