Sri Lanka General Information For Travellers

The beautiful Island of Sri Lanka is one of the best tourist destinations in the world. Though the cities are still adjusting to the large influx of tourists, there is plenty to do in Sri Lanka. Naturally before you travel to a country there are certain things that would be nice to know about the place that you intend to visit.

First of all you must already know that the country is a unitary multiparty republic with one legislative house. The countries official language is Sinhala and Tamil. The link language between the two languages is English. Now let’s get down to the gritty stuff.

You will find that it is safe to travel to Sri Lanka now more than ever. The country was curbed by a great civil war from 1983 to 2009 and tourists were discouraged from visiting the country. Since the war ended the country has been rebuilding itself slowly to improve the environment for tourists. Be keen and apply the same caution you would in other new environments.

  • Respect the past political state.

Though it is okay to ask the locals about their lives avoid getting into matters of politics or the war unless you are a professional or scholar on the subject.

  • Food and water.

Under no circumstances should you drink tap water. Always pick a bottle of the reversed osmosis water in the country. Ensure you check on the expiration date. If you have an extra sensitive tummy do not order any salads as they may be cleaned sing tap water. Try to eat food in Bonafide sit in restaurants. Avoid the street stalls if you feel the owners’ cleanliness are not up to standard.

  • Special Drivers license or private driver.

If you plan on renting out a car then you will need a special driving license from your country. The international driving permit should have Sri Lanka listed as one of its countries of use. The country has heavy and hectic traffic so you may want reconsider getting a rental car. Use the private drivers for a more relaxed experience.

Though this is not the official religion of the country, Buddhism, is well recognized. You will find many temples or statues on the sides of the street. It may be okay to take a few photos f the sculpture but do not touch it or take photos with it as this is disrespectful. Always make sure to remove your shoes and head gear when entering a religious building. Wear the appropriate attire.

  • What to wear.

The weather here is a bit hot typical of the tropical climate. You may want to pack more cotton or linen clothes to ensure you do not have the sweat sticking to your body but rather being absorbed.

  • Visa and travel insurance.

Get a 30 day visitor’s visa issued t you before you leave the country or when you get there. You may also want to get travel insurance to ensure you cover your good from theft or damage. You can apply for the visitor’s visa online here

 

Outdoor Activities To Do In Sri Lanka

When you think you have seen it all in the world you see more things that remind you why traveling is so much fun. Going to a different state may seem exciting at the moment but you cannot compare it to travelling to a different country. You get to see so many different cultures and people who bring you a deeper understanding of diversity.

If you decide to go to Sri Lanka then you’re in for a treat. The large amount of culture in the area is great for anyone who wishes to have themselves a spectacular time in the country. This is why you should get the following events out of the way when you visit the country.

  • Take a tour of Colombo.

This city can be said to be Sri Lanka’s, Mumbai. You definitely want to take a look at this town by taking a guided tour. The city tour bus makes 3 stops at Arcade Independence center, Town Hall, and National Museum.

  • Visit the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage.

This is the world’s largest population of captive and orphaned elephants. Enjoy seeing the oldest in the group that is the biggest tourist attraction. The three legged elephant has been at the orphanage since it started.

  • Hike up to the Worlds End.

This is one of the most visited areas in Sri Lanka. It is a cliff where you can get an awesome view of the Indian Ocean. You may need to take it easy if you are afraid of heights since it is 4000ft above sea level. The hike is however not that long being about two miles or so to the top. You will need a guide to get to the cliff if you are not too sure of the way.

  • Get an aryuvedic oil massage

This is one of the most popular things to do when you go to Sri Lanka. You will really enjoy this because the oils are so relaxing they lessen the pain in your muscles. You do not have to be unwell in order to have the therapeutic massages. There are plenty of rejuvenating therapies available.

  • Go surfing in Arugam Bay.

This is the most engaging beach in this area. It is always flooded by tourists, travelers and plenty of sunbathers. If you would like to go surfing then the best times are in May and October all the way to November. The best places to do this is the Crocodile Rock, Peanut farm and the point. If you are a beginner then the Crocodile Rock is a great place to start. The point is a great place for experienced surfers.

