It’s impossible to take full advantage of a holiday destination, especially to such a richly
diverse country as Sri Lanka without knowing some basic facts. So to help you understand
what to expect, below are the answers to frequently asked questions by tourists who have
booked a holiday in Sri Lanka. What's more, there is a complementary list of tourist
Where is Sri Lanka situated?
Eons ago, Sri Lanka was far south, nestled next to India and Madagascar in the middle of the
super-continent known as Gondwanaland. India and Sri Lanka drifted northwards until this
chunk of land impacted with another chunk, creating the Himalayas. Later the bridge of
limestone shoals that linked Sri Lanka with India mostly submerged, leaving a 30km divide.
Sri Lanka lies between the northern latitudes 5° 55. and 9° 55. and the eastern longitudes 79°
42. and 81° 52., 650km north of the equator. It comprises 65,610 sq km and has 1,330km of
coastline. 1,215km to the west are the Maldives - holidays that combine Sri Lanka and the
Maldives are popular - and to the south nothing but thousands of kilometres of ocean until
Are Sri Lanka and Ceylon the same country?
Yes, they are. Under British colonial rule the country was called Ceylon. The name was
retained after independence in 1948 until 1972, when it was changed to Sri Lanka, which
means .Resplendent Land. in Sanskrit. Lanka. however, was used in antiquity. The name
Ceylon is sometimes applied .Ceylon tea. for instance.
What is the best time of year to visit the island?
Sri Lanka is a year round destination as it is fortunate to have two monsoons that occur in
different halves of the island at different times. So if you wish to enjoy the western and
southern coastal resorts when the weather is best, come between December and April.
However, even during the monsoon, sunny, warm days are common, although afternoon or
evening showers can be expected.
Is it possible to combine a visit to Sri Lanka with the Maldives?
Yes, this is a popular option for many travelers, who want to experience the diverse settings
and unique culture of Sri Lanka, but also would like to experience the world renowned
beaches and diving of the Maldives. Flights between Colombo and Male are numerous and
take only 1 hour. You can book an itinerary taking in both countries with your local travel
What type of accommodation is available?
Whatever type you seek is available in Sri Lanka.s surprisingly wide range of accommodation
options. Five-star hotels, resort hotels, boutique properties, guest houses, home stays, and all
manner of other establishments can be found, especially along the western and southern
coasts and Kandy and the hill country. It is also possible to rent houses. In a category of their
own are government-run rest-houses, originally used by British colonists on their travels. As a
result many are colonial buildings, and set in peaceful locations.
Is Sri Lanka a suitable destination for children?
Parents will find Sri Lanka a very child-friendly country. People generally make a special effort
to fuss and entertain children: when it comes to foreign children the effort is doubled. Children
are well catered for in restaurants, and hotels and guest houses often have family rooms.
Baby food and nappies are available in supermarkets across the island, though baby bottles
are harder to find. It is also wise to bring child friendly mosquito repellent and sun cream since
this is also very hard to come by even in the capital. Some of the highlights for children are
the Dehiwala Zoo in Colombo, the numerous beaches, train journeys into the hill country, and
the elephant orphanage in Pinnawela. If you want to allow your children to play safely while
you eat or shop in Colombo, there are play areas in Odel, Urban Kitchen, and Cheers
Pub, Cinnamon Grand. For dedicated play in the capital there are PG Martin Wonder world
facilities which offer all kinds of gaming.
Can we visit National Parks and what kind of animals can be seen?
Sri Lanka.s 14 National Parks offer the chance to see some of the country.s 91 mammals (16
endemic) - elephant, leopard, sloth bear, sambhur, spotted deer, hog, mouse- and barkingdeer,
wild boar, porcupine, ant-eater, civet cat, loris, giant squirrel, and monkeys such as the
macaque, purple-faced leaf monkey and grey langur.. The largest of the parks is Yala, where
jeep safaris provide close encounters with leopards and also abundant bird-life. The best park
to see elephants is Uda Walawe.
Is it possible to witness traditional festivals?
Every full moon day is a Buddhist public holiday, a poya. The most important is in May.
Vesak Poya . a festival that marks the Buddha.s birth, enlightenment and death. Worth seeing
are the illuminated pandals (bamboo frameworks), hung with pictures depicting events in the
Buddha.s life. Sri Lanka.s most tourist-oriented traditional festival is the Kandy Esala
Perahera, held in Kandy over 10 days in late July to early August. Perahera means
.procession. and that.s exactly what occurs nightly - a magical passing-by of drummers,
dancers, whip-crackers, acrobats and robed elephants. A caparisoned tusker carries the
reason for the festival, the sacred tooth relic of the Buddha for the people to venerate.
Is it possible to obtain Ayurvedic treatment?
Yes, Ayurveda, the ancient traditional medicine system of Sri Lanka, is practiced more widely
than Western medicine. Many hotels offer Ayurvedic treatment for guests and have qualified
practitioners to advise you on how to improve your health, or give various types of baths and
How can I stay healthy in Sri Lanka?
