Volunteer in Sri Lanka
What to know before volunteering in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is one of the very few Islands’ in the world that are located right in world’s equator. Therefore all four seasons are very much alike in our beautiful country. We have never seen snow in winter because it’s not so cold for us around that time. We always have a normal temperature around the year and no natural disasters except for flooding and a bit of heavy rains.
Sri Lanka is named as the pearl of Indian Ocean because of lots of reasons. We have huge mountains in the middle of the country. Some of them are covered with tea and you could drink the best tea in the world if you visit there. Also we have lots of forests in our country including Sinharaja forest which is considered as an International significance by UNESCO. Also if you are a Safari fan, there are huge parks located in our country such as Yala, Udawalawa, Willpaththu. You can see animals such as elephants, dears, bears, leopards and all kinds of animals. If you are a hiking fan, then there are lots of places you can visit like hard to reach mountains and heavy forests.
Also the people in this country are very friendly. Since Sri Lanka has being a paradise for foreigners a long time, locals are so used to every kind of foreigners and they would always treat you as one of their own without hesitation.
The national currency in Sri Lanka is Rupees. But don’t mistake this with Indian rupees because this is completely different. 1 Sri Lankan Rupee has the value of roughly 0.4 of Indian Rupee. You need relatively less amount of money to live in Sri Lanka so no need to carry a lot of money with you. Also you can use debit or credit cards for lots of payments such as hotel payments or groceries if you go to a supermarket. And apps like Uber are famous in our country. We have some local cab service apps like PickMe and you can use them around the country if you have a smart phone and you can pay these rides directly from your bank so it is very easy for you to go anywhere without having money on your hands.
Since it’s located in the world’s equator, most of the day you will be exposed to direct sunlight. So it will be hard for you if you are not used to it so it’s better to use precautions such as sun creams, hats and sunglasses. At night, usually it’s cold so the heat won’t be a problem. Usually the temperature will be around 30 to 35 Celsius degrees around the year and in the winter it will reduce to around 23 to 28 Celsius but because of the direct sunlight, it will be hard for you to go outside without taking precautions.
Clothing, How to Dress
You can basically wear anything since there are no restrictions. Locals usually wear mostly sarongs or shorts and denims. You can also try sarongs if you prefer since it’s a very relaxing piece of cloth. For tourists, it is recommended to wear relaxing cloths since it’s relatively hot during the day. So a short and a t shirt or a skinny is the most popular and common dress code among foreigners. But that doesn’t mean you also have to wear it. Hats and shades are always recommended because of direct sun exposure. Most locals don’t wear them since they are used to direct sun light but if you are not used to it and especially if you have light skin, then hats and shades are highly recommended for you including sun cream.
The official language in Sri Lanka is Sinhala. But most people know how to communicate in English since it’s a mandatory subject in the education system. There are other languages such as Tamil but most of them also speaks at least Sinhala or English.
So if you are familiar with English, you will never face any problems regarding communicating with the locals at all. Also everything is mostly explained in all three languages (Sinhala, English and Tamil) such as directions, shops and even most Sri Lankan websites.
Timings and weekends
The time in Sri Lanka is GMT + 5.30. The weekends are Saturday and Sunday. Most people don’t work on weekends but you can buy foods and use public transportations or any kind of transportation every day.
Every full moon day will be a holiday call Poya day. It’s one of the main holidays in Sri Lanka since it’s a Buddhist holiday. Most people won’t work on this day but if you are hoping to do any volunteer work, this will also be the best day for that since locals tend to do good things like that on Poya days.
Travelling in Sri Lanka
The whole country is surrounded by the Sea so if you are a beach fan, there are all kinds of beaches around the country. After we won the war in 2009 against LTTE, the whole country has being peaceful completely. Sri Lanka has become a center of attraction among tourists around the world after that and has declared as one of the safest countries to travel. There is no violence within the country. All religions coexist among each other’s and live in harmony.
But since tourists come and go a lot, scammers have also developed a taste to scam new tourists. They would give false information in exchange for money or would give you false promises. Some taxi drivers specially do this if you are white since they believe that it is easy for them to scam white people such as Americans, Europeans and Asians. So it’s better to have a trusted guide with you if you travel for the first time.
You will never feel like an outsider because you will see other travelers everywhere around the country. It feels like locals and tourist live together because it’s that common for you to see tourists inside the country. Also you can freely do anything except smoking. It is prohibited to smoke around other people and indoors because of the law. But you can smoke when you are alone and in smoking areas so it’s not completely illegal. Other than that, you can do anything freely.
70% of people are Buddhists and around 12% are Hindus. Around 10% are Muslims and 6% are Roman Catholics. But temples from all religions can be seen everywhere and anyone are welcome to enter them. Since we have a recorded history since 543 BC, there are lots of ancient places you can go and watch that has significant historian values. Since Sri Lanka is located in a valuable and vulnerable location in the Indian Ocean, lots of countries have tried to invade Sri Lanka throughout history. Because we have a recorded history about everything and proof of that, you can see the affects different groups have caused for our history very clearly if you visit these ancient places. Most people come specifically for this reason since they possess a huge historian value.
The main food is rice but you can get chicken and other meats with fish and vegetables if you prefer but I would strongly suggest that you try local food since they possess unique tastes and would leave you with great sensation after eating them. Most food has a spicy taste so if you enjoy that kind of food specially, then Sri Lanka is the place for you. And if you prefer places like McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Dominos, Subway, KFC and Taco Bell are common in town areas.
You can use public transports such as trains and busses that are available everywhere and it’s very much cost effective. If you are travelling as a large group, then you can hire a luxury bus and since the roads are well developed all over the country, you can travel in it everywhere without any problem. Also because apps like Uber and PickMe are available everywhere, you can take a taxi if you have a smart phone.
This is a web site you can use to reserve train seats in advance.
Visa and Healthcare
You can use the below link to apply for Sri Lankan visa. Keep in mind that it is very easy to get tourist visa for Sri Lanka.
It’s better if you have good travel insurance but healthcare in Sri Lanka is mostly free for everyone. But just in case, if you need immediate private medical attention, then it’s better to have insurance so you can seek private sector.