Sri Lanka Travel Guide
- Everything you need to know for your trip to Sri Lanka-
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island in South Asia known as “The teardrop of the Indian ocean” because of its location and shape. Beautiful coastlines, ancient temples, natural beauties, all can make to try visiting this country at least once in your life. Besides the attractions, kind people, mouth-watering food, and many other factors make the country irresistible!
Why Visiting Sri Lanka?
The unique feature of Sri Lanka is its incredible wildlife. It’s not like other safaris you may have visited in the world. Sri Lanka has 26 national parks and two marine parks among which, the Yala National park is the most famous one. In this park, you can find the rarest spices of leopards, birds, mugger crocodiles, reptiles, etc.
Sri Lanka is among the few countries surrounded by the sea, offering some of the most pristine sandy beaches with beautiful palm trees and turquoise waters. If you are looking for relaxation and sunbathing, Mirissa is the best choice, but if you are into beach parties, Unawatuna should be your destination.
Like many other Asian countries, Sri Lanka should be one of your essential food destinations since the cuisine in this country is extraordinary. The country’s tropical climate provides the basis of delicious foods, veggies, fresh fruits, etc. Sri Lanka food with fragrant spices is not something you want to miss during your trip.
Traditions, temples, affordability, gorgeous landscapes, etc. are other features of this country that should convince you to visit Sri Lanka at least once in your life. So, don’t miss your chance and prepare yourself for a memorable trip!
Sri Lanka Top Destinations
Click on each Sri Lanka’s destination to read the full travel guide of the city.
Best Time to Visit Sri Lanka
In Sri Lanka, there are just two seasons, including monsoon and dry seasons. However, if we want to look at the seasons in this island like most countries globally, we should know that late autumn and winter are the best seasons to visit Sri Lanka.
Temperature: 23.9°C (75°F) – 33.9°C (93°F)
Spring can be a good time for visiting Sri Lanka in March as the rainy season is yet to come, and at the same time, the peak season in the winter has finished. The weather during this time is warm, and at nights, frequent rainfalls are anticipated. From May, southwestern monsoons will affect some areas of the island.
Temperature: 26.1°C (79°F) – 31.1°C (88°F)
Visiting Sri Lanka in summer is not something recommendable! You should expect several hours of rain every day and hurricanes in some parts of the island in this season. Besides, forget about the beaches as they are rough in summer.
Temperature: 26.7°C (80.1°F) – 30.6°C (87.1°F)
In autumn, the northern monsoon covers most parts of the country; however, it’s drier in the southwestern region. In November, the peak season of Sri Lanka begins, and it’s the best time to visit this beautiful island. The weather during the autumn is still warm and humid, but rains are bearable.
Temperature: 20.6°C (69.1°F) – 32.2°C (90°F)
Winter in Sri Lanka is very short and popular among tourists. The ocean during winter is calm, and the nights are cooler. So, if you have no problem with crowds, make sure to visit this island in winter.
Best Sri Lanka Tours
Things to Do in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a country that is surrounded by waters from all directions and filled with lush green jungles. This island is a great place for adventures, but if you are looking for things to do in Sri Lanka, you have more options than exploring the woods. You can take your pick of the beaches, challenging hikes, stunning waterfalls, and visiting the wildlife in national parks. And whenever you feel the need to rest in the cities, some of these towns and cities like Ella are marvelous places to stay.
Climb Sigiriya Rock Fortress
Perhaps the most famous thing to do is climb to the top of Sigiriya Rock Fortress of Sri Lanka. This ‘rock’ dates back to the fifth century and used to be a palace and a monastery with a very strategic defense with its unique architecture. The Sigiriya Rock Fortress is not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it is also one of the most important sites because of its different sections.
The abandoned buildings, canals, gardens, and all the Sigiriya Rock Fortress parts have also survived numerous wars over the ages. Get the spiritual sense of what remains of its Buddhist monastery and marvel at the greatness of the entire structure.
The view and the visit are worth all the hardship of walking up the stairs of Sigiriya Rock Fortress, but if you have any physical limitations, it is better to avoid this visit.
