Destinations

Sri Lanka Travel Information

Travel Information

What to Wear

When travelling to foreign destinations it is always respectful to dress modestly and we suggest the emphasis is on comfortable clothing for your travels in Sri Lanka. The hotels are smart but not hugely formal and the smart casual label is the best description for a suggested dress code. In general only lightweight clothing is needed for the daytime but it is wise to bring a warm sweater for early morning starts. Local people may be offended by some western styles of dress; steer clear of sleeveless tops, shorts, miniskirts (ankle-length skirts are recommended) and any other skimpy, see-through or tight-fitting clothing should be avoided by both men and women. Baggy clothing that hides the contours of your body is the way to go.

In the National Parks

Whilst on safari in any National Park, loose fitting and relaxed clothing is most appropriate and should be muted earthy colours. You may also like to carry a sun hat and sunglasses with you. Basically, avoid bright colours and tight fitting clothing. We also suggest taking a fleece or jumper for early morning game drives. It can be surprisingly cool! Please note the early morning and evening game drives can be very cold – this is attributed largely to the wind factor of the ‘open air’ jeep. We highly recommend you to carry fleeces, jackets, hats, gloves and scarves. By about 8/9am, the sun is up and you will begin ‘de-layering’ and be comfortable in a t-shirt for the majority of the day.

On the Beach

We suggest dressing modestly when away from the resort beaches. Clothing such as swimwear or brief shorts is not acceptable in towns and villages away from the main tourist beaches, in these areas take your cue from local women. Most Sri Lankan women wear saris, salwar kameez, or long shorts and a t-shirt whenever swimming in public view. When returning from the beach, use a sarong to avoid stares on the way back to your hotel.

Most hotels and lodges have laundry services, so an excessive amount of clothing should be unnecessary. Please note that most hotels, lodges and camps hand wash clothing.

A Few Suggested items
Packing for Sri Lanka is like preparing for any holiday destination; you’ll need comfortable clothes, swimwear, good shoes, and casual evening wear. Below are a few suggestions and guidelines to use when packing.
  • T-shirts, lightweight trousers, short & long sleeved shirts in bush colours, fleece/jumper, jacket, hat gloves & scarf if you’re coming out in the cooler months. Also a light rain jacket can be useful.
  • If walking, a good sturdy but lightweight pair of walking boots/shoes is a must. Day packs are also a good idea for carrying water and other items with you.
  • Flip-flops or sandals are perfect for walking around lodges and on the beach.
  • On the beach there may be water activities: snorkelling, boating, fishing, and swimming; so don’t forget swimwear and sarongs.
  • Cameras are a must, and we’d definitely recommend bringing a good telephoto lens for wildlife photography. Please refrain from using flash photography whilst on safari as this can scare the wildlife.
  • Binoculars are great for bird and wildlife watching.
  • Most camps provide shampoo, conditioner and bio-degradable soap in the rooms, but please bring any other cosmetic or medical items that you might require.
  • You will often find insect repellent in the rooms but if you have a preferred brand we’d recommend you bring it, as not all brands are available in Sri Lanka.
  • Don’t forget waterproof sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat.
  • A torch in case of power cuts!
  • Please also refer to our suggested Packing List. 

Luggage

Please limit baggage to two items per person and always use soft bags rather than suitcases.

Getting There & Away

If Natural World Safaris has arranged your international flights you will be sent your flight itinerary separately. Please note that once your flights have been booked these will be subject to their respective terms and conditions. If you have not booked your flights with Natural World Safaris you will need to make your own arrangements to arrive and leave in accordance with the itinerary. We can arrange flights for you if needed, please ask for further details.

Welcome Service

On arrival in Sri Lanka at the international airport you will first pass through immigration control, then collect your baggage and pass through customs before you are met by our local representative. He/she will hold a ‘welcome board’ with your name on it. This procedure will be followed for domestic flights, albeit without the customs & immigration.

Once you have exited customs you will find a large amount of people including taxi touts. Please move very slowly so that you can spot our representative. In the rare event that our representative is not to be found, please call our local representative’s emergency number (found on Contact Details).

When you disembark the aircraft please move promptly to the immigration counter as large queues can build up at this point.

We have provided local contact details in the accompanying information but if you have any problems please call our 24-hour  Emergency UK telephone number on +44 (0)7887 637 628.

