Most Sri Lankans speak Sinhalese, with the second language being Tamil. Many people who work in the tourism or transport industry will be able to talk to you in great English.
Sri Lankan rupee (LKR). $1 is approximately 120 LKR.
Sri Lanka is on the same time zone as India: GMT+05:30, meaning the island is five and a half hours behind Sydney and Melbourne, or four and a half behind Perth.
Don't expect to pay more than $5 for a slap-up street dinner of curry, dhal or string hoppers. Snacks, such as kottu are even cheaper. A sit down meal in a nicer restaurant will cost up to $10.
There are plenty of local bottle shops and bars in Sri Lanka. A local beer will cost you around 300 rupees ($2.50). Imported beers and spirits will set you back a little more.
A taxi in the capital of Colombo will cost you around 50 rupees per kilometre - that's around 60 cent! For a 10 km taxi or rickshaw ride, don't pay more than $3.
A three hour bus journey in Sri Lanka will cost you up tp 400 rupees (around $3). A train ticket from Colombo to Kandy is 100 rupees for 2nd or 3rd class, or 500 rupees ($4) for 1st class air-conditioned. Both options are reliable and safe.
Sri Lankan accommodation is all about the bargains. You'll be able to find a spacious and clean en-suite room in a 3* hotel for around 4000 LKR ($35) per night, or a room in a family guesthouse or homestay for less (we recommend this option of you want to immerse yourself in the culture). Beach resorts can cost upwards of $100.
A bed in a hostel or cheap room in a local homestay with other backpackers will set you back around $10 a night; perhaps a little more in popular beach spots like Hikkaduwa and Arugam Bay.
Compared to neighbouring India, Sri Lanka is a much more traveller-friendly size, meaning you can see and do it all in a relatively short space of time. Local transport comes in the form of rickshaws (much like tuktuks) for shorter journeys, and a reliable (and colourful!) network of busses for the longer ones. Not to be missed, is the jaw dropping train journey between Colombo, Kandy and Ella. Be sure to book yourself a window seat! Short on time? Speak to a Tailor Made Expert who can help you with an itinerary and transport.
Average temperatures in Sri Lanka are in the high twenties on the coast and high teens in the hills. In typical tropical fashion, the monsoon rears its head in Sri Lanka every year. Despite the small size of the island, its patterns vary depending on your location. The south of Sri Lanka (think the beaches of Hikkaduwa and Marissa, the hill country where Ella and Adam's Peak are nestled, and Udawalwe Nartinal Park) experience rains from May to August, meaning hiking or wildlife spotting during this period might get a bit soggy. The best time to visit the south and west coast of the island is from January to April.
Further north, around Sigiriya, the Cultural Triangle, Trincomalee and Jaffna, it's dry and hot from May to September. It gets rainy in these parts from October to February. Confused yet? Yep, it took us a while to get our head around it too. The most important thing to remember is that Sri Lanka is an amazing travel experience at any time of year, and places are rarely completely off limits.
Celebrations: Sri Lankan New Year falls in April, so it's worth nothing that transport can get booked in a bit further in advance around this time, and hotel prices could increase. In fact, Sri Lanka's calendar is packed full of festivals and celebrations - some of the most notable being Independence Day every February 4th, Vesak Poya, a huge Buddhist celebration in May, and Esala Perahera in Kandy every August.
Pilgrimmage season for Adam's Peak usually falls between December and May, when the weather conditions and visibility are top, transport connections to the base of the mountain are efficient (read: existent!), and the pathway up is lined with thousands of beautiful lights. Climbing Adam's Peak is possible, and amazing at any time of year though.
Wildlife: If you're visiting Sri Lanka between December and April, head south to see blue whales off the shores of Marissa, elephants and leopards in Yala and Udawalawe National Parks and turtles on most southern beaches. During other times of year, you'll be in with the best chance of seeing blue whales on the calm waters of Trincomalee and nearby Uppuveli beach. Hitting up 'Lanka in August or September? Lucky you! You'll be there for Minneriya National Park's wild elephant gathering, near Sigiriya.
Surfing: When it comes to surf, Sri Lanka is up there with Bali. Hit the waves on the southwest coast from November to March. From May to September, tousled hair types flock to Arugam Bay on the east coast.