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Shiva statue in Trincomalee © eleleven / Flickr
Shiva statue in Trincomalee © eleleven / Flickr

7 Travel Tips For First-Time Visitors to Sri Lanka

Picture of Orana Velarde
Sri Lanka Hub Writer
Updated: 24 November 2017

For those traveling to Sri Lanka for the first time, there are things that are better worth knowing beforehand. Sri Lanka is not as bustling as Thailand, Indonesia and Bali but is growing in popularity with every season. More and more travelers are coming to the teardrop island, and we’ve got some tips for first-time visitors.

The Sri Lankan people are some of the nicest in the world and that makes the Sri Lankan experience so much better!

Don’t Stress

Life in Sri Lanka is slow and laidback. The people are never in a hurry for anything and if you are coming from the city or anywhere fast-paced it might be hard to wind down. Take it easy and try not to fill the day with too many activities, you might not get to do all of them with all the eating you will be undertaking.

Get Cultured

Sri Lanka carries so much history that it’s a waste to visit and not learn a bit about it first. Take some time to learn about the Civil War and the Colonial era before that. It’s only been a few years since the war ended and the people of Sri Lanka have had to re-adjust to a non-colonial, post-war life. By knowing a little of what they went through, you will appreciate your time there more.

Treat yourself to an Ayurvedic treatment

Ayurveda is a common health practice in Sri Lanka. A basis of the Ayurvedic practice is aromatherapy and massage that will alleviate a tired mind and soul. There are a few places in Colombo and also in the highlands where travelers can get an Ayurvedic massage and treatment.

Get ready to eat with your hands

Rice and curry is eaten by hand in Sri Lanka, like in most other southeast and south Asian countries. Of course you can use utensils but why not do like the locals! All rice and curry places have a sink to wash your hands, because no one wants to eat with a dirty hand.

Don’t skip Colombo

It’s common for visitors to come to Sri Lanka and skip the capital city of Colombo to make their way to the southern beaches or the cultural triangle in the central highlands. Truth is, Colombo has a lot to offer if you stick around for a couple of days. From temples to coffee shops, museums and parks, the city has great sights.

Carry mosquito repellent

Do not forget to always have mosquito repellent in your pack at all times. Mosquitos are everywhere and there have been quite a few Dengue outbreaks on the island. Best be safe and stay protected. If you run out, there’s plenty of natural and chemical repellents available.

Have small cash

Tuk-tuks, buses and shops will usually not have change for big bills. Thankfully ATM machines give change when they dispense money. Some international cards are not very successful so bring more than one. Tipping is normal in cafes and restaurants as well, leaving a 20 or a 50 rupee note is quite alright.