Current as of: June 14, 2024 - 11:08

Discover Sri Lanka

Discover Sri Lanka Trip Notes

  • Ways to Travel: Guided Group, Private Group Adventures
  • Destination: Sri Lanka
  • Programmes: Culture
  • Activity Level:

    2 out of 7 - Leisurely / Moderate

  • 16 Days: Flight Inclusive
  • 15 Days: Land Only
  • Ages: 16+
  • Trip Code: AIL
  • Carbon Footprint: 25kg CO2e

Trip Overview

Spend two weeks exploring the delights of this diverse, inspiring island

Lapped by the warm Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is a natural paradise of verdant mountains, rainforests, paddy fields, tumbling waterfalls and sweeping gorges. From ancient Buddhist temples, the fortress of Sigiriya, the hill country towns of Kandy and Nuwara Eliya, the wildlife of Yala National Park (home to one of the highest concentrations of leopards in the world) to the palm-fringed beaches of the south coast, this small island offers incredible variety, made extra special by a laid-back atmosphere and hospitable people.

At a Glance

  • 14 nights comfortable hotels
  • Travel by private air conditioned bus and one train journey
  • Cycling and walking activities
  • Game Drive in Yala/Udawalawe National Park
  • Some long journeys by private bus

Highlights

  • The magnificent cave temples at Dambulla
  • Climb the rock fortress at Sigiriya for breathtaking views
  • Cycle through rice paddy fields and local villages
  • Search for leopards in Yala National Park
  • Relax on golden sand beaches

Is This Trip for You?

This trip is rated Activity Level 2 (Leisurely/Moderate). For more on our trip grading, visit our Activity Level Guidelines page.

This is not a demanding trip, although there are a few long drives on bumpy, twisty mountain roads but regular stops help to break up the journeys. The buses we use are comfortable and air conditioned. Some included activities that are more on the moderate challenge side than leisurely. Walking up Sigiriya Rock on day 3 and Horton Plains walk on day 10 are enjoyable and a relaxed pace but may not be suitable for someone with reduced fitness or mobility issues. Your Leader can advise on the trip if you have any concerns.

When visiting Sigiriya Rock Fortress (Lion Rock) the final ascent to the top is on metal open stairs fixed against the side of the rock. There are handrails on either side but those with a strong fear of heights may prefer to stay on the lower level (where the lion “paws” are) and not continue to the rock plateau. You will be able to rejoin the group when they return to the plateau.

For Horton Plains, the walk unfolds in four distinct terrain phases. Phase one entails an easy initial walk followed by a brief uphill climb and then a descent along a rocky riverbed, where caution is advised, especially on wet days. Phase two transitions to a path of fine soil and peat, which may become slippery when wet, leading to Greater World’s End. Phase three involves an undulating walk with varying degrees of incline and descent which has been classed as easy/moderate challenge, including steep steps, culminating in a 45-degree uphill stretch. The final phase, four, continues with undulating terrain, featuring gravel and grass paths and moderately steep steps, ultimately leading to the exit point of the excursion. Trainers/trail shoes with good grip are recommended for this activity.

Occasionally there can be inclement weather which prevents a safe and pleasant walk at Horton Plains. If this occurs, your Leader will advise of a “plan B” where you will travel directly to Ella and visit the Nine Arch Bridge (approximately a 30-minute walk to the bridge), an iconic construction also known as the Bridge in the Sky. Following that, if time permits you will join the trailhead for Mini Adam’s Peak (also known as Little Adam’s Peak). The Mini Adam’s Peak route is a relatively easy hike (approximately 1.2mi/2km) but the final ascent includes about 10 to 15 minutes of steps – save energy for that!

April Departures, Sinhala and Tamil New Year:

A unique celebration to the people of Sri Lanka, this important New Year national festival, known as Avurudu in Sinhala and Puththandu in Tamil, is not celebrated by any other nation. The Sinhala and Tamil New Year festivities are observed by both Sinhala Buddhists and Tamil Hindus across Sri Lanka for two days on the 12 – 13 April 2024 and 13 – 14 April 2025 (may vary slightly year on year). If you are travelling in Sri Lanka over these dates you can expect to see religious ceremonies, family activities, traditional foods, colourful decorations and a general feeling of good will toward neighbours and friends. Parties can go on into the night and it can be quite loud during this period. Your Leader will be happy to show you some of the activities where your itinerary allows. Please note, during the New Year public holiday, most shops, monuments and attractions will be closed however, your Leader will modify the itinerary as required to ensure minimal disruption.

Group

Our Sri Lankan team of leaders has proved very popular with their incredible knowledge, passion and hospitality adding greatly to the experience. There is no better way to experience Sri Lankan culture than letting a local leader show you around their country.

