Sri Lanka

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ShermansTravel experts rely on years of collective travel experience to bring you the best money-saving tips for your vacation. We take a discerning look at all the attraction passes, public transportation options, and other local bargains to make sure you get the most bang for your buck while traveling.

Sri Lanka Money-Saving Tips

Getting Around

Don’t attempt to drive. The locals are used to hair-raising driving techniques and miraculously survive. Hiring a car and a driver through a travel agency is easy and relatively inexpensive; usually your driver will also be a trained guide.

Use the air taxi

If you’re willing to spend the money ($200-$300) and are really in a hurry, use the air-taxi service that operates between the main airport and many of the tourist sites.

Take the train

If you have the time, take a train ride through hill country – a scenic and memorable experience past verdant tea estates and gushing waterfalls. Buy tickets in person at main counter at Colombo Fort Railway Station, located in the Fort area of Colombo. No telephone or internet bookings.

Cash

ATMs can be found in all major cities. Credit cards are accepted at major hotels and all major Colombo restaurants. You’ll need cash when traveling through villages and small towns. You can change currency at standard bank rates at the airport upon arrival.

Tourist Info

The tourist information counter at Bandaranaike International Airport is open 24 hours a day.

Tsunami

Although the eastern and southern coasts of the island were devastated by the 2004 Tsunami, with the loss of 30,000 lives and countless families displaced, the tourist industry recovered quickly, rebuilding beach hotels and guesthouses within a year.

History

Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) was an independent nation for over 2,500 years prior to colonization by the Portuguese (16th century) and the Dutch (17th Century). The British conquered the island in 1796 and ruled until the country gained independence in 1948.

Religion

Although the majority of the 19-million-strong population is Buddhist, Christians (mainly Catholic and Anglican), Muslims, and Hindus are also well represented on the island.

Language

English is widely spoken throughout the country, which has one of the highest literacy rates in Asia.

Spice of life

The Portuguese, and before them Moorish traders from the Middle East, were first attracted to the island for its spices, particularly cinnamon.

Tea time

If you’re a connoisseur of tea, you already know that some of the best black leaf tea comes from Sri Lanka. Popular brands include Dilmah and Mlesna.

Cuisine

Sri Lankan cuisine is distinct from Indian regional cuisine because of the use of different spices (including coriander, turmeric, and tamarind) and coconut milk-based curries; many dishes have been locally adapted from the cuisine of the former colonial rulers. A typical meal consists of rice with curry, meat or fish, and one or two vegetables, parippu (dahl or lentils), mallung (chopped green salad), and sambol (a grated coconut or onion mix). Unique Sri Lankan dishes include hoppers (concave rice flour pancakes with a soft center) and watalappam (a cardamom-flavored flan made with date palm treacle).

Festivals

Navam Perehera, a procession around a lake in Colombo to venerate a sacred Buddhist relic, is a riot of color with parading elephants decked out in glittering fabrics, jugglers, fire-eaters, and acrobats (late January or February depending on the lunar calendar). Kandy Esala Perehara is an elaborate pageant (with elephants) in which the sacred tooth relic is taken in procession around the town of Kandy (July or August).

Current tensions

The separatist war waged by the Tamil Tigers has plagued the country since 1983 and is currently warming up again. Tourist destinations have not been specific targets and fighting is usually confined to borders in the North and the East, where travel is not advisable. The destinations above are considered safe, but there are never any complete guarantees. Check the State Department’s advisory site for current travel warnings:

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