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Sri Lanka, the hidden Indian Ocean gem, has long been a favourite for the intrepid traveller.
Recently it has been thrust back into the limelight and it is not hard to see why. From its lush jungles, endearing ancient culture, picture perfect beaches, and incredibly diverse wildlife. Sri Lanka has something to offer every traveller. These are our most helpful tips to make Sri Lanka the adventure of a life time.
TAKE THE TRAIN
Your journey in Sri Lanka isn’t complete until you experience the train journey to the heart of this magical country. Catching the scenic train from the capital city Colombo to Kandy is a highlight and will only set you back around AU$3.25, making it amazing value for money. Just exercise caution if you poke your head out of the train doors to take in the view!
CURRENCY - THE $50 RULE
Sri Lanka is closed currency. This means you cannot get Sri Lankan Rupee before leaving Australia. You will need to find an ATM or exchange your Australian money on arrival. There are a number of bank offices at the Airport terminal on arrival which offer competitive rates. Important to note: If you have managed to acquire Sri Lankan Rupee outside of Sri Lanka (i.e You have been given leftover currency from a previous traveller) you are not legally allowed to take more than R5000 into Sri Lanka, about $50AUD.
‘Ayubowan’ is the official Sri Lankan greeting. It shows respect when travellers make the effort to learn the local language. ‘Istuti’ (thank you) is always well received by the local people. Politeness, manners and respectful behaviour always go a long way.
BE RESPECTFUL IN HOLY SITES
If you wish to visit a Hindu temple (kovil), please be mindful that men may be asked to remove their shirts or alternatively you can chose to wear an angavastram, which is a draped cloth worn over the shoulders.
Buddhism is practiced by over 70% of the population. It is very important to be aware that it is highly disrespectful to show your back to Buddha iconography, so be aware of your position when you are taking photos. While visiting Buddhist temples do not wear shorts or expose bare shoulders. You should also remove footwear wherever appropriate. If you ever have any doubt, always ask the local people.
CHOOSE ETHICAL ADVENTURES
Riding Elephants was once a popular tourist attraction. As more research and understanding around the treatment to some of these gentle giants is made known, people are choosing responsible tourism so these beautiful animals are not exploited. An ethical way to see elephants up close is visiting places like the Elephant Transit Home at Udawalawe. (www.eth.dwc.gov.lk). Orphaned elephants are raised here before being released into the wild. Feeding times are a real highlight.
ANIMAL / NATURE SAFARIS
Sri Lanka is home to many diverse animal species. This Island nation is home to many national parks, bird sanctuaries and nature reserves making it a haven for seeing wild exotic animals such as elephants, sloth bears, leopards as well as many species of monkey and deer. Bird watching is also an incredible experience given there a plenty of migrating birds visiting. Entrance fees to the reserves are very well priced. Jeep safaris are an exceptional way to experience the natural fauna and flora.
Tipping is greatly received in Sri Lanka and is the main form of income for many people. Such as shoe minders at temples, hotel porters and restaurant waiters. Ensure you have a good supply of smaller notes. NB Some larger restaurants may already include a 10% service charge.
This beautiful country is full of surprises and its climate is one them. Sri Lanka has several climates and is also affected by its two annual monsoons. The Southwest Monsoon between May – September and the North Eastern region has its monsoon season from November – February. It’s a good idea to pack layers especially when travelling through the tea covered hills of the central landscape, which is in contrast to the warm sandy coastal beaches.
Many hotels offer well-priced or even free laundry services. Bring reliable walking shoes and a rain jacket is a must. Sri Lanka is has many beautiful temples and other religious sites, if you wish to visit these you will need to dress in modest attire.
The traffic in Sri Lanka is a real eye opener. While it is very different to what we do here in Australia, They have a system that works for them. Be prepared for the constant blast of a horn and no real need to desire to stay in their lane. Our advice is to just go with the flow and embrace the chaos.
Sri Lanka is home to amazing wildlife and the country’s crystal clear waters are home to many spectacular sea animals, from the majestic blue whale, dolphins, five species of sea turtle, and bright coral reefs as well as hosting some amazing surf breaks. Beaches are laced with swaying tropical palm trees, where you can embrace the slower pace of the coastal fishing village lifestyle.
To experience the magic of Sri Lanka, see our amazing Sri Lankan holiday here.