Hotels, Lodges & Camps

The accommodation available in Sri Lanka does vary considerably from the grand and luxurious hotels of Kandy and Nuwara Eliya to the simple but comfortable Leopard Safari Camp. Generally lodging in cities and other towns is in conventional three to five star lodges, hotels or guesthouses. A variety of luxury lodges and tented camps surround national parks with some offering very high levels of comfort but standards do vary and some lodges and camps only have basic amenities with non-flushing, Sri Lankan style toilets (bucket water is provided). We use a wide range of accommodation, and since the beginning our philosophy has been to select accommodation to suit the itinerary - not the other way round. We do however always attempt to use environmentally friendly lodges which are committed to protecting the local environment and helping local communities.

Wild Animals

Some of the safari lodges and camps we use in Sri Lanka are in prime wilderness areas where wild animals roam! At dawn and dusk some animals such as elephant, buffalo & deer may come and graze near these camps! Wild animals are dangerous and should not be approached on foot, unless accompanied by a guide.

Laundry

Most lodges are able to offer laundry facilities but please note that the cost is not always included. Check with reception for current prices. Due to natural drying and variable climatic conditions your clothing might not always come back ‘bone dry’. As most laundry is hand washed please avoid handing in delicate clothing. Most lodges won’t wash underwear but will happily provide washing powder to use in your room.

Food & Water

Sri Lanka is a culinary delight with an amazing variety of food on offer. All the accommodation we use will serve freshly prepared meals including western style food along with Sri Lankan curries and snack food such as hoppers (a unique Sri Lankan snack, similar to a pancake, served with egg or honey and yoghurt) and plenty of delicious tropical fruit. As long as it is peeled or washed in purified water, please feel free to try fresh fruit which can offset the unhealthiness of lots of fried food! Bottled water, cartons of fruit juice and bottles of soft drink are generally safe to drink and you may want to drink the sweet milky Sri Lankan chai (tea). Do not be afraid to try local produce, it is part of the experience, so long as you take sensible precautions! Please bear in mind that we try to use lodges/camps that use local produce which supports the local communities.

We recommend that you only drink bottled water but always ensure the lid seal is intact and check that the bottom of the bottle hasn’t been tampered with. Crush plastic bottles after use to prevent them being misused later, or better still, bring along water-purification tablets or a filtration system to avoid adding to Sri Lanka’s plastic-waste mountain. 

Communications

International telephone communications are good from the major cities but more difficult from some remote areas. Mobile network coverage is reasonable in Sri Lanka but can be limited in rural areas, national parks and reserves; although coverage is expanding all the time. Roaming agreements exist with most international mobile phone companies. Almost all hotels and lodges will have international phone facilities but please do check with reception what their latest call charges are, these can be expensive. If you need to make an international call just ask your guide for assistance.

The internet and e-mail is now widely available in Sri Lanka and can be accessed from an increasing number of hotels, lodges and from numerous internet cafes across the country, many now offer Wi-Fi. Many hotels and lodges do offer their guests internet and e-mail facilities but please check with reception what their latest charges are.

We are not able to provide contact details for individual hotels, lodges or camps, as many do not have the facilities to handle guest calls/communications. We will provide contact details for our ground agents, please see accompanying information.

Local Time

Sri Lanka is five and a half hours (+5.5) ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). 

Daylight Hours

Sunrise is generally around 0600 hours and sunset at about 18:00 hours. This does vary slightly, depending on the location within Sri Lanka and the time of year. 

Electricity

The electricity supply in Sri Lanka is 230-240 volts AC, 50Hz. Some areas have a DC supply. Plug sockets do vary and we advise visitors to take multi-adapters to cope with three rectangular pin varieties (current UK style) or three-round pin varieties (old style UK).

All the major hotels and lodges have good power supplies and most have in room electrical sockets. Some smaller establishments and jungle lodges may not have a socket in the bedroom but will have charging facilities available at reception. Power supplies in Sri Lanka can at times be interrupted by power shortages, so it is wise to take a torch.

Local Currency

The local currency in Sri Lanka is the ‘Sri Lankan Rupee’ (abbreviated as LKR; symbol Rs). One Rupee is equal to 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of Rs2,000, 1,000, 500, 200, 100, 50, 20 and 10. Coins are in denominations of Rs10, 5, 2 and 1, and 50, 25, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cents. There are also large numbers of commemorative coins in circulation.

