The following are all questions we have been asked before mainly about our company and booking process. If you have any other questions please dont hesitate to email us.
We have an office in Colombo, the address is: 140 Vauxhall Street, Colombo 2, Sri Lanka. Our main line is +94112396666. We carry tour operator insurance – our insurance is with CHARTIS and the number is P/030104/2007/1. Travel In Style PVT LTD is a fully licensed Sri Lankan travel company. We trade under the brand name Sri Lanka In Style. Our tour operator license number is 082/2010.
You can trust you are booking with some of the most connected and passionate people in Sri Lanka. The journeys we create and the experiences we organize are underpinned by our love and knowledge of Sri Lanka, a dedicated and committed team of people and guides, and by our relationships with hundreds of individuals around the country who together form the tapestry “Sri Lanka… In Style”… From tea planters to helicopter pilots, from tuk tuk drivers to local artists, from chefs to train station masters….
Sri Lanka is complex and unpredictable in many ways and therein lies its beauty. Someone who knows will help you avoid many potential pitfalls. Chauffer’s may not know the location of a hotel, even if they say they do. If you are a light sleeper you may find yourself wondering why you stayed in a certain place at 5am when the monks from the local temple start chanting. You may find there are no more train tickets on the day you want to travel. You may find they gave you a room with no view. You may find yourself being driven to poor quality shops by chauffeurs more interested in making a commission than your overall experiences and impressions of the country. Your rooms turned out to be adjoining and not interconnecting. You missed out on a great festival because you were not aware it was happening on the day you left… Need we go on? On the flip side booking with a reputable travel company can be an interesting and pleasurable experience and need not be expensive. Our local knowledge will prevent the pitfalls, show you the best of Sri Lanka and will give you peace of mind.
The rates you pay for accommodation are the same rates you would pay if you booked directly with hotels or villa owners. We will apply competitive local rates for quality vehicles. We carefully handpick chauffeurs and guides, and we take a personal interest in training them. Our guide fees reflect the quality and service we pride ourselves in delivering. From our consultants you will receive an itinerary, all your travel bookings and important documentation. From our operations team based in Colombo you will receive personalized attention through-out the journey.
One day you wake up and decide to spend your next holiday in Sri Lanka! Next thing you know you are browsing the internet and stumble upon Sri Lanka In Style! You browse the website and like what you see – you prefer to deal with someone in Sri Lanka; someone who actually lives here and can give you a real insider’s perspective on the country. You pick up the phone or send us an email. One of our experienced consultants will respond within 24 hours. We will send you some key questions to get the ball rolling… you respond with as much detail as possible… Your travel consultant will make recommendations, suggest accommodation, recommend a route, discuss and help you plan how to make the most of each day and give you quick ballpark quotations. When you are happy with the plan we will prepare a formal proposal. As soon as you accept the proposal we confirm your travel arrangements and you will receive a written confirmation in the form of an itinerary and an invoice. A deposit is usually required to confirm the services. The deposit varies depending on the properties and the time of the year. The balance payment is usually required 45 days in advance. You can easily pay by credit card (we accept all major cards) or you also have the option of making a bank transfer to our account. We prepay all services to secure your bookings. For further information see booking conditions.A final confirmation voucher is forwarded to you by email. We will also send you a few additional documents which contain essential pre-trip information. On arrival in Sri Lanka we give you a welcome pack which contains a few items including your fully printed itinerary and maps, along with details on locations and pickups.
This section covers questions pertaining to visas, both for visiting Sri Lanka and for onward travel.
The ETA system wis now effective. The ETA can be obtained On-Line by logging on to www.eta.gov.lk and following the instructions. The cost is be US$20 as a standard for all countries for processing the visa prior to arrival. For South Asian (SAARC) countries the cost is be US$10. For children under the age of 12 there is no charge. Those who arrive at the airport without a prior visa will also be able to obtain a visa at the port of arrival. The cost will be US$25 for all countries and US$15 for South Asian (SAARC) countries.
This section covers questions pertaining what to expect in terms of service and standards from Sri Lanka In Style.
