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.
Visa regulations are straight forward : Nationals of countries offered visa on arrival can enter Sri Lanka without a prior visa and will be granted (depending on country of nationality) a 30 day tourist visa at the point of entry without any charge. Citizens of countries not classified under the above are required to possess a valid visa, obtained from the respective Sri Lanka Diplomatic Missions, prior to entering the country irrespective of the purpose of visit.
Tourists should have a return air air ticket, sufficient foreign exchange [currency / travelers cheques / credit card] for maintenance.
As done everywhere, you need to fill a disembarkation/immigration card. This is available in the plane you will fly in & can ask the cabin crew. If it’s not available on board, you will have to collect one from the row of desks just before the immigration officer’s counter. Once duely filled, your passport will be stamped with a visa valid for 30 days.
As long as the stay is within 30 days, no extension is required.
Sinhala in the mother tongue and Tamil is considered an official language as well. English is widely spoken & understood by many. Off the beaten track knowledge of it slims down. English is spoken at all hotels, major restaurants and shops. Road signs are written both in Sinhalese & English throughout the country, with few exceptions.
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. Sri Lankan mobile phone call rates are relatively cheap, both for local and international calls, and are recommended. IDD facilities are available in the vast majority of tourist hotels. Some hotel business centres offer Internet access, and cyber cafes exist in Colombo and some tourist areas, although connection speeds are slow outside Colombo.
To make life easier, we will give you a basic NOKIA phone with a local SIM with some credit topped up to make a call or two upon arrival. You can keep this phone for the duration of the holiday & return it to your chauffeur guide. Credit can be topped up locally.
Almost every small or large town has a pharmacy with a stock of common medicines. As for hospital medication, we recommend you use the private sector hospitals, which are more likely to offer better care. You will need to show a certificate to show that you have been vaccinated for yellow fever, if you are coming from an area infected with yellow fever. You need up-to-date Hepatitis A, Polio and Tetanus shots. We recommend taking anti-malaria medication if you plan to travel off the beaten track. Take some Imodium tablets (just in case you get an upset stomach). However, we advice you take an adequate health insurance cover.
The currency is the Sri Lankan Rupee (Rs), divided into 100 cents. Notes come in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000 & 2000. Try to breakdown larger notes when you change money – it can sometimes be a problem to breakdown a larger note (500, 1000 or 2000) when traveling outside Colombo. Hotels, restaurants (some) and other tourist establishments will quote you the price in US$ or Euro and collect in Rupees at the prevailing exchange rates. Ask us & we will tell you what the prevailing exchange rate is during the period of your travel in Sri Lanka.
Evening wear – all guests in small boutique style properties dress smart & even the larger hotels encourage ‘long attire’ for men during dinner (no shorts and no sandals). Ladies can wear a dress, skirt or long short. No beach/ swimwear, please! Dress modestly at religious sites. You should remove your shoes and hat when entering a Buddhist or Hindu temple, if carrying an umbrella unfurl it. Your legs & shoulders should be covered; never enter a temple in beach wear (i.e. shorts or singlet). Nudity is absolutely not allowed anywhere. This includes at the beach. Even topless sunbathing is prohibited
The climate of Sri Lanka is typically tropical with an average temperature of 27 – 30°C. In the higher elevations it can be quite cool with temperatures going down to 16°C at an altitude of nearly 2,000 metres. Up in the hills it can get warm during the day but you should come prepared for chilly evenings. Bright, sunny, warm days are the rule and are common even during the height of the monsoon – climatically Sri Lanka has no off season. The south west monsoon brings rain mainly from May to July to the western, southern and central regions of the island, while the north-east monsoon rains occur in the northern and eastern regions in December and January. This particular monsoon pattern means that it is always the right season somewhere on the island. However, one cannot count weather following the rules though – it often seems to be raining where it should be sunny & sunny where it should be raining & like many other parts of the world, Sri Lanka has suffered some unusual weather conditions in recent years.
The voltage is Sri Lanka is 220/ 240 volts.
Yes, tipping is accepted. Although a 10% service charge is included in bills for food and accommodation, tipping is a customary way of showing your appreciation for services rendered. A rule of thumb is to tip 10% of the total amount due. Your housekeeping staff, doorman, bellboy all expect a little tip. A tip between 150 – 200 rupees for each service is considered sufficient. For your chauffeur guide, we would recommend approx US$ 15.00 – 20.00 per day into the number of days depending on the service extended to you. This is only a guideline & you can tip your chauffeur guide less, if not within your expectations or over & above if he has exceeded your expectations. Something around these figures are recommended only because our chauffeur guides do much more than we ask for in terms of service…..etc.
A 1 US$ bill roughly equals to Rs. 100.00, so giving this as a tip is also well received by the locals.