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Sri Lanka At A Glance

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Set in the Indian Ocean in South Asia, the tropical island nation of Sri Lanka has a history dating back to the birth of time. It is a place where the original soul of Buddhism still flourishes and where nature’s beauty remains abundant and unspoilt.

Few places in the world can offer the traveller such a remarkable combination of stunning landscapes, pristine beaches, captivating cultural heritage and unique experiences within such a compact location. Within a mere area of 65,610 kilometres lie 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 1,330 kilometres of coastline – much of it pristine beach – 15 national parks showcasing an abundance of wildlife, nearly 500,000 acres of lush tea estates, 250 acres of botanical gardens, 350 waterfalls, 25,000 water bodies, to a culture that extends back to over 2,500 years.

This is an island of magical proportions, once known as Serendib, Taprobane, the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, and Ceylon. Discover refreshingly Sri Lanka!

Official Name: Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Government Type: Republic
Location: Latitude 5° 55. to 9° 50. north, Longitude 79° 42. to 81° 52., 650km north of the equator
Dimensions: 430km North to South, 225km East to West
Coastline: 1,340km
Area: 65,525km
Currency (code): Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR)
Independence: 4 February 1948
Administrative Capital: Sri Jayewardenepura
Commercial Capital: Colombo
Administrative Divisions: Typically tropical, with a northeast monsoon (December to March) bringing unsettled weather to the north and east, and a southwest monsoon (June to October) bringing bad weather to the south and west
Terrain: Mostly low, flat to rolling plain; mountains in south-central interior
Highest Mountain: Pidurutalagala, 2,524m
Highest Waterfall: Bambarakanda, 263m
National Flower The Blue Water Lily (Nymphaea stellata).
National Parks and Nature Reserves Area: 8,000sq.km
Population: 21,128,773
Population Growth Rate: 1.3%
Population Density: 309 people per sq km
Life Expectancy at Birth 74 female, 64 male
Literacy Rate : Female 87.9 Male 92.5
Ethnic Groups: Sinhalese 73.8%, Sri Lankan Moors 7.2%, Indian Tamil 4.6%, Sri Lankan Tamil 3.9%, other 0.5%, unspecified 10% (2001 census)
Languages: Sinhala (official and national language) 74%, Tamil (national language) 18%, other 8%
Note: English (a link language commonly) is used in government and spoken competently by about 10% of the population
Religion: Buddhist 69.1%, Muslim 7.6%, Hindu 7.1%, Christian 6.2%, unspecified 10% (2001 census)
Time Zone: Sri Lanka Standard Time is five and a half hours ahead of GMT. (Allowance should be made for summer-time changes in Europe.)
International Dialing: +94
Electricity: 230 . 240 volts, 50 cycles AC. If you travel with a laptop computer bring a stabilizer
Economy: Sri Lanka’s most dynamic sectors are food processing, textiles and apparel, food and beverages, port construction, telecommunications, insurance and banking. In 2006, plantation crops made up only 15% of exports (90% in 1970), while textiles and garments accounted for more than 60%. About 800,000 Sri Lankans work abroad, 90% of them in the Middle East. They send home more than US$1 billion a year.
Labour Force 34.3% of the labour population is employed in agriculture, 25.3% in industry and 40.4% in services: 40.4% (30 June 2006 est.) The unemployment rate is 5.7% (2007 est.)
Agriculture & Products Rice, Sugarcane, Grains, Pulses, Oilseed, Spices, Tea, Rubber, Coconuts, milk, Eggs, Hides, Beef, Fish
Industries: Processing of rubber, tea, coconuts, tobacco and other agricultural commodities, telecommunications, insurance, banking; clothing, textiles, cement, petroleum refining.
Exports: Textiles and apparel; tea and spices; diamonds, emeralds, rubies; coconut products, rubber manufactures, fish
Imports: Main import commodities are textile fabrics, mineral products, petroleum, foodstuffs, machinery and transportation equipment: $10.61 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.). Percentage of main commodities from main import partners: India 19.6%, China 10.5%, Singapore 8.8%, Iran 5.7%, Malaysia 5.1%, Hong Kong 4.2%, Japan 4.1% (2006)
Gross Domestic Product (GDP): Purchasing power parity: $81.29 billion (2007 est.). Official exchange rate: $30.01 billion (2007 est.) Real growth rate: 6.3% (2007 est.) Per capita: $4,100 (2007 est.) composition by sector: Agriculture: 16.5% Industry: 26.9%
Gross National Product (GNP): Sri Lanka is placed in 76th place in GNP figures of the world.s nations with $22.8 billion (2005)
Flag Description: Yellow with two panels; the smaller hoist-side panel has two equal vertical bands of green (hoist side) and orange; the other panel is a large dark red rectangle with a yellow lion holding a sword, and there is a yellow bo leaf in each corner; the yellow field appears as a border around the entire flag and extends between the two panels

Sri Lanka rising

With the end of the three decade long war Sri Lanka is seeing a sudden burst in infrastructure development and a of a new Sri Lanka rising.