Sri Lanka In Style operates trips in various different ways. We may allocate a chauffeur-guide to drive you around and double up as your guide (one individual), we may allocate a guide and a separate chauffer (two individuals) where the role of the chauffer is to drive and the role of the guide is to guide. In some instances we may bring in ‘site-guides’ to show you around a particular location or site. A site guide is a specialist attached to a particular site.In some instances we may recommend a visit to an artist’s home, or a planters home, or simply feel that you might like to meet likeminded people – friends living in Sri Lanka who might join us for a meal or tea. The exact format of the trip depends a) on your budget: the chauffer-guide format is more competitively priced than the guide + chauffer format, b) on availability: if you book last minute we may not have a choice but go with one format or the other depending on who is available at the time, c) on your preferences and needs…Chauffer-Guides as well as Guides in Sri Lanka are licensed as such by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority. They need to sit exams and pass a test to obtain the license. Sri Lanka In Style employs approximately 25 chauffer-guides and guides whom we have carefully handpicked and with whom we share common values. Of these many are very knowledgeable and can seamlessly double up as Chauffeurs and Guides. Unfortunately there is not an infinite supply of great chauffer-guides or guides. If you book last minute during a heavy period we will still try to help but please understand we owe it to the early birds to give them the best people first…
Sri Lanka has wonderful jewellery, handlooms, books and handicrafts and we find that most people like to do a bit of shopping along the way and take something home. We do have a list of recommended shops which is entirely based on personal taste, the quality of the products and the guarantees they give you. We do not force shopping on clients whatsoever. If you feel pushed to shop by any of our guides or chauffeurs you should let us know immediately and we will take immediate action. Please refer to the list of recommended shops – any shops NOT listed we DO NOT recommend.There is one particular potential shopping experience we would like to discuss with you to try to minimize confusion and better manage your expectations: The Spice Gardens in Matale. Some people have complained to us about this particular stop along the way from the Cultural Triangle to Kandy. Our honest opinion is this: The history of Sri Lanka is intrinsically related to spices and here you (and your kids) will learn about the production of Vanilla, Chocolate, Pepper, Cinnamon, etc… this may be of some interest to you or not at all. This is for you to decide. Once the visit is complete you are asked whether you want to buy spices. Again it is for you to decide whether you want to buy anything or not. If you choose not to buy please consider tipping the person who showed you around.
It is very important to note that we are all from different cultures and tipping is understood and practiced very differently throughout the world. Some cultures tip very generously while others feel rather awkward and uncomfortable deciding on how much to tip and would prefer a service to be all inclusive.First of all please note: At Sri Lanka In Style we pay our chauffer’s and our guides, we pay them well, and we pay them on-time which is far more than can be said about some of our competitors. We feel drivers and guides are one of the most, if not the most, important element of a trip.It is true that in Sri Lanka chauffeurs and guides expect to be tipped for good service. However we can assure you that all our chauffer’s understand the cultural differences and they will accept whatever tip you choose to give them with gratitude. If you hire a car and driver, please also consider tipping your driver for good service. A good tip is anything between 20 USD and 40 USD per day of service. If you prefer that we INCLUDE the tip in the quotation so that you do not have to be involved in the act of tipping as such we can do so.With regards to accommodation please remember that 10% service charge has been included on all your accommodation in Sri Lanka and will be charged for all food and beverages you consume on site. The hotel staff in Sri Lanka receive a share of the Service Charge at the end of each month. In the smaller boutique hotels/villas if you wish to leave something extra we would suggest at the end of your stay you pass this to the General Manager of the hotel/Manager of the villa who will pass it on to the staff – generally this is also equally shared among staff. In the larger hotels it is easier to pass individual staff tips for carrying your bags; etc but really not necessary in the boutique hotels and villas.
