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Sri Lanka for Beginners: Everything You Need to Know

February 2, 2023
10 Min Read
Sri Lanka
Stilt fishermen in Sri Lanka
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Sri Lanka for Beginners: Everything You Need to Know
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Updated On 
October 20, 2023
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Sri Lanka is a country with an immense amount of culture and beauty to explore. Despite its size, there are so many things to see and do in this small country, and planning a trip can be a bit daunting. 

That's why we've put together a list of important things you should know before visiting Sri Lanka to help you plan your trip.

This is a guide to everything you need to know before visiting Sri Lanka. This includes Sri Lanka visa information, the best time to visit, how to get around, and many of our top Sri Lanka travel tips you don’t want to miss!

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Sri Lanka Visa

To enter Sri Lanka, you will need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorisation or ETA. You can do this online. It takes 3 to 20 days to process, so apply at least 20 business days ahead of time.

The application costs 50 USD, and the visa is valid for 30 days. Once approved, you will receive a confirmation email that you’ll have to show once you arrive at the airport. So make sure to save this email.

Read: Visa Requirements for Sri Lanka

A young men looks through a bus-window in Matara, Sri Lanka.

Covid-19 Protocols

As of January 2023, proof of a COVID-19 vaccination card is mandatory for all visitors to enter Sri Lanka, according to the Ministry of Tourism. If you don't have proof that you were vaccinated against Covid-19, you must show a negative PCR test within 72 hours of entering Sri Lanka.

Busy streets in Matara, Sri Lanka

Travel Insurance for Sri Lanka

Looking for travel insurance for your Sri Lanka trip? 


We recommend Heymondo for your next trip. (Get 5% off for being our reader!) What we like best is that you can easily access everything by downloading the app. The app is user-friendly and easy to navigate. It includes 24-hour medical assistance, free online calls, and the ability to file claims directly from your mobile phone. Your insurance will also include COVID-19 coverage.


Mom and daughter walk along a train track in Ella, Sri Lanka.

Travel Vaccines

Besides the Covid-19 vaccination, there are no other mandatory vaccinations required for entry into Sri Lanka

However, getting your travel vaccinations is still a good idea if you want to avoid getting sick on the road. Vaccinations against diseases like hepatitis A, typhoid fever, and rabies, as well as other general vaccinations that may be appropriate for your travel plans, are recommended. So, before you leave, go to a travel clinic near you or speak with a professional to get the recommended vaccinations for Sri Lanka. 


Statue with many faces at Munneswaram Temple, Sri Lanka

Best Time to Visit Sri Lanka

The best time to visit Sri Lanka depends on where on the island you want to go. Later on in this post, we have included the best time to visit for each destination. 


But in general, if you’re going to the west or south coast, it’s best to visit between October and March. While it’s best to visit the east coast and north from April to September

Read: Best Time to Visit Sri Lanka


Colonial buildings in Galle, Sri Lanka.

Getting Around Sri Lanka

Because Sri Lanka is a small country, there are numerous ways to get around the island. Here are the main modes of transportation while visiting Sri Lanka.


Train: Sri Lanka is well-known for its scenic train rides, especially the route between Ella and Kandy. This breathtaking ride, which passes through rolling mountains and green tea fields, is regarded as one of the most beautiful in the world.


Head to the railway government site to find the most updated train schedules and prices in Sri Lanka.  


Tip: Book your train to Sri Lanka in advance especially if visiting during peak season. 

A red train crosses Nine Arch Bridge in Ella, Sri Lanka.

Bus: The main mode of transportation in Sri Lanka is by bus.

There are a lot of local buses that can reach remote areas of the country. Plus, you get a chance to travel like a local by hopping into one of these colorful buses. Sit back and enjoy the fresh air while local music blasts out of the speakers.


A red bus in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

Tuk-tuk: In Sri Lanka, one does not have to look far to find a tuk-tuk. These iconic vehicles can be found all over the country because they are the most convenient way to travel short distances.


You can find plenty of tuk-tuk drivers on the streets. Just walk up to one and tell them where you’d like to go, or you can also ask your accommodations to arrange one for you. However, be aware that scams relating to tuk-tuk drivers are common, which we will discuss later in this post.  

Tip: Agree on the price before getting into a tuk-tuk.

A traffic officer controls traffic in Matara, Sri Lanka.

Motorbike: Motorbikes are a less popular but equally enjoyable way to get around the island. This is best for day trips and exploring on your own. Keep in mind that the roads in Sri Lanka are busy and chaotic, so it is advisable to rent only if you have an international motorbike license.

Car: Traveling by car is the most convenient way to get from one place to another in Sri Lanka. It is also the best and quickest way to travel if you have limited time.


You can arrange a car from your accommodation or book online through Grab or Pick Me. The only downside is that booking cars can get expensive. If you're traveling alone, you might want to find other people to share the cost with. 

Book your car transfers online

A red car on a busy street in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

Currency in Sri Lanka

The cost of travel in Sri Lanka varies depending on your style of travel. Keep in mind that prices also vary depending on where you are on the island and in what season you visit. On average, you can make your visit to Sri Lanka relatively cheap if you choose to eat at local food stalls and use public transportation.

To help you decide how much money you need to bring to Sri Lanka, it's good to note that Sri Lanka has its own currency, which is the Sri Lankan rupee (LKR). At the moment of writing, roughly 200 rupees are equal to 1 US dollar. 