Today post-war Sri Lanka is seeing a rapid and wide spread infrastructure development within rural and urban areas as never seen in the country before.

The island-wide road development program is at the center of this effort.

The improved connectivity enabled by road development, particularly rural roads, generates significant economic and social returns. It is having a transformative impact on the lives of people around the country. The completion of the highway network (commencing with the Southern Highway, Katunayake Expressway and Colombo Ring Road) will bring about significant cost-savings that will boost the competitiveness of the economy.

The rural electrification program has now extended power to 91% of the country’s households. It is bringing considerable benefits, particularly to poor and vulnerable households (not least through the improved environment for children’s studies). The completion of the much delayed Norochcholai coal power station has helped to avoid power cuts or recourse to hiring exceedingly expensive barges for thermal generation.

The rehabilitation of the railway network and rolling stock, combined with the road development, will increase mobility and help to contain transport costs which are an important determinant of an economy’s competitiveness.

Port and airport development is also creating the potential for Sri Lanka to become a key transport and tourist/transit hub for Asia. The completion of the Hambantota Port and the Colombo Southport Expansion will increase the capacity to take advantage of the country’s strategic location on the major international shipping lanes.

Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport

Night View Of Colombo

Colombo City Beautification

The growth of Indian trade and China’s appetite for natural resources from the Middle East and Africa creates the conditions for rapid expansion of activity in this sector. The second international airport at Mattala increases the potential for handling increased tourist arrivals and positioning Sri Lanka as a transit hub.

Today Sri Lanka’s Bandranaike International Airport (is the busiest airport in the country with more than 6 million passengers per year, Hambantota International airport in Mattala was declared opened in March, 2013 when Sri Lanka is celebrating a century in aviation.The domestic airports are scattered around the country in Ampara, Anuradhapura, Batticaloa, Ratmalana, Jaffna, Trincomalee andWirawila creating an extensive network of domestic air travelling.

Commercial ports of Sri Lanka include Colombo, Hambanthota, Galle, Trincomalee, Kankesanturai and Point Pedro. Although the port of Colombo is the premier port in the country the present government policy for the development of regional ports in the country is seeing rapid development of Point Pedro, Kankesanturai, Trincomalee,Galle and Hambanthota ports.

Meanwhile Sri Lanka is fast gaining popularity in the MICE tourism industry, with 11% of the total visitors coming into the country representing the segment, while the industry anticipates the arrival of 240,000 MICE tourists by 2016, which is nearly 10% of the 2.5 million tourist target.With more than one million tourist arrivals in 2012 the Sri Lankan tourism service providers has set a target of 22,500 rooms in the next five years when tourist arrivals are expected to reach 2.5 million.

Some of the major hotel development projects currently underway in Sri Lanka include Shangri-La Colombo and Hambanthota, Sheraton Hotels and Resorts Colombo, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts Colombo and SonevaAhungalla among others, which are planning to open for business between years 2013-2015.

With Endless beaches, timeless ruins, welcoming people, herds of elephants, killer surf, cheap prices, fun trains, famous tea, flavorful food, newly gained peace and improved infrastructure Sri Lanka had been repeatedly named the next tourist destination worth all the investments.

Fuelled by piles and piles ofcompliments as the best tourist destination in the world and with years of war behind it for good, Sri Lanka is rising and its time you dropped in.

Highways

Hambantota Port

Pathways and jogging tracks

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With effect from 1st January 2012, all Holiday or Business travelers to Sri Lanka must have Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) for entering in to Sri Lanka. Please visit www.eta.gov.lk for more information. When applying ETA by third parties payments are to be made through the arrangement made in our website www.eta.gov.lk and obtain acknowledgement of ETA application. Any payments made to other websites or agencies are not valid to process a valid ETA. Therefore, always ensure that the payments made by accessing to Sri Lanka ETA website and avoid making repayment at the port of entry to Sri Lanka

What Is A Sri Lankan Visa?
A Sri Lankan visa is an endorsement on a passport or a similar document to facilitate the legal entry of non Sri Lankans into the country and to regulate the period of their stay and the conditions governing such stay.

