What to pack for Sri Lanka

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  • Pack Light but Bring Essentials

    by KarenUS Updated Aug 7, 2015

    Luggage and bags: Pack light and leave space in your luggage to bring back tea or other items.

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Bring appropriate dress for the temples. Shirts should cover shoulders and pants or long skirts should cover knees. Dress modestly. A good guide is to wear what you would wear to your own house of worship while taking into account the high Sri Lankan temperatures. Many places will provide you with a sarong if you are not appropriately dressed.
    Consider bringing a long-sleeved shirt or light jacket if visiting the hill country.
    Consider bringing permethrin-treated clothing if hiking or camping, especially for long periods of time.

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Bring insect repellent. Dengue fever is prevalent especially in urban areas. Individually wrapped insect repellent towelettes with picaridin work well, do not have the side effects or smell of DEET, and are not considered a liquid by TSA, so can be brought in carry-on luggage. Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus is a good brand and can be ordered online.
    Bring camping toilet paper and a small size hand sanitizer as sometimes public restrooms do not have toilet paper or soap. These items are compact and fit easily into a purse.
    Bring Immodium or other similar over-the-counter medication.

    Photo Equipment: Bring an extra memory card for your camera if you are an avid photographer. Sri Lanka is an extremely beautiful country.
    Consider bringing a compact set of binoculars if going on safari, they are nice to have but not necessary. Elephants will not shy from the jeeps, but the leopards are not always ready to wake up early and climb down from the trees just to please tourists, they are cats after all. Birdwatchers will probably want, but likely already have a set.

    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: Consider bringing a mosquito coil and a roll of scotch tape to repair tears in bed netting. I stayed in guest houses, and both small and large hotels, all either did not have open space to the outdoors, or had bed nets and/or mosquito coils in the rooms. I did not have issues with mosquitos in the rooms, but some accommodations might.

    Miscellaneous: The CDC website and travel clinics are good resources.

    Related to:
    • Safari
    • Photography
    • Hiking and Walking

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    the island of all seasons...

    by elsadran Written Oct 8, 2014

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    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Sri Lanka's climate is diverse depending on the area you have chosen to visit and not 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. Also it is cool, sometimes very cold, on the mountains because of the high altitude. But generally it is warm and humid.
    So, you should have whatever you need for summer time, bathing suit and light clothes but also a plastic raincoat and maybe a warm jacket and a warm sweater.
    I have noticed that batteries sold in the shops are completely useless, so bring along some of them.
    Also don't forget your mosquito repellent if you need some special brand.
    And for the ladies who dye their hair you'd better bring some dye from home. For sure...

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    Travel Light!

    by PierreZA Written Jan 2, 2010

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    Luggage and bags: If you are planning on using public transport (busses and trains) between cities, don’t travel with massive suitcases. There are limited space on trains and busses for luggage. On the intercity busses, you will have to pay for an extra seat for your luggage.
    So, try to travel as light as possible.

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: It was very hot and humid around the coast, but the Hill Country gets cool at night, with gog and drizzle.

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Mosquitoes are very common all over Sri Lanka. Although most of the hotels I stayed at provided some sort of protection (eg mosquito nets) or repellent (coils), I suggest you take some repellent.
    Taking malaria prophylaxis is most probably recommended – and it is very important to take it as prescribed (eg to start taking before entering the country and to continue taking it after leaving the area).

    Photo Equipment: Sri Lanka is photogenic!

    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: You will have time to visit the beach, I hope

    Street in Galle Fort

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    Getting Around

    by Maxus Updated Jan 22, 2009

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    Miscellaneous: My battered and travel-stained Insight Flexi Map of Sri Lanka has joined me on thirteen trips to the island so far and has proved to be an admirable and trustworthy travelling companion. In addition to getting me from A to B, the map has been worn as a hat, used as a fan, dropped in rivers and survived the tsunami but it is as durable as it is accurate and has never let me down.

    The laminated map is easy to fold, light enough to carry in your pocket and will not get soggy or tear. The map shows beaches, major and minor roads, rest houses, temples, gas stations etc and beats any other map of Sri Lanka I have seen hands down. Available just about everywhere, I would be honestly lost without it.

    available online and from bookshops everywhere Fascinating
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    what to wear

    by Maxus Updated Jan 22, 2009

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    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Some people insist on dressing like either Saunders of the River or Bart Simpson when they go on holiday but most of us just want to blend-in so why not simply dress like local people; they live here so they know from experience what is practical.

