A few basic & interesting facts about Sri Lanka | Sri Lanka Finder

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A few basic facts

Sri Lanka – an island and a separate independent state, located in the Indian ocean a few degrees North of the equator and South-East of India. The area of Sri Lanka is equal to such States as Latvia or Lithuania.

The local population since the most ancient times, as now, calls the island “Lanka”, which means “Land”, and the prefix “Sri ” – adds a description of this land as blessed. In ancient times, merchants-Arabs called the island “Serendib” or island of gems. The word “Serendipity” is translated as something that suddenly opens in front of you, admires, amazes and surprises. This is Sri Lanka called Serendip described by Cimbalom the sailor in the famous folk tale “1000 and 1 night”. At all times, seafarers visited Lanka to buy unique spices and precious stones: sapphires, rubies, topazes, emeralds, moonstone and many others, from which they made jewelry for kings and used to pay for the goods.

Until the middle of the 16th century the island was called “Sinhaladvipa”, in Sinhalese – Lion island. The Portuguese, who ruled the island from 1505 to 1658, translated the name of the island for convenience and called it Ceilao. The Dutch during the period of colonization from 1656 to 1798 changed the name to Ceylan, and the British, in turn, to Ceylon, which was kept and remained behind the island until independence from great Britain in February 1948. And only in 1972 the country officially changed its colonial name Ceylon to Sri Lanka.

Since independence, Sri Lanka has been a democratic socialist Republic under an elected 6-year President. The President appoints the Prime Minister. And in 1960, the world’s first female Prime Minister was elected. The legislative body is the national state Assembly or the unicameral Parliament, which consists of two hundred and twenty-five deputies.

Sri Lanka has a population of 21 million and is a mosaic of different ethnic and religious groups, of which two are major: Buddhist Sinhalese (75 %) and Hindu Tamils (15 %); the remaining 10% are Christians and Muslims.

Sri Lankans have an average life expectancy of 75 years and a literacy rate of 91 per cent.

The country’s main exports are clothing, followed by tea; rubber, coconuts and precious stones. Tourism is also vital to the island’s national economy, while remittances from hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans working abroad remain significant.

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World Heritage sites of UNESCO

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Money, Currency

The local currency is Sri Lankan rupee (there are abbreviations R, LKR or Rs.). Coins are in denominations of 1, 2, 5 and 10 rupees; banknotes have a nominal value 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000 and 5,000 rupees. Try to avoid taking especially dirty, torn or questionable bills, and it is better to break large into small money, then you can always safely pay – very often many do not have change from large bills.

At the time of writing, the rate was about 180 rupees for $1, 204 LKR for €1, and 271 LKR for 100 Rus. rubles; in any case, you can always check the current exchange rate on the website https://xe.com/. Hotels mainly provide their prices either in us dollars or in Euros, although the calculation is made in rupees at the current rate of the Bank. Also many tourist services from entrance tickets to sightseeing tours are often priced in dollars, but the calculation will again be about in rupees (dollars are taken very rarely).

The banking network in Sri Lanka is well developed. All regional centers are the main branches: Bank of Ceylon, HNB (Hatton National Bank), Sampath Bank, Commercial Bank, People`s Bank and Seylan Bank. All of them are open from Monday to Friday from 8.00 or 9.00 am and are open until 14.00 or 15.00 PM; on weekends and public holidays banks are closed. And as everywhere provide all kinds of banking services.

Exchange offices are not many, but the Bank can be found in almost every village. However, in many banks the process of currency exchange is quite lengthy and you can spend about half an hour to fill out various forms and service in a calm Eastern manner. Therefore, it is better to exchange currency at the airport (the rate is acceptable and set by the national bank) Keep the document on the exchange, on the basis of it you can make a reverse exchange when returning home. In any case, even if not in the Bank, the exchange will help you in the hotel, in the market or any jewelry store, but keep in mind that the rate may be very different and not In your direction.

There are ATMs in the cities and larger towns. The fee for cash withdrawal depends on the Bank and is very different – it can be a fixed amount per transaction (400 rupees / 2.5$ / 150 RUB) or a percentage of the withdrawal amount (can reach up to 15%!!!). Credit and debit Bank cards are accepted in Sri Lanka many where but not everywhere.

