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Sri Lanka Travel Tips and Advice

Sri Lanka, the beautiful island country in the Indian Ocean is a paradise on earth. The country is rich in everything be it culture, heritage, traditions, food, sunsets, golden beaches, lush green tea estates, thick jungles, Buddhist temples and Monasteries, the calm vibes, peace, and serenity. We must admit, the teardrop-shaped country won our heart completely in a single visit and now rate in the chart of must-visit beautiful destinations. Moreover, flying and getting a Sri Lanka visa is a super easy and stress-free process. In this post, we will be listing 5 Sri Lanka travel tips for a wonderful memorable trip

Sri Lanka Travel Tips

Sri Lanka Travel Tips

1. Sri Lanka Visa

The first and foremost thing is the Sri Lanka visa and in the country, there is NO option of visa – on arrival. So, it can be booked by the Embassy or online. The process of applying online is referred to as ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization).

Book Through Embassy

We feel booking a visa through embassy is a multistep, tedious and quite a time consuming process. First reach Embassy, wait for your token number, fill an ETA form available there, submit the filled form along with the relevant fee and documents to the embassy officer. The officer will further send it to Sri Lanka’s Emigration & Immigration department. Then an acknowledgment and ETA reference number will be sent to you.

Book online Sri Lanka eVisa

The easiest way is to apply for eVisa Sri Lanka online. Open the website, fill in the required personal details, the details of your passport, transit details, and pay through paypal, American Express, or the master cards.

Sri Lanka ETA are basically issued for short stays (business, tourist and transit purposes) and are valid for 30 days. It is a double entry visa (i.e. 2 entries are allowed per visa) with a fee being USD 35 except for the SAARC countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka), which is USD 20.  The only thing to note while applying online is to be very careful while filling the details – a single digit mistake can stop your entry at the airport or can make you pay again. We advise, in case one is not confident or have any issues in filling the form, apply by clicking E-visums.co.uk.

After application, you will receive your e-visa by email in 24-48 hours.

Note: The citizens of Maldives, Singapore, and Seychelles don’t need a visa to enter Sri Lanka

2. Travel internally through public transport (buses and trains), Tuk Tuks and Scooty’s

Hiring a cab for hopping from one place to another is an expensive affair in Sri Lanka. So, we suggest to go local via bus, tuk-tuks or rent a scooter. In Sri Lanka too the Tuk Tuk drivers will try to con you by quoting high prices as it happens in India. So, check with the locals for the correct amount and then bargain. Buses too are good options for local movement but be prepared to walk extra miles to catch one.  The scooty worked best for us as we could stop wherever we wanted and go wherever we can. Indeed, we covered Galle, Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna, Ahangama, Handunugoda all on our rented two-wheelers.

South Coast of Sri Lanka Travel Tips

For hoping from one city to another like from Kandy to Ella use the train services. This train trail is considered to be the most scenic ride in the world as it passes through the bewitching landscapes, lush green tea estates, waterfalls, bridges, etc. 

In Sri Lanka, the cab apps system was not very popular earlier but now it’s picking especially in COLOMBO and currently the players like UBER have started intercity service too

3. Respect the culture, religion and hide the Buddha Tattoos, if you have

About 70% of the people in Sri Lanka are Buddhist and the religion in their constitution holds the foremost position. So, the people here don’t tolerate any kind of disrespect to religion. Indeed, they consider a Buddha tattoo also an insult to Lord Buddha. Earlier, there are cases of several people deported and arrested who had a Buddha tattoo. So, keep them cover if you have one.

The view from Shanti Stupa - Sri Lanka Travel Tips
The view from Shanti Stupa – Sri Lanka Travel Tips

Also, remember to take off your shoes and hats, cover legs and arms and bow while entering the Buddhist Temples. Never point a finger at the Buddha statue and obey the no photo signage. There is a zero-tolerance for the selfies with Lord Buddha statues.

4. Food, water and Drinks

Sri Lankan food is super rich and is considered as one of the delicious cuisines in the world.  The most common dish is Rice and curry. The other ones include chopped flatbread stir-fried with eggs and vegetables (Kotu Potty); string hoppers; shredded coconut with red chilies, curry leaves, and herbs; spicy Egg Samosas; Egg Hoppers; and the fresh seafood.

Fish & Chips - Sri Lanka Travel Tips
Fish & Chips – Sri Lanka Travel Tips

Locals prefer drinking tap water in Sri Lanka but we stick to the bottled water and advise you to do the same. Coming on to the drinks do try the local brews like Lion (Beer) and Arrack (prepared from coconut flowers).

5. Currency and ATM

On conversion, Sri Lankan currency seems quite cheaper than Indian currency (1 Rs. = 2.50 LKR) and makes you look super-rich but actually it is not. While spending you will realize the price of the products in the supermarkets or at a good restaurant goes equal to that in India itself. And we found, especially the beach towns and the famous places are far more expensive.

