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Top Sri Lanka Hotels


Sri Lanka The prospect of peace in Sri Lanka is quite the best news to come out of Asia for a long time. Ravaged by factional violence for the best part of two decades, the island has suffered numerous terrorist attacks and enormous loss of life. Negotiations between Tamil separatists from the north and the Sinhalese majority, who live largely in the south, drew to a successful conclusion in 2002, finally granting this beautiful island nation certain hope for the future. Sri Lanka has had a chequered history. Known to Arab traders as 'Serendip', it fell first under Portuguese then later Dutch and British rule. It was t he British who imported Tamil labourers from India to work on tea and coffee plantations, and after Sri Lanka achieved independence in 1948 relations between the two main ethnic groups gradually went downhill. In the past, visitors to Sri Lanka have tended to keep to the south, mainly due to the terrorist problems but also because most of the island's attractions are concentrated there. The chief delight of Sri Lanka is its variety - from the beaches along the coast to the rolling hill country around Kandy, whose main temple is home to a sacred tooth venerated by Buddhists (who make up 70 per cent of the country's inhabitants) and the focus of a spectacular procession of drummers, dancers and elephants every July. Galle, centred around the beautifully preserved 17th-century Dutch fort, resonates with history, as does Nuwara Eliya, a hill station highly favoured since British colonial times. Ratnapura forms the heart of the country's gem industry, rugam Bay on the east coast enjoys a top ranking among the world's surfing community and Kataragama hosts an annual fire walking ceremony. Wild elephant roam around Uda Walawe and the rainforest is practically untouched in the Sinharaja National Heritage Wilderness Area. Further north, culture vultures can hop between the millennia-old ruins of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura and climb the famed rock fortress at Sigiriya. The 2002 ceasefire should see other parts of Sri Lanka opening up again, in particular the untouched beaches of Nilaveli on the northeast coast. The special joy of Sri Lanka is that its relatively small size allows visitors to take in the best of its attractions within a couple of weeks, perhaps starting in the capital, Colombo, venturing into the interior to explore tea country and the historical sights, and then ending with a couple of days kicking back at a beach resort. Sri Lankan hotels are a mixed bag, starting with the hospitable likes of Mrs Chitrangi de Fonseka's Paying Guesthouse, all the way up to grand colonial dames like the Mount Lavinia and Galle Face hotels. International chains are few, and the bulk of the country's accommodation is locally owned and - patience, patience - locally run. Service priorities can see smiles put before speed, and facilities can be touch makeshift, however rates are generally reasonable, especially in the low season when the monsoon strikes from April to November. Sri Lanka is at its most climatically hospitable between December and March, which is when it sees the majority of visitors, especially Europeans on packages, escaping the northern winter. Incidentally every full moon in Sri Lanka is marked by a public holiday ('poya'), when alcohol is not supposed to be sold in hotels, restaurants or shops, though some establishments have been known to oblige with 'special' pots of tea. Both the island's geography and its multi-ethnic community are reflected in the national cuisine. Spices, in particular cinnamon, initially drew traders from overseas, and they feature strongly in curries, which tend to be rather hotter than their Indian equivalents. 'Hoppers', a delicious sort of pancake, make a welcome appearance at breakfast buffets, and a cornucopia of locally grown fruit - mangosteen, rambutan, mango and a host of others - can be turned into juice or eaten at any time of day. Marco Polo waxed lyrical about Ceylon, as Sri Lanka was then known, and its even more ancient name - Serendip - has come to imply making fortunate discoveries by accident. After a chapter of accidents over the past 20 years, Sri Lanka is in the fortunate position of being at relative peace once more, meaning that the island that Marco Polo described as 'the finest in the world' is fully open for business - and even more importantly pleasure - once again. More...

Visas

All visitors to Sri Lanka must possess a passport that is valid for at least 3 months beyond the length of their proposed stay. Certain nationalities are entitled to a free visa on arrival at Colombo airport, while other visa applications need to be made to a Sri Lankan Consulate or Embassy abroad - allow 4 days for processing. An extension of stay can be obtained while in the country and should be applied for at the Department of Immigration and Emigration in Colombo.

Customs

The import and export of local currency is limited to Rs1000.