If you do not like Bank cards, you can safely bring cash to the island. Us dollars, euros, pounds sterling and Australian dollars are widespread. New Zealand or canadian dollars as well as Russian rubles can sometimes cause difficulties, but are easily accepted by most banks and are subject to conversion. Receiving or cashing traveler’s checks is becoming increasingly difficult to find, so they are better not to take.

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Sri Lanka is a trilingual country. The country officially recognized 3 languages: Sinhala, Tamil and English. The main language, Sinhala, are spoken by about 75 per cent of the population; Tamil is spoken by about 25 per cent (including not only the Tamils themselves but also many Muslims on the island). English is widely spoken, especially by the urban population, and is the first language of most Sri Lankan Burghers. Many people speak it more or less fluently, and even Sinhala speakers (especially in Colombo) often use English in conversation alongside their mother tongue, changing the language to suit their mood. English sometimes serves as a connecting language between the island’s communities, as relatively few Northern Tamils speak Sinhalese and even fewer Sinhalese speak Tamil.

Language was a serious issue in Sri Lanka, with the adoption of the official language by law in 1956 as Sinhala only, which had drastically reduced the status of the Tamil population and had been one of the most significant causes of the ensuing civil war. Although the status of Tamil as an official language was restored in 1988, the topic is still politically charged. All official signs, banknotes, documents, publications and the like are printed in all three official languages, and many businesses and shops try to follow these rules, except in the North, where Sinhala is rarely heard.


Sinhala is an Indo-Aryan language associated with other Northern Indian languages such as Hindi and Bengali, as well as Sanskrit, the classical ancient language of the Indian subcontinent and Pali, the sacred language of Buddhism. The language was first brought to Sri Lanka original Sinhala settlers from Northern India around the fifth century BC, and since then it has evolved in complete geographic isolation from other North Indian Indo-Aryan languages, being heavily influenced by Tamil and also getting numerous words from Dutch, Portuguese, Malay and English languages. Sinhala is spoken only in Sri Lanka; its closest relative is Dhivehi, which is spoken in the Maldives.

Sinhala pronunciation is relatively simple: most Sinhala words, despite their sometimes enormous length, are usually constructed from chains of simple vowel sounds, usually vowels plus consonants, as, for example, in the word “please” – is “Karuna Karala”. There are a few inconvenient consonant clusters, but this is quite rare.

The written Sinhala language uses a beautifully elegant and very distinctive system of 47 rounded symbols. Most symbols represent a consonant plus a vowel sound, which is indicated by a subtle addition to the main character. There are few printed materials in Sinhala.


Tamil is one of the most important languages of the various Dravidian languages of South India and is spoken by nearly sixty million people in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, as well as Tamils in Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia and elsewhere in the world. In Sri Lanka, the language developed in isolation from Tamil spoken in South India, acquiring its own accent and vocabulary. The difference between Indian and Sri Lankan Tamil is about the same as between British and North American English.

Tamil has a long and distinguished history, and the literary tradition dates back to the third century BC and surpasses other Indian languages. As is known, Tamil is a difficult language to master, thanks to its complex grammar, extended alphabet and a set of distinctive sounds (the so-called “reflective consonants” common to all Dravidian languages that are spoken with the language twisted against the back of the teeth), making the language virtually impossible to transliterate into Roman writing.

Sri Lankan English

As with Indian English, the version of the language spoken in Sri Lanka is sometimes referred to as “ Sringlish ” (not to be confused with ” Singlish ” or Singapore English), not without its own charming features of grammar, spelling and punctuation, as well as a few colorful local expressions. For example, “bake house“ is of course a bakery; it is not immediately possible to understand that ”cool spot“ is a small cafe, and ”colour house” is a paint shop. Also remember that “taxis” is often just everyday tuk-tuks, while the expression “hotel” is often used as a cheap food restaurant, not a place to stay. And if someone in your (real) hotel starts mentioning “backside”, don’t worry – they mean the back of the building, not part of your anatomy. You may also come across classic old Sri Lankan idioms such as “men” (which can be used to refer to any listener, male and female); as well as the monosyllabic question “Is it?” meaning something like ‘Sorry, I don’t quite understand”; or Sri Lankan question “What to do? – this is a kind of verbal shrugging, which can mean almost anything from “What do we do?” in a completely hopeless situation before, ‘ Let’s have another beer.’

