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Joe Meredith

Frequently asked questions about Sri Lanka

This article provides the latest guidance from our Sri Lanka experts, dispelling any misconceptions and equipping you with the essentials ahead of travel.

Considering a holiday to Sri Lanka? This article provides the latest guidance from our Sri Lanka experts, dispelling any misconceptions and equipping you with the essentials ahead of travel.

Sri Lanka is affectionately nicknamed the ‘teardrop of India’ due to its shape and proximity to its northern neighbour. This lush, emeraldine island is an excellent choice for a stand-alone holiday, or as part of a tour of the wider Indian Subcontinent. On a Cox & Kings Sri Lanka tour, you can stay at a working tea estate, visit the three ancient points of the Cultural Triangle, admire wildlife on safari, and much more.

Read on for answers to the most frequently asked questions about Sri Lanka.

Question: Is it safe to travel to Sri Lanka?

Answer: Yes – very safe. As of September 2022, the political and economic situation has stabilised; previous disruption caused by protests, power cuts and fuel queues has dissipated, and medicine is widely available. There is normal access to food and supplies, and the country is returning to normal. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) no longer advises against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka. You can read the UK government’s latest advice on the FCDO Sri Lanka page.

Q: What are the current Covid restrictions for entry to Sri Lanka?

A: If you’re fully vaccinated, you need a printed copy of your NHS Covid Pass. You can either do this by requesting one directly from the NHS here; or by using the NHS app and downloading a .PDF copy of your Covid Pass, which you can then print at home.

If you are not fully vaccinated, you either need to show proof of a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before embarkation, or a negative rapid antigen test taken within 48 hours before embarkation. Self-swab tests are not accepted.

You can check whether you qualify as fully vaccinated on the official Sri Lanka tourism website.

Q: Do I need any other vaccinations for Sri Lanka?

A: There are no compulsory inoculations required for entry into Sri Lanka, although protection against typhoid, polio, meningitis, hepatitis A and tetanus is advised. A yellow fever certificate will be necessary if coming from, or transiting through, a yellow fever zone within six days of entering Sri Lanka. The zone extends over much of tropical Africa and South America. Cholera precautions are also advisable. Please contact your doctor or travel clinic for further advice before departure.

Q: What are the visa entry requirements for Sri Lanka?

A: Your passport should be valid for six months from the date you arrive. All visitors to Sri Lanka are advised to apply online for an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) to enter Sri Lanka. You can arrange a visa upon arrival, but we recommend the ETA service for ease of travel and to prevent delays. You can apply for an ETA via Sri Lanka’s official ETA system here.

Q: What are the best things to see and do in Sri Lanka?

A: This island nation holds a wide array of wonders, both man-made and natural, but arguably the top five things to see and do in Sri Lanka are as follows:

• The Sigiriya rock fortress: Sigiriya – or ‘Lion Rock’ – is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that juts dramatically out of the forests of central Sri Lanka. Atop this monolithic granite column is an ancient fortress, built in the fifth century for King Kashyapa I of Anuradhapura. In addition to ascending the cliff-side staircase to see the ruins, we recommend exploring the wider area. Nearby Minneriya National Park is perfect for an elephant safari.

• Some of the best beaches in the world: On Sri Lanka’s east coast, around Passikudah and Trincomalee, you can unwind on a series of inviting white-sand beaches. Meanwhile, the south coast shelters little pockets of untouched golden sand and wild waves. Then there is the west coast, with its huge swathes of open sandy shore.

• Nuwara Eliya and surrounding tea country: Nuwara Eliya is a city set in Sri Lanka’s Hill Country – a bucolic region of rolling hills carpeted with tea leaves. The scenery is gorgeously green, with an air of the British countryside about it, and studded with colonial-era bungalows, hotels and gardens.

• The wildlife of Sri Lanka: Leopards, sloth bears, and a dazzling number of endemic birds call Sri Lanka home. Yala is the most famous national park, but Wilpattu provides a quieter experience. Sinharaja is great for bird watchers. Between February and March, head to the southern coast around Galle and Mirissa to go in search of blue whales.

• The train from Kandy to Ella: The meandering rail route from Kandy to Ella is rewardingly scenic, and best enjoyed aboard either Sri Lanka’s famous blue trains or the newer Ella Odyssey train. You can spend up to seven hours on board (with the option to get off earlier, should you prefer), gazing out of the open windows as the train winds its way through forests and tea plantations, and over the famous Nine Arch Bridge.

Q: When is the best time to visit Sri Lanka?

A: Sri Lanka experiences dual monsoons; as one side of the island is experiencing rain, the other will experience perfect beach weather. So, whenever you go, there is a chance of both rain and sunshine.

December to April is high season, as this is when the best beach weather arrives in the south and the west of the island. This is also when the Cultural Triangle, east and north of the island is wetter. January is the peak month for visiting, as the excellent weather draws large crowds.

September to October and April are considered the shoulder season, and the best time to explore the whole country. April coincides with Sinhala and Tamil New Year, so you may experience a little more traffic. If you travel in September or August, you may see more than 200 elephants gathered in Minneriya National Park.

Low season is May to August and the best time to avoid the crowds; this is when it is most rainy in the west, south and Hill Country.

Q: What should I pack for a Sri Lanka holiday?

A: When drawing up your Sri Lanka packing list, we strongly advise including:
• light clothing in general
• comfortable sandals
• mosquito repellent
• sun cream
• light waterproof jacket and/or an umbrella

Q: What are some useful Sri Lankan phrases and essential words to know?

A: Sri Lankans speak Sinhala, which shares the same Sanskrit origin as Hindi – India’s most widely spoken language. English is very widely spoken, but some basic Sinhalese phrases that may prove useful include:

• Hello / Goodbye – Ayubowan
• My name is… – Mageh namma…
• Thank you – Istuti
• Please – Karunakara
• Sorry / Excuse me – Sama venna
• Yes – Ow
• No – Naa
• Do you speak English? – Oyate ingreesi kathaa karanna puluwanda?
• I don’t speak Sinhala – Singhala danna naa

Q: How long does it take to fly to Sri Lanka from the UK?

A: If you fly with Sri Lankan Airlines, the flight takes approximately 10 hours and 45 minutes non-stop.

Q: Why explore Sri Lanka with Cox & Kings?

A: In addition to the usual reasons to book with Cox & Kings – including 24/7 support, escorted tours with genuinely small groups, and award-winning service – our Sri Lanka holidays have been expertly designed to showcase the best of this island nation.

If you wish to travel solo, you can join our dedicated Solo Travellers group tour, Splendours of Sri Lanka. Explore Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle, scenic hill country and palm-fringed shores alongside a small group of other solo travellers, free of single supplements and with 4- and 5-star accommodation throughout.

Alternatively, consider our Enchanted Island group tour – the perfect introduction to Sri Lanka. Stay at a number of beautiful, unique properties handpicked by our experts, such as the Heritance Kandalama, Heritance Tea Factory, and Cinnamon Wild. As well as the classic sights, you’ll visit Horton Plains, Sri Lanka’s highest plateau.

Still have unanswered questions about visiting Sri Lanka, or ready to begin planning your adventure? Call us or enquire online to speak to one of our Sri Lanka travel specialists.