Obtaining a VISA
It is easy to obtain a tourist/business visa. The ETA can be obtained On-Line by logging on to www.eta.gov.lk and following the instructions. The cost is US$20 as a standard for all countries for processing the visa prior to arrival. For South Asian (SAARC) countries the cost is US$10. For children under the age of 12 there is no charge. Those who arrive at the airport without a prior visa will also be able to obtain a visa at the port of arrival. The cost will be US$25 for all countries and US$15 for South Asian (SAARC) countries. You can also obtain visas at Sri Lankan embassies abroad.
Transit visa good for 48 hours » Free Tourist visa good for 3-7 days » US$10 Standard 30-day tourist visa » US$20
You can pay in rupiah, Euros, UK pounds and Australian dollars in addition to US dollars.
On leaving the country you are allowed to export up to 10kg of tea duty free.
No antiques. Antique, defined as anything more than 50-years-old – rare books, palm-leaf manuscripts and anthropological material can be exported without permission from the Director, National Archives, 7 Reid Avenue, Colombo 7. Tel: +94-11-2694523, +94-11-2696917 www.archives.gov.lk and the Director General, Department of Archaeology, Sir Marcus Fernando Mw, Colombo +94 11 2692840/1 Tel. +94-11-2694727, +94-11-2667155(www.archaeology.gov.lk).
Purchase and export without licence of any wild animal, bird or reptile, dead or alive . also the export of parts of animals, birds or reptiles, such as skins, horns, scales and feathers is prohibited. Occasional exports are, however, permitted exclusively for bona fide scientific purposes. It is prohibited to export of 450 plant species without special permits. The export of coral, shells or other protected marine products is also strictly prohibited.
Applications for special permission to export fauna should be made to the Director, Department of Wildlife Conservation, 382 New Kandy Road, Malabe (+9411 25060380 www.dwlc.lk ) and flora should be made to the Director, Forest Department, 82 Rajamalwatta Road, Battaramulla,( +011 94 28666 16/ 2866632www.environmentlanka.com).
You are allowed to bring into the country duty free 1.5 liters of spirits, two bottles of wine and a small quantity of perfume and souvenirs with a value not exceeding US $250. Cameras and camera equipment for commercial purposes must be declared on arrival. The import of non-prescription drugs, any weapons and pornography of any form is an offence and will be liable to severe penalty. For additional details please log on to Sri Lanka Customs: www.customs.gov.lk.
On leaving the country you are allowed take your purchases of gems & jewellery, spice, woodcarvings etc. However, you must be prepared to show your receipts of purchases if inquired by customs. Please inform the team at Bernard Tours as we will ensure that you purchase gems & jewellery from reliable merchants and advice & assist you with proper permit certificates. Assuring you of our reliable services.
No antiques are permitted out of the airport. Antique, defined as anything more than 50-years-old – rare books, palm-leaf manuscripts and anthropological material can not be exported without permission from the Director, National Archives – www.archives.gov.lk and the Director General, Department of Archaeology – www.archaeology.gov.lk
Purchase and export without license of any wild animal, bird or reptile, dead or alive and also the export of parts of animals, birds or reptiles, such as skins, horns, scales and feathers is prohibited. Occasional exports are, however, permitted exclusively for bona fide scientific purposes. It is prohibited to export of 450 plant species without special permits. The export of coral, shells or other protected marine products is also strictly prohibited. Applications for special permission to export fauna should be made to the Director, Department of Wildlife Conservation – www.dwlc.lk and flora should be made to the Director, Forest Department – www.environmentlanka.com. By informing the team at Bernard Tours we will do our best to assist you with the permits and other necessary clearances.
Before you go
No inoculations are compulsory unless you are coming from a yellow fever or cholera area. (Cholera is very occasionally reported in Sri Lanka, so is not considered a serious risk.)
However, the following vaccinations are recommended, particularly if you plan a long trip or intend visiting remote areas:typhoid (monovalent), polio, tetanus, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rabies Children should, in addition, be protected against: diphtheria, whooping cough, mumps, measles, rubella Remember to plan well ahead with vaccinations. Allow up to six weeks to receive the full course, for some vaccinations require more than one dose, and some should not be given together. The risk of malaria exists throughout the whole country apart from the districts of Colombo, Kalutara and Nuwara Eliya. Medication has to start one week prior to travel, continue during the trip, and finish four weeks after your return. Once again, planning is essential, as well as care to ensure the course is followed.
when you are there
As most stomach upsets are due to the unsanitary preparation of food, it is useful to know what to watch out for. Under-cooked fish (especially shellfish) and meat (especially pork and mince) can be hazardous. Salads can be risky unless purified water has been used to wash the various vegetables. Fruit that has already been peeled should be avoided. Be careful of ice cream, in particular the varieties sold by street vendors and served at cheap restaurants. Sometimes there are power outages Sri Lanka, especially away from urban centres, so it pays to be suspicious of all refrigerated foods if you know there has been a recent outage in your area.
