This Sri Lanka travel guide is created from years of personal experiences within Sri Lanka, pulling together the most important tips for visiting Sri Lanka.
If you are visiting Sri Lanka you might want to have a look at the beautiful gems of Sri Lanka which made it into our top 10 travel photography images gallery.
Be sure to haggle, prices are relatively fluid in Sri Lanka. However, prices typically aren’t inflated as much as in other countries – such as in the Middle East – do not expect to pay rock bottom price for items. To get an idea of the most appropriate price for an item, you should look around and attain pricing information from various vendors instead of purchasing an item straight away. Please remember, it is a good idea to be fair in your bargaining, the item you are buying just might be the main source of the vendor’s livelihood.
Be aware of Poya day dates, and the impact they can have on your trip. Unsure as to what a Poya day is? We explain all you need to know in our Poya Day guide here.
Not all water in Sri Lanka is suitable for swimming. If you wish to take a swim in an area which is not clearly a
swimming hot spot it is best to either check with a local, or travel to location which is evidently suitable for swimming.
Make sure to abide by temple etiquette by being appropriately dressed with shoulders and legs covered (beach wear is not appropriate!) and removing shoes and headgear. Some temples have clearly signposted points at which you should remove your shoes; if this is not the case follow locals.
Hassling is common in Sri Lanka, this might be a Tuk-Tuk driver who is keen to take you to a specific guest house in order to get paid commission… or a street vendor insistent for you to buy from them. The key here is to be firm but calm, if you are clearly definite in your refusal they will refrain.
Ensure to pay the utmost attention when near to the roadside or crossing roads, anyone who has previously visited Sri Lanka can vouch for the fact that the roads are somewhat more chaotic than in the West. You should make absolutely certain that a road is clear before crossing.
Be sure to respect all religious items and relics, particularly Buddha images. An example of the outcome of acting inappropriately can be seen in this news story from 2012. It is also disrespectful to pose with your back to an image of the Buddha (facing away from), which can be quite a instinctively natural way to pose for a photo.
Many prices for tourist attractions will be displayed in USD, however you should pay with Sri Lankan Rupees.
Tipping is a very big part of life in Sri Lanka and anybody you decide to tip will be extremely grateful to you for doing so. Whether this be a tour guide, driver, waiter or anyone else who makes your holiday that little (or big) bit better.
Curiosity vs Privacy
Remember that Sri Lankan’s do not have the same ‘keep yourself to yourself and let others be’ mantra as in the West. Do not be surprised if people frequently ask questions such as ‘where are you going?’, ‘what’s your name?’ or ‘where are you from?’ or all three in quick succession! A brief but polite answer will suffice, this may get annoying over time… but there is much worse behavior than friendliness afterall!