Do I need a visa to enter Sri Lanka?
Yes, you will need a visa to enter Sri Lanka. In addition, if you intend visiting Sri Lanka on a short visit,you will need to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) prior to arrival.
What is an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) ?
The Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) is an official authorization for a Short Visit to Sri Lanka and is issued through an on-line system. You need to obtain an ETA if you intend visiting Sri Lanka as a Tourist, on Business or on Transit. No passport copies, documents or photographs are required to obtain the ETA. ETA holders will be issued a 30 day Short Visit visa at the port of entry in Sri Lanka.
Am I required to obtain an ETA?
Nationals of all countries with the exception of citizens of countries mentioned below are required to obtain an ETA to visit Sri Lanka.
Nationals of following countries who visit Sri Lanka for a Short visit up to 30 days are exempt from obtaining an ETA;
The Republic of Singapore
The Republic of Maldives
The Republic of Seychelles
A complete list of ETA processing fees could be obtained from the ETA website.
How do I apply for the ETA?
You can submit the ETA application online through the ETA website. Select the language, click ‘Apply’ and follow the instructions.
Other options for you to apply are;
By Third party
By Registered agents
At Sri Lanka Overseas Missions
At the head office of the Department of Immigration and Emigration (DI&E), Colombo
On arrival at the port of entry in Sri Lanka
Answers to FAQ’s on the ETA can be found at the official web site
Language & Communication
What Language will people understand?
Sinhala and Tamil are the official languages in Sri Lanka.
English is a ‘link’ language and generally understood by most people and is easy to get by. Off the beaten track knowledge of it thins. English is spoken at all hotels, major restaurants and shops. Dream Vacations provides guides in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian and Japanese languages to foreign visitors requiring assistance. Road signs are written both in Sinhalese & English throughout the country, with few exceptions.
How are telephone facilities in the country
Telephone facilities are available extensively throughout the country. There are many telephone booths which accept coins, but the clarity and talk times may be short. Telephone bureaus are quite common with most offering IDD and internet facilities. Some offer the cheaper net-to-phone facilities, but quality is not always reliable. IDD facilities are available in most tourist hotels.
What is the country code and how do I dial area codes?
Dialling in – Sri Lanka’s country code is 94, (E.g. If you need to call a number in Colombo, dial ++94 11 2XXXXXX). If you are calling a mobile number, you dial the number after the country code (E.g. dialling a Dialog number, dial ++94 77X XXXXXX).
Dialling within/ out – If you need to take an overseas call, you’ll have to dial ’00’. You do not have to dial the area code if you are within the area. However, the area code must be dialled if you want to take an outstation call (e.g. calling within Colombo, dial 2XXXXXX, Calling Kandy from Colombo, dial 081 22XXXXX).
Can I purchase a local mobile connection while on holiday?
It’s a good option to purchase a local SIM card and top up cards while you are on holiday. The mobile call rates are relatively cheap for both local and IDD calls. There are many mobile operators in the country (E.g. Dialog, Mobitel, Etisalat, Hutch etc.,). Dialog has a counter at the Colombo Airport and you can obtain a connection on arrival. A Dialog connection will cost about Rupees 1500. Top up cards are freely available island-wide. You can buy top-up cards for denominations of Rupees 100, 400 & 1000. Be sure that your phone is `dual band’ and unlocked.
Health & Safety
Is it Safe to Travel to Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka is quite a safe destination to travel and one of the most picturesque countries on earth. The country is at peace and we are experiencing record a record number of visitors; as Sri Lanka is considered one of the few ‘un-spoilt’ destinations in Asia . Our tours are conducted in areas which are considered safe for tourists to visit. Many of our clients have become friends and cannot wait to return to their ‘second home’, feeling safe and secure in our care.. Please visit our news page for latest updates.
What safety precautions must I take when travelling?
According to accepted norms of travel you should deposit your valuables like money, passport, tickets, jewels etc in the hotel safe deposit locker. In accordance with international custom the Hotels in Sri Lanka are not responsible for objects lost in the room. You should also not leave your valuables unattended on the beach, the balconies or terraces.
Never leave your money or passport in your backpack or suitcase. Always keep a record of your Travellers Cheque numbers separately from the Travellers Cheques. It is wise to keep an amount of money (about US$ 200) stashed away separately from your money-belt or pouch.
How about mosquitoes and other pests?
