Tips and Tricks for Anyone Visiting Sri Lanka for the First Time

Lion Rock in Sri Lanka, from Three Perspectives One Sigiriya, three perspectives. Admiring the famous Lion Rock from Pidurangala, the ancient city’s Water Gardens, and the rock summit.
Visit Sigiriya, or the Lion’s Rock, the most famous heritage site in Sri Lanka, and learn about how to appreciate Sigiriya, the beautiful site from different perspectives.

Are you planning to visit Sri Lanka for the first time? Great! You’ll find so much to explore – delicious cuisine, stunning nature, unique culture and fascinating history. But making sure that you get the best out of your trip can be challenging if you’re unfamiliar with the country. That’s why we’ve put together this guide filled with essential tips and tricks to help make your vacation in Sri Lanka an unforgettable experience.

Learn some basic Sinhalese phrases


Check out how to See the Relic at Temple of the Tooth in Kandy.

Exploring a new country can be an exciting adventure, but it can also be intimidating when you don’t speak the language. That’s why learning a few basic Sinhalese phrases can make all the difference when travelling around. Key words to learn include:

    • Ayubowan (hello)
    • Isthuthi (thank you)
    • Karunakarala (please)
    • Ow (yes)
    • Naa (no)
    • Ingirisi dannevada? (do you speak English?)
    • Singhala danna naa (I don’t speak Sinhala)
    • Meeka Kiyadha (how much is it?)
    • Kumana paetteda? (which way?)

By learning these off by heart or having them written on a card, you’ll not only be able to navigate your way around more easily, but you’ll also be able to connect with the friendly locals and immerse yourself in their culture. Your efforts will be greatly appreciated and you’ll feel more confident exploring this beautiful island nation.

Get familiar with the local cuisine and customs

Enjoy local food and other eight amazing things to do in the Galle Old Town by the coast of southern Sri Lanka. 

Sri Lanka is a country brimming with delicious cuisine. Whether you’re wandering through a bustling food market, basking with a picnic in the idyllic countryside, or savouring an aromatic curry in a local restaurant, the abundance of tantalising flavours and aromas will transport your senses to new and unforgettable heights.

Make sure that you read up on any etiquette or customs surrounding food before you travel, to avoid causing unintentional offence. For example, it’s generally not appropriate to consume alcoholic beverages with your meal. Whilst this might be unusual for you, it’s important to remember that you are a guest in the country that you’re visiting, and therefore you should be respectful of your surroundings.

Explore the natural beauty and breathtaking sceneries at Horton Plains. Find out more about the incredible and popular historic train journeys in Central Sri Lanka Highlands.

Make sure to visit the national parks

From pristine beaches to dense rainforests, Sri Lanka is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty. And with over 20 national parks across the country, there is no shortage of wonders to explore. Whether you want to see majestic elephants grazing in the wild or spot elusive leopards, Sri Lanka’s national parks offer thrilling experiences in the heart of nature.

As you venture deeper into the wilderness, you’ll be struck by the sheer diversity of flora and fauna that call these parks home. With stunning vistas, breathtaking waterfalls and rugged terrain, Sri Lanka’s national parks are a visual feast that will leave you awestruck. So, pack your bags and grab your camera – this is something you won’t want to miss off your holiday itinerary.

Respect local traditions and religious sites

Lion Rock in Sri Lanka, from Three Perspectives One Sigiriya, three perspectives. Admiring the famous Lion Rock from Pidurangala, the ancient city’s Water Gardens, and the rock summit.Sri Lanka is renowned for its rich culture and religious significance, with Buddhism being the most commonly practised faith, followed by Hinduism, Islam and Catholicism. Therefore, it is important to respect the varying local traditions and religious sites while visiting this country.

Dressing appropriately is one way to show respect. For example, it is deemed inappropriate to wear revealing or tight clothing while visiting a temple. Additionally, taking photographs or videos at certain places should be avoided. This is because some sites may be considered sacred and taking photos may be seen as a sign of disrespect. If you’re unsure, it’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid taking photos.

Instead, try to embrace the moment and use the lack of photo opportunities to really soak up the atmosphere. By being mindful, visitors can embrace the beauty of Sri Lanka’s traditions while simultaneously showing respect for the country’s people and their beliefs.

Bring a reusable water bottle

When packing for our holidays, it’s easy to forget the impact we have on the environment in the midst of all the excitement. It might not be the first thing on your mind, but plastic waste is a growing problem that affects everyone, and it’s estimated that 1.59 billion tonnes of plastic waste is mismanaged in Sri Lanka per year.

Enjoy a cup of tea at the tea plantations, and learn more about things to see and do in Central Sri Lanka.

To help reduce your impact, one easy change is to take a reusable water bottle with you – with average temperatures around 30℃, you’ll definitely need to stay hydrated. By choosing to reuse, you can reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in landfills and oceans after your trip. It’s worth noting that tap water here generally isn’t safe for visitors to drink, so avoid filling up your bottle from hotel taps. Instead, purchase larger bottles of water and decant what you will need for the day into your bottle before heading out.

3 Horton Plains 4


In conclusion, a visit to Sri Lanka can be full of rewarding experiences. With its inviting culture, beautiful nature and friendly people, it’s no wonder why so many tourists visit each year. By being mindful of the country’s customs and traditions, you’ll be able to make the most of your stay and come out knowing more than when you arrived.

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  1. On the travel wish list! Would love to visit Sri Lanka one day. The national parks would be high on our list. But it was great to read about all the great things to see and do. It is always essential for us to learn basic phrases when we travel. And we try to do just a bit more to make us comfortable. Good to know local customs before you travel. I would not have thought about not consuming alcohol with my meal.

    1. You simply have to! Sri Lanka looks tiny and sometimes it may be overshadowed by it’s neighboring India or Southeast Asia. But I have been constantly hearing wonderful things about the country and I think you simply should not miss this.

  2. I’m embarrassed to admit how long Sri Lanka has been on my travel wishlist. Your post is really triggering my travel itch. The cuisine is one I’m already pretty familiar with and is definitely one of the draws to visit, alongside the beautiful natural scenery, protected within the national parks as you mention, and the many historical and religious sites.

    1. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised after I visited Sri Lanka by the people, scenery and culture. While it’s rough around the edges but it gave the place a more authentic and undeniable charm.
      I would love to visit there again some day.

  3. I have never been to Sri Lanka before so this is a helpful guide for me to read. That’s a great point about not taking photos of some religious sites. I think we just take it for granted in the west that anything can be filmed or photographed. The nature looks amazing here, I’d definitely visit one of the national parks if I ever visit.

    1. Glad that it helps! And you know what, this is just a warm up because I have also shared a couple of other articles about traveling in Sri Lanka, and you are welcome to check that our if you are starting to plan your trip to Sri Lanka.

  4. These are great tips for your first trip to Sri Lanka. I have been there back in 2019 and loved the country and my trip so much. Indeed, there is an etiquette when it comes to dining, like do not use your left hand to touch the food – same with shaking the hands. I have visited a few national parks in Sri Lanka, and my favourite was Minnerya. Seeing elephants and their babies in the wild was incredible!

    1. You are welcome and I hope it helps. Actually I have a couple of posts about Sri Lanka and I will also update some more in the future. You are welcome to visit them and share your experiences as well!

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