Country guides Asia
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Round, three-pin plugs are used.
Sinhala and Tamil are the official languages, though the former has far more speakers. English is spoken at most tourist establishments.
The unit of currency is the Sri Lanka rupee (LKR), which is divided into 100 cents. ATMs are becoming more common, though they are unlikely to accept international cards outside the main cities; major credit cards are widely accepted in major urban centres. 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.
A 10 percent service charge is added to most restaurant and hotel bills. Tipping is appreciated for almost all services, and small amounts are sufficient; a 10 percent tip will be fine if there's any doubt as to a suitable amount.
Food and water borne diseases are the primary causes for ill health in Sri Lanka. Visitors should only drink bottled water and avoid ice in drinks, and they should take care to eat well-cooked food. Hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccinations are recommended for all visitors to Sri Lanka. Tourists should get vaccinated for typhoid, especially if they are staying with friends or relatives, or are visiting smaller cities or rural areas; everyone 16 years of age and older should get fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Yellow fever vaccination certificates are required if travellers are arriving from countries where there is a risk of transmission.
Chikungunya fever, Japanese encephalitis and dengue fever are a risk and protection against mosquito bites is essential. Travellers are strongly advised to take out good travel insurance, and to 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. Travellers should bring any medication they may require with them.
The vast majority of trips to Sri Lanka are trouble free, though bombings in 2019 show there is now a risk of terrorism in the country. Visitors should remain vigilant and keep themselves informed of developments. Since 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.
Photography near government or military buildings is prohibited in Sri Lanka and 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.
The dress etiquette may vary according to various sectors of business due to the warm climate. In the more formal sectors, men will be expected to wear lightweight suits, though 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 swopped upon first meeting. It is considered rude to be late for meetings. Business hours are generally 9am to 5pm from Monday to Friday, with an hour taken for lunch.
Visitors who are older than 18 years do not have to pay duty on the following items: 2 litres wine and 2.5 litres spirits; perfume up to 250ml eau de toilette; and souvenirs to the value of US$250. They will also need to get a certificate of registration from the Department of Excise to import and export of any raw material or finished products of cigarettes, cigars, beedi, or pipe tobacco. The items must be declared upon arrival.
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.
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). Travellers can purchase local prepaid SIM cards for unlocked phones; WiFi is standard in hotels and guesthouses.
Passport & Visa
Passengers must hold return or onward tickets and all documents needed for their next destination, and should be able to show the immigration officials proof of sufficient funds for their stay in Sri Lanka. 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. It is highly recommended that travellers' passports have at least six months' validity remaining after the intended date of departure from their travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
US nationals require passports valid for at least six months on arrival. A visa is required.
UK nationals require passports valid for at least six months on arrival. A visa is required.
Canadian nationals require passports valid for at least six months on arrival. A visa is required.
Australian nationals require passports valid for at least six months on arrival. A visa is required.
South African nationals require passports valid for at least six months on arrival. A visa is required.
Irish nationals require passports valid for at least six months on arrival. A visa is required.
New Zealand nationals require passports valid for at least six months on arrival. A visa is required.
Sri Lanka Tourism: +94 11 242 6900 or www.srilanka.travel110 (Ambulance), 118 (Police)
Embassies / consulates in other countries
Sri Lanka Embassy, Washington, United States: +1 202 483 4025.
Sri Lanka High Commission, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): +44 20 7262 1841.
Sri Lanka High Commission, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 233 8449.
Sri Lanka High Commission, Canberra, Australia (also responsible for New Zealand): +61 2 6198 3756.
Sri Lanka High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 460 7679.
Sri Lankan Honorary Consulate, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 976 8434
Embassies / consulates in Sri Lanka
United States Embassy, Colombo: +94 11 249 8500.
British High Commission, Colombo: +94 11 539 0639.
Canadian High Commission, Colombo: +94 11 522 6232.
Australian High Commission, Colombo: + 94 11 246 3200.
South African High Commission, Colombo: + 94 11 246 3000.
Honorary Consul of Ireland, Colombo: +94 11 452 3900.
New Zealand High Commission, New Delhi, India (also responsible for Sri Lanka): +91 11 2688 3170.