  • Scuba diving in Bentota.

This is one of the most fun things you can do in Sri Lanka. Enjoy the scuba diving in this area while you’re touring the country. Other activities in this area are wind-surfing, kite surfing and parasailing.

 

What To Pack For A Trip To Sri Lanka

Packing for a vacation anywhere can sometimes be very stressful especially when you are trying to go light or when trying to stay within the limits of luggage restrictions of the airlines. However, vacation packing does not need to be stressful with proper planning and some research about the weather conditions for the time period you will be in the country. Suitcase packing can be quick and easy, leaving more time to focus on the more important aspects of what to do and where to go.

 

Sri Lanka is a destination that offers many different things for seasoned and first-time travelers alike. Here are few tips on what to pack when visiting this amazing island.

 

As mentioned previously, what to pack for Sri Lanka is largely determined by what time of the year you visit and what region you plan on visiting when there. Sri Lanka has two monsoon seasons. One rainy season hits from May to September in the west and south-west regions of the island. The second rainy season is from October to February in the east and northern regions of the island. The temperature is basically constant throughout the year, with average temperatures reaching 25 to 30°C, and the higher regions experiencing average temperatures of 15 to 18°C.

 

Some essential items include the following:

  • Pack clothes made of lightweight natural fabrics
  • Light woolen items for the higher regions
  • Clothing that covers your shoulders for temple visits, or clothes that cover up as much as possible
  • Conservative clothing, such as long skirts or linen trousers
  • Swimwear is only for the beach so pack a sarong or kaftan for walking to and from the beach
  • Shoes that are easy to slip on and off for temple and shrine visits
  • Jeans are popular and are perfect for night time exploring.

If you are planning to do some birdwatching or wildlife viewing, then a good pair of binoculars is also recommended. There are many types of binoculars which will work well for a Sri Lanka adventure. But overall you can just opt for a good quality, all around pair, which is durable but not too large. We personally like the Avalon 10×42 binoculars or the Nikon ones.

Sri Lanka is a tropical island so the temperatures will be relatively high all year round, even during monsoon season. March and April are the hottest months so do not forget other essentials like sunscreen and hat. A light raincoat or travel umbrella is perfect for monsoon season. Packing light for Sri Lanka is easy when you adhere to the above list. Lightweight fabrics such as linen and cotton dryeffortlessly and can easily be laundered.

 

Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist country and covering up when visiting temples and shrines are a must. Pack in a pashmina or shawl to cover up your shoulders and those items can always be used to pep up an outfit for going out at night. Also, when at a Buddhist temple or Hindu shrine, please remove all hats and footwear.

 

Solo female travelers, to avoid an unwanted attention, dress as conservatively as possible and use a soft backpack to avoid theft. Invest in a mobile bungee for the same reason, and to avoid losing your mobile phone.

 

Following the tips above will ensure that you are ready for any adventure, whether it is the bustling city of Colombo or the tea growing town of Hatton.

 

Best sites for Bird Watching in Sri-Lanka

Despite being only 473km from north to south, and 225km at its widest, Sri-Lanka has a vast geographical landscape. Ranging from mountainous areas in the North to its evergreen interior forest and pristine coastal plains, its beauty has long remained a closed guarded secret.Scientists have estimated that it is one of the most bio-diverse areas in Asia. It is exactly this ecological variety that makes it a haven for numerous rare and endemic bird species. quipped with the right pair of bird watching binoculars, you will find Sri Lanka a veritable birders paradise.

Within each specific climatic zone and habitat, one finds a prevalence to certain types of bird species. Sri-Lanka is home to over 422 bird species, of which 22 are endemic to the country, and 198 are migrant birds.

The best time to visit Sri-Lanka for bird watching purposes would be around October, when the majority of migrant birds have entered the country. This will grant you the exciting opportunity to spot such rare species such as the Indian Pitta, Orange-headed Thrush, Kashmir Flycatcher, Pied Thrush etc.

Some of the best places to catch a glimpseof such species are Bundala Ramsar, Uda and Yala Walawe National Parks, Sinharaja World Heritage Wilderness area and Horton Plains.

