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Total population: 20 million


Sinhala (spoken by more than 80 per cent of the public) and Tamil are the national languages. English is widely spoken and understood in all but the most out-of-the-way areas.


Sri Lanka is shaped like a giant teardrop falling from the southern tip of the vast Indian subcontinent. It is separated from India by the 50km (31miles) wide Palk Strait, although there is a series of stepping-stone coral islets known as Adam's Bridge that almost form a land bridge between the two countries. The island is just 350km (217miles) long and only 180km (112miles) wide at its broadest.


Low Lands - tropical, average 27C

Central Hills - cooler, with temperatures dropping to 14C. The south-west monsoon brings rain to the western, southern and central regions from May to July, while the north-eastern monsoon occurs in the north and east in December and January. Sri Lanka has a good climate for holiday-makers throughout the year.

Traditional Festivals:

Sri Lanka has an enormous range of Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Muslim festivals. The Kandy Esala Perahera (July/August) is the country's most important and spectacular pageant, with 10 days of torch-bearers, whip-crackers, dancers and drummers, not to mention the massive elephants, almost entirely covered with richly embroidered cloth, leads the spectacular procession at a stately pace, proudly bearing an illuminated howdah containing a gilded casket. It climaxes in a great procession honouring the Sacred Tooth Relic of Kandy. Second in importance is the full-moon festival of Duruthu, normally held in January, commemorates the visit of Lord Buddha to Kelaniya. The temple at Kelaniya, nine km from the heart of Colombo, commemorates the event with a grand perahera.

Other celebrations include the National Day (February) which commemorates Sri Lanka's gaining independence from British rule on 4 February 1948, with military parades, pageants and religious services; The Sri Lankan New Year is celebrated by both Sinhalese and Tamil communities between 12-14 April. To ensure good fortune in the coming year, traditional rituals are observed and various activities take place at astrologically auspicious times.; Vesak (May), a sacred full moon festival commemorating the birth, death and enlightenment of Buddha; the Hindu Vel festival (July/August) in Colombo, where the ceremonial chariot of Skanda, the God of War, is hauled between two temples; the Hindu community also celebrates in January, during the harvest festival of Thai Pongal; one of the loveliest Hindu festivals of the year is Deepavali, the Festival of Light, generally celebrated in November to celebrate the triumph of good over evil; and the predominantly Hindu Kataragama festival (July/August) in Kataragama, where devotees put themselves through a whole gamut of ritual masochism. Muslim festivals involve prayers in mosques, distribution of alms and family-oriented celebrations with special food. The end of the fasting month, Ramadan (or Ramazan), is celebrated roughly every 11 months. Christians celebrate Christmas with carol singing, Christmas trees, decorations, cards and gifts, with midnight services held on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day and New Year's Eve are celebrated in traditional style at tourist hotels throughout the country.

Local Information


The simplest and cheapest way to travel around Sri Lanka is by trishaw, or three-wheeler. Good-natured price bartering is widespread. In towns, work on a rough guide of about Rs40 a mile and agree the price before you set off. Taxis are good value for longer journeys and operate on set charges - although taxis operating from 5-star hotels are more comfortable. Buses are cheap and plentiful, at least during the day, but they are often overcrowded and unreliable. Train journeys from Colombo-Nuwara Eliya and beyond, or Colombo-Matara are a peaceful way of enjoying some spectacular scenery. Prices are cheap, so the luxury of booking first-class in advance is advised. Sri Lanka's roads will seem chaotic to all but the most experienced traveller in Asia. Independent car hire is possible upon production of credit card and driving licence, but chauffeur-driven cars can be arranged for similar cost, and are generally strongly advised. Bicycle hire is also available, although not to be recommended on anything but the quietest roads, as accident rates on busy roads are high.

Banking hours:

Normal Banking hours are Monday to Friday from 9.00 am to 3.00pm. Few banks are operating in weekends and holidays.

