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Olanka Travels - Indulge in Leisure that's Truely Sri Lankan

1 Visas & Customs Formalities

  • Do I need a visa to arrive in Sri Lanka?

    Yes, you need a visa to arrive in Sri Lanka. Apart from that, if you're planning a short visit to Sri Lanka, you're required to obtain Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) before your arrival.

  • What is an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) ?

    The Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) is an official authorization for a Short Visit to Sri Lanka issued via an online system. You need ETA if you wish to visit Sri Lanka as a Tourist, on Business or on Transit. No passport copies, documents or photographs are required to obtain ETA.

  • Am I required to get an ETA?

    It's necessary for citizens of all countries except for those of The Republic of Singapore and of The Republic of Maldives to get an ETA to visit Sri Lanka.

  • How much will I be charged for the ETA?

    The non-refundable ETA processing charge for a Tourist visa with Double Entry for 30 days for citizens of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries amounts to US $15. For those from all other countries, it will cost US $30.

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2 Language & Communication

  • Which Language(s) will people understand / communicate?

    While Sinhala and Tamil are the official & most widely spoken languages in the country, English is a link language which is generally understood by most people. English is spoken at all hotels, major restaurants and shops. Road signs are mostly written both in Sinhalese & English throughout the

  • How is the state of telephone facilities?

    Telephone facilities are widely available all over the country. There're telephone kiosks which accept coins. But the clarity could be low & talk time could be brief. Apart from them, there're communication centers found throughout the country that provide IDD facilities as well as Internet facilities.

  • What mobile technology is supported in Sri Lanka?

    All mobile operators support the GSM technology on GSM 900 / 1800 bands. WAP & GPRS is extensively supported. 3G and wireless broadband is available in Colombo. Wi-Fi zones are found in selected spots in major towns.

  • What is the country code and how do I dial in?

    Dialing in, Sri Lanka's country code is 94. To ring a number in Colombo, for instance, dial ++94112XXXXXX. If it's a mobile number that you want to call, dial it after the country code. If it's a Mobitel number, for example it should go like ++9471XXXXXXX.

  • Can I buy a local mobile connection while holidaying?

    Yes. If you have a 'dual band' & unlocked phone, you can choose a local SIM and top up cards (recharge cards) from several mobile operators, namely, Dialog, Mobitel, Etisalat, Hutch and Airtel. Dialog has a counter at Katunayake Airport where you can buy a connection for Rs. 1500/=

  • How do I dial out / within the country?

    Dialing out, you need to dial '00'and the relevant country code before the number. Dialing within the country, inside a particular district, say, Colombo, you don't have to dial its area code (for example, just dial 2XXXXXX) But, for an outstation call, you can't do without the area codes.

  • Can I access the Internet for free?

    Most hotels provide internet facilities. Internet cafes with ADSL connection are found in most towns. Connections in remote towns will be slow. The average cost of surfing in a Cyber Cafe is about Euro 0.50 per hour. Many 5 star and some boutique hotels provide free WiFi facilities to guests.

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3 Health & Safety

  • Is it safe to travel to Sri Lanka?

    Yes. The country is at peace. Tourists visit Sri Lanka in record numbers and feel the pervading sense of peace, safety and stability as they relish the pristine glory of the small island nation. Where we conduct our tours, we also ensure the safety and security of our tourists.

  • What safety precautions I should necessarily take when travelling?

    According to accepted norms in travelling, you should put all your valuables like money, passport, tickets, jewels etc in the hotel safe deposit locker. As the international custom goes, hotels aren't responsible for objects lost in the room. Keep a note of your Travelers' Cheque numbers separately from Travelers' Cheques.

  • What health issues must I be concerned with?

    Sri Lanka boasts one of the most reliable healthcare systems in the developing world. But emergency medical facilities may not be widely available outside of the main cities. Those travelling from Africa or Latin America must have a valid certificate of vaccination for Yellow fever and Meningitis before the arrival.

  • How to keep away mosquitoes?

    Most hotels will provide you with a plug-in mosquito repellent which may usually be switched on during turn down. You can purchase the mats (small repellent tablet inserted to the plug-in unit), the burning coils or citronella candles from most local supermarkets. Apply some repellent lotion when dining outdoors, etc.

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4 Food & Lodging

  • What food will I get to eat?

    While rice is the staple diet of most Sri Lankans, there're plenty of fresh vegetable and fruit available throughout the country. Also, there is a fabulous variety of fish along with several types of red meat. Most coastal towns have excellent seafood including prawns & delicious crab.

  • Can I have international food in Sri Lanka?

    All the major restaurants in the country offer all kinds of international food & beverage.

  • Is Sri Lankan food tasty?

