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  You are here : Home | World | Asia Pacific | Sri Lanka
Popular City in Sri Lanka
Colombo Kandy  


The currency is the Sri Lankan Rupee. The exchange rates are approximately 110Rs/ USD, or 170Rs/ EUR. There are coins for 25 and 50 cents (bronze), 1 rupee (old version is big and silver, new version is small and gold,) 2 rupees (silver,) and 5 rupees (gold,) as well as banknotes ranging from 10- 2000 rupees. Coins that are more than a few years old are typically in quite bad condition.

Handicrafts Of Sri Lanka. For reed, cane, cotton, paper, leather, wood, clay, metal, and gemstones have been transformed and re-expressed in a array of batiks, toys, curios and jewelery, all exquisite hand made treasures.

Credit cards and ATMs

ATMs are located in many places (specially at bank branches) in the cities and suburbs, less so in the countryside.

You can withdraw from debit cards too (Cirrus, Maestro, Visa Electron etc) where the logos are displayed - so no need to carry wads of US dollars when entering the country.


Sri Lanka and South Indian food share a lot in common, and many local restaurants will describe their menus as Sri Lankan & South Indian. There are a number of regional variations thought, the different types of hopper, devilled prawns/cuttlefish/chicken/etc. and the common fiery addition to any curry, pol sambol made of grated coconut, red chilli powder and lime juice.

The food is very cheap generally, with a cheap meal costing about a dollar. The most expensive, tourist-orientated places seldom charge more than ten dollars. The staple food of Sri Lankans is rice and curry - a massive mound of rice surrounded by various curries and delicacies. If you want to eat a cheap lunch you can follow the Sri Lankan crowds and duck into any of a million small cafes, confusingly called 'Hotels'. These normally sell a rice and curry packet, as well as 'short eats', a collection of spicy rolls. This is ideal for backpackers and those who want to get past the touristy hotels selling burnt chicken and chips - you're charged by how much you eat, and unless you're absolutely ravenous it probably won't cost over a dollar.

Kottu (Kothu) Roti (a medley of chopped roti, vegetables and your choice of meat) is a must-have for anyone - tourist or otherwise - in Sri Lanka. It is uniquely Sri Lankan and tastes best when made fresh by street vendors.

Note that Sri Lankans eat with their right hands - this isn't a major problem, because everywhere will be able to provide cutlery if you can't eat otherwise. But try the Sri Lankan way (tips of fingers only!), it's harder than it looks but strangely liberating.

There are many upscale restaurants to choose from in the city of Colombo. There are many fine dining restaurants at the 5 star hotels which offer both Local and International cuisine.


Water is not always healthy for unseasoned travelers, and so it is recommended that either purifying tablets or bottled water be used whenever possible. Fresh milk, due to the climate, spoils easily, and so is often very expensive. Powdered milk, however, is safe and is often substituted.

Thambli the juice from yellow coconuts, is very refreshing. It's sold at the side of streets throughout the island, you know it's clean as the coconut is cut open in front of you and it's cheaper than bottled drinks at about R20/- each.

Soft drinks are available almost everywhere, normally in dusty-looking glass bottles. The local producer, Elephant, make a range of interesting drinks - try the ginger beer and cream soda.

"Coca Cola" and "Pepsi" also available in large and small sizes (plastic bottles) including several local soft drink brands - all available at rapidly multiplying supermarkets all across the country and grocery shops.

The most common local beer is Lion Lager. For something a bit different try Lion Stout. It is characterized by it's tar-like oiliness of body and chocolate finish. Other brews include Three Coins, which is brewed by the Mt Lavinia hotel chain, allegedly to a Belgian recipe.

The traditional spirit is Arrack, which costs about 4 USD for a bottle, and is often drunk with ginger beer. The quality can vary depending on how much you want to pay. However, widely recommended brand would be "Old Reserve" and worth paying 7.5 USD for it.






Sri Lanka



Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon, is in Southern Asia. It is an island country in the Indian Ocean, south of India.

Sri Lanka has many cities and towns. Below is a selection of the most important to travelers.

  • Colombo - the capital.
  • Jaffna - Northern Capital
  • Beregala
  • Galle
  • Kandy - the spiritual heart of the country - home to a tooth of the Buddha
  • Matara
  • Nuwara Elya
  • Trincomalee
  • Anuradhapura ruins of ancient capitals (partially restored)
  • Polannaruwa ruins of ancient capitals (partially restored)
  • Galle
  • Kurunegala
  • Kegalla
  • Kaluthara
  • Ratnapura
  • Bandarawela
  • Badulla
  • Monaragala
  • Puttalama
  • Gampaha
  • Matale
Tropical monsoon; northeast monsoon (December to March) only affects east coast; southwest monsoon (June to October) affects mostly the west coast and mountains.

Mostly low, flat to rolling plain; mountains in south-central interior. Highest point: Pidurutalagala 2,524 m

The Sinhalese arrived in Sri Lanka late in the 6th century B.C., probably from northern India. Buddhism was introduced beginning in about the mid-3rd century B.C. and a great civilization developed at such cities as Anuradhapura (kingdom from c. 200 B.C. to c. 1000 A.D.) and Polonnaruwa (c. 1070 to 1200).