With common sense precautions it is easy to stay healthy in Sri Lanka, which has good
sanitation and health standards. Hospitals are generally good and especially in the capital you
can have almost any procedure, including cosmetic surgery. Please remember that a fever in
Sri Lanka should always be considered potentially serious and you should seek medical
advice for this as quickly as possible. The first golden rule is never to drink tap water and to
avoid ice and juices in places where they don.t use bottled water. Secondly, make sure you
keep yourself hydrated by drinking sufficient amounts of safe, clean water, or king coconut
juice which is a cheap, healthy alternative. Thirdly, be careful in the sun, which is very strong
in Sri Lanka . especially from 10am to 3pm. Even sitting in the shade with sunscreen on will
get you a healthy tan so treat our beautiful sunshine with care. Fourthly, do not pet or play
with stray dogs because it is possible they may have rabies. Even if you are a dog lover at
home, this is one time when it is better to avoid contact. Finally, and maybe most importantly,
please ensure you have mosquito repellent with you at all times since prevention of mosquito
borne disease is certainly better than cure. At dawn and dusk, malarial mosquitoes will come
out, while during the day dengue mosquitoes will bite, so it is best to cover up with clothing or
repellent when there are mosquitoes around.
What is the ideal length of stay?
Sri Lanka.s compact size and the accessibility of most major attractions means that even a
week will allow you to see a number of different areas. But to experience the
What are the sites not to be missed?
Sri Lanka.s cultural depth is recognized by UNESCO, which has declared six archaeological
World Heritage Sites. The remains of the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa
feature enormous dagobas (dome-shaped structures) and statues of the Buddha. Dambulla
has an awesome stairway, while Sigiriya is a rock with the remains of a palace on the summit
and sensual frescoes. These four World Heritage Sites are situated within a compact area
called the Cultural Triangle. In the hill country lies the royal capital of Kandy, home to the
Dalada Maligawa, which houses the sacred tooth relic of the Buddha. In contrast, experience
the colonial heritage of the country by heading south to the mid-17th c. Dutch fort at Galle, the
best preserved in Asia. The seventh World Heritage Site is an ecological example, The
Sinharaja Forest Reserve. Similar sites include the Knuckles mountain range, Horton Plains
and World.s End, where the hill country comes to an abrupt end, dropping 2,000m to the
coastal plains. Sri Pada (Adam.s Peak) is a holy mountain climbed by pilgrims, but if you are
fit, join them and appreciate the stunning views of the countryside from the peak..
What aquatic sports are available?
Sea temperature around Sri Lanka remains at 27° C, which makes the island an ideal location
for wind-surfing, water-skiing, jet-skiing, surfing, sailing, scuba-diving (including wreckdiving),
snorkelling, speed-boating and banana-boating. In addition, there are plentiful
freshwater opportunities in rivers and .tanks. (reservoirs), such as kayaking and canoeing,
and most adrenaline-pumping of all, white-water rafting.
Are there any other sports to enjoy?
Well, there.s rock-climbing, caving, mountain biking and paragliding for the daring. For
those who enjoy a more relaxed sport there is golf: there are three diverse courses across
the country . Colombo Golf Club, Nuwara Eliya Golf Club and Victoria Golf Club near
Kandy. There are excellent opportunities for trekking. Nature trails of exceptional interest
include the Sinharaja rainforest, the cloud-forests of Horton Plains, the Knuckles
(mountain range), and Hakgala Strict Natural Reserve.
What clothes should be worn?
In the intense heat of the low country, loose cotton skirts or trousers and tops, and a long
sleeved blouse for visiting temples, are ideal for women. Men should wear cotton trousers or
shorts and a T-shirt, or even the local sarong. Take a sunhat and sandals slippers or open
shoes that are easy to slip on and off. Being a conservative society, especially in rural areas,
very short skirts and shorts should be avoided.If you are to spend time in the hill country pack
a light sweater, and if you intend to sample a nature trail, bring along a sturdy pair of walking
shoes or trainers. If you are travelling with children, a sunhat, loose cotton shorts and tops,
including long-sleeved tops to protect them from mosquito bites, will be needed.
What kind of food is available?
Rice is consumed with curries (eggplant, potato, green banana, chicken, fish) that range
from delicately-spiced to near-dynamite. There are also hoppers (a pancake-like snack),
string hoppers (steamed rice noodles) and pittu (flour and coconut mixture). Lamprais - rice
and accompaniments baked in plantain leaves - is a legacy of the Dutch. Fresh fish, prawns,
crab, squid and crayfish are readily available. Desserts include buffalo curd topped with
palm-honey, and the caramel-like wattalapam. Tasty snacks known as short eats are
excellent for trips.
Delectable fruit includes the popular mango, pineapple, banana and papaya, and also the
lesser-known but distinctive examples such as sapodilla, mangosteen, rambuttan,
woodapple, custard apple and Beli. Colombo has an impressive range of restaurants
specializing in international cuisine.
What kind of souvenirs can be bought?
Souvenirs often combine traditional designs such as makara (a mythical animal, lion, swan,
elephant and lotus) which are most evident in brasswork (boxes, trays, lanterns, vases) and
silverware (ornately carved and filigree jewellery, tea-sets). In addition, ritual masks, lacquer
ware, batik and handloom textiles, lace, and wood carvings are popular.More importantly,
Sri Lanka has the widest variety of precious stones among the world.s gem producing
countries - blue sapphires, star sapphires, rubies, cat.s eye, garnets, moonstones,
aquamarines and topazes being just a dazzling handful that can be purchased with care.