Tap water is not safe to drink, and boiling and filtering is sometimes done too hastily in some hotels and restaurants, so the best solution is to drink bottled water. There are now many brands available, mostly using spring water from the highlands of the island. Make sure that the bottle carries an SLS certification and that the seal is broken only in your presence. Beware of ice unless you are satisfied it has not been made from tap water, and remember the tap water you may be tempted to use to rinse out your mouth after brushing your teeth is unsafe. Keep a bottle of water in your bathroom for this purpose.
When you flop onto the beach or poolside lounger for a spot of sunbathing, always remember to apply a sunscreen product with a sun protection factor of at least 15. Remember you are just 600km from the equator: even with sunscreen, your sunbathing should be limited in time. If you don’t apply sunscreen you are liable to become so sunburnt that it will be painful to move, your skin will peel, you will.
Sometimes those who have spent too long in the sun suffer what is termed heatstroke, the most common form being caused by dehydration. This condition can occur if the body.s heat-regulating mechanism becomes weakened and the body temperature rises to unsafe levels. The symptoms are a high temperature – yet a lack of sweat – a flushed skin, severe headache, and impaired coordination. In addition, the sufferer may become confused. If you think someone has heatstroke, take that person out of the sun, cover their body with a wet sheet or towel, and seek medical advice. To avoid heatstroke, take plenty of bottled water to the beach, or buy a thambili (king coconut) from an itinerant seller.
Prickly heat rash occurs when your sweat glands become clogged after being out in the heat for too long or from excessive perspiration. The rash appears as small red bumps or blisters on elbow creases, groin, upper chest or neck. To treat it, take a cold shower, clean the rash with mild soap, dry yourself, apply hydrocortisone cream, and, if possible, a product that contains salicylic acid. Repeat every three hours.
what to bring
Cotton garments are ideal as Sri Lanka is a tropical island. However, viscose/cotton mixed garments are commonly worn. Light clothing is recommended in the lowland areas and light woolen clothing is suitable in the hill country. A sun hat and sunglasses may help you to escape the heat during daytime. A good thing to keep in mind is, despite the tropical weather, some hotels have a ‘no shorts’ policy at dinnertime. So bring comfortable alternatives.
If you plan to spend most of your time on the beach, bring comfortable sandals. If you intend to hike or do most of your sightseeing on foot, then bring comfortable walking shoes that are easy to pack and clean. Also, if you plan to visit some of the nicer restaurants or nightspots in the city of Colombo, you will need to bring shoes with you as most of these places have “no sandals” policies.
travelers with special needs
Please let us know if you are a Traveler with special needs, especially if you are visiting Sri Lanka without a companion, the country has relatively few facilities for disabled people, although greater awareness and improvements are evolving. There is no need to worry at Colombo’s Airport as wheelchairs and assistance in boarding and disembarking are available. By letting the team at Bernard Tours know in advance, we will arrange special assistance from wheel chairs, to extra facilities during your drive to enroute journey breaks to ensure your stay is pleasant. We are only too eager to assist in ensuring you have an enjoyable & lifetime experience.
Banks are open from 0900 hrs to 1300 hours Monday to Friday. Some city banks close at 1500 hrs, while some are open on Saturday mornings. It’s easy to withdraw money across the island at ATMs using international credit cards or debit cards.
Master card and visa are the most commonly accepted cards. American Express is also accepted, though. All leading hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, supermarkets and other outlets accept credit cards.
Sri Lanka is five and a half hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
Electricity is 230-240 volts/ 50 cycles.
photo permits and entrance charges
Sri Lanka is a photographer’s delight. However, permits are required before you can take photos or video at certain sites. Entrance tickets to individual sites are available only from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. These tickets sometimes may include charges for photography, recording and parking. Rates are quoted in US Dollars and rupee parities are subject to fluctuation.
There are some important restrictions that apply to photography regarding Buddhist imagery. When you visit a temple or other religious site, remember that photography should not be carried out in a manner causing disrespect. For instance, it is strictly forbidden to be photographed in front of or beside any statues and murals. Note that flash photography can damage old murals.
when to visit
Sri Lanka is a year round destination. Visitors who seek sun and sea the best time to visit the West coast of the island is from November to April. The Southwestern coastal area, where most of the beach resorts are located is popular for beach vacations. During the rest of the year from May till November, visitors could enjoy a beautiful golden sand beach in the North Western areas. Kalpitiya, located in the western ( North Western)coast has been declared a new tourist attraction. The central highlands are pleasantly cool and relatively dry from January to April. Month of August is a beautiful month to visit the cultural heritage site of Kandy as the famous Pereraha festival with over 100 elephants on parade takes place during the month of August.