Adult min age: 16

Min group size: 4

Max group size: 16

Itinerary

Discover Sri Lanka

Land Only

  • Start City: Veyangoda
  • End City: Colombo

Land Only Itinerary

Day 1
Start Veyangoda

The group flight arrives at Colombo’s Bandaranaike Airport and we transfer to our hotel approximately 30 minutes away. Those not travelling on the group flight, please ensure you provide your flight details at least 2 weeks prior to arrival to secure your airport transfer.

There will be a welcome briefing in the evening, your Leader will advise the time and location.

Accommodation: The Covanro (or similar)

Day 2
Visit cave temples at Dambulla; to Sigiriya

We depart after breakfast for the drive (approximately four hours) among coconut palms, paddy fields and banana plantations through Kurunegala to Dambulla. Here, we visit the magnificent Cave Temple, among the most impressive sights in Sri Lanka. There are colourful, well-preserved paintings and Buddha statues inside the caves, which date to the first century BCE.

After lunch, we continue to Sigiriya (Lion Rock). From our hotel, we can see the giant rock fortress rising from the plains (occasionally we may stay nearer to Dambulla due to hotel availability).

Accommodation: Hotel Sigiriya (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 3
Morning climb to Sigiriya rock fortress; optional afternoon game drive

Sigiriya is, perhaps, the standout attraction in Sri Lanka with the ruins of a fifth-century palace crowning an imposing granite peak, also known as Lion Rock. This morning, we drive to the base, where a moat surrounds impressive water gardens. We then take the route to the top, via a series of steep steps and gangways, ascending 655ft (200m) and passing an overhanging rock, under which portraits of native maidens holding flowers and temple offerings still adorn the rock wall. On the flat-topped summit are extensive remains of the King’s Summer Palace.

During the afternoon, there is a chance to enjoy an optional game drive in either Minneriya National Park,  Kaudulla National Park or the Hurulu Eco Park to see elephants in their natural habitat (which location depends on the elephant herd movements). For those who would prefer not to join the game drive, you can relax by the hotel pool.

Accommodation: Hotel Sigiriya (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 4
To Girithale; bike ride through country villages

This morning, we have a short drive to Girithale where our hotel overlooks the scenic Girithale Tank. The early inhabitants here solved the dual problem of heat and lack of water in this dry area by constructing large tanks to act as reservoirs and cool the warm breeze. Now they provide an important habitat for bird life, particularly from August to April.

Today we hop on local bikes and enjoy a leisurely cycle through small villages and lakes. As an alternative to cycling, you can hire a tuk tuk locally for approximately 4,000 rupees and follow the group on their trail. Along the way, we should see plenty of bird life including Egrets, Brahmany kites, Kingfishers and Bulbuls. Breaking up the journey, we stop for lunch in a traditional village before returning to our hotel in Giritale by late afternoon.

Accommodation: Giritale Hotel (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 5
Visit ancient capital of Polonnaruwa; drive to Kandy via spice garden

After breakfast, we take a short drive to the 10th-century capital of Sri Lanka: Polonnaruwa, the ancient capital of the Sinhalese. There are many Buddhist relics and ruins here, dating from a 1,000 years ago when Sinhalese culture reached its zenith. The city flourished in the 12th century after the decision was made to move the capital from Anuradhapura, so it was further from incursions from southern India. The ruins are therefore younger and better preserved than those at Anuradhapura. We visit many of the temples, palaces, huge dagobas (Buddhist stupas) and remarkable Buddhist sculptures.

After lunch, we head into the hills to the picturesque town of Kandy. Stopping along the way at a spice garden near Matale, where we learn about various spices and herbs growing, and there is a chance to stock up on fresh spices, massage oils and Ayurvedic medicines. This is a long but fascinating day, arriving to Kandy in the early evening.

Accommodation: Earl’s Regent Hotel (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Days 6 - 7
Time in Kandy to explore or relax

Kandy is by a small lake and we spend two full days in and around the town.

On the first day, we visit the Temple of the Tooth, which houses the most important Buddhist relic in Sri Lanka. The Tooth of Buddha was taken from the funeral pyre in 543 BCE and only found its way to Sri Lanka in the fourth century CE. Hundreds of worshippers visit the temple each day and in August the most spectacular ceremony takes place. Some of our August trips should coincide with the Kandy festival, but the exact dates, decided by priests, are not known until five months prior to the event.

After our visit, we drive to a beautiful viewpoint over Kandy overlooked by a huge Buddha, and visit a gem museum where you can see the products of the traditional methods of gem extraction. Another highlight is the vast Peradeniya Botanical Garden with orchid species endemic to Sri Lanka.