Most Sri Lankans speak English-who tries and who speaks quite professionally.The colonial period under England affected the knowledge of the language of the locals in more than one generation. As in any other country, your efforts to speak the native language of the island (Sinhala or Tamil) are always warmly welcomed.

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Internet & Mobile communication


Almost every guest house and hotel in the country has Wi-Fi Internet access, as well as many restaurants and cafes (although connections are unstable). The number of places with Wi-Fi access is growing and most major tourist centers have at least one or two Internet cafes. The cost of services is usually in the range of 60 -120 LKR per hour. If you need constant access to the Internet, you can use a variety of mobile communication packages that offer all telecommunications providers in Sri Lanka.

Mobile communication

Calling home from Sri Lanka is relatively inexpensive, but if you are planning a long trip and will make a lot of calls, then a mobile phone is the most convenient option. First of all, ask your service provider whether Your phone will work abroad and what is the cost of calls, and whether Your mobile phone will work with a local SIM-card, in the case of phone encoding for only one operator. Some foreign mobile providers have good mutual agreements with local operators and offer surprisingly cheap rates using your SIM card. But it is usually cheaper to replace the SIM card with a local company in Sri Lanka. In this case, you will have a local phone number, and you will pay for domestic rates – about 1.5-2 rupees for local calls. The SIM card can be purchased for just a few dollars at any of the island’s countless phone shops (only need to show your passport when purchasing). In the same stores also sell different accessories and cards to replenish the balance. All major phone companies in Sri Lanka also have their kiosks at the airport where you can buy a SIM card upon arrival. The main operators are: Dialog (dialog.lk), Mobitel (mobitel.lk), Etisalat (etisalat.lk), Airtel (airtel.lk) and Hutch (Hutch.lk). The operators Dialog and Mobitel, as a rule, communication and tariffs are the best. Almost everywhere on the island there is a mobile connection, except for a few remote rural areas, including the reserve Singaraja.

Mobile Internet is relatively expensive,but no limit tariff plans. For example, 15 GB of traffic will cost about $ 10 (700 RUB), but keep in mind the marketing course of telephone companies-any total traffic purchased on the number, divided in half on the day (from 8.00 to 0.00) and at night (from 0.00 to 8.00). Therefore, in practice, there is always a lot of night traffic not used.

The easiest way to make a call without a mobile phone is to go to one of the points of contact – small offices offering phone, Fax and Photocopying services, and sometimes sending emails (note the signs advertising IDD calls); usually on the main street of even the smallest city there will be at least a couple of such. At such points, you make a call in a separate booth or from the phone with a minute counter, and at the end after the conversation you pay the bill. Some places have phones with built-in LCD timers so You can see exactly how long the conversation has been; in other places, it may just be a stopwatch. Calls to Russia, the UK, Australia and North America cost about 75 rupees (0.5 $ / 30 RUB) per minute; calls to Sri Lanka-5 rupees per minute.

There are very few public payphones in Sri Lanka. If you do not find the point of contact, you can call from your hotel room, but it can be expensive.

To call home from Sri Lanka, dial the international access code (+00), then the country code (Russia 7; UK 44; USA and Canada 1; Australia 61; New Zealand 64; South Africa 27), then the city code and subscriber number. Note that the initial zero is omitted from the city code when dialing from abroad.

To call Sri Lanka from abroad, dial your international access code, then the country code for Sri Lanka (+94), then the city code, minus the initial zero, then the subscriber number.

Local SIM cards are freely available for all phones. All regions have a three-digit code, followed by a six-digit or seven-digit number. Mobile phone numbers usually start with 07 or 08 and up to 12 digits.

Rescue service-0118/119.

The country code can also be in this form + 0094.

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Customs regulations

At the entrance to Sri Lanka is allowed to bring 1.5 liters of spirits and two bottles of wine. It is not allowed to bring boxes of duty-free cigarettes, although it is unlikely You will be stopped at customs and searched because of a couple of jocks. But if you get caught smuggling cigarettes will be confiscated and you will be fined 6000 rupees ($40 or 2800 RUB). There are also no duty-free cigarettes at the airport upon arrival.

