Updated: Dec2012


Sri Lanka is the jewel-shaped island that seems to hang off the Indian subcontinent. This nation has had a tumultuous history, but is most famous for its incredible nature, beautiful beaches and hospitable people. There are many sides to Sri Lanka that are waiting to be explored from the hectic hubub of Colombo, to the gorgeous city of Kandy tucked away in the mountainous inland; from the recuperating war torn north to the beautiful beaches of the south; from the cool hills of Ella to the crashing surf of Arugum Bay. Sri Lanka is rebuilding itself after 30 years of civil war and the people (and the monkeys) are waiting for you to call.

Elli xx


All tourists require a visa to enter Sri Lanka. You apply and pay for this online and will then be sent an ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) which you should produce upon arrival in Sri Lanka at the immigration desk in the airport. You will also need to show proof of departure and then you will be granted a 30 day visa. As of 1st January 2013 a 30 day visa will cost $30. You must travel within 3 months of applying for you ETA of it will expire.

Visa extension

You can extend your visa in Sri Lanka for an additional 5 months. This however must be done in two parts. You can apply in person at the immigration office in Colombo for an additional two months by completing the application form in the office and providing a photograph and photocopy of your passport. To extend for a further 3 months you must also have proof of leaving the country. The first extension costs around 6000 rupees for 2 months, you cannot apply for less. The second extension costs around 16000 rupees.

 Visa overstay

If you overstay on your visa you can expect a daily fine, imprisonment or deportation. It is quite possible that you will be refused entry to Sri Lanka in the future.

Fast Facts
Sri Lankan Rupee

Exchange Rates
$1 = 127.5R
€1 = 168.9R
£1 = 205.6R

Capital City

Main religion
Theravada Buddhism

Main Language

Telephone Code

Time Zone
GMT + 5.5 hours

Emergency Numbers
Ambulance 110
Fire 111
Police 119

Climate: When to go?

Unlike many other Asian destinations, Sri Lanka can lay genuine claim to being a year-round holiday destination. You just have to know which side of the island to focus on in any given month, and this is never more important than when planning your beach destination.

Unquestionably, the starting point when planning your trip in Sri Lanka is understanding the two monsoon seasons.

The south-western monsoon brings rain to the south-west of Sri Lanka between May and September, while the dry season in this region runs from December to March.

In the north and eastern coastal regions of the country, the weather is influenced by the north-eastern monsoon, which brings wind and rain between October and January, and dryer weather between May and September.

There is also an inter-monsoonal period during October and the first half of November, when rain and thunderstorms can occur across the island. This clears up as December nears, with conditions getting balmier by the day during the second half of November.

Where to go?


Colombo — the largest city of and capital of Sri Lanka. Don’t write it off because it is the capital. If you need to head into the capital to renew a visa or on a through journey, then do visit the markets, the parks and surrounding areas. Don’t expect “shopping malls” to cater for all needs though.

Galle — a home for a Dutch fort, and a gathering point for travellers from the nearby beach resort villages especially for sunset photographs. Head here for trains and buses north to the airport.

Religious cities

These all charge $25 for their main attractions. Each will supply you with a lovely DVD to tell you what you should have seen when you were there. Long trousers needed and shoulder should be covered.

Anuradhapura — ruins of ancient capitals (partially restored). Enjoy a few days cycling around this magnificent area. Time your trip to coincide with any of the major religious festivals and you will truly see Sri Lanka. Supposedly supposed to pay $25 but you only need to do that if you go into one of the 3 museums which are really poor in comparison to the surrounding area.

Polonnaruwa — ruins of ancient capitals that have been partially restored ($25). Most people choose between here and Anuradhapura.

Kandy — the spiritual heart of the country, home to a tooth of the Buddha and botanical gardens. Both are amazing! $25 to get into the main temple. Take your passport along and you will get free usage of an audio guide.

Sigiriya – the rock is in the centre of old ruined temple grounds. The climb up is simply breath-taking and extremely thought provoking when you look at the old steps that were used previously. Amazing views from the top and a great selection of Hanuman and Purple-faced Leaf monkeys in the area. This is an easy afternoon trip from Dambulla. $25 entrance.

Dambulla – A few hours north of Kandy by local bus, Dambulla has a series of caves that are really worth checking out. This is not part of the “cultural sites” so is a little cheaper at around 1,300Rs. Shouldn’t take more than an hour to go into the different caves, so do you can do this in conjunction with Sigiriya, completing Dambulla in the morning and traveling onward. Start with the last cave and work your way back to the entrance, as they get more impressive that way.

Beach Towns

Hikkaduwa – (west coast) a long beach resort that is made up of several smaller towns. The northern part has the best snorkeling in Sri Lanka at the marine reserve. Further south gives good surf and further again the beaches open up to allow the locals to play cricket and tourists to kite-surf. Accommodation is cheaper on the “jungle side” of the main A2 road that runs through the area.

Unawatuna – (south coast) beach resort on the south coast very close to Galle. A lovely Parisian feel to it with a small winding road through the middle and a horse shoe shaped bay. Currents can be strong and the drop in is deep. Close by are the Japanese Peace Pagoda and Jungle beach which offers sheltered snorkelling. Several local dive sites with a variety of life.

Mirissa – (south coast) a small beach village on the south coast close to Matara with two good, but small, surfing spots. The area is quite overbuilt which ruins a lovely spot really.

Trinco – (north-east coast) actually called, Trinconamlee but everyone abbreviates it. There are a few places to stay in Uppaveli just north of the town and a short local bus ride. The beaches are long and beautiful. Diving is starting here with lots of virgin sites. The calm sea is possibly the most inviting in the entire country.

Arugam Bay – (east coast) most travellers destination when the west coast closes down after the Buddhist new year in April time. A growing area, and a little bit more expensive than other areas in the country because it is only just growing. Was reportedly in the top-ten surf destinations in the world once, with a long right-hand surf into the bay.

Other cities/ sites

Jaffna — Northern capital ravaged by the civil war but fastly growing back to its former glory. The journey is a rough one and a long one, but if you have the time then give it a go.

Ella – a beautiful little hill town a train ride south of Kandy. Climb “little Adams peak” and then head off to the tea-plantation for a freshly made cup of tea.

Nuwara Eliya - a taste of the mountains in this old town.

Adam's Peak – a religious pilgrimage or a challenge? 3 grueling hours climb to the top for amazing sunset views across the countryside. Adam’s foot-print is said to be at the top. If you arrive for the sunrise, do look at the back of the peak for an amazing triangular-shadow.

Yala National Parkwildlife Safari – a safari trip that is normally undertaken from nearby Tissa. There are guides in our download area for Sri Lanka, so will let them tell you all about it. The only negative we hear are jeeps chasing down leopards hoping to achieve bonuses from tourists.

Trincomalee – a large port town with beautiful beaches in the north east


The leaping Lemur

Kottowa Rainforest
Rough Guide: "Kottowa is an excellent introduction to the rainforests of Sri Lanka"
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Looking for inspiration? Then check out our Flickr group.

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Sri Lanka