The Horton’s Plains National Park consists of ecosystems such as aquatic ecosystems, grasslands, Montane evergreen forests and marshy lands. It is one the coldest yet beautifully scenic areas of Sri-Lanka.On the 30th July 2010, UNESCO declared Horton Plains as a World Heritage Site. The most notable species that can be viewed here are, Sri Lankan Wood Pigeon, the Dull-blue Flycatcher, Bush Warbler, Whistling Thrush and the Yellow-eared Bulbul.

Next on the list is the vibrant Uda Walawe National Park. A mere 200 km from Columbo, it is one of the major tourist hubs of the country. Apart from its famous Elephant safaris a great number of endemic species can be viewed here such as the Lesser Adjutant, Spot-billed Pelican, Brahminy Kite, Black-winged Kite, and the Yellow-fronted Pied Woodpecker. A feast for the avid bird lover.

Bundala National Park is located in the dry zone. Despite lacking the scenery and extensive wildlife enjoyed by its counterparts, itremains one of the foremost destinations amongst bird watchers. Its untouched lagoons havebecome the last stronghold of many aquatic, migratory birds, including numerous flamingos.

Lastly, we take a look at the Sinharaja Forest Reserve, which was also declared a World Heritage Site. This spot is best known for its biodiversity as it holds a treasure trove of 21 of the 26 endemic species of the country. it is one of the last remaining truly undisturbed rainforests of the world. One of the main attractions here is to be lucky enough to view   a “mixed feeding species flock’,where hundreds of different species of bird can be seen flying and foraging together. Other species of note found here include the Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, Green-billed Coucal, and the Chestnut-backed Owlet.

Meet the Sri Lankan elephants

For thousands of years, elephants have captured the imagination of young and old; man, woman, and child. These magnificent animals can be found dotted throughout history – from the mighty Mammoth to the matriarchal African elephant. Looking back into history from Hannibal of Carthage to the Hindu god Ganesh, elephants have been alongside humans in a very lengthy and complicated relationship. One such relationship, that stretches back many thousands of years, is the relationship between Sri Lanka and elephants.

 

The Sri Lankan elephant is one of three subspecies of the Asian elephant. Due to deforestation and loss of habitat, the Sri Lankan elephant has been listed as endangered. It has been reported that thepopulation numbers have dropped by 50% over the last 60 to 75 years. Over the last few years, elephant lovers and visitors to Sri Lanka have the opportunity to meet and play with the elephants, as well as learn the history of this complex relationship between beast and man.

 

The largest populations of elephants in Sri Lanka can be found in the north, east and southeast of the country. Small groups are scattered outside of the national parks and protected areas, but the vast majority of elephants can be found in Udawalawe National Park, Lunugamvehera National Park, Wilpattu National Park and Minneriya National Park. There are also many private reserves and conservation efforts that allow visitors to interact with the elephants.

 

The elephants found on the conservations are predominantly rescued elephants after a life in captivity. These organizations give them a retirement of sorts. Visitors can interact, walk with, and bathe elephants while being accompanied by an elephant expert will talk about the elephants in captivity, conservation efforts and the relationship between elephant and Sri Lankans. There are numerous conservation organizations scattered across Sri Lanka and it is easy to make contact with one of them.

 

Most conservations offer a similar itinerary for information sharing and elephant interaction. Your experience will mainly consist of the following:

  • Meet an expert on Sri Lankan elephants and learn about the history of elephant captivity.
  • You will get to learn more about the organization and the relationship between mahout and elephant.
  • A guided interaction will allow you to walk with, bathe and interact with the elephant.
  • Some (not all) organizations will allow you to ride the elephant. Some with a harness and some organizations prefer not to use one.

The entire experience will last about 3 hours. Please remember to pack extra dry clothing for after you have bathed the elephant. You will also need sunscreen, a cap,insect repellent, and light comfortable clothing.

 

However, I am sure many would also prefer toview these magnificent animals in the natural habit. In Sri Lanka, you are able to see wild elephants in the south of Sri Lanka in the Minneriya National Park, Kaudulla National Park, and Eco National Park.

 

Being able to interact and connect with an elephant is a magical experience. The humble, gentle giant will always leave you with a memorable experience and a lasting impression.