A hidden gem of Asian culture, Sri Lanka packs a punch in a small space, with jaw-dropping ruins and
monuments, a diverse and exciting wildlife, stunning beaches, incredible food, and - best of all - low
You will find a range of hotels to suit any budget, from hostels and guesthouses for backpackers to
five-star beach resorts. Whichever way you choose to stay in Sri Lanka, excitement, adventure, and fun
are guaranteed, as well as a warm welcome from its famously friendly people.
1. Overview (At a glance)
Time Zone: GMT (+ 5.5)
Dialing code: +94
Language: Sinhala, English, and Tamil. Sinhala and Tamil are the languages of the two
main ethnic groups in Sri Lanka, and English is widely used for tourism and commercial
Currency: Sri Lankan rupee (LKR). There are ATMs in all major towns and cities,
however not all of them will take international cards. Credit cards are accepted in most mid-range and
all top-range hotels in Sri Lanka.
Plug Sockets: Sri Lanka uses plug socket types D and G. G (three squared prongs) is
the same used as UAE, however D (three round prongs) will not work with UAE devices: bring an
international adaptor just in case.
Getting Around: There is an extensive bus network connecting most cities and towns.
These are often crowded and rarely have air-conditioning: hiring a private bus may be more comfortable
than taking a public one.
Sri Lanka trains are an attraction to themselves. The network is expanding and these are often a more
comfortable alternative to buses. Some trains are slow, meaning they are an excellent way to enjoy the
scenery and chat to locals.
A popular option is to hire a driver for your stay, who can take you around the island. This is more
comfortable than public transport, and your driver will often be a great source of local knowledge and
2. When to Visit
Weather in Sri Lanka is more complex than would be expected for a country of its size. There are two
separate monsoon seasons in Sri Lanka: the Maha monsoon lasts from October to January, and affects the
East, North, and the Ancient cities, whilst the Yala monsoon (May to August) affects the South and West
Coasts as well as the hill country.
This means that the best season to visit the country depends on where you plan to spend more time: for
most tourists, this is December to March, where both the hill country and south and west coast beaches
are dry and pleasant.
April and Autumn (September to November) offer the best chance of getting good weather anywhere in the
country, but New Year celebrations in April mean public transport fills up beyond capacity - think
higher rates and excessively crowded trains.
Beaches Sri Lanka beaches are both stunning and incredibly varied, with different
vibes to suit everyone, whether you are looking for indulgent relaxation, lively parties, cool surfing,
or family-friendly fun.
Tea Plantations The rolling green hills of Sri Lanka tea plantations are one of the
most beautiful sights the country has to offer. Built by the British as a peaceful retreat from the
hills, Sri Lanka tea estates are world-famous and offer both a chance to unwind and a fascinating
insight into the production of one of the world most popular drinks.
Ruins Sri Lanka boasts eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, and some of Asia most
fascinating (and oldest) ruins. Visit Anuradhapura, one of the world oldest continuously inhabited
cities, for beautifully preserved ruins of Sri Lanka ancient civilization, or take the daunting hike up
Sigiriya Rock to observe an ancient palace perched 370m above ground.
Sri Lanka food is some of the most exciting in the world. Similar to the cuisine of their more famous
neighbor India, particularly the southern states, it is based on rice and curry, with flavors of coconut
Due to the island abundant coast, fish curry is a specialty, although other meats such as chicken and
mutton are used. Due to a large Buddhist population, meat-free curries based on pulses and vegetables
are also common.
A popular food across the country is kottu, consisting of chopped roti stir fried with a choice of
ingredients such as meats, cheese, or eggs. Another specialty are hoppers, thin pancakes cooked in the
shape of bowls and often holding savory fillings. Street food snacks, or short eats, are sold from carts
and vendors across cities and in rail stations. Examples include samosas, savory patties, fritters, and
Sri Lanka use of spices is world-famous, particularly cinnamon, which is native to the island.
Sri Lankan culture is famously rich and regionally diverse: the northern regions are heavily influenced
by South Indian Tamil culture, whilst the influence of Theravada Buddhism is felt most strongly in the
central and southern areas. Years of colonial occupation are also visible, with elements of Dutch,
Portuguese and British colonial influence being visible in towns and cities across the country,
particularly in its architecture.
The country has a rich history of traditional arts, particularly dance and music. Several forms of folk
dance can be found across the country, and the music is a fascinating blend of African, Buddhist, and
Portuguese influences. Sri Lanka also has a heritage of traditional handicrafts such as pottery, wood
carving, and Indonesian-inspired batik fabric dyeing.
An important cultural feature of Sri Lanka is the widespread use of and belief in Ayurveda, an ancient
practice of holistic medicine found across the Indian subcontinent. Ayurveda clinics and spas can be
found across the country, with visitor experiences ranging from an afternoon pampering session to
several weeks in a dedicated clinic.
Sri Lanka has a diverse and beautiful wildlife, from impressive land mammals such as elephants to a rich
sea life and over 400 species of birds. The best place to see this wildlife is in one of the country
excellent National Parks, which make up almost 15% of the country.
Sinharaja Forest Reserve is a beautifully preserved area of dense rainforest containing incredible
biodiversity, designated as both a Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Uda Walawe
National Park is one of the country main attractions, and is often compared to the national parks of
East Africa for its beauty and abundance of wildlife. Here, you can see buffalo, deer, crocodiles, and a
massive population of Asiatic elephants.
There is no shortage of incredible places to visit in Sri Lanka. As well as the beautiful beaches,
rolling plantation hills, and stunning ruins, several vibrant towns and cities are spread across the
Kandy is a tourist favorite, as both the cultural heart of the island for the Sinhalese population and a
pleasant city for strolling and enjoying local life. Another popular destination is Galle and its fort,
which features significant Dutch and Portuguese influences and has recently been reborn with trendy,
cool safes and shops. Negombo, a few miles north of capital Colombo, offers a more picturesque
alternative to the capital, as well as some of the country best and most luxurious resorts.
7. What to pack
Temperatures are warm year-long, so light, summer clothing is all that is needed. Sri Lanka is not
particularly conservative and most areas are used to tourists, however it is wise to dress quite
modestly, particularly when visiting religious sites or when travelling alone as a female.
Bring a jacket if you are going to be going into the hills, as hikes often take place in the morning and
can be a bit chilly.
7. Visa Regulations
UAE nationals, as well as nationals from most countries, require a visa to enter Sri Lanka. The price of
a single entry Visa is $20 and $45 AED for multiple entry; the application process is done online and
now includes an easy e-visa process.