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Best Experience Sri Lanka

Best Experience Sri Lanka

A Guide for Responsible Travellers

We know you will release your dream holiday when in Sri Lanka. We invite you to enjoy the places you visit and the interactions you will have with the people you meet. This article is intended to be your guide giving you a better understanding of the economic,social and cultural fabric of Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan’s. It will serve as a Do’s and don’ts guide when Sri Lanka to make you feel more comfortable and relaxed. 

You already know that Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic and a multi-religious country having different mannerisms and socio-cultural practices. The Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher and Malay races live all over the country, in varied proportions. Religions practiced are Buddhism,Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. It is good to be sensitive to these differences and experience the diversity of each.

The Greeting ‘’Ayubowan’’, the greeting of the Sinhalese means ‘May all living beings have long life’, not just you or me, making it an ecologically relevant statement. You will also find that most Sri Lankan’s will greet you with ‘Good Morning ‘type greetings. The greeting of the Tamil community is ‘’Vannakkam’’ meaning welcome and the Muslim community       “As-salamu alaykum” meaning may God be with you.

Like in many other countries, people in urban areas behave very differently to those in the rural settings. People in the cities speak more English and are perhaps more exposed to the world. But newspapers, television and radio have widespread coverage in Sri Lanka, also exposing rural folk to the world, in contrast to some other places. Sri Lanka has an over 90% literacy rate, a widespread school education system with access to social welfare. 

Sri Lankan’s have a relaxed lifestyle.The climate of eternal summer allows them to be content and have a relaxed and happy life style. There is greenery all over, the soil fertile and rich, with constant sunshine and adequate rain.

Most Sri Lankan’s have pride and love to talk about their glorious ancient past. dating back nearly 3000 years, is an ancient irrigation, farming and religious based civilization, the ruins of which you will see in most parts of Sri Lanka. It is good to appreciate these marvels. 

Sri Lankan’s are curious and the children more so. talk to them, learn of their culture and encourage them to learn of your culture and even do business with them. If they sell things that you may feel are not value for money, bargain with them. Never give things free to them. That will make them dependent on hand –outs and will mean that they will lose the self-respect they have.

Sri Lanka’s tourism is in the main managed and operated by the formal business sector. A number of community based tourism operations too have emerged. Responsible travelers are encouraged to seek those that contribute to community development. A good tourism that brings more benefits to communities is what is desired by tourism policy makers and the people of Sri Lanka.

Visits to temples and other religious places must be done with much care and respect. You are expected to remove your shoes and hats when entering places of worships and be dressed in long dresses that cover most of your body. White is the widely used colour. Other not so bright tones of color dresses are ok too. The best is to observe the behavior of the local people or get a briefing from your interpreter/guide on what’s the best practices are.

Some places of religious importance and / or cultural sites do not allow photography or videography. best is to ask or refer the signage before deciding to take pictures at these places and/or sites.


Items made of ivory, turtle, local coral based products, antique items and other bio-diversity associated produce should not be bought or sold. Please be aware of items that you can take away from Sri Lanka before you buy them, for you may have problems at the airport at the time of departure.

Ayurvedha or traditional herbal-based methods of medical treatment, meditation and mind-body relaxation methods are in practice by Sri Lankans. Please ensure that you meet and work with qualified practitioners.

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Nudism is not an accepted practice.Nude bathing in public places is a No,No.Rural Sri Lankan men wear a loin cloth or a sarong when bathing while the women also wear a sarong or a cloth covering the body from chest to knees.

Kissing, hugging and public demonstration of intimate behavior is considered impolite. If you must demonstrate your love for your partner, please be respectful and mindful of the social environment.

Like at any other destination,there are touts, thieves and unscrupulous persons among the Sri Lankans. although,they are a few, you are warned not be duped by them. do not confront them but politely say “No, thank you’’.If they insist on bothering you further, please walk away from them without getting angry and get close to another visitor or group.

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Alcoholism, drug usage (illegalas well)and smoking (banned in public places)cause poverty, ill health and other negative social issues. Please try to make a good role model and be an example to the local people through your own behavior.

There is a fair amount of ecological sense among the Sri Lankan people. There are also those that make a fast buck by destroying nature and the environment. You can be a catalyst by patronizing and encouraging those with good environmental practices and turning away from those indulging in environmentally unfriendly practices. RTP implements a tree planting programme ’’Trees for Life” in which you can participate.Make enquirers from your hotel reception or from the RTP.

Hiring of local guides will help communities in each of the areas. It will also encourage them to be better day by day. Be patient with them and work with them.do not forgets that the local person’s knowledge of the area is far superior to that of an outsider.

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When at an accommodation facility make sure to turn the lights and air-conditioning off when you leave your room and use water sparingly. Also check if the facility is using solar power to generate electricity and/or to heat water. If they are not, encourage them to think about installing it.

When at a facility, ask if the vegetables and fruits used to prepare the food are grown organically and if the water they serve is boiled. It is good to encourage them to have these practices and show them the merits.

Eating Sri Lankan food at clean,family run roadside restaurants and drinking beverages like king coconut(Tambily)or Young coconut(Kurumba),hot tea and other fresh juices, will help local people generate income. Please be sure that the glasses and plates are cleaned with hot water and swept dried with clean tissues. It is natural for Sri Lankans to eat without the use of cutlery.

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If in doubt, about the water you drink,drink bottled water. But remember that the quality of bottled water may not be the same with all manufactures. Look for the SLS (Sri Lanka Standards Institute)logo on the bottle.

