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Travel guide to Sri Lanka

Passports
Your passports must be valid for at least 6 months after your return date and have two blank facing pages. If you do not have this, you may be denied boarding at your departure airport. Soiled, damaged or defaced passports will not be accepted.
Visas
An e-visa (£20/$30) must be purchased in advance of travel, printed out and presented on arrival. It is possible to purchase a visa at the airport, but this will result in long delays.
Health
Sri Lanka does not have malaria, tsetse fly or yellow fever, so there are no compulsory health requirements. Dengue fever is present so a good insect repellent and anti-histamine are advised. The mosquito that spreads dengue bites during the day and is more common in urban areas. You should be up to date with your primary courses and boosters. Always check with your doctor at least 8 weeks before travel for any other inoculations recommended (eg Hepatitis A+B, Cholera, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Polio, Meningococcal Meningitis, Rabies and TB).
Currency
Sri Lankan Rupees (LKR) - you can exchange currency at the airport on arrival, but you will not be able to exchange any surplus currency afterwards. Remember to ask for small denominations, which are useful for tipping. We also suggest travelling with small denominations of USD dollars, as these can be used in some luxury hotels and for tipping if you run out of local currency. VISA & Master cards are accepted at most luxury hotels, but not American Express or Diners Club.
Language
Sinhala + Tamil, but English is widely spoken.
Time Zone
GMT + 5.5 hours
Travel Tips
To ensure that you have the best possible holiday experience, we ask you to read the following information carefully. If you have any questions, please discuss them with us before you depart. 
 
Hand Luggage – pack essential items for a day or two in your hand luggage, in case your bags go astray and take a few days to catch up with you, especially if you have any tight connecting flights. 
 
Baggage – if you are flying on a light aircraft, your luggage must be packed in soft sports bags, usually restricted to 15 kg. Rigid suitcases will not fit into the luggage pods but can follow by road. 
 
Documents – take a copy of your travel insurance policy with you, and leave a copy of your passport with a reliable contact at home, in case the originals are lost or stolen. 
 
Electronic Devices – ensure these are all fully charge before travel, as you may be required to switch them on at airport security. Any device that does not switch on cannot be checked in and must be surrendered. 
 
Mobile Phones – make sure they are set up for international calls and turn off data roaming to avoid nasty bills. Many hotels offer free Wi-Fi but be aware that some rural regions may not have cell phone coverage. 
 
Credit Cards – remember to inform your bank when travelling abroad. 
 
Clothing – pack in layers according to the season, with light clothing being essential in summer. Take a day pack, good walking shoes, T-shirts, shorts, jeans, light fleece, sunhat, swimming costume, sunglasses & biodegradable sunscreen. For temple visits pack long sleeved tops or a pashmina to cover your shoulders, long skirts or trousers to cover your knees & easily removed flip flops. Sanitising hand cleaner and eye drops can be handy, especially if you wear contact lenses and a 'shewee' is invaluable for ladies. Rain gear is needed during the wet season. 
 
Medicines - if you travel with prescription drugs, carry an adequate supply in their original bottles/packaging & keep them in your hand luggage, as if lost they may be difficult to replace. 
 
Accessories – pack your phone (with charger and a spare battery pack), camera (with spare memory cards and batteries – a 200 mm zoom lens is good for wildlife photography), torch and binoculars (large 8x40 is best). If you are a keen birder we suggest one pair per person, as it can be frustrating to share. 
 
Plugs – type G (flat 3-pin, same as UK) and some type M (round 3-pin, same as South Africa). 
 
Books – pack a good travel guide, with information on the wildlife and birds of the region. Also a good supply of reading material for quiet evenings and when waiting for flights. 
 
Water – be fastidious and only drink bottled water. Avoid washed salads, local yoghurt, ice cream and ice cubes outside your hotel, as tap water is not safe to drink. Peel all fruit before eating it. 
 
Food – Sri Lanka is renowned for its spicy curries, which are served three times a day, but European food is also served throughout the country. It is world famous for its Ceylon tea, which is normally served black - so if you would like milk, you need to ask for it (and you must request cold milk, otherwise it will be served with hot milk made from powder). Vegetarian food is widely available in this Buddhist country and food allergies are well catered for. 
 
Taxis – inexpensive tuk-tuks are widely used in Colombo and coastal holiday towns, but negotiate your fare before you begin your journey. 
 
Self-Drive – driving is on the left, although we do not recommend self-driving in Sri Lanka. 
 
Shopping – it is customary to negotiate prices aggressively. Be aware that your guide will earn a commission on any purchases you make. So you need to tell him very firmly if you don’t want to be taken to any more shops, as he will continue to do this until you make it very clear this is not what you want. 
 
Safety – Sri Lanka is a relatively safe destination, but take all sensible precautions. Leave valuable jewellery/watches at home, wear a money belt and be alert when outside your hotel. In particular avoid taking out large wads of cash in public view and keep your spare cash, passport and a spare credit card in your hotel safe. 
 
Wild Animals – attacks by wild animals are rare, but we cannot guarantee that attacks will not occur so observe all sensible precautions. We cannot be held responsible for injuries caused during an incident with a wild animal. 
 
Indemnities - please be aware it is likely you will be required to sign indemnities for safaris and any other potentially hazardous activities. 
 
Pack for a Purpose - if you have a little space in your suitcase, local schools & communities always appreciate gifts of English reading books, pens & pencils, stationery, deflated footballs etc. Specific requests from communities can be seen on the 'Pack for a Purpose' website. 
 
Tipping – this is expected for good service in Sri Lanka. We suggest the following: 
- overland driver/guide: Rs 1,000 per adult/per full day. This can be reduced for longer stays. 
- jeep safari: naturalist Rs 500 + driver Rs 250 = Rs 750 per adult/per game drive. 
- mahouts: Rs 200. 
- temple shoe minders: Rs 100. 
- housekeeping: Rs 200 per room per day, placed in communal tipping box. 
- waiters: 10% (if not already added to your bill). 
- porters: Rs 100 per bag. 
It is not necessary to tip drivers doing short transfers (eg to the airport). 
 
Respect Local Customs – this is a Buddhist country, so respect his image and dress modestly away from your hotel. Always cover your shoulders and knees when visiting temples. 
 
Displays of Affection - please be aware that same sex relationships are illegal and public displays of affection should be avoided at all times, including in your hotel. We advise all our clients, gay and heterosexual, to be sensitive to cultural differences. 
 
FCO Travel Advice - consult the UK Foreign Office website for the latest travel advice www.fco.gov.uk.
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