Recommendations for tourists

We give you a few tips on how you can become a responsible traveler in Sri Lanka.

With effect from 1st January 2012, all Holiday or Business travelers to Sri Lanka must have Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) for entering in to Sri Lanka. Please visit www.eta.gov.lk for more information. When applying ETA by third parties payments are to be made through the arrangement made in our website www.eta.gov.lk and obtain acknowledgement of ETA application. Any payments made to other websites or agencies are not valid to process a valid ETA. Therefore, always ensure that the payments made by accessing to Sri Lanka ETA website and avoid making repayment at the port of entry to Sri Lanka.

Custom Imports

You are allowed to bring into the country duty free 1.5 litres of spirits, two bottles of wine, a quarter-litre of toilet water, and a small quantity of perfume and souvenirs with a value not exceeding US $250. The import of personal equipment such as cameras and laptop computers is allowed but must be declared on arrival. However, personal equipment must be taken out of the country upon the guest’s departure. The import of non-prescription drugs and pornography of any form is an offence.

Purchase and export without license of any wild animal, bird or reptile, dead or alive. Also the export of parts of animals, birds or reptiles, such as skins, horns, scales and feathers is prohibited. Occasional exports are, however, permitted exclusively for bona fide scientific purposes. It is prohibited to export of 450 plant species without special permits. The export of coral, shells or other protected marine products is also strictly prohibited.

Foreign Currency Regulations

Visitors to Sri Lanka bringing in more than US$10,000 should declare the amount to the Customs on arrival. All unspent rupees converted from foreign currencies can be re-converted to the original currency on departure as long as encashment receipts can be produced.

Before You Go

No inoculations are compulsory unless you are coming from a yellow fever or cholera area. (Cholera is very occasionally reported in Sri Lanka, so is not considered a serious risk.) However, the following vaccinations are recommended, particularly if you plan a long trip or intend visiting remote areas:

Typhoid (monovalent), Polio, Tetanus, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Rabies

Children should, in addition, be protected against:

diphtheria, whooping cough, mumps, measles, rubella

Remember to plan well ahead with vaccinations. Allow up to six weeks to receive the full course, for some vaccinations require more than one dose, and some should not be given together.

The risk of malaria exists throughout the whole country apart from the districts of Colombo, Kalutara and Nuwara Eliya. Medication has to start one week prior to travel, continue during the trip, and finish four weeks after your return. Once again, planning is essential, as well as care to ensure the course is followed.

When You are There…..

Sunburn

When you flop onto the beach or poolside lounger for a spot of sunbathing, always remember to apply a sunscreen product with a sun protection factor of at least 15. Remember you are just 600km from the equator. Even with sunscreen, your sunbathing should be limited in time. If you don’t apply sunscreen you are liable to become so sunburnt that it will be painful to move, your skin will peel, you will have to start afresh to get that tan, and most importantly you put yourself at risk of serious dermatological disease.

Heatstroke

Sometimes those who have spent too long in the sun suffer what is termed heatstroke, the most common form being caused by dehydration. This condition can occur if the body’s heat-regulating mechanism becomes weakened and the body temperature rises to unsafe levels. The symptoms are a high temperature – yet a lack of sweat – a flushed skin, severe headache, and impaired coordination. In addition, the sufferer may become confused. If you think someone has heatstroke, take that person out of the sun, cover their body with a wet sheet or towel, and seek medical advice. To avoid heatstroke, take plenty of bottled water to the beach, or buy a thambili (king coconut) from an itinerant seller.

Sri Lanka’s Currency

The local currency is the Sri Lankan Rupee, divided into 100 cents (you rarely come across scents today). Currency notes are Rs.5000,  Rs.2000, Rs1000, Rs500, Rs100, Rs50, Rs20 and Rs10. Beware of mistaking the Rs500 note for the somewhat similar Rs100 one. To check whether notes are genuine when not given at a bank, look for a lion watermark. Coins, should you have receive them, will be in denominations up to Rs10.

Make sure you have plenty of lower denomination notes (Rs50, Rs100, Rs500), especially when travelling and you need to buy small items, fruit, and eat cheap meals, because change is often hard to come by apart from at hotels and big shops.

Banks

Banks are open from 0900 hrs. to 1300 hours Monday to Friday. Some city banks close at 1500 hrs., while some are open on Saturday mornings. It’s easy to withdraw money across the island at ATMs using international credit cards or debit cards.

Credit Cards

Most hotels, restaurants and shopping centers accept credit cards. Some establishments may try to add a surcharge, which is illegal.

Time Difference

Sri Lanka Standard Time is five and a half hours ahead of GMT. (Allowance should be made for summer-time changes in Europe.)

Electricity

230 – 240 volts, 50 cycles AC. If you travel with a laptop computer bring a stabilizer.

Language

Sri Lanka has two official languages – Sinhala and Tamil – with English as a link language. Most people have some knowledge of English, and signboards are often in English.

Photography, Restrictions & Permits

Sri Lanka is a tremendously photogenic island, so it.s hardly surprising that most tourists bring a camera of some kind when they visit the country. The stunning landscapes, the captivating fauna and lush flora, and the stupendous archaeological remains provide great opportunities: a bonus is that Sri Lankans love to be captured on film. So it’s easy to capture the traditional rural lifestyle. You will find villagers, farmers, fishermen and tea-pluckers will readily stand in front of your viewfinder. Your subjects will often ask to have a copy of picture sent to them. This may be laborious, but it is a reasonable courtesy as many may never have seen a picture of themselves. It is also understandable that many will also expect a token recompense for allowing themselves to be photographed.

Restrictions

There are some important restrictions that apply to photography regarding Buddhist imagery. When you visit a temple or other religious site, remember that photography should not be carried out in a manner causing disrespect. For instance, it is strictly forbidden to be photographed in front of or beside any statues and murals. Note that flash photography can damage old murals.