    Yes. Sri Lankan food, The dishes is spicy and tasty but can be a little too piquant for the foreign palates. It's worth trying nevertheless. In hotels you'll be served food which is a little toned down due to the sensitive stomachs of most tourists.

  • Which & which fruit will I get to savour?

    Sri Lanka, being a tropical country, is endowed with a tantalizing variety of fruit that includes Mango and Banana, Rambutan, Pineapple, Mangosteen, Papaya , Woodapple, Melon, Passion fruit, Guava, etc., among many others. These are available for purchase on both Supermarkets and roadside fruit stalls for relatively low prices.

  • Can I get vegetarian food?

    Star hotels and major restaurants sport a 'vegetarian section' in the menu. The smaller local 'rice and curry' restaurants may claim the food is vegetarian, but it often includes a serving of fried fish or sprats (anchovies). However, the 'South Indian' vegetarian restaurants are purely vegetarian.

  • Can I get 'Halal' food?

    'Halal' food isn't much common in major hotels. The Galadari and Holiday Inn in Colombo serve halal food as does the Confifi group of hotels (Eden, Riverina & Club Palm Garden). Apart from the Halal restaurants in Colombo and Kandy, they're hardly elsewhere. The best alternative seems to be seafood.

  • What sort of food can I hope to have in an 'Ayurveda Resort'?

    The food is exclusively based on Sri Lankan rice and curry menu. The curries are mostly Sri Lankan vegetables; chicken and fish may be included.

  • What sorts of drinks / beverages can I have?

    First, you can have Ceylon Tea which hailed as the world's best type of tea. If you're a coffee fan, local coffee may be up to your taste, if a little strong. If you long for a good espresso, you may get it while in Colombo but not elsewhere.

  • What about soft drinks & fruit juice?

    There's plenty of fresh fruit juice available both in major restaurants and smaller ones. It's as much delectable as healthy. Popular international soft drinks are found even in the small village boutiques. Thambili or King Coconut is a refreshing sweet, clean and cheap natural drink you'll find by the wayside.

  • How about beer & liquor?

    Sri Lanka has its own variety of local beer. Also, two variations of local liquor exist, ie.Toddy & Arrack. Toddy is a natural intoxicating drink, tapped from the palm trees. Fermented and refined toddy becomes Arrack. Imported beer and foreign liquors cost almost the same as in most western countries.

  • What other precautions should I take when choosing drinks?

    We advise against drinking tap water unless it is purified. We recommend you to use Bottled water in containers with serrated seal, but not tops or corks. Most hotel rooms have boiled water in thermos flasks, which is safe to drink.

  • Is it true that liquor is not served on Full Moon days?

    True. Full Moon days (known as Poya days), are of religious significance to Buddhists and devoted to prayer and meditation. Out of respect for Buddhist religious rites, abstinence is practiced. The government has decreed that all liquor shops and meat shops & entertainment centres remain closed on Poya days .

  • Can I smoke in public places?

    No. Smoking and having liquor in public areas is banned in Sri Lanka. The smoking ban is also in effect at enclosed public places such as restaurants and social clubs.

  • What type of accommodation can I expect?

    We offer a wide range of accommodation from private boutique hotels, villas, eco lodge and tents. But, some of our nature & adventure trips involve travelling to remote or undeveloped outstation destinations where hotel accommodation of International tourist standard may not exist & facilities are relatively poor.

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5 Money & Banking

  • What currency is used in Sri Lanka?

    The country's currency is Sri Lankan Rupee and is available in a range of denominations, namely, Rs. 10, Rs.20, Rs. 50, Rs. 100, Rs.200, Rs. 500, Rs. 1000, Rs. 2000 & Rs. 5000. For low price purchases, it's convenient to have coins and bills of lower denominations on hand.

  • Can I pay in Sri Lankan Rupees to Hotels & other tourism establishments?

    Yes, you can. They'll quote the price in US Dollars or Euros and collect the payment in Sri Lankan Rupees at the existing exchange rate.

  • Is Rupee the only currency used, or is the US$/ Euro also commonly used?

    The Rupee is the only currency used at most of the local outlets. However, major tourist hotels and other tourism establishments accept USD and Euro, etc. So, it's advisable to have it and change on hand as and when required.

  • What's the best currency to bring to Sri Lanka?

    It depends on your primary account currency. If your account is in Kuwait Dinar, bring that (or you'll lose on converting to a third currency). You can convert the currency to Rupees on arrival at the airport.

  • What if my primary currency is a non-freely convertible currency?

    In this case, it's better to bring freely exchanged international currencies like USD or Euro. You will find many currency exchange counters at the arrival lounge (after walking past baggage clearance and customs). Also, convert some of your money into local currency for tipping, shopping and other diverse expenses.

