Before the Trip

Sri Lanka – travel preparations

We knew it for a long time, now it’s official: Sri Lanka is THE surf and travel destination and according to Lonely Planet Best in Travel 2019.

Are you thinking about spending your next vacation in Sri Lanka or have you already booked the tickets and are full of anticipation for the upcoming trip?
We at drivethru have been commuting back and forth between Europe and the tropical island in the Indian Ocean for several years now and are well aware of the things you should definitely consider and get before your trip. Depending on your character type, you can of course decide for yourself how much preparation and time you want to put into planning your trip. However, a few things should also be considered by spontaneity-loving people.

Travel documents

To enter Sri Lanka you need a passport, which must be valid for at least 6 months after your arrival on the island.

A tourist visa is also necessary. You can easily apply for it online on the website of the Department of Immigration & Emigration or on arrival at the airport.

Important: When entering your passport number, please make sure that the passport number never contains vowels (A, E, I, O, U). Especially the letter O and the digit 0 are difficult to distinguish. If you have entered the letter O instead of the zero, you will most likely have to buy a new visa at the airport, because the customs officers will find the small but subtle difference. Not the end of the world, but you can easily save yourself the stress after the long flight if you follow the simple rule „no vowels in the passport“.

If you plan to explore the island by scooter or motorcycle, you should also have an International Driving Permit with you. A little speciality in Sri Lanka: You have to have it verified by the Automobile Association of Ceylon in Colombo before your first drive on the island. You can get the international driving permit in your home country at the responsible road traffic office against presentation of your driving license and valid identification document and a fee of 10 to 20 Euro. Do not forget your passport photo! The Driving License in Colombo costs another 4.400 LKR. That is about 22 Euro. Do not forget your passport and Driving Permit!

Sri Lanka - Urlaubsvorbereitungen


For entry into Sri Lanka, vaccinations against tetanus, diphtheria, hepatitis A and rabies are recommended. For long-term stays, additional vaccinations are required.

It is best to make an appointment with your family doctor before your trip and find out in good time whether he or she can carry out the vaccinations or whether you need to see another doctor. If you don’t know where your vaccination card is, start looking for it! Your doctor can also import the entries from the paper passport into his system during the appointment, so that the information from it will never be lost again.

Moneten, Money, Salli Salli

The official currency in Sri Lanka is the Sri Lanka Rupee (LKR). However, as in almost every other country on this planet, you can also reach your destination with US dollars. If you can make it before your trip, get some dollar bills at your bank. These are usually in stock at the bank. It is not a must, but it does not hurt to have some green bills in your pocket in case the ATM breaks down. Otherwise, Euro notes or Swiss Francs can easily be exchanged for Rupees at the Money Change.

In addition to a bit of cash, pack one (or two) credit cards in any case. Already at the airport in Colombo there are ATMs where you can withdraw rupees for free or for a fee, depending on the provider and your own bank.

In many local stores, especially small local stores, you can only pay cash. In other, mostly bigger, stores and for example in our surf camps you are more flexible with the payment method. You can either pay cash with Rupees, Dollars, Euros or with your credit card.


The entry was successful, what happens next? From Colombo, you have the possibility to continue your journey by bus or train. For this, however, you must first travel from the airport to Colombo Fort. You can find train departure times online at Sri Lanka Railways. There are express buses from Bastian Mawatha Bus Station to the south coast every 30 minutes. From Negombo there is even a direct bus to the south to Matara. You can find out about departure times online at

If you are less adventurous or arrive in Colombo in the evening or at night, a transfer by car is recommended. Directly at the airport, numerous providers are just waiting to take you to your destination. We at drivethru offer you this service directly when booking your trip. Simply enter your arrival time and flight number and we will take care of the complete transfer organization for you. The driver will be waiting for you in the arrival hall – clearly visible with a sign with your name on it. And after a long flight you can relax in the car and let us bring you safely to our camp.

The price is in contrast to the journey by bus and train of course a lot higher, but is shared by all passengers. So sometimes it’s worth waiting an hour for the next plane and sharing the transfer with other guests.

First-aid kit

For every trip it is recommended to have a small first-aid kit with you. Of course, we are not doctors and cannot give you any professional advice. Nevertheless, the following information will help you to stock up your first-aid kit.

In the bigger cities like Colombo and Matara there are of course supermarkets and pharmacies where you can buy almost all medicines and utensils – usually even without prescription. However, just like when traveling to other European countries, we recommend that you get your medications in advance at a pharmacy. The local PTA can advise you best with regard to the destination. In addition, it doesn’t hurt to have one or two emergency medications on hand just in case, rather than having to visit a pharmacy first. This applies to the following items, among others:

  • Plaster
  • Octenisept wound disinfection spray
  • Nail scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Wound ointment
  • Wound healing gel
  • Clinical thermometer
  • Anti-inflammatory pain pills
  • Pain gel for muscle injuries
  • Electrolyte powder
  • Charcoal tablets
  • Soda powder or tablets
  • Throat lozenges
  • Eardrops

As I said, you decide for yourself what to pack. In any case, the things mentioned do not take up much space in your luggage and have already proven to be very helpful in the past. Of course, you can also buy all the preparations on the spot. So don’t worry if you’re sitting at the airport and you remember that you didn’t pack any headache tablets. The same applies to the next two topics.

