06 Travel Tips
Adventurous visitors who enjoy mystery and wonderment will, marvel at the ancient sites of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Dambulla and Panduwasnuwara to name a few, where the remains of a great civilization are yet to be seen. The cities of Colombo and Kandy show influence of foreign colonial powers that fought for control over the island in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Dutch-inspired buildings, Victorian British mansions and Portuguese fortifications are to be found in different parts of the island.
Sri Lanka offers leisure and pleasure opportunities at a gentle pace; this is no package holiday destination but rather one to be savoured by discerning travellers who enjoy discovering their own diversions.
6.1 Helpful Hints for a Holiday in Sri Lanka
100% Cotton is the best fabric to wear during the day – especially T-shirts/blouses/shirts. Cotton mixes or synthetics are much hotter and tend to make one “glow”. When out in the sun exploring, watch the neckline on shirt at the back – avoid scoops – neck can easily get burnt.
Cover up for visits to Temples – no shorts. Remove shoes. Temples nearly always have sarong or similar for rent in emergencies but bit of a rip off!
Do not take photos posing by statues of Buddha. Keep on beaten track of tours. You will initially be asked by loads of people to be your guide. Just say no firmly – they are only trying to make a living but can be a little overpowering if you let them.
At least two swimsuits each is a good idea.
Anti-mosquito spray/stick – keep protected especially in the evenings round ankles/neck/arms especially if you go for walk on beach. Most hotels have electric mosquito repellent machines, which you put a little pad into. They replace them daily but good idea to invest in a box – available from most grocery stores in SL – so you can replace more frequently during the day as well. Ask a chemist here to recommend a good anti-itch cream – Anthisan is quite good – to stop any bite itching. Take an antisepctic cream in case you get a cut or scratch. Another thing I always keep in my washbag for emergencies is a packet of “butterfly” plasters which can be used in the event of a deep cut.
There are well stocked pharmacies in case of any medical supplies being needed and pharmacists are usually very helpful. Take some Immodium or similar for tummy problems. Ask the locals about “heaty” and “cooling” fruits – very interesting!
Make sure you keep supply of bottled water in car. Only have ice in drinks in hotels. Loads of different types of soft drinks are available. Local spirits – the vodka and gin are fine – most hotels will have both local and imported spirits available in the bars. Good wines also available freely but are a little pricey because of the import tax. Arrack is the local tipple – interesting taste! Local beer very good – Lion or Three Coins.
Buy duty free on arrival – prices are good as is quota – 2 litres of spirits each and 2 bottles of wine/champagne each! You can always ask for a bucket of ice in the room to chill it!
Evenings up country can be chilly – light sweater sometimes required.
Do make use of safes to keep valuables in. Don’t leave jewellery or money in your room.
If you go to a jewellers in Kandy – go to Zam Gems or Hemachandras. Ask for certificate.
Check out market in Nuwara Eliya town for great prices on winter jackets etc.
Flip-flops/sandals v. cheap in local shoe shops.
If you have time or inclination when in Colombo good shopping at Odel’s, Barefoot and The Gallery.
Sunscreen – lots in the press on it lately. Just take care – especially when in the sea. Buy good supply before you go as expensive there. Aftersuns with Aloe in them very good. Aloe plants grow all over the place down south so if you get burnt ask for a leaf of aloe – you scrape out the gell and put it on (smells terrible but very effective).
Small travel tube of washing soap useful for “smalls”.
On arrival – after Customs you go through to the arrival hall – might be a good idea to change some money into rupees straight away. It is all legit and you will get the going rate. Driver will be waiting for you when you leave the arrival hall so look for someone holding up your name.
Food and waterborne diseases are a primary cause for ill health in travellers. Visitors should only drink bottled water, avoid ice in drinks, and take care to eat well-cooked food. Hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for all travellers to Sri Lanka. Cholera is regarded as a serious risk and precautions are advised, while typhoid is more of a problem in rural areas. 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. There is also a particular danger from contaminated seafood. Travellers are strongly advised to take out good travel insurance, and seek medial advice at least three weeks before leaving for Sri Lanka.
To ensure the health and safety of all guests in Sri Lanka, every tourist hotel has to be equipped with equipment to manage illness and injury. To further ensure that safety standards are maintained, the Sri Lanka Tourist Board is equipping a fleet of ambulances that will be used to bring tourists from the hotel care centres to the closest large hospital or to the nearest point of evacuation if required. The Ceylon Tourist Board and the tourism sector in Sri Lanka are going to great lengths to ensure you enjoy a pleasant stay in Sri Lanka and if any unfortunate occurrence happens, the best health care available is on call at all times
A 10% 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% of the amount due is standard. There is no need to tip taxi drivers.
Tipping - As you would do here. If you feel your driver has been good (am sure he will be) – it would be nice to give him a good tip at the end as they are on pretty low salaries and make their money through tips. Between Rs 3,000 and 5,000 – depending on how you feel. Note that there is a service charge and a vat tax put on all bills – some include vat in the price some put it on top at the end (more usual).
There is a risk of terrorism in the country, and although foreigners have not been the targets of previous attacks, there is a risk of being caught up in incidents. Visitors should avoid public gatherings and political demonstrations. The Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have been involved in long-standing conflict which has resulted in indigenous terrorism, particularly in the north and northeast of the country.
Special Tourist Police Units are available to assist our visitors.
Tourist Police Units
Fort Police Station, Bank of Ceylon Mawatha, Fort, Colombo Tel: 433342
Galle Road, Moragalle, Beruwela
Pushpadana Road, Kandy. Tel : 08-22222.
Sigiriya Village Hotel Road, Sigiriya Police Station,
National holiday Resort, Bentota. Tel: 03475022.
Police Station, Galle Road, Hikkaduwa. Tel : 0957222