Most hotels will provide you with a plug-in mosquito repellent which will usually be switched on during turn down. You can buy the mats (small repellent tablet inserted to the plug-in unit), from most local supermarkets. Mosquito nets in hotels are a rarity. You can also buy the burning coils or citronella candles from the supermarket. It would be advisable to apply some repellent lotion if you plan to have dinner in an outdoor/ alfresco setting. The locally available ‘Siddhalepa balm’ is quite effective to take the itch out of mosquito bites.
Leeches – A good remedy is to apply soap and left to dry or apply lime to exposed areas. You can wear leech socks. Which are pulled over the trousers to prevent leeches reaching the exposed skin of the legs.
If you find a leech sucking on your leg, do not pull it off, but wait for it to fall off after feeding. Else you can apply some salt; this will make the leech release its hold and fall off.
Food & Lodging
What food will I find?
Sri Lankan dishes are based on rice, with a large variety of vegetables, fish & fruits. The uniqueness of Sri Lankan food influenced by invaders and traders – Indians, Arabs, Malays, Moors, Portuguese, Dutch and English all whom have left a mark on the Sri Lankan diet, will surely make your trip a voyage of culinary discovery!
Sri Lankan food is good, perhaps a little too piquant for foreign palates, but worth trying. The Lankan food served in your hotel is toned down a little bit due to the sensitive stomach of most tourists, but nevertheless is delicious and you should try it.
International food of any kind is found in all major Sri Lankan Restaurants.
Most coastal towns have excellent seafood including prawns & delicious crab. Rates are quite inexpensive. Being a tropical country, Sri Lanka is blessed with a large variety of fruits. Some fruits like mangoes and Bananas (known an plantains here), come in over a dozen of sub varieties of shapes, sizes & tastes! Fruits such as Rambutan, Pineapple, Mangosteen, Papaya (Papaw), wood apple, melons, passion fruit, guavas, etc., are but a small sample of the amazing variety of fruits to be discovered and enjoyed.
Can I obtain vegetarian food?
Most large hotels and restaurants have a ‘vegetarian section’ in the menu. The smaller local ‘rice and curry’ restaurants may say the food is vegetarian but include a serving of fried fish or sprats (anchovies). The ‘South Indian’ vegetarian restaurants are 100% vegetarian.
How about drinks?
Sri Lanka is famous for it’s tea, and pride ourselves in producing ‘Ceylon Tea’, the finest tea in the world. There is a local version of coffee, which is a bit strong. But Colombo is the only place that you could get a really good espresso. Highly recommended are the fresh fruit juices. Popular international soft drinks are available even in little village boutiques.
Sri Lanka has it’s own variety of local beer. Sri Lanka also has two extremely popular local varieties of intoxicating beverage – Toddy and Arrack. Toddy is a natural drink, produced from one or other palm trees. Fermented and refined toddy becomes Arrack. Some varieties are real “rocket fuel”! Imported beer and foreign liquors cost almost the same as in most western countries.
Thambili or King Coconut is a sweet, clean and cheap natural drink that you’ll find by the wayside. It’s extremely cooling and refreshing!
We advice not to drink tap water unless it is purified. Bottled water is recommended. Only use water from containers with serrated seal- not tops or corks. Most hotel rooms have boiled water in thermos flasks, which is safe to drink.
Can I smoke in public places?
No. Smoking and consuming liquor in public areas is banned in Sri Lanka. The smoking ban includes enclosed public places such as restaurants and social clubs. Smoking is not allowed inside Dream Vacations vehicles while on tour; however, regular comfort stops will be provided.
Money & Banking
What currency is used in Sri Lanka?
The Sri Lankan currency is the Rupee (Rs), divided in to 100 cents. Notes come in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000 & 2000. Breakdown larger notes when you change money – it can sometimes be a problem to breakdown a larger note (500, 1000 or 2000).
Hotels and other tourist establishments will quote you the price in US$ or Euro and collect in Rupees at the prevailing exchange rate.
How much of money can I bring in to/ take out of the country?
There is no restriction in bringing money in foreign currencies into Sri Lanka. This sum could be in TCs, Bank drafts or currency notes. However, if the total exceeds US$ 15,000, that sum must be declared to the Sri Lanka Customs.
If you wish to take out from Sri Lanka a sum in excess of US$ 5000 in currency notes (out of the money brought in), you must declare the entirety of the sum brought in, even if it is less than US$ 15,000.
