Sri Lanka Travel Guide
For a perfect holiday end-to-end, here’s our Sri Lanka travel guide.
Passports and Visa
Visas for Sri Lanka can be obtained on arrival at the airport, but we advise guests to apply for visas online to avoid delays or long waiting times at the airport. The visa is initially limited to 30 days from the date of arrival, although it may be extended for up to six months. Apply here. You should get the visa confirmation within a couple of days. Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry to Sri Lanka.
Complimentary airport transfers are available for all Talalla House guests (more information here LINK). If you are also doing a round trip (find inspiration here) or day trips (20 suggestions here), we suggest using an English speaking private chauffeur who knows the country’s remarkable history and will be keen to help you get the most from your tour. A private driver is often cheaper than renting a car. You can learn a great deal about everyday life whilst on the road, take advantage of restaurant suggestions, and so on. See Talalla House driver services here. All vehicles are air-conditioned saloon cars for up to four people or minivans for groups of friends or families.
For short distance travels, you might opt for a Tuk Tuk. The Sri Lankan three-wheeler is a common, cheap way of transport and many foreigners find the ride through the traffic and countryside to be an extraordinary experience.
The currency in Sri Lanka is the Sri Lankan rupee (LKR). For the latest conversion rates, look at oanda.com. The rupee is made up of 100 cents. There are coins worth 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents; and 1, 2 and 5 rupees; and notes worth 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000, and 5000 rupees. Most banks are open Monday to Friday from 9am to 3pm. The bank at Colombo airport is open 24 hours and there are exchange booths in the airport where you can change your money immediately on arrival. ATMs are available in most larger towns. Talalla House accepts payment in Euro, USD, or LKR, but not credit cards. You will find an ATM just 15 minutes from the house.
There is no bad season in Sri Lanka. It’s a tropical climate with plenty of warm weather and sunshine. The south-western monsoon brings rain to the south-west of Sri Lanka between May and September, while the dry season in this region runs from December to March. In the north and eastern coastal regions, the monsoon brings wind and rain between October and January. See more details in our weather section.
Sri Lanka is overall a very safe destination. A couple of things are worth keeping in mind though. It isn’t recommended to drink tap water and mosquitos are also a risk in certain areas as they might transmit diseases. When in those areas, and when mosquitos are out, apply repellent to ensure that you don’t get stung. We recommend checking with your doctor to find out what vaccinations are recommended.
Security & Safety
It is very safe to travel to any part of the island, and Sri Lankans are extremely helpful and respectful toward travelers. Guests are encouraged to engage with the local communities and experience the local culture. Theft is rare in Sri Lanka, but like any other developing country, it is advisable not to tempt locals by leaving valuables in plain sight. Remember, an expensive watch, a smartphone, or a laptop equal one year’s salary in some places. We recommend using the safety boxes available in all rooms.
The countryside of Sri Lanka is fairly conservative and traditional so dress accordingly, especially when visiting religious sites.
Locals do expect a tip, but it is not compulsory. In restaurants, 10% of the total bill is considered a reasonable tip. At Talalla House, a 10% service charge is added to your bill and goes directly to staff. You are more than welcome to tip staff if you are satisfied with their services.
Local Sim Cards
Sri Lanka has great 3G coverage; in Talalla we even have 4G. This means fast and cheap mobile internet. You can purchase local SIM cards at the arrival lounge of the airport. We recommend Dialog, but there are two or more service providers to choose from. The SIM cards are easily topped up from local shops throughout the island. At Talalla House we offer WI-FI free of charge, but having a local SIM enables you to keep in touch with other members of your group when not at the house.
Sinhala is spoken by the majority Buddhist population. Tamil is spoken in the North, East, and some areas around Colombo. English is widely spoken and place names and signboards are mostly in Sinhala and English.
The island is home to some 20 million people. The majority Sinhalese group account for 75%; Sri Lanka Tamil, 11.%; Moor, 9%; and Indian Tamil, around 4%. The Talalla area is almost entirely Sinhalese and Buddhist.
Food & Drink
You will find a huge variety of dishes across Sri Lanka. Rice and curry – sometimes hot but usually quite mild in hotel restaurants – are the staple. The term “curry” includes an enormous variety of subtle flavours. Coriander, chillies, mustard, cumin, pepper, cinnamon, and garlic are just some of the common ingredients. Hoppers, a snack unique to Sri Lanka, are similar to a pancake served with egg or honey and yoghurt. The country has a wide variety of tropical fruit throughout the year. Pineapples, papayas, and bananas are particularly good. Learn more about the food in Sri Lanka.
From Europe, flight time is between 11½ to 15 hours, depending on the layover. Emirates, Etihad , Qatar Airways, and Turkish Airlines have all started flying to Colombo via hubs in the Middle East, at very competitive prices.
International dialing code: +94
Electricity: 220-240 V
Driving: left hand side