Leaving Sri Lanka, you can export up to 10 kg of tea duty-free. It is forbidden to export the national currency from the country. Theoretically, You can’t take more than 250 rupees in cash, but it’s rarely checked. If you want to export Antiques older than fifty years, you will need the permission Of the Department of Archaeology (www.archaeology.gov.lk). The export of any coral, shell or other protected marine product is prohibited; the export of flora, fauna or parts of animals is also prohibited.

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Electricity, sockets

Electrical appliances in Sri Lanka operate at 230-240 W, 50 Hz AC. Round three receptacles are standard, although sometimes square receptacles can be found, especially in more prestigious hotels; adapters for European plugs are cheap and widely available. Power outages happen, but not often; and most top places have their own generators.

Manual to use sockets without an adapter

Before connecting to the socket do not forget to turn it off using the switch located nearby, and after connecting the plug do not forget to turn on.

Method №1. A thin solid object, for example, a ballpoint pen to press into the upper hole of the outlet is a blocker of the two lower holes. This unlocks the bottom holes and allows the standard plug to be inserted freely.

Method №2. Requires a little experience and skill. The usual plug is inserted at a slight angle into the two holes of the outlet – in the upper and any lower (to whom, as it is more convenient, to choose), so that first press the lock in the upper hole, which will open the lower holes. After the plug is inserted, it is removed at the opposite angle, so that the lower tooth of the plug remains in the lower hole, and the upper tooth is inserted in a circle in the second lower hole. And you’re done!

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Useful Websites

Given the importance of tourism to the National economy, there are surprisingly few sources of official tourist information in Sri Lanka itself and no overseas tourist offices. For more information on specific attractions, the best sources are independent tour operators, as well as hotel and Guesthouse staff.

In tourist offices and hotels, a free monthly print edition of “Travel Lanka” is available, which contains lists of accommodation, shops, services and transport in the capital and around the island. “Time Out Sri Lanka” (timeout.com/sri-lanka) quite popular in Colombo, and it is also worth seeing the printed version of “Yamu” (yamu.lk).

Website of the tourism Council of Sri Lanka (srilanka.travel) – the only state online source of tourist information. There are also interesting pages “Ari Withanage’s Sri Lanka” (withanage.tripod.com) and “Eclectic Lanka Library” (lankalibrary.com), where you will find a lot of information about the country, culture, history and cuisine.

CeylonToday (www.ceylontoday.lk) – news, sports, entertainment and user-friendly interface with exchange rates. GossipLanka (www.english.gossiplankanews.com) gossip, news and entertainment. Yamu (www.yamu.lk) – attractions, restaurant reviews, Bulletin Board and more. State information center (www.gic.gov.lk) a wealth of information on transport, health, tourism, etc. Meteocenter (www.meteo.gov.lk) forecasts the weather across the country.

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Useful phone numbers
For police assistance in an emergency, call 0118 or 119. The emergency number is 0110.
  • Airport:+94 11 225 24 11 ahhh!
  • Tourist Police Department: +94 11 242 1451, 238 2209.
  • Chief inspector of Police: +94 11 244 4480 / 83.
  • Government Reference: 1919.
  • National Information Office: 118. Emergency Police: 119.
  • Ambulance Service: 118.
  • Sri Lanka Telecom: 1212.
  • Central Bus Station – Pettah: +94 11 232 9606.
  • Colombo Railway: +94 11 243 4215.
  • Department Of Migration: 1962.
  • Fire and Ambulance: +94 11 242 2222 / 3.
  • Colombo International Airport: +94 11 225 2861, 225 5555.
  • Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport: +94 47 203 1000.
  • National Hospital: – Requests: +94 11 269 35 10
– Emergency telephone:+94 11 269 1111 – 24-hour accident service and patient treatment,
  • Ambulance: +94 11 232 2222.
  • Tourist Police, address: 78, Galle road, Colombo 03: +94 11 242 1451.
  • Tourist office of the Railway (address: Fort Colombo railway station, 01): +94 11 243 5838, 244 0048.
  • Central Post office (address: 01, Bristol Street): +94 11 232 6203.
  • Sri Lanka Tourism (Head office: 80, Galle road, Colombo 3): +94 11 242 6900, hotline: 1912.

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