Sri Lanka destination guide

Best time to visit Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a year round destination. There is always a good time to visit at least some part of the country. Sri Lanka is governed by two monsoon seasons.

First Inter-Monsoon Season - March - April
Southwest Monsoon Season - May - September
Second Inter-Monsoon Season - October - November
Northeast Monsoon Season - December - February

On the south-west coast, the monsoon brings rain from May to September and remains dry from December to March. The inter-monsoon period from October to November may bring rain and thunderstorms to the island.
On the east and the northern regions, heavy rains fall between October and January with May to September being the best time to visit as it is dry during this period.

Annual average temperatures in Sri Lanka range from around 15ºC in the mountains to about 30 ºC on the northeast coast and south-west coastal areas. Average temperatures in Colombo are between 27 ºC to 30 ºC all year. In the Tea Country, Kandy’s temperatures are between 17 ºC and 31ºC and Nuwara Eliya temperatures are between 14 ºC and 21 ºC. 

Best time to go

West And South Coast: Colombo, Negombo, Kalutara, Bentota,Galle, Weligima, Mirissa, Tangalle

The best time to visit the West Coast is between December and April. This region is governed by the south-west monsoon which brings heavy rainfall from June to September. During the inter-monsoon month of November, some rain may also be expected.

Weather (monthly averages)

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 Average minimum temperature
22℃ 23℃ 24℃ 25℃ 26℃ 26℃ 25℃ 25℃ 25℃ 24℃ 23℃ 23℃
 Average maximum temperature
31℃ 31℃ 32℃ 32℃ 31℃ 30℃ 30℃ 30℃ 30℃ 30℃ 30℃ 30℃
 Average hours of sunshine
8 9 9 8 6 7 7 7 8 7 7 7
 Average rainfall in mm
62 69 130 253 382 185 125 114 236 369 310 168

East Coast: Passikudah, Trincomalee, Arugam Bay

The weather pattern on the East Coast is the opposite of the west. Whilst the monsoon is lashing rain on the west during the months, it will be dry and hot in the east. The best time to be on the east coast is from April to September. During the months from October to January, the northeast monsoon brings heavy rain.

Weather (monthly averages)

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 Average minimum temperature
24℃ 24℃ 24℃ 26℃ 26℃ 26℃ 26℃ 25℃ 25℃ 24℃ 24℃ 24℃
 Average maximum temperature
27℃ 28℃ 29℃ 32℃ 33℃ 33℃ 33℃ 33℃ 33℃ 31℃ 29℃ 27℃
 Average hours of sunshine
7 9 9 9 8 7 7 7 8 6 6 6
 Average rainfall in mm
173 66 48 58 69 28 51 107 107 221 358 200

The Cultural Triangle: Dambulla, Anuradhapura, Sigiriya

The northeast monsoon from October to February brings heavy rains from the Bay of Bengal to Sri Lanka. During this period, the northeast slopes of the central highlands receive the most rainfall. Kandy receives almost double the rainfall during the northeast monsoon than it does during the south-west one from which the mountains protect it. 

Weather (monthly averages)

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 Average minimum temperature
21℃ 22℃ 23℃ 24℃ 25℃ 25℃ 25℃ 24℃ 24℃ 23℃ 22℃ 22℃
 Average maximum temperature
28℃ 31℃ 33℃ 34℃ 33℃ 33℃ 33℃ 33℃ 33℃ 32℃ 30℃ 29℃
 Average hours of sunshine
7 8 9 8 8 7 7 7 7 7 6 6
 Average rainfall in mm
26 18 13 44 71 107 90 91 118 227 200 94

Kandy and The Tea Country

Due to its altitude, this region remains cool all year round with Kandy having warmer temperatures compared to Nuwara Eliya.

Weather (monthly averages)

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 Average minimum temperature
23℃ 23℃ 24℃ 25℃ 26℃ 26℃ 26℃ 26℃ 25℃ 25℃ 24℃ 23℃
 Average maximum temperature
31℃ 32℃ 32℃ 32℃ 31℃ 30℃ 30℃ 30℃ 30℃ 30℃ 30℃ 30℃
 Average hours of sunshine
6 7 8 7 7 7 7 8 7 6 5 5
 Average rainfall in mm
96 60 66 135 153 153 156 135 135 186 192 153

General travel tips

Sri Lanka's Currency
The local currency is the Sri Lankan Rupee, divided into 100 cents. Currency notes are Rs.5, 000, Rs2, 000, Rs1, 000, Rs500, Rs100, Rs50, Rs20 and Rs10. 

Banks are open from 0900 hrs to 1300 hours Monday to Friday. Some city banks close at 1500 hrs, while some are open on Saturday mornings. 

Foreign Currency Regulations
Visitors to Sri Lanka bringing in more than US$10,000 should declare the amount to the Customs on arrival. All unspent rupees converted from foreign currencies can be re-converted to the original currency on departure as long as encashment receipts can be produced.

Language
Sri Lanka has two official languages. Sinhala and Tamil - with English as a link language. Most people have some knowledge of English, and signboards are often in English.

Time Difference
Sri Lanka Standard Time is five and a half hours ahead of GMT.

Electricity
230. 240 volts, 50 cycles AC. If you travel with a laptop computer bring a stabiliser.

Photography Restrictions
There are some important restrictions that apply to photography regarding Buddhist imagery. When you visit a temple or other religious site, remember that photography should not be carried out in a manner causing disrespect. For instance, it is strictly forbidden to be photographed in front of or beside any statues and murals. Note that flash photography can damage old murals.

Health Precautions
The health risks in Sri Lanka are different to those encountered in Europe. Watch out for bowel diseases such as diarrhoea and amoebic dysentery, vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, and a variety of fungal infections. Sri Lanka’s physicians, though, many of whom have trained in the West, are particularly experienced in dealing with locally occurring diseases.
No inoculations are compulsory unless you are coming from yellow fever or cholera area. (Cholera is very occasionally reported in Sri Lanka, so is not considered a serious risk.) 

Upset Stomach
As most stomach upsets are due to the unsanitary preparation of food, it is useful to know what to watch out for. Undercooked fish (especially shellfish) and meat (especially pork and mince) can be hazardous. Salads can be risky unless purified water has been used to wash the various vegetables. Fruit that has already been peeled should be avoided. Be careful of ice cream, in particular, the varieties sold by street vendors and served at cheap restaurants.

Tap water is not safe to drink so the best solution is to drink bottled water.

What to Wear
Cotton clothes are useful at any time of the year but you will need light woollens for the hills and waterproof clothing or an umbrella. Modest dress for women is advisable especially off the beach and when visiting religious sites. Don't forget comfortable shoes, sandals or trainers and cotton socks. If you are planning to trek and climb go prepared with suitable gear. Water sports enthusiasts would do well to take their snorkels and diving equipment along.

Safety
In general, the threats to personal security for travellers in Sri Lanka are remarkably small. It is more pleasant to travel with a companion as it is advised not to travel alone especially after dark. The island including the North and East is safe to visit. If you have anything stolen, report it to the tourist Police, (a special tourist police set up to look after the needs of the tourists.