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The Basics

Time: Local time in Sri Lanka is GMT +5.30 hours.

Electricity: Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Round, three-pin plugs are used.

Money: The unit of currency is the Sri Lanka Rupee (LKR), which is divided into 100 cents. Major credit cards are widely accepted in major cities. ATMs are becoming more common, but outside the main cities they are unlikely to accept international cards. Credit cards should be used with caution due to the potential for fraud. Foreign currency can be exchanged at bureaux de change, banks and hotels. Banks are closed on Sundays.

Currency Exchange Rates

LKR 100.00 = AUD 0.82 CAD 0.77 EUR 0.51 NZD 0.87 GBP 0.44 USD 0.57 ZAR 8.24
Note: These currency exchange rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.

Language: Most people speak Sinhala, which is the national and official language. Tamil is also spoken, and English is spoken at most tourist establishments.

Entry requirements:

Entry requirements for Americans: US nationals require passports valid for at least six months on arrival. A visa is required and can be purchased by tourists on arrival for a stay of 30 days. Extensions for an additional 150 days are possible.
Entry requirements for UK nationals: UK nationals require passports valid for at least six months on arrival. A visa is required and can be purchased by tourists on arrival for a stay of 30 days. Extensions for an additional 150 days are possible.
Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadian nationals require passports valid for at least six months on arrival. A visa is required and can be purchased by tourists on arrival for a stay of 30 days. Extensions for an additional 150 days are possible.
Entry requirements for Australians: Australian nationals require passports valid for at least six months on arrival. A visa is required and can be purchased by tourists on arrival for a stay of 30 days. Extensions for an additional 150 days are possible.
Entry requirements for South Africans: South African nationals require passports valid for at least six months on arrival. A visa is required and can be purchased by tourists on arrival for a stay of 30 days. Extensions for an additional 150 days are possible.
Entry requirements for New Zealand nationals: New Zealand nationals require passports valid for at least six months on arrival. A visa is required and can be purchased by tourists on arrival for a stay of 30 days. Extensions for an additional 150 days are possible.

Passport/Visa Note: Most travellers can purchase visas on arrival. These must be paid for in USD but the amount varies. Visitors should be able to show the immigration officials proof of sufficient funds for their stay in Sri Lanka. Passengers must also hold return or onward tickets and all documents needed for the next destination. Those who prefer to arrange visas in advance can do so online or at a Sri Lankan embassy. An ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) can be issued on arrival but can also be filled in prior to travel to Sri Lanka - this can be done online at www.eta.gov.lk. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Travel Health: Food and water borne diseases are the primary cause for ill health in Sri Lanka. Visitors should only drink bottled water, avoid ice in drinks, and take care to eat well-cooked food. Hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccinations are recommended for all travellers to Sri Lanka. Typhoid is only really a problem in rural areas, but travellers should consider a vaccination depending on their itinerary. Yellow fever vaccination certificates are required by travellers coming from infected areas. Malaria, Chikungunya fever, Japanese encephalitis and dengue fever are a risk and protection against mosquito bites is essential. Prophylactics for malaria are also strongly recommended for all regions, except the districts of Colombo, Kalutara, Galle and Nuwara Eliya. Travellers are strongly advised to take out good travel insurance, and seek medical advice at least three weeks before leaving for Sri Lanka. Quality medical attention may be difficult to find outside of Colombo and other big cities and medications are often in short supply in Sri Lanka. Travellers should being any medication they may require with them.

Tipping: A 10 percent service charge is added to most restaurant and hotel bills. Tipping is a customary way to show appreciation for almost all services and small amounts are sufficient, otherwise 10 percent of the amount due is standard. There is no need to tip taxi drivers.

Safety Information: The vast majority of trips to Sri Lanka are trouble free. However, recent bombings in 2019 means there is now a potential risk of terrorism threatening the country. Visitors should keep themselves informed of developments and remain vigilant. After the Sri Lankan Civil War ended in 2009, the north and east of the country have seen a growth in tourism. Violent crime against foreigners is very rare, but there have been cases of sexual assault and robbery in rural areas and women are advised to take care when travelling alone. Credit card fraud is the most common form of crime against tourists in Sri Lanka. *In April 2019, bombings occurred at three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka. Specific areas include the northern Colombo suburb of Kochchikade; the city of Negombo; and Batticaloa in the east. Security across the country has been intensified, with authorities instituting a State of Emergency and night-time curfew. Colombo Airport is still functioning, but with more security measures and long taxi queues. Those travellers with a passport and flight ticket for the day of travel are still allowed to journey to the airport throughout curfew hours.

Local Customs: Photography near government or military buildings is prohibited in Sri Lanka. Homosexuality is illegal. Topless sunbathing is not allowed, and visitors, particularly women, should cover up when entering Buddhist sites. It is considered offensive to pose for photographs in front of a Buddha statue. Smoking and drinking in public are forbidden. Honour, or personal dignity, is extremely important to Sri Lankans and causing an individual to 'lose face' by public criticism or anger should be avoided.

Business: In Sri Lanka, due to the warm climate, the dress etiquette may vary according to various sectors of business. In the more formal sectors, men will be expected to wear lightweight suits, but a more casual approach is acceptable during the warmer months depending on regulation. Appointments are to be made in advance and business cards to be swapped upon first meeting. It is considered rude to be late for meetings. Business hours are generally 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday with an hour taken at lunch.

Communications: The international country dialling code for Sri Lanka is +94. The outgoing code is 00, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). City or area codes are in use, e.g. (0)11 for Central Colombo. International direct dial facilities are available in Colombo and other major cities. Mobile phone operators provide GSM 900/1800 frequency networks with coverage across all the main parts of the island. Internet cafes are available in the main towns and resorts.

Duty free: Travellers to Sri Lanka over 18 years do not have to pay duty on the following items: 2 bottles wine and 1.5 litres spirits; perfume up to 59ml and 250ml eau de toilette; and souvenirs to the value of US$250; 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars and 340g of tobacco. For family members travelling together free import applies for two members. Passengers must declare personal effects to ensure free export when they arrive in Sri Lanka. Restricted items include firearms, ammunitions, explosives and weapons, plants, fruits, birds and by-products, medication (unless it is for personal use), and goods for commercial purposes. Prohibited items include drugs or narcotics, pornographic material, and material that ridicules religious belief systems.