Ten tips to plan your trip to Sri Lanka from India

Photo of Ten tips to plan your trip to Sri Lanka from India 1/1 by Prathima

1. Applying for visa is really easy. Just visit this page and follow the steps. Your visa will arrive in your email inbox within 24 hours.

2. Learn about Poya (full moon) days and other public holidays before you make any bookings. Most places are shut then. Even when you apply for your visa online, ensure it’s not a Poya day just to be on the safer side.

3. You can book a flight to either of two international airports in Sri Lanka – The Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo or the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in Hambantota, which is in the south of the country. Your most suitable and the most preferred option is to fly to the airport in Colombo. You can drive to the south of Sri Lanka from here in a little over 2 hours thanks to the expressway.

4. Before I travelled, I read that banks and money changers don’t accept INR. They prefer USD or Euros. This is partially true. So remember to keep dollars as well as Indian rupees with you even before you get on the plane. Also, the INR to LKR conversation rate you see online will be different to the actual rate. So be prepared for that. Choose money changers or jewellery shops over banks to exchange money.

5. When you use ATMs, remember they charge an interest for every withdrawal. I found Hatton National Bank charged the lowest (LKR 200). Other popular banks are Commercial Bank and Sampath Bank.

6. A lot of places don’t accept cards, so always have sufficient cash in hand. This is more likely in beach towns like Mirissa rather than cities like Colombo.

7. If you’re paying at a place where they calculate in USD – remember that we lose out in the conversion process (USD to LKR to INR instead of just USD to INR).

8. Tuk-tuks are the main form of public transport within a city. However, not all of them run by meter. I once asked a traffic cop to catch an auto for me, and he made sure it was meter-run. But hey, you’re Indian, if it’s not a metre-run tuk-tuk just negotiate with the fellows.

As for between cities, you can choose between trains, buses and hiring a taxi service. While buses are economical, trains are both economical and convenient. However, it is preferable to book train tickets early in my opinion.

Plenty of reliable travel and tour companies offer a cab and driver service and they usually pair their offers with accommodation. If you’re travelling as a family or a group, hiring one for your trip across the country might be a good option. I travelled with my mother and wanted to make it as comfortable as I could for her, so we booked Uncle Upali‘s services on a friend’s recommendation.

9. Sri Lanka has plenty of options in terms of accommodation whether you’re a luxury traveller, a budget backpacker or someone in between, like me. My recommendation is home stays because not only are they easy to find and extremely friendly on the pocket, but they’re such a great way to meet locals and experience the local culture. Especially the food! Airbnb and Booking.com are my go-to websites.

10. Is it safe? is the first thing anyone asked me when they heard I was travelling to Sri Lanka. The answer is, absolutely! Apart from the standard precaution you would take anywhere you travel, I assure you there are no rebels lurking in corners waiting to shoot you – an unfortunate picture some people still carry in their mind.

You can read about my trip to Sri Lanka here, and about some of the things I did there here, here, here and here.