Sri Lanka, Wonder of Asia, situated at the southern tip of India in the Indian Ocean and majority of Sri Lankans are Singhalese and Buddhists. We had always dreamt of escaping from our usual day to day life, and choose Sri Lanka as our holiday destination. I could say many reasons in selecting Lanka, it’s astonishing diversity, ethnic society, rich cultural heritage, close to nature and the island’s stunning array of wildlife, water-sports, Asia’s finest hotels, exotic food, this list will continue…
We had started planning and making arrangements for our Trip almost a month before itself in- order to avoid last minute rush. It’s always good to plan the vacationing couple of months prior to your travel date so that you can finalize the places you want to visit, activities you want to try, flight tickets booking (it will be lesser if you book in prior) and Visa application as well.
Visa can be applied via online (http://www.etagovt.com/slvisa/), the official site of Srilankan Embassy to get an Online Visa. It’s very simple and we got our visas approved in less than 2hours. I suggest getting a visa only through the above site as its Govt. site and the visa charges are less, $20 per person (SAARC nations). Validity will be 30days for Tourists with double entries. Indian Citizens have concession as it’s one among South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Countries. For other countries, Visa charge will be $35 for Tourists with double entries. You can make the Payment via Credit Card.
Few details you will have to provide such as your Passport No., purpose of visit, No. of days, Sri Lankan address which you are planning to stay (you can give your Hotel address).
We opted for a Travel Agent, wherein they had booked our Hotel rooms (in 3different locations, based on our areas to visit) in advance. They had provided us with an English speaking driver/guide and a Car for our travel which cost $580 (excluding flight tickets). We had planned for 3nights and 4days at Lanka. It’s not necessary that you have to hire an agent if you plan prior to your travel dates.
We opted Spice Jet for our journey (up and down), and the flight was comfortable. For international flights, you will have to check-in 3hrs prior (NO WEB CHECK-IN). Once checked in, you will have to go through Immigration part and takes hardly 30-45mins. We boarded from Chennai Airport and it took 1.15 hrs for us to reach Bandaranaike International Airport. Our Spice Jet tickets cost Rs 22000+ approx for two persons two way from Chennai to Colombo International Airport.
Sri Lanka’s currency is Sri Lankan Rupee which when converted 2.33LNR for 1INR. You can exchange the currency from any authorized Currency exchanger. Avoid exchanging from Airports as the rates they offer are lesser; we changed our currencies from a Local wale. One more option is you can use your Visa/Mastercard Debit Cards at any ATM to draw cash from Lanka. You can use your credit/debit cards at POS terminals. In fact, that will be the best option, as you will have to only pay a surcharge of approx INR200 for one transaction, instead of exchanging for a lesser price. We took 25k LNR for our local expenses and the ATM charges were around INR200. On credit card a surcharge of Rs. 60 was charged for some transactions. USD is also widely accepted in Sri Lanka.
Foodies will definitely love Lankan food as they offer a wide range of cuisine. Rice is the staple food of the Sri Lankans, served with a curry of fish, chicken or mutton, along with other curries made with vegetables, lentils, or fruits. Other must-try dishes are sour fish curry, kottu roti, Kukul mas curry, dhal curry (most common curry in all of Sri Lankan cuisine), string hoppers, Polos (green jackfruit curry). I am a vegetarian and I survived with Pasta, Fruits, Fresh Juice and String Hoppers. Sri Lanka has many nicknames like The Teardrop of India, Gem Island, or Pearl of the Indian Ocean.
You will also have an opportunity to taste the best seafood in the world which includes fresh tuna, shrimp and prawn, crab and lobster, fish maws, sea cucumber, cuttlefish and squids and sprat. Sri Lanka stands top in the list for supplying Tuna to the global seafood market.
Tuk Tuk (auto rickshaws) as most common in Sri Lanka, you can approach them for a local safari and it’s the best as they explain much about Lanka culture and must visit places. You can hire Tuk Tuk for 2-3days based on your need. Sri Lankan cars are another best thing, you can hardly spot one or two cars which are seen in India, they use only imported cars from Japan and they cost up to millions. We traveled in a Toyota Allion (provided by our travel agent) which costs around 35Lakhs. Car Lovers will definitely love it, as they get a chance to see and travel in imported cars. We booked the services of Mr.Upali Herath from Visit Our Lanka.
Lanka is costly and cheaper based on your standards. You can keep in mind the below tips if you are planning to forgo a vacation to Sri Lanka.
Language: – Sinhala, Tamil, and English are the national languages. English is spoken throughout the island.
Climate: – The weather is finest in the coastal regions and hill country of the south-west from October to March. You can expect heavy rains in the evening and after 6 pm it will be dark during this season.
Clothing: – Lightweight clothing is recommended, shorts are not permitted in places of worship. Footwear off in temples. You can carry a light sweater with you if required.
Currency: – The currency in Sri Lanka is the LKR (Lankan Rupee). As mentioned earlier, you can exchange prior or use ATM for your expenses. American Express and Visa Card are also widely accepted. Sri Lankans do not use Paypal and you will have to depend on Western Union Money Transfer etc.
Visa: – Visa on arrival or ETA Online. Third Party websites may charge you much higher.
Shopping: – Sri Lanka offers its visitors an array of shopping items, the most recognized being tea, ceramics, batik fabrics, leather goods, gems, and handicrafts. We did our shopping in Kandy at Gamage Stores were the prices are much cheaper than other places.
Photography:- Photography and video filming are permitted at most of the historical and sacred sites. The photography fee is included with the tickets often and we need not pay extra. Selfies are not allowed in Buddhist temples and before Buddhist statues. If you have any doubts, do check at the information center. While taking tickets you can mention that you are carrying Cameras. You can also check if the place requires permits for shooting photographs.
I will update more on my Sri Lanka Travel soon in my upcoming posts. Stay Tuned.