Overseas Travel Bureau


Sri Lanka In Style
Srilanka in style reveals the stitches of the island’s serendipitous tapestry with insider tips from the people that know her best.

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Classic Mini Tour
The Classic Mini Tour shows you the cultural highlights of Sri Lanka with a visit of the Royal Cities and the cultural triangle not neglecting the natural beauties of this tropical island.

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Sri Lanka


Depending on your viewpoint, Sri Lanka’s shape resembles either a pearl or a teardrop, cast adrift in the Indian Ocean.

Those who consider this country a teardrop may do so because of its long history of troubles. The first Europeans to arrive in Sri Lanka were the Portuguese, quickly supplanted by the Dutch in the 17th century. The British acquired Sri Lanka (as Ceylon) from the Dutch in 1796, assuming full control in 1802. But once the country became a Republic in 1972, adopting a new constitution along with the Sinhala name, Sri Lanka, serious conflict arose from the Tamil minority’s (occupying the north and east parts of Sri Lanka) demands for a separate Tamil state, with terrorist activity by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam prevalent since the 1970s. 

The Indian government became involved in this conflict, initially as official mediator but then, after the failure of an armistice in 1987, intervening militarily (on the government’s side). Its two-year military campaign ended with the death of over 1,000 Indian soldiers and an ignominious retreat. The assassination of Indian premier Rajiv Ghandi in 1991 was the apotheosis of the Tigers’ campaign of revenge. After that, the war entered a period of effective stalemate. Outside the Tiger-controlled areas in the north and east, the political environment was dominated by the struggle between the country’s two main political groupings – the centre-right United National Party and the People’s Alliance (a coalition of social-democratic and socialist parties). 

In 1995, the UNP’s 17-year stranglehold on power was finally broken by the People’s Alliance, under Chandrikha Kumaratunga. Kumaratunga was determined to resolve the Tamil conflict and a deal between the government and the Tamil Tigers was finally concluded in early 2002. Rising levels of violence have recently put the ceasefire agreement under threat however.

Yet there is also much to champion Sri Lanka as a pearl: Indians, Portuguese, Dutch and British have all left their marks in ancient architecture, and palm-fringed beaches are never far away from mountainous greenery in this jewel of an island. Indeed, Marco Polo proclaimed that Sri Lanka was one of the best islands in the world.

General Information

65,525 sq km (25,299 sq miles).

19.4 million (UN estimate 2005).

Population Density 
 296 per sq km.

Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte (official). Population: 115,826 (2001). Colombo (commercial). Population: 2.2 million (2005). Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte is only 10km (6 miles) from Colombo.

Democratic Socialist Republic since 1978. Gained independence from the UK in 1948.

Sinhala, Tamil and English.

Buddhist majority (70%), with Hindu, Christian and Muslim minorities.

GMT + 5.5.

Tropical climate. Upland areas are cooler and more temperate, and coastal areas are cooled by sea breezes. There are two monsoons, which occur May to July and December to January.
equired Clothing:   Lightweights and rainwear.

Social Conventions
Shaking hands is the normal form of greeting. It is customary to be offered tea when visiting and it is considered impolite to refuse. Punctuality is appreciated. A small token of appreciation, such as a souvenir from home or company, is always welcomed. Informal, Western dress is suitable, except when visiting Buddhist temples, where modest clothing should be worn (eg no bare legs and uncovered heads). Visitors should be decently clothed when visiting any place of worship, and shoes and hats must be removed. Jackets and ties are not required by men in the evenings except for formal functions when lightweight suits should be worn.

230 volts AC, 50Hz. Round three-pin plugs are usual, with bayonet lamp fittings.

Head of Government
 Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake.

Head of State
President Mahinda Rajapakse since November 2005.

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