Ceylon Tourist Board,
78, Steuart Place,
Tel: 437059, 437060, 437952, 437954
Cable: Tourist
Colombo 3
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka

Physical geography

The Island of Sri Lanka, which means 'Resplendent', lies in the Indian Ocean to the far south of India, between the Northern latitude 5° 55' and 9° 50' and the Eastern longitudes 79° 42' and 81° 52'. The total area covers 25,332 sq. miles. The Island's relief features consist of a mountainous mass a little south of centre with heights exceeding 8,000 ft. surrounded by broad plains. All the rivers flow from these mountains into the sea.


In the lowlands, the climate may be described as tropical, temperatures averaging 80°F and over, and heavy seasonal rain, especially in the windward areas. In the higher reaches of the hills, it can be quite cool.

Economic geography

Agriculture is the main occupation of the people, and rice is the main food crop. Tea, rubber and coconut are grown extensively and Sri Lanka is a leading exporter of these three commodities. Other crops are cocoa, cinnamon, cardamons, cloves, nutmeg and citronella. Fruits and vegetables, native to both tropical and temperate climates grow well in the Island. In the way of minerals, Sri Lanka has ilmenite, plumbago and precious stones such as star sapphires, rubies, catseye, alexandrite, zircon, amethyst, topaz, tourmaline and many others.

In recent years, there has been a rapid growth of industry, and Sri Lanka manufactures a wide range of goods. Another interesting feature of the economy is the colonisation and river diversion schemes which led to large areas of unproductive land being cultivated.


Sri Lanka has a population of 15,416,000, Colombo City 602,000, Kandy 107,000, Galle 82,000, Jaffna 121,000.

A brief history

Sri Lanka, strategically placed in the Indian Ocean, has felt the impact of many diverse influences. Civilisation began in the 5th Century B.C. with the settlement of Aryans and culture and arts came to full flowering with the advent of Buddhism in 247 B.C. Great cities like Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa grew up but were abandoned to invasion and finally from the 16th century the maritime provinces of Sri Lanka became a colony, first of the Portuguese then of the Dutch and finally, totally, of the British. She gained her independence in 1948 and adopted a democratic form government based on the British Parliamentary system. In 1972, she became a Republic with a constitutional head of State. Since 4 February 1978, Sri Lanka has had an elected Executive President, the sovereignty of the people being exercised through him in conjunction with an elected National State Assembly.


The great majority of Sri Lankans are Buddhists (66 per cent). Hindus, Christians and Moslems form the religious minorities.

Languages spoken by nationals

Sinhala, Tamil and English are the official languages in Sri Lanka.


Sri Lanka time is 5 hours 30 minutes ahead of G.M.T.


The currency of Sri Lanka is the Rupee divided into 100 cents. The approximate rates of exchange are £ sterling 100.- = Rs. 8,023.00; US$100.- = Rs.5,027.22; DM100.- = Rs.3,597.77; Fr. Franc 100.- = Rs.1,028.39; Japanese Yen 100.- = Rs. 57.09.

Average rates at which the above currencies were quoted by Commercial Bank in Colombo at midday on 14 July 1995.

Official holidays (all offices and shops closed)

The following are Public and Bank Holidays and Full Moon Poya Days. Public Holidays:
January: Duruthu Full Moon Poya Day - 15, Tamil Thai Pongal Day.

February: Nawam Full Moon Poya Day - 4, National Day - 17, Maha Siva Rathri Day - 21, Edul Fither (Ramazan).

March: Madin Full Moon Poya Day.

April: Bak Full Moon Poya Day - 5, Good Friday - 12/13, Sinhala & Tamil National New Year- 29 Id-Ill- Alha-Haj Festival.

May: 1, May Day - Wesak Full Moon Poya Day - 22, National Heroes Day.

June: Poson Full Moon Poya Day - Adhi Esala Full Moon Poya Day (Special Bank Holiday).

July: 29 Mila-Dun-Nabi (Prophet Mohammed's Birthday) - Esala Full Moon Poya Day.

August: Nikini Full Moon Poya Day.

September: Binara Full Moon Poya Day - Bandaranaike Memorial Day.

October: Vap Full Moon Poya Day.

November: Deepavali Festival Day - Il Full Moon Poya Day.

December: Unduvap Full Moon Poya Day - 25, Christmas Day - 31, Special Bank Holiday.