    The sarong and the sari look fantastic on people from South Asia but wearing these really is an art and us Europeans should think twice before going outside in either, worn the wrong way they can look rather silly. In Sri Lanka people generally dress very similar to Europeans, the sort of things we might wear during a hot summer, so there really is no need to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe. Smart loose fitting cotton clothes (or some of the breathable modern fabrics you get from outdoor shops) are the order of the day. Long sleeves will keep you from the sun and a hat is essential for the same reason.

    Miscellaneous: It is not regarded as particularly rude to stare in Sri Lanka and when you meet people they will often look you up and down as a matter of course. Sri Lankan people know good clothes and what you are wearing will make an impression about who you are. If you are invited to a Sri Lankan home any effort you have made to look smart will be appreciated.

    Everyday clothes Party night Everyday clothes smart kids, scruffy teacher

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    You are Going to Sweat

    by Maxus Updated Jan 22, 2009

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    Miscellaneous: In any tropical country a large linen or cotton cloth (a good quality table napkin or tea-towel will do) is invaluable when you are out and about, chiefly to wipe away the sweat which is going to run off you making you feel and look uncomfortable. It weighs next to nothing and can double an emergency sun shade or bandage or you can stick it between your clean clothes and a dirty bus seat etc etc. You can wash it out regularly, stick it in the sun and it?s dry in minutes, believe me you will wonder how you ever managed with out it.

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    Mosquito repellent or suffer

    by ThamaraSD Updated Oct 25, 2007

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    Luggage and bags: A small back pack is a must to hold your valubles, the type you could wear in the front of your body. Just in case if you forgot, try Barefoot ( fabric travel bags) or Sunil's ( leather) in Colombo for a good selection.

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Lots of soft thin cotton comfortable clothes. Long pants and long sleeve shirts to wear at night and for going to temples and such. Very comfy walking shoes. Really good cotton socks and underware. Cotton hats for the sun. Just in case if you forgot any of these items do stop by Barefoot, Odel or Majestic city shopping center in Colombo for supplies.

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Strong itch medication for mosquito bites. Super strong mosquito repellent. Strong deoderent, it is very hot there. Very good sun screen. For ladies bring sanitery napkins and tampons that you are use to, the variety is not that great in all areas.

    Photo Equipment: Disks for your digital camera, it is available there but can be very costly and may not be the real thing.

    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: Bring a few good bathing suits, ladies choices are very limited out side of Colombo.

    Miscellaneous: Pack light, the clothes you wear in your country during the hottest day of the year ( 85c or over) would be the most suitable for Sri Lanka. Most hotels carry batik and cotton clothes that is fairly priced. Ladies please be modest in your clothing choices, this will make you and everyone else around you more at ease.

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    Iced Water Bottle

    by Maxus Updated Jan 17, 2007

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    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: It is easy to get around in Sri Lanka and even if you are on a package deal you might be tempted to hit the road for a little independent travel. Never go anywhere, even for a long walk, without your own water supply. Take water with you on train and bus trips too, travel by public transport often takes a lot longer than you thought. Its hot here and dehydration is dangerous, you need to drink several litres of water each day.

    Taking your own light-weight water bottle is a good idea, they are durable, a shoulder strap makes it easy to carry and leaves your hands free. Having your bottle with you helps you keep the water situation in mind. If you get one with its own thermal jacket you can ask your hosts to stick it in the freezer overnight so you have a supply of iced water during the heat of the day (don't over fill it or leave the top on because the expansion will split your bottle) keep it topped-up from your reserve supply.

    Miscellaneous: You can of course buy bottled water in tourist areas and in towns and villages of any size but I have learned from experience that it is not always available off the beaten track so it pays to think ahead. Where bottle drinking water is not available, soft drinks (including soda water) often is and you can usually get a king coconut to drink, which will put you on. Mains tap water is a no-no and local well water varies in quality, have it boiled if necessary. It does not need to be boiled for long, once it is bubbling the nasty things are dead.

    My well-used water bottle
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    A good guidebook is all you need

    by hydronetta Written Nov 8, 2006

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    Luggage and bags: Take as little as possible specially if you decide to tour around taking buses. Space there is limited, you might find yoursef standing for hours among sweating passenger. If you decide to rent a car witha driver then you can take along anything you want as long as it fits the car baggage

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Light, cotton clothes are the best for the hot humid climate. Long trousers are adviced when visiting holy shrines

    Photo Equipment: A joke.... Nowadays with memory cards???

    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: Your swimming trunk. Topless or nudity is unknown in Sri Lanka. Also a suntan cream as you wouldn;t like to get sunburned from the first days you expose yourself to the sun.

