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Climate and Weather
Sri Lanka sits close to the equator, and therefore has a humid and tropical climate throughout the majority of the year. This is cooled by the breeze from the sea in coastal areas, though elsewhere temperatures tend to average around 27 degrees Celsius. This drops to around 20 degrees Celsius in the hills. Sri Lanka is also well known for its magnificent monsoons, which usually happen in the south west from May until July, causing rain to fall in the western, southern and central regions of the island. There are also North Eastern monsoons that occur in December and January.
Sri Lankan cuisine is an exotic mix of various influences. Its geographical neighbours, foreign traders and British colonialist past have left behind their traces in the range of dishes available. This adds a cultural narrative to each meal, along with an interesting diversity in tastes and flavour combinations. All this said Sri Lankan cuisine still has a very distinctive and unique quality, with much emphasis being on coconut milk and spices!
Main meals tend to be based around varieties of curry and rice, with a range of meats on offer such as chicken, pork and fish, along with vegetarian varieties such as fruit curries even.
One particular Dutch inspired curry dish that is served with a twist is the Lamprais, which is rice boiled in a stock with special curry and 'frikkadels' (meatballs). This is then wrapped in a banana leaf to be baked to create a strong pallet of flavours. There's also Koola'ya, which is made up of a mixture of leftover curries, put with rice and then served in various fashions, sometimes in wraps. This creates an exciting array of tastes with each mouthful! Whilst in Sri Lanka, it's pretty likely that you'll come across some hoppers at some point or another.
These come in various forms, though most commonly are a thin formation of batter shaped like a small bowl. Sometimes this includes an egg in the middle, whilst mostly it is accompanied by something called Lunu miris, which is a dip made out of onions and spices. These tend to be eaten for breakfast or lunch too, which as you can imagine gives quite a kick to the start of the day! They're a tasty snack however, and particularly delicious for those that love some spice. For those that don't so much, there are also sweeter versions, and string hoppers, which are a form of noodles.
As far as deserts go, you'll be spoilt for choice on this island. Perhaps one of the best known (and best loved) of Sri Lanka's puddings is the Watalappam, which is a steamed pudding that is made with coconut milk, eggs and an ingredient called jaggery - a type of solidified treacle extract from the kitu palm. This usually has spices added such as cardamom, giving it that added exotic edge. Coconut is an extremely popular ingredient and flavouring in the majority of Sri Lankan meals, be them savoury or sweet. Another coconut inspired desert would be bibikkan, which is a cake made with syrup and sometimes dry fruits.
There's also Kavun, which is a cake made with rice flower and treacle before being deep fried a golden brown!
Drinks include toddy, which is made from palm tree sap and is also used as an ingredient for certain meals. Arrack is a distilled alcoholic national drink, usually made from the fermented sap of coconut flowers. For a rather unusual and very colourful looking drink that's full of sweet stuff, you could try the faluda/falooda, which is a drink mixed with ingredients such as rose syrup, ice cream, and jelly pieces along with other things that create a truly intriguing looking concoction!
This only glazes the surface of the delicacies on offer in this culinary rich country, though hopefully it gives you some idea of what to expect. Although there's a definite trend of foods being spicy, many eateries tone this down in comparison to how many Sri Lankans would have it in their home.
The currency in Sri Lanka is the Sri Lankan Rupee. The code for this is LKR. One rupee consists of 100 cents, and cents come in denominations of 5, 10, 25 and 50.
Tips are generally given to those that have helped with a service, such as hotel porters. Aside from that, a 10% tip is usually appreciated in a restaurant if not already added to the bill.
Haggling is popular in the markets, and for this it is usually good to first get an idea of the rough price of certain items you are about to haggle for. Remember, don't be afraid to walk away if unsure!
The idea of ecotourism is to promote travel to places that have stayed relatively untouched by human intervention over the years. It is tourism that focuses on the nature and traditions of a country, hoping to lessen the impact of its visitors but at the same time bring awareness to the country as a unique cultural destination. Sri Lanka is a fascinating island of various environments. From its tropical coastal regions and undisturbed national parks roaming with wild life, to vibrant rainforests, poetic highlands a scatter with tea plantations, and rocky tracks alluring to explorers! For this reason Sri Lanka is a great destination for eco-tourism to thrive in. Its natural landscapes offer so many opportunities for adventure and excitement. Many organisations give services for horse riding, white water rafting, hiking, rock climbing, biking, and wildlife safaris among other things. You can spend days out going on a scenic train journey, experiencing the vast beauty of various regions. You can visit one of the national parks such as Yala, spotting some of the Sri Lankan elephants or leopards! This also goes towards brining further awareness to the conservation of these endangered species. Whilst in the main cities you can busy yourself through visiting the big shopping malls and restaurants, alongside this is still the essence of a more traditional Sri Lanka, with markets and craft shops around for you to try out some haggling in. There's an abundance of activities here to keep you busy, and the great thing is that the majority of these act not only as entertainment, but also go towards preserving and embracing the nature and history of the island.