Currency can be changed at banks, airports or authorized money changers. It is illegal to exchange money through unauthorized money changers. US Dollars and Pounds Sterling are the easiest currencies to exchange and banks usually have the best rates. For more information please see below.

Spending Money

As most meals, park fees, guiding fees etc are covered in the cost of your safari we generally recommend allowing approximately £10 / USD$15 per person per day for spending money on drinks, souvenirs and craft items. If you do not have meals included we recommend budgeting around £10/$15 for lunch and £25/$40 for dinner.

You may wish to take extra funds to make contributions or donations to organisations that we encourage clients to visit. Donations and contributions are entirely voluntary. 

Foreign Exchange

You can exchange money at international airports where 24-hour exchange facilities are available, through banks (normally the best rate) and approved money-changers or at the big city hotels. Most banks have 24-hour ATMs. American Express and Thomas Cook offices may be found in major metros and tourist cities.

Bank timings are usually from 0900 hrs to 1300hrs or 1500 hrs on weekdays and 0930 hrs to 1230 on Saturday. Please remember that not all banks will exchange foreign currency or travellers cheques, particularly in small towns.

Exchange money only through authorized banks or Money Changers. Insist on a receipt/encashment certificate when changing money. Retain all receipts to facilitate re-conversion of unspent money on departure from Sri Lanka.

Major currencies such as US dollars, UK pounds and Euros are easy to change throughout Sri Lanka. When travelling off the beaten track, always carry a decent stock of rupees.

Whenever changing money, check every note. Banks staple bills together into bricks, which puts a lot of wear and tear on the currency. Do not accept any filthy, ripped or disintegrating notes, as these may not be accepted as payment. If you get lumbered with such notes, change them at national banks in major cities. Nobody in Sri Lanka ever seems to have change, so it’s a good idea to maintain a stock of smaller currency. Try to stockpile Rs10, 20 and 50 notes; change bigger bills into these denominations every time you change money.

You can change any leftover rupees back into foreign currency most easily at the airport (some banks have a minimum requirement). You may require encashment certificates or a credit-card receipt, and you may also have to show your passport and airline ticket.

Never keep all of your cash in the same place, keep it in different pockets and split it up between different bags.

If you are carrying USD$, please take bills dated 2004 or later as earlier dated bills can be very difficult to change and may not be accepted (as well as torn and dirty bills – the crisper the better!).

Credit Cards, ATMs & Travellers Cheques

Credit Cards are widely used and accepted by local establishments (even in small towns). The most widely used card types are Visa and MasterCard, with Amex to a lesser extent. Due to currency regulations in Sri Lanka, credit card charges cannot be made in foreign currency.

Major cities have ATMs, although not all will accept international cards.  Carry cash or travellers cheques as backup in case the power goes down, the ATM is out of order, or you lose or break your plastic. We recommend that you contact your bank before leaving and inform them that you will be using your cards abroad, this will avoid any ‘security blocks’ being put on your account. 

The rate of exchange for traveller's cheques can be better than the rate of exchange for cash. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in US Dollars or Pounds Sterling.

Remember, you must present your passport whenever you change currency or travellers cheques.

Additional Hotel Payments

These will be subject to the hotel’s exchange rate at time of booking.

Tourist Visas

Before travelling to Sri Lanka, you will need to obtain authorisation from Sri Lanka’s Immigration and Emigration Department. This system is called the Electronic Travel Authorisation and you can apply online via www.eta.gov.lk; your visa will then be stamped into your passport upon arrival. Please note that you will need to pay a fee for authorisation and visa requirements do change regularly; check this website for the latest information: http://sri-lanka.visahq.com/

A valid passport with a minimum of 6 months from the date of departure from Sri Lanka and at least one blank page is mandatory.  Please note obtaining the correct entry visas are your responsibility.