What Are The Types Of Sri Lankan Visas?
There are four kinds of visas which permit a person to enter and/or stay in Sri Lanka.

Visit Visa
A Visit Visa is an entry permit signifying the consent of the Sri Lankan Government for the admission of a foreign national to the country. The Visa contains details of the period of time and the condition/s of the stay. There are two sub-categories which come under visit visas – Tourist Visit Visa
A Tourist Visa is issued to bona-fide tourists who want to enter Sri Lanka for sightseeing, excursions, relaxation, visit relatives or yoga training for a short period of time.

Business Visit Visa
A Business Visa is issued to foreign nationals who visit Sri Lanka for business purposes for short periods of time. This visa may be issued for single, double or multiple journeys.

Department Of Immigration And Emigration
Ananda Rajakaruna Mawatha,
Maradana,
Colombo 10.
Tel: +94-11-5329000 / +94-11-5329316/20/21/25
www.immigration.gov.lk

Photo Permits & Entrance Charges

Sri Lanka is a photographer’s delight. However, permits are required before you can take photos at certain sites. Entrance tickets to individual sites are available only from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. These tickets cover charges for photography, recording and parking.Rates are quoted in US Dollars and rupee parities are subject to fluctuation.

Custom Imports

You are allowed to bring into the country duty free 1.5 litres of spirits, two bottles of wine, a quarter-litre of toilet water, and a small quantity of perfume and souvenirs with a value not exceeding US $250. The import of personal equipment such as cameras and laptop computers is allowed but must be declared on arrival. However, personal equipment must be taken out of the country upon the visitor.s departure. The import of non-prescription drugs and pornography of any form is an offence.

Sri Lanka Customs: www.customs.gov.lk

Custom Exports

On leaving the country you are allowed to export up to 10kg of tea duty free.

No antiques antique. defined as anything more than 50-years-old – rare books, palm-leaf manuscripts and anthropological material can be exported without permission from the
Director,
National Archives,
7 Reid Avenue,
Colombo -07.
Tel: +94-11 2694523/ 2696917
www.archives.gov.lk

And the

Director General,
Department of Archaeology,
Sir Marcus Fernando Mw,
Colombo
Tel : +94 11 2692840/1
Tel. +94-11-2694727, +94-11-2667155 ,
www.archaeology.gov.lk.

Purchase and export without licence of any wild animal, bird or reptile, dead or alive . also the export of parts of animals, birds or reptiles, such as skins, horns, scales and feathers is prohibited. Occasional exports are, however, permitted exclusively for bona fide scientific purposes. It is prohibited to export of 450 plant species without special permits. The export of coral, shells or other protected marine products is also strictly prohibited.

Applications for special permission to export fauna should be made to the

Director,
Department of Wildlife Conservation,
382 , New Kandy Road,
Malabe
Tel: +9411 25060380

And flora should be made to the

Director,
Forest Department,
82, Rajamalwatta Road,
Battaramulla,
Tel : + 94 11 28666 16/ 2866632
www.environmentlanka.com

Foreign Currency Regulations
Visitors to Sri Lanka bringing in more than US$10,000 should declare the amount to the Customs on arrival. All unspent rupees converted from foreign currencies can be re-converted to the original currency on departure as long as encashment receipts can be produced.

Health Precautions
The health risks in Sri Lanka are different to those encountered in Europe and North America. Watch out for bowel diseases such as diarrhoea and amoebic dysentery, vector borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, and a variety of fungal infections. Sri Lanka.s physicians, though, many of whom have trained in the West, are particularly experienced in dealing with locally occurring diseases.

Before You Go
No inoculations are compulsory unless you are coming from a yellow fever or cholera area. (Cholera is very occasionally reported in Sri Lanka, so is not considered a serious risk.) However, the following vaccinations are recommended, particularly if you plan a long trip or intend visiting remote areas:

Typhoid (monovalent), Polio, Tetanus, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Rabies
Children should, in addition, be protected against:
diphtheria, whooping cough, mumps, measles, rubella

Remember to plan well ahead with vaccinations. Allow up to six weeks to receive the full course, for some vaccinations require more than one dose, and some should not be given together.