Village homes in Sri Lanka may not look posh, but are clean and neat. Visits to rural homes by responsible travelers,is encouraged as that will bring a sense of pride and appreciation to the inhabitants.But the visitor must be culturally sensitive and treat the villagers with dignity and care. It is ok to give them a gift (even money)but it must be done taste fully without an impact on the self-respected of the person.

Festival times are great times to be visiting village homes. Sri Lanka has many festivals and if you visit homes with their prior permission they will let you participate at the ceremonies.This can be an unforgettable learning experience and cultural interaction.

‘Poya  Days’ (full moon day of each month)is a Buddhist holiday in Sri Lanka .There are all day religious observances on these days and you can have a day of cultural immersion if you visit any Buddhist temple on a Poya  Day.

Similarly there are many Hindu,Muslim and Christian festivals in Sri lanka that make opportunities for cultural immersion and experience. Please learn more about the event beforehand and seek to participate appropriately.

At temples, kovils, churches,mosques as well as tourist sites there are beggars seeking small change. Please do not encourage begging and do not give them money. There is no reason why these people should be begging as there are opportunities for most of them to make a living or take advantage of social welfare programmes. Be mindful that there is also an organized network of beggars in Sri Lanka led by unscrupulous people.

Never give medicines or drugs to people who may claim they are sick and in need of help. If you must help, only arrange to take them to a qualified medical practitioner. You may be doing an injustice by prescribing or giving them medicines as they would not know how to use them or may have allergic reactions.

Visits to home for destitute children,homes for the aged and schools for the blind, the deaf etc.(by appointment) are great ways to contribute to society. You may not need to give donations; your visit alone will be an encouragement. Please understand that the care standards may differ from those in your own country and do not be appalled by it.Remember each situation and standard is a reflection of its own environment.

Outraging the modesty of a child,abusing children and all pedophile activity is punishable by local and international law. More so, it causes irreparable damage in the minds and to the life of a child which is a crime beyond expression.we urges you to be proactive and assertive in preventing such crimes as well.

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Sri Lankans do not hunt or kill animals as game. since first ever wild life sanctuary was declared by the Sri Lankan king Dewanampiyathissa at Mihintale, in the 3rd century B.C,. Sri Lankan’s have been sensitized to the need to preserve wildlife and nature. There are of course exceptions to the rule and responsible travelers are expected not to encourage practices such as hunting or the consumption of wild game products in any way.

Visiting wildlife parks must bed one according to guidelines provided by the wildlife conservation authorities.When inside the parks extreme care must be exercised to protect the wildlife,the environment and yourself. do not litter inside parks, throw anything that may cause forest fires or make loud noises that will disturb the natural environment..

Buying local handicrafts and making visits to learn craft skills is a great way of encouraging the local people.Your appreciation for local crafts will help revive dying and disappearing arts and crafts. Buying local souvenirs helps the local economy and supports livelihoods.

Buying local handicrafts and making visits to learn craft skills is a great way of encouraging the local people.Your appreciation for local crafts will help revive dying and disappearing arts and crafts. Buying local souvenirs helps the local economy and supports livelihoods.

Using local transport such as hand tractor trailers, vans and tuk tuks (3 wheelers) is another way to support generating incomes for local people. you will have to undergo a little discomfort but the experience you will have will be worth that. Make sure of your safety at all times.

Giving tips for services is ok. but tip only if you have got good service. remember your tip to a local person will go a long way to support many others in his/her family.

Do not ask anyone you may think is poor, if that person is ‘poor’ all people have self-respect and may only be poor in terms of money but ‘rich’ in that, they are very good people. So never ask a person if he or she is poor or discuss poverty with them. Only talk with them about opportunities around them that they may have not seen, that they can use to gain more income. Your advice given with respect will be admired and welcome.

Seeking services of prostitutesis not expected of a responsible traveler or any other tourist. This is a form of exploitation of the poor and an encouragement of a negative social practice that may cause the spread of disease and illness. Please refrain from seeking such services.

Sri lanka has established a tourist police service in some resort areas to assist you all times to solve any problem or issue you may face. In the event you need help, the phone numbers are  Police emergency 119,          Colombo Police emergency 0112433333, Ministry of Tourism 0112399274,      Sri Lanka Tourist Board 0112426900

We request you to be vigilant and careful at all times. adequate facilities for the disabled and seniors may be not available in many places you visit. Please understand that Sri Lanka is an emerging country that is sensitive to these issues. The authorities have plans to provide better and adequate facilities in the future. Till then, we request you to be cautious and careful and seek help wherever needed.

It is ok to give donations to religious and social organizations that serve communities. before you do that,please check the credentials of the organization or place you are donating to,with the relevant authorities.

The best remedy for creating joyful situations is to be fun and happy. Sri Lankans of all races and religion solve to have good, clean fun and you are encouraged to join in and enjoy.

Please remember that social,cultural and environmental practices differ from one place to the other. what may seem like unacceptable practices to you may be permissible in another culture.Cultural sensitivity is an important ingredient in creating a balanced approach in appreciating other cultures and practices.

As well discussed at the beginning, Sri lanka is a diverse country where several religions are practiced and several ethnic groups live. Also is the backdrop of a mix of several cultural influences i.e the various Indian influences both (Buddhist and Hindu),Muslim and Persian traders, the Malays, the Portuguese, the Dutch, the English and the dominant western cultural influences in recent times. what we seek is a unity within this diversity. As a responsible traveler you need to be sensitive to this need and understand that each group of people have their own customs,cultures and belief systems.

Peace is essential to the development of tourism.Tourism can serve as a vehicle to foster understanding between people.and you as a tourist can play a major role in talking about tolerance of each other and peaceful coexistence.this must be done in a sensible way upon understanding some of the key issues that concern peace.