Your second full day in Kandy is free to explore this wonderful town or take it slow starting the day relaxing by the hotel pool. The surrounding hills are wonderful, offering fantastic views of the town below and there are many handicraft stores and antique shops in which to browse.

On either evening, you will have the option to attend a traditional performance of dancing and fire eating.

Accommodation: Earl’s Regent Hotel (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 8
To Nuwara Eliya via Kitulgala; optional Adam's Peak climb (December to April only)

Leaving Kandy early, we have a spectacular drive through the countryside on the way to Kitulgala. Here, we have the opportunity of going on a walk through the jungle or local villages followed by an optional white-water rafting excursion. The rafting is a supplement cost and requires minimum 4 people (see the Optional Excursions section of the trip notes), the activity lasts a maximum of 1.5 hours and there is a choice of gentle or wild water (grade III rapids) depending on your preference. If you do not wish to go rafting, freshen up and relax by the water until the rafters return for lunch. After, we drive to our hotel in Nuwara Eliya.

Please note, it is possible to climb Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada) from the full moon day of December to the full moon day of May. This is optional and you need to be confident in your fitness levels to attempt this. You would leave Nuwara Eliya around midnight on Day 8 and drive for approximately two hours to the base of the peak. From here, it is a strenuous four-hour climb to the top in time for sunrise. We then return to Nuwara Eliya to join the group for lunch on Day 9.

Accommodation: Mirage Kings Cottage (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 9
Free morning in old colonial hill station of Nuwara Eliya. Visit tea factory in afternoon

This morning, we have free time to explore the beautiful town of Nuwara Eliya, a popular hill station during the British era, situated in the cool highland air. Known locally as Little England, it is dotted with British-style houses and parks and features a golf club and racecourse.

Following lunch, we  visit a nearby tea plantation and factory and learn about the process of tea production.

Accommodation: Mirage Kings Cottage (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 10
Early morning to Horton Plains; walk to World's End viewpoint; to Ella by train and onward to Kataragama

We have an early start this morning and take a 19mi (30km) drive south to Horton Plains, a large plateau more than 6,560ft (2,000m) high, overlooked by the second and third highest peaks in Sri Lanka. The scenery is beautiful and the best way to explore is on foot. We take a three to four-hour guided walk (5.5mi/9km) through the picturesque rolling grasslands, spanning through various landscapes and elevations, where we hope to encounter monkeys along the way. We also visit World’s End, where the ground drops 3,445ft (1,050m) to the plains. For a more detailed terrain description of Horton Plains walk, please see our “Is this trip for you” section within the Trip Notes.

Following this, we catch a train from the highest railway station in the country – within 90 minutes we drop from 6,198ft (1,889m) to 3,599ft (1,097m). The train travels through cloud forest into tea plantations, with breath-taking views of the lush valley below.

We get off at Ella railway station and continue by road to Ella Gap where we have spectacular views of the coastal plain nearly 3,280ft (1,000m) below. Almost the entire southern part of the island is in view and (on a particularly clear day) the shimmering Indian Ocean is visible. We travel to Kataragama on the plains; this is our base for visiting the best-known national park in Sri Lanka, Yala.

Accommodation: Mandara Rosen (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 11
Drive to Tissamaharama and walk through rural farmland; afternoon game drive in Yala National Park

Today we proceed to Tissamaharama, we walk to a local farmhouse where you’ll be offered tea in a coconut shell along with a local snack. We mix with real Sri Lankan life and take part in some traditional Sri Lankan games, returning to our bus in tractors used by the farmers.

Later this afternoon, we enjoy a game drive in Yala National Park. Yala is home to elephants, leopards, bears, crocodiles and wild boars. The park, which is primarily shrub jungle with several salt and freshwater lagoons, has one of the highest concentrations of leopards in the world.

Please note, the sanctuary may be closed for four to six weeks from September to October, allowing park authorities to check the welfare of the animals. We therefore go to a nearby alternative, usually Udawalawe National Park.

Accommodation: Mandara Rosen (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 12
Morning visit to Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home; drive to Ahangama

Today, we leave for the coast, with its beautiful palm-fringed bays. On the way you will visit the Elephant Transit Home in Udawalawe. This unique experience highlights and supports the conservation efforts in Sri Lanka for wild elephants.
Located on the outskirts of Udawalawe National Park the Elephant Transit Home is rehabilitation centre for orphaned and sick elephants to receive nourishment and care until they become independent and healthy enough to be released back into the wild.

From Udawalawe, we continuing on to Ahangama, arriving at our coastal hotel in the afternoon and you can relax for the rest of the day by the pool or on the beach.

Accommodation: Insight Resort (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 13
Free day to relax on the beach or optional activities including whale watching (Nov to April)

Today is free for you to relax on the beach or by the hotel pool. There are also optional activities including a boat ride through mangrove swamps to a cinnamon plantation or, from November to April, you can go whale watching off Dondra Head, one of the best places in the world for seeing blue and sperm whales. Huge dolphin pods often play alongside the boats.

