We strongly believe that before traveling to a foreign country you should learn as much about that country as possible in order to make the most of your time there. An understanding of Sri Lanka’s culture, history and traditions will enhance your experience at every turn – not only when visiting the ancient cities and religious temples, but also simply when you are observing local life. Our travel tips not only include useful practical information, they also cover how to be respectful – Sri Lanka is a deeply religious and traditional country. We have also included a list of recommendations on dining, shopping and things to do.
Stuff You Should Know ?
- Essential Tips
- Lunch Stops and Refreshments
- Things to Do/Activities
Sri Lanka uses a range of sockets, including European and UK plug styles, so an international travel adapter may come in useful. Specialized Sri Lankan adaptors can be bought in major hotels and many shops.
An airport tax is built into the price of your flight tickets; Sri Lankan departure tax is no longer paid on departure.
Allow Enough Time
We believe that you will discover Sri Lankans to be the most courteous and friendly people in the world. However, Sri Lanka will not be rushed, and a genial, relaxed service is not always a rapid one. Allow a little more time for checking out of hotels, ordering food, paying bills, traveling etc.
Please 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.
Pack for heat and humidity. Long-sleeves might be advisable after dusk to protect against mosquitoes. In the hill country, where it is cooler, a light sweater is frequently required at night.
On the Beach:
Topless sunbathing is officially illegal. The use of bikinis is generally considered acceptable while on the beach. When swimming in rivers or lakes ask for local advice, as covering up may be necessary.
Away from the beach/pool, be aware that dress standards are comparatively conservative and it is common practice to wear loose, long and lightweight clothing. Be especially careful about modest dress when visiting religious sites, where knees and shoulders are often required to be covered.
Consider buying a Sri Lankan SIM card 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.
Most hotels offer free internet access, as do some cafes, particularly in areas such as Galle Fort. Sri Lanka Telecom shops (e.g. Colombo World Trade Center) sell scratch cards for immediate Internet access, which are good value and easy to use. IDD facilities are available in the vast majority of tourist hotels and hotel fax lines are plentiful. To contact a BT operator from Sri Lanka, for charge card or reverse-charge calls, dial 432999 (but be aware that some hotels will block this number). Cyber cafes exist in Colombo and some tourist areas, although connection speeds are slow outside Colombo.
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 monk, do not pose for photographs on religious statues and remove shoes and socks when entering temples. We recommend that you are as informed as possible about the island before you arrive: read about the religion and culture and learn about local rules and values. Be sensitive to cultural difference. Patience, friendliness and courtesy are highly valued virtues that will win you the respect of many.
Before you go, email yourself a copy of all the important information – airline numbers, phone numbers and passport and driving license numbers. If your documents and/or wallet is lost or stolen, you can still access all your details.
Sri Lanka celebrates several religious holidays each year, including a Poya (full moon day) each month which is categorized as a Public, Bank and Mercantile Holiday. These holidays are referred to as ‘dry days’, as the sale of alcoholic beverages at shops, hotels and restaurants is prohibited. Wine stores, taverns and bars are also closed on these days. Your travel consultant will be able to advise if your holiday dates include a dry day, and your chauffeur-guide can assist you with purchasing alcohol in advance if you wish to consume alcohol on a dry day.
- Police: 011 2433333
- Fire: 011 2422222
- Hospital: 011 2691111
- Colombo Tourist Information: 011 2252411
- Kandy Tourist Information: 081 222 2661
- Department of Motor Traffic: 011 2694331
- Automobile Association: 011 2421528/9
- Department of Immigration: 011 2503629
Entertainment is predominantly, but not exclusively, based around the top hotels, which offer: a range of restaurants and bars; sports facilities, from swimming pools to floodlit tennis courts; health facilities and spas; nightclubs, and traditional Sri Lankan entertainment. However, do not automatically limit yourself to the hotel – in Colombo especially, and in other major tourist areas, there are smaller, independent alternatives. Casinos are sanctioned for tourists.
The beaches are some of the finest in the world, but before you swim consider dangerous currents and cleanliness. Sri Lanka also offers: game parks; activity holidays; bird-watching sanctuaries; hill-walking and outstanding historical and religious sites. There is a wide range of shopping options in the country, including gems, spices, linen and batiks, art galleries and hand-made carvings.
Sri Lanka’s terrorist conflict ended in 2009 after a 20-year guerrilla war by the Tamil Tigers was defeated by government forces. Even at the height of the conflict, the vast majority of the island was violence-free. There has been no renewal of terrorism since the end of the war and Sri Lanka has experienced a large rise in tourist numbers. The conflict touched many lives with sadness and should not be regarded as a topic for casual conversation.
Beware of breaking baggage limits; your flight tickets should clearly state the maximum baggage weight. 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. You can ship excess baggage to your final destination through the excess baggage counter, which offers better rates than similar airline-run services. This counter is located prior to the check in desks at the farewell area. Expect any unaccompanied excess baggage to reach your final destination 3-5 days after the day of departure.
