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Sri Lanka Country Guide

  1. Country Facts
  2. Health
  3. Media
  1. Intro
  2. Geography
  3. People
  4. Travel
  5. Embassies & Visas
  6. Finance
  7. Cities/Regions

Quick Facts

Region: Asia & Oceania
Full Name: Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Capital City: Colombo
Language Spoken: : Sinhala (official and national language) 74%, Tamil (national language) 18%, other 8% note: English is commonly used in government and is spoken competently by about 10% of the population

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Geographic data

7 00 N, 81 00 E

Elevation Extremes

lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m highest point: Pidurutalagala 2,524 m

Land boundaries

0 km

Natural hazards

occasional cyclones and tornadoes

Natural resources

limestone, graphite, mineral sands, gems, phosphates, clay, hydropower

Land use

arable land: 13.96% permanent crops: 15.24% other: 70.8% (2005)

Environmental current issues

deforestation; soil erosion; wildlife populations threatened by poaching and urbanization; coastal degradation from mining activities and increased pollution; freshwater resources being polluted by industrial wastes and sewage runoff; waste disposal; air pollution in Colombo

Climate

Tropical climate. Upland areas are cooler and more temperate, and coastal areas are cooled by sea breezes. There are two monsoons, which occur May to July and December to January. Required clothing Lightweights and rainwear.

Time difference

time difference: UTC+5.5 note: Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte (legislative capital)

Population

20,222,240 note: since the outbreak of hostilities between the government and armed Tamil separatists in the mid-1980s, several hundred thousand Tamil civilians have fled the island and more than 200,000 Tamils have sought refuge in the West (July 2006 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 24.1% (male 2,488,689/female 2,379,233) 15-64 years: 68.6% (male 6,727,399/female 7,140,751) 65 years and over: 7.3% (male 687,842/female 798,326) (2006 est.)

Median age

total: 29.8 years male: 28.7 years female: 30.9 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate

0.78% (2006 est.)

Birth rate

15.51 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate

6.52 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate

-1.23 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 0.94 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/female total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 73.41 years male: 70.83 years female: 76.12 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate

1.84 children born/woman (2006 est.)

Business Practices

Business attire is generally casual. The business language is English. Business cards are a necessity. Courtesy is highly valued in Sri Lanka, and personal graciousness plays a major role in clinching deals. While punctuality is not as highly prized as in the United States, most appointments and other commitments are scrupulously observed. Office hours are 0800-1630 Monday to Friday.

Crime

Sri Lanka has a high crime rate. However, the crime does not seem to affect the expatriate community residing in Colombo. Most of the violent crimes occur within the local community and involves people that know each other. Routine petty crimes (i.e. pickpockets, theft from hotel rooms etc.) are not uncommon if the traveler does not take the appropriate personal safeguards. Street hustlers or "touts" are common around the hotels and tourist sites. For the most part, if they are told that you are not interested, the touts will leave you alone. Pedestrians should guard against purse-snatching and pocket-picking by keeping a firm grip on handbags and carrying wallets in inside jacket pockets. People on the street offering black-market exchange rates are often sleight-of-hand tricksters ready to cheat anyone foolish enough to do business with them. When traveling in vehicles, personnel should keep bags out of sight, doors locked and windows rolled up to guard against occasional snatch-and-grab thieves working in slowed traffic.

Hotels

Several five-star hotels provide accommodations and a wide range of amenities and services for business travelers in Colombo. Most business visitors to Colombo stay at the Colombo Hilton on Lotus Road, the Colombo Renaissance, the Lanka Oberoi on Galle Road or the Galle Face Hotel. All are at the city's center and have good security, but visitors are advised to consign anything of value to safe deposit. In Kandy, good hostelries include the Hotel Hilltop, the Hotel Topaz; Queen's Hotel and the Citadel. There are also dozens of fine beach resorts two to three hours away. Housing facilities for expatriates are satisfactory, and options are steadily improving. Stand- alone homes with yards are available, but often require extensive effort and resources to renovate and maintain. Some expatriates choose to negotiate long-term living arrangements with five-star hotels for suites or rooms with kitchenettes. Several luxury apartment buildings, offering furnished units and numerous amenities (e.g., pool, health club, shopping, and restaurants), and catering primarily to expatriates, have recently opened in Colombo.

