Sri Lanka's lengthy and bloody civil war was ended in May 2009, when the government forces finally wiped out the Tamil Tigers. However, there might be one or two land mines, which can be troublesome, and the facilities in northern and some parts of the east cities and towns are war torn. These were the areas where the Tamils lived. The Sri Lanka Army is currently engaged in rapidly clearing landmines laid out by LTTE separatists. It's a long and difficult process.
Bombings and assassinations were a firm part of both sides in the conflict, and there is heavy security in all sensitive locations. While the separatists have never targeted tourists there have been deaths, notably in a landmine explosion at Wilpattu National Wild Park in 2006, and some have been wounded by terrorist actions. War is, after all, dangerous. In general, though, traffic accidents kill more people than terrorism.
Violent crime is not usually any more serious a problem for tourists in Sri Lanka than it is anywhere. There has been an increase in violent crimes involving tourists in the past few years, but it is still very rare. Tourists should exercise the same care and attention as they would at home.
Rape/Sexual assault against female tourists are sharply increasing.
Con artists and touts are a serious problem throughout all tourist areas. Using the services of a tout for accommodation, local travel, etc. will most likely increase the price. First time travelers to Sri Lanka may find themselves the victim of scams, however seasoned travelers to Sri Lanka are very rarely scammed and it is simple to avoid becoming a victim of scammers by taking precautions:
Do not believe anyone who claims to be a professional e.g. airline pilot, or in charge of a location like a bus terminal without proof.
Scams involving gemstones are common. Do not buy with the intention of selling them in your home country for a profit.
Be on guard for anybody trying to help you by giving you unsolicited directions or travel advice. Take any advice from taxi and auto drivers with a grain of salt, especially if they tell you the place you want to go to is closed, dangerous, non-existent etc. If you are unsure, check a map.
If you have been told your hotel is closed or full, give them a call. If you are a first time visitor to Sri Lanka, don't admit it as it will make you a target for the scam artists.
Also, beware of single males who wish you to accompany them after a religious service. First, ask other members if the person is honest and reliable. Dishonest Sri Lankans, although rare, mostly male are very adept at talking tourists out of their money, and generally prefer this method over violence. They frequent the Galle Face Road area surrounding the tourist hotels, Galle Face Hotel and the Holiday Inn. Their "modus operandi" is to tell you upfront that they don't want anything from you, only to talk. There may be an auspicious day occurring in Sri Lanka and they will use this to coerce you to accompany them to a temple or church. They will wine, dine, and pay for everything, and then, after two days, will begin to extort money from you. This does not happen commonly, but there have been a few cases - so beware.
Although snake bites are extremely rare among tourists comparable to being struck by lightning, anyone bitten should seek prompt medical care. This is true even if the bite doesn't result in any pain and swelling. The National Emergency number is 119. In Colombo, dial either 119 or if you want an emergency ambulance - 110.
In June of 2009, the Sri Lankan government lifted travel alerts after the military defeat of rebel insurgents in the north of the country, though it is advisable to check with the local travel advisory bureau in your country if there is any doubt.
There are tiny little flies that live in the sand. Any contact with the dry sand usually results in bites and subsequent painful scratch. So avoid even a little sand on your skin, including legs.
Vaccinationare recommended for Hepatitis A+B and Tetanus. Also, the Typhus vaccination outside of tourist areas especially in the wet season. The CDC also recommends vaccination against Japanese encephalitis (http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/trav...).
Dengue feverDuring the rainy season use mosquito repellent. When head and joint aches occur get a blood check. There is no vaccination yet.
MalariaGampaha e.g. Negombo, Colombo, Kalutara, Galle, and Nuwara Eliya districts are considered malaria free, as is the city but not the entire district of Kandy. Elsewhere, malaria exists and is most likely in Anuradhapura. In the dry season, using DEET repellent for a mid-day road or train trip to Kandy including visits to the Peradeniya Gardens or Nuwara Eliya should suffice. Risk increases after sunset. Malaria prophylaxis anti-malarials are warranted for trips to the north especially Anuradhapura, east, and southeast however some types are not available locally, and it may not be as effective as what you could obtain back home.
Yellow feverA yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travelers over 1 year of age coming from infected areas.