Food and Drink
Rice and curry is the Sri Lankan staple, but a wide range of international dishes are available throughout the island. Bear in mind that purchasing local food and drink supports the locals rather than promoting costly imports. When eating, consider the old advice: ‘boil it, bake it, peel it or ignore it’. Be particularly wary of salads and unpeeled fruit and ensure your meat is thoroughly cooked.
Most importantly, drink and clean your teeth in bottled water only. This can be bought more cheaply from local shops than top hotels, but check that the seal is unbroken. Top hotels also supply flasks of boiled and filtered water. 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 being Poya Day, which occurs every full moon and is important to Buddhists for religious observances. Generally shops and businesses are closed on Poya days, the sale of alcohol and fresh meat is forbidden and entertainment can be restricted.
April is a festive month in Sri Lanka, when Buddhists and Tamils celebrate the New Year or ‘Avurudhu’, in line with the Sun’s astrologi- cal movements from the house of Pisces to the house of Aries. The whole island joins in these festivities which include religious ceremonies, games, family get-togethers, traditional food and fireworks. With the buzz of activity, there is likely to be large crowds of local shoppers hunting for gifts and new clothes all throughout the country, so remember to factor in some extra time when heading out. This will also be a great time to sample some of Sri Lanka’s traditional sweetmeats as well as some fun games fit for all ages. It is good to keep in mind also that during the 13th and 14th of April, all wine stores, taverns and bars will be closed. Consumption of alcohol will be possible within your room and we recommend purchasing your requirements in advance.
For the dates of upcoming of national holidays, visit: www.srilanka.travel/srilankan_public_holiday
You are strongly advised to contact your own GP or vaccination centre in respect of required vaccinations for Sri Lanka. Check the recommended inoculations at least a month before travel – these usually include tetanus, typhoid, hepatitis A / B and polio. For further information, see our Travel and Health section.
We advise you to pack:
- Sun cream, insect repellent, sting and bite relief cream and antiseptic cream.
- Body-salt replenishment powder, such as Dioralyte, and Imodium or similar, to be used for cases of diarrhoea.
Top hotels can advise on reputable local doctors, or private hospitals in the event of serious illness. 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% of the public) and Tamil are the national languages. English is widely spoken and understood in all but the most remote areas. Buddhism is the predominant religion, although Hindus, Muslims and Christians are also present.
All the top hotels offer a one-day laundry service, although prices vary widely. Cheaper launderettes are available in most towns, although quality is inconsistent.
Money and Security
Local currency is Sri Lankan Rupees. Currency can only be exchanged in Sri Lanka, so you would be best to bring US Dollars, British Pounds or Euros. The bank booths in the airport arrivals hall generally offer the most competitive rates and quick service. Debit cards and credit cards can be used in most restaurants and shops. We advise against Traveller’s cheques, which are rarely accepted. ATM machines are widely available in major cities. Beware credit-card frauds whenever you pay direct. We offer a strict anti-fraud policy for your maximum protection.
Passports and Visas
Since 1st January 2012, all travellers arriving in Sri Lanka must have a visa. Visitors must apply for the official Electronic Travel Authorisation via www.eta.gov.lk. There is a small fee for the visa, and you must have at least six months left on your passport at time of travel in order for the visa to be approved. Citizens from Singapore, The Seychelles and The Maldives are exempt. For more information, see our Visa section.
Travelling in Sri Lanka is extremely safe, but caution should always be exercised when visiting a new country, particularly if you find yourself in an unfamiliar environment. Your personal safety is your own responsibility. Please take extra care when in an area where there may be wild animals and keep a safe distance away should one cross your path. Be mindful of any signs stating that an area is restricted or dangerous due to the presence of wild animals, but be aware that not all unsafe areas are marked as such – if in doubt, always check.
Our chauffeur-guides will provide you with safety briefings before you do any activities which carry potential risks such as trekking, safari drives and water-sports. These briefings include a step by step outline of the activity and any advisable precautionary measures. Much of the information included in these briefings is common sense, and we would never recommend any activities that would put our clients in danger. These briefings also include recommendations of what to wear / take along for the activity, an approximate duration and background information. Should you have any concerns about the activities included in your holiday, please speak to your sales consultant.
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). Avoid excessive use of water: consider taking a shower rather than a bath, or shorten the length of your shower, and consider asking for towels to be folded rather than washed each day.
Electricity conservation is essential in Sri Lanka. Power is a precious resource at present and the demand for electricity places an enormous strain on the economy. Try to conserve electricity where possible: make sure you turn off your lights etc. when you leave your bedroom, and consider limiting your use of air-conditioning – for example, cool down the room and then switch to an overhead fan.
