Sri Lanka Local Customs

  • National Day celebration, Matara, Sri Lanka.
    National Day celebration, Matara, Sri...
    by planxty
  • National Day celebration, Matara, Sri Lanka.
    National Day celebration, Matara, Sri...
    by planxty
  • National Day celebration, Matara, Sri Lanka.
    National Day celebration, Matara, Sri...
    by planxty

Most Recent Local Customs in Sri Lanka

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    Electrical sockets and plugs.

    by planxty Updated Apr 1, 2014

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    Electrical sockets, Sri Lanka.
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    I appreciate that this is not really to do with local culture but I could not decide where else to put it and I further appreciate that it is not the most interesting tip I will ever write but it may hopefully be of use.

    This tip deals with electrical sockets and plugs. So far, I have been in Sri Lanka and have seen three different types of sockets. One more than one occasion I have seen two different socket types in one room! The voltage here is 230 volts and the attached very useful website confirms that there are in fact the three types of socket I have encountered. If you wish to look they are international types D,M and G.

    Additionally I have seen the round pin plugs used without the earth as indicated in the image of the torch being recharged. In this case, I have seen people sticking a pencil in the earth part to enable the other two parts to go in but I really don't recommend it! Make sure you pack one or more adapters, preferably universal ones.

    Update.

    I am amending ths tip after almost three months in Sri Lanka to alert travellers that power cuts are relatively common in the "highlands" of Uva Province although they do not seem to happen so much on the coast. I have experienced numerous such events, especially in Ella and to a lesser extent in Kandy. I do suggest that, as a standby, you carry a small torch (flashlight) if you go out at night, just in case, as it can be pretty dark trying to walk home.

    Well, that is one of the boring but necessary tips done so I'll get back to writing some that are hopefully more interesting.

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    A once a year opportunity.

    by planxty Written Apr 1, 2014

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    National Day celebration, Matara, Sri Lanka.
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    Like many countries in the world, Sri Lanka celebrates an Independence Day, also known as National Day, in this case on the 4th February annually. I was lucky enough to be in the country when it wass celebrated in 2014 and my hotelier friend told me I should go to the nearby cricket stadium as there was to be a celebration. I am always in favour of taking local advice and so I walked the short distance to the venue where I was warmly welcomed by both the (numerous) police on duty and also the local people who seemed just slightly surprised to see a foreigner there.

    Matara is not a huge tourist destination, unlike some of it's near neighbours (see separate pages) and I was made to feel most welcome as indeed I have been just about everywhere in Sri Lanka. There were speeches by the local worthies and just about everybody seemed to be on parade from the schools and boy scouts through the police, coastguard and up to what looked like some pretty smartly turned out troops.

    I know there is a fairly large military installation, which I had walked past on the way there and, indeed, previously. It is difficult to imagine now but this country was mired in a hideous civil war until five years ago and whilst the traveller would barely know it now and much of the Army has been stood down, security is still a consideration here although again I stress that I have not felt in the slightest bit worried in the almost three months I have been here now, the traveller should have no concerns above and beyond the normal ones regarding travel to a foreign place.

    As usual, I did go on a bit of a camera frenzy and so I have constructed a travelogue to show some of the many photos I took that day, including a VT flag shot or two, well, you have to make the effort, don't you? Anyway, if you are in the country on the appropriate day, ask around locally as there will be something going on. Do note on that it is what they call a bank and mercantile holiday so very little will be open.

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    Drink a king coconut everyday

    by jo104 Written Mar 20, 2014

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    his coconut is yellow in appearance and known as Thambili in Sri Lanka let me tell you why it is considered a miracle or a living pharmacy. It completely rehydrated the body and purifies it in such a way people often refer to it as a natural saline.

    It is used in many Ayurvedic remedies from hair revitaliser to a cleanser. King Coconut contains vitE, iron, calcium, phosphorus, protein, potassium and carbohydrates. It has an electrolyte balance similar to blood plasma. It has a high in dietary soluble fibre and can make people that are constipated go.

    This is a drink low in fat and sugars so safe for diabetics, I like to drink it with a squeeze of lime. It has been said to control weight gain and certainly reduces swelling of hands and legs.

    People that have contracted dengue fever in Sri Lanka have been told to drink 3-4 a day I believe it is also good for aiding absorption of drugs.

    One a day will certainly put a glowful look on your skin morning time is best to consume or to take the edge off the afternoon sun. The taste may take a bit of getting used to it is not unpleasant just very different.

    They are normally sold on the side of the road at around Lkr50 obviously they will be a bit more at a restuarant. You can ask them to open the coconut up so you scoop out the fleshy bit this contains more fat though.