Changes to the accommodation: Sometimes one might like to make a change to the itinerary or the accommodation whist travelling. We feel it is very important for you to do as much pre-trip planning and research as possible. In some cases we may be recommending a mix of high end and mid range hotels to suite your budget. The mid range hotels are obviously less reliable and your expectations management is the important to avoid disappointment. If the hotel has any specific shortcomings or malfunctions please document them with pictures and please send us a written complaint so that we can address the issue professionally with managers and property owners. In some cases changes will not be possible. in most cases hotels will charge 100% cancellation.Changing the vehicle or the chauffer-guide or the duration of their services: In the event of any problems with the vehicle itself we will of course change the vehicle. In the event that you are not satisfied with the chauffer-guide we may or may not be in a position to make changes immediately, but we will aim to do so as soon as possible. In the event that you decide to release the services of the vehicle and the chauffeur guide prematurely, no refund is possible.
At a private villa/house you will have the house and resident staff on an exclusive basis. Unless specified otherwise meals, drinks, telephone calls etc. are not included and can be settled direct based on consumption/usage. You can deal directly with the housekeeper over meals, shopping etc. You can either give the staff an allowance for shopping or settle the bills at the end of your stay. It is very important that you check the cost of food with the staff at the villa. There have been instances where guests have been unpleasantly surprised with the final food bill. Please prevent this by talking to the houseboy and or the cook and making sure you know what you are paying for.
Weather is always unpredictable. Helicopters and Sea Planes may not be able to land due to adverse weather conditions. In such cases the carrier reserves the right to return to base or find an alternative location to land in keeping with regulations and safety standards. It is very important for clients to note that in such case the cost of the flight will be borne by you, the client. By agreeing to book your holiday with us, you agree to these terms. Whether you fly or not is entirely your decision. The best course of action is to obtain a probability reading from the pilot and the ground staff and make your decision based on this. If you choose not to fly, Sri Lanka In Style will propose and provide alternative transportation.
Sinhalese New Year, also known as Aluth Avurudda, falls on the 13th/14th of April each year. This is a public holiday and therefore people enjoy time off work with their families and friends. There are auspicious times throughout the day when different ceremonies take place, including boiling over a pot of milk. It is traditional to eat milk rice (kiri bath) in the morning as well as various traditional sweets throughout the day. Although the holiday is only 2 days, many companies give their employees up to a week off. This means that during this period places of work such as tea factories can be closed, so make sure you take this into consideration when you are planning your trip.
We try very hard to manage your expectations. We are very proud of the fact that the immense majority of our clients enjoy their stay in Sri Lanka and compliment the services provided by the hotels and Sri Lanka In Style. There are instances, regrettably, when people feel that their expectations have not been met. We see ourselves as a learning organization and take all feedback and criticism constructively. We do have one important request: If you feel uncomfortable with any particular aspect of your trip, it is extremely important that you kindly let us know while you are in Sri Lanka. Please do not leave it for a latter day or for when you are back home. If we are made aware of any issues or shortcomings whilst you are on the ground this gives us the opportunity to take corrective action. If we are not made aware of issues or shortcomings you are experiencing with our services while you are travelling, complaints will be acknowledged however request for refunds or compensation will not be entertained. All complaints should be directed to the number Hotline – 0094 718 739 739.
Sri Lanka uses many different types of sockets. A full range of travel adaptors may come in useful. Specialized Sri Lankan adaptors can be bought in major hotels and many shops.
Please do ask permission before taking photographs of people and respect their wishes if they refuse. Minority groups, in particular, are often unhappy to have their photo taken. Photographing Buddhist Monks is not taboo but can create awkwardness so assess the situation and if in doubt ask. We do not recommend paying for the right to take a photo. If you do take a photo including local people, especially children, do share the picture with them if you have a digital camera as it is often greatly appreciated.
Sri Lanka is generally warm and sunny throughout the year. Protect yourself from the sun with creams, hats and sunglasses, drink plenty of filtered or bottled water to avoid dehydration.