What one should not fail to see

Colombo: The commercial capital city of the Island, Pettah (Bazaar area), Hindu temples in Sea Street, Colombo Museum (closed on Friday and Saturday), Zoo (elephant circus daily at 5.15pm), Galle Face Promenade, Old Parliament Building, New Parliament Building, at Sri Jayawardhana Pura - Kotte new administrative capital (seven miles), historic Raja Maha Viharaya Buddhist Shrine at Kelaniya (six miles), Mt. Lavinia Beach (eight miles).

Kandy: The last citadel of Sri Lanka's Kings ceded to the British in 1815, 72 miles from Colombo at an elevation of 1,600 feet. Temple of the Tooth, and Malwatte and Asgiriya temples. During the season (August or late July), for ten nights, the magnificent Esala Perahera (colourful and historic procession pageant). Royal Botanic Gardens and the University Campus at Peradeniya, four miles away. Elephant bathing at Katugastota. Also temples in the vicinity of Kandy, Gadaladeniya, Degaldoruwa, Embekke, Lankatilleke, Gangarama and Galmaduwa.

Anuradhapura: Sri Lanka's ancient capital of pre-Christian time and Buddhism's eternal city, 128 miles from Colombo, Many interesting shrines and buildings, some pre-Christian.

Polonnaruwa: Sri Lanka's medieval capital, 136 miles from Colombo, ruins of several fine Buddhist shrines and buildings mostly 12th century. See Tivanka Image House and Gal Vihara.

Sigiriya: Fifth century, rock fortress containing the famed frescoes, 104 miles from Colombo.

Trincomalee: Some 161 miles from Colombo, one of the finest and largest natural harbours in the world. Skin-diving.

National parks

Wildlife such as elephant, leopard, bear, buffalo, sambhur, wild boar and many others at Wilpattu, Yala and Gal Oya. Many colourful and rare birds at the main bird sanctuaries at Kumana and Wirawila.

Most favourable seasons for sojourns and touring

Sri Lanka has pleasing weather conditions for most of the year. Heavy rain falls however in the southern and western regions from May to July and in the northern and eastern parts in December and January. February and March are, as a rule, dry and hot.

How to dress

Cool light washable clothes are recommended, and comfortable shoes or sandals. Light woollens for 'up country' wear.

Main holiday resorts

Ancient cities

Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Kandy (see above). Giritale: (130 miles from Colombo) resort bordering the vast man made reservoir Giritale Tank, that speaks eloquently of the grandeur of the past and where elephants and sambhur roam freely and bird life too is abundant.

Beach resorts

Negombo: 23 miles away from Colombo on the scenic west coast picturesquely situated on a lagoon.

Mt. Lavinia: fine beach and well-known hotel. South of Colombo.

Bentota: picturesque south-coast resort complex 39 miles from Colombo, with river and marine water-sport facilities, comprehensive tourist amenities and colourful accents like a handicraft market and demonstration of local dances and other arts and crafts.

Hikkaduwa: scenic south coast resort, 61 miles from Colombo. Exotic tropical fish and colourful coral formations.

Galle: old Dutch town. 72 miles from Colombo.

Tangalla and Hambantota: scenic shore line 120-150 miles south of Colombo.

Nilaveli: 180 miles from Colombo and 12 miles from Trincomalee on the East Coast. Flanked on one side by a beautiful blue sea and broad golden beach and on the other by jungle with colourful wild life.

Kalkudah: 200 miles from Colombo on the East Coast, and 25 miles north of Batticaloa has a beach. This eastern paradise has a rock and coral reef.

Passekudah: is a fishing village in Kalkudah and ideal for underwater photography and snorkelling.

Hill country

Nuwara Eliya: fine bracing climate and a very scenic location in the heart of Sri Lanka's tea country.

Horton Plains: scenic 7,000 ft. high tableland. Trout fishing.

Main holiday sports

Golf, tennis, swimming, angling and deep-sea fishing, sailing, skin-diving, surfing, windsurfing.

What to eat and drink

Sri Lankan cookery is spicy and exciting. Rice and curry is standard fare, but beginners should approach hot curries with caution. An immense variety of tropical and temperate vegetables and fruits is available. Meat is cheap and sea food particularly fine. Continental Chinese, Indian and Japanese food is also available.