Visitors may take the following into Sri Lanka duty free:

  • Alcohol - 2 bottles of wine and 1.5litres of spirits
  • Tobacco - 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 340g of tobacco

Precious metals such as gold, platinum and silver must be declared on arrival.

Penalties for carrying or trafficking illegal drugs are extremely severe.

Time

Sri Lankan time: GMT +6 hours

Currency

  • Sri Lankan Rupees (Rs) - Check current exchange rates.
  • 100 cents = Rs1
  • Notes issued - Rs1,000, Rs500, Rs100, Rs50, Rs20, Rs10
  • Coins issued - Rs5, Rs2, Rs1, 50 cents, 25 cents, 10 cents, 5 cents, 2 cents, 1 cent

Language

The official languages of Sri Lanka are Sinhala, Tamil and English.

Tipping

A 10% charge is automatically added to bills in most top hotels and restaurants. There is no need to tip taxi drivers and if tipping hotel porters, they should receive around Rs10-20 per bag.

Banking Hours

Monday to Friday 9.00 am to 3.00 pm at national banks

Telephone

The international dialling code for Sri Lanka is 94

When making international telephone calls from Sri Lanka, first dial 00 + country code + area code + telephone number

Local Telephone Codes

Anuradhapura 025
Batticaloa 065
Colombo 01
Jaffna 021
Kandy 08
Mathara 041
Negombo 031
Polonnaruwa 027
Ratnapura 045
Trincomalee 026

Electricity

  • 230-240 V, 50 cycles AC
  • Round 3-pin plugs are used in Sri Lanka.

Water

Tap water is not considered safe for consumption and ice cubes should be avoided. Bottled water is widely available throughout the country.

Health

Medical facilities are not always of a good standard and it is recommended that you take out adequate health insurance covering evacuation. Cholera and malaria are both considered serious risks and all necessary precautions should be taken. Consider inoculations against typhoid, polio, hepatitis A, Japanese encephalitis and take advice regarding anti-malarials. It is always best to check the current situation and any vaccination requirements with a doctor when planning your trip.

International Airport

  • Colombo - Colombo Bandaranayake

International Airport Departure Tax

Rs 1,500

Domestic Airports

Air travel is limited in Sri Lanka and only a few airports offer flights:

  • Batticalao
  • Colombo - Ratmalana
  • Gal Oya
  • Plali
  • Trincomalee

Domestic Airport Departure Tax

None

Etiquette/Dress Code

As with many Asian countries, modest dress is required; shoulders and legs should be covered when visiting temples or shrines. All visitors to temples should remove their shoes before entering and heads should be uncovered. Topless sunbathing is prohibited throughout Sri Lanka.

Diplomatic Missions

Many countries have diplomatic missions in Sri Lanka.

Useful Sources of Information

Further information on Sri Lankan culture and tourist attractions.

  • Sri Lanka Tourism

Weather

Sri Lanka is affected by two monsoons that sweep over parts of the country at different times. In general, there are two seasons Monsoon and Dry, with the climate remaining hot, humid and wet throughout the year.

Rain is common all year round and an umbrella is useful whatever time you visit.

  • Southwest Monsoon - arrives in May bringing heavy rains to south and central areas. During this time, temperatures can soar above 35oC in the coastal regions of the south.
  • Northeast Monsoon - arrives in October and lasts until January. The wet season turns the northern countryside lush green with tropical vegetation and the vibrant colours can make this a wonderful time to visit despite the rain.
  • Inter-Monsoon - heavy rain and thunderstorms are commonplace in south and central areas during September and November.

It is advisable to carry a lightweight jumper as it can be chillingly cold inside air-conditioned buildings.

The South & Southwest

Season Average temperature Average rainfall
Dry Season (December - April) 22 - 30°C 136mm
Monsoon Season (May - August) 25 - 29°C 210mm
Inter-Monsoon Season (September - November) 24 - 29°C 224mm
  • Monsoon Season - the Southwest Monsoon brings heavy rain, which tends to fall in short bursts and usually at night.

Swimming in the sea may not be possible in some areas during the Monsoon Season, as the Indian Ocean can become extremely rough. However, if you do choose to visit Sri Lanka at this time, the countryside is at its most lush, the seascapes are most dramatic and the reef actually protects certain beaches such as at Hikkaduwa.

The hottest temperatures tend to be recorded from March to June straddling both the Dry and Monsoon Seasons.