Join the Pilgrims of Adam’s Peak
It is said that after being cast out of heaven, Adam first set foot on Adam’s Peak. The site obviously has a sacred significance since many pilgrims come to visit this spot. Pilgrimage or not, the view and the trail are among the top places for tourists seeking adventure and a memorable journey. The trail’s beauty is nothing compared to the top of Adam’s peak, which can be a little challenging hike.
From the top, you will have a 360-degree view of Ella’s surrounding area, which is very pleasing. If you cannot reach the top, embarking on the trip to any point you can go is also a rewarding experience in itself.
-Plan your journey carefully. If you want to catch the sunset on the top, you better have enough gear to stay for the night. Alternatively, you must bring flashlights for the hike down as it gets very dark and difficult to find the way back.
Spend Some Time at Diyaluma Falls
Since Sri Lanka is filled with a beautiful natural landscape, you better not miss a Diyaluma Falls journey. The Diyaluma Falls is known as the second-highest waterfall of Sri Lanka amidst the beautiful lush green woods. It is a trip with both a scenic route and a stunning destination. It is a peaceful and great view but if you are a daredevil (who is also very careful about the safety of yourself and others) you can look around to find safe diving spots. It is better to have someone who knows the area, but this trip can be the most beautiful and fun thing to do in Sri Lanka if you are careful enough.
Have Fun or Relax at the Arugam Bay
If you want to put the top relaxing place in Sri Lanka on your list of things to do, Arugam bay must be included. In case you did some hiking already or want to chill and meet some locals and other travelers, this is the place. The soft sands are perfect for sun-bathing, and the waters are fabulous for surfing. In general, Arugam Bay is an excellent beach for anything.
Look for Whales, Dolphins, and Other Sea-Creatures of Sri Lanka
Speaking about the waters of Sri Lanka, there are some spots to see the Whales, Dolphins and other sea creatures. The best time for watching some blue whales is from January to April as they move from the Bay of Bengal to the western Indian Ocean. e
Alternatively, you can go to Mirissa during December to spot some whales and maybe even dolphins. It is also possible to see them from November to April since the waters will be calmer. Evidently, you need a boat, and therefore you must make the necessary preparations and bookings in advance.
Hiking at Pidurangala Rock
Another 360-degree view over the beauties of the land, which also has a view over Sigiriya Rock, is the nearby Pidurangala Rock. You may see a temple along the path, but apart from that, it is only nature that surrounds you. This hike does not require you to be an expert, but it is not so easy either. In any case, if you want to enjoy the scene and a beautiful sunset, Pidurangala Rock should be on your list.
Do Not Miss Surfing and Chilling at Hikkaduwa
Just like Arugam Bay, the Hikkaduwa has a gorgeous beach and perfect for surfing. The waves and the waters are suitable for both first-timers and experts. When going to Hikkaduwa to surf, keep in mind that this spot is also suitable for trekking and drinking on the coast. The jungle and beach are so close that you can sometimes even see the monkeys. Other than the trees and animals, you will also see some huts and bars as you go exploring.
Explore Udawalawe National Park and See the Elephants
Head over to the Udawalawe National Park to see the largest and cutest animals of Sri Lanka, the elephants. One of the top things to do in this country is to enjoy all the aspects of nature, especially in the national parks. In the Udawalawe National Park, you can see them roaming freely or being fed by their keepers.
-If you cannot get enough of these lovely elephants, you can see more of them and even help keep them at the Elephant Rehabilitation Centres.
Get a Close Look at Leopards in Yala National Park
Having enjoyed a visit to the Elephants, now it is time to see the Leopards of Sri Lanka in Yala National Park. The Leopards are a little difficult to spot and approach, but going for a safari at Yala National Park is the way to do it. There are only a few places on the planet to see them, among many other animals; therefore, it is not a good idea to miss this opportunity.
Pack your camera to take pictures of any animal or part of nature you can see while in the Yala National Park of Sri Lanka.
Go on Another Safari in Kaudulla National Park
As a great part of the trip to Sri Lanka, it is recommended to see even more of its national parks, this time, the Kaudulla National Park. The park’s mesmerizing beauty, added to large numbers of elephants and other animals, makes Kaudulla National Park yet another must-see place.
