Local Customs and Laws
“Ayubowan” (may you have a long life) is the traditional welcome greeting among the Sinhalese, with the hands folded upwards in front of the chest. You should respond with the same gesture. This same gesture accompanies the word “Vannakkam” among Tamils.
Cleanliness and modesty are appreciated even in informal situations. Nudity and topless bathing are prohibited and heavy fines can be imposed. Display of intimacy are not considered suitable in public and will probably draw unwanted attention. Women in rural areas do not normally shake hands with men as this form of contact is not traditionally acceptable between acquaintances.
Visiting Religious Sites
Visitors to Buddhist and Hindu temples are