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    Diet drinks are hard to find

    by jo104 Written Feb 18, 2014

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    Diet coke addicts be aware that your favourite beverage is available but hard to come by and about double the price. Duet coke is sold in 500ml bottles as well as cans local restuarant won't stock it but an entrerprising hotels may espexially the larger ones. Do bear in mind there is a short expiry date on the bottles.

    As an alternative I suggest ordering a lime soda without sugar or any other fruit juice without sugar tell them sinie EPA

    Even the milk powder has sugar in it so if uht milk is used that is better for the health.

    Sri Lankans love their sugar my ex took 3 spoons in his coffee why bother having nice coffee. That reminds me the nescoffee machine coffee they sell is a 3 in one so sugar and milk powder is added and it is sickly sweet.

    Milo is ok as a drink the malt taste seems to knock out the oversweetness of this milky drink

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    Fizzy drinks in sri lanka

    by jo104 Written Feb 18, 2014

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    The following drinks come mostly in recyclable glass bottles if you order a buddy (250ml) or the standard (330ml) you will appreciate that because of the deposit most places want you to drink it on site. There are also 500ml plastic bottles and 2L bottles. Some soft drinks are sold in cans but cans are far more expensive then buying in a bottle.

    Coca-cola is everywhere actually I used to have 2 a day when working on the beach someone told me it has all the right electrolites for sunstroke so possibly it was necessary certainly when the climate cooled down my cravings went.
    Fanta orange (very synthetic) Fanta grape
    Necto a sort of sickly berry drink
    Pepsi
    Soda
    Tonic this is usually in short supply so it may be a struggle to find.
    Ginger beer (non alcoholic) I enjoy this with a squeeze of lime and also to accompany arack.
    Kik Cola is just disgusting there is nothing good I can say
    Cream soda

    There are a few others I have not tried.

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    'Phone matters.

    by planxty Written Feb 7, 2014

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    Welcome gift, Sri Lanka.
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    Whilst clearing Immigration / Passport control at Colombo airport the officer had welcomed me very politely to the country and handed me a nice little folded tourist map which I thought was a nice touch. Rather oddly, in the packaging of the map was a free mobile telephone SIM card for the Dialog network which seems to be the largest operator in the country. When I go to my hotel I had taken the SIM card out and it was unlike any I had ever seen. People will know that I am a complete technophobe and useless with things like mobile 'phones. The SIM looked to be the right size for my ancient telphonic device but it had a central piece that pushed out, presumably for a different type of handset. When I tried to insert the SIM, ever so carefully the central bit popped out and, try as I might, I could not get it to insert properly. That was no problem as the slightly paranoid part of me was thinking that the Government probably had a list of all the numbers they had issued to foreigners and this was to prove pretty prescient.

    Part of the instructions for the "gift" SIM mentioned that if you stayed in the country more than 30 days (I am staying for 90) you had to register it which I found a bit odd as in the UK you can have pay as you go SIMS. I believe criminals are fond of using them as they buy a SIM, effectively a clean number, use it for a few days and then simply throw it away to prevent being eavesdropped on by the authorities. No chance of that happening here. When I went to one of the many mobile shops on the Galle Road to buy a SIM, I had to produce my passport which was photocopied and I had to sign the copies. I had answer questions about where I was staying, when I would return home etc. and more forms were filled in before I was allowed to purchase the card. Perhaps it is not quite "Big Brother is watching you" but he certainly has the ability to listen to you if he wants.

    I should also mention that calls and texts here really are cheap. I loaded the card with 1,000SLR which is about £5 sterling. I have made a few calls and sent a few texts and the last time I looked I still have over 990SLR left so I have effectively used five pence so far. I suspect my card will not need to be topped up.

    Before you ask, that ancient looking thing in the second image is indeed my current 'phone and I love it!

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    Some useful phrases & Sinhala words

    by jo104 Written Jan 26, 2014

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    Some useful phrases & words in Sinhala

    Hare rasne – very cold
    Sitele – cold
    Mata badagini – I am hungry
    Mata tipa hi – I am thirsty
    Beer (or some other drink) dende – give me beer
    Yana metanine – go away
    Oesh – for any dog to chase something (Scooby chased cows)
    Mata karane be – I can’t do
    Mama dane ne – I don’t know
    Labia – cheap
    Ganang wade – very expensive
    Kohomade – Hello
    Hondai – fine / ok reply to hello
    Mage name …… oyagi name mokata – my name is ….. what is your name
    Mama kama thi / ne – I like or I don’t like
    Lasanai – beautiful
    Podak inde – wait a minute
    Machang – mate / friend
    Mehe ena – come here
    Mama du pat – I am poor
    Mata Sali ne – I have no money
    Boy – kola
    Girl – young Nangi older sister Aki
    Podi – small
    Locu – big
    Pissu – crazy