-There are more national parks in the country, but the three mentioned here are our top recommendations. If you like visiting the wildlife and catching more of the landscape, be sure to check more of these parks and go on more safaris.
Explore All of Colombo, The Capital of Sri Lanka
Comodo is a bustling city and filled with fun activities and historic sites. If you are looking for nightclubs, casinos, and luxurious hotels, this is the place you are looking for. A list of things to do in Sri Lanka can quickly be filled with the activities and visits in the city alone; therefore, we leave it up to you to explore Colombo.
Just keep in mind to give the nightlife a try and not to pass up on a visit to the temples. Nature is perfect, but this city is always worth the visit as well.
Stroll Around the Beautiful Kandy City
Less crowded, more beautiful, and ideal for all ages and groups in the city of Kandy. Inside the city, you should try heading for the Royal Palace, visit the lake, and the Temple of Tooth Relic. As soon as you are done exploring the city and shopping, you should probably make plans to take a train to Ella!
Take the Train to Ella!
Ella probably has the most beautiful nature, and by taking the train, you can have a very scenic route. Some of the mesmerizing sites like Adam’s Peak in Ella are already introduced above, but there is more. All around Ella, there are hiking spots and suitable hangout spots such as Dalawella. By taking the train to or from Ella, a small part of the country can be seen and enjoyed.
Visit the Tea Plantations of Nuwara Eliya
One thing you should try at any time of your journey is to try some tea, better yet, at one of the tea plantations of Nuwara Eliya. The green farm and a teacup at a farm, tea factory, or anywhere else in Sri Lanka is a must-try.
A good thing to do in the evening is to try a cup with some cake or any other dessert as you catch another beautiful sunset.
Try the Cuisine
So far, you have heard about the fantastic beaches and sea all around Sri Lanka, now it is time to give the cuisine, and especially their seafood, a try. It would be best to taste the fish, shrimps, lobsters, and all kinds of food with meat dishes. But if you are a vegetarian, you still have a variety of delicious options
Local Transportation in Sri Lanka
There are many types of taxis in Sri Lanka, from luxury cars to Tata Nano ones. They are usually red, yellow, and silver with a display of call-up numbers. Most taxis’ fees are around Rs 60 to 100 per km.
You can try biking in Sri Lanka from Clean City Cycle Club. Biking has become a popular transportation system in the country.
Three wheeler is a common mean of transportation in Sri Lanka, like many other Asian countries. In compared to taxis, three-wheelers are cheper and you can find the anywhere in the country.
You can have a fun time takin air taxi in Sri Lanka to the most popular attractions of the country. You should take taxis from the airport to the desired destination.
Buses are everywhere in Sri Lanka, and you can take them for city traveling at the lowest price ever! However, they might not be as comfortable as you expect!
Intercity Transportation in Tuerkey
There are four main international airports in Sri Lanka including Colombo Bandaranaike International Airport, Jaffna International Airport, Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport and Ratmalana International Airport.
Train is the preferred way of transportation in Sri Lanka as the network is comprehensive and affordable. Experiencing railway travel, especially in highlands, can be memorable for you.
Bus is by far is the cheapest way of traveling through the country. At the first time, you may find it uncomfortable!
Flight Deals to Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka Travel Costs
|Private double room (basic)||LKR1,500 (US$10.40)|
|Private double room (economy)||LKR3,000-3,500 (US$21-25)|
|Local food||LKR200 and 300 (US$1.40 – 2.10)|
|Western meal||LKR600 and 1000 (US$4.16 -7.00)|
|Snacks||LKR50 – 100 ($US0.35-0.70)|
|Tourist restaurant||LKR600 to 900 (US$4.15-6.25)|
|Breakfast||LKR500 to 700 (US$3.45-4.85)|
|Coffee (the expensive one)||LKR560 (US$3.90)|
|Cafe latte or cappuccino||400 (US$2.40-2.80)|
|Bottled water (1.5 liters)||LKR60 – 70 (US$0.40-0.50)|
|Local lion beer||LKR250 (US$1.75) – LKR600 (US$4.15)|
|Cocktail||LKR400 (US$2.80) – LKR1000 (US$7.00)|
|7-hour train ride||LKR230 ($1.60)|
|1st class train||1000 rupees per ride|
|Tuktuks||50 rupees – 600 rupees|
|Uber and PickMe||less than $0.30 for a short trip|
Best Hotels in Sri Lanka
Find the best hotels in Sri Lanka using our best price search engine, or go with one of our All-inclusive tours with 4 Star hotels included. You can book our guaranteed hotels for your extra accommodation; before or after your tour days.