Waste pollution is a serious problem in Sri Lanka. Disposal systems are often inadequate, whilst the recycling of many products is rare. The plastic bag is a particular blight, and will be offered for almost every purchase, so try to take your own bags when shopping. Cotton bags are also readily available.
The sexual exploitation of children is a problem faced in many parts of the world. As we conduct our business, we are careful to avoid any kind of sexual exploitation of children and request travelers to not support the sex industry. We vehemently refuse to deal with any partners found to encourage or engage in such activities.
Sri Lanka is recognized as an amphibian hotspot, with 116 species, 90% of them found nowhere else on earth. A recent IUCN Red List assessment revealed that 72 of the amphibians in Sri Lanka are under the threat of extinction. We urge travelers to take extra caution when visiting delicate ecosystems such as the Sinharaja Rainforest in order to protect their habitats. Take extra care while climbing Adams Peak, as the trail overlooks the habitats of several endemic amphibians, threatened by pollution.
Be wary while shopping to ensure you are not encouraging the wasteful destruction of important natural resources and/or endangered species. Avoid hard wood products likely to have been produced in an unsustainable manner, shells from beach traders or ancient artefacts.
Bartering over the price of goods is widely expected for a variety of transactions, including the hire of tuk-tuks and the purchase of handicrafts. Note though that not all sellers will quote you an inflated price 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, and 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, courteous manner; aggressive haggling will offend the seller and may 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.
The Inland Revenue Department of Sri Lanka has now introduced the Tourist VAT Refund System (TVRS) for visitors to the country. Please read here for more details on this system which was been implemented from the 11th of September 2018.
Smoking in public areas in Sri Lanka is not allowed, but there are designated smoking areas for restaurants/pubs/cafes etc. Some establishments have a designated smoking area inside.
For taxi drivers, hotels and restaurants 10% is common. Often the service charge is included on your bill at hotels and restaurants. If you hire a car and driver, please also consider tipping your driver for good service. A good tip is anything upwards of $15 per day.
GMT +5.5 hours.
Whilst the recently built highway has helped to quicken many of the journeys, in particular airport transfers, travel around Sri Lanka often entails several long drives, sometimes on rough roads. Bathroom facilities during the drives can at times be very basic; give your chauffeur-guide plenty of warning if you would like to stop at a bathroom en route and they will take you to the most suitable facilities available.
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. Some of the historic sites have challenging climbs, which you should assess with your guide before attempting.
Trishaw or tuk tuk:
The simplest and cheapest way to travel short distances in Sri Lanka. Good-natured price bartering is widespread, although in Colombo this is often unnecessary, as many are fitted with a meter. In towns, work on a rough guide of about Rs50 a kilometer and agree the price before you set off. In certain locations, such as Arugam Bay, tuk tuks are available to rent: we advise only those familiar driving on Asian roads to consider hiring a tuk tuk.
Taxis are good value for longer journeys and operate on set charges. However, be aware that taxis operating from 5-star hotels are dearer.
Cheap and plentiful, at least during the day, but often crowded and unreliable.
Journeys from Colombo-Nuwara Eliya and beyond, or Colombo-Matara are a peaceful way to enjoy some spectacular scenery. Prices are cheap, so booking the luxury of first-class in advance is advised. See our Train Travel section for more information.
Sri Lanka's roads will seem chaotic to all but the most experienced traveler in Asia. Travelers should be prepared for disruption due to roadworks and traffic congestion, which can cause delays to your road journeys. The journey times that we provide are therefore only an estimate. Independent car hire is possible upon production of credit card and driving license but, as chauffeur-driven cars can be arranged for similar cost, they are strongly advised.
Often available, although not to be recommended on anything but the quietest roads, as accident rates on busy roads are high.
Scooters and Motorbikes:
Particularly in the main tourist destinations, scooters are a popular way to travel and are available for hire. However, they are rarely found in established vehicle hire shops: most often, scooter/motorbike rentals are offered by locals running an independent business. You usually have to leave your passport with the vendor for the duration of the rental. We strongly advise that scooter/motorbike hire should only be considered by those with experience riding in Asia.
Helicopters and Sea Planes:
Helicopter and/or sea plane transfers are not only a luxurious and incredible way to travel round Sri Lanka, but are also extremely time-efficient. We use four Sri Lankan aviation companies, all of which offer a reliable and comfortable service: Senok Aviation, Cinnamon Air, Helitours and Simplifly. If you are interested in seeing the island by air, get in touch with your travel consultant for more information. Daily scheduled flights, charter flights and scenic flights are available.
Please note that each aviation company has its own terms and conditions which will apply to any domestic flight undertaken by you. Your travel consultant can share these with you upon request. The terms and conditions include information concerning: weight allowance; conduct, and cancellation. Each airline reserves the right, without notice, to cancel any flight, to substitute any aircraft for that which was originally scheduled, or to transfer you without notice to any other aircraft or flight.