Accommodation: Insight Resort (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 14
To Galle; visit old fort; transfer to Colombo

We drive along the coastal road to the historic port of Galle, which dates to the 17th century, and now a Unesco World Heritage site. On the way, we stop at a small folk museum inspired by the local writer Martin Wickramasinghe. The museum is a typical house from the Koggala region and is set among beautiful gardens.

Later, we continue along the expressway to Colombo, reaching our hotel in the late afternoon.

Accommodation: Hotel Cinnamon Red (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 15
End Colombo

The adventure ends today and you begin your return journey home.

Those on the group flights will take a transfer to the airport this morning. If you are not travelling on the group flight, please ensure you provide your flight details at least 2 weeks prior to arrival to secure your return airport transfer.

It’s been a culture-packed adventure, so if you’re craving a little R&R, speak to your sales representative about joining our post-trip getaway to the Maldives. Alternatively, if you’d like to explore Sri Lanka a little more, you can book an extension to your hotel stay.

Meals included: Breakfast

Post-trip Extensions

Maldives Extension

Villa Nautica Paradise Island Resort

Discover Sri Lanka

If you are keen to end your trip on a relaxed note, we can arrange a visit to the Maldives for you.

The flight from Colombo is around one hour and upon arrival you will be transferred by speedboat (approximately 20 minutes) to the Paradise Island four-star resort. Paradise Island is a beautiful coral island, covered with tropical vegetation and palm trees, surrounded by a wide sandy beach and an azure lagoon.

You can choose to add as many extra nights to your trip as you wish; your time on the island will be at leisure for you to do as you wish. The accommodation has a swimming pool, restaurant, bar, room service and all rooms are air conditioned. There is also access to scuba diving and snorkelling or the chance to swim in the wonderful, calm waters. Either way, it is a veritable paradise and a memorable end to the trip.

If you choose to take advantage of this opportunity, we can arrange flights for you to Malé and book the hotel and speedboat transfer to the island. Please be advised, all accommodation booked at the Paradise Island four-star resort is based on minimum half-board basis but full-board and all-inclusive upgrades are available for a supplement.

Please ask your sales representative for more details. Prices listed are starting prices.

Insight Resort Beach Extension

How about slowing the pace down and extending your stay a night or two? Before finishing your trip in Colombo, take a detour and stay south of Galle in the fishing village of Ahangama. There you can relax on the beautiful beach at the hotel or wander through the village watching the local people go about their daily lives. A perfect wind-down before it’s time to fly home.

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Please ask your sales representative for more details. Prices listed are starting prices.

Accommodation

A selection of hotels, most with pools

Discover Sri Lanka

On this cultural adventure in Sri Lanka, we spend 14 nights in hotels, which are generally of a good standard and most have swimming pools. The normal accommodations used on this trip can be found on the day-to-day itinerary; however, below are a few of the notable places we stay.

Sigiriya: Hotel Sigiriya (nights 2-3)

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This comfortable four-star property surrounded by nature is the perfect place to ease into our adventure. Unwind with a dip in the freshwater pool (which has near-unbeatable views of Sigiriya Rock) and relax in your spacious room with garden views.

Yala: Mandara Rosen (nights 10-11)

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Within a mountain forest, the 58-room Mandara Rosen is our home from home as we explore Yala National Park. It has a swimming pool lined with loungers and araliya trees (underwater music is available) plus a 120-seater restaurant serving a mix of cuisines. The rooms are comfortable, with earthy tones and Kandyan paintings.

Ahangama: Insight Resort (nights 12-13)

Discover Sri Lanka

Enjoy a spot on the beach, where it is possible to swim in the sea most of the time. Spacious rooms offer sea views and the quiet fishing village is an easy walk for those wishing to explore a local community. There are good photo opportunities with the stilt fisherman nearby and the hotel is close to the optional excursions. Service can sometimes be slow, but it is a small property, so the staff and management are flexible and cater for our group’s needs.

Worth knowing

  • Hotels in Sri Lanka are becoming increasingly busy and, occasionally, we must find alternatives to the ones we typically use. We endeavour to find the nearest alternative with a similar standard of rooms.
  • The standards and styles of hotels on this trip vary. Some of our selections are based on location and what is available in the area or the character and atmosphere at the premises. Some properties in the hill region may not have air conditioning in rooms and instead have fans. This is due to the cooler climate.
  • Paying the single supplement may not mean you receive a double or twin room for sole use. The room you are allocated may differ from hotel to hotel and, on some nights, a smaller one-person room may be allocated.

Single supplement from £ 540

Food & Drink

All breakfasts and one lunch are included.

