What is the expected etiquette in Sri Lanka?
Despite the inevitable ups and downs of travelling abroad, you will generally be shown great hospitality in Sri Lanka. In return, please demonstrate sensitivity and respect for the local customs. Sri Lanka is a conservative country, so care should be taken to dress respectfully in large cities and towns, for example when at markets or public places.
-Don’t try to sneak into temples and mosques that forbid non-Hindus or non-Muslims
-Never touch a carving or statue of a deity within a temple
-Do not touch locals on the head or point the soles of your feet at a person, religious shrine or image of a deity. This is very disrespectful.
-Take care to dress conservatively and ensure that limbs are covered when entering any place of religion. Please also ensure footwear and headwear is removed if entering any Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim place of worship.
-Both ladies and gentlemen will need to dress conservatively and cover all shoulders and knees when visiting any sacred site in Sri Lanka including Dambulla, Kandy Temple of the Tooth, Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura.
-Ladies should avoid wearing ‘clingy, tight or suggestive attire, and stick to cool, flowing cottons in busy city areas and markets. T-shirts are fine.
-Beach attire is fine on beaches, in a resort or by a hotel pool and at tourist sites only.
-Nudity and topless bathing are prohibited. Heavy fines can be imposed.
-Displays of intimacy are not considered suitable in public.
-Ex-military style clothing should not be worn.
-It is polite to ask permission before taking photos of people.
-Use your right hand for giving, taking, eating or shaking hands as the left is considered to be unclean.
-Don’t be surprised if you are frequently the centre of attention when travelling around the country. Staring unabashedly is not a social taboo.
-Do carry toilet paper with you (or adjust to the Sri Lankan way of using water instead), but don’t throw it down the toilet without first checking to see if there’s a basket to put it in (narrow pipes clog easily).
-Don’t be surprised to see men defecating or urinating in public when restrooms are not available. Women, in the same circumstance, tend to use cover of darkness and huddle in groups.
-Mosques are open to non-Muslims but cannot be visited during prayer time, particularly noon on Friday.
-Photography is prohibited in certain sections of sacred sites. Do not attempt to be photographed with Buddhist bhikkus (monks) or to pose for photos with statues of Buddha or other deities or paintings.
-Do be open and friendly in conversations with locals. Sri Lankans can be quite talkative