Things to know before travelling to Sri Lanka

Things to know before traveling to Sri Lanka

As regular visitors to Sri Lanka, we have compiled a list of 6 things you need to know once you have booked your flight to Sri Lanka. After being relatively closed to the world for the last generation, it has opened up its borders and tourists are coming here by the thousands.  The list below are all important points that will help you have the best time possible in Sri Lanka.

Is Sri Lanka safe?

Yes, Sri Lanka is a safe place. Despite going through a violent and difficult civil war which only finished in 2009, Sri Lanka is now back on track and is really developing as tourist friendly nation. Having been there twice in the last few years, we have never felt unsafe in the capital (Colombo) or even in remote areas. Just use travel common sense (avoiding dark alleys, don’t flash money around etc.)

The recent history of Sri Lanka

Just a quick reminder to be respectful about the past. The Civil War only finished in 2009 so it is still very raw and emotional for many people who were impacted by it. So please talk about it with discretion if you want to learn more.

Visa in Sri Lanka

Everyone needs a visa to get into Sri Lanka and the cost is 35USD (Updated as of April 2017). If you are from South East Asian countries, the cost is only 20USD. The visa can be done all online, so just print it out and show the paper to customs as you go through.

Sri Lankan Rupees are not easy to get

Even though tourism is booming, the banks haven’t quite caught up with demand. Other than the main cities of Colombo and Galle, many ATM’s are hit and miss, so it is worthwhile to get cash out once you arrive. We highly recommend that you do this at the airport, as the exchange rates there were very impressive!

Buses will be fast and wild

One of our favourite things we did in Sri Lanka was to be a local and hop on one of the buses. The Bus Stops are scattered throughout the country and have few English signs, so there is plenty of asking and non verbal gesturing. But that is just the start. Get a seat (don’t get the front seat, saved for clergy) and strap yourself in. The bus rides in Sri Lanka are crazy. Swerving, lane changing, overtaking are just part of the norm. Make sure you know where you are getting off, there are no warnings!

Things to know before traveling to Sri Lanka

One of the most complete islands to visit

We have said this many times, Sri Lanka has one of the widest ranges of things to do we have ever seen. From world class surfing and beaches to the South and East, animal filled Safari parks and thousand year old Buddhist temples. All of this within 3 hours of each other. So pack for every occasion!

Things to know before traveling to Sri Lanka

Look ahead, booking ahead may be a good thing

Getting a train ride in Sri Lanka is one of the best ways to see the beautiful parts of the country and gives you access to areas that cars cannot. However, the train fills up very quickly and you can reserve tickets online before you arrive to Sri Lanka. The alternative? Get to the train station 24 hours before the train is due to leave and see if you can score a seat!

Hope these pre-travel tips will help you out in your planning to Sri Lanka!
Read more on Sri Lanka.

  • Have you ever visited Sri Lanka?
  • What were the highlights of your journey?
  • Looking for a hotel in Sri Lanka? Check out the rates with Booking: Colombo | Kandy & Agoda: Colombo | Kandy

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Things to know before traveling to Sri Lanka
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  • DeafWanderlust

    this is good! Didn’t know that the civil war just recently ended in 2009! I’m sure, like you said, it’s quite emotional and raw for many. As for the buses, yikes! haha, I was a little anxious when the bus drivers are crazy in South Korea. I can only imagine myself holding on to my seat in Sri Lanka! Hoping to visit Sri Lanka next year!

  • Eva Giblin

    Great post, some really good tips. We’re going to Sri Lanka in 6 weeks. Can’t wait.

  • Neha Verma

    Sri Lanka is definitely safe as well as beautiful. I am planning a trip here for quiet some time now. Can’t wait to visit

  • Minna Birch

    This so helpful as we will be in Sri Lanka within the next year! I always thought airports face rubbish exchange rates so that’s a really handy tip! Thank you 🙂

  • Aysha

    Great post. Sri Lanka is such a beautiful country, it’s so incredibly diverse. We didn’t realise is was a closed currency until a couple of weeks before our trip however, we never struggled to find ATM’ to withdraw from.