Electricity: 230V 50HzHz

Plug type:

Majority are South African/Indian-style plug with two circular metal pins above a large circular grounding pin.


You are strongly advised to contact your own GP or vaccination centre in respect of required vaccinations for Sri Lanka. Check on recommended inoculations as least a month before travel. Malaria tablets, plus inoculations for tetanus, typhoid, hepatitis A and polio are all recommended. Top hotels can advise on reputable local doctors, or private hospitals in the event of serious illness.


The medium of study in state run schools is either Sinhala or Tamil depending on the native language. In addition to the government education system, a variety of private and international schools are available.

International Schools

International schools in Sri Lanka are not restricted to the expatriate community. These schools provide excellent facilities and expect high standards. The majority of International schools prepare students for the Edexcel International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), Ordinary Level (OL), Advanced Subsidiary (AS) and Advanced (A2) Level examinations in a broad range of subjects. These British examinations are the usual qualifications required for entry into British Universities. SAT and TOEFL examinations are also offered by a few schools for students who wish to study in the USA. A few schools offer the curriculum which leads to the (International Baccalaureate) IB Diploma which is based on the requirements of the British, American and Australian education systems. Preparation for the Cambridge International Examinations is also offered by a few schools.

Higher Education

A wide range of exams are administered by many academic, professional and vocational bodies. In addition, there are franchised courses designed by international institutions, but taught by an institution in Sri Lanka. Joint courses in which there are two institutions, one overseas and the other in Sri Lanka, where the teaching of the course is split between the two locations are also offered.


The salaries of foreign employees will be taxed on a flat rate. There are other taxes involved in utility bills, Hotels and Restaurant etc.


Passport validity:

Unexpired validity of the Travel Document should cover beyond a period of two months, the period of the applicants intended stay in Sri Lanka.

Visitor's visas:

For nationals of most countries, visas are issued on arrival for 30 days. Extension of tourist visas is handled by the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Countries Exempt from Visas:

A- Albania, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan
B- Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria
C- Canada, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic
D- Denmark
E- Estonia
F- Finland, France
G- Georgia, Germany, Greece
H- Hong Kong (China), Hungary
I- India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy
J- Japan
K- Kazakstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan
L- Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg
M- Malaysia, Maldives
N- Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway
O- Oman P- Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Portugal Q- Qatar
R- Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation
S- Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland
T- Taiwan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan
U- United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America, Ukraine, Uzbekistan

Visa application:

  • Multiple Entry / Transit / Visit visa applications should be made to the nearest Sri Lanka Mission. In the absence of such a mission arrangements could be made through the Dept. of Immigration and Emigration in Sri Lanka, to enter and stay in the country.
  • Applications for the extension of above Visas should be made to the Dept. of Immigration and Emigration.
  • Applications for Residence Visas / Visas under the Special Resident Guest Scheme should be made to the Dept. of Immigration and Emigration.

Driver's licences:

If required to drive, a driving license could be obtained by producing the passport and your country driving license to the Department of Motor Traffic. For International driving permits, the Automobile Association of Ceylon could endorse it without a fee.


Accommodation will be available in any part of the island. For purchases, foreigners are taxed on 100% of the value of the Asset (Land/House). In case of rent/lease no additional tax will be charged.


If you intend to bring your pet with you to Sri Lanka, please note that quarantine restrictions may apply. Please check with a reputable pet relocator for the latest details.


The information provided is intended as a general guide for reference. Benefits and features may be subject to local country regulatory restrictions. Please refer to the Premier service guide for detailed information.

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This section is intended as a general guide for reference only.

The information contained in this section should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional advice in individual cases. Future changes in legislation, tax level, and practice could affect the information in this site.

The information shown is based on date or information obtained from sources believed to be reliable but HSBC makes no representation and accepts no responsibility as to its accuracy or completeness and will not be held liable for damages arising out of any person's reliance upon this information.

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