This is especially true when it comes to food and drink. Find out about snacks and typical dishes before your trip. That way, you’ll know what to order in restaurants and what you might like to try. See our article on what to eat in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is a year-round family holiday destination. It enjoys consistently high temperatures across the low-lying regions, with cooler climates in the hill country. However, there are two monsoon seasons in Sri Lanka – the southwest monsoon peaks in April to June, while the Northeast monsoon is wettest in November and December.
Book an appointment with your travel clinic before you fly to check you have all the current vaccinations for Sri Lanka. The general advice is to have shots for hepatitis, typhoid and tetanus as a minimum.
Email or call all hotels before you fly to double check the bookings are confirmed. Also, check how many people can stay in a room – kids over 11 are counted as adults so you might need to book two rooms for a family.
The sea can be rough and this, combined with the bright sun, can irritate your eyes. Tinted goggles will help keep your eyes protected on the beach and stop the glare from the sun. We bought spares with us too, which turned out to be a good decision! It’s kind of like sunglasses and swimming goggles in one – pretty nifty!
These handy individual packing bags were a lifesaver during our trip. They fit neatly into your suitcase or day pack so you can be packed and ready to leave in an instant. Use one for toiletries, another for beach gear, one for all your dirty laundry etc.
Forget about looking for washing machines or packing enough to last your whole trip: it’s cheap to get clothes laundered in Sri Lanka. Most hotels offer the service and return them the next day.
If you’re travelling around the country, it makes sense to book a personal driver and car for your entire trip. They’ll be flexible when it comes to drop off and pick up times and it’s a safe and secure way to travel. Sri Lanka has an incredibly low crime rate so you and your belongings will be well looked after.
A foldaway jacket will be very welcome if you get caught in a downpour. Check out our When to Go Guide for more information about when to travel.
As a rough guide, if you’re heading southwest in April to June, or Northeast in November and December, you’ll need a jacket. This needs to be lightweight, as it can still be hot and humid when it’s raining.
Nobody seems to have change in Sri Lanka so it’s worth keeping a separate purse for small notes. You’ll need these to buy water and snacks, as well as for tips. We tended to give 100 rupees to porters and waiters (although tax is added to restaurant bills so tips aren’t expected). A good tour guide or driver would earn a 500 rupee tip, depending on the length of journey.
Government tax is added to all restaurant and hotel bills so take this into account when booking and ordering.
Malaria isn’t common in Sri Lanka but the north of the country remains a hotspot for the disease. In fact, Dengue fever is a far bigger threat and Colombo is a high-risk area for the disease. As the saying goes, ‘prevention is better than a cure’ so take precautions – cover up your ankles and apply plenty of repellent, particularly around sunrise and sunset.
If you’re going to use your phone a lot – especially for internet access – it can work out cheaper to buy a pre-loaded SIM when you land at the airport. Mobitel and Dialog have kiosks and this is the simplest way to buy credit – choose from a Rs.499, Rs.999 or Rs.1,299 (Dialog) tourist pack, which includes calls, data and WIFI.
If you decide not to buy your SIM at the airport, you’ll need to take your passport to a Mobitel or Dialog office and register. This takes about 30 minutes – red tape is a national obsession in Sri Lanka!
Sri Lankans are very friendly and keen to share tips about their local area so chat to the locals every chance you get or use your drive as a guide during longer transfers.
You’re not allowed to exchange Sri Lankan Rupees outside of the country so don’t withdraw more than you need.
Most temples require you to remove your shoes and cover your legs and arms – always check before you arrive to avoid embarrassment. Check out more customs here.
If you love your branded food and soft drinks, be prepared to pay for them. A Coke, Mars Bar or packet of Kellogg’s cereal will set you back a fortune so choose local equivalents where possible.