Don’t completely rely on ATM for the cash withdrawal, you will find many of them in a non-working state. We carried USD with us and would advise you also to carry USD/LKR while heading to Sri Lanka. Credit cards too are accepted widely.

Best Time to visit – Sri Lanka Travel Tips

Sri Lanka, being a tropical country is blessed with good sunshine and blue skies throughout the year. The temperature remains constant between 18-22 degree Celsius in the coastal areas whereas goes a bit lower with the drop in altitude.

Sunset at Beach- Sri Lanka Travel tips
Sunset at Beach- Sri Lanka Travel tips

Sri Lanka can be visited at any time of the year. It also has two monsoon seasons from December to March and June to October. So, the best time recommended for South and West Coast is from December to March whereas for East Coast it is April to September.

Must Carry for Sri Lanka

The packing list for Sri Lanka will completely depend upon the places you will be visiting. But one must keep cotton T-shirts, cotton/ linen dresses, track pants, raincoat, windcheater, lightweight jacket, scarf, sun hat, mosquito repellant, sunscreen, and universal adapter.

Must visit places in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has plenty of places to explore but these are the ones you must check in a 2 week SriLanka Itinerary.

  • Colombo city for its bustling markets, temples, and restaurants
  • Galle the gorgeous colonial walled town on the ocean with amazing cafeterias
  • South West Coast for beautiful beaches and sunsets
  • Yala Safari Park to see the acts of wildlife and for natural beautiful scenery
  • Tea towns like Hatton, Ella, Nuwara Eliya, Kandy, Handunugoda
  • Cultural triangle -To see ancient cities and beautiful temples around Dambulla, Anuradhapura and Sigiriya

So, Sri Lanka is perfect for every type of traveler or tourist, adventurer, or backpacker or photographer. The destination has a variety of accommodation options too, from luxury resorts to budget hotels to hostels. We stayed at one of the heritage property Apa Villa Illuketia, located among the greens.

Prviate Lotus Pool at Apa Villa Illuketia - Sri Lanka Travel tips
Prviate Lotus Pool at Apa Villa Illuketia – Sri Lanka Travel tips

Apart this, be polite and humble to the locals, respect their culture and traditions and be smart, confident and keep your eyes ear open to avoid getting into any unwanted traps.

Would you like to add anything more to these travel tips? Please leave in the comment and we will be happy to include them.

Sri Lanka Travel Tips

Virgin White Tea Estate Tour – Handunugoda; Sri Lanka

Ah, Tea! It is the world’s most acceptable beverage and second most popular drink. Tea works in every situation – be it cold, sitting down to work, to cheer someone up or as a medicinal remedy. Tea too has strong social and cultural connotations and is a sign of hospitality, worldwide. China is the largest producer as well as consumer of Tea and Sri Lanka ranks fourth in the production as well as export and its consumption is far less. We all know about the different varieties of tea – black tea, green tea, herbal tea but have you heard about Virgin White Tea. It came as something new to us and now exploring the Virgin White tea estate and tasting virgin white tea was high on our list.

Virgin White Tea Estate, Handunugoda, Sri lanka
Source: Lanka Houses

One fine day, after breakfast at Apa Villa Illuketia in Sri Lanka, we took our bike and rode to the south coast of Sri Lanka to explore more dormant villages and the virgin white tea estate, Handunugoda at Ahangama.

The Virgin White Tea Estate, Sri Lanka

The Virgin White Tea estate, Handunugoda is a family owned plantation of planter Malinga Herman in Tittagalla, Ahangama. In fact, this is the only tea estate that is so close to the sea in the whole world. It lies 160 km from Colombo; 24 km from Galle Fort; and 6 Km inland from the main highway nestled between the evergreen forest and the vast Indian Ocean.

Virgin White Tea Estate- Handunugoda, Sri Lanka
Source: TripAdvisor

As we arrived at the estate, we could see women dressed in coats and plucking the tea leaves and there was a continuous music by birds in the plantation. The briefing about the estate began by plantation guide in minutes and this is how he went about the property. The total Handunugoda estate is spread over 150 acres, out of which 75 acres is only of tea and the balance 75 acres is of rubber, cinnamon, and coconut. The estate is not a mass producer of Tea but produces the only choicest collection of tea that matches International Standards.

Suruchi Tashi at Virgin White Tea Estate, Handunugoda, Sri Lanka

The Handunugoda estate manufactures 5 categories of tea: Black Tea, Oolong tea, green tea, white tea and Herbal infusions. To us, the most attractive were Virgin White Tea, so let’s start with it.

Total Duration for Tour: 1-5 -2 hrs

Best time to visit: Any day of the week, between 8:00 am- 4:30 pm

Story behind Virgin White Tea

The Virgin white tea estate produces Virgin white tea, completely untouched by hands. The white tea leaves here are harvested, following the Chinese rituals.

Haresting Virgin White Tea- at Virgin White tea estate, Handunugoda, Sri Lanka
Source: Tripadvisor

In the ancient era, the Chinese emperor Tsong and Tsang used to deploy the virgins to pick the leaves wearing white silk gloves, with a golden scissor into a golden bowl. The virgin white tea never touched the bare skin until it touched the lips of an Emperor. This high tea was only for the emperor and served to the rulers and dignitaries.

The Handunugoda estate still mimics this tradition except that the virgin concept now applies only to the tea and not to the pluckers. After explaining this; he kept on walking ahead and we were still lost in the leaves and his confident words.

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Processing of White tea

Virgin White Tea is unique and it requires minimal processing. Each step while processing is done with special attention and care.

At dawn, as the first sunlight hits the tea estate, the unopened buds are carefully picked by tea pluckers in the bowls and placed in silk pouches. After plucking, the buds are spread over black flannel trays and are dried only using the filtered sunlight. When the bud dries completely, it is packed delicately in air tight containers using the soft gloves. Isn’t that interesting process for royal tea?

Virgin White Tea spread over Black Flannel surface trays - Virgin white tea estate, Sri lanka
Source: Herman Tea

Manufacturing of other Ceylon Tea (Black Tea)

The Black tea is manufactured after series of eight steps and the equipment used in the estate is more than 150 years old. So, Handunugoda estate is also referred as a Living and Working Museum.

Virgin White Tea Estate, Handunugoda- Living & Working Museum
Source: Tripadvisor

The process starts by plucking bud and tender leaves by hand and this is termed as Fine Plucking.  Then, the leaves are sorted to remove the coarse mature leaves, as they can affect the quality of tea. After sorting, leaves are withered by cool air to reduce moisture content. Withering make them more pliable and also activates certain elements in the leaf which are essential for quality tea. Next, the leaves are rolled. Rolling is performed at fixed room temperature to bring out the flavors of tea. It also gives the curved appearance of tea. After rolling the leaves turn golden brown and are further put to fermentation. The fermented leaves are called Dhools. Next, the leaves are Dried by conditioned air to reduce moisture content and deactivate fermenting enzymes.  From here, the tea is further moved for grading. The last step Packaging at Handunugoda is still done by hands in air tight containers.

Black tea at virgin white tea estate, Handunugoda, Sri lanka

Interesting Facts about Virgin White Tea

  • The average plantation worker picks 25 -30 kg of Black tea leaves in a day whereas, at Handunugoda estate, a damsel only picks 150 -160 grams of virgin white leaves in a day. That means 3.5 -4 kg in a month and 48 kg in a year.
  • White tea is delicate in flavors and aroma.
  • White tea has 10.11% antioxidants, highest of all the teas and other beverages. So, it is the healthiest tea in the world. Apart from this, white tea has many medical benefits. It is rich in vitamin A; reduces inflammation; prevent eye dryness and night blindness.
  • Virgin white tea is also one of the most expensive teas is the world. Usually, it is sold at a price of $1500 per kg.
  • Mariage Freres International situated at Faubourg Saint –Honore in central Paris is the only Tea Salon to stock this Herman Virgin White Tea.
  • The one teaspoon of exquisite white tea can make 3-4 cups of tea.

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Visiting tea plantations and getting lost in the lush terraced landscapes is what we had dreamt of. But we never knew we will have step back into the colonial times along the coastal belt. We had one of a kind experience visiting Virgin White Tea estate, Handunugoda, and factory. The session was followed by a tea tasting along with chocolate cake,  in the owner’s bungalow verandah and it was good enough to seduce our senses.

Verandah of Virgin White Tea Estate, Handunugoda- where tea and cake was served
Source: TripAdvisor

Apart from this, there is a tea museum within the estate where one can taste almost 50 varieties of tea including virgin white tea and shop them from the tea shop. We highly recommend Virgin White Tea, Pure Lemongrass, and Rainforest tea, if you are willing to purchase. Climb upstairs from here to have a peek into old pictures and paintings on the walls and to have a panoramic view of a plantation.

Handunugoda Tea Museum; Virgin White Tea estate, Sri Lanka

 Handunugoda Tea Museum, Virgin White tea estate, Sri lanka

Contact Details: Handunugoda Tea Factory, Tittagalla, Ahangama, Sri Lanka.

Phone No:  (+94) 772065555/ 777713999/ 91 2286364

Email Id:  info@hermanteas.com

Website: www.hermanteas.com

Note: The Handunugoda or Virgin White  Tea estate at Sri Lanka, offers a free guided tour of the plantation and factory, along with tea at the end of a session.

And if you are a book lover, then do buy Herman autobiography- The Suicide Club: A Virgin Tea Planter’s Journey, which is highly entertaining and has great insights about his life, tea, and Sri Lanka, from the waning days of the British Raj to today.

We feel the visit to Virgin White Tea Estate was quite interesting if you too feel so please share it with your friends.

Also Read the complete Sri Lanka Itinerary

Virgin White Tea Estate, Handunugoda, Sri Lanka