SRI LANKA: Essential Trip Information
GENERAL TRAVEL NOTES
- Carry your mobile at all times.
- Carry office, driver, guide, and hotel contact information at all times.
- Bring adequate of amount U.S. Currency which is only accepted for some expenses such as visas. Credit cards and ATMs are unreliable (except Thailand). AMEX is rarely accepted.
- Contact credit card company with travel plans so your charges will not be held up.
- Visa required: please have necessary paperwork and recheck dates.
- Contact your local manager in-country for any issue you may have while traveling.
- Electrical outlets adapters are compatible with U.S. two-prong style plugs in all of Asia except Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
- The charger for your camera, iPad, mobile phone and most other gadgets will adapt automatically to local 240v current, but check the fine print on your adapter/charger. Power outlet are British style three-prong, but hotels will have adapters.
- Make a paper copy of your passport and driver's license, and take a photo for your mobile phone—invaluable for replacing a lost passport.
- Take photos of your passport, visas, and credit cards to store on your smartphone.
- Except for obvious trouble zones, State Department travel advisories are typically worst case scenarios and do not reflect actual travel risks withing countries. Moreover, you are on a tour with experienced support staff. If there is any risk to where you will be traveling, we will be the first to notify you.
- Mobile coverage is not good throughout the country. However, roaming charges can be exorbitant. With an iPhone, switch your iPhone to airplane mode—which turns off roaming charges and data—and turn on Wi-Fi where available to use FaceTime which is free. For Android, Skype and Viber are free alternative.
- Open a free Syncplicity account (faster and easier to use then Dropbox) to backup your photos as you travel.
- Flickr and Facebook are good sites for sharing photos of your trip.
- Be wary of drivers or touts who may be posing as your guide, driver, or transfer service, do not accompany or let anyone handle your luggage without proper ID. Luggage been stolen with this ruse.
- If for any reason you are not met by a representative of Indochina Travel, call directly to the local office or local tour manager so we may locate your driver.
Sri Lanka In-Country 24-hour Urgent Mobile: 776 739 739
Passport and visas
Required visas may be the responsibility of the individual traveler, please check with us. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Your consultant will also be happy to point you in the right direction with acquiring visas. Visas can take several weeks to process, so familiarise yourself with any requirements as soon as you have booked your trip to allow for processing time.
Medical and health information
All Indochina Travel travelers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveler is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Indochina Travel Travel reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
Rare instances of dengue fever have been reported in this region. This virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. There is no vaccination against it, but there are preventative measures that you can take such as wearing long clothing, using repellent and being indoors particularly around dusk and dawn.
Food and dietary requirements
While traveling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.
Sri Lanka has a good selection of vegetarian food from veg curry and rice (a Sri Lankan staple) to hoppers, veg rotty and an amazing array of fruit. there is a large south Indian population in Sri Lanka cooking great veg and pure veg south Indian cuisine.
For those who eat fish, Seafood is in abundance around coastal areas.
'Rice and curry' is the national dish of Sri Lanka and is found on almost every menu. This dish (changing from one restaurant to the next) is a array of small, spiced dishes made from vegetables, meat (commonly chicken) or fish, and served with pappadoms, chutneys and sambol.
Your guide will be able to direct you towards restaurants that are known to have better hygiene, especially in tourist areas where they are traveling with our groups regularly
Some tips that will help you stay well when eating in Sri Lanka (and around the world) include.
- Stick to restaurants and street stalls busy with locals - local families eating there are a good bet.
- Wash your hands before eating (most restaurants will have a hand basin or bathroom) or use a sanitising hand gel
- give yourself a few days to get used to local food, especially spicy food.
- if in doubt, stick to the veg meal
- avoid salads and peel fruit to avoid eating skin that may be washed in local water
- steer clear of ice unless in higher end restaurants
- drink more chai
Keep some space for the amazing variety of sweets on offer in Sri Lanka.
The official currency of Sri Lanka is the Rupee (LKR).
