Sri Lanka Tourist Info

Location & size

Sri Lanka is known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean and is a tear-drop shaped island off the south-east coast of India, lying just north of the Equator. It has an area of approximately 65,000 Its terrain is mostly low, flat to rolling plains with mountains in the central south interior. Its highest point is Pidurutalalagala at 2,524m with Adams Peak (Sri Pada) being 2,243m high. Its longest river is the Mahaweli River at 335km long. It has a huge range of topographic features making it one of the most scenic places in the world. Our Sri Lanka off the Beaten Track tour is a great way to discover the hidden delights of this country.

Sri Lanka’s history

There have been a wide range of influences over the island. It has a recorded history of over 2,500 years. In ancient times, it was known as Taprobane by the Ancient Greeks, Serendib by the Arabs, Ceilao by the Portuguese, which then became known as Ceylon by the British. It finally became the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka in 1948. (Lanka coming from the Sanskrit name, meaning “resplendent land” which was how the Island was described in the Indian Epic “Ramayana”). The earliest peoples were ancestors of the Wanniyala-Aetto people known as the Veddahs, descendants of which, live on the edge of the Knuckles Range in the centre of the Island. Our 8 Day Group Highlights Tour will take you on a unique journey to many of the historical and religious landmarks of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan population

The population is approximately 20 million made up as follows:-Sinhalese 74%, Tamil 8%, Muslim 7%, Burghers (descendants of Dutch & Portuguese) & Veddahs 1%.

Religions in Sri Lanka

Buddhists – 67% of the population, Hindus – 15% of the population, Christians – 8% of the population, Muslims – 8% of the population.

Languages spoken

Sinhala is the official language, Tamil is spoken by 18% of the population. English is used as a second language.

Currency used

1 Sri Lankan Rupee consists of 100 cents. 195 Rupees is worth approximately £1.00  (Jan 2015)

Your health & safety in Sri Lanka

Please do remember that Sri Lanka is a third world country and their health and safety is very different to that of the West. In particular:

  • Hotels are not legally obliged to install ‘toughened’ or safety glass in their windows and doors
  • Be aware of the height of balconies and their rails  –
  • At high viewpoints such as Sigiriya, World’s End etc, there are no guardrails at the edge (extreme caution is required)
  • Swimming pool safety – children to be accompanied at all times, do not drink alcohol when swimming and do not take glasses to the pool
  • Swimming on the beach –  as above and do be aware there are strong currents around Sri Lanka
  • Care crossing the road – the traffic is very unpredictable in Sri Lanka and buses and lorries will often not give way to pedestrians!


Terrorism – fact vs fiction (updated Jan 2015)

For more than 25 years, Sri Lanka had had a conflict with the LTTE who wanted a separate state for the Tamils in the North and East of the country.  A lot was written in the press in the UK as to how dangerous it was to travel to Sri Lanka, though it should be remembered, that throughout the conflict, not one single tourist was injured or killed. In May 2009, the LTTE were overthrown and peace has returned to the whole island. Sri Lanka is safer now than it has ever been.

What to wear in Sri Lanka

Light cotton or linen clothing. It can be chilly in the hill country at night,
so a sweater/microfleece is recommended. Shoulders and knees must be covered to enter temples.
Would suggest you take socks to wear when entering temples as the ground can be very hot!

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Public Holidays in 2019
15 Jan TueTamil Thai Pongal Day
20 Jan SunDuruthu Full Moon Poya Day
4 Feb MonNational Day
19 Feb TueNavam Full Moon Poya Day
4 Mar MonMahasivarathri Day
20 Mar WedMadin Full Moon Poya Day
13 Apr SatDay Prior to Sinhala and Tamil New Year Day
14 Apr SunSinhala & Tamil New Year Day
19 Apr FriBak Full Moon Poya Day
1 May WenMay Day
18 May SatVesak Full Moon Poya Day
19 May SunDay following Vesak Full Moon Poya Day
5 Jun WedId Ul-Fitr
12 Jun SunPoson Full Moon Poya Day
16 Jul TueEsala Full Moon Poya Day
12 Aug MonId Ul-Alha
14 Aug WenNikini Full Moon Poya Day
13 Sep FriBinara Full Moon Poya Day
13 Oct SunVap Full Moon Poya Day
27 OCt SunDeepavali
10 Nov SunMilad un-Nabi
12 Nov TueIll Full Moon Poya Day
11 Dec WedUnduvap Full Moon Poya Day
25 Dec WenChristmas Day
Bank opening times
Banks are generally open 9am to 3pm Mon-Fri. 24hr facilities at airport.  All banks are shut at weekends and public holidays.  ATMs accepting Visa and Mastercard are widely available in cities and towns.
Credit card acceptability
Most international credit cards are accepted at major establishments including almost all major hotels.
Driving in Sri Lanka
Vehicles keep to the left. An international driving licence is required. A local driving licence is also required which can be obtained from the AA in Colombo.
Electricity on the Island
230/240 volts AC. Small 3 pin round plugs are used as well as 2 pin plugs.

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Sri Lanka ranked top country
for travel in 2019