Embassy Contact Details

UK - Sri Lankan High Commission:

Sri Lanka High Commission, Consular Division, No: 13, Hyde Park Gardens, London, W2 2LU

Web: http://www.srilankahighcommission.co.uk/

Tel:  020 7262 1841-6

Consular Hours: 9.30 am to 1.00 pm/ Monday to Friday (except public holidays)

USA - Sri Lankan Consulate:

Embassy of Sri Lanka, 2148 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington DC 20008

Web: www.slembassyusa.org

Tel:  (202)-483-4025

Hours of Operation: 9.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m. EST (Monday to Friday)

Safety

All of our local operators conform to local safety regulations. If you at any time feel that this is not the case please do not hesitate to contact us.

Know Before You Go is an ongoing campaign from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to help Brits stay safe abroad, however in our opinion it has useful information for all nationalities. The campaign was launched in 2001 to promote these key messages:
  • Get adequate travel insurance
  • Check the FCO’s country travel advise
  • Visit your GP as soon as possible before travelling
  • Check your passport is in good condition and valid and you have all necessary visas
  • Make copies of important documents and/or store them online using a secure data storage site.
  • Tell someone where you are going and leave emergency contact details with them
  • Take enough money and have access to emergency funds.
  • We suggest that you go to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website to get up to date information on your specific destination and important travel tips before you travel. 

Go to: www.gov.uk/travelaware for relevant and important travel tips to plan your trip abroad.

Security & Scams

Clients should take the usual precautions when travelling abroad in unfamiliar surroundings and we recommend that clients take a taxi rather than walk at night. Please use your common sense and do not draw attention to cameras, video equipment, jewellery, etc. Do not flaunt money and always use safes when provided at hotels/lodges.

Sri Lanka has a reputation for scams designed to separate travellers from their money. Don’t be fooled – any deal that sounds too good to be true invariably is. It also pays to be cautious if sending goods home, shops have been known to swap high-value items for junk when posting goods to home addresses. If you have any doubts, send the package yourself from the post office. Be very careful when paying for souvenirs with a credit card, government shops are usually legitimate but some private souvenir shops have a reputation for secretly running off extra copies of the credit-card imprint slip, which will be used for phoney transactions after you have left the shop. Insist that the trader carries out any credit-card transaction on the counter in front of you. Alternatively, take out cash from an ATM and avoid the risk.

While it’s only a minority of traders who are involved in dishonest schemes, many souvenir vendors and spice traders are involved in giving commission to taxi drivers who insist on taking you to a ‘relatives shop who will give you a good price’. Most problems can be avoided with a bit of common sense and an appropriate amount of caution. If you are at all worried please seek advice from your guide.

For latest travel advice please contact us, at our UK office, or alternatively use the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website

Prohibited Articles

Restricted items include firearms, ammunitions, explosives and weapons, plants, fruits, birds and by-products, medication (unless it is for personal use), goods for commercial purposes, drugs or narcotics and material that ridicules religious belief. 

Health & Medical

Always seek medical advice before travelling; please consult your GP or Doctor who will be able to advise you on required vaccinations and anti-malarial prophylaxis. 

In the UK we recommended visiting the ‘Fit for Travel’ website.

In the USA, we suggest consulting CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) - http://www.cdc.gov/

Please bring any personal medication required. Anti-malaria tablets are only recommended in the far north but mosquito repellents may be used throughout the country. Travel from some countries requires a Yellow Fever inoculation and certificate. Drink bottled or boiled water only.

Medical services, especially in rural areas, are basic so it is essential you have appropriate travel insurance with adequate medical cover, air repatriation with a 24-hour contact telephone number for emergencies.  Securing the necessary travel insurance for your safari is your own responsibility.

Insurance

It is a condition of booking that all clients must have, and must demonstrate to the company prior to their departure, adequate insurance for the duration of the tour.

Proof of the following items of insurance is required on booking; cancellation or curtailment of your trip, medical expenses, repatriation, loss of luggage, personal injury, adventure activities such as white-water rafting, tracking wild animals, theft of personal belongings. 

Please report any theft, trip disruption immediately to your guide during your trip and also in writing to Natural World Safaris immediately on return to your home country. 

Smoking & Drinking

Smoking and drinking in public are forbidden. We strongly believe that smoking in national parks should be avoided, it is often not permitted.

Getting Around

There are no domestic passenger flights in Sri Lanka, which leaves buses and trains as the dominant modes of transport. Travelling overland takes time because the roads are in a bad condition and a trip of 200 km takes a day. Trains connect Colombo with all tourist towns, but first-class carriages, air conditioning and dining cars are available on only a few. New fast services operate on the principal routes, including an intercity express service between Colombo and Kandy, otherwise journeys are fairly leisurely and the scenery often stunning.