  • Where else can I convert my money to local currency?

    The exchange of foreign currency is only allowed at banks, money changes and Hotels. You can easily encash Travelers Cheques at any major bank. Thomas Cook and Visa are the most widely accepted.

  • How about the bank fees for foreign currency exchange?

    Banks take 0.5% handling fee and generally a commission, which differs from bank to bank. We recommend you to convert only that amount of money you need for spending.

  • How much of money can I bring into the country?

    You can bring any amount of money in foreign currencies into Sri Lanka. It could be in TCs, Bank drafts or currency notes. But, if the total is more than US $15,000 (or its equivalent in Euro or some other currency) that sum must be declared to Sri Lanka Customs.

  • How much of money can I take out of the country?

    If you intend to take out from Sri Lanka a sum exceeding US $5000(or its equivalent in Euro or some other currency) in currency notes (out of the money brought in), you must declare the total amount brought in, even if it's less than US$ 15,000.

  • What're requirements for re-exchanging?

    Please keep with you whatever receipts of exchange (including ATM receipts) for monies declared. This will be useful when re-exchanging to foreign currency and taking your money back out of the country.

  • Where can I re-exchange?

    The Re-Exchange (purchase of foreign currency) can only take place on your departure at the Bank counters at the airport. Remember that they will only accept bank receipts (not Money Changer receipts).

  • Are credit cards accepted everywhere?

    Credit Cards are extensively used and accepted by local establishments (even in small towns). The most popular card types are Visa and MasterCard, with Amex being used to a lesser extent. It'd be a convenient option to use your Credit Card (valid for international use) whenever possible.

  • Are credit card charges made in foreign currency?

    No, they aren't. Due to exchange regulations in the country, local establishments will determine your payments by applying the exchange rate prevailing at the date of payment.

  • Are ATM machines available throughout the country and do they issue cash for my debit/ credit card?

    ATMs are located in most of the cities. You're allowed to take cash against Visa / Mastercard in most ATMs. However, as different banks accept different cards, we recommend you to ensure that your card is valid for use in Sri Lanka by contacting your bank. Watch out for the Maestro or Cirrus logo!

  • Why don't Sri Lankan banks have IBAN account numbers?

    Instead of International Bank Account Numbers (IBAN), Sri Lanka like most other Asian countries, USA and Australia use the current Bank Identifier Code system (BIC or SWIFT code) along with the BBAN (Basic Bank Account Number).

  • What are the business hours and days?

    Institution Hours Open Days Closed
    Banks 09:00 - 15:00 Mon - Fri (some open Sat morning) Sundays, Poya Days*
    Government Offices 09:30 - 17:00 Mon - Fri (some open Sat morning) Sundays, Poya Days
    Shops 10:00 - 19:00 Mon - Fri (most open Sat morning) (Some open Sun morning), Poya Days
    Post Offices 10:00 - 17:00 Mon - Fri (Sat morning Sundays, Poya Days

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6 Clothes & Accessories

  • What type of clothes should I pack?

    Lightweight, light coloured cotton clothes are ideal for the warm climes of a tropical country like Sri Lanka. We'd like to recommend that you pack some warm clothes if you are planning to visit the hilly regions, where the evenings tend to get chilly.

  • Is there any particular dress code that I'm supposed to follow?

    It's advisable to bring one set of Evening wear as larger hotels insist on 'long attire' for men during dinner (no shorts and no sandals). Ladies could come in dresses, skirts or long shorts, but not in any beach / swimwear.

  • How should I be dressed if I visit a Buddhist or Hindu Temple?

    You should take off your shoes and hat when entering a Buddhist or Hindu temple. If you're carrying an umbrella, unfurl it. Your legs & shoulders should be covered; never enter a temple in beach wear (i.e. shorts or singlet).

  • Can you recommend a rough pack-list?

    Try getting a sarong. It's very light, comfortable and packs down to almost nothing; also it suits all purposes and occasions, including the temple etiquette.

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7 Travelling & Photography

  • When is the best time to travel?

    The best & driest seasons are from December to March on the West & South Coasts and in the hill country, and from May to September in the East Coast.

  • How about the rainy seasons?

    Sri Lanka experiences two monsoons; the rainy season in the East coast is the dry season in the south west coast & vice versa. This makes Sri Lanka a year around destination, and there is always a 'right' season somewhere in the island.

  • What if I travel out of season?

    Out of season travel has its own benefits; while the big crowds go away, most airfares & accommodation prices too go down, with many special offers thrown in. On the coast the average temperature remains around 27°C. The temperature rapidly falls as the altitude gets higher & higher.