We suggest allowing about 7,000 rupees (US$20) per day for lunch and dinner.
You can eat out very cheaply in Sri Lanka and your leader will provide recommendations for where to eat locally however, the options may not always be suited to larger groups. Some locations you stay may have limited local restaurant choice, in which case meals will be at the hotel. Hotel meals are generally buffets; the majority offer an à la carte menu, but service can be slow. Where suitable, your tour leader will be happy to arrange a shuttle transfer into the local town or, if you prefer to be more independent, take a tuk tuk or taxi. Your leader can help recommend some good places to eat.

Sri Lankan cuisine is a fascinating reflection of the island’s heritage; there is a unique fusion of fresh local produce with spices brought to the island over the centuries by Malays, Arabs, Indians as well as the Dutch, Portuguese and English. Despite (or perhaps because of) these influences, Sri Lankan cuisine is often referred to as simply rice and curry. This is the staple dish in most restaurants and is usually a serving of rice accompanied by assorted meat and vegetable curries as well as various pickles, sambols (condiments), and a handful of tiny poppadum – all using the contrasting flavours of coconut, chilli, curry leaves, cinnamon and garlic.

Vegetarians are well catered for but please inform us before departure of any special dietary requests. Please note, the availability of certain products is minimal or non-existent in Sri Lanka. For example, wheat- or dairy-free options outside of hotels are limited. Please be prepared for this and you may need to bring these from home. Spicier food can be avoided easily and lots of the hotels will serve Western options alongside traditional food.

Mineral water is provided by our local operator in large containers throughout the trip so please bring a bottle with you to refill. Please note, restaurant service can be quite slow.

Transport

We use an air-conditioned minibus or coach depending on the size of the group however, please note vehicles in Sri Lanka tend to have limited legroom so we will try to stop for comfort breaks as needed. Open sided jeeps are used in Yala National Park and jeeps or a microbus will be used to drive to Horton Plains.

The train ride to Ella will be in the second-class carriage, an authentic experience and great chance for some fun local interactions. Due to the Sri Lankan rail booking system, tickets are purchased on the day from the railway station ticket office and seats cannot be reserved in advance, so we sit where we can once on board.

Please Note: We will endeavour to secure train tickets from Pattipola to Ella as per the itinerary. However, during peak holiday seasons/busy periods, if the train coming from Kandy is sold out or overcrowded, your leader will action an alternative plan. The group will travel by road to Ella railway station and from there (where most travellers disembark) you will be able to enjoy the train ride from Ella to Badulla. The journey will be approximately one hour journey and has the highlight of passing over the world famous Nine Arch bridge.

Weather & Seasonality

Generally, you should expect rain at some time but with plenty of sunshine. On the plains, day and night time temperatures are warm to hot with Colombo having an average daytime temperature of 30C (86F). The temperatures drop as we go higher into the hills and especially at Nuwara Eliya and Horton Plains where seasonally daytime temperatures can be a low as 12C-15C (53F-59F) and night temperatures will be about 8C-10C (46F-50F) minimum. If travelling between December and February, we recommend you pack a warmish jacket.
Please note, occasionally low cloud and rains over Horton Plains can be prohibitive to the day 10 walk to World’s End viewpoint. In case of inclement weather, your leader will make an alternative plan taking you through Ella Gap earlier in the day.

Joining Instructions

Key information

Start hotel: The Covanro, 323 Airport Road, Naiwala Roundabout, Veyangoda 11100
Phone: +94 332 245 000
Recommended arrival time: You can arrive at any time today. There will be a welcome briefing in the evening, but if you miss it the leader will update you separately
Airport: Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB)

Getting to the start hotel

The start hotel is approximately 30 minutes’ drive from the airport. Exodus provides free arrival transfers to the start hotel from the airport for all customers.

Catching your return flight

Exodus provides free departure transfers for all customers to Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB) from the end hotel.

Please note, unless specified otherwise, the transfers will be to the start (or pre-tour) hotel and from the end (or post-tour) hotel and will be on the date on which the tour starts/ends; transfers to other hotels in the same city and/or on different dates may attract an extra charge. Transfers should be booked with your sales representative at least two weeks before the tour starts.

Full joining instructions including local emergency numbers will be sent to you as part of our Final Joining Instructions. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier please contact our office or your travel agent.