- Jetwing Vil Uyana – the most popular restaurant in Sigiriya, this second floor room has views to Sigiriya Rock. International and authentic Sri Lankan dishes are served (0662 286 000)
- Water Garden – delicious international cuisine with views of Sigirya Rock (0664 933 000)
- Heritance Kandalama – international cuisine and spectacular views across Kandalama Lake (0665 555 050)
- The Lake – serves a selection of Western, Asian and Sri Lankan food overlooking a magnificent lake (New Town, Polonnaruwa, 0272 222 411)
- Deer Park Hotel – great Asian, Western and local food (Giritale, Polonnaruwa, 0272 246 272)
- Priyamali Gedara - this culinary family of 5 cooks and serve hearty Sri Lankan meals to locals and curious travellers who seek authentic Sri Lankan flavours. The idea to open an eatery near the Vatadage in Polonnaruwa was inspired by groups of wandering tourists searching for nearby places to try local food – today, they serve their home-cooked goodness to both locals and foreign tourists (0717 216 480)
- Ulagalla – this cosy dining venue has a romantic atmosphere and serves unique fusion fare which blends flavours from around the world (Thirappae, Anuradhapura, 0252 050 280)
- Forest Rock Garden – serves only authentic vegetarian cuisine (Puttlam Road, Andarawewa, 0252 033 000)
- The Ministry of Crab - this restaurant, one of Top 50 Restaurants in Asia, is owned by Dharshan Munidasa and two famous cricketers Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. A great experience where one can enjoy delicious crabs, prawn curries and no fuss dining (Dutch Hospital, Col 1, 011 2342722)
- Monsoon - located at the end of Park Street Mews, this classy restaurant offers a range of dishes from Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. (Park Street Mews, Col 2, 0112 302 449)
- Rare at Residence - a twist on modern international cuisine with infusion of Sri Lankan flavors, each dish is an experience in itself (20 Park Street, Col 2, 0115 673 000)
- The Gallery Café - previously the studio of the architect, Geoffrey Bawa, this is one of the trendiest spots in town. Great atmosphere and great food (Alfred House Gardens, Col 3, 0112 582 162)
- Lagoon - good for seafood. You can choose from a mini market-style selection of fish, prawns, crabs and lobster and have them cooked to your preference (Cinnamon Grand Hotel, Col 3, 0112 497 371)
- Nihonbashi - fantastic Japanese restaurant which has sealed its spot on the Top 50 Restaurants in Asia list (No. 11, Galle Face Terrace, Col 3, 0112 323 847)
- Nuga Gama - a traditional village setting in the middle of the city. This is a good place to have Sri Lankan rice and curry although it is outside, therefore it is better to dine here in the evening (Cinnamon Grand Hotel, Col 3, 0112 582 162)
- Park Street Mews - a laid-back café atmosphere in the daytime. Good for lunch. 50/1 Park Street, Col 2, 0112 300 133)
- Barefoot Café - an atmospheric lunch spot serving salads, sandwiches and quiches. There is also a good specials board with other dishes. (706 Galle Road, Col 3, 0112 589 305)
- Kaema Sutra - contemporary Sri Lankan cuisine in the heart of Colombo. (4th floor, Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo, 0117 888 288)
- Shanmuga’s - specialises in vegetarian Indian dishes. (53/3 Ramakrishna Road, Wellawatte, 0112 361 384)
- Upalis - beautiful views of Viharamaha Devi Park and the iconic Town Hall. (65 CWW Kannangara Mawatha, Colombo, 0112 695 812)
- Café Francais – run by the Pourcel brothers, this contemporary restaurant is a traditional French bistro in the heart of Colombo (48 Park Street, Col 2, 0114 502 602)
- Graze Kitchen by Hilton Colombo – A multi-faceted restaurant showcasing a living dining experience that evokes the senses. Live stations feature Chinese, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Mediterranean, Sri Lankan, Thai and Vietnamese specialties (2 Parsons Road, Col 2, 0112 492 492)
- Botanik Rooftop Bistro & Bar - Botanik serves contemporary bistro style food with slow cooked meats, fresh seafood and handmade bread and pasta (7 Hospital St, Col 1, 0766 445 888)
- Culinary Ceylon - the best way to connect to Sri Lanka’s history, culture and people through local cuisine (Hospital St, Col 1, 0712 191 111)
- Seed Café - all day breakfast and light lunch dishes with great vegan options (60 Horton Place, Col 7, 0776 209 087)
- Kumbuk Café - healthy salads, fresh juices and interesting sandwiches with a local twist (Independence Avenue, Col 7, 0112 685 310)
- Galle Fort Hotel - a great spot for lunch and dinner (28 Church Street, 0912 232 870)
- Amangalla Hotel - delicious food, a wonderful atmosphere and great for afternoon high tea. They can also do special occasions such as birthdays beautifully. (10 Church Street, 0912 233 388)
- Pedlar’s Inn Café - for milkshakes, sandwiches and an informal atmosphere (92 Pedlar Street, 0773 141 477)
- Fort Printers - a great setting for dinner – the prawn curry is a must (39 Pedlar Street, 0912 247 976)
- Crep-ology - a great range of sweet and savory crepes in a casual setting. Open for lunch and dinner. (53 Leyn Baan Street, 0912 234 777)
- Elita - warehouse-turned-restaurant overlooking the lighthouse in Galle Fort that does great fusion dining (34 Middle Street, 0772 423 442)
- Poonie’s Kitchen - delicious food, in particular the desserts, in a tranquil courtyard setting. (63 Pedlar Street, 0912 226 349).
