If you need a Doctor, please contact the hotel reception. The hotel will have a doctor within the hotel premises or nearby. Pharmacies can generally be found at the commercial centre of most towns.
Local Health Care
Minor health problems can always be treated by Doctors with practices in the resorts and elsewhere in the country. If you have a more serious problem, Colombo now boasts a selection of modern, well-equipped private hospitals offering the latest in conventional medical and surgical therapies. A growing number of foreigners are taking advantage of affordable, high quality private healthcare in Sri Lanka, and combining it with the chance to take a holiday. Though the medical tourism industry in Sri Lanka is still in its early days, a number of private hospitals in Colombo are geared to provide advanced surgery and other treatment to international clients
As most stomach upsets are due to the unsanitary preparation of food, it is useful to know what to watch out for. Under-cooked fish (especially shellfish) and meat (especially pork and mince) can be hazardous. Salads can be risky unless purified water has been used to wash the various vegetables. Fruit that has already been peeled should be avoided. Be careful of ice cream, in particular the varieties sold by street vendors and served at cheap restaurants. Sometimes there are power outages Sri Lanka, especially away from urban centers, so it pays to be suspicious of all refrigerated foods if you know there has been a recent outage in your area.
Sometimes those who have spent too long in the sun suffer what is termed heatstroke, the most common form being caused by dehydration. This condition can occur if the body's heat-regulating mechanism becomes weakened and the body temperature rises to unsafe levels. The symptoms are a high temperature - yet a lack of sweat - a flushed skin, severe headache, and impaired coordination. In addition, the sufferer may become confused. If you think someone has heatstroke, take that person out of the sun, cover their body with a wet sheet or towel, and seek medical advice. To avoid heatstroke, take plenty of bottled water to the beach or buy a thambili (king coconut) from an itinerant seller.
Tap water is not safe to drink, and boiling and filtering is sometimes done too hastily in some hotels and restaurants, so the best solution is to drink bottled water. There are now many brands available, mostly using spring water from the highlands of the island. Make sure that the bottle carries an SLS certification and that the seal is broken only in your presence. Beware of ice unless you are satisfied it has not been made from tap water, and remember the tap water you may be tempted to use to rinse out your mouth after brushing your teeth is unsafe. Keep a bottle of water in your bathroom for this purpose.
When you flop onto the beach or poolside lounger for a spot of sunbathing, always remember to apply a sunscreen product with a sun protection factor of at least 15. Remember you are just 600km from the equator. Even with sunscreen, your sunbathing should be limited in time. If you don't apply sunscreen you are liable to become so sunburnt that it will be painful to move, your skin will peel, you will have to start afresh to get that tan, and most importantly you put yourself at risk of serious dermatological disease.
Prickly heat rash occurs when your sweat glands become clogged after being out in the heat for too long or from excessive perspiration. The rash appears as small red bumps or blisters on elbow creases, groin, upper chest or neck. To treat it, take a cold shower, clean the rash with mild soap, dry yourself, apply hydrocortisone cream, and if possible, a product that contains salicylic acid. Repeat every three hours.
Travellers With Special Needs
Travellers with special needs, especially if they visit Sri Lanka without a companion, should note that the country has relatively few facilities for disabled people, although greater awareness and improvements are evolving. There’s no need to worry at Colombo's Airport as wheelchairs and assistance in boarding and disembarking are available. Buildings, offices, and banks are becoming better-equipped with wheelchair ramps and suchlike. If you arent travelling with a companion, you'll find that Sri Lankans will be only too eager to assist.
It is not unusual to tip drivers, guides and hotel housekeeping/restaurant staff if the service is satisfactory. This is solely at your discretion. The average tip is 100 rupees for Housekeeping and a maximum of 10% of your meal bill for restaurant staff.
Sri Lanka's Currency
The local currency is the Sri Lankan Rupee, divided into 100 cents (you rarely come across scents today). Currency notes are Rs.5,000, Rs. 2,000, Rs. 1,000, Rs. 500, Rs. 100, Rs. 50, Rs. 20 and Rs. 10. Beware of mistaking the Rs. 500 note for the somewhat similar Rs. 100 one. To check whether notes are genuine when not given at a bank, look for a lion watermark.
Make sure you have plenty of lower denomination notes (Rs. 50, Rs. 100, Rs. 500), especially when travelling and you need to buy small items, fruit, and eat cheap meals, because change is often hard to come by apart from at hotels and big shops.
Banks are open from 0900 hours to 1300 hours Monday to Friday. Some city banks close at 1500 hours, while some are open on Saturday mornings and some Colombo banks are open 24X365 Days. It’s easy to withdraw money across the island at ATMs using international credit cards or debit cards.
