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.
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.
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 order it before your departure so that it costs you a little less (+/- 60€) and especially to avoid the queue at the airport. Normally, you get the sesame in a few minutes. Here is the link to the visa application site which also lists all the health measures in force: http://www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/
Your passport will obviously be indispensable. Always carry it with you when you arrive. 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 and prove that you have sufficient resources for the duration of your stay.
Finally, in order to avoid any quarantine, you must be able to present your vaccination passport or any other document in English proving that you have been vaccinated.
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.