Location start: Veyangoda
Location end: Colombo

What To Take

Essential Equipment

  • Refillable water bottle (ideally with a wide mouth) – plastic bottles are a big issue in many countries where recycling isn’t yet widely available and we would like to reduce our impact here. Therefore, the leader can take a kitty and purchase five-litre bottles of water for the group, which is less wasteful than everyone purchasing smaller bottles individually
  • Sunhat
  • Sunscreen
  • Light casual clothing
  • Warm sweater/fleece
  • Sandals (especially if you want to go rafting)
  • Trainers/walking shoes (needed at Kitulgala and Horton Plains)
  • Light waterproof (especially if climbing Adam’s Peak)
  • Swimming costume
  • Hand gel
  • Small personal first-aid kit
  • Torch (especially if climbing Adam’s Peak)

If you want to visit The Hill Club in Nuwara Eliya (subject to availability), you will need more formal clothing (no jeans).

Additionally, men’s and women’s clothing should cover shoulders and be on or below the knee, especially when visiting temples. Women particularly should always dress conservatively to avoid unwanted attention and not to cause offence; vests, tight-fitting trousers, short skirts and short shorts are not recommended. It doesn’t matter what type of bag or case you use on this trip. You should also bring a small day bag for your valuable items.

Practical Information

Visa

Sri Lanka

Travellers from the UK, US and EU normally need a visa to enter Sri Lanka. Visa requirements often change and it is your responsibility to obtain any required visas for this trip. Therefore, we recommend that you check with the nearest embassy or consulate of your chosen destination(s), including any countries you may be transiting or transferring through. 

Transition from ETA to eVisa: Sri Lanka has recently moved from the ETA system to a new eVisa scheme. If you currently hold a valid ETA for an upcoming trip to Sri Lanka, your ETA is still valid for use. However, all future visits will require an eVisa, which costs US$40 for a 30-day tourist visa, plus a service fee of US$10 or US$18.50. 

Find the eVisa application and more information here: www.srilankaevisa.lk. Further information can be found on the Sri Lankan Department of Immigration and Emigration website. 

Some local governments provide guidance on what visas their citizens need. To help, we’ve gathered a selection of useful links below. 

You should also be aware of local laws and customs in Sri Lanka (see: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/sri-lanka/local-laws-and-customs). The mistreatment of Buddhist images and artefacts is an offence; please note, people have been refused entry to Sri Lanka because of visible tattoos of Buddha. 

Vaccinations and Health

Sri Lanka

There are no required vaccinations. However, recommended vaccinations include tetanus, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, rabies, tuberculosis and typhoid. You will also need a yellow fever vaccination certificate if you’re arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever transmission or transiting for more than 12 hours through a country with risk of yellow fever transmission. Please confirm with your doctor or travel clinic.

The risk of malaria is slight but you may wish to consult your doctor or travel clinic for further advice. Additionally, dengue fever, a tropical viral disease spread by daytime biting mosquitoes, is a known risk in places visited. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available; the best form of prevention is to take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

Local Time

Sri Lanka's time zone: Asia/Colombo (UTC +05:30)

Electricity

Sri Lanka's electricity: Plug types D (three round pins) and G (three rectangular pins) – 230V, 50Hz. The electricity supply is not 100 percent reliable but is usually only off for short periods.

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Money

Sri Lanka's currency: All foreign passport holders can make payments for purchases in the local currency, Sri Lankan rupees (LKR). This is applicable to hotels, restaurants, shops and for any other services. Credit cards (Visa, Mastercard and American Express) are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants, and most established shops. If you wish to exchange any cash upon arrival into Sri Lankan rupees, it is advisable to exchange British pounds, euros or US dollars upon arrival at Colombo Airport where authorised bank money exchanges are open 24-hours a day. Hotels can change money as well, but the rates will probably not be favourable. Your Tour Leader will be happy to direct you to the appropriate exchange services if you wish to change money during the trip. You are no longer required to produce your receipt of foreign exchange when making payments in Sri Lankan rupees, as was previously the case. However, we suggest you retain receipts of foreign exchange which will help should you wish to change back any unused rupees at the time of departure.

ATM Availability

You will find ATM machines in many of the main towns in Sri Lanka with Visa, MasterCard and American Express widely accepted. There is often a small 3-4% fee on top of your withdrawals so bear that in mind.

It’s worth informing your bank before departure that you are travelling to Sri Lanka and carry the relevant telephone number with you in case they put a block on your card.

Extra Expenses & Spending Money

For small purchases, particularly at local shops and markets, cash is generally preferred and easier for transactions than credit cards.

It is recommended that you allow at least 2,200 Sri Lankan rupees (US$6) for personal expenditures such as stamps, postcards and soft drinks. Some sites may charge a small fee for camera use. Shopping opportunities in Sri Lanka are endless and we suggest you take money for souvenirs, even if you are generally not a keen shopper, we have found most people succumb to the wide variety of handicrafts on offer.

All entrance fees and activities described in the itinerary are included with an exception for the optional activities mentioned on some days.

