TOURISTS from most American and Western European countries don't need visas to visit Sri Lanka. Be sure to call the Sri Lankan embassy before your departure for an update on the political situation there. Avoid all potential Tamil Tiger conflict areas, especially Jaffna in the north.
While the Sri Lankan climate is fairly moderate, the sun can be a scorcher. Women are discouraged from wearing shorts and miniskirts, however, in keeping with local traditions that stress modesty. A sweater or light jacket is mandatory for chilly Hill Country evenings, along with good walking shoes. Men may want to bring a jacket and tie.
Hundreds of guest houses and hotels offer restaurants with very reasonable prices that feature curry dishes, fresh fruit, and European foods. Most Sri Lankans eschew eating utensils but refrain from dining with their left hands. Visitors are advised to drink bottled water.
A double room in an old colonial-era hotel costs about $45 nightly; suites are somewhat more. Prices may go up soon, and it's recommended to book these highly prized rooms in advance. (Phone numbers are for dialing from the United States; Sri Lanka is 10-1/2 hours ahead of Eastern Time.)
Galle Face Hotel, Colombo. Tel.: 011-(941) 54-1010; Fax: 011-(941) 54-1072.
The Hill Club, Nuwara Eliya. Tel.: 011-(94) 52-2653.
Hotel Suisse, Kandy. Tel.: 011-(94) 82-2637.
New Oriental Hotel, Galle. Tel.: 011-(94) 93-4591.
It is significantly cheaper -- and safer, given the treacherous roads -- to hire a car with driver. We paid $280 for 10 days, which included our driver's meals and lodgings as well as gas. In Colombo, contact Gem Island Tours & Travels (Pvt) Ltd., 7, Galle Face Court 2.