    Miscellaneous: If you tour around without a guide , then get a good guidebook. In our fellowship we had a Rough guide, a Footprint and a Lonely Planet. I found Rough guide the best when it came to sightseeing information. Accurate and very informative. Coming to accommodation options Footprint had a more extend list. Lonely planet was hardly used....

    my favorite guide book for Sri Lanka

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    Casual clothes and mosquito repellent

    by Sambawalk Updated Mar 31, 2006

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    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Casual for daily use and colorful for pictures. Long pants or dressed shoes? depends on your characters, your culture and the image you want to portray.

    For me, a practical clothing and shoes such as sandals are important to ensure my journey in car or buses or walking are comfortable. After all, just be yourself instead dress up for other people.

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: All types as the local pharmacy may not carry the types of medication you want. I did have experience in getting some pain relief pills. It took me a while to analyse which one is most suitable as they local salesperson may not understand what you really need. I guess you dont want to take the wrong medication, do you?

    Miscellaneous: Mosquito repellent in all forms which I carried included shower gel with anti-mosquito ingredients - Citronella oil, mosquito repellent spray, liquid electronic mosquito repellent burner (with extension cord), and mosquito coil. These are crucial as you need to back up and for different circumstances, be it bathroom, bedroom or outdoor.

    Just be causal, be yourself

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    by cazz38 Updated Mar 23, 2005

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    Luggage and bags: I would say pack light.

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Again i would say take light cotton clothing,the humidity in sri lanka is very high,

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Mozzie repellent is a must i got bitten a few times,also you will need a high factor sun cream,we swear by a product called p20 you can by it at any airport,its a bit expensive but really good.You only put it on once a day in the morning it bonds to your skin and is waterproof and you dont burn at all,my young son used it on the sahara desert and hes really fair skinned and he didnt burn at all.

    no sunburn
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  • Hmmmm's Profile Photo

    Sri Lanka is a Tropical Country - Hot and Wet.

    by Hmmmm Written Feb 27, 2005

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    Luggage and bags: I brought one small rucksack (for clothes) and one large Bum Bag that held my camera gear and note books etc.

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: I bought Sandals and a pair of walking boots, and a couple of sets of cotton clothes. One Jumper for chilly nights in the Hill Country.

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: I bought everything I needed in Sri Lanka (but then I am a male) save insect repellant.

    Photo Equipment: A small Canon IXUS 4200 for portability and snaps.
    Canon EOS 3 with a 28-300 lense and some Filters.

    Miscellaneous: I brought light cotton clothes with me. I bought a Lungi (Sarong) for the beach in Trincomalee (it triples as a towel and an extra blanket). For the Hill Country you need Long pants and a Jersey as nights get chilly.

    Sri Lanka is a Hot country... PACK LIGHT!

    Me Cycling the Hill Country on a 'dingy' Bicycle.
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    If you are a couple, pack an umbrella

    by call_me_rhia Written Dec 23, 2004

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    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Bring comfortable clothes and shoes for walking and visiting places. Try nto to wear too skimpy clothes

    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: Bring a swuimsuit even if you're not planning on going to the beach: some hotels have a swimsuit... and even without this: you are sometimes required to wear it for an ayurvedic massage

    Miscellaneous: you from the rain, it can protect you from the sun... and especially it can ürotect you from people's eyes. This is what I liked best in town - the sweetest sight of all... dozen and dozen of young couples at Galle Green, chilling out and kissing, hidden behind that useful umbrella.

    umbrella in action

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    Books to read

    by mafi_moya Updated Jul 21, 2004

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    Miscellaneous: It's always good to read about a place before going and Sri Lanka has some good literature. Here are some of my personal opinions:

    Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje is an excellent chilling tale set against the war. Romesh Gunesekera's Monkfish Moon (a book of short stories) and Reef are other interesting reads on modern Sri Lanka. Carl Muller's books about the upper class Burger society are highly acclaimed and sexually explicit but personally I'm not a fan.

    Only Man is Vile, by William McGowan is a fascinating account of the 'troubles' by a foreign journalist, as is Island of Blood by Anita Pratap. An Historical Relation of Ceylon, by Robert Knox, an Englishman held captive by the King of Kandy, is considered the best outside account of the Sinhalese people and culture, even though it was written several hundred years ago. Sri Lanka's most famous foreign resident is probably Arthur C. Clarke (author of 2001: A Space Odyssey) who has written lots on his experiences here.

    Inspiration to some excellent writing

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    Packing List

    by freya_heaven Updated Apr 16, 2004

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    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Bring loose, cool clothing, even in the cooler season it is still warm & humid

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Mosquito Repellent & a net are a must.

    Photo Equipment: We found sometimes it was so hot & humid our video camera clouded up & stopped working, luckily it was only temporary

    Miscellaneous: A very warm & sweaty me! Taken at Confifi Beach Hotel on our balcony

    Me, Hotel Balcony

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