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Sri Lanka – Need to Know

in Tips by

Thinking of booking your family villa stay in Sri Lanka? Here’s what you need to know about travelling to this magically diverse island in the Indian Ocean.

Weather

Sri Lanka’s climate is tropical and affected by two monsoons. Between November and April, the south and west coasts and hill country are generally dry and sunny whilst the Maha monsoon brings rain to the north and east coasts and Cultural Triangle. The Yala monsoon conversely affects the south and west coasts between May and October, offering a mix of sunshine and showers, whilst fine weather and calm seas dominate the north and east. The temperature across Sri Lanka remains around 28-32 degrees for much of the year with a high degree of humidity (sometimes as much as 90% before the monsoon) in the lusher south-westerly regions. The mercury in the high-altitude hills can drop to single figures at night. Despite its terminology, the monsoon season rarely incurs full days of rain – rather the weather is quick to change. Dramatic monsoonal showers typically break out in the afternoons or evenings and usually last an hour or two before the sun breaks out again. As such, some of the best deals are to be had by travelling in this so-called ‘low season’.

Currency

The currency across the island is the Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR) although many hotels display their rates in US dollars, which is the island’s preferred foreign currency. Notes range from LKR10 to LKR5,000 and coins from one rupee to ten. At current exchange rates, US$1 is equal to LKR130; GBR£1 to LKR200; EUR1 to LKR175; HK$1 to LKR17.5; and AUS$1 to LKR95. ATMs are widespread across the island and all major currencies and traveller’s checks can be exchanged in Sri Lanka, as well as at authorised currency exchange counters in banks. Credit cards are accepted in up-market stores, hotels and restaurants, but beyond that most transactions (including tuk tuk and taxi fares) are cash-based. Having notes in a various range of denominations handy is useful.

Time zone

Sri Lanka is five and a half hours ahead of GMT and shares the same time zone as India, its closest neighbour. Sri Lanka is two and a half hours behind Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Hong Kong, and one and a half hours ahead of Dubai. Most cities in central mainland Europe are four and a half hours behind.

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8 Things To Do In Galle

in Recreation by

The south coast Galle region is one of the most complete tourist destinations in Sri Lanka. The historic UNESCO-certified Galle Fort is the region’s foremost attraction but there are many more activities and attractions in the local area to keep you busy for days. Here are some of our favourites:

Galle Fort Walk

Local author Juliet Coombe hosts a variety of guided walking tours in historic Galle Fort, focusing on architecture, people and food. The walks last for around 90-minutes and include a stop for refreshments. Galle Fort’s historic streets, lined with cafés and boutiques and home to European churches, mosques, old spice warehouses and museums, are also ripe for exploring on your own.

Website: www.sriserendipity.com/walking_tours.html

Galle’s Beaches

Galle is blessed with a great variety of beaches. Galle Fort itself has a pretty beach just south of the lighthouse that can be lovely for an early morning swim before anyone else is about. Other favourites are Dalawella Beach, beside the popular Wijeya Beach Restaurant, and Unawatuna Beach whose wide horseshoe-shaped bay offers safe swimming throughout the year. From Unawatuna you can also arrange diving, deep-sea fishing and snorkelling.

Idle Bikes & Boats

Explore Galle’s picturesque interior by bicycle on a guided tour of the region’s verdant hills, sleepy villages, paddy fields and jungle. You can pick from a variety of trails; each route takes in the quietest, most scenic back roads and bunds. Idle Tours also offer boat trips on the Gin Ganga River west of Galle, a peaceful waterway home to a Sri Lanka’s aquatic wildlife and birds.

Website: www.idletours.com

Looking for a perfect spot for lunch or dinner? Have a look at our favourite restaurants in the South of Sri Lanka. 

Handunugoda Tea Estate

Tea is grown across Sri Lanka, and The Handunugoda Tea Estate is one of the closest tea plantations to the coast. Here you can take a tour of the estate, have a nosy around the factory and enjoy a tasting and buying session of the many types of tea. The estate is also famous for producing white tea, a delicate variety that retails for around US$1500 a kilo.

Website: www.virginwhitetea.com

Habaraduwa Turtle Hatchery

Sri Lanka’s sandy shores are prime targets for nesting marine turtles who come ashore to lay their eggs in the very same place they were born.

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6 of the Best South Coast Restaurants in Sri Lanka

in Dining by

Sri Lanka’s south coast is home to some of the island’s best restaurants outside of Colombo. Galle is Sri Lanka’s premier tourist town and it is no surprise that this increasingly cosmopolitan hub attracts the most diverse range of eateries. The streets of Galle Fort are lined with restaurants and hole-in-the-wall cafés, and the beautifully renovated Galle Dutch Hospital, a precinct of restaurants and boutiques, is the fort’s newest dining venue. From Galle to Tangalle, here are 6 of the best south coast restaurants in Sri Lanka:

The Tuna & The Crab

This outlet in the Galle Dutch Hospital follows in the footsteps of its popular sister-restaurants Ministry of Crab and Nihonbashi in Colombo. This is the place to try succulent export quality Sri Lankan crab doused in beautiful sauces (we love the garlic and chilli), served with local kade paan (bread) and (optional) sticky garlic rice, or the delicately flavoured crab linguine. Also on the menu are steaks and a selection of fresh sushi and sashimi. Bring your own alcohol.

Address: Galle Dutch Hospital, Hospital Street, Galle Fort

Website: https://www.facebook.com/thetunathecrab

Fortaleza

A striking coral and lime wall, showcasing the centuries-old heritage of the beautifully restored building in which it stands, backs this open-fronted restaurant in Galle Fort. This is a popular place for a rest stop whilst touring Galle Fort, and the eclectic menu includes Singapore style burgers, table barbeques and sesame crusted tuna salad as well as coffee, beer and juices. Tables spill from the fan-cooled interior onto a convivial courtyard edged by banana plants.

Address: Church Cross Street, Galle Fort

Website: www.fortaleza.lk

Wijaya Beach Restaurant

This casual beach restaurant on Dalawella’s idyllic beach, 8km east of Galle, is a hot favourite amongst the region’s expats. Families and groups of friends converge here to dine on very reasonably priced seafood, pasta, salads, curries and excellent wood-fired pizzas, all served up in an open-sided pavillion with dashing views of the Indian Ocean. The sandy beach here is kid-friendly and the lagoon-like sea a reliable place for a swim. Sunsets from here are spectacular.

Address: Matara Road, Dalawella

Website: www.wijayabeach.com

Talpe Beach Club

Talpe Beach Club is another favourite with expat families thanks to its swimming pool, open-plan restaurant and varied menu of international dishes.

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