  • Leslie Price

    I’m in Sri Lanka now (nearing the halfway point of my 3 month trip) and I laughed so hard at your comment about the buses. Yes, they are absolutely insane! I think every country jokes about its traffic and crazy drivers, but I have never known terror like I have when watching two speeding Sri Lankan buses play chicken with each other on a winding road!

    And I agree that Sri Lanka feels like a very safe place to visit. I’m traveling solo and I’ve never felt unsafe anywhere from Colombo to Galle.

    Great photos, by the way!

  • Sandy & Vyjay

    Sri Lanka has indeed been through torrid times and we know the impact being neighbours to this island nation. We have just visited Colombo during transiting for a day, but not explored the country. Hope to do that soon. Your advice is invaluable to first time travelers to this country.

  • Thanks for the super post. Have never read much about Sri Lanka before. Your post makes me want to visit!

  • I’m planning Srilanka for next year. So thanks for this post esp the tip about currency! I’ve always been fascinated by the heritage and natural beauty of the country!

  • Such a thorough guide and list of tips, much of which I didn’t know. I’d love to visit Sri Lanka one day, and I’ll bookmark this post for the future for sure!

  • I completely recommend this destination.. Was here years back for my honeymoon and being an Indian, we don’t even need visa. It is fast becoming a Long weekend getaway.

  • You guys always have the best photography!! I wanted to go to Sri Lanka for my honeymoon last year but it was monsoon season. Still determined to go, it’s one of my dream destinations and for one the very reason you mentioned – it’s so versatile in terms of things to experience there! And like you said, all within 3 hours distance.

  • Very helpful tips! I am planning to visit Kerela in India or Sri Lanka in September and your post was the perfect ‘tips to travel’ list i needed for Sri Lanka 😀

  • These tips look very helpful. I had no idea that there was a civil war in Sri Lanka so recently. Of course people’s feelings must be sensitive about it. But I’m glad to know how many things there are to do on the island!

  • NowThatsAHoneymoon

    Great list! I remember my friend from Canada recently visited and they didn’t know they needed visas! So they quickly had to do it online. Would love to visit Sri Lanka soon!

  • Sonia Sahni

    I went to Sri Lanka in 2011 and loved every minute of it. It’s such a complete island … greenery, nature, culture and wildlife! Your post has inspired me to revisit the island!

  • Being from India, Sri Lanka is very close by but still haven’t got the chance to visit the place.Have heard and read so much about it, and your post has really helped me make my mind to travel there ASAP. I heard that there are a few good diving spots as well.

  • Looks like a very interesting place to visit! I’d be pretty stressed out on a bus trip with the swerving and the speeds, and so worried about not knowing where I’m getting off and potentially missing my stop.

  • Really nice tip! I have friends from Sri Lanka so I wish to visit it one day! It’s good to know that it’s hard to get the rupees.

  • Good tips, especially about the sketchy ATMs. Are the people willing to talk about their civil war at all?

    • They are willing, but like most things, you need to pick the right time and place for it! An intriguing history it is!

  • Gina Panozzo

    It’s good to know all these tips about Sri Lanka, especially about the civil war and that it is tourist friendly. I’ve been wanting to go awhile and your tip on exchanging money at the airport is really good. Most of the time airports are a rip off, but the fact the exchange rate is good makes it easy and convenient for tourists.

  • Abhinav Singh

    Being a neighbor to Sri Lanka (I am an Indian), I have seen
    the country go through conflict. It is so good to see positive stories around
    Sri Lanka now. The crazy bus rides that you mention sound much like the crazy
    bus rides in India. Haha!

  • Tasha Haley

    This is so useful. We are going to go here next year so itsnhandy to have all of this information. Bookedmarked for future