In the 10-11th century, the Cholas, a south Indian dynasty seized power in the north and established a Tamil kingdom. Occupied by the Portuguese in the 16th century and by the Dutch in the 17th century, the island was ceded to the British in 1796 and became a crown colony in 1802. As Ceylon it became independent in 1948; its name was changed in 1972.

Tensions between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil separatists erupted in violence in the mid-1980s. Tens of thousands have died in that violence. Since late 2001 there has been a ceasefire and slow-going peace talks, and even war-torn parts of the island are now open for travel.

Since the outbreak of hostilities between the government and armed Tamil separatists in the mid-1980s, several hundred thousand Tamil civilians have fled the island; as of mid-1999, approximately 66,000 were housed in 133 refugee camps in south India, another 40,000 lived outside the Indian camps, and more than 200,000 Tamils have sought refuge in the West (July 2002 est.)

Get in

By plane

Sri Lankan Airlines is a national flagship carrier operating to and from Colombo-Bandaranayake. Flights are available from origins throughout Europe, United States, Southeast Asia, China, Japan, the Middle East, India, and Pakistan. SL also flies to the nearby resort areas of Goa, India and the Maldives.

Sri Lankan also code shares with Emirates Airlines of the United Arab Emirates. This allows for connections from places SL doesn't fly to itself such as North America.

Mihin Lanka, Sri Lanka's first (and only) low-cost airline started operating in 2007. They fly to various points in India as well as Bangkok, Dubai, Male and Singapore.

Other airlines include Singapore, Malaysia, Thai, Cathay Pacific, Qatar, Saudi Arabian, LTU (Germany), and Edelweiss Air (Switzerland).

From USA/Canada

From the west coast of the USA/Canada, the distance is almost half-way around the world. Depending on your preferences, and how much spare time you have, consider a stopover in Europe or SE Asia. Another option (for both coasts) is the non-stop flights over the north pole to New Delhi or Mumbai, India from Atlanta, Chicago, Newark, New York (city), or San Francisco. In many cases, this may be the fastest route, but check if an Indian transit visa is required.

By ship

You can take Indian Shipping lines cargo and passenger ship from Trivandrum cheaper than the planes. Sri Lanka port authority has information.

Get around


The most common mode of transport in Sri Lanka is via a three-wheeled automobile appropriately referred to as a three-wheeler (Tri-Shaw). Also known as Tuk-Tuks from the noise of their motors. These operate in a manner similar to taxis, and is a highly cost-efficient way to get around. However, three-wheelers have been linked to many illegal and criminal activities, including an assasination attempt on a foreign ambassador, in the recent past.

By car

Rented cars usually turn out cheaper than three-wheelers, and are less prone to road accidents--and are recommended by most hotels.

Rented cars often come with their own drivers. Often the automobile itself is free, whereas the driver will charge a fee for his services. Some drivers/guides are government-licensed; some are extremely knowledgeable and multi-lingual, specializing in historical and cultural knowledge, and environment/natural history for your visits to the ancient sites and the natural reserves.

Tour operators

Tour Operators are happy to get you a van and a driver who will take you all over the island but beware, the roads are bumpy and slow. Ask to be shown on a map where you are going before agreeing to any 'tour' of the island. Senseless backtracking to lengthen the trip and increase the cost is a real danger. Again, insist on seeing a day-to-day planned tour map before agreeing to a tour operator's idea of seeing Sri Lanka.

Taxi companies

Taxis (011 2556556, 011 2377677, 011 2818818, 0112588588, 0112 688688) are a better way of getting around Colombo than three wheelers as, due to the metering, they often turn out to be cheaper. Rates are about USD0.55 and they have full day packages (approx 8 hours and 80km) for around USD 40.

They will also take you outstation for around USD 0.30-0.35 per km with no waiting charges. You can also set up your own itenary and travel around that way as opposed to whatever the tour operator tells you.

By bus

(see warning at top of page) For those on a budget buses are everywhere. They're ridiculously crowded and massively uncomfortable, but they get you around for almost nothing; it costs about a dollar to get half-way across the island. If you're planning on splashing out, AC buses run most routes for twice the price, which offer air-conditioning and a guaranteed seat. However, they're still uncomfortable. Bus stations are confusing places, especially the big ones, but almost everyone will be delighted to practice their English and help you.

By train

(see warning at top of page) Trains also run in some places - these can be slower than buses, depending if you are on a line that offers an express train or not, but more comfortable and picturesque and even less expensive than buses. The Railway system in Sri Lanka is very picturesque when entering the hill country because of the winding tracks along the mountains especially on the Badullu-Nanu Oya line. Make sure, if you can, to sit on the right side of the train, as it offers the better view. Sri Lanka has an extensive railway system serving all major towns and cities in the island except for the North and the East. There are special Observation cars for tourists that like to take in the scenery.

By plane

Sri Lankan Airlines operates small Seaplane service to destinations such as Nuwara Eliya, Kandy, Galle and many more locations. This is perfect for Photography trips because you can get a bird's eye view of the island and takes less time to get to a destination than using the road. Also the seaplanes land on picturesque lakes and tanks around the island.

Aero Lanka operates domestic flights between Colombo-Ratmalana, Jaffna and Trincomalee

Asia Pacific
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