Sri Lankans are generous with their smiles and their eyes express genuine emotion. The majority of Sri Lankans are Buddhist with Tamils (mostly Hindu), Muslims and Burghers (descendants of Sri Lankans and Portuguese or Dutch colonisers; mostly Christian) making up the rest. Sinhala is the main language of Sri Lankans and Tamil is been the second language. Other than that English language is commonly using by Sri Lankans. Sri Lankans welcome strangers and are keen to see that visitors are happy to be here.



The Sri Lankan Rupee (Rs) consists of 100 cents, but as most coins are Rs10, 5, 2 and 1 in weight. It’s been you’ll very rare to see cents, mostly at museums only. The denominations of the currency notes in circulation are Rs5000, 2000, 1000, 500, 100, 50 and 20. As new notes are being gradually replaced by two older versions, some notes of the same denomination are available in three different colors. Monitor carefully when you are handling currency and see that a high denomination note is not mistaken for a lower one. Even Sri Lankans make that mistake.

Visitors carrying an excess of $10,000 in any foreign currency to Sri Lanka should declare the amount customs on arrival, to allow that much to be taken out again. Keep exchange receipts so that, on departure, you can easily exchange excess rupees back into foreign currency.

There are ATMs for obtaining cash with credit or debit cards in every town; look for the sign equivalent to the one on your card.



Cleanliness and modesty are valued even in informal situations. Nudity and topless bathing are prohibited and subject to heavy fines. Display of intimacy is not suitable in public and will probably draw unwanted attention.

Visiting place to worship


Visitors to temples are expected to be respectably clad, bare footed and with heads uncovered. Do not attempt to shake hands with a Buddhist Monk or a Hindu Swami or be photographed with Buddhist monks and or to pose for photos with statues of the Buddha or other deities and paintings.

Visitors to Buddhist and Hindu temples are welcome though the shrines of Hindu temples are sometime closed to non-Hindus.

Hands & Eating


Use your right hand for giving, taking, eating or shaking hands as the left hand is considered to be unclean. Do not shake hands with a Buddhist Monk or a Hindu Swami. Greet them with your hands clasped together as if in prayer and raising them to your forehead bending slightly forward. When handing objects to another person, using right hand or both hands would be appreciated by the receiver.


Smoking is prohibited in public places. Please observe non-smoking rules. Smoking is permitted in some enclosed spaces (like bars) but if in doubt, ask before lighting up.


Sri Lankans are happy to pose for photographs but it is polite to ask for permission first. Street entertainers like snake charmers would expect a fee for posing.


As in any country, theft can occur, especially when travelling by train or in a crowded bus. It is sensible to secure valuables, passport and credit cards out of sight, such as in a money belt or buttoned pockets, and not to leave bags, computers, cameras, etc., unattended when travelling.

Keep a record of vital documents, including your passport number, credit card numbers etc., separate from those documents in case they do get stolen. If items are stolen, report the theft to the nearest police station and, if you need proof for an insurance claim, obtain a copy of your report. The paper work involved in reporting losses can be time consuming and irritating. Tourists should not assume that if procedures move slowly they are expected to offer a bribe. If you face really serious problems, e.g. in case of a driving accident, you should contact your consular office as quickly as possible.

Unwritten rules of the road

The rule of ‘might is right’ applies. Flashing headlights mean ‘get out of the way, I’m not stopping’. In these circumstances it is advisable to give the oncoming vehicle adequate space, since they usually approach at high speed. Roundabouts are generally a free-for-all, so take your chance cautiously.

Driving permit

Foreigners intending to drive in Sri Lanka are required to obtain a ‘recognition permit’ that is issued up to the expiry date of your International Driving Permit. This is a simple process. Just call at the Automobile Association of Sri Lanka at 40, Sir M.M. Markar Mawatha, Galle Face, Colombo 3, open 08.30-16.30, Monday-Friday except on public holidays.

If you do not have an International Driving Permit but have your national license, you must apply for a temporary Sri Lankan Driving License from the Registrar of Motor Vehicles, Department of Motor Traffic at 341, Elvitigala Mawatha, Colombo 5. Tel: 0112694331. Temporary driving licences are issued on payment of Rs 2500+VAT per month up to a maximum period of one year. (Rates are subject to change)

Mains electricity

Mains power in Sri Lanka is 230 V @ 50 Hz AC. Some hotels have transformers/ converters enabling visitors to use non compatible appliances. There may be pronounced variations in the voltage and occasional power cuts. As socket types vary, it is advisable to carry a universal adapter.

Business hours

Government Offices: Open 09.30-1700, Monday-Friday. Restaurants and Bars: Permitted hours for alcohol service are 11.00-14.00 and 17.00-2300; however some restaurants/bars have different licences and do not close in the afternoon. No alcohol is served on Poya (Full Moon) Days

Useful Telephone Numbers

Telephone Numbers of Emergency Services

Tourism Hotline 1912
Police Emergency Hotline 118 / 119
Ambulance / Fire & rescue 110
Tourist Police 011 – 2421052
Police Emergency 011 – 2433333
Government Information Center 1919
Report Crimes 011 – 2691500
Fire & Ambulance Service 011 – 2422222
“Suwa Seriya” Ambulance Service 1990

Important Telephone Numbers in Sabaragamuwa Province for Tourists

Police Ratnapura 045 2 222 222
Kegalle 035 2 222 222
Hospitals Ratnapura 045 2 222 261
Kegalle 035 2 222 261
Transport Rathnapura depot 045 2 222 281
Kegalle depot 035 2 222 271
Fire Services Ratnapura 045 2 226 811
Balangoda 077 7 771 876
Mawanella 035 4 972 828
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