Temperatures average between 27-30 °C in Colombo and on the coasts, and peak in April. They average about 10 °C cooler in the hill country. Sri Lanka lies 400 miles north of the equator and is affected by two South-East Asian monsoons. The south-west monsoon (Yala) brings most rain to Colombo and the south and west coasts in May/June and the inter-monsoon affects October/early November, although at all times of year sunshine can be plentiful and most of the rain falls in heavy bursts at night. The north-east monsoon (Maha) affects the north and east between December and February. Rainfall is becoming increasingly unpredictable. Sri Lanka averages about 240cms a year, slightly above the UK national average. The north and east are dryer, while the western slopes of the central highlands are wettest. Humidity ranges between 70-90 % in Colombo, lower in the Highlands and Cultural Triangle.
Pack for heat and humidity. Long-sleeve shirts can be good after dusk because of mosquitoes. Daytime coastal temperatures generally range from 27-32 °C, slightly cooler in the hill country, especially Nuwara Eliya and Hatton, where a light sweater is frequently required at night. Topless sunbathing is officially illegal. The use of bikinis is generally considered acceptable while on the beach. When swimming inland, in rivers or lakes, ask for local advice regarding swimwear as covering with a sarong may be necessary. Away from the beach, be aware that dress standards are comparatively conservative and it is respectful to wear loose, long and lightweight clothing. Shorts should always be knee-length. Be especially careful about modest dress when visiting religious sites – knees and shoulders must be covered.
Consider buying a Sri Lankan SIM card and top-up cards for your mobile phone. Sri Lankan mobile phone call rates are relatively cheap, both for local and international calls. There is a Dialog GSM shop outside airport arrivals. Sri Lanka In Style can pre-purchase a SIM card for you if you wish, just let us know in advance.
Most hotels now have WIFI – either free or you have to pay for a scratch card.
Customs and Cultural Differences
Sri Lanka’s genuine hospitality to tourists is renowned. Take care to avoid religious offence, however. In particular, respect the Buddhist faith: do not touch a holy man, do not pose for photographs in front of religious statues and remove shoes and socks when entering temples. We recommend that you read as much as possible about the island and learn a few Sinhala words. Be sensitive to cultural difference. Note that patience, friendliness and courtesy are highly valued virtues that will win you the respect and confidence of many people.
Before you go always email yourself a copy of all the important information – airline numbers, credit card phone numbers, passport and driving license numbers. That way if your documents and/or wallet is lost or stolen, all you need to do is log on to access all your details.
Police: 011-2433333. Fire: 011-2422222. Hospital: 2691111. Colombo Tourist Information – 011 225 2411 Kandy Tourist Information – 081 222 2661 Department of Motor Traffic – 011 269 4331 Automobile Association – 011 242 1528-9 Department of Immigration – 011 250 3629
Water conservation is especially important in Sri Lanka. Water is a precious resource needed for personal use, industry, farming and power generation (the island is heavily reliant on Hydro Electric Power). So please do avoid excessive use of water. A few options for saving water include: (i) Consider taking a shower rather then a bath; (ii) Consider shorter showers; (iii) Consider asking for your towels to be folded rather than washed each day; (iv) Don’t leave the tap running when brushing teeth.
Beware of breaking the 20kg baggage limit (plus one piece of hand luggage). Additional charges may be levied, or equipment left behind. Requests for a higher limit can be made on your behalf, but success is not guaranteed.
Food and drink
Rice and curry, and fresh fish, are the Sri Lankan staples, but a wide range of international dishes are available throughout the island. Bear in mind that by eating local food and drinks your money supports the locals rather than promoting costly imports.
Most importantly, drink (and clean your teeth in) bottled water only. This can be bought cheaply from local shops. Hotels also supply flasks of boiled and filtered water. Ensure you do not become dehydrated, especially after strenuous exercise. Coconut water is renowned as a settler of a queasy stomach, although some may prefer to take their medicinal coconut in the form of arrack – the local firewater.
Sri Lanka has more public holidays than anywhere else in the world. The most common holiday is Poya Day, which occurs every full moon. As a general rule, no alcohol is served and entertainment is restricted.