- Church Street Social - Middle Eastern décor and a buzzy atmosphere, the restaurant serves delicious gourmet food. (Fort Bazaar, Church Street, 0772 423 442)
- Lucky Fort - delicious rice and curry (7 Prarawa Street, 0912 242 922)
- Aqua Forte – authentic Italian fine dining experience (62 Leyn Baan Street, 0914 549 650)
- The Tuna & The Crab – mainly a Japanese restaurant run by Sri Lanka's top chef Dharshan Munidasa in the Galle Fort (Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct, Hospital Street, 0912 242 405)
- A Minute by Tuk Tuk – a fun and quirky side of Sri Lankan culture, food & hospitality (Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct, Hospital Street, 0914 945 000)
- Tri Lanka - offers an elaborate seven-course dinner in beautiful surroundings on the edge of Koggala Lake. They also have a range of unusual cocktails (such as the beetroot martini) and various flavors of vodka, ranging from lemongrass to chili (Ahangama, 0777 708 177)
- Kahanda Kanda - a magical lunch spot. Eat in the ambalama with views to Koggala Lake and over paddy fields. There is a delicious three-course lunch menu. Afterwards you can enjoy a swim in the dark emerald-colored pool (Angulugaha, 0914 943 700)
- Why House – serves Sri Lankan, Western or Asian dishes (Thalpe, 0912 227 599)
- Helga’s Folly - for something totally different and extraordinary. A good place for a cup of afternoon tea (off Mahamaya Mawatha, 0812 234 571)
- Kandy House - a great spot for lunch or dinner. The Kandy House is a stunning old family house that has been sensitively restored into a boutique hotel. Make sure your driver knows where it is as it is out of Kandy town but well worth a visit (Amunugama Walauwa, Gunnepana, 0814 921 394)
- Slightly Chilled - is a welcome stop on any trip through Kandy, especially to rest weary feet. There is a relaxed atmosphere, and simple yet scrumptious food. Watching the world go by from the roof top balcony is a must: the view is one of the most outstanding in the city. (No 29a, Anagarika, Dharmapala, Mawatha, 0771 887 255)
- The Empire Café - Conveniently located in centre of Kandy right next to Temple of the Tooth, this is an iconic setting for a relaxed snack or light meal. The café is open from 7:30 – 19:30 and serves quality coffee and teas, smoothies and juices, breakfast, cold dishes, soups, pasta, Sri Lankan curry, cakes and snacks (Temple Street, 0812 239 870)
- Royal Bar & Hotel - The best place in Kandy for a drink. With a couple of atmospheric bars, a lovely central courtyard and a wonderful upper balcony-terrace, this landmark colonial building offers many choices from a leisurely G&T or malt whisky to a cool draught beer. They also serve European and Sri Lankan food (44 King's Street, Kandy, 0812 224 449)
- Theva Residency - one of Kandy’s best restaurants, Theva Residency sits in the hills of Hanthana and has expansive views of the city centre. Delicious food and stunning presentation. Try their signature cocktail and mouth-watering desserts (Theva Residency Road, 0817 388 296)
- Nuwara Eliya Golf Club - a great place to sit and eat toasted sandwiches for lunch whilst enjoying the views (0522 222 835)
- Hill Club - western cuisine and great authentic Sri Lankan curries. Beautiful gardens. Tip - stop at one of the strawberry cafes around Gregory Lake and enjoy freshly picked strawberries (9 Grand Hotel Road, 0522 223 192)
- Grand Hotel - Great buffet food and action stations showcasing cuisine from all over of the world is served at Barnes Hall; find Indian flavours at Grand Indian, and an authentic Thai experience at Grand Thai; sample international delicacies in an old English setting at The Magnolia, and try Arabic fusion cuisine at Fusion Grill (0522 222 881)
- Maya Villa - a good lunch spot (Old House, Temple Road, Aranwella, Beliatta, 0475 679 025)
- Amanwella - a romantic spot for dinner in front of the ocean (Bodhi Mawatha, Wella Mawatha Godellawela, 0472 241 333)
- The Last House - does great lunch and dinners for outside guests. Ananda does an amazing crab curry (Pubudu Mawatha, Seenimodara, Nakulugamuwa, 0815 638 006)
