Sri Lanka-The Jewel Of the Indian Ocean
Sri Lanka is a beautiful Island nation located Southeast of India and Northeast of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean.Akin to India,this island Nation was also ruled by the British and during those days was known by the name Ceylon until 1972. Today it is officially known as The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.Its commercial capital is Colombo which is also the largest city of the nation.The legislative capital is Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte is a suburb of the largest city Colombo.
FOUNDING AND CREATION OF SRI LANKA
The earliest signs of human life found on the Island dates back to almost 35,000 years. The Island was ruled by numerous rulers.Buddhism is known to have arrived here as far back as 3rd Century BCE. It is known to have been introduced by Arhath Mahinda,son of the great Emperor Ashoka. The first known ruler was Pandukabhaya of the Anuradhapura, dates far back as 4th Century BCE. The start of the sixteenth (16)th century saw the rule of Portuguese,Dutch and the British.Between the years 1597 to 1658,a large part of the Island was controlled by the Portuguese.Gradually the Portuguese began loosing their hold on Ceylon-(Sri Lanka as it was known then). This was due to the Dutch intervention in the Island.Then came the British and following the Kandyan Wars, the Island was united under British rule in 1815.Independence struggles against the British came in the form of armed uprisings in the form of the 1818 Uva Rebellion and the 1848 Matale Rebellion. The Island Nation finally became Independent in 1948 but remained a Dominion of the British Empire until 1972. Sri Lanka was declared a Republic in 1972. A constitution was introduced in 1978 which made the Executive President the head of state. This tiny Island Nation a celebrates its seventieth (70) birthday this year 2018.
Sri Lanka is blessed with a warm and tropical climate.This is mainly due to due to the moderating effects of ocean winds.The average yearly temperatures fluctuates between 28°C to 31°C.The day and night temperatures fluctuate by 14°C to 18°C. Rainfall is not even.The windward slopes in the central highlands receive around 2,500 millimeters of rain each year.Comparatively the leeward slopes around the eastern and northeastern areas receive as little as 1350 millimeters to 1400 millimeters annually thus making most of the east, southeast, and northern parts of Sri Lanka an arid and dry zone. Sometimes an increase in the average rainfall results in flooding and consequently damages the infrastructure and civilian life. Sri Lanka is said to be a total of one hundred and three (103) rivers. The longest of these is the Mahaweli River, extending 335 kilometres. Wildlife reserves,flora and fauna,sub-tropical evergreen forests and endless sandy beaches constitute the diverse landscape of the Coconut shaped nation.
DECODING SRI LANKA
Sri Lanka is known to be the oldest democracy in Asia.It is home to multiple cultures, languages and ethnicities. Sinhalese and Tamil are the two official languages spoken.Buddhism constitutes the main religion. The Sinhalese speaking population follow Buddhism.The Tamil populace are the second major ethnic group in the island and profess the Hindu religion.Islam is the third most dominant religion in the country, having been introduced to the Island by Arab traders.Christianity constitutes roughly about seven (7) percent of the population.Majority of them are Roman Catholics.
For administrative purposes,Sri Lanka comprises of nine (9) provinces and twenty-five (25) districts
The currency of Sri Lanka is the Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR)
The dialing code for the country is 94
GETTING TO SRI LANKA-ENTRY AND EXIT FORMALITIES
Entry into Sri Lanka is simple but varied for different nationalities.
Nationals of the Maldives, Seychelles and Singapore can obtain a free visa on arrival. Maldivian and Singaporean nationals may enter for thirty (30) days which is extendable up to one hundred and fifty (150) days. The duration for Seychellois nationals is entry for sixty (60) days but no more than ninety (90) days per calendar year.
Nationals of Cameroon, Republic of the Congo and Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Syria and Uganda must obtain a visa in advance from a Sri Lankan diplomatic mission in their home country before they set foot on Sri Lankan soil.
All other nationals not specified above may obtain a visa on arrival, provided that they have completed the Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) procedure either prior to travel or on arrival in Sri Lanka. This electronic authorization is valid for three(3) months, starting from the day it has been approved. It allows for two entries, which means you can enter the country twice during the thirty (30) days entry with a break or stopover in another Asian Country. A visitor wishing to stay more than thirty (30) days in Sri Lanka may apply for an extension. The short visit visa may be extended up to ninety (90) days from the date of arrival at the first instance and further ninety (90) days at the second instance.
