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Sri Lanka travel guide

Sri Lanka has striking ancient ruins, national parks packed with elephants and leopards, a bounty of beaches – and welcoming locals.

Where to go in Sri Lanka

It's all too easy to step off the plane in Sri Lanka's modern capital Colombo and head straight to a beach, coconut drink in hand – and why wouldn’t you? Beaches to lounge on include the west coast's Unawatuna or further south at Mirissa and Tangalle. If it's surf you want, head to Arugam Bay on the east side.

In the centre of Sri Lanka, the Cultural Triangle includes the city ruins of Anuradhapura where you could easily get lost for weeks and not find the 2000-year-old bodhi tree; Polonnaruwa, the country’s medieval capital with ancient dagabas (stupas) and huge Buddha statues; and the rock citadel of Sigiriya that rises dramatically out of the landscape ­– you can scale the steep stairs beginning at two huge stone lion paws! There's also an amazing cave monastery nearby at the small town of Dambulla.

To the south is Tea Country and amidst the mountains and tea estates is the little village of Ella where you can hike up Ella Rock or Little Adam's Peak for spectacular views. Big brother Adam's Peak is west at Nuwara Eliya where monks and tourists alike take a pilgrimage to see Buddha's Sacred Footprint at the summit.

If it's nature you want, you've come to the right place. The country has an outstanding network of national parks and reserves. Some of the best include Uda Walawe for elephants and Yala, where you can catch a glimpse of secretive leopards. From May to July, during Palu berry season, you might just see a sloth bear at Wilpattu National Park, and at the ocean off the city of Galle, you're in the right place to see a magnificent blue whale!

You could explore Sri Lanka in a hectic couple of weeks, but a month means wandering around at a local's pace. A short-trip travel insurance policy would be the way to go – one that covers you for any potential mishaps on those unpredictable roads!

Sri Lanka tips and travel advice

If you end up at a Sri Lankan hospital, it's likely you'll be asked to show you have travel insurance. We don't have a reciprocal medical agreement with Sri Lanka, so get covered, just in case. Here are a few other tips for your trip:

Hire a driver for a day or so

A great way to get around the chaotic hilly and bendy roads of Sri Lanka is to get a local to do it for you. Hire a tuk tuk and driver as they know the roads and you'll get insider knowledge too.

Rent a bike

Getting around the city ruins of Anuradhapura can be a slog on foot and feel rushed on a bus, so rent a bike from a local guesthouse and get lost twice as quickly!

How to avoid an upset stomach

Don't drink the tap water or accept ice cubes in your drink, as it's highly likely you'll get a sore belly and diarrhoea. If you start to feel ill, see a doctor as soon as possible. Keep hydrated by drinking bottled water, or use water purifying tablets.

Weather in Sri Lanka

It's monsoonal in the north of the island between October and January and in the south from May to August. The centre is mostly dry except during November and December.

Sri Lanka travel risks and warnings

Before you head off, check the government's Smart Traveller website for current travel warnings for Sri Lanka. Here are some times and advice for your trip:

Get vaccinated

At least 8 weeks before you head off, go to your doctor to get the required vaccinations for Sri Lanka. There is now a Japanese encephalitis vaccine that they can advise you on.

Protect yourself from mosquitoes

Malaria, Japanese encephalitis, chikungunya fever, filariasis and Dengue fever have all been reported in Sri Lanka, so wear loose clothing, have a good insect repellent and see your doctor for antimalarial medication. Make sure your accommodation is mosquito proof too!

Driving around Sri Lanka

If you decide to drive in Sri Lanka, make sure you're covered! There are no clear rules, heaps of obstacles (read: cows, goats, dogs and people) and you have to take it slow as roads are windy and hilly.

Choose CGU travel insurance for your trip to Sri Lanka

It's important to get travel insurance that covers what you plan to do in Sri Lanka. You might be visiting home or heading out for the first time – we can tailor travel insurance to your needs so you have peace of mind on your trip.

If an emergency happens when you're in Sri Lanka you can contact us at anytime on our hotline +61 2 8895 0698. You can even reverse the charges.

If something happens that's not an emergency, sort out the paperwork and give us a call when you get home on 13 24 80, at any time. We'll set you up with your own claims specialist who'll support you throughout your claim.