- Coco Tangalla - a wonderful setting for lunch. Enjoy a swim in the pool or the sea too. (Pubudu Mawatha, Seenimodara, Nakulugamuwa, 0815 638 006)
- Tangalle Social - The Grill & Bar provides a convenient, relaxed midpoint to pause for lunch or a few hours’ break en route between Galle and Yala (Katuwenewatta, Moraketiara, Nakulugamuwa, Tangalle, 0761 377 670)
- Wijaya Beach - The restaurant-bar serves a wide variety of Asian and European cuisine with an emphasis on seafood – they also do great pizzas and cocktails (Unawatuna, 0777 903 431)
- Kingfisher - for great food and cocktails on the beach (Devala Road, 0773 408 404)
- One Love - an informal, relaxed setting, great for Sri Lankan rice and curry (Yaddehimula Road, 0771 020 668)
- Lucky Tuna - simple fresh seafood dishes on the beach (Devala Road, 0914 380 346)
- Boutique 87 – a lovely peaceful spot for high-tea (No. 87 Galle Road, 0112 333 861)
- Villa Bentota – the same delicious and varied cuisine as the iconic Gallery Café in Colombo (138 Galle Road, 0342 275 311)
- Zephyr Restaurant & Bar – the best fresh fish dishes and cocktails in Mirissa in a laidback romantic setting with candlelit tables on the beach (7 Bandaramulla, Matara Road, 0777 502 222)
Colombo to Kandy
- Ambepussa Rest House, Ambepussa - A lovely al fresco setting and a good rice and curry buffet at lunchtime as well as an a la carte menu.
- Wahalkade, Ambepussa - A well-designed restaurant set by a river. A lunchtime rice and curry buffet as well as an a la carte and kid’s menu.
Airport to Cultural Triangle
- Diyadahara, Kurunegala - A Sri Lankan rice and curry restaurant.
- Saruketha, Kurunegala - A Sri Lankan rice and curry restaurant.
Cultural Triangle to Kandy
- Ena de Silva, Matale - A wonderful place to stop for lunch on the way from the Cultural Triangle to Kandy. This is the home of Ena de Silva, Sri Lanka’s most famous batik artist. Enjoy seeing how batik patterns are made before settling down for a Kandyan banquet with over thirty different dishes. Book ahead – minimum 4 pax.
- Ranwelli Spice Gardens, Matale - Delicious Sri Lankan cuisine.
- Sirilak Spice Gardens, Matale - Great setting, good rice and curry.
Kandy to Nuwara Eliya
- Ramboda Falls Inn - Lovely setting by a waterfall. Good for Sri Lankan cuisine.
- Blue Field Tea Factory - Enjoy visiting a tea factory, followed by lunch
Hatton to Tangalle
- Kitulgala Rest House - Good for Sri Lankan rice and curry.
Yala to Galle
- Amanwella - Expect a fabulous lunch in a stunning beachfront setting. 047 2241333
- The Last House - Fantastic food. The crab curry is famous. Book ahead. 047 2241333
- Coco Tangalla - Great food. Book ahead. 081 5638006
- Taprobane Island - A magical setting. Wade across the water and set foot upon this private island. A great spot for lunch and a swim. Book ahead. 091 4380275
- Wijaya Restaurant, Thalpe - Great food and a wonderful setting. Try the oven-fired pizzas and the seafood dishes. 0777 903 431
- Lantern, Mirissa - beautiful beach front. Serves up local and international food.
Galle to Colombo (Coast road)
- Lunuganga - Take a garden tour of the late Geoffrey Bawa’s estate. Follow this with a delicious lunch on the lawn. Book ahead. 077 3655865
- Club Villa, Bentota - A lovely setting to have lunch.
- Villa Bentota - Just next door to Club Villa, this is a great place to have lunch. The menu includes many of the famous dishes from the Gallery Café in Colombo.
Sri Lanka has wonderful jewelry, handloom textiles, books and handicrafts and we find that most people like to a bit of shopping along the way and take something home. The following is a list of some of our favorites. As a general rule we think shopping in general is best left to the end of your trip, particularly for handlooms, home ware and art. Having said this, we find Kandy is probably the best place to buy jewelry from a price-quality perspective, as there are many outlets in competition. Important note: This list is intended as a useful guide for those wishing to make purchases during their trip to Sri Lanka. The shops included below are merely suggestions based on personal taste and our customer feedback: as a company, we do not officially promote or recommend any shops.