Best time to visit: During the Dry Season as humidity levels do not rise until the monsoon months.

The Central Hill Country

Season Average temperature Average rainfall
Dry Season (December - April) 8 - 21°C 92mm
Monsoon Season (May - August) 13 - 19°C 210mm
Inter-Monsoon Season (September - November) 11 - 20°C 240mm

The moderate climate here provides the perfect weather for the surrounding tea plantations that are famous around the world. The weather feels cool and damp all year, which can be a pleasant change after the heat of the lower lying lands and the coastal regions.

  • Kandy - which lies at the foot of the hill country, is only slightly cooler and wetter than the coastal areas but once you ascend into the lush hill country, you will definitely need a warm sweater and thicker clothes, especially at night.

Best time to visit: During the Dry Season when there is less rainfall and cooler temperatures.

The Northeast

Season Average temperature Average rainfall
Dry Season (February - September) 26 - 33°C 63mm
Monsoon Season (October - January) 25 - 28°C 278mm
  • Dry Season - in the northeast is longer and temperatures are marginally higher on average.
  • Monsoon Season - this area of Sri Lanka suffers from a different, shorter monsoon to other parts, namely the Northeast Monsoon, which brings wet and humid weather to the area. Again, the scenery is lush and vibrant but views can be hampered by the intense downpours that occur.

Best time to visit: Although temperatures remain high throughout, there is less rainfall during the Dry Season.

Featured Sri Lanka Hotels

3 stars
From
$145
per night (USD)
Galle Face Hotel Colombo

Galle Face Hotel Colombo

City, Sri Lanka

Location Galle Face Hotel is located in the commercial city and in front of the Galle... More...

 
3 stars
From
$193
per night (USD)
Hotel Suisse Kandy

Hotel Suisse Kandy

Central Kandy, Sri Lanka

Location Located in the heart of Kandy, Hotel Suisse Kandy is directly across the... More...

 
3 stars
Regent Lodge Kandy

Regent Lodge Kandy

City Centre, Sri Lanka

Location The Regent Lodge is gracefully sited on Riverdale Road, Kandy. This... More...

 
2 stars
From
$159
per night (USD)
Queens Hotel Kandy

Queens Hotel Kandy

Central Kandy, Sri Lanka

Location Situated on Dalada Veediya, the Queens Hotel Kandy is close to the Buddha... More...

 
5 stars
From
$132
per night (USD)
The Beach Negombo

The Beach Negombo

City, Sri Lanka

Location Nestled among the palm trees, the hotel is set along a beautiful sun-kissed... More...

 
4 stars
From
$193
per night (USD)
Deer Park Hotel Polonnaruwa

Deer Park Hotel Polonnaruwa

Jungle, Sri Lanka

Location Situated on the banks of the Giritale Reservoir, Deer Park Hotel Polonnaruwa... More...

 
5 stars
From
$88
per night (USD)
Cinnamon Grand Hotel Colombo

Cinnamon Grand Hotel Colombo

City Centre, Sri Lanka

Location Located in the middle of the business district, the Cinnamon Grand Hotel is... More...

 
5 stars
From
$168
per night (USD)
Cinnamon Lakeside Colombo

Cinnamon Lakeside Colombo

City, Sri Lanka

Location Located in the heart of Colombo and surrounded by landscape gardens, the... More...

 
5 stars
Taj Samudra Hotel Colombo

Taj Samudra Hotel Colombo

City, Sri Lanka

Location Taj Samudra Hotel Colombo is located on twelve acres of landscaped gardens... More...

 
5 stars
Vivanta by Taj Bentota Hotel

Vivanta by Taj Bentota Hotel

City, Sri Lanka

Location Located on Sri Lanka's south-west coast, Vivanta By Taj Bentota Hotel... More...