In the event of a rejection, the system will send a referral notification to the applicant and he/she needs to contact the nearest Sri Lanka Overseas Mission for necessary assistance. In an event of the your home country not having a Sri Lanka Overseas Mission,you may contact the twenty-four (24) hour emigration hotline on 0094 719 967 888. However, the Department maintains a no refund policy on your visa application fees.
It is highly recommended that you complete your Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) prior to travel,the main reason being for safe measure that you have an approval to arrive in Sri Lanka and second reason is to avoid the long queues at Immigration on arrival in Sri Lanka
Visa charges are $20 for South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation or SAARC countries which comprise of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Pakistan and $35 for the other Countries.
AIRPORTS IN SRI LANKA
Until the inauguration of the Bandaranaike International Airport at Katunayake in 1967,the Ratmalana Airport was the first and the only International Airport in Sri Lanka.Located just fifteen (15) kms south of the Colombo City,today it primarily serves several domestic destinations in the Island Nation.
The Bandaranaike International Airport at Katunayake in the capital city of Colombo now houses the largest International Airport in the Island handling maximum capacity of passenger traffic from all around the globe.The airport takes its name from the former Sri Lanka Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike and currently serves with three (3) passenger terminals. Terminal 1 which is the current international terminal built in 1967.Terminal 2 is under construction and expected to be completed in 2019 will be the new international terminal.Terminal 3 which opened in November 2012 is the new domestic terminal.It is the hub for Cinnamon Air,Millennium Airlines,Sri Lankan Airlines and Sri Lankan Cargo.The airport caters to the Commercially Important Passengers through its newly opened Silk Route Lounge.The Lounge helps with facilities with Baggage collection, check-in procedures including immigration and customs for a small amount of fee.While the airport staff complete the different procedures,the traveler can spend his/her time and relax in the Silk Route Lounge.
The second largest International Airport is the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport at Hambantota. It was opened in 2013 by the then President Mahindra Rajapaksa after whom this International airport has been named. . It was supposed to cater to Domestic and International services and share the ever increasing air traffic with The Bandaranaike International Airport.Initially several airlines served this airport,but slowly many of them withdrew their services due to very low demand. Sri Lankan Airlines too had a hub at this airport.Currently only FlyDubai,an International Airline operates a flight to Dubai through Colombo and the domestic airline Cinnamon Air operates services from this airport.
There are as many as twenty-three (23) Domestic Airports in the twenty-five (25) Districts of Sri Lanka. Majority of the airports facilitate scheduled passenger service on a commercial airline and also used for military purposes. Twelve of these domestic airports are :
∇ Ampara Airport in Ampara
∇ Anuradhapura Airport in Anuradhapura
∇ Batticaloa Airport in Batticaloa
∇ Sigiriya Airport in Dambulla
∇ Koggala Airport in Galle
∇ Kankesanturai Airport in Jaffna
∇ Kandy Airport [This is a proposed Domestic Airport] in Kandy
∇ Katukurunda Airport in Kalutara
∇ Iranamadu Airport in Kilinochchi
∇ Minneriya Airport in Minneriya
∇ China Bay Airport in Trincomalee
∇ Vavuniya Airport in Vavuniya
Sri Lankan Airlines is the largest and the national flagship carrier operating flights to all the major cities of the world throughout the European Continent, Southeast Asia, Australia, China, Japan, the Middle East, India, and Pakistan operating to and from the Bandaranaike International Airport.Similarly all the major International Airlines of the world fly in and out of Colombo operating a number of flights.Cinnamon Air is the Domestic airline operating from a dedicated terminal at the Bandaranaike International Airport, Colombo to destinations around Sri Lanka. For your information the low cost no frills leisure airline Mihin Lanka,which used to operate flights to a number of cities in the Indian subcontinent, the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, Southeast Asia, and Eastern Africa has ceased all its operations since 2016. Sri Lankan Airlines has since taken over and resumed operations on all routes formerly operated by Mihin Lanka
TRANSPORTATION WITHIN SRI LANKA
Sri Lanka is a tiny Island.Many of the small towns in Sri Lanka are walkable,the larger towns can be accessed by buses,taxis and three-wheelers. The Country has a well connected network of transportation which covers road, rail and air. Both national transportation services and private transportation services operate within the island. Buses are the principal mode of public transport. Service is provided by the state-run Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) and privately-owned buses. The SLTB has urban and rural routes,more of them in many rural areas.