- Nishantha Wood Carving: Small gift items to take home as well as furniture. You can also see a carving demonstration. (No.3, 26th Post, Hathamunua Road, 027 2222187)
- Henry Batiks: Interesting to see how batiks are made in a live demonstration. (Sigiriya Road, Inamaluwa, Dambulla)
- Silk Gardens: Here you can find silk saris, scarves, T-shirts. You can try wearing a sari as well as see a demonstration of how silk is made. (Trincomalee Road, Inamaluwa, 066 2286644)
Art and Antiques
- Kandyan Arts and Crafts Centre: Good for buying local craft items. (Next to Queens Hotel)
- Waruna Antiques: An interesting treasure trove of antiques, which includes furniture, paintings and jewellery. (761 Peradeniya Road, 814470925)
- Hemachandras: A reliable jewellery shop. (939 Peradeniya Road, 081 2387387)
- Premadasa: Another established and reliable jewellery shop. (692 Peradeniya Road, 081 2389789)
- Colombo Jewellery Store: A reputed jeweller offering luxury designs. (01, Alfred House Gardens, Colombo 3, 0112585187)
- Lalitha: Reliable jewelers with a reputed past. (442, R.A. De Mel Mawatha, Colombo 3, 0711 916916)
Clothing and Gifts
- Barefoot: A smaller outlet of the main Colombo store. Great for gifts to take home – colourful sarongs, clothes, toys, books, tea and more. (41 Pedlar Street, 091 2226299)
- Exotic Roots: A fun shop selling bowls, jewellery and colourful paintings. (32 Church Street, Galle Fort, 091 2245454)
- Lolapalooza: A fun shop selling beautiful Mimimango clothes, ideal for the beach. Also bags, jewellery, scarves and gift items. (Pedlar Street, 091 2242702)
- Mimimango: A small boutique selling beautiful clothes by the designer Jo Eden. Beautiful dresses, kaftans, scarves and bags made in light, cool materials that are ideal for the heat. (40 Leyn Baan Street, 091 2234765)
- Orchid House: A great shop for buying gifts to take home – tea, spices, linen clothes, coconut spoons, bowls made from kitul wood and much more. (28A Hospital Street, 091 7429090)
- Shoba Girls: This is a women’s cooperative that sells beautiful lace products including nightdresses and cards. (Pedlar Street)
- KK Shop: A great interiors shop selling fine linen, towels, fabric and other items to decorate the home. This is a partner concept to Kahanda Kanda, the boutique hotel. (36 Church Street, 091 7212391)
Art and Antiques
- Olanda: A wonderful treasure trove of antiques – beds, Dutch chests, columns, lamps, plates and much more. (30 Leyn Baan Street, 091 2234398)
- Sithuvili: An atmospheric shop selling chests and bowls decorated with traditional Buddhist temple designs including vines and lotus flowers. There are also painted wooden panels and large paintings. (56 Leyn Baan Street, 0777914277)
- The Museum Shop: Full of antique and precious jewellery as well as lots of other interesting artefacts. (31-39 Leyn Baan Street)
- Manjari: Galle’s main department store. Fun to have a browse. Great for colourful trivia – fabrics, beads, sequins, feathers etc! (Wakwella Road)
- The Old Railway: Beautiful clothes and dresses made by Catherine Rawson as well as soft toys and home ware items. There is a good café upstairs too. (942 Havelock Road, Galle, situated on the canal between the railway and bus stations, 0776 263 400)
- Udara Antiques: Worth browsing for antiques, lamps and pots. (266 Matara Road Peellegoda Unawatuna, 091 2224315)
Bath and Body
- Siddhalepa: A good range of ayurvedic products such as balms and creams as well as a spa. (33 Wijerama Mawatha, Colombo 07, 011 2698161)
Spa Ceylon: Beautiful ayurvedic products made using ingredients famous to Sri Lanka such as pink lotus, sandalwood, ginger and ayurveda. A wonderful place to buy treats to take home. Also try out their spa treatments – foot massages, facials and much more. There are five main outlets in Colombo:
- Royal Indulgence Store and Spa: 103/7 Galle Road, Colombo 3, 011-2338111
- Boutique: 8B Crescat Boulevard, Colombo 3, 011-5544398
- Park Street Mews: 48D Park Street, Colombo 2, 011 5340011/2307676
- Dutch Hospital Courtyard: Fort, Colombo 1, 011 5666663
- White by Spa Ceylon: 14 Ward Place, Colombo 7, 011-2680800
- Aashkii: Offers handpicked designer ethnic wear and saris. (1 Maitland Crescent, Colombo 7, 0112 699196)
- Barefoot: This shop, café and gallery has become a Colombo institution. Talks, exhibition openings, film showings and quiz nights fill the evenings. During the day you can enjoy browsing for sarongs, gifts, books and toys. Everything sold here is uniquely Sri Lankan. (706 Galle Road, Colombo 3, 011 258 0114)
- Crescat: A shopping center in central Colombo. There are Mlesna and Dilmah teashops as well as a Spa Ceylon and a Keells supermarket in the basement where you can buy spices. (77 Galle Road, Colombo 3)