Sri Lanka Travel Tips
Locals drink tap water, but it’s not recommended for tourists. Make sure to drink bottled water!
If you have Buddha tattoo, make sure to hide it! There have been some tourists with Buddha tattoo arrested by the police. They consider using religious symbols and objects are considered disrespectful.
There are two official languages in Sri Lanka including Sinhalese and Tamil, but fortunately, you can easily find English speaking locals.
Make sure to have some cash with you. Although using credit cards has become popular especially in hotels and restaurants, but small shops and other stores in rural areas accept cash only.
In Sri Lanka, you can wear whatever you want in major cities and coastline areas; however, if you want to visit a temple, make sure to cover your head, shoulder, and knees.
Bringing a toilet paper is very crucial in traveling to most Asian countries, including Sri Lanka! You don’t need to bring them from the home, but make sure to buy it from local supermarkets.
Wi-Fi is available in many accommodating areas, restaurants, bars, cafes, etc. Although it’s not always reliable and fast, but you can find it easily in most touristy areas.
Tuk Tuk scamming is common in Sri Lanka; therefore, make sure to ask locals about the costs and negotiate before getting in.
In Sri Lankan hotels, there are two types of plug sockets, one with round holes (type D / M), and the other with the other with rectangular prongs (type G sockets). Universal adaptor is usually useless in Sri Lanka, but bringing them will assure you that you are not going to have problem. Standard Voltage in Sri Lanka is 230 V.
Walking alone as a single woman at night is not recommended. The crime rate in this case is rare, but consider precautions. If you had to go out at night alone, make sure to use Uber or Pick Me.
|Fire and Rescue Service||110|
|Police Emergency Service (Mobile)||112|
|Operational Commander Colombo (Sri Lanka Army)||114|
|Sri Lanka Air Force Emergency Service||116|
|Disaster Management Call Centre||117|
|National Help Desk (Ministry of Defence)||118|
|Police Emergency Service||119|
|Free 1990 Suwaseriya Emergency Ambulance Service Emergency Service||1990|
Currency & Money Tips
The currency in Sri Lanka is the Sri Lankan rupee (signs: Rs, රු; code: LKR) divided into 100 cents. Rupee banknotes are රු.20, රු.5000, රු.500, රු.100, රු.1000, රු.50 and rupee coins are රු.10, රු.1, රු.2, රු.5.
Where to exchange money?
Money exchange counters in Colombo airports
Money exchange counters work at Colombo airport 24/7 at an appropriate rate. This method is safe, and you will not face any problem with exchanging your money.
All major local banks offer money exchange services at a reasonable price. For using this method, you need to bring your passport to the banks.
Money exchangers can be found around the country, and they offer a better rate; however, you need to make sure that they are authorized and certified.
Withdrawing from ATM
The ATM network in Sri Lanka is efficient. You can use them for withdrawing money from your bank accounts using these ATMs. Ensure your bank that you are going to Sri Lanka as your credit card may get blocked. Visa and MasterCard are the most popular ATMs in the country.
Food & Drink (Sri Lankan Food)
When traveling to Sri Lanka, you must try the seafood and local dishes from north to south. Food in Sri Lanka comes with all kinds of tastes due to the fertile ground and a variety of herbs and ingredients. There are numerous curry dishes, several types of bread, and innovative uses of the local coconuts. These foods are worth a first try, but it is better to know which one to try before the others.
Rice and Curry
Rice and Curry or Curry and Rice, call it what you like but be sure to give it a try. It is a dish in Sri Lanka that can be a simple one or a luxurious one. Each part of the dish, rice, and curry can be served separately with other types of food as well. There are numerous curry dishes, some of which can be served with rice, which is worth trying.
But the mix of Rice and Curry, even in its simplest form, is quite good. Its herbs and vegetables make it great, but the taste is somehow much better when you try it at homestays or the houses of your friends.