The most popular and common drink is a hot cup of tea. But for quenching your thirst nothing is more refreshing than a drink of 'Thambili' water. A variety of wines and spirits are available.

What to buy

Souvenir shopping can be very rewarding and can be done under one roof at the government handicrafts department store -Laksala in Colombo and other centres. Star sapphires, rubies, cats-eyes, can be very costly, but pretty brooches and bracelets set with semi-precious Sri Lanka stones are moderately priced. Other good purchases are items in silver and brass-ware worked in traditional Sinhalese designs, colourful folk weaves, gay basketware antiques, exquisite handmade lace, batiks, grotesquely handsome devil masks and fine high-grown teas.

Frontier formalities

Passports and visas

Nationals of the following countries coming to Sri Lanka as bona fide tourists do not require entry visas for a period of 30 days: Britain and Colonies, Canada, Eire, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore, Bangladesh, Yugoslavia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Federal Republic of Germany, Finland, France, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, USA, South Korea, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Spain, Maldives, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Israel, Nepal.

Such tourists should however, have a visa for the country to which they are proceeding from Sri Lanka if the law of that country requires it. Nationals of the above countries require a visit visa to enter Sri Lanka if they are not coming as bona fide tourists.

Nationals of all other countries not included in the above list require a visa for entry into Sri Lanka.

Health regulations

An inoculation certificate against cholera is not required. Immunisation against yellow fever if coming from infected areas.


On arrival all bona fide tourists are required to make an oral declaration. A reasonable quantity of personal effects allowed duty-free provided they are re-exported on departure. Green and red channel system.

Currency regulations

All currency in notes, travellers' cheques, drafts, etc, should be recorded in the Customs-cum-Immigration form which will be certified by the Customs Officer on arrival. Likewise, gems of Sri Lankan origin whether set or unset should be declared in this form. The import of Sri Lankan, Indian and Pakistan currency is not allowed. Such currency declared will be detained by Customs and returned to the tourist on embarkation.

Main travel routes

By road/rail: Colombo - Kandy (72 miles) - A picturesque route both by road and rail, then climb with hairpin bends through the country to Nuwara Eliya, 6,230 feet above sea level. Hill country Rail terminus: Nanu Oya.

Colombo-Jaffna (250 miles) - South to north by road, passing Negombo, Puttalam, Wilpattu National Park and Anuradhapura (2,000-year-old ruins).

Colombo-Matara (100 miles) - West to south covering the entire beach location: Kalutara, Beruwela, Bentota, Hikkaduwa, Galle, Matara, then to Ruhunu (Yala National Park). Rail terminus: Matara.

Colombo - Trincomalee (161 miles) - West to south via Kurunegala, Dambulla, Polonnaruwa (medieval capital) with detour to Sigiriya, the historic rock and Trincomalee (east coast).


Festivals and events

January: Duruthu Festival, Kelaniya.
February: Navam Perahera, Colombo.
May: Vesak Festival.
June: Poson Festival.
July/August: Kataragama Festival. - Vel Festival, Colombo. - Esala Perahera, Kandy.

Representatives abroad

All Ceylon missions abroad and Tourist Board Offices and agents:

FRANCE: Office du Tourisme de Ceylan (Sri Lanka), 19, Rue du 4 Septembre, 75002 Paris. Tel: 42 60 49 99. Telex: 210577 F.

GERMANY (Fed. Rep. of): Ceylon Tourist Board, Allerheiligentor 2-4, D - 6000 Frankfurt/Main. Tel: 287734, 288216. Telex: 4170091 CTBF-D.

JAPAN: Ceylon (Sri Lanka) Tourist Board, Dowa Bldg., 7222, Ginza Chou Ku, Tokyo. Tel: (03) 289 0771. Fax. (03) 2890772.

THAILAND: Ceylon(SriLanka) Tourist Board, PO Box 316, 1/7-1/8 Soi 10, Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok. Tel: 251-8062, 251-0803. Telex. 20463 IN MARK TH, 22577 TEM PUB TH.

UNITED KINGDOM: Ceylon Tourist Bord, London House, 53-54, Haymarket, London SWIY 4RP. Tel: 01925 0177/01321 0034. Telex: 295914 Letcon G.

We have been able to publish the present tourist information on Sri Lanka (Ceylon) thanks to the co-operation of the Ceylon Tourist Board in Colombo.