Sri Lanka’s Currency
The local currency is the Sri Lankan Rupee, divided into 100 cents (you rarely come across cents today). Currency notes are Rs. 5,000, Rs. 2,000, Rs. 1,000, Rs. 500, Rs. 100, Rs. 50, Rs. 20, and Rs. 10. Beware of mistaking the Rs. 500 note for the somewhat similar Rs. 5,000 note. Make sure you have plenty of lower denomination notes (Rs. 50, Rs. 100, Rs. 500), especially when travelling and you need to buy small items, fruit, and eat cheap meals, because change is often hard to come by apart from at hotels and big shops.
Banks are open from 0900 hrs to 1500 hours Monday to Friday. Some city banks close at 1200 hrs, while some are open on Saturday mornings. It’s easy to withdraw money across the island at ATMs using international credit cards or debit cards. Most hotels, restaurants and shopping centers accept credit cards.
Sri Lanka Standard Time is five and a half hours ahead of GMT. (Allowance should be made for summer-time changes in Europe.)
230 Volts, 50 cycles AC. If you travel with a laptop computer; bring a stabilizer.
Sri Lanka has two official languages. Sinhala and Tamil – with English as a link language. Most people have some knowledge of English, and signboards are often in English.
Photography, Restrictions & Permits
Sri Lanka is a tremendously photogenic island, so it’s hardly surprising that most tourists bring a camera of some kind when they visit the country. The stunning landscapes, the captivating fauna and lush flora, and the stupendous archaeological remains provide great opportunities: a bonus is that Sri Lankans love to be captured on film. So it’s easy to capture the traditional rural lifestyle. You’ll find villagers, farmers, fishermen and tea pluckers will readily stand in front of your viewfinder. Your subjects will often ask to have a copy of picture sent to them. This may be laborious, but it is a reasonable courtesy. It is also understandable that many will also expect a token recompense for allowing themselves to be photographed.
There are some important restrictions that apply to photography regarding Buddhist imagery. When you visit a temple or other religious site, remember that photography should not be carried out in a manner causing disrespect. For instance, it is strictly forbidden to be photographed in front of or beside any statues and murals. Note that flash photography can damage old murals.
What to Wear
Cotton clothes are useful at any time of the year but you will need light woolens for the hills and waterproof clothing or an umbrella. Modest dress for women is advisable especially off the beach.
When visiting all Religious Sites
Sri Lanka follow a ‘Strict Dress Code’ for Men and Women when visiting all religious sites. Ladies are required to cover the shoulders and a dress covering the legs upto the ankle. You may refrain by wearing tight clothes & Jeans too. Remember to carry a cloth with you big enough to wrap around if needed. Men too are required to cover the shoulders – kindly avoid wearing skinnies – and a dress upto the ankles to avoid disappointment. You are required to enter into most religious places barefooted, remember the ground could be burning hot, either you have to keep your shoes/slippers at the entrance along with your hand bags or you may carry them with you if that is allowed.
In general the threats to personal security for travelers in Sri Lanka are remarkably small. It is more pleasant to travel with a companion as it is advised not to travel alone especially after dark. The island including the North and East is safe to visit.
You may sometimes be overwhelmed by crowds of people in public places (railway stations, markets, bus stands, temples or simply busy streets). “Touts” and hawkers may jostle and push and clamor to show you a hotel and sell you things.
Travelers with Special Needs
Travelers with special needs, especially if they visit Sri Lanka without a companion, should note that the country has relatively few facilities for disabled people, although greater awareness and improvements are evolving. If you aren’t travelling with a companion, you’ll find that Sri Lankans will be only too eager to assist.