- Dutch Hospital: The restored Dutch Hospital has an Odel department shop, Barefoot, Spa Ceylon for bath and body products, Siddhalepa for ayurvedic products, Colombo jewellers, a teashop and a crafts shop. (Colombo 1)
- Gandhara: An eclectic shop selling furniture, home ware items, books, clothes and much more. (28 Stratford Avenue, Kirulapane, Colombo 6, 011 2596329)
- Melache: A small boutique selling clothes by a handful of talented Sri Lankan designers. (No 29/3 Visaka Pvt Road, Colombo 4, 011 2595405)
- Odel: Colombo’s biggest department store. A great place to stock up on winter clothes. (No 5, Alexandra Place, 011 2682713)
- Rithithi: Stunning Indian saris, fabrics, scarves and jewellery. (19, Alfred House Garden, Colombo 3, 011 2581988)
Paradise Road: This is the well-known brand and chain of shops by lifestyle designer Shanth Fernando. There are four different outlets in Colombo:
- Paradise Road - The main store selling home ware with a small café upstairs. (213 Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo 7)
- A small outlet at the Gallery Café. (Alfred House Rd, Col 3, 011 2556563)
- The Paradise Road Studio, just next to the Gallery Café, which has books and home ware. (15 Alfred House Gardens, Col 3, 011 2506844)
- The Design Warehouse - For furniture. (61/3 Ward Place, Col 7, 011 2691056)
Pettah Market: A traditional bazaar area close to Colombo Fort. Each street specialises in a different product from fabric, beads and sequins to cashews and dates, dried fish, ayurvedic medicinal herbs and gold. Best to go before 11am when it is a bit cooler or in the late afternoon. There are mosques and Hindu kovils in the streets that you can also visit.
- Premadasa: Good for gold jewellery and gems. (560 Galle Road, Colombo 03, 011 2595178)
Art and Antiques
- Green Path Fence: Along the fence that runs along the edge of Viharamahadevi Park and Green Path emerging artists display their paintings. Best to visit at weekends when there is more work on show.
- Hempel Galleries: Represents a handful of talented Sri Lankan artists. On appointment only. (30/3 Barnes Place, Colombo 7, 0777907321)
- Paradise Road Galleries: At the Gallery Café. The exhibitions change every six weeks and the gallery shows artists from around the world. (Alfred House Rd, Col 3, 011 2556563)
- Saskia Fernando Gallery: One of the city’s most interesting contemporary art galleries, which represents a host of Sri Lankan talent. (61 Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo 7, 011 7 429010)
- Theertha Red Dot Gallery: Theertha is an international network of artists and art organizations that promotes exchange of ideas and innovation within the contemporary visual arts. (39/4 A, D.S Senanayake Street Borella, 0773665548)
- Villa Saffron: Antique and contemporary furniture. (No 15, Bogahahena Road, Battaramulla)
- Sunrise Ballooning, Dambulla - Enjoy seeing ancient ruins, jungle and national parks from the air.
- Idle Tours in Galle - Offers a selection of great bike rides inland from Galle and Thalpe.
- Peter Bluck in Colombo - Offers wonderful biking holidays.
- Borderlands - A six-meter pleasure cruiser (takes four passengers). Moored in Weligama and ideal for whale watching.
- Sail Sri Lanka - Operates luxury day-long sailing cruises n Beruwela from October to April and Passikudah from April to October
- Unawatuna Dive Centre - From here you can do diving, snorkeling and get your PADI certificate. Tel: 091 2244693 or Pearl Divers
- Sri Lanka Diving Tours - Felician Fernando runs good diving tours and day trips on the East Coast. He is a PADI IDC staff instructor.
Rafting and Canoeing:
- Borderlands - Canoeing, kayaking and rafting in Kitulgala and other locations around the country.
- Idle Tours, Galle - Paddle the Ginganga River.
- Rainforest Rescue, Galle - A good range of rainforest walks and Koggala lake boat trips.
- Handunugoda Tea Estate, near Koggala - Learn how tea is produced and processed on a guided walk around the estate. Enjoy tasting different teas with a piece of chocolate cake.
- Rekawa - Turtle Conservation Project. Ask your driver to take you here.
- Sunshine Watersports, Bentota - Have fun tubing, water-skiing, banana boating and jet skiing on the Bentota River.
We can organize a yoga instructor to travel with you for a few days if you like. Here are some yoga centers /spots that we recommend.
- Galle - Amangalla hotel in Galle Fort and Secret Garden hotel in Unawatuna.
- Colombo - Yoga Café - check the schedule on http://yogacafelk.blogspot.com
- Kandy - The Samadhi Centre, set in a forest, is a great spot for yoga and meditation.
- Koggala - Lara Baumann, creator of Quantum Yoga. Classes held at a picturesque villa or the tree-top Yoga shala at Tri Lanka.