The risk of malaria exists throughout the whole country apart from the districts of Colombo, Kalutara and Nuwara Eliya. Medication has to start one week prior to travel, continue during the trip, and finish four weeks after your return. Once again, planning is essential, as well as care to ensure the course is followed.

When You Are There…..

Upset Stomach
As most stomach upsets are due to the unsanitary preparation of food, it is useful to know what to watch out for. Under-cooked fish (especially shellfish) and meat (especially pork and mince) can be hazardous. Salads can be risky unless purified water has been used to wash the various vegetables. Fruit that has already been peeled should be avoided. Be careful of ice cream, in particular the varieties sold by street vendors and served at cheap restaurants. Sometimes there are power outages Sri Lanka, especially away from urban centres, so it pays to be suspicious of all refrigerated foods if you know there has been a recent outage in your area.

Water
Tap water is not safe to drink, and boiling and filtering is sometimes done too hastily in some hotels and restaurants, so the best solution is to drink bottled water. There are now many brands available, mostly using spring water from the highlands of the island. Make sure that the bottle carries an SLS certification and that the seal is broken only in your presence. Beware of ice unless you are satisfied it has not been made from tap water, and remember the tap water you may be tempted to use to rinse out your mouth after brushing your teeth is unsafe. Keep a bottle of water in your bathroom for this purpose.

Sunburn
When you flop onto the beach or poolside lounger for a spot of sunbathing, always remember to apply a sunscreen product with a sun protection factor of at least 15. Remember you are just 600km from the equator: even with sunscreen, your sunbathing should be limited in time. If you don.t apply sunscreen you are liable to become so sunburnt that it will be painful to move, your skin will peel, you will have to start afresh to get that tan, and . most importantly . you put yourself at risk of serious dermatological disease.

Heatstroke
Sometimes those who have spent too long in the sun suffer what is termed heatstroke, the most common form being caused by dehydration. This condition can occur if the body.s heat-regulating mechanism becomes weakened and the body temperature rises to unsafe levels. The symptoms are a high temperature – yet a lack of sweat – a flushed skin, severe headache, and impaired coordination. In addition, the sufferer may become confused. If you think someone has heatstroke, take that person out of the sun, cover their body with a wet sheet or towel, and seek medical advice. To avoid heatstroke, take plenty of bottled water to the beach, or buy a thambili (king coconut) from an itinerant seller.

Prickly Heat
Prickly heat rash occurs when your sweat glands become clogged after being out in the heat for too long or from excessive perspiration. The rash appears as small red bumps or blisters on elbow creases, groin, upper chest or neck. To treat it, take a cold shower, clean the rash with mild soap, dry yourself, apply hydrocortisone cream, and, if possible, a product that contains salicylic acid. Repeat every three hours.

Local Health Care
Minor health problems can always be treated by doctors with practices in the resorts and elsewhere in the country. If you have a more serious problem, Colombo now boasts a selection of modern, well-equipped private hospitals offering the latest in conventional medical and surgical therapies. A growing number of foreigners are taking advantage of affordable, high quality private healthcare in Sri Lanka, and combining it with the chance to take a holiday. Though the medical tourism industry in Sri Lanka is still in its early days, a number of private hospitals in Colombo are geared to provide advanced surgery and other treatment to international clients
(link to Medical Tourism article)

Travellers With Special Needs
Travellers with special needs, especially if they visit Sri Lanka without a companion, should note that the country has relatively few facilities for disabled people, although greater awareness and improvements are evolving. There.s no need to worry at Colombo’s Airport as wheelchairs and assistance in boarding and disembarking are available. Buildings, offices, and banks are becoming better-equipped with wheelchair ramps and suchlike. If you arent travelling with a companion, you.ll find that Sri Lankans will be only too eager to assist.

Sri Lanka’s Currency
The local currency is the Sri Lankan Rupee, divided into 100 cents (you rarely come across scents today). Currency notes are Rs.5,000, Rs2,000, Rs1,000, Rs500, Rs100, Rs50, Rs20 and Rs10. Beware of mistaking the Rs500 note for the somewhat similar Rs100 one. To check whether notes are genuine when not given at a bank, look for a lion watermark. Coins, should you have receive them, will be in denominations up to Rs10.
Make sure you have plenty of lower denomination notes (Rs50, Rs100, Rs500), especially when travelling and you need to buy small items, fruit, and eat cheap meals, because change is often hard to come by apart from at hotels and big shops.

