Buddhist temples with images of Hindu gods, beautiful palm-lined skylines and pristine, sandy-white beaches, elephants and batik, rice and curry, tea and cricket, coffee and cinnamon, coconuts and rubber, Sri Lanka is closer to home than you imagined. From Marco Polo to Arthur C Clarke, this tear-drop shaped nation has enthralled artists and tourists alike with its cuisine, its natural beauty and its friendly smiles. To get under Lankan skin, read Michael Ondaatje's 'Running in the Family', listen to Lankan radio from Los Angeles on www.labaila. com and watch Prasanna Vithanage's 'Death on a Full Moon Day'.
Best time to visit: December to March. The average temperature in Sri Lanka is 27.0°C. The highest monthly average temperature is 31°C in February, March, April and May, while the lowest monthly average temperature is 22°C in January and February.
Lankan cuisine has a lot in common with South Indian cuisine. There is generous use of coconuts, spices and seafood and the staple food is curry, rice and fresh fruits.
Ceylon tea, spices, masks, local handicrafts, gems, t-shirts and cheap clothes, sculptures, leather goods, handicrafts in wood, clay, metal, cane and jute, batik, toys, curios, imitation Dutch and British era furniture, perfumes, electronics, books.
Colombo has plenty to offer. From lively pubs to chic cocktail lounges, tapas bars and sports bars, casinos, discos and nightclubs with live music, there's something for everyone. Restaurants offer Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, German, Italian and Swiss cuisine and many upscale hotels offer international menus.
You can either obtain the visa on arrival or before your arrival in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is very well connected to the outside world. Colombo International airport is the biggest and busiest airport and India is well connected to Colombo from all major metro cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Cochin and Bangalore.
Bus routes cover 80% of the nation roads. Central Transport buses are the default buses and usually lack air-conditioners. They operate on long distance and local routes. Private buses cover all major routes and are more comfortable and faster than the government bus.
These have yellow tops and red and white plates. In Colombo, taxis are metered but it is advisable to agree a rate before setting off. Drivers expect a 10% tip.
Trishaws are ideal for short journeys within towns and cities and for short excursions. The vehicles are mainly Indian-made Bajaj rickshaws. Most trishaws are not metered. Always agree on a fare beforehand. Most drivers offer a decent fare, charging approximately Rs. 50 per kilometer.
Trains connect Colombo with all tourist towns, but first-class carriages, air conditioning and dining cars are available on only a few. New fast services operate on the principal routes, including an intercity express service between Colombo and Kandy, otherwise journeys are fairly leisurely.
The Viceroy Express is the only passenger steam train still in operation in Sri Lanka. Every journey is hauled by a vintage, British locomotive, at least 50 years old.
There are several car rental companies like Europcar, Yokotrades.
230 and 240 volts, 50 cycles AC. If you travel with a laptop computer bring a stabilizer.
Sri Lanka's climate is diverse depending on the area you have chosen to visit and not the on the time of the year. When it is raining on the north and northeast side, it is shiny and warm on the other half.
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