FilariaSri Lanka is the first country in the South Asia region to eradicate Filaria (http://dailynews.lk/2010/...).
PolioSri Lanka is considered Polio free.
Visitors should avoid drinking water from the tap. It is best to stick to bottled water for both drinking and teeth brushing.
The use of GSM cellphones is widespread and the coverage is good.
Dialog and Mobitel are two operators that have sales offices at the airport inside the arrivals lounge. Dialog Mobile Market Leader has the widest coverage in the country including rural areas and has the best quality GSM / 3G / HSPA + network. Mobitel also has a 3G/HSPA+ network. All the mobile operators are having same call rates due to floor rate tariffs. Therefore it is advisable to go to the network which offers you the best quality. All Mobile Operators offers cheap IDD Call rates.
If you want to surf internet, best way is to buy a HSPA dongle and a Mobile Broadband connection. Dialog Mobile, Mobitel and Airtel offers prepaid Mobile Broadband services which can be activated and used immediately.
Dialog is the Vodafone Roaming Network in Sri Lanka and offers the best range of Value added services for Roamers and the rates are cheaper. Etisalat and Airtel also provide cheap roaming rates specially to India.
Mobile Phones are cheaper and widely available.
There are several customs that for Westerners take a bit of getting used to.
It is customary to remove shoes and wear respectful attire i.e. no miniskirts, tank tops, short pants etc. when visiting temples. It is also the custom to remove shoes before entering a home, though this is not as strictly followed as in places such as Japan.
Never touch or pat the top of the headof Buddhist monks, including children who practice at a temple.
Do not turn your back to or be alongside a Buddha statue when within a reasonable distance observe what others are doing. This includes posing for photos. It's OK to photograph a statue, but all persons should be facing it.
Public nudityis illegal in Sri Lanka - nude/topless sunbathing and skinny dipping should be avoided, except in the private beach resorts which allow it.
Although much latitude is given to tourists, it is more polite to use your right hand when shaking hands, handing money and small objects, etc. Of course you can use both hands for something big and/or heavy.
Be respectful to monksThere's no particular etiquette for Westerners - just be polite. Always give them a seat on a crowded bus unless you're disabled or very elderly.
It is highly controversial to discuss politics, particularly the Sinhalese/Tamil divide or the LTTEThe 26 year old civil war which ended in 2009 has seen thousands of attacks throughout the country, including suicide bombings and massacres which have killed scores of politicians and civilians on both sides alike.
No photographyof sensitive locations inside and outside, and inside of shopping malls and tea factories outside OK. Be especially careful in Fort, Colombo except on the beach. If soldiers are guarding something, it probably shouldn't be photographed. Don't rely on signs alone, as sometimes they are old or missing. For example, one end of a bridge may have a "No Photography" sign, but not the other.
Seemingly innocuous public displays of affection between lovers such as kissing and/or hugging may be culturally frowned upon as it is considered to be private behaviour but it is acceptable in functions and establishments designated for adults such as nightclubs, casinos and beach parties. Much lenience is given to foreigners and holding hands and public affection between parents and their children is not frowned upon.
The country code for Sri Lanka is 94. Remove the intercity prefix 0 before the area code when dialling internationally into the country ie, 0112 688 688 becomes +94 112 688 688 when dialling from abroad). The two next numbers after 94 represents the area code, they are different for every district for more information see Telephone numbers in Sri_Lanka.
Sinhala, spoken by the majority Sinhalese, and Tamil, spoken by the minority Tamil and Muslim groups, are Sri Lanka's two official languages. English is commonly used in most cities, especially Colombo, Kandy and Galle, and by government and tourism officials. But while most of the people in Colombo can speak English, don't expect everyone, everywhere to be able to speak it fluently. In the beach and tourist areas you will have no problem with English. Most people in rural villages, however, cannot speak any English, beyond a few simple words.
Sinhala LanguageThe greeting in Sinhala is "ayubowan". It means "May you live longer"; 'Thank you' is "Bohoma sthuthi" and "how are you" is "kohomada", pronounced "Ko homede""
Tamil LanguageThe greeting in Tamil is "Vanakkam"; 'Thank you' is "Nandri"
Sinhala writing is much more curved than Tamil. After a while, you'll learn how to distinguish between the two.