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FAQ

Where is Sri Lanka located?
The tear-drop shaped island of Sri Lanka is located in the Asian continent, in the Indian Ocean. It is just below the southern tip of India, to the south west of the Bay of Bengal and to the south east of the Arabian Sea. It is separated from India by the Palk Strait, a 50 kilometre stretch of ocean. Sri Lanka lies 880 kilometres north of the equator, between 5°55' and 9°55' north latitudes and between 79°42' and 81°52' eastern longitudes.


What are Sri Lankan (ETA) Tourist Visa Requirements?

As of the first day of 2012, tourists will need an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) for a stay of up to 30 days in the country. It is issued online, and original passports or other documents are not required for processing. More information can be found on http://www.travisa.com/SriLanka/Srilanka-eta.htm


What are the languages spoken in Sri Lanka?

Sinhalese and Tamil are the most commonly spoken languages in Sri Lanka. In the main cities, English is widely spoken as well. As most hotels aim at catering to foreign tourists, almost all hotel staff will be able to speak English, and many hotels will also have staff members who are able to speak German, French, Russian and other languages.


What is the currency used In Sri Lanka?

The currency used in Sri Lanka is the Sri Lankan rupee, and a decimal currency system is used. One Sri Lankan rupee consists of 100 Sri Lanka cents and the currency notes comprise of Rs. 10/-, Rs. 20/-, Rs. 50/- Rs. 100/- , Rs. 500/-, Rs. 1000, Rs. 2000/- and Rs. 5000/- notes. Commonly used coins are one rupee, two rupees, five rupees and ten rupees.


What should I buy in Sri Lanka?

Due to the conversion rate between the Sri Lankan rupee and most foreign currencies, tourists are usually able to buy high quality items at a very low rate. Sri Lanka is also an excellent shopping destination for tourists who wish to buy clothes, household items, tea and spices. However, tourists should be aware that many clothes with fake designer labels such as Armani, Gucci, and Tommy Hilfiger are sold on pavement stalls at prices which are a fraction of the real price. It is best to avoid these low quality products that are not the original product, but have been produced by unlicensed manufacturers. Tourists should also take great care when purchasing gems and jewels and make sure that they are buying high quality items.

It is also worthwhile to purchase items unique to a specific area when travelling out of Colombo. For example, Galle is famous for its traditional hand-made lace, Veveldeniya is famous for its handwoven reed ware such as reed baskets and Ambalagoda is famous for its traditional masks. Other goods that are worth buying are tea, spices, hand-looms, carvings and gems such as moonstones.


What credit cards are accepted?
Reputed credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard are accepted by most hotels and shops.


Where can I purchase duty-free products?
A wide array of handicrafts, jewellery, perfumes, electronic items, and wines & spirits are available at duty-free shops at the transit & departure lounge of the Bandaranaike International Airport. Local or national taxes are not applied on the items sold at these shops. However, only those who possess an entry and departure permit may purchase these goods.


What are the prohibited export and import items?

Amongst the prohibited item are ivory, corals, living plants, antiques, reptiles and live animals. A permit is required for precious stones.


What are the best seasons for beaches?
November to April are the best months to visit the South West coast and since the monsoon falls from May to October and December to March, it is best to visit the North West during the months of May to October. There are also 2 inter monsoon periods in SL from March to Mid may and from October to November.


Do I need vaccinations before I come to Sri Lanka?
Travellers are required to have the standard vaccinations in place. Cholera immunization is also suggested. Antimalarial tablets, as prescribed by your doctor, should be started about a week before your planned arrival in the island and continued at least two weeks after your departure from the country. However, malaria is prevalent only in some areas of the country, but precautionary measures are always advised. Other mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue are very common in Sri Lanka so mosquito repellents are always a handy item to have in your luggage. A quite effective natural mosquito repellent, which is widely and easily available from local pharmacies and supermarkets, is citronella oil.


What are the telephone/mobile services offered to me in Sri Lanka?

Most major hotels are equipped with telephones that allow direct international dialling facilities, though their rates for local and international calls are relatively high. A cheaper alternative would be to seek the services of a 'communication centre' which can be found almost anywhere in the island. They also offer fax and photocopy services.