Banks
Banks are open from 0900 hrs to 1300 hours Monday to Friday. Some city banks close at 1500 hrs, while some are open on Saturday mornings. It.s easy to withdraw money across the island at ATMs using international credit cards or debit cards.

Credit Cards
Most hotels, restaurants and shopping centres accept credit cards. Some establishments may try to add a surcharge, which is illegal.

Time Difference
Sri Lanka Standard Time is five and a half hours ahead of GMT. (Allowance should be made for summer-time changes in Europe.)

Electricity
230 . 240 volts, 50 cycles AC. If you travel with a laptop computer bring a stabilizer.

Language
Sri Lanka has two official languages . Sinhala and Tamil – with English as a link language. Most people have some knowledge of English, and signboards are often in English.

Photography, Restrictions & Permits
Sri Lanka is a tremendously photogenic island, so it.s hardly surprising that most tourists bring a camera of some kind when they visit the country. The stunning landscapes, the captivating fauna and lush flora, and the stupendous archaeological remains provide great opportunities: a bonus is that Sri Lankans love to be captured on film. So it.s easy to capture the traditional rural lifestyle. You.ll find villagers, farmers, fishermen and tea pluckers will readily stand in front of your viewfinder. Your subjects will often ask to have a copy of picture sent to them. This may be laborious, but it is a reasonable courtesy as many may never have seen a picture of themselves. It is also understandable that many will also expect a token recompense for allowing themselves to be photographed.

Restrictions
There are some important restrictions that apply to photography regarding Buddhist imagery. When you visit a temple or other religious site, remember that photography should not be carried out in a manner causing disrespect. For instance, it is strictly forbidden to be photographed in front of or beside any statues and murals. Note that flash photography can damage old murals.

Permits
Tourists who wish to visit and or photograph the principal ancient monuments in Sri Lanka are required to purchase a ticket from the
Central Cultural Fund,
212/1, Bauddhaloka Mawatha,
Colombo-07
Tel: +94-11 2587912 /2500733 /2581944
gen_ccf@sri.lanka.net

Central Cultural Fund offices at Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya and Kandy.

A single round ticket for two months validity costs US$50 and will entitle you to visit and photograph historic monuments such as Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Nalanda, Ritigala, Medirigiriya. There are separate charges at each site for those who do not obtain round tickets: Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya US$25, Nalanda US$5, Ritigala US$8, Medirigiriya US$5.

When To Visit
Sri Lanka is a round-the-year destination for the visitors who seek for sun and sea the best time to visit the island is from November to April. The Southwestern coastal area, where the most of the beach resorts are located.Kalpitiya, located in the western ( North Western)coast has been declared a new tourist attraction. Many development projects have also been planned such as hotels and other infrastructure to make the East a new tourist destination in Sri Lanka.

The central highlands are pleasantly cool and relatively dry from January to April. The peak season is mid December to mid January and March-April during Easter with a mini peak season in July and August when festivals and pageants are held through the country.

What To Wear
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.

Getting There
Usually all visitors to Sri Lanka travel by air; flights arrive at the Bandaranaike International Airport, 35 km north of Colombo, and 6 km of Negombo. A number of tour operators from UK and some West European cities offer good value package holydays throughout the year

Public Places
You may sometimes be overwhelmed by crowds of people in public places (railway stations, markets, bus stands, temples or simply busy streets). “Touts” and hawkers may jostle and push and clamour to show you a hotel and sell you things. Taxis and three – wheelers are often there when you do not need them.

Safety
In general the threats to personal security for travellers in Sri Lanka are remarkably small. It is more pleasant to travel with a companion as it is advised not to travel alone especially after dark. The island including the North and East is safe to visit. If you have anything stolen, report it to the tourist Police, ( a special tourist police set up to look after the needs of the tourists. Contact tel Number + 94 11 2382209

Where To Stay
Sri Lank Offers visitors an excellent range of accommodation facilities to suit all budgets from luxury hotels to low budget accommodations. In the peak season (mid-January and during Easter) bookings can be heavy so it is best to reserve accommodation well in advance through Tour operators/ travel agents, booking online and through our travel planner.

Drink
Sri Lankan ‘Ceylon’ tea is prepared as in the West and coffee too. There are a huge variety of bottled soft drinks, including well-known international brands. Thambili ( king coconut water )is a safe and refreshing option. Local beer and spirits are widely available. Bottled mineral water is available in 5 star hotels. Please note: Alcohol is not sold on Poya (full-moon day of the month) days.

Rajendra Ganotra is the Editor of Spicy Stars Mumbai

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