Communications

Telephone IDD facilities are available to the principal cities. The country code is 94 and the outgoing international code is 00. The General Post Office in Colombo (address below) provides fax services. Many hotels also have fax facilities. International direct dialing is available and cellular telephones have become increasingly popular. International mail and courier services (including FedEx, UPS and DHL) are also available. A number of local providers offer Internet and e-mail services; because the phone line quality varies, connections are sometimes unstable.

Electricity

is a 230/240 volts AC, 50Hz. Round 3-pin plugs are usual, with bayonet lamp fittings. Electricity 230 volts AC, 50Hz. Round three-pin plugs are usual, with bayonet lamp fittings.

Plug Types

D,G,M

Food And Dining

Standard foods are spicy and it is advised to approach curries with caution. There are many vegetables, fruits, meats and seafoods. Chinese, Continental, Indian and Japanese menus are available in Colombo. A specialty is basic curry, made with coconut milk, sliced onion, green chilli, aromatic spices such as cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and saffron and aromatic leaves. Things to know: Alcohol cannot be sold on poya holidays (which occur each lunar month on the day of the full moon).

National specialties:
? Hoppers is a cross between a muffin and a crumpet with a wafer-crisp edge, served with a fresh egg soft-baked on top.
? Stringhoppers are steamed circlets of rice flour, a little more delicate than noodles or spaghetti.
? Jaggery is a fudge made from the crystallised sap of the kitul palm.
? The durian fruit is considered a great delicacy. National drinks:
? Tea is the national drink and thought to be amongst the best in the world.
? Toddy (sap of the palm tree).
? Arrack (fermented Toddy which comes in varying degrees of strength).

Tipping:
Most hotels include a service charge of 10 per cent. Extra tipping is optional.

Nightlife
Some Colombo hotels have supper clubs with music for dancing. There are theaters in Colombo, cinemas showing films from the USA, ballet, concerts and theater productions.

Entry departure requirements

* Please see visa section

Visa immigration information

Passports

Passport valid for at least six months from date of entry required by all.

Visas

Required by all except nationals of the following countries, who will be issued with visas free of charge for a period of 30 days on arrival at Colombo Airport (for tourist visits only):
(a) nationals of those countries mentioned in the chart above (except 1. nationals of Malta and the Slovak Republic who do require a visa);
(b) nationals of Albania, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brunei, Bulgaria, China (PR, including Hong Kong), Croatia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Korea (Rep), Kuwait, Macedonia, Malaysia, Maldives, Nepal, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, The Philippines, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Serbia & Montenegro, Seychelles, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Vietnam;
(c) nationals of CIS countries.

Note

All business visitors require a visa.

Types of visa and cost

Tourist and Business: US$65 (up to three months); fee given is for UK nationals. Fees vary according to nationality; contact the Consulate (or Consular section at Embassy or High Commission); see Passport/Visa Information. Multiple-entry visas cost US$196 (three months) or US$325 (12 months).

Validity

As above. Visitors can request to extend their stay by applying to the Department of Immigration & Emigration, 23 Station Road, Colombo 3 (tel: (1) 259 7513). This is issued at the discretion of the authorities who must be satisfied that the applicant has at least US$30 per day for the stay and holds an onward or return ticket for travel.

Application to

Consulate (or Consular section at Embassy or High Commission); see Passport/Visa Information. British nationals, traveling as tourists, may obtain a visa upon arrival, upon port of entry into Sri Lanka, for up to 30 days.

Application requirements

(a) Valid passport valid for six months from date of entry. (b) Completed application form. (c) Two passport-size photos signed on the back by applicant. (d) Visa fee, payable by cash (not if sending by post) or postal order/bank draft in favor of "Sri Lanka High Commission, London." (e) Self-addressed envelope, with appropriate cost of stamps necessary for returning passport by registered post. (f) Proof of sufficient funds (minimum US$30 per day) for duration of stay. (g) Return or onward ticket. Business: (a)-(g) and, (h) A letter from the company or organization recommending the issue of visa and giving details of the status of the applicant, nature of business, duration of stay, sufficient funds and details of the party, if available in Sri Lanka, with whom the business is to be conducted, along with a letter from that company/organization in Sri Lanka.

Working days required

At least three.

Temporary residence

Enquire at Embassy or High Commission.

HIV entry requirements

No Test Required

Departure tax

None

Embassies

High Commission of Sri Lanka in the UK

13 Hyde Park Gardens, London W2 2LU, UK
Tel: (020) 7262 1841-7.
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 0930-1700; 0930-1300 (visa section).

Embassy of Sri Lanka in the USA

2148 Wyoming Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008, USA
Tel: (202) 483 4025-8.
Website: www.slembassyusa.org

Travelers are advised against all but essential travel to the north or east of Sri Lanka. On 26 April 2006, the Government restricted access to the north of Sri Lanka by closing military checkpoints.
There is a threat from domestic terrorism. On 25 April 2006, there was an explosion at the Sri Lankan army headquarters in the Fort area of Colombo.
There has been a recent increase in ongoing political violence and civil unrest, especially in the north and east, with fatal attacks on an almost daily basis.
Visitors should follow local developments closely, be aware of their surroundings and alert to changing situations. Avoid political gatherings or demonstrations.
A state of emergency is in effect. This gives wide discretionary powers to the Sri Lankan Authorities. Travelers are strongly advised to comply with Government and security instructions.
Travelers should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners. It is strongly recommended that all overseas nationals who are resident and/or working in Sri Lanka, or visiting for over one month, register with their High Commission or Embassy in Colombo.
This advice is based on information provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. It is correct at time of publishing. As the situation can change rapidly, visitors are advised to contact the following organizations for the latest travel advice:

British Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Tel: (0845) 850 2829.
Website: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/sri-lanka

US Department of State

Website: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/SriLanka.html

Currency

Sri Lanka Rupee (LKR) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of LKR1000, 500, 200, 100, 50, 20 and 10. Coins are in denominations of LKR10, 5, 2 and 1, and 50, 25, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cents. There are also large numbers of commemorative coins in circulation.

Currency restrictions

The import and export of local currency is limited to SLRs1000. The import of notes from India and Pakistan is not allowed, otherwise, the import of foreign currency is not restricted but all amounts over US$5000 are subject to declaration. Export of foreign currency is limited to the amount declared on import.

Banking hours

Mon-Sat 0900-1300. Some city banks close at 1500, whilst some even have night bank facilities.

Currency exchange

Foreign currency must be changed only at authorized exchanges, banks and hotels, and these establishments must endorse such exchanges on the visitor?s Exchange Control D form, which is issued on arrival and must usually be returned at the time of departure.

Credit cards

American Express, MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted. Diners Club has more limited acceptance. Check with your credit or debit card company for details of merchant acceptability and other services which may be available.

Travellers cheques

The rate of exchange for traveller's cheques is better than the rate of exchange for cash. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travelers are advised to take traveller's cheques in US Dollars or Pounds Sterling.

City/RegionCity/Area codeFollowed by
Ampara(0)63+ 7 digit subscriber nr
Anuradhapura(0)25+ 7 digit subscriber nr
Awissawella(0)36+ 7 digit subscriber nr
Badulla(0)55+ 7 digit subscriber nr
Bandarawela(0)57+ 7 digit subscriber nr
Batticaloa(0)65+ 7 digit subscriber nr
Chilaw(0)32+ 7 digit subscriber nr
Colombo(0)11+ 6/7 digit subscriber nr
Galle(0)91+ 5/7 digit subscriber nr
Gampaha(0)33+ 7 digit subscriber nr
Hambantota(0)47+ 7 digit subscriber nr
Hatton(0)51+ 7 digit subscriber nr
Jaffna(0)21+ 7 digit subscriber nr
Kalmunai(0)67+ 7 digit subscriber nr
Kalutara(0)34+ 7 digit subscriber nr
Kandy(0)81+ 6/7 digit subscriber nr
Kegalle(0)35+ 7 digit subscriber nr
Kurunegala(0)37+ 7 digit subscriber nr
Mannar(0)23+ 7 digit subscriber nr
Matale(0)66+ 7 digit subscriber nr
Matara(0)41+ 7 digit subscriber nr
Nawalapitiya(0)54+ 7 digit subscriber nr
Negombo(0)31+ 7 digit subscriber nr
Nuwara Eliya(0)52+ 7 digit subscriber nr
Panadura(0)38+ 7 digit subscriber nr
Polonnaruwa(0)27+ 7 digit subscriber nr
Ratnapura(0)45+ 7 digit subscriber nr
Trincomalee(0)26+ 7 digit subscriber nr
Vavuniya(0)24+ 7 digit subscriber nr
  1. Health Information
  2. Recent Disease Outbreaks
  3. Hospital Database

Dental care

Some of the private clinics will offer dental care, otherwise avoid dental treatment as the standards of care and hygiene cannot be guaranteed.

Medication Availability

Medication in short supply and even when available is often out of date, heat damaged or counterfeit and therefore should be avoided

Blood supplies

Blood supplies should be considered as unsafe

Medical facilities

Medical facilities are limited. Serious medical problems may require evacuation to the nearest country where adequate medical facilities or treatment are available, usually Thailand, Singapore, or the United States.

General caution

Recent medical and dental exams should ensure that the traveler is in good health. Carry appropriate health and accident insurance documents and copies of any important medical records. Bring an adequate supply of all prescription and other medications as well as any necessary personal hygiene items, including a spare pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses if necessary. Drink only bottled beverages (including water) or beverages made with boiled water. Do not use ice cubes or eat raw seafood, rare meat or dairy products. Eat well-cooked foods while they are still hot and fruits that can be peeled without contamination. Avoid roadside stands and street vendors. Swim only in well-maintained, chlorinated pools or ocean water known to be free from pollution. Wear clothing which reduces exposed skin and apply repellents containing DEET to remaining areas. Sleep in well-screened accommodations. Carry anti-diarrheal medication. Reduce problems related to sun exposure by using sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats, sunscreen lotions and lip protection.

Specific concerns

A new strain of cholera (Bengal cholera) has appeared in Sri Lanka. Disease caused by this new strain is characterized by extremely rapid onset of severe symptoms. The current cholera vaccine affords no protection against this new strain; therefore, particular caution should be taken with food, beverages and personal hygiene. Persons becoming ill should seek immediate medical care and rehydration therapy. AIDS occurs. Blood supply may not be adequately screened and/or single-use, disposable needles and syringes may be unavailable. When possible, travelers should defer medical treatment until reaching a facility where safety can be assured.

Immunization

Hepatitis A: Consider active immunization with hepatitis A vaccine or passive immunization with immune globulin (IG) for all susceptible travelers. Especially consider choosing active immunization for persons planning to reside for a long period or for persons who take frequent short-term trips to risk areas. The importance of protection against hepatitis A increases as length of stay increases. It is particularly important for persons who will be living in or visiting rural areas, eating or drinking in settings of poor or uncertain sanitation, or who will have close contact with local persons (especially young children) in settings with poor sanitary conditions. Hepatitis B: Vaccination is advised for health care workers, persons anticipating direct contact with blood from or sexual contact with inhabitants, and persons planning extended stays of 6 months or greater (especially those who anticipate using local health care facilities, staying in rural areas, or having intimate contact with the local population). Japanese Encephalitis: Consider vaccination if staying a month or more outside of mountainous areas from October to January or from May to June, especially if travel includes rural areas. Also consider if staying less than 30 days during those periods and at high risk (in case of epidemic outbreak or extensive outdoor exposure in rural areas). Polio: A one-time booster dose is recommended for travelers who have previously completed a standard course of polio immunization. Refer to CDC guidelines for vaccinating unimmunized or incompletely immunized persons. Pregnancy is a relative contraindication to vaccination; however, if protection is needed, either IPV or OPV may be used, depending on preference and time available. Rabies: Preexposure vaccination should be considered for persons staying longer than 30 days who are expected to be at risk to bites from domestic and/or wild animals (particularly dogs), or for persons engaged in high risk activities such as spelunking or animal handling. Need for vaccination is more important if potential exposure is in rural areas and if adequate postexposure care is not readily available. Typhoid: Vaccination should be considered for persons staying longer than 3 weeks, adventurous eaters, and those who will venture off the usual tourist routes into small cities, villages and rural areas. Importance of vaccination increases as access to reasonable medical care becomes limited. Contraindications depend on vaccine type. Note: All routine vaccines (such as DTP or Td, Hib, MMR, polio, varicella, influenza and pneumococcal) should be kept up-to-date as a matter of good health practice unrelated to travel.

Disease risk summary

Insect-borne illness: Chikungunya fever - occurs Dengue fever - occurs Dengue hemorrhagic fever - occurs in east Encephalitis (Japanese type) - occurs (endemic except in mountains, with periodic epidemics in northern and central provinces; outbreaks in recent past reported in Anuradhapura and northwestern provinces) Leishmaniasis (visceral)- prevalent Malaria - common Sandfly fever - prevalent Food-borne and water-borne illness: common throughout the area, in particular cholera and other watery diarrheas, the dysenteries, typhoid fever, viral hepatitis, and helminthic (parasitic worm) infections. Brucellosis - common Echinococcosis (hydatid disease) - common Other hazards: Diseases such as measles and diphtheria are commonly reported. Polio is still considered a possible risk, although cases have rarely been reported in recent years. Influenza risk extends throughout the year. Rabies in animals is a hazard in most areas.

Entry requirements

Cholera: None. (Contrary to published requirements, the U.S. Embassy reports that proof of cholera vaccination is required for travelers arriving from infected areas; however, this policy may not be consistently enforced.) Yellow fever: A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travelers over 1 year of age coming from infected areas.

Recent disease outbreaks

No recent disease outbreaks

NameAddress
Apollo Hospitals Colombo578 Elvitigala Mawatha Narahenpita Colombo
Asiri Hospitals Limited181 Kirula Road Columbo 5
Durdans HospitalCeylon Hospitals Ltd 3 Alfred Place Colombo-03
Gleneagles Columbo Hospital85 Sri Vipulasena Mawatha Colombo 10
Nawaloka Hospitals Limited23 Sri Saugathodaya Mawatha Colombo 2
Oasis Hospital (Pvt) Ltd.No. 18/A Muhandiram E.D. Dabare Mawatha Colombo 5

Media

Press: The most popular daily newspapers published in English include the Daily Mirror (website: www.dailymirror.lk), Daily News (website: www.dailynews.lk), Evening Observer, The Island (website: www.island.lk) and Lankadeepa (website: www.lankadeepa.lk).
TV: Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) is a state-owned network that operates two channels, Rupavahini and Channel Eye. Private English-language stations include MTV and TNL.
Radio: Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) is a state-owned network that operates services in Sinhala, Tamil and English. Privately owned English radio stations include TNL Radio, Sun FM and Yes FM.

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