What transport facilities are available in SL?
There are many modes of transport that tourists could use to get around the island.

Though tour packages usually include transfers from the airport to the hotel, plenty of taxis are available for independent travellers who seek transport to their hotel. Numerous metered taxi services operate in Colombo and other major cities and can be booked by calling their telephone numbers. They may operate cars, vans, or minivans which are generally more reliable and comfortable than trishaws.

However trishaws, or 'tuk tuks' are probably the most convenient way to make short journeys around the island, and can be found all over the country. Tourists should be aware that some trishaw drivers try to trick foreigners with regard to the fare, so it is best to bargain and to decide on the fare before the journey starts. A rough estimate of the cost is around Rs. 50 for the first kilometre and around Rs. 30 for every additional kilometre. For tourists who do not like to bargain, several metered taxis are available around the country. These trishaws are tourist friendly and metered to ensure that travellers are aware of the price being paid. Contact details can be found on the Useful Telephone Numbers page

Public buses are probably the cheapest way of getting around the country, but tourists may find travelling by bus highly uncomfortable since buses tend to get overcrowded and make frequent stops. Sri Lanka's railway system also charges low fares, but the downside to train travel include overcrowded carriages, unless a 2nd class seat is booked prior to the journey.

However, the most comfortable way of getting around Sri Lanka is probably by using a chauffeur- driven car.


What are the business hours in Sri Lanka?

All government offices and most private sector organisations operate five days of the week, from Monday to Friday. The opening and closing hours differ, but are generally in the range of 8.30-9.30am to 4.30-5.30pm. Some private sector organisations work a half-day on Saturday. Banks are open Monday to Friday from 9.00-9.30am to 5.00-5.30pm; some branches of some banks may be open on Saturday too, if only till mid-afternoon. Major post offices are generally open from Monday to Saturday and for longer hours (typically around 7.00am-8.00pm). Almost all shops and banks close on public holidays. Most shops, especially in Colombo, are also closed on Sunday. Major supermarkets in the city, such as Keells and Cargills, have branches all over the country. They are kept open until about 8.00 pm or even later everyday. They close only on certain public holidays. In smaller towns, the shopping hours depend on the shopkeepers; shops may be open or closed depending on the whims and fancies of the owner.


How does the postal service in Sri Lanka work?
Despite being rather cheap, the postal service is not reliable and it is best to register urgent post. When sending airmail letters with stamps, it is best to make sure that they are franked in your presence. All overseas packages should be stamped with a green Customs label stating the contents and their value.

Post offices in the country work from 7.00am to 5.00/6.00pm on Monday-Friday and from 9.00am to 6.00pm on Saturday. Mail is delivered around the country every day except on Sundays and public holidays. The simplest way to mail anything is through your hotel, or you can do it yourself through a postal agency. There are also many reliable domestic and international courier services, including the following:

DHL
130 Glennie Street, Colombo 2 / Tel.: 011 479 8600

TNT
315 Vauxhall Street, Colombo 2 / Tel.: 011 230 8444

Fed Ex
300 Galle Road, Colombo 3 / Tel.: 011 452 2222


What is the standard voltage used in Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka uses 230-240 volts, 50 cycles, alternating current. A large part of the island's electricity is generated through hydro reservoirs so power cuts are witnessed sometimes during long periods of drought although most hotels run on generators at such times. Rural and remote areas may not have access to generators and may therefore have to endure such power cuts. Most power sockets are three-pronged, but adaptors are cheap and readily available from most hardware stores. If you have a laptop computer with you, it is better to bring your own stabiliser as electricity fluctuations are rather common even in the main cities. A laptop plug and adaptor are also additional equipment that you may find handy.


Why is Sri Lanka so special?
Sri Lanka is a country with a rich and diverse history with over 2,500 years of continuous written history, and with the pre-history of the country dating back to over 125,000 years. Tourist attractions range from ancient Buddhist statues and monasteries, Hindu temples, relics of ancient dynasties and civilizations, wildlife sanctuaries, underwater ecosystems and botanical gardens and parks. With pristine sandy beaches, stunning waterfalls, endless mountain ranges and temperate rainforests, Sri Lanka is truly one of the most beautiful places in the world.