Appa (Sri Lanka Hopper)
Appa, also known as Appam or Hoppers, are like pancakes in Sri Lanka. The main ingredients are fermented rice flour and coconut milk, which are cooked in a special pan that looks like a bowl. In addition to the plain mix of Appa, you can add an egg right in the middle of the mix. This version is known as Egg Hoppers.
There are other Appa or Hoppers versions, all of which are a little crispy around the edges and softer near the middle. A little bit of chili, onions, and lemon juice make the already tasty mix even tastier. It is good as a breakfast or a healthy snack in the streets.
Sri Lanka Roti or Flat Bread
Roti is a kind of flatbread in Sri Lanka used in many different types of dishes like Kottu. It may not be a stand-alone food of the country, but its many varieties are trendy. The kinds of Roti that you must try are Coconut Roti, Vegetable Roti, and Egg Roti.
Not only a national dish, but Kottu is also a favorite of both locals and tourists. It is made of shredded Roti, vegetables, meat, spices, and a lot of oil. Some of its ingredients are optional, and the chef asks you which one you prefer, such as the sauce and the amount and kind of spice you like.
Everything in your Kottu will be put in a flat metal plate as it is all being chopped and cooked. The chopping is done rather loudly and can be head as you get closer to a stall or restaurant that serves Kottu. It is incredibly delicious and aromatic, and above all, should not be missed.
The ingredients may not be the freshest of the day, and the oil amount will not be very healthy. If you have any health problems or cannot have greasy foods, you must, unfortunately, stay away from Kottu.
Pol Sambol (Coconut Sambol)
Pol Sambol or coconut relish of Sri Lanka is a dish locals favorite that can be eaten with some Roti or rice. It is grated coconut, red onions, red chili, red chili powder, lemon, salt, and the optional Maldive fish. They should all be fresh to get the best aroma and taste of Pol Sambol.
They should be diced and ground and mixed in a bowl and are best served as a side dish.
Fish Ambul Thiyal (Sour Fish Curry)
Fish Ambul Thiyal, also known as Malu Ambul Thiyal among locals, is a Sour Fish Curry. Seafood is always a top recommendation all around Sri Lanka, like this one on our list. The Malu Ambul Thiyal was originally a way of preparing fish, which was improved over time to taste spicy and unique.
The fish for this cuisine is chopped into cubes and then sauteed in a blend of spices like black pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, garlic, pandan leaves, and curry leaves. The special ingredient that gives the sour taste is the dried Goraka fruit. All the ingredients are simmered with a little water and cooked until the water is evaporated and the spices have coated the fish.
Originated by the Dutch people, Lamprais is a popular food for gatherings among locals. Lamprais is a combination of meats, eggplant pickle (Wambatu moju), onion relish (seeni sambol), Dutch meatballs, eggs, sauce, and more! It is quite the meal and has several variations depending on where you try it.
There is also a vegetarian version without the three types of meat. The original recipe of the Dutch Burgher community of Sri Lanka is altered so much and has become a must-try dish.
Polos (Green Jackfruit Curry)
Polos is a curry dish of Sri Lanka, made with Jackfruits that are only found in this country. The green jackfruit is first sliced into chunks and boiled. As the fruit is softened, the onions, garlic, ginger, spices, and vegetables are added to be cooked. After a while, coconut milk is added, and the mix is simmered until most of the liquid is gone.
Polos is a meat-free dish, best for vegetarians but a top recommendation for all travelers.
Kiribath with Lunu Miris
For a dish of Kiribath with Lunu Miris, you might want to plan your trip during Sinhalese New Year! Kiribath is a kind of rice that is cooked with thick coconut milk. When the rice is prepared, it is sliced like cakes. Having these delicious slices, you can add a wide variety of ingredients or serve them with other Sri Lanka cuisine.
Of course, you do not have to come during the Sinhalese New Year but having Kiribath with Lunu Miris is like a cultural act. Be sure to seek this dish and bring a few friends to enjoy it even more.
If you go to Sri Lanka and miss the Crab Curry, you have missed a very exotic and unique dish. There is no fixed recipe that either the ingredients or the crab for the dish among the locals. But it is usually prepared using lime juice, milk or coconut milk, curry leaves, grated coconut, spices, and chilies.