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    Eating at cafes (Hotels)

    by jo104 Written Jan 26, 2014

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    Normally I would say avoid street food especially in hot areas and opt for a café instead of hotels as they are called and I really have no idea why. Be careful which place you visit cause there are some very dirty places but I have not really had to many problems with the places I have visited.
    Often when you sit down they will bring you a plate of spiced rolls, vade these are made from chickpeas small nutty taste and the deep fried doughy ones. Egg, fish or vegetarian rolls and samosas you are only charged for what you eat. Roti and curry is paticulary nice for a lunch time snack just be aware that often the beef curry may be mixed parts so always ask for just steak meat or you will get offal as well a delicacy in sri lanka.
    Water is usually served on the table this is local government water and it is ok to drink the locals do.
    Coffee and tea is usually served with sugar if you do not want make sure they understand sini EPA this means without. Now as I put in another tip the milk powder has sugar inside which is why it sometimes tastes sweet. Sri Lankan’s also drink their tea or coffee with a lot of milk so explain kirri tika tika or podi. Some hotels save on sugar by putting milkmaid in tea and coffee this is like condense milk. If its too difficult to explain just drink black tea or maybe ginger is nice.

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    How do you like your tea

    by jo104 Written Jan 25, 2014

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    Ok Sri Lanka is the reknown for its tea so here is a breakdown of what to expect when you order a cup of tea at a restaurant or guest house.

    Being used to the English way of drinking tea and thinking of Ceylon I enjoy a dash of milk. Uhm very dangerous to just order a cup of tea with milk, local tea is made with at least 2 spoons of milk powder and 2 spoons of sugar so it comes out sickly sweet. Best you order a teapot with separate milk this will usually be served warm as its milk powder. We used to serve uht milk which means you can enjoy a sugar free experience but even this goes off if left on the table too long.

    Sri Lanka has various grades of tea and the most common are BOP which is Broken Orange Pekoe served normally with or without milk or the stronger variety of Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings to be drunk with milk. Some places use dust which is even more strong and it means it is brewed for less time.

    If you are Dutch do ask for a teabag or extra hot water as it will in verily be too strong for you.
    My recipe to make the perfect brew is 1 tsp tea to 300ml water stir once the cover with a saucer not to let the aromas escape and brew for at least a minute. After 2 minutes the tea will get bitter so those places that use the same leaves over and over do not serve tasty tea.

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    Eating with your hands

    by jo104 Written Jan 25, 2014

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    In Sri Lanka they eat rice and curry with their hands and make it look so easy. Always wash your hands first this is good etiquette even if they are clean people watch believe me. So only use your right hand I hear the technique is to only use the tip part of the fingers mix the food and roll it into a little compact ball. Then lower your head and lift the food to the mouth then with your thumb push it into the mouth. Wash your hands again after finishing

    Its ok to ask for cutlery although you will probably only get a spoon sometimes a fork as well, fried rice is usually eaten with the fork as it’s not wet enough. In the north the food seems to be hotter and not as runny the Singhalese love their gravy.

    I prefer not to eat rice and curry with my hands even though my friends assure me it tastes far better, for me it’s more because I don’t like mixing my foods instead of a snob thing and I don’t like the jokes.

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    Beer matters.

    by planxty Updated Jan 23, 2014
    Lion lager, Sri Lanka.
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    The title of this tip stands in both senses. It refers to matters pertaining to be and it also indicates that beer matters to me! It is no secret on VT and elsewhere that I enjoy a beer, especially when I am travelling and Sri Lanka has a fairly limited but perfectly enjoyable selection. At this point I shall let an edited cut and paste from my blog serve as a starting point and indeed it was a starting point as it describes my first beer in the country or more specifically the Colonial Hotel in Colombo.

    "I went to the bar (which I have since found out is rare as everywhere has waiter service) and in the international language uttered the immortal phrase, "beer, please". I still wasn't quite sure how much English was generally spoken but he replied in good English, enquiring whether I wanted Lion or Carlsberg. I opted for the Lion although I have since found out that they are much of a muchness as the Carlsberg is made under licence in Sri Lanka and tastes just about the same. I paid for the beer in the British fashion which seemed to surprise him a little as Sri Lanka adopts the tab system along with most of the rest of the world.

    I completed my somewhat odd ritual of taking a photograph of my first beer in any new country (see image) which elicited a slightly incredulous look from the waiter and had my first draught of Sri Lankan beer. Very good it was too.