Emergency Contact numbers
Sri Lanka, like many countres has a wide variety of emergency contact numbers. these vary on the circumstances you may be in. The emergency services have different numbers for different uses, unlike UK which has 999 as a memorable number.
To call an Ambulance for Fire you should dial 110 in Colombo.
The national helpdesk is 118, and police is 119.
Government helpline is 1919.
There is a host of direct numbers you can also call for emergencies, biut these serve to be the easiest to remember as they are short and concise.
Getting To Sri Lanka
Colombo Bandaranaike International Airport
This is one of the two international airports serving the city of Colombo. It started its humble beginnings as a Royal Air Force base in 1944 during the Second World War but now acts as the national carrier of Sri Lanka.
There are plenty of passenger services too, with currency exchange, a post office, facilities for child care and disabled passengers, along with a medical centre and means through which to communicate with telephone booths and e-mail. There’s also duty free shopping, with several shops in the arrival, departure and transit areas to be found! You’ll have the opportunity to browse and grab a few bargains, with alcohol, handicrafts, jewellery and perfumes just some of what is usually on offer.
Public buses in Sri Lanka rank as some of the cheapest in the world. Buses can generally be found everywhere and are often crowded and uncomfortable, but get you where you need to go for very little money. There are also express bus services, which cost a little more and are usually more comfortable and quicker.
Travelling by train in Sri Lanka provides the opportunity to see some of the island's most magnificent scenery. You'll be directed through some of the glorious winding tracks and mountainous borders of the countryside, depending whereabouts you are headed. There are four main rail lines, each covering the major towns and tourist spots. The network to Kandy and tracks of the hill country are especially magical. Much like Sri Lanka's other modes of public transport, the trains are cheap and offer both comfort and a brilliant way to see more of the surrounding landscape.
Taxis are probably the most popular form of transportation in Sri Lanka. These are most commonly three-wheelers called 'tuk tuks'. They are not metered, so the fair is usually negotiated before the journey. The general rate for taxis is between 20 and 30 rupees per km, and tipping isn't necessary. In Colombo and around its suburbs, there are also radio cabs, which are metered.
Driving in Sri Lanka can be challenging, due to the sometimes reckless style in which people tend to drive around. It can also, however, offer the chance to explore the island, letting you navigate through the scenic countryside with a freedom to go where you please. The average speed limit in the city is 50-60mph, and up to 80mph on the highway. If you'd like to rent a car then this can be organised either through your hotel or your travel agent. You will need an international permit, however. An alternate option to driving is to rent a chauffeur driven car/coach to drive you wherever you wish to go - a better option if you're a nervous driver!
Sri Lanka is diverse, with different religions and ethnicity, which is reflected in the variety of languages spoken. Sri Lanka's language has also been affected by its geography, being bordered by countries such as India and Malaysia. The two main languages are Sinhala and Tamil.
Medical Check-ups and Screenings
Check-ups and Screenings Emergency medical treatment is mainly to be found in the cities such as Colombo. There is also the option of private hospitals, though these can be expensive. For this reason, travel health insurance is a must, especially if travelling with a known medical condition of some sort. Chemists are also available and can to sell antibiotics, and the like, over the counter. Hepatitis A and typhoid are recommended vaccinations.
Passports and Visas
Passports must be valid for a minimum of 6 months. It is also no longer possible for tourists (except Singaporean and Maldivian) to obtain a 30 day visa on arrival at the airport. Instead, these must be applied for online through the Electronic Travel Authority (ETA). There is an application fee for this too. If you want to ask a question about applying or to find out more information about visa requirements for any of our destinations, Direct Traveller would recommend contacting their UK based tourist agency.
Sri Lankan People
You're sure to be greeted with much hospitality and enthusiasm for the countries culture when visiting Sir Lanka. Inhabitants of the island are friendly and welcoming. There is a variety of religions and ethnicities, though the majority of Sir Lankans are Buddhists. Ethnic groups are divided into four main groups also, with Sinhalese, the Tamils, Muslims and Burghers. Of these the biggest ethnic group is the Sinhalese.
One of the things Sri Lanka is best known for is its tea. And not just any tea either, but Ceylon tea, which is still much loved and recognised today for its high quality and distinctive taste. This was first discovered by James Taylor in 1847, a British planter who moved from the UK to Kandy, recognising the profitability in Sri Lanka's tea trade.
Since then it has grown and grown to make the country one of the world's leading exporters of tea. As well as a main source of foreign trade and industry, Ceylon tea is also an important part of the countries identity, heritage and traditions. It is the islands humid climate, mixed with monsoon rainfalls and cooler air in the hills that provides the perfect setting for tea to grow in.
Tourists can even visit tea plantations to experience the industry first hand, getting to explore the natural and beautiful grounds it grows in and also getting to try it freshly made. After one of these trips you'll never think of tea in the same way, and every cup will transport you back to the exotic landscapes and spirited ambience of Sri Lanka!