srilanka flag

Ayubowan. Welcome to Sri Lanka. An island country in the Indian Ocean and a jewel nation with a history of over 3000 years. This country is symbolic in beauty and nature, and an important region for business.  Before business, let’s explore this fascinating nation the size of West Virginia with numerous World Heritage Sites. As with all great journeys, preparation is key.

1. Electronic Travel Authorization, VISA & Cellular Plan: One of the most important actions to take before boarding your plane is to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA). Implemented January 2012, the Sri Lankan government requires this whether you’re coming as a tourist, for business, or through transit. Check out the government websites for more info and links for visa registration.

After arriving at Bandaranaike International Airport and exiting baggage claim, there’ll be a line of telecom vendors like Etisalat, Dialog, or Airtel. Check out their tourist plans for cellular and mobile data packages.

2. Language: What’s interesting is that there are two official languages: Sinhala and Tamil. Nearly 75% of the population (13 million) speak Sinhala. About 4.7 million Sri Lankans speak Tamil. When travelling around Sri Lanka, you’ll see signage in 3 languages: Sinhala, Tamil, and English. English is included, not just because 10% of the population is fluent, but because English is used for official and commercial purposes.

3. Currency & Exchange Rate: When preparing finances, check Sri Lanka’s currency exchange rate here. Currency is the Sri Lankan rupee (Rs or රු). $10USD equates to approximately 1450 Rs. 100, 500, and 1000 Rs notes are used, just like $1, $5, and $10 bills.

srilankaPhoto Attribution: Aero Icarus via flickr

4. Health precautions: Each country has unique bacteria, so 8-12 months, or as soon as possible before departure, get vaccinated. Defend yourself against typhoid, tetanus, polio, rabies, malaria. The CDC distinguishes necessary vaccinations depending on your form of travel. Consult with a specialist, like the Austin Travel Clinic, about vaccine timing; Tetanus requires pre-departure time for effectiveness. Check our International Travel Blog for more info.

In addition, Sri Lanka is a very hot country. Its capital, Colombo, is only 476 mi (766 km) from the equator. It’s extremely important to guard against heatstroke, prickly heat, and sunburn. Sri Lankan beaches are wonderful and a marvelous way to unwind, but all that’s lost when you haven’t taken care of your body.

Stay hydrated, drink plenty of bottled spring water, wear 50 SPF sunscreen, and take shade breaks before it’s too late.

5. Clothing: Sri Lankan climate changes throughout the regions. Along the coast, the weather is hot and humid, especially during the summer. 

However, in the central region like Kandy or Nuwara Eliya, the high hills are a stark contrast with hot and cold climates. Good cotton or linen fabrics are advised. When visiting Sri Lanka’s temples, wear white clothing to show respect. Sturdy sneakers and sandals are advised when hiking, walking long distances, or taking a stroll along the pristine white sands.

Leave room in your luggage for new clothing from fantastic shops like Majestic City, and Barefoot. Be sure to browse the roadside shops and stalls that sell authentic Sri Lankan apparel.

Sri Lanka is a remarkable country full of vibrant energy with a rich culture that is sure to leave a lasting impression. Whether you are a business traveler or touring around, take advantage of these tips to ensure a fantastic journey through the Jewel Country. Stay tuned for more on Sri Lanka 2! Suba gaman!

Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., wrote this article with the valuable insights from UT San Antonio Student Savin Weerasinghe. Feel free to connect with Savin on LinkedIn. Sharon is a cross-cultural consultant, an international protocol expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. She is accredited in intercultural management, is the resident etiquette expert for CBS KEYE We Are Austin, popular on-air contributor, regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, Inc., The New York Times, The Vancouver Sun, and numerous other media. She is the best-selling, international award-winning author of Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, named to Kirkus Review’s Best Books of 2015.