There are now many ATM machines throughout Sri Lanka, which accept both Visa and MasterCard. Although this is a safe and convenient way to access money during your trip we do recommend that you carry some money as cash when ATMs can not be accessed. Some money should be taken as US dollars cash in case of emergencies.
A 'black market' for currency changing does exist in Sri Lanka, these are considered a danger and best avoided. Major credit cards are accepted in the larger shops and restaurants but only in the bigger cities. Some banks will allow cash advances against a credit card.
When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveler is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities and laundry. It's always better to bring a little more than you think you'll need. Also make sure you've read your trip details thoroughly so you know what's included in the trip price and what isn't. This should make budgeting a little easier. You'll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that's this document).
If you're happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appreciated. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Indochina Travel destinations. Although can be difficult to source we advise you to carry small notes of local currency each day to make tipping easier.
The following amounts are per person suggestions based on local considerations and feedback from our past travelers:
Restaurants: Local markets and basic restaurants - round your bill up to the nearest US$1. More up-market restaurants we suggest 10% to 15% of your bill.
Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your guide . We suggest US$5 per day for local guides.
Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group, however we suggest US$1-US$2 per day for drivers.
Your guide: You may also consider tipping your tour guide and driver for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline US$10-15 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip amount is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service. Please don't tip with coins, very small denomination notes, or dirty and ripped leftover notes. which regarded as rude. Note: guides are typically delighted with gifts from home, such as local university t-shirts, baseball hats, and the like.
We try to plan for every eventuality, but there are still some things beyond our control. Please make sure you bring an extra US$500-1,000 for emergencies (e.g. natural disasters or civil unrest). Sometimes these things necessitate last minute changes to our itineraries, and we can’t guarantee there won’t be some extra costs involved.
What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are traveling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. Below we have listed the essentials for this trip:
Indochina Travel Packing List
Books on Sri Lanka
Island of a Thousand Mirrors: A Novel by NayomiMunaweera
Sep 2, 2014
Nayomi Munaweera's Island of a Thousand Mirrors is an emotionally resonant saga of cultural heritage, heartbreaking conflict and deep family bonds. Narrated in two unforgettably authentic voices and spanning the entirety of the decades-long civil war, it offers an unparalleled portrait of a beautiful land during its most difficult moment by a spellbinding new literary talent who promises tremendous things to come.
The Elephant Gates:
Vibrant Reflections of Life, Family, and Tradition in Sri Lanka
by Chamalee Weeratunge
Jul 25, 2014
The Elephant Gates is a recollection of the simple pleasures of childhood caught up in an inevitable tide of change. With vivid and touching detail, it recalls Weeratunge’s life, home, and family in her native village of Depanama on the island of Sri Lanka. Weeratunge’s memories reveal a yearning for past times when traditions like celebrating the New Year or a Full Moon Day, still endured. Her poignant reminiscences evoke compassion for a misunderstood vagrant and a captive elephant, and curiosity for the appearance of the Pot-Bellied Merchant and Uncle Robert the Capitalist. She celebrates everyday heroes like the Coconut-Plucker, the Cook of Sweet Meats, and the Buffalo-Herdsman. With delicate diplomacy, cultural change is signaled by events such as the abandoning of the firewood hearth and the arrival of the television.
Elephant Complex: Travels in Sri Lanka
by John Gimlette
March 21, 2017
No one sees the world quite like John Gimlette. In Elephant Complex, he ventures into Sri Lanka, a country only now emerging from twenty-six years of civil war. Beginning in the exuberant capital, Colombo, Gimlette ventures out in all directions: to the dry zones where the island’s 5,800 wild elephants congregate around ancient reservoirs; through cinnamon country with its Portuguese forts; to the “Bible Belt” of Buddhism; then up into Kandy, the country’s eccentric, aristocratic Shangri-la. In the course of his journey, Gimlette meets farmers, war heroes, cricketers, terrorists, a former president, survivors of great massacres—and perhaps some of their perpetrators. That’s to say nothing of the island’s beguiling fauna: elephants, crocodiles, snakes, storks, and the greatest concentration of leopards on Earth. Here is a land of beauty and devastation, a place at once heavenly and hellish—all brought to vibrant, fascinating life here on the page.