Optional excursions

There are plenty of opportunities for local excursions and cultural experiences throughout this trip, which are detailed in the daily itinerary. For an overview of the optional extras, please see below:

  • White-water rafting at Kitulgala: Approximately 11,000 – 14,000 rupees per person
  • Trek to Adam’s Peak: Usually 9,100-18,200 rupees per person depending on how many people would like to attempt the climb. Your leader will advise on costs and arrangements, minimum 2 passengers.
  • Optional Tuk Tuk in Giritale: 6,000 rupees per tuk tuk
  • Local boat ride from beach hotel: Approximately 5,000 rupees per person
  • Optional game drive on Day 3: Approximately 25,000 rupees per person (may vary depending on booking numbers), minimum 2 Passengers.

Please note that the rafting and boat ride through mangroves are not suitable for persons with reduced mobility as challenging terrain in parts. Please speak to your Leader before booking if you have any concerns.

Whale watching (November to April)

  • The whale-watching trip by private boat should cost about 32,500 rupees per person depending on the number of participants. Minimum 6 passengers required.

Below is the breakdown.

  • Cost of Boat- 110000 to 140000 (Depending on the availability, Supply, and demand on the given day)
  • Entry ticket – 8000 rupees
  • Tuk Tuks – Rs. 1500 per person. (We cannot take the bus into the Harbor.)
  • Tips – 500 to 1000 rupees per person.
    • Approximate cost for 6 pax – 80 pounds per person
    • Approximate cost for 10 pax – 65 pounds per person
    • Approximate cost for 14 pax – 55 pounds per person

Please note, if you choose to enjoy this excursion on your free day, we strongly advise booking a private charter boat through your leader in advance as the boats are always subject to availability. The more members of the group who wish to join the charter the more cost-effective it will be. We do not recommend larger, commercial boats; they may be cheaper, but they do not always respect the welfare of the animals or operate in an environmentally responsible way. We have also had reports of overcrowding on the boats. Please ask your leader for further details on how to book a private charter.

Tipping

Tipping is part of the culture in Sri Lanka. However, it can often be an awkward affair, especially when you’re in an unfamiliar country. As such, your tour Leader will offer to arrange and look after a tipping kitty, which will be used to tip hotel staff, local guides, and other support staff used on the trip (optional excursions are not included in the group kitty).

Your Leader will suggest how much to contribute, but it is usually about 16,500 rupees (approximately US$50) total per person. At any time during the trip, your Leader will happily show you an account of how the kitty is being distributed.

Tips for the Leader and transfer crew are not included in the kitty and are at your own discretion. If you wish to show your appreciation, our recommendation is as follows:

For the Driver and assistant around 650 – 950 rupees (US$2 – US$3) per person per day.

For your Leader around 1,100 – 1,600 rupees (US$4-US$5) per person per day.

Where possible, please try to tip in the local currency.

People, Places & Planet

We work hard to create trips that improve life for the people and places we visit, and look after the planet we explore. Find out more about our sustainable travel ethos and practice here, and find out about the work of the Exodus Travels Foundation here.

Some sustainable travel highlights of this trip include:

People

How this trip helps improve life for local communities.

  • The use of a local guide means our customers will be well informed about local traditions, and cultural and social sensitivities.
  • This trip brings income and opportunity to the destination community through the inclusion of locally owned hotels and restaurants, the emphasis on eating locally produced food and support of other local enterprise.
  • All of the hotels we stay in are dedicated to hiring local staff, this benefits the community by providing employment opportunities and income alternatives where they may be otherwise hard to come by.
  • This tour actively encourages guests to talk to local people, visit local cafes and restaurants and use markets to purchase traditional crafts. We stop for local delicacies while cycling and visit the Kalu family farmhouse for lunch, this enables us to support smaller businesses on the trip.
  • We have financially co-sponsored a local tsunami relief project, which has enabled 25 families to be rehoused and for two schools to be equipped with toilets, running water and outdoor swings.
  • In collaboration with a German operator and the village temple, we have helped towards 10 large water tanks and an eye clinic in a remote village with a donation of 200 pairs of glasses.
  • We also assisted a principal agent of Unicef in development of day care and education of school children of the estate sector labourers in the hill country.
  • While visiting the Back to Life project, we stay at a hotel rebuilt by our local operator after the original building was demolished by the tsunami.

Places

How this trip helps protect and conserve local landscapes and nature.