what to wear
Cotton clothes are useful at any time of the year due to heat and humidity. Daytime coastal temperatures generally range from 27-32 °C, slightly cooler in the hill country, especially Nuwara Eliya and Hatton, where a light sweater is frequently required at night. Topless sunbathing is officially illegal. The use of bikinis is generally considered acceptable while on the beach. When swimming inland, in rivers or lakes, ask for local advice regarding swimwear as covering with a sarong may be necessary. Away from the beach, be aware that dress standards are comparatively conservative and it is respectful to wear loose, long and lightweight clothing. Shorts should always be knee-length. Be especially careful about modest dress when visiting religious sites – knees and shoulders must be covered. If you are planning to trek and climb come prepared with suitable gear. Water sports enthusiasts would do well to take their snorkels and diving equipment along.
You may sometimes be overwhelmed by crowds of people in public places (railway stations, markets, bus stands, temples or simply busy streets). “Touts” and hawkers may jostle and push and clamour to show you a hotel and sell you things. Tuk Tuks are often there when you do not need them. Always ask for assistance from the team at Bernard Tours, as your safety is our concern.
In general the threats to personal security for travelers in Sri Lanka are remarkably small. It is more pleasant to travel with a companion as it is advised not to travel alone especially after dark. The island including the North and East is safe to visit. If you have anything stolen, report it to the tourist Police, a special tourist police set up to look after the needs of the tourists. Contact Tel Number is + 94 11 2382209
While Sri Lanka is a beautiful destination for entertainment, tourists are warned to refrain from any form of pedophile activities which will have severe punishments. Please be warned to reject any approaches of this nature by tuk tuk drivers, beach boys and any walking guides in cities. We strictly advices you to refrain from such people. It is always best to obtain advice from the team at Bernard Tours as we will have your best interest in ensuring that your stay will be pleasant and memorable throughout.
Every month the sighting of the full poon referred to as “Poya” is a public holiday and has religious observances. As such on a Poya holiday restaurants, hotels, clubs etc are prohibited from the sale of alcohol. However, you may consume liquor within your room. Though smoking is permitted in Sri Lanka, smoking at certain public areas and inside the vehicle could be subject to a fine.
where to stay
Sri Lank Offers visitors an excellent range of accommodation facilities to suit all budgets from luxury hotels to low budget accommodations. In the peak season (mid-January and during Easter) bookings can be heavy so it is best to reserve accommodation well in advance through Tour operators/ travel agents, booking online and through our tour planning page.
Sri Lankan ‘Ceylon’ tea is prepared as in the West and coffee too. There are a huge variety of bottled soft drinks, including well-known international brands. Thambili ( king coconut water is a safe and refreshing option. Local beer and spirits are widely available. Bottled mineral water is available in most of the local shops. Please note: Alcohol is not sold on Poya (full-moon day of the month) days.
Mobile phones have been made so affordable in Sri Lanka that almost everybody has one, and coverage has extended beyond the major cities. There are four main network operators on the island; Dialog GSM , Mobitel, Etisalat, Airtel and Hutch. If you’d rather not use your own mobile phone on roaming but still want to be contactable, the cheapest alternative is to get a mobile phone connection with one of these major companies. All these phone companies have a pay-as-you-go plan where you can buy a local SIM card for around Rs.300 (that will work in GSM phones from Europe, the Middle East and Australasia) and keep adding money to the connection as you require it. You will find recharge cards at any corner store throughout the island.
Vaccinations are recommended for Polio, Tetanus and Hepatitis A & B. Also, the Typhus vaccination is recommended if you plan to venture outside of tourist areas, especially in the wet season
Dengue fever is common on the island, especially during the rainy season when mosquitoes are in abundance as they transmit dengue. Use mosquito repellent whenever you are outdoors or visiting rural areas
Gampaha, Colombo, Kalutara, Galle, and Nuwara Eliya districts are considered malaria free, as well as the city of Kandy. In the dry season, use mosquito repellent whenever you are outdoors or in rural areas. Especially after sunset when the mosquitoes are in abundance. Malaria pills are warranted for trips to the north but are not available locally
A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travelers over 1 year of age coming from infected areas
When visiting a Buddhist or Hindu temple you should remove your footwear and headgear. Your legs and shoulders should be covered as a sign of respect. Some Hindu temples even ask men to go shirtless in order to enter the inner sanctum. In most temples, you will be asked for a donation. However, the traditional practice is that you make a donation only if you wish to. Any money you decide to donate should be placed in the donation box.
Public Nudity, including females being topless, is not only unacceptable but also illegal in Sri Lanka, although a few German-owned hotels may make an exception in designated areas. Ask your hotel on their policy about this.