What not to do in Sri Lanka
Just like most Asian countries, Sri Lanka is a conservative country that proudly follows its remarkable culture and customary values. Travelling to a new land where the lifestyle and values are different can lead to many misunderstandings. To ensure that your stay in the island is safe, comfortable, easy and problem-free we have come up with a list of things you should avoid. Some of these will give you a better understanding of Sri Lankan culture and some of their rules so that your holiday will be free of any negative incidents.
Don’t take pictures in religious places
Temples that are open for tourists like the Gangaramaya temple in Colombo permit photographs to be taken inside the premises as long as they are not disrespectful. Don’t take any pouted selfies with your back facing a buddha statue or any other forms of disrespectful photography as these types of acts can even get you arrested. Also refrain from touching a monk (even his head) and women are strictly forbidden from touching monks. Women should wear modest clothing and men should avoid wearing shorts while visiting religious sites. So, in addition to keeping your shoes out the door, leave your selfie stick too unless you don’t mind getting into some serious trouble. If you have any Buddha tattoos and are planning a trip to Sri Lanka then find a way to cover your tattoo as the locals find it offensive.
Don’t forget to bring insect repellent
The climate in Sri lanka is hot and humid which is the climate most favoured by insects, including the annoying mosquito. If you don’t wish to be mosquito bait, wear long sleeves and long trousers after sunset and refrain from using perfume as the smell attracts mosquitoes. Don’t forget to pack a strong insect repellant that has the compound DEET.
Don’t click pictures of locals without permission
This isn’t a rule solely for Sri lanka! Although Sri Lankans are extremely friendly people, it is considered disrespectful to take photographs of people without their consent. If you want to use them as a subject in your photo, wait for the right moment and take their permission before clicking. Once you are done you can even show them the shots you took.
Don’t showcase any forms of affection in public
Holding hands is allowed but any other display of public affection is socially frowned upon. But, if you need to share a quick kiss copy the locals and go behind an umbrella. You can spot many couples behind an umbrella with a stroll along galle face, the beaches, parks or lover’s island in the middle of Beira Lake.
Don’t hop on a tuk-tuk without a meter
Almost all tuk tuks in colombo have meters. But, the further you head out, the lesser you find these metred tuks. When you are out of Colombo and are travelling by tuk, tell your location to the driver and negotiate your price before starting the ride.
Don’t underestimate the tiny size of Sri Lanka
‘Sri Lanka is a tiny island, so travelling around won’t take much time!’ This is the biggest misconception most tourists make as soon as they find out that Sri Lanka is a small island. Travelling around the country is actually a time consuming process (if travelling by road) because of the poorly maintained roads and congestion. The highway that connects colombo to the southern coast has reduced the travel time. Highways to other parts of the country is still under construction so allocate enough time for travelling when you are planning a tour. Better yet, get a reputed tour company to plan it for you or make the journey by train.
Don’t hand out your number to any body
Sri Lankans are well-known for their friendly nature and ever-smiling faces. However, to not be the subject of any annoying experiences, especially women, refrain from handing out your personal number to those who ask, unless you trust them completely.
Don’t mention your homosexuality
LGBTQ individuals travelling to Sri Lanka should refrain from any show of affection in public or mentioning your sexual orientation to strangers as this can even get you arrested. There is no gay support foundation in Sri Lanka, so be aware.
Don’t carry any sort of narcotics
Getting caught while possessing drugs can get you into deep trouble. All drugs including marijuana is illegal in Sri Lanka. Police constantly search the roads, tuk tuk and cars at night. You might even end up with a life sentence in a Sri Lankan jail depending on the quantity of drugs that were confiscated from you
Don’t drink the tap water
In most local hotels and even homes, tap water is served. This is not a problem for the locals but could create major issues for anyone not used to tap water. To prevent from wreaking any havoc in your digestive system make sure you drink only bottled water (check if the cap seal is intact to be sure that the water hasn’t been messed around with). In addition to that, be cautious when having a chilled drink at a hotel as the ice could have been made using tap water. If you have a weak digestive system it is better to avoid salads (as the vegetables could have been washed with tap water) and even refrain from brushing your teeth with tap water