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Sri Lanka fact file: All you need to know about travelling to this stunning country

Your quick guide to Sri Lanka – from the weather and currency to local cuisine and must-have souvenirs. For more articles about visiting Sri Lanka, jump in here.


All visitors, with the exception of citizens of Singapore, Seychelles and the Maldives, will need a visa to enter Sri Lanka. You can get a short-stay visa online. Although it is still possible to get a tourist visa on arrival, it’s recommended that you do this before you travel.

Air time
4 hours from Singapore.

Cash & cards
The official currency of Sri Lanka is the Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR). Most major banks will change US dollars, Euro and GBP. Visa and MasterCard are the commonly accepted credit cards at top-end hotels and restaurants. You will find ATMs in major cities but do carry cash for small purchases or if you’re heading out of town.

Weather report
The best time to travel to the western and southern coasts and hill country is between December and March. May to September is a prime time to see the eastern coastlines.

Mother tongue
The official languages of Sri Lanka are Sinhala and Tamil. English is widely spoken.

First words
Hello: Ayubowan
What is your name? Oya geh nàma monadha?
My name is __: Mageh nàma __
How much? Keeyah the?
Thank you: Bohomus isthuthi
Yes: Ohw
No thank you: Nah isthuti

The Sinhalese greeting is “Ayubowan”, with hands pressed together at chest level. Light handshakes are common among the younger generation.

Clocking in
Sri Lanka is 5.5 hours ahead of GMT and 2.5 hours behind Singapore.

World Heritage Sites
Total: 8

Ancient City of Polonnaruwa
Ancient City of Sigiriya
Old Town of Galle
Sacred City of Kandy
Golden Temple of Dambulla

Must-try foods
Curry and rice, variations include beetroot, jackfruit, daal, fish, chicken and many others.

National flower
Blue water lily.

Must-buy souvenir
Wooden masks.

Did you know?

  • Sri Lanka became famous for tea only after its coffee fields were wiped out by leaf blight in the 1870s.
  • The Sri Lankan flag is the only one in the world to recognise different religious groups. The yellow border and pipul leaves symbolise Buddhism, while the green and saffron bands represent Muslim and Hindu communities.
  • The world’s first female prime minister was Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka.
  • A footprint found on the sacred mountain, Sri Pada (Adam’s Peak), is believed by Buddhists to belong to Buddha, by Muslims to Adam, by Christians to St Thomas and by Hindus to Lord Shiva.

Must-read book
Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje – a fictionalised account of the author’s return to his native Sri Lanka in the late 1970s.

Head here to see all of EL’s articles on stunning Sri Lanka.