Most hotels, restaurants and shopping centers accept credit cards
Most shops open at 10.00am and close at 6.00pm. Shops are usually closed on Sundays and Full moon (Poya) days. The full moon poya day has religious significance for Buddhists and alcohol is not served in hotels, bars and public recreational areas on this day.
It is recommended that you ONLY visit Shops recommended by our Driver/Guide in order to ensure that you will be purchasing the most reliable Products/Services at a reasonable Price
Sri Lanka Standard Time is five and a half hours ahead of GMT. (Allowance should be made for summer-time changes in Europe.)
230V – 240V, 50 cycles AC. If you travel with a laptop computer a stabilizer would help.
Sri Lanka has two official languages; Sinhala and Tamil - with English as a link language. Most people have some knowledge of English, and signboards are often in English.
Photography, Restrictions & Permits
Sri Lanka is a tremendously photogenic island, so it’s hardly surprising that most tourists bring a camera of some kind when they visit the country. The stunning landscapes, the captivating fauna and lush flora, and the stupendous archaeological remains provide great opportunities: a bonus is that Sri Lankans love to be captured on film. So it’s easy to capture the traditional rural lifestyle. You’ll find villagers, farmers, fishermen and tea pluckers will readily stand in front of your viewfinder. Your subjects will often ask to have a copy of picture sent to them. This may be laborious, but it is a reasonable courtesy as many may never have seen a picture of themselves. It is also understandable that many will also expect a token recompense for allowing themselves to be photographed.
There are some important restrictions that apply to photography regarding Buddhist imagery. When you visit a temple or other religious site, remember that photography should not be carried out in a manner causing disrespect. For instance, it is strictly forbidden to be photographed in front of or beside any statues and murals. Note that flash photography can damage old murals.
What to Wear
Cotton clothes are useful at any time of the year but you will need light woolens for the hills and waterproof clothing or an umbrella.Modest dress for women is advisable especially off the beach and when visiting religious sites. Don't forget comfortable shoes, sandals or trainers and cotton socks. If you are planning to trek and climb go prepared with suitable gear. Water sports enthusiasts would do well to take their snorkels and diving equipment along.
You may sometimes be overwhelmed by crowds of people in public places (railway stations, markets, bus stands, temples or simply busy streets). "Touts" and hawkers may jostle and push and clamor to show you a hotel and sell you things. Taxis and three - wheelers are often there advisable to stick with your driver cum guide
In general the threats to personal security for travellers in Sri Lanka are remarkably small. It is more pleasant to travel with a companion as it is advised not to travel alone especially after dark. The island including the North and East is safe to visit. If you have anything stolen, report it to the Tourist Police, (a special tourist police unit is set up to look after the needs of the tourists - Contact + 94 (0)11 2382209)
Sri Lankan ‘Ceylon’ tea is prepared as in the West and coffee too. There are a huge variety of bottled soft drinks, including well-known international brands. Thambili( king coconut water )is a safe and refreshing option. Local beer and spirits are widely available. Bottled mineral water is available in 5 star hotels. Please note: Alcohol is not sold on Poya (full-moon day of the month) days.
When entering holy areas, it is customary to remove your shoes and walk barefoot within the designated area. (This may also be the case in people's homes.) Women should wear long skirts or loose trousers and a modest blouse, or a loose cotton dress. Men should wear long trousers. Even ancient temples are considered sacred, and should be treated as such.
If you encounter a Buddhist monk or a Hindu swami and would like to greet him in the traditional way, hold your hands together as if in prayer and raise them to your forehead. Do not shake hands. If you wish to offer a gift to a monk, do so with both hands to show that it is given freely. (Gifts of money should be placed directly in the temple box.) When sitting with a Buddhist monk, try and sit at a lower level to him and avoid pointing your toes towards him, as this is seen as a lack of respect.
The questions Sri Lankans ask in conversation can be different from those asked by Westerners and may be considered as quite personal or rude by the foreigner. For instance, it is not unusual for people to ask you your age, marital status and the number of children and siblings you have in their first conversation. These are ordinary questions and simply reflect the emphasis Sri Lankans place on family life. People may also enquire about your religious beliefs, due to the emphasis on religion within their own culture.
As in many parts of the world, shaking the head from side to side indicates a negative, while a nod indicates a positive response. However, the "waggle", a cross between a nod and a shake with the chin pointed outwards indicates a simple "yes" or "okay".
Food should be handled with the right hand only, as the left is considered unclean. When handing objects to another person, either the right hand or both hands should be used.
Homosexual activity is officially illegal in Sri Lanka and there have been some convictions. Discreet gay travellers, however, are unlikely to encounter any harassment although public displays of affection are best avoided.