The foreign currency amounts indicated in US$ may be in equivalent amounts in other convertible foreign currencies.
Please retain whatever receipts of exchange (including ATM receipts) for monies declared. This will be helpful when re-exchanging to foreign currency and taking your money back out of the country. The Re-Exchange (purchase of foreign currency) can only take place on your departure at the Bank counters at the airport. Do note that they will only accept bank receipts (not Money Changer receipts).
Are credit cards widely accepted?
Credit Cards are widely used and accepted by local establishments (even in small towns). The most widely used card types are Visa and MasterCard, with Amex to a lesser extent. It would be a convenient option to use your Credit Card (valid for international use) whenever possible.
Due to currency regulations in Sri Lanka, credit card charges cannot be made in foreign currency Local tourist establishments (including Dream Vacations) will apply the daily exchange rate on the day of your payment and convert foreign exchange rate to Sri Lankan Rupees. Please use the exchange rate indicated in the currency converter only as a guideline as we will apply the prevailing bank exchange rate at time of transaction.
Travelling & Photography
When is the best time to travel?
Climatically, the best & driest seasons are from December to March on the West & South Coasts and in the hill country, and from May to September in the East Coast. Sri Lanka is subject to two monsoons, the rainy season in the East coast is the dry season in the south west coast & vise versa. This means Sri Lanka is a year around destination, and there is always a ‘right’ season somewhere in the island.
Out of season travel has it’s advantages, not only do the crowds go away, but many airfares & accommodation prices too go down, with many special offers thrown in. On the coast the average temperature is about 27° C. The temperature rapidly falls with altitude. At Kandy (altitude 450m) the average temperature is 20° C and at Nuwara Eliya (altitude 1890m) it’s down to around 16°C.
What are the do’s and don’t of local photography?
Ask permission before taking photographs of people and respect their wishes if they refuse. Minority groups in particular are often unhappy to have their photo taken. Travellers should avoid paying for the right to take a photo as this has been found to encourage a begging mentality in the locals. If photos are taken please send back copies (through our tour leaders or direct to the village) so that the people receive copies. The locals gain a great buzz from seeing themselves in photos and it encourages a ‘sharing’ rather than ‘taking’ attitude towards photography. Our tour leaders will make every effort to distribute them the next time they are in the area.
While we welcome travellers to pack their video cameras, there are some places where we do not allow you to film. In small villages, at home-stays or trekking, we do not permit the use of videos as local people have requested this and we ask for courtesy and discretion with still cameras.
Ask permission before taking pictures either of people or inside temples or other sacred places. For example, it is forbidden to take photographs inside the cave temple complex of Dambulla. Never use flash on murals inside temples and other places; it can damage them. You are not allowed to use flash at the frescoes at Sigiriya, but where there is no ban, please behave responsibly.
Never pose beside or in front of a Buddha statue (i.e. with your back to the statue). Such conduct is considered extremely disrespectful. Never take a photo of a monk without asking permission. Tourists are sometimes asked for money for taking photos. Always ask before you shoot whether payment is expected. Our accompanying representatives will be able to guide you on this.
Never take photos of dams, airports, roadblocks or anything to do with the military. Don’t tote the camera around Colombo Fort.
Shopping & Entertainment
Any advice on shopping?
Sri Lanka has a wide variety of very attractive handicrafts on sale. Sri Lankan masks are a very popular collector’s item. Other recommendations are batiks, wood carvings, gemstones, semi- precious stones, lacquer-ware, hand made Silver- and Brass objects and don’t forget the famous ‘Ceylon Tea’. Please avoid ornaments made from tortoise shells & ivory. Never buy turtle shell, we even suggest you not to purchase any woodcarving made from ebony, in order to preserve this scarce hardwood.
Sri Lanka is a major garment manufacturer and exporter of all kinds of clothing. There is an excellent selection of children’s and casual clothing for men & women, beach wear and even warm padded jackets at extremely attractive prices. Colombo is fast becoming an attraction for garment hunters.
How is the nightlife in Sri Lanka?
The places with some active night life are Colombo, Negombo and Hikkaduwa.
Colombo has some decent pubs, night clubs, karaoke lounges and bars. There is a growing pub-culture among the young crowd in Colombo. Friday and Saturday nights are the days for all night partying. The casinos offer a good combination of live entertainment, food and games of chance.