A World of Discovery
On The Go Tours / Sri Lanka / Travel Tips And Useful Info

Time

Sri Lanka is 5 and a half hours ahead of Greenwich Meantime (GMT) and does not observe Daylight Saving.

Voltage

Standard voltage is 230-240 volts; 50Hz AC. Primary sockets require round 3 pin plugs that are similar but not identical to European plugs. We recommend that you pack a universal travel adaptor. You will need a voltage converter, and plug adaptor in order to use U.S. appliances.

Money

The currency of Sri Lanka is the Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR).

Pound Sterling, US Dollars or other major currencies will need to be exchanged locally, and not in advance of arrival as the LKR is not traded internationally. This also means you should spend all your LKR before you leave. There are plenty of money changers in Colombo, at the airport, in the street and at hotels. A growing number of ATMs in Colombo and Kandy accept foreign-issued cards. Credit cards are widely accepted for purchases. Visa and Mastercard withdrawals can be performed at banks.

Traveller's Cheques are not recommended as they're often difficult to exchange and incur high fees.

Health

You should seek medical advice before travelling to Sri Lanka from your local health practitioner and ensure that you receive all of the appropriate vaccinations. As a guide Tetanus, Polio, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Typhoid are strongly recommended. You are also advised to take anti-Malarial medication.

Water

As tap water is not safe to drink in Sri Lanka, only drink bottled mineral water which is readily available in hotels, shops and restaurants. You should also avoid salads which may be washed in unhygienic water.

Food

Sri Lanka offers a diversity of cuisine. The national dish is rice and curry, which is even served at breakfast! A typical Sri Lankan meal consists of a main curry that could be fish or meat with several side dishes including vegetables, chutneys and sambol. Made of ground coconut, onion, chilli, dried fish and lime, sambol is fiendishly hot.

Excellent seafood can be found along the coast, including local crab, prawns and tuna. Local specialties include appa or hoppers which are small rice-batter pancakes eaten with palm treacle and yogurt. Roti stuffed with fresh chilli, onions and cooked eggs, griddled meats or fish are also popular. Kotu roti is chopped roti with onions, vegetables and meat.

Colonialism left an indelible stamp on the local cuisine. A popular Dutch-Portuguese dish is Lamprais (rice steeped in stock with a special curry), accompanied by frikkadels (meatballs), baked and served in banana leaves.

Sri Lanka grows some of the finest tea in the world for export. Your best chance for a good cuppa is in the hill country, where tea plantations and hotels serve the pick of the locally harvested crop.

Shopping

Sri Lanka is excellent for gemstones especially sapphires, moon-stones and cats-eye. Other items to look out for include spices, wood carvings and other handicrafts like batik and hand-woven textiles, brassware, handmade lace from Galle and of course tea. Tea varies in quality, so if you’re buying in bulk, ask for a tasting. If seeking modern local chic, Colombo offers a selection of department stores and stylish boutiques. Refrain from buying souvenirs made of coral - which contributes to the destruction of Sri Lanka’s reefs, ivory or the hides of animals which may have been obtained illegally and are also illegal to export.

Getting around

For the most part, we’ll be traveling by road. Roads in Sri Lanka are generally well-maintained, though traffic moves notoriously slowly in Colombo and its surrounds. Investment in recent years has brought about better roads from Colombo to Kandy, Puttalam and Galle.

Cabs

Taxicabs, identified by their yellow tops and white number plates with red writing, are available in the capital and most towns. Negotiate the price before setting off. Radio cabs such as Ace, Quick and GNTC are more expensive. They have a higher minimum charge, but offer fixed price journeys thanks to the benefit of working digital meters. They’re also usually air-conditioned. Radio cabs are available in Colombo and Kandy. In tourist locales, taxis are often in the guise of a minivan, which can carry up to 10 passengers. Ask your tour leader or hotel for a fare estimation.

Auto rickshaw (tuk tuk or bajaj)

Motorised three-wheel rickshaws are available for hire throughout the country. Whilst fun to ride as the rickshaw drivers weave their way through oncoming traffic, the fare for an auto rickshaw ride when compared to that of a cab ride will usually always be more expensive; however, the ride will be fast, efficient and usually a lot of fun! Always negotiate the price you want to pay before setting off. Offering around 50% of the asking price is the general rule of thumb, though you’ll always pay more than the going rate for a local!