Visiting Sri Lanka: What You Need to Know

Are you planning your first trip to the beautiful island of Sri Lanka? Here are a few essential tips that every traveler needs to know before departing.

Sri Lanka has been steadily building a reputation as one of the top vacation destinations in the world. It has also been called one of the best places to visit in Asia. This amazing country has lagged behind many other South Asian hotspots for some time now. Mainly due to the civil war, which ended only ten years ago (2009). But luckily everyone’s starting to catch onto the many picturesque jewels this tiny nation holds.

The tear-shaped island has plenty to offer, including scenic vistas, exotic wildlife, compelling history, and friendly locals. But there are a few customs, laws, and other things that Canadian travelers need to know about before stepping foot in Sri Lanka.

Have a look at these useful guidelines that can help first-time – and even a few experienced – travelers find their footing.

1. Restaurants May Be Closed Over Dinner Time

This is almost unheard of in the West, but in Sri Lanka, restaurants are often closed during dinner. Especially those in smaller towns and more rural areas. Sri Lankans mostly just prefer to eat at home during this time or get fast food takeaways. So anyone who’s planning on sampling the local cuisine should ideally opt for lunchtime instead.

2. Sri Lanka is Safe When Following The Rules

While the locals are generally friendly towards travelers, this small country has faced its share of violence. The island is still recovering from the end of the civil war but is already dealing with more political and religious tensions. Most recently, the locals faced a bunch of terrorist attacks on Easter Sunday. The aftermath of which will affect anyone planning to travel there.

Extra security measures have been implemented at both airports and many hotels. Those traveling to or from the country will need to be patient and set aside extra time to get through.

Please have a look at the Canadian government’s official website for further advice on traveling and safety in Sri Lanka. It will have the most up to date reports on the current state of affairs and information about dangerous areas.

3. Installing a VPN as a Precaution

The Sri Lankan government has implemented social media bans at various times, following the bombings in April. Internet access is also sporadic, as some websites may be blocked.

Anyone who needs to get in touch with family or friends or access blocked websites while visiting should look into getting a VPN. But make sure to download and install the VPN in Canada because it might not be possible to do so while on the island (a good example of a provider). Add it on all devices you plan to bring to this trip.

Add a VPN on all devices you plan to bring to this trip. Using a VPN can also increase your internet speed abroad. So when you're on tour and you want to do something online, you can check your speed this on and see if your connection is fast and stable enough.

If you want more options to choose from, you can find a full list of different VPN providers together with reviews at

4. Attire is Important

It’s hot and humid in Sri Lanka, so wearing plenty of layers is out of the question. But dressing modestly is still a good idea. Buddhism is the main religion in Sri Lanka. Compared to many other Asian countries, the residents and social rules are still relatively conservative. Do not walk around in swimwear in public and cover up when visiting any of the temples.

Anyone who plans on visiting the temples should also think of packing a couple of extra pairs of socks. Both Buddist and Hindu temples don’t allow visitors to wear shoes on the grounds. Those stones are in the sun for most of the day so they can get pretty hot. No one wants to get blistered feet during their holiday.

5. Traveling Around in Sri Lanka is Cheap but Slow

The island may not be that big (it’s about 430 km by 220 km) but people don’t get anywhere fast. This is mainly due to how packed the roads are, but there is the occasional animal crossing or stubborn elephant too. Tourists who try to cram in a lot of activities usually get frustrated by the slow going and fall behind schedule. So take the long travel times into account.

The drivers in Sri Lanka also differ greatly from what Canadians will be used to. They’re impatient and don’t care much about following road rules. That’s why it’s a good idea to hire a driver or try tuk-tuks.

Drivers can be expensive, but tuk-tuks are one of the cheapest ways to get around. They’re usually not metered but try to bring change along. The drivers sometimes attempt to scam the extra amount out of tourists by claiming not to have any change.

6. Sunscreen is a Commodity

Sunscreen is a very rare find in shops around the country, for some reason. Those that do sell any usually jack up the price too. Instead, bring plenty along from home.

Last Thoughts

Sri Lanka offers wonderful experiences and a lot of history, thanks to its colonial heritage and religious monuments. But there are a few things that those traveling from Canada should keep in mind, especially with regards to safety and online restrictions.

Stay safe and prepared by planning ahead.