You are strongly advised to contact your own GP or vaccination centre before coming to Sri Lanka. Check on recommended innoculations as least a month before travel. These normally include tetanus, typhoid, hepatitis A and polio. Top hotels can advise on reputable local doctors, or private hospitals in the event of serious illness. In case of diarrhoea, pack body-salt replenishment powder, such as Dioralyte, as well as Immodium or a similar product. Among the items you might pack are: suncreams (factor 12 and above), insect repellent, sting relief cream, antiseptic cream, a lightweight hat and sunglasses. The HIV rate is rising throughout Asia, so if you might be sexually active, pack condoms and practice safe sex. Discourage any trishaw drivers or hawkers who act on behalf of any illegal prostitution racket.
Language and religion
Sinhala (spoken by more than 80 per cent of the public) and Tamil are the national languages. English is widely spoken and understood in all but the most out-of-the-way areas. Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity are all practiced.
The local currency is Sri Lankan Rupees. Currency can be exchanged in Sri Lanka only so you would be best to bring US dollars, AUS dollars, British Pounds or Euros. Travellers cheques are received but the commission can be higher. Credit cards are accepted in most shopping outlets. ATM machines are available in major cities. Guard your money carefully and use hotel safes where possible, as casual thieving can occur.
Passports and Visas
Holders of passports from the vast majority of countries, including UK, Ireland, United States, Germany, France, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden and India, can holiday in Sri Lanka for 30 days with a visa on arrival. This will change from the 1st of January 2012 when visitors will need to apply for a visa before travelling.
Bartering over the price of goods is widely expected for a variety of transactions, including the hire of trishaws and the purchase of handicrafts. Note though that not all sellers will quote you a price that is inflated and that therefore requires bargaining. Modern shops, for instance, have adopted Western habits where bartering is not welcomed. We recommend you try to ascertain the guide prices for goods or services before purchasing. Remember that a small and inconsequential saving for you could be an extremely important amount to the seller. Bargaining is best carried out in a light-hearted and courteous manner. Aggressive haggling will offend the seller and ultimately increase the price. If you make a purchase, beware extra import costs for tax, handling charges, customs, and delivery fees. In Australia, for example, fumigation certificates may also prove a problem.
GMT +6 hours.
Travel around Sri Lanka relies heavily on overland journeys. This entails several long drives, often on rough roads. Bathroom facilities during the drives at times can be very basic. An itinerary may call for a significant amount of walking on uneven paths, and you may encounter long and steep stairs at many of the sites you visit. Expect some challenging climbs at some of the historic sites. You should assess the climbs with your guide before attempting.
Taxi drivers, hotels and restaurants: 10 per cent is common. If you hire a car and driver, please also consider tipping your driver for good service. A good tip is anything between 10 USD and 40 USD per day of service.
The simplest and cheapest way to travel around Sri Lanka is by trishaw, or three-wheeler. Good-natured price bartering is widespread. In towns, work on a rough guide of about Rs.100 a mile and agree the price before you set off. Taxis are good value for longer journeys and operate on set charges – although taxis operating from 5-star hotels are dearer.
Train journeys from Colombo-Nuwara Eliya and beyond, or Colombo-Matara are a peaceful way of enjoying some spectacular scenery. Prices are cheap, so the luxury of booking first-class in advance is advised.
Sri Lanka’s roads will seem chaotic to all but the most experienced traveller in Asia. Independent car hire is possible upon production of credit card and driving license, but chauffeur-driven cars can be arranged for similar cost, and are generally strongly advised.
Its always good to read before a holiday and Sri Lanka has some good literature. Our bookshop contains a selection of some of the books we have found to be the most illuminating on our journey to a deeper understanding of this fascinating island, which Marco Polo, and many others since, have described as the most beautiful in the world. We have also produced a reading list in PDF, which you will find on the Recommended Reading page.
Sri Lankans are among the most courteous and friendly people in the world. But Sri Lanka will not be rushed and a genial, relaxed service is not always a rapid one.
Sri Lanka is one of the most diverse places on the planet – biologically, culturally and geographically. It would take a lifetime to truly appreciate this diversity in full. Here is an initial selection of some of the books we have found to be the most illuminating on our journey to a deeper understanding of this fascinating island, which Marco Polo, and many others since, have described as the most beautiful in the world. We will be updating the following selection of recommended titles throughout the year.
Click here to download our reading list.