ABOUT Although Sri Lanka is small in size travelling around the island can be frustrating and time consuming. The country’s narrow roads, congested with pedestrians, cyclists and trishaws make travelling difficult. However, once you leave the hustle and bustle of Colombo, you can enjoy many scenic drives around the coastal line or in the hill country. Sri Lanka is beautiful and even though small in size offers visitors many travel options. 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. For details contact J.F. Tours and Travels (Ceylon) Ltd, Tel: 2587996, 2589402. Traffic drives on the left. Flashing lights mean that the driver is asserting right of way. Avoid remote areas and travelling at night. An extensive network of services to most parts of the Island is afforded with reasonable quality by the Sri Lanka Central Transport Board (tel: (11) 258 1120; website: www.transport.gov.lk). Private bus drivers are paid according to the number of passengers and can often drive rather dangerously. Long distance services are operated from Colombo at the Pettah Central Bus Depot. There are two services, one operated by the Sri Lanka Transport Board and the other operated by private bus companies. The private bus station is located close to the Central Depot. Most of the buses have air-conditioning. Buses to the coastal towns depart every ½ an hour while Kandy is every 15 minutes.Taxi's 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. Ideal for short journeys within towns and cities, and for short excursions, the country’s many trishaws would be happy to offer you a ride. 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 kilometre. This is available from several international agencies. Air-conditioned minibuses are also available. Motorised rickshaws are also readily available for hire in towns and villages. Chauffeur-driven cars are less expensive and recommended. Most roads are tarred, with a 56kph (35mph) speed limit in built-up areas and 75kph (45mph) outside towns. The minimum age for driving a car is 18.
In order to avoid bureaucratic formalities in Sri Lanka, an International Driving Permit should be obtained before departure. If not, a temporary licence to drive is obtainable on presentation of a valid national driving licence. This must be endorsed at the AA office in Colombo. (www.motortraffic.gov.lk The Central Transport Board provides intensive urban bus operations in Colombo, where there are also private buses and minibuses. Fares are generally collected by conductors. Services are often crowded. The central part of the southern half of the island is mountainous with heights more than 2.5 Km. The core regions of the central highlands contain many complex topographical features such as ridges, peaks, plateaus, basins, valleys and escarpments. The remainder of the island is practically flat except for several small hills that rise abruptly in the lowlands. These topographical features strongly affect the spatial patterns of winds, seasonal rainfall, temperature, relative humidity and other climatic elements, particularly during the monsoon season
CLIMATE November to March - Weather in Sri Lanka The principal tourist season in Sri Lanka is during November to March when it is the dry season for South western and Southern beaches and the Central Highlands. November through March are also the months when most foreign tourists visit, the majority of them escaping the European winter. During the Christmas to New Year holiday season, in particular, accommodation rates at tourist hotels hit the highest levels all over the island in view of the sharp upsurge of inward traffic of tourists into the island. Advance booking of hotel rooms during this period is highly recommended. April to September - Weather in Sri Lanka The secondary tourist season that span from April to September suits well to tour in the ancient cities of the north Central Plains and the eastern coast. July/August - Weather in Sri Lanka July/August is the time of the Kandy Esala Perahera, the 10-day festival held in homage to the sacred tooth relic of the Buddha, and also the time for the Kataragama festival in the South. In both towns, accommodation just before, during and immediately after the festivals is very difficult to come by. Rates could shoot up to double or still higher. The tourists wishing to arrive in Sri Lanka during this period are advised to make bookings of hotel rooms well in advance.
BEWARE Compared with many other countries it is relatively easy and safe for women to travel around Sri Lanka, even on their own, though most people find it an advantage to travel with at least one companion. On the beaches and tourist centres, some women have experienced harassment form local men. By taking some simple precautions you can avoid both personal harassment and giving offence. Although it might appear dangerous for a woman to travel in Sri Lanka, unpleasant experiences are rare. In general, Sri Lankan males are courteous to females and bad verbal behaviour of a few rarely escalates to anything more physical or threatening. Sri Lanka’s society is conservative and many Sri Lankans will judge ladies by their dress style. The short skirt and figure hugging blouse are considered to be worn by someone who has loose morals. There is an underlying threat from terrorism in Sri Lanka. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriate and foreign travellers. Credit card fraud is the most common type of crime affecting visitors. It is advisable to use cash wherever possible and to use ATMs attached to banks or major hotels. Do not let your credit card leave your sight when you use it. Some travellers experience problems using their credit / debit cards on arrival in Sri Lanka when their banks’ automated fraud protection system blocks transactions. It may be useful to inform your bank in advance of your intended travel arrangements. If your card is blocked, you will need to contact your bank to re-activate it. There are plenty of money-changers in tourist areas if you want to change cash. Violent crimes against foreigners are relatively infrequent, although there have been an increasing number of reports of sexual offences including on minors. When travelling around Sri Lanka, you should make arrangements through reputable travel companies and exercise appropriate caution. Women should take particular care when travelling alone, or in small groups, and carry personal alarms. Organised and armed gangs are known to operate in Sri Lanka and have been responsible for targeted kidnappings and violence. While there is no evidence to suggest that British nationals are at particular risk, gangs have been known to frequent tourist areas. Although incidents involving tourists are rare, a British national was killed during a violent attack by a gang in a tourist resort in December 2011. Disputes between market traders and street hawkers can sometimes become violent.