HILL COUNTRY TREKKING
An overnight pack may required for overnight in the hill country, when our large luggage is left at our base. This overnight pack should be able to fit the essentials you might need for a couple of nights such as a change of clothes, toiletries, a book, flashlight, etc. While low lying coastal areas in Sri Lanka have a tropical climate that remains warm all year round, in the hills the climate can be very variable. Be prepared for chilly evenings, with temperatures on occasion close to freezing. Some of our past travelers have been caught out not bringing warm enough clothes, so some thermals and a light water and windproof jacket along with a hat and gloves if you tend feel the cold are likely to be well appreciated.
TRAVELING ON LOCAL TRANSPORT
It's important that your bags can be locked, as on local transport it may be necessary that your luggage gets stowed separately (and unattended). The smaller your bag the better for you and other passengers, for when it comes to traveling on local buses and trains it's often only the smaller bags that will fit into the storage areas inside the bus or your cabin. To ensure maximum comfort, try to pack small and light.
Where Indochina Travel covers the cost of luggage storage during included day trips, we allow for one bag/backpack only, so it's advisable that you travel lightly and keep luggage to a limit of one item (plus your day pack). Extra luggage storage will be at your own expense.
Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when traveling, please consider water purification techniques such as iodine or micropur and use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation. When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day.
IMAGES FROM HOME:
During our trip there will be many opportunities for you to meet and talk with locals. One way to start any conversation is with pictures. We recommend that you bring some photos / postcards of your family, home, city or country where you live, animals peculiar to your country etc.
Climate and seasonal information
Choosing when to travel to Sri Lanka can vary depending on the time of year and part of Sri Lanka you wish to travel to.
The south-western monsoon brings rain to the south-west of Sri Lanka between May and September, while the dry season in this region runs from December to March.
In the north and eastern coastal regions of the country, the weather is influenced by the north-eastern monsoon, which brings wind and rain between October and January, and dryer weather between May and September.
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while traveling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while traveling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Indochina Travel itinerary, and Indochina Travel makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your Leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Indochina Travel 's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before traveling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.
TRAFFIC AND DRIVING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD:
Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!
Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in your home country and not all the transport which we use is able to provide seat belts.
PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
While traveling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair or on the floor and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
Please note that helmets are not always provided for sightseeing on bicycles. If you wish you can bring along your own.
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When traveling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveler.
When packing be aware that dress standards are conservative throughout Asia, especially outside major cities. To respect this and for your own comfort, we strongly recommend modest clothing. This means clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. Loose, lightweight, long clothing is both respectful and cool in the predominantly hot Asian climate. In many rural areas in Asia women will need to wear modest clothing even to swim. Singlets, tank tops and topless sun bathing are all unacceptable. When visiting religious sites men often need to wear long trousers and women a long skirt or sarong.
ELEPHANT PERFORMANCES & ELEPHANT RIDING:
While we respect each individual’s decisions while traveling, Indochina Travel does not include elephant rides or unnatural performance activities on any itinerary, and we recommend you bypass these activities should they be offered to you during your stay. Professional wildlife conservation and animal welfare organisations, including the World Animal Protection (formerly the World Society for protection of Animals) advise that contrary to common belief, captive elephants remain wild animals and despite good intentions, unfortunately many venues are unable to provide the appropriate living conditions elephants require and this ultimately impacts their well-being. While there is some merit in the argument that the money that you pay for the activity goes towards keeping the elephants and their mahouts employed, we know that it also fuels demand for elephants to be captured in the wild or captive bred. We thank you for your support in improving the welfare of these majestic creatures.
Since Indochina Travel Travel commenced operating in 1994 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we travel in. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travelers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. We suggest considering this long-time and effective charities for giving: