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Climate of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is tropical, with distinct dry and wet seasons. The seasons are slightly complicated by having two monsoons. From May to August the Yala monsoon brings rain to the island’s south western half, while the dry season here lasts from December to March. The southwest has the highest rainfall – up to 4000mm a year. The Maha monsoon blows from October to January, bringing rain to the North and East, while the dry season is from May to September. The North and East are comparatively dry, with around 1000mm of rain annually. There is also an inter-monsoonal period in October and November when rain can occur in many parts of the island.

Colombo and the low-lying coastal regions have an average temperature of 27°C. At Kandy (altitude 500m), the average temperature is 20°C, while Nuwara Eliya (at 1889m) has a temperate 16°C average. The sea stays at around 27°C all year.

When to go
Climatically speaking, the driest (and best) seasons in Sri Lanka are from December to March for the west coast, the south coast and the Hill Country, and from April to September for the ancient cities region and the east coast.

December through March are also the months when most foreign tourists visit, the majority of them escaping the European winter. During the Christmas to New Year holiday season, in particular, accommodation anywhere on the island can be tight due to the huge influx of foreign visitors.
July/August is the time of the Kandy Esala Perahera, the 10-day festival honouring the sacred tooth relic of the Buddha, and also the time for the Kataragama festival in the South. In both towns accommodation just before, during and immediately after the festivals is very difficult to come by, and rates usually double or triple. Be sure to book rooms well in advance.

Sri Lanka’s climate means that it is always the ‘right’ beach season somewhere on the coast. The weather doesn’t follow strict rules, though – it often seems to be raining where it should be sunny, and sunny where it should be raining. Rainfall tends to be emphatic – streets can become flooded in what seems like only minutes.

Out-of-season travel has its advantages – not only do the crowds go away but many air fares and accommodation prices drop right down. Nor does it rain all the time during the low season.



The Sri Lankan currency is the rupee (Rs), divided into 100 cents. Coins come in denominations of five, 10, 25 and 50 cents and one, two, five and 10 rupees. Notes come in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 rupees. Break down larger notes (Rs 500) when you change money as most vendors never seem to have change. Dirty or torn notes might not be accepted, except at a bank.

1 Sri Lankan rupee = 0.4114 Indian rupees as on 18 October 2012




Cotton clothes are useful at any time of the year but you will need light woollens for the hills and waterproof clothing or an umbrella. Modest dress for women is advisable especially off the beach and when visiting religious sites.

Don't forget comfortable shoes, sandals or trainers and cotton socks. If you are planning to trek and climb go prepared with suitable gear. Water sports enthusiasts would do well to take their snorkels and diving equipment along.

As with many Asian countries, modest dress is required; shoulders and legs should be covered when visiting temples or shrines. All visitors to temples should remove their shoes before entering and heads should be uncovered. Topless sunbathing is prohibited throughout Sri Lanka.



Frequently Asked Questions

Size:   65,610 sq. km  
Location:   Southern Asia  
Population:   19.8 million  
Government:   Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka  
Leader:   President Mahinda Rajapakshe  
Currency:   Sri Lankan Rupees (1 US$ = approx 104 rupees)
Time:   GMT + 5-1/2hours

Sri Lanka is a land of massive contrasts. The topographical, ecological and cultural diversity in its compact 66,000 sq km makes it truly ‘a land like no other' with no end to the nature and adventure related activities that are possible! Sri Lanka’s vast variety of habitats includes pristine rainforests, highland grasslands and tea plantations, virgin jungles, mangrove swamps, dry zone areas, white sandy beaches and several internationally recognized National Parks.
Also known as ‘the pearl in the Indian Ocean', Sri Lanka (formerly called Ceylon island republic) is located 29 kilometres off the south eastern tip of the Indian subcontinent. It is separated from India by the Palk Strait and Gulf of Mannar .

Flora & Fauna
Such a diverse country as Sri Lanka is naturally home to an incredible variety of fauna and flora. Of the 86 species of mammals that live in Sri Lanka, pride of place goes to the majestic elephant – the second largest terrestrial animal surviving today. Other exotic species often seen are the leopard, the sloth bear, and many varieties of deer and monkeys. An island-wide prolific bird life is also sure to satisfy even the most serious of bird enthusiasts.

Population & People
Sri Lanka has a population of 19.8 million and is set to peak at about 25 million by 2020. Less than one-quarter of the population lives in urban communities. Sri Lanka is divided into nine provinces and twenty-four administrative districts. Each province is headed by an appointed Chief minister.

Sinhala, Tamil and English, are the three official languages, with Sinhala being spoken by more than 80% of the population. Tamil, a Dravidian language of southern India, is mainly spoken by people living in the northern and eastern provinces. English is widely used in many activities and businesses throughout the island.

Buddhism, which was introduced into Sri Lanka in the 3rd century BC, is the prevailing faith. As practiced in Sri Lanka, Buddhism also exhibits elements of both Hindu and Islamic traditions. Tamil kings and their followers from South India brought Hinduism initially to northern Sri Lanka.  Today there are significant Hindu communities in Colombo, Kandy and the tea plantation areas in the hill country, as well as in the north and east.

Arab traders visiting Sri Lanka from the 8 th century brought Islam to the island.  The majority of the 1.8 million Muslims are Sunnis; however communities of Shiaites have recently migrated from the Indian subcontinent.  

Christianity arrived in Sri Lanka with the Portuguese in the 16th century when they brought Roman Catholicism to the island.  The Catholic Church remains strong, particularly amongst the western coastal communities.  During the Dutch period, Protestantism and the Dutch Reformed Church arrived (especially prevalent in Colombo).  Evidence of other denominations is sentiment to the British period, and an increasing number of evangelist churches spreading and growing.

Service Charge & Tips
A 10% service charge is automatically added to bills in most top hotels and restaurants. There is no need to tip taxi drivers and if tipping hotel porters, around Rs. 20 per bag is recommended.

Banking hours
Banks are open from Monday to Friday 09.00 to 03.00 at all state & Private commercial Banks. Saturday banking has also recently been introduced by most Private commercial banks.

The international dialling code for Sri Lanka is +94. When making international telephone calls from Sri Lanka, first dial 00 + country code + area code + telephone number.

Driving License and permits
If you wish to drive yourself, you must obtain a temporary Sri Lankan driving licence, for which you need to show your home-country driving licence and preferably an international driving permit too.

230-240 V, 50 cycles AC
Round 3-pin plugs are used in Sri Lanka.

Tap water is not considered safe for consumption .Bottled water is widely available throughout the country (make sure the bottles are sealed before you buy them).

Medical facilities in small towns outside of the main cities are not always of a good standard and it is recommended that you take out adequate health insurance covering evacuation. All necessary precautions should be taken. Consider inoculations against typhoid, polio, hepatitis A, Japanese encephalitis and take advice regarding anti-malarials. It is always best to check the current situation and any vaccination requirements with a doctor when planning your trip.



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