Sri Lanka Travel Advice & Tips
If I see anything of interest on the Tour, can we stop?
Do not hesitate to ask your driver to stop if you see anything of interest such as wildlife or perhaps to sample the local fruits such as King Coconut.
Are Sri Lankans friendly?
Never miss an opportunity to take a village walk in Sri Lanka. You will be amazed at the warm hospitality of the locals.
Is the water safe to drink?
As with most foreign countries, it just isn’t safe to drink the water (we just aren’t acclimatised to their bugs!). Bottled mineral water is readily available. If you are on tour, you can always ask your driver to stop at local shops to buy this, as this is a cheaper option than buying it at the hotels. We would strongly recommend you even your brush your teeth with bottled water.
If you are eating at anywhere other than your hotel, we would recommend you remove the ice from your drinks and do not eat salad or fruit that hasn’t been peeled (they may well have been washed in local tap water).
Can I take photographs of anything in Sri Lanka?
Ask permission before taking photographs of people and respect their wishes if they refuse. Be sensitive to the fact that a tip may sometimes be expected. You are not allowed to have your picture taken with your back to a statue of Lord Buddha – it is ok to stand sideways on. It is an offence to disrespect Lord Buddha in any way and there can be large penalties for doing so.
Do you have any advice for other forms of transport in Sri Lanka?
If you want to use a tuk-tuk –a 3 wheeled rickshaw (an experience not to be missed), it is better to check at the hotel first for an indication of what you should pay and then negotiate a price before you begin your journey. Sri Lankan buses offer a very cheap form of transport but can be very crowded. Local trains offer a different experience still. The route from Nuwara Eliya to Ella offers amazing views and is one of the best train journeys in the country.
What foods should I try?
The food in Sri Lanka is totally delicious. If you order “rice and curry” here, there will usually be a big pile of rice (their staple food) but also up to 10 varying curries of mainly vegetables and fish/seafood so it is a very healthy diet. Whilst you will recognise some of the vegetables – potato, aubergine, and dhal, there will be some that you do not recognise such as pineapple, green banana and jackfruit but will be as delicious. The seafood, particularly, the prawns, crabs and lobster are exquisite. Having had them in Sri Lanka, you will never want them back at home. Coconut milk, dried fish, lemon grass and cashew nuts predominate with lots of spice.
Notable specialities are:-
Hoppers; a bowl shaped pancake often eaten with curry at breakfast or as an evening snack
String Hoppers; little balls of steamed noodles often eaten with curry at breakfast or lunch in place of rice
Pittu; steamed rice and coconut often in a cylindrical shape
Lamprais; rice and accompaniments served in plantain leaves (derived from the Dutch)
Rotty; a fine doughy pancake
Kotthu Rotty; rotty chopped up and stir-fried with vegetables and meat- a very delicious dish. The noise of the chopping on the hot-plate is very distinctive!
Kiribath; rice cooked in coconut milk (often served at weddings or for breakfast)
Desserts include: -
Buffalo curd; eaten with kitul (a sweet syrup from the Kitul Palm)
Wattalappam; an egg pudding rather like crème caramel
Sri Lanka has a bewildering variety of delectable fruits:-
Pineapples, mangoes, avocados, coconuts, 6 different varieties of banana, papaya, jackfruit (the world’s largest fruit), durian, rambutan, mangosteen, wood apple and gulsambilla to name but a few. There is also a wonderful selection of snacks, called Short Eats which are:- Cutlets, Patties, and a variety of buns filled with curry fillings.
Do I need to take off my shoes at temples? Do I need to do anything else?
Yes, you must take off your shoes. It may be useful to take a pair of socks with you – the ground can be very hot when you are walking round places like Polonnaruwa with bare feet. You also need to have your shoulders and knees covered - please do make sure your shorts/skirt go well below your knees otherwise you may not be let in.
Do I need to remove my hat in Temples?
All visitors to Buddhist and Hindu temples are expected to be have their heads uncovered.
Can I buy Sun Protection cream easily?
It is better to take your own supply of sun protection cream (and Aftersun cream) with you as many brands and higher protection levels are not available in Sri Lanka.
Are there any shopping opportunities?
Sri Lanka is noted for its beautiful fabrics such as silk and batik, wood carvings, spices and gemstones, most particularly, sapphires with colours ranging from cornflower blue (which Sri Lanka is most famous for) to pink, yellow and white. However, it is not the policy of The Unique Travel Company to take you to lots of different shops but we can arrange for you to visit 4 shops for you to view the above items. We do not receive any commission for taking you to these shops or for any purchases that you make.
How much do I tip?
Tipping is an integral part of Sri Lankan life. The following is a guide:-
For a short service such a porter or the man that looks after your shoes at the temple; about 75-100 rps
A Waiter at a meal; about 100 to 150 rps
Safari; about 1000 rps
Site guides; about 500 to 1000 rps
Your driver/guide; between 10,000 and 15,000rps for 10 days –this is best paid at the end of your tour
Obviously, it is totally up to you what you pay and you may feel that they may either deserve more or less than the above, dependent on the level of service you have received.
Are there any things I should not do?
Avoid giving money to beggars, especially children (this will encourage more to beg if it is seen as being lucrative). Smoking in enclosed public places is banned in Sri Lanka. Topless or nude swimming is banned in Sri Lanka.