We use properly equipped 4x4s for many safaris in the national parks and tiger reserves and these vehicles have been especially converted for wildlife watching. 

Weather

Sri Lanka has a tropical climate. Upland areas are cooler and more temperate, and coastal areas are cooled by sea breezes. There are two monsoons, which occur May to July and December to January.

Photography

Visitors to Sri Lanka find varied subjects for photography including people, monuments, wildlife, festivities, and landscapes. Note however, these formalities in respect of photography:
  • Ask permission before taking photographs of people and respect their wishes if they refuse
  • Ask permission before taking pictures of inside temples or other sacred places, 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 damage them. You are not allowed to use flash at the frescoes at Sigiriya
  • Never pose beside or in front of a Buddha statue (i.e. with your back to the statue) as it is considered extremely disrespectful
  • It is worth ensuring you have sufficient films, including fast films (400-1600 ASA). Please bring extra batteries as it may not always be possible to re-charge them at the lodges. In addition it might be useful to bring a car charger (cigarette lighter variety). 
  • Please note flash photography of any wildlife usually causes disturbance and should be avoided.

Visiting Places of Worship

Removing one’s shoes before entering temples, mosques or Gurudwaras (Sikh Temple) is essential. Avoid taking leather goods of any kinds (bag, belt etc) and cigarettes into places of worship, as these are often not permitted. Do not wear shorts or sleeveless tops in places of public worship.

Please note; it is considered extremely disrespectful to stand with your back to a Buddha statue. It is also forbidden to show tattoos of a Buddha. 

Prices

Prices include airport transfers; accommodation; meals and drinks as stated; an English speaking driver / guide and a vehicle as outlined; porterage of two items of baggage per person on the trip (subject to weight restrictions); boat trips; park fees; and permits where appropriate.

Prices exclude all items of a personal nature: entry visas, international flights, tips, telephone calls, drinks (unless otherwise stated), laundry and airport taxes. 

Tips & Gratuities

During your time in Sri Lanka, tipping is entirely at your discretion. There is no obligation to pay a tip to your drivers, hotel staff or your guides. Although ‘gratuities’ are at the discretion of each individual, we are aware it can also be an area of concern for some visitors to Sri Lanka.  In this regard, we have listed some guidelines in order to assist, although the decision is freely left with you. 

Above all, it is to be remembered that tipping is a sign of gratification for good service, and therefore please view the below guidelines as the middle ground, which can be adjusted depending on the level of service you feel you have received.

Please note the below amounts are per couple.
    Rs 800 - 1700 - per guide, per day
    Rs 500 - per guide, half day
    Rs 800 - 1000 - per tour escort, per day
    Rs 500 - per driver, per day
    Rs 300 - 500 - per game guard/naturalist driver, per
    game drive.

Some hotels have a tipping system in place but if not you can use the below as a general guide:
Rs 50 - per hotel bell boy/member of staff 

A service charge of 10% is usually added to the total restaurant bill.

Charitable Giving & Community Projects

We recommend as part of our responsible travel policy that you do not give money or gifts directly to local people. We have links with local projects/schools that would appreciate your support. Please ask your guide for further details. If you would like to contribute to these donations of clothing, pens and pencils are greatly appreciated.

Consumer Protection

When you buy an ATOL protected flight or flight inclusive holiday from us you will receive an ATOL Certificate. This lists the flight, accommodation, car hire and/or other services that are financially protected, where you can get information on what this means for you and who to contact if things go wrong. Company Name: Natural World Safaris Ltd. ATOL Number 9826. For more information please visit their website: www.atol.org.uk.

As a member of the Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust Limited (ABTOT), Natural World Safaris Ltd has provided a bond to meet the requirements of the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992.

In the event of insolvency, protection is provided for non-flight packages commencing in and returning to the UK and other non-flight packages excluding pre arranged travel to and from your destination. Please note that packages booked outside the UK are only protected when purchased directly with Natural World Safaris Ltd.

In the above circumstances, if you have not yet travelled you may claim a refund, or if you have already travelled, you may claim repatriation to the starting point of your non-flight package.

The ABTOT number is 5127.

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