  • What are the do's and don'ts of local photography?

    Ask permission before taking photographs of people and respect their decision if they refuse. Minority groups in particular are often unhappy to be photographed. If photos are taken, kindly send back copies (through our tour leaders or direct to the village) so that the people receive copies.

  • What are the do's and don'ts of local photography?

    Ask permission before taking photographs of people and respect their decision if they refuse. Minority groups in particular are often unhappy to be photographed. If photos are taken, kindly send back copies (through our tour leaders or direct to the village) so that the people receive copies.

  • How about the use of video cameras?

    Where as we encourage travelers to pack their video cameras, there are some places where we do not allow you to film. In small villages, at home-stays or trekking, we do not permit the use of videos as local people have requested this and we ask for courtesy and discretion with still cameras.

  • Can I photographs inside temples and monasteries?

    Ask permission before taking pictures either of people or inside temples or other sacred places. For example, it is forbidden to take photographs inside the cave temple complex of Dambulla. Never use flash on murals inside temples and other places; it can cause damage them.

  • Are there any other special concerns I should be aware of?

    You aren't allowed to use flash at the frescoes at Sigiriya, but where there is no ban, please behave responsibly. Never pose beside or in front of a Buddha statue (i.e. with your back to the statue). Such conduct is considered extremely disrespectful. Don't photograph a monk without asking permission.

  • Should I pay for taking photographs of people or places?

    Tourists are sometimes asked for money for taking photos. Always ask before you photograph whether payment is expected. Our accompanying representatives will be able to guide you on this

  • Are there any places I should avoid photographing for military reasons?

    Never take photos of dams, airports, roadblocks or anything to do with the military. Don't shoot with cameras around Colombo Fort.

  • Can I process my digital photos in Sri Lanka?

    There are many franchised photo shops such as Kodak & Fuji with advanced digital imaging services in major towns. Almost all types of digital data storage devices are accepted. It's always advisable to keep a backup of your pictures before handing it over for processing.

  • Are there other options to process my digital photos?

    It's always advisable to bring a USB cord (camera to PC) so you transfer the pictures to a PC. Internet cafés are ideal for this. Simply copy the pictures to the PC and then burn them into a CD. This is much cheaper and can keep your memory cards empty.

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8 Power & Energy

  • What's the voltage type in Sri Lanka?

    The voltage is Sri Lanka is 220 / 240 volts.

  • What type of plug/s can I use?

    Sri Lankan hotels have two types of plug bases; either the UK (Type G) or India (Type D).
    *Do not confuse with the larger 15 Amp plug which is used for 'heavy duty' appliances like air-conditioners, and microwave ovens.

    Plug type Pins Amps Plug base compatibility
    UK (Type G) 3 rectangular pins 13 Amps Accepts Type C (by tricking Earth socket). Need an adapter to accept Type D
    Euro plug (Type C) 2 round pins 5 Amps Compatible with Type G and Type D (by tricking Earth socket)
    India (Type D) 3 round pins* 5 Amps Accepts Type C (by tricking Earth socket). Need an adapter to accept Type G

  • Are there any other special concerns?

    Strictly avoid inserting a 110V – 120V appliance (E.g. hairdryer) into a Sri Lankan 240V plug base; you might find it catching fire in your hands!

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9 Shopping & Entertainment

  • What should I specially shop for?

    Sri Lanka has a wide variety of splendid handicraft on sale. Sri Lankan masks are a very popular collector's item. Other recommendations are batiks, wood carvings, gemstones, semi- precious stones, lacquer-ware, handmade Silver- and Brass objects and don't forget the famous 'Ceylon Tea'.

  • How about the nightlife in Sri Lanka?

    The places with some active night life are Colombo, Negombo and Hikkaduwa. Colombo has some decent pubs, night clubs, karaoke lounges and bars. There is a growing pub-culture among the young crowd in Colombo. Friday and Saturday nights are the days for all night partying.

  • Is tipping accepted?

    Tipping is accepted. Although a 10% service charge is included in bills for food and accommodation, tipping is a customary way of showing your appreciation for services rendered.

  • How much should I tip?

    Your housekeeping staff, doorman, bellboy all expect a little tip. A tip between 100 - 200 rupees ( 1-2 USD) for each service is considered adequate. You guide or driver on tour will expect something between US$ 5 to 15 a day (depending on your level of satisfaction)

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10 Local Customs and Etiquette

  • What are the dos and don'ts when mingling with locals?

    Always give and receive and eat with your right hand. It is extremely bad mannered to use your left hand for eating. Respect cultural differences, the local laws & import regulations and make sure your behavior doesn't violate environmental responsibility.

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11 Other Questions