 

Sri Lanka Travellers Tales

ros hulme
8/9/2005

We would recommend anyone visiting Sri Lanka to stay somewhere near to Polonnaruwa as a visit to Sigiriya and the ancient cities is a must. We thought Sigiriya was spectacular and the climb to the top was not as difficult as expected (try to go at the end of the day when temperatures are cooler). Beware of guides who insist on helping you and then ask for a large fee 30 USD is not appropriate and somewhere around 500 rupees is all that is required. Polonnaruwa needs a minimum of 4 hours and the visit should commence with the excellent museum. We found a guide to be invaluable and very reasonable. Unless you have a second stop near to Anuradhapura we did not think sightseeing worth the long journey if you have already visited Polonnaruwa. We rented a micro bus and driver for our trip and found it both excellent value and a pleasurable way to see the country. Our guide spoke excellent English and directed us to various places to stop on route, including a pineapple farm and spice/herb garden. 12 days vehicle hire covering 1500km (Colombo-Polonnaruwa-Anaradhapura-Kandy-Bentota-Galle-Colombo) cost approximately 200GBP


juanita ranasinghe
5/24/2005
Stayed at:

Colombo - don''t drive!! take taxi''s! Must visit - Sigiriya and surrounding cultural triangle. Pinnawela Elephant orphanage. Shopping - some good stores for cheap good export quality clothes - Odel, Arena, House of Fashion Advice- leave early on tours, distance is not great but driving is hectic hence give enough time for the road. Don''t eat from dodgy road side outlets; take plenty of water, drink plenty of king coconut!!! Sri Lankan Papaya and pineapple is the best in the world!!!!


olivia tay
5/22/2005

It is easy to go up and down Galle Road by public bus, instead of dealing with the insouciance of the three-wheeler drivers parked outside the hotel, who will overcharge for very short rides and often won''t accept reasonable offers. Just ask a friendly local at the bus stop opposite the hotel on Galle Road, if the bus goes down to wherever your destination is and hop on. A chap holding a bunch of tickets will come up to you and get your fare. Be ready with small change. The fare for a trip to where the Barefoot boutique is costs about Rs.5-8.


juanita ranasinghe
5/21/2005

take a tuk tuk ride! In the city - Eat Lamprais! Don''t overkill on rice and curry, you will end up with indigestion due to the excessive use of chilli powder. Take gaviscon/digene :-) Don''t change currency at the hotel, rate is very low. Plenty of nice restuarant with great atmosphere to go to. Visit Galleria Paradise Road. Gay scene at Kolu''s! super! Shoppping - Odel, Arena, House of Fashion, Paradise Road


glenys newall
4/17/2005

Sri Lanka is just gorgeous. Stunning beaches and clear blue warm water. Galle Fort is interesting for a day or so. We also did a safari in one of the National Parks, which was fantastic. Had a wonderful dinner in the Sun House in Galle. Food at the Amans is also good, though you need order well ahead of being hungry.


julie williams
4/9/2005

From this hotel we were close to the Pinnewala Elephant reserve, great for families to see these amazing creatures close up. Central Kandy was very accessible with lots of interesting sights and walks. We visited a tea plantation and factory nearby which was very informative and a Batik factory and shop. On the Kandy to Colombo road on the way back we stopped at one of the Spice plantations (no.100) which we toured with a Guide, had a complimentary massage with some of their products and obviously bombarded with sales talk to buy some (quite) expensive products.


stephen parr
3/22/2005

Temple of the tooth and cultural show are worth visiting. Evening meal at Madame Helgas although fairly expensive is a must for ambience, fantastic food, and breathtaking views.


ashley kirk
3/18/2005

Just a short visit to Sri Lanka of 7 nights and although usually an independent traveller preferring to use local transport, we booked a very good holiday with Mr. Lindley who has a Tourist Office right near the Ist Class Booking Office at Colombo Fort Railway Station. For a modest fee two of us had our own use of a mini bus and driver with bed and breakfast at hotels in the Central Highlands. Sri Lanka is very cheap to travel in as is eating out. A good place to visit with friendly people.


michael howe
3/1/2005

The Devon restaurant was cheap and cheerful, the Rams restaurant tended to trade on its reputation within the Lonely Planet guide. Peradeniya Botanical Gardens were worth a visit along with elephant orphanage


david walsh
2/22/2005

From Colombo I took a tour of the highlands of Sri Lanka, before attempting the potentially difficult and emotional visit to the coastline devastated by the tsunami. Despite the obvious devastation, I found a warm welcome everywhere I went and a keen interest in wanting to invite tourists to the whole country. Sri Lanka is open for business, and wants to return to normality, and that means a return to the tourism industry. Travellers, please do not disappoint them.


See all reviews for Sri Lanka

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