    A Sri Lankan man at the adjacent table insisted on me joining him where he ordered a plate of sliced sausage with tomato ketchup as a bar nibble. Without even asking, he had ordered me a plate as well and I have noticed that tomato ketchup is extremely popular here. I also noticed that whilst he was drinking Lion Beer, the label looked slightly different from mine. Closer examination revealed it to be Lion Strong and there is certainly no danger of them being sued for misleading advertising as it weighs in at a suicidal 8.8% abv. If you are not up on such things, my "normal" lager was 4.9% and the cider I drink at home is 5.3%. This truly is electric soup and it is not the only one here. I have seen Carlsberg Special Brew here, so beloved of UK vagrants, and it is a similar 8.8%. My "new best friend" Minesh informed me that it was a huge seller.

    I had read that there was a huge drinking culture here and the strength of the beer would tend to confirm that but what happened next took me a little by surprise. At 1400 hours, they closed the bar! This seems to be quite common here with many bars closing between 1400 and 1700 in the afternoon."

    Since I wrote that piece I have learned a few additional things regarding beer and drinking culture. In over two weeks now, I have yet to see a Sri Lankan woman in a bar, it just does not happen. I have seen the very occasional female traveller in them but not a single local lady. I am told that there is no social prohibition on them drinking but they just tend to do it at home. Also, bars / pubs as we know them in the the West just do not seem to exist. With the sole exception of a beach bar in Weelewatta (a Southern suburb of Colombo and see separate tip) every bar I have been in has been attached to a hotel and you really have to seek them out.

    Another thing to be aware of is Poya days. A Poya (also spelled Poye) Day is the day of the full moon and of religious significance to Buddhists therefore the sale of alcohol and meat on that day is prohibited. There is no ban on drinking and apparently everyone stocks up in the off-licences (liquor stores) the day before. You need to check when thy are as the Poya day may not correspond to the Gregorian date of the full moon due to it being a lunar event. All local calenders have Poya days marked in red and to assist further the attached website lists them. Ordinarily I wou7ld have used the official Government website rather than a commercial one but on 24th January they are still showing last year's dates!

    Draught beer is very uncommon and your brew of choice will come served in a large (625ml) bottle although I have seen cans served and cans are also the preferred option in off-licences.

    Since I wrote the blog entry above I have also made another excellent discovery in that there is another popular beer here known as Three Coins and it is actually my favourite. It does not have the historical pedigree of the Lion with the brewery only dating to 1964 but it is very palatable indeed.

    Obviously, I should address the very important issue of cost here. Prices vary wildly as you might imagine but are considerably less than I would pay at home for a similar bottle. The most I have paid is 450 Rs per bottle of Lion and strangely the strong beer only costs a few Rs. more if indeed any more. More typically it is about 250 - 300Rs. Another thing to remember is that in bars the published price does not include service charge or Government tax and this can run as much as 25% so be careful if you are counting the pennies.

    I have yet to discover a late night drinking scene anywhere and the majority of the bars shut at 2300. Indeed, in the tourist ghetto that is the Fort area of Galle they all close at 2200 which surprised me.

    OK, enough writing for now, I am off for a beer.

    Slainte Mhath.

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    Local sim card for mobile

    by jo104 Written Dec 19, 2012

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    When you arrive in Colombo airport it is a good idea to purchase a sri lankan sim card rs130 if you plan to make any calls. Usually if you find a good tuk tuk driver or you have a guide you will want to make calls at a local rate rs2p/m. You can also then utilize the IDD Rates UK Rs15 or fixed rate less (Dial #107# from dialog mobile) Also as Sri Lanka has a habit of having random and frequent power cuts 3G access is more reliable on your smart phone then relying solely on wifi access. Valid for 30 days there are also a few IDD packages available

    BIA Arrival lounge / Odel / Crescat

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    Tips

    by jo104 Written Dec 10, 2012

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    In most of Sri Lanka there is a 10% service charge added to the Restaurant Bill, sometimes also to the Room charges.
    In a majority of smaller establishments the employees do not get the service charge passed down from their boss which is perhaps why some staff lack the motivation & drive. No matter what the policies are of an establishment a certain amount will be retained for breakages etc.

    A small tip goes a long way this is often put in a kitty and divided amongst the staff. It is customary to tip a tour guide especially if they go beyond the job of just being a driver. Also if you go to a doctor or dentist they may charge you a minimum amount as healthcare is generally free these people do not earn fantastic salaries.

    It is however not necessary to tip everyone who sticks their paw out be careful about this especially at the cultural sites.

    Sri Lankan's will often give small money to those less fortunate begging in the street or on the train or buy a scratch card from a blind man.

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  • Roads

    by YannickPeeters Written Mar 31, 2004

    Roads can be very dangerous !
    three weelers are not safe, if you take one at least take a good looking one! the maintanance can be very bad and the can just lose a weel while driving !!!

    taxi is not expensive.

    the Bigger the car the Better!

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Sri Lanka Local Customs

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