  • Read about our commitment to nature protection and restoration here, including our rewilding commitment for every customer who travels.
  • By travelling in a small group, led by a local guide, we ‘tread lightly’ to minimise our impact on local resources and the environment.
  • Our trips adhere to ABTA’s industry-leading animal welfare guidelines to ensure the best possible practices with regard to working animals and wildlife viewing. Our animal welfare policy can be found here.
  • We visit important national parks, ruins and museums, where our entrance fees contribute to their upkeep. For example, our game drives in Yala National Park promote animal welfare and financially contributes to conservation projects in the area.
  • We work with our partners on the ground to proactively eliminate or reduce waste, for example eliminating all single-use plastic water bottles and instead providing refills for reusable bottles.
  • The Exodus Travels Foundation has launched the Community Kickstart Project to help our destination communities recover and rebuild following the impact of Covid-19. In Sri Lanka, we’ve contributed to the Yala Park Driver Support initiative, more details can be found here.
  • Some departures of this trip provide the opportunity for you to collect water samples for the international eBioAtlas initiative, which collects vital DNA information to assist in essential conservation initiatives.
  • Read about our commitment to nature protection and restoration here, including our rewilding commitment for every customer who travels with us and the eBioAtlas.

Planet

How we seek to keep the carbon footprint of this trip low.

  • Read about our climate action here, including our carbon reduction and compensation commitments.
  • Accommodation and restaurants in the itinerary use locally sourced food which has not been transported long distances.
  • Vegetarian and vegan options are available at the majority of accommodations and restaurants.
  • This trip favours locally owned and run accommodation.

 Tips for sustainable travel on this trip

  • Leave no trace: We do all we can to ensure we leave no rubbish behind in the wild and beautiful places we visit; we ask that you do the same. If there are no recycling facilities in-country, we’d ask you to consider bringing recyclable materials home with you.
  • Plastic waste reduction: Please bring your own reusable water bottle on this trip; filtered water will be provided where tap water is not drinkable.
  • Please be aware there are a large number of stray dogs in Sri Lanka, and you may encounter some during your trip. Our local operators are aware of this and we are monitoring any animal-welfare concerns.
  • Cultural respect:
    • One should not touch someone’s head as this is considered disrespectful.
    • It’s polite to use your right hand when shaking hands or handing money and small objects to someone else.
    • It is common practice to remove one’s shoes before entering someone’s home.
    • Men’s and women’s clothing should cover shoulders and be on or below the knee, especially when visiting temples.

Important Information

Water safety

This trip includes time by a lake, river or sea, where there may be opportunities to swim. You should always seek local advice before deciding whether to swim. Open-water or wild swim spots should be treated with extreme caution. Information on how to keep yourself safe while swimming is shown here.

Important Information

Your safe participation 

When booking this trip, you should be confident in your ability to participate in all activities described in these Trip Notes. If you have any doubt about your suitability, please call the Exodus office and ask to speak to one of the experts on this itinerary. 

Although our leaders are well trained to deal with different capabilities, if they have any concerns about someone’s ability to safely take part in an activity, or their impact on other people’s enjoyment, we authorise them to take necessary action which, in some circumstances, may involve asking someone to miss that activity. 

By booking this trip you agree to our Booking Conditions which clearly state that our leaders have the authority to do this. In these rare instances we will ensure anyone sitting out is safely provided for and offered alternative options where possible. Refunds will not be provided for activities missed and customers may be liable for additional costs incurred. 

How to Book

  1. Check availability: Go online to check availability, or contact us by phone or email.
  2. Secure your place: You can provisionally hold a place on this trip, usually for between three and seven days.
  3. Complete your booking and payment

When you’re ready to book, go to our website for online bookings, book over the phone or you can complete a booking form (available online or on request by calling us). We accept all major credit and debit cards, or you can pay be cheque.

After booking

You will receive your booking confirmation letter and invoice, which includes extra information and guidance about your travel arrangements.

Full joining instructions, including local emergency numbers and details of how to reach the start point, will be sent to you approximately two to three weeks prior to departure. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier, please contact our office or your travel agent.

Trip Note validity

These Trip Notes are valid from the “Current as” date on page one. They will occasionally be updated after booking and before departure; if there are any updates that significantly impact the inclusions or itinerary, customers will be written to separately. They will also receive a link to the most up-to-date Trip Notes with their Final Joining Instructions before travelling.

The information in these Trip Notes is given in good faith. Where differences exist between the Trip Notes and our current brochure or website, the Trip Notes supersede the brochure and website. All holidays can be subject to unexpected changes; to enjoy them you should be prepared to be flexible where necessary. Occasionally, it may not be possible to follow the itinerary as planned. This may be for a variety of reasons – climatic, political, physical or other. In these circumstances we will make the best-possible alternative arrangements that maintain the integrity of the original itinerary.

Licensing

Exodus is fully licensed and bonded as a tour operator. We hold Air Traffic Organisers Licence (ATOL) number 2582, issued and bonded with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). We are also bonded to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and we are members of the Federation of Tour Operators (FTO) and ABTA – The Travel Association. This means you can book your Exodus holiday with confidence, as all money paid to us for your trip is fully protected.