Pristine rainforest. Ancient rock fortresses. Wildlife aplenty. And some of the most perfect beaches on the planet. There are so many reasons to visit Sri Lanka.

One day you could be hiking the Knuckles Mountain Range, high in Sri Lanka’s hill country; the next, travelling by train through tea plantations and into the mountains. And when you start each morning with curry, hoppers and a cup of the local tea, you know it’s going to be a good day. Climb Lion Rock, a dramatic carved-rock fortress in Sigiriya, watch orphaned baby elephants enjoy their breakfast at Udewalawe, and explore Jaffna in the island’s north, previously off-limits to travellers. The only struggle you’ll have in Sri Lanka is knowing where to start.

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Travel lightly with Intrepid. We’ve offset the main sources of carbon emissions from this trip on your behalf, including transport, accommodation & waste. Read more

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Sri Lanka travel highlights

Transport in Sri Lanka

Intrepid believes half the fun of experiencing a new country is getting there, and getting around once there! Where possible, Intrepid uses local transport options and traditional modes of transport - which usually carry less of an environmental impact, support small local operators and are heaps more fun.

Depending on which trip you're on while in Sri Lanka, you may find yourself travelling by:

Group cycling past ancient stupa in Sri Lanka

Bicycle

Hiring a bike and pedalling around ancient cities full of fascinating ruins is a fun and interactive way to learn about Sri Lanka’s deep history.

Cycle Sri Lanka: North

Circle Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Hike, Bike & Kayak

Cycle Sri Lanka

Smiling traveller on train in Sri Lankan hill country

Train

Experience some of the world's most beautiful train journeys in the hill country of Sri Lanka.

Circle Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Hike, Bike & Kayak

Essential Sri Lanka

Cycle Sri Lanka

Simply Sri Lanka

Traveller standing next to tuk tuk on the street in Sri Lanka

Tuk Tuk

Tuk Tuks are the best and cheapest way to make your way around Sri Lanka's towns and cities.

Circle Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Expedition: Wilderness & Wildlife

Classic Sri Lanka

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Group in jeep on safari in Udawalawe National Park

Jeep

Jump in a jeep for a wildlife safari in Sri Lanka's national parks.

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Sri Lanka holiday information

At a glance

Best time to visit Sri Lanka

Culture and customs

Eating and drinking

Geography and environment

History and government

Top 10 Spiritual Spots in Sri Lanka

Shopping

Festivals and Events in Sri Lanka

Health and Safety

Further reading

Sri Lanka travel FAQs

Foreign passport holders are required to obtain a visa prior to entry into Sri Lanka. This can be done on-line at the following website: www.eta.gov.lk

Detailed information and application forms are provided here. The process is simple and the cost is US$35 for most countries.

Sri Lankans work hard and typically receive a low wage, so tipping drivers, porters, maids and other service staff is a good idea. A small amount should suffice. When in restaurants, add 10% to the bill as a tip.

Internet access is growing in Sri Lanka. Internet cafes are easily found in large cities, but the speed may be slower than what you’re used to.

Mobile phone coverage is generally good in urban areas, but can be patchy and less reliable in rural areas. Ensure global roaming is activated on your phone before you arrive.

Squat toilets are the most common toilets in Sri Lanka. Always carry your own toilet paper and soap as they are usually not provided. Western-style flushable toilets can be found in upmarket restaurants, five-star hotels and in some tourist areas.

Soft drink = 100 LKR
Beer = 200-250 LKR
Simple lunch at local restaurant = 300 – 400 LKR 
Seafood dinner = 1,000-1,500 LKR

It's not recommended to drink the tap water in Sri Lanka. Filtered water is a better option; try to use a refillable canteen or water bottle rather than buying bottled water. Remember to avoid ice in drinks and peel fruit before eating.

Credit cards are usually accepted by modern hotels, restaurants and medium-large shops in tourist areas. Smaller shops, cafes, market stalls and places in remote areas probably won’t have facilities that support credit cards, so ensure you have enough cash to cover expenses while in rural areas or when visiting smaller vendors.

ATMs are becoming more common in Sri Lanka’s large cities, so finding one shouldn’t be a problem. Smaller towns and isolated areas will have very few, or none at all, so have enough cash to cover purchases as ATM access may not be available.

Absolutely. All passengers travelling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of their trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey. 

For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance

Intrepid is committed to making travel widely accessible, regardless of ability or disability. Although Sri Lanka can be a challenging destination for travellers with disabilities, locals are friendly, obliging and and eager to assist visitors. While there are directives from the Sri Lankan Supreme Court to make public buildings more accessible, in practice there is still a long way to go. Streets and crossings are often congested with vehicles, vendors, stray dogs and as well as frequent roadworks. Potholes and broken pavement, uneven terrain and lack of signage are common and along with many public facilities in poor repair, all creating barriers for those with disabilities. Travelling with an able bodied companion will help overcome some of the difficulties in getting around and help you get the most out of your time in Sri Lanka. Public buses and trains don’t have facilities for wheel chair users and overcrowding makes them a challenging choice. For short trips, tuk tuks are easily available, cheap and efficient. For longer journeys it can be good value and a great experience to hire a private car and driver. Other than a handful of high end hotels, accommodation is not wheelchair accessible. There are many more budget options that can provide rooms and bathrooms that you can access without stairs but check with the hotel for other access needs as stairs may be present in entrances to other property buildings such as restaurants or pools. Safaris in the national parks are a great option for those with limited mobility.

Everyone should feel comfortable when they travel with Intrepid and we know that many of our travellers are part of the LGBTQI community. It’s important for our travellers to be aware of the local laws and customs in the destinations we visit as some countries have laws that discriminate against LGBTQI people. We recommend you visit Equaldex and/or Smartraveller before you choose your trip for up-to-date advice and information about LGBTQI-related laws. 

Sri Lanka still has laws criminalising same-sex sexual activity existing from colonial times however the Supreme Court has stated this law is unenforceable. There are few protections for the LGBTQI community in Sri Lanka and there are regular reports of harassment. Sri Lanka does not recognise same-sex marriages or civil unions. In theory, transgender individuals can obtain new identity cards in accordance with their gender identity but in practice there are many bureaucratic barriers in place. The subject of LGBTQI rights is rarely discussed publically, but travellers who are discreet and respect the conservative nature of most locals are unlikely to encounter any issues or discrimination while travelling in Sri Lanka.

For more insight into LGBTQI life in Sri Lanka see:

http://www.equal-ground.org/

http://srilankabrief.org/tag/lgbt-rights/

Responsible Travel

Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.

local men in market in sri lanka

Top responsible travel tips for Sri Lanka

  1. Be considerate of Sri Lanka’s customs, traditions, religions and culture.
  2. Dress modestly and respectfully. Shoulders to knees should be covered, especially when entering places of worship.
  3. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water instead.
  4. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.
  5. When bargaining at markets, stay calm, be reasonable and keep a smile on your face. It's meant to be fun!
  6. Learn some local language and don't be afraid to use it - simple greetings will help break the ice.
  7. Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive.
  8. Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals.
  9. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.
  10. When on community visits or homestays, refrain from giving gifts or money to locals.