Taxi Services operate in Sri Lanka in great numbers. The range extends from luxury cars and SUVs to the very popular mini budget cars used by many taxi services. These mini taxis are easily spotted as all of them are brightly coloured in red, yellow,silver and many more and an equally bright display of call-up numbers.
Another very popular mode of transport is the Expo Rail,a first of its kind luxury train operation in Sri Lanka.It has raised rail travel to the next level.Starting initially only with a daily super luxury carriage service on the regular Colombo-Kandy intercity train, Expo Rail now plies on many more major routes covering more than sixty (60) key destinations.Similarly Rajadhani Express is another Luxury Train Service available in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has an extensive railway system serving most major towns and cities in the island. There are special Observation cars for tourists that like to take in the scenery during their journey by these trains.
The most common mode of transport in Sri Lanka is a three-wheeler (Tri-Shaw). Also known as Tuk-Tuks from the noise of their horns. These operate in a manner similar to taxis, and in many situations are a convenient and highly cost-efficient way to get around.
Colombo has an extensive, bus-based public transport system, with the Central Bus Stand in Pettah as its hub.The city’s road network consists of radial links (or arterial routes), which link the city and district centres, and orbital links intersecting the arterial routes.
ACCOMMODATIONS IN SRI LANKA
Sri Lanka has emerged as a major tourist destination over the years.A modern approach to tourism began in the 1960’s.Traditional beach hotels only catered to package holidays and travel operators.However the last decade has seen a huge rise in boutique hotels,villas,five-star resorts,guesthouses and hostels.Slowly but steadily,this tiny Island Nation is making its presence felt on the tourism map.The Country boasts of multiple variety of accommodations, ranging from a mere one star hotel to the high end five star luxury hotels with state of the art facilities to middle and low budget hotels comprising of just a four walled room with basic amenties and a bed to sleep.Low priced motels and inns are also in plenty to choose from though they need to be carefully chosen.Tapping the huge tourism potential,different players have entered the market.Today Sri Lanka offers a varied range of accommodations and stay options for all pockets.Global giants like Hyatt,Hilton,Taj,Anantara,Shangri-La,Avani and Ozo have set up shop here.Local players are not far behind.Resplendent Ceylon, Jetwing Hotels said to be the largest hotel chain in Sri Lanka with over thirty-three (33) hotels and villas around the country, Serendib Leisure Hotels, Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts and Heritance Hotels have also arrived on the scene.Then along the coastal areas you have the beachside shacks which offer you the bare basics to sophisticated heritage and colonial mansions and luxurious and opulent five-star resorts.Villas and boutique hotels which are huge in size are housed in old colonial mansions and offering a luxurious stay.Then you also have the huge bungalows in the tea-estates which are elegantly styled.
In the recent years many homeowners in the chief tourist destinations have turned their homes to ‘guesthouses’.So now there are also Homestay options to stay with the families of the area/region especially for the Budget Travellers. Budget travellers as the name suggests are always on the lookout for low cost stay options.Looking to capitalize on the increase in tourism trade,there are a number of these now available. These accommodation options are available for under US$ 30. As they are a part of the family house,they are often clean and comfortable.
Sri Lanka has slowly recognised its potential for eco tourism.Numerous eco friendly hotels,lodges and guesthouses are up and running in many wildest and not heard of locations in Sri Lanka.The eco friendly stay places have initiatives which are sustainable,thus benefitting the local economy,the environment,the wildlife around and very importantly you the traveller. Each one of them provide something unique and are wonderful options for accommodation in some of Sri Lanka’s most glorious locations.Some of the best known eco hotels in Sri Lanka are Cinnamon Lodge,Heritance Tea Factory,Hotel Sigiriya,Jetwing Vil Uyana,Gadadessa Resort,Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge,Mount Lavinia and many more.Do check out the location and facilities provided before you decide and book an eco stay option.
Ayubowan. It is the Sri Lankan word for greeting somebody.More like a Hello.The much wider meaning is wishing “May you live a long and healthy life”.
See you in Sri Lanka