Sri Lankan currency


There are many ATMs available around the country, especially in major tourist destinations. Also, prices for tourists tend to be a bit higher than in its neighboring countries. But Sri Lanka is still inexpensive, which makes it a great destination if you’re traveling on a budget. With the right planning and budgeting, you'll be able to enjoy all that Sri Lanka has to offer without breaking the bank.

Tip: As local shops and markets may not accept card payments, we recommend carrying small amounts of cash with you at all times.

Crowds at a temple in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka.

Internet Access and SIM Cards

You will find fast and reliable free wifi at most tourist accommodations, cafes, and restaurants in Sri Lanka. But we highly recommend buying a local sim card, so you’ll have access to the internet wherever you are. 

We also recommend going with Dialog. On our trips to Sri Lanka, we used Dialog, and it provided the best coverage in the country, from the main town of Ella to the outskirts of the Minneriya National Park!

Tip: Choose the tourist pack that costs around 8 USD for 10 GB of data and is valid for 30 days.

A tuk-tuk driver looks into the camera.


You can buy your SIM card at the airport upon arrival or at any shop in town with the Dialog logo. And if you run out of data, you can always go to any store displaying their logo and buy reload cards. Topping up your data is also pretty straightforward. There are instructions on the card, or you can ask the person behind the counter to help you.


For more information about Dialog’s tourist plans, visit their website.


Students walk in front of a red bus in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

Basic Phrases

English is very common in many tourist areas in Sri Lanka, so you will be fine if you know basic English. But here are some handy phrases to learn that will go a long way. 


Hello - Ayubowan

Thank you - Istuti

Please - Karunakerara


A green valley in Ella, Sri Lanka

Power Sockets in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has two associated plug types, Types D and G. However, it’s always a good idea to bring a travel adapter to be safe.

Busses at Matara bus station, Sri Lanka.

Is Sri Lanka Worth Visiting

Sri Lanka is absolutely worth visiting! From the golden beaches and lush rainforests to the archaeological ruins and wildlife, Sri Lanka is a destination that offers something for everyone.  

Read: Ultimate Sri Lanka Bucket List

A monkey tries to grab a banana on a tree.

Is it Safe to Travel to Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a relatively safe country to travel to. To ensure a safe and enjoyable stay in Sri Lanka, it is essential to use caution when traveling and adhere to local customs. And like anywhere else you’re traveling to, great use of common sense can get you a long way.

With that said, here are the most common scams to watch out for in Sri Lanka:


Tuk-Tuk Scams: The most common scam is tuk-tuk drivers overcharging you. You may also encounter drivers claiming that attractions or hotels are closed. Once they have your attention, they will take you somewhere more distant and charge you much more.


A Purple Faced Langur sits in a tree.

Milk Powder Scams: A street kid will tell you a heartbreaking story and convince you to buy powdered milk for a younger sibling. The milk will be more expensive, and the child will return it for a refund, even splitting the profit with the store.


Stilt Fishing Scams: In Sri Lanka, the practice of stilt fishing is no longer widespread. Sadly, some people pretend to fish while they wait to see tourists. If you take a picture, someone on the shore will ask for money and split the money with the stilt poser. If you visit remote areas of Sri Lanka, you might still be able to see local fishermen on stilts.


Note: These scams are all relatively harmless and will only hurt your wallet. But it’s good to stay vigilant and use that money to buy something from the hardworking locals instead. 

Narrow streets in Galle, Sri Lanka.

How Long to Spend in Sri Lanka

Deciding how long you should spend in Sri Lanka depends on what type of activities you are looking to do and the amount of time you have available. Sri Lanka offers an abundance of activities for any length of stay, ranging from relaxing on a long stretch of beach to hiking adventures and jeep safaris.

Tip: We recommend spending at least two weeks exploring Sri Lanka.


Government officials in uniform at a temple in Anuradhapura, Sri Laka

Here are three itineraries you can read that can help you maximize your stay in Sri Lanka, depending on the length of your trip.


7 Day Sri Lanka Itinerary: This Sri Lanka guide will let you experience the beautiful coastlines, lush jungles, and ancient cities all within one week.


3 Week Sri Lanka Itinerary: On this route, you’ll get a chance to spot wild leopards in Yala National Park and walk among pilgrims as you climb to the summit of the sacred Adam’s Peak. This itinerary is the perfect mix for a holiday packed with adventure and culture.


1 Month Sri Lanka Itinerary: With 4 weeks in Sri Lanka, you can truly experience the culture and beauty this country has to offer. Discover every corner of former Ceylon with this 4-week itinerary, from ancient cities to blonde beaches and breathtaking natural wonders! 

A man looks through a bus window in Matara, Sri Lanka.

How to Plan Your Trip

Before you head off on your next adventure, make sure to take care of all the important details. To help you make the most of your trip, here is our quick step-by-step guide to planning a trip to Sri Lanka.

  1. Determine when and for how long you want to visit.
  2. Check the season and weather before deciding which region to visit.
  3. Research what you want to see and do. 
  4. Finalize your Sri Lanka itinerary
  5. Apply for your visa.
  6. Book your flights. 
  7. Get your vaccinations. 
  8. Book your transportation and accommodations.
  9. Pack your bags.

People pray in front of a Buddha statue in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

And that is the guide to Sri Lanka travel tips! 

We hope you came across something new and found some inspiration for your upcoming trip to Sri Lanka.

So what are you waiting for? Book that ticket and experience Sri Lanka's rich culture, cuisine, and tourist attractions. May you have an unforgettable experience wherever your journey may take you!

Let us know if we missed anything in the comments section below.

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