In any case, if you like seafood and lobsters, give Crab Curry a try. It does not matter which crab is used by the restaurant, as long as it is fresh, it can be a great meal and a good memory of your time in Sri Lanka.
Wambatu Moju or eggplant pickle is not a main dish, but something you must try while in Sri Lanka. The eggplant is first sliced into smaller pieces, deep-fried, and then caramelized Moji. As mentioned earlier, the caramelized eggplant is served along with a dish or mixed in several of the foods. Wambatu Moju has a unique taste and should be tried at least once while you are in this country.
Having some delicious food trying some tasty side dishes, you might want to try a local Watalappam dessert. The Watalappam is like a coconut custard pudding originated in Sri Lanka and favored in all of this country. Be sure to give it a try after a tasty meal.
The Sri Lankans have several local drinks, including alcoholic beverages, juices, and herbal teas. If you can, you should try all of them you can find, like the Lion Beer and fruit juices.
Being an exporter of good quality tea and having tea plantations as an attraction, you must give this drink a try. It is a great idea to have a teacup during an evening along with some cake or a little Watalappam and rest.
Wood Apple Juice
Just like the Jackfruit, wood apple is an Asian and local fruit. It looks similar to a coconut and has a shell that can be opened to drink the Wood Apple Juice. You can try it fresh or pour it out, mix it with some other things, and have a tasty juice.
Mobile & Internet
The best companies are Mobitel and Dialog, with high-speed data and great coverage around the country. Other companies, including Airtel and Hutch, are not recommended for tourists as they may not meet your expectations.
How to buy it?
There are many ways for you to buy a SIM card. The process will be quick and easy. Also, you can buy it from stalls in the city. In both methods, you will have no problem, unlike many other Asian Countries!
- 1299 LKR (~$7)
- 6GB of data
- an extra 4GB to use between midnight and 8 am
- 600LKR worth of international call and text credit
- 350 LKR of domestic calls and texts.
- valid for 30 days
- 499 and 999 LKR (~$3/$6)
- Local and international calls and texts
- Wi-Fi hotspot usage
Holidays & Festivals
Some of the holidays in Sri Lanka, like Id Ul-Fitr, are based on the lunar Islamic calendar; therefore, the date changes every year.
|Tamil Thai Pongal Day||14-Jan||15-Jan|
|Duruthu Full Moon Poya Day||17-Jan||6-Jan|
|Navam Full Moon Poya Day||16-Feb||5-Feb|
|Madin Full Moon Poya Day||17-Mar||7-Mar|
|Day prior to Sinhala & Tamil New Year Day||13-Apr||13-Apr|
|Sinhala & Tamil New Year Day||14-Apr||14-Apr|
|Bak Full Moon Poya Day||16-Apr||5-Apr|
|Vesak Full Moon Poya Day||15-May||5-May|
|Day following Vesak Full Moon Poya Day||16-May||6-May|
Shopping in Sri Lanka
Saris and sarongs
Saris is traditional female clothing, and Sarong is traditional male clothing in Sri Lanka. There are many places in Sri Lanka to buy saris and sarongs; however, you can find the best ones in Barefoot.
Sri Lanka is the hub of sapphires and moonstones in the world. Generally, precious gems in Sri Lanka can be found in the mines of Ratnapura. Galle Fort is also another town in Sri Lanka where stores sell their jewelry.
Sri Lanka is a heaven for tea lovers! Different types of black, Silver, Earl Grey, White, and Green Teas can be found around the country. Ceylon tea is the most famous Sri Lankan tea, one of the world-renowned kinds of tea with different health benefits.
When you enter a Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka, you will see half moon stepping stones called moonstones at the entrance, which has religious value. Small moonstones are available in stores around the country.
Elephant and Buddha Figurines
Wooden, stony, and ebony figurines are one of the beautiful arts of Sri Lankan people. These two elements, Buddha and elephant, are trendy among locals. The elephant is the sign of the city’s natural landscapes, and Buddhism is the most popular religion around the country.
Like many Asian foods, especially southern ones, Sri Lankan dishes are full of local spices. Ensure you bring some local spices to your home or buy it as a gift for your loved ones.