Mosquito repellent

The topic of mosquito repellent you should have for your trip to Sri Lanka in any case on the note! On the one hand, mosquito bites are simply annoying and can cause severe itching. On the other hand, depending on the region you stay in during your vacation, the pests can also transmit diseases such as dengue fever. For example, the capital region is more affected than the coastal regions. You can find more information about this on the official pages of the German Foreign Office or the German Tropical Institute.

Appropriate measures for protection against mosquitoes, also called exposure prophylaxis, should be observed in any case:

  • Mosquito repellent to spray on the skin and clothing.
  • Electric bite healers to soothe mosquito bites and avoid scratching wounds
  • Mosquito net to protect against mosquitoes during the night

Especially in the case of mosquito repellents, also known as repellents, there are a number of suppliers and products to buy in your local drugstore.

Many products contain the active ingredient DEET. This offers reliable protection against insect bites, even over several hours. We can also confirm the good effect of repellents containing DEET. However, the active ingredient diethyltoluamide can cause undesirable side effects – especially with prolonged use – not only for the little pests, but also for us humans.

Therefore, there are also mosquito repellents without DEET, which work with herbal active ingredients. We locally often use the classic Citronella Oil. Chemical sprays and creams should never be used for a long time. Two weeks Sri Lanka vacation are usually rather no problem. Please inform yourself about possible side effects and make the right decision for you.

Important: For children in any case use products without DEET! There are special products for children – and pregnant women. In Sri Lanka, too, repellents for children are offered in supermarkets and pharmacies, which we also use ourselves.

Should you be stung despite protective measures once: Do not panic! The golden rule – you might have guessed it already – is: Do not scratch! But of course that is easier said than done. An electric sting healer that works with heat can bring real relief if you apply it to the skin directly after the sting. The heat ensures that the protein compounds of the insect venom are destroyed and the itching disappears.

Small advantage: The mosquitoes usually come out of their holes at a fixed time, at least in our area. We from the team – and you yourself – therefore know over time when it’s time to apply the cream.


Your skin also needs special protection from the sun! Sri Lanka is located quite close to the equator. This ensures that the solar radiation is much more extreme compared to Germany, Austria and Switzerland and the risk of sunburn is much higher. People who start their vacation in Sri Lanka with the words „I’m rather the insensitive type“ are often quickly proven wrong under the Sri Lankan sun. For summer vacations in Europe, a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or even only 20 is usually sufficient. In Sri Lanka, especially if you want to spend part of your vacation in the sea or at the pool, this is by no means sufficient.

We always recommend our surf camp guests to wear a sunscreen with SPF50 to SPF50+ and for the time in the water also a thin lycra shirt, which protects arms and shoulders and leggings. The special material usually has an SPF of 50 or 50+. In addition, a zinc stick or zinc cream from the pharmacy protects sensitive areas such as the nose and cheeks during water time.

Experience has taught us that – no matter if you are sun sensitive or not – protection from the Sri Lankan sun is essential! Therefore, we advise you to be on the safe side and pack a sunscreen with SPF 50 or 50+ in addition to the 30 sunscreen. This is the only way to make your vacation fun and to bring home a healthy tan – we promise!

For emergency

Of course, you never like to think about the emergency. But it’s better to think about it now than to end up looking stupid on vacation!

It can always happen that your suitcase does not make it together with you to your destination, but gets stuck during a stopover at the airport. This is basically uncomplicated and your luggage will be delivered to your accommodation one or two days later. To make sure that your vacation can start right away, always pack some clothes (incl. bikini or board shorts and flip flops) and a small amount of cosmetics in your hand luggage. Don’t forget sunscreen and mosquito spray!

Of course, in such cases, the other guests and the team in our surf camps always help out, but usually your own things fit better and you just feel more comfortable.

Useful phone numbers

Emergency call number Sri Lanka 119

Embassy DE +94 11 258 04 31 or in emergencies +94 77 734 42 83
Embassy CH +94 11 269 51 17
Embassy AT +94 11 269 16 13 and +94 11 440 08 00

Contact of the accommodation on site

drivethru Surfcamps Madiha +94 41 493 84 60
drivethru Surfcamps Polhena +94 41 493 85 80


Ever thought about it? Take out travel health insurance & travel cancellation insurance!

For the environment

Waste and its avoidance are also a big issue in Sri Lanka. To make your personal contribution and not to burden the island unnecessarily with additional plastic waste, we ask you to pack the following things:

  • Refill Waterbottle
  • Cloth bag for shopping
  • Stainless steel or glass drinking straw (optional)

In many places, drinks and coconuts are already served without plastic straws. When ordering a drink, you can also indicate that you do not want a plastic straw or enjoy your drink with the straw you brought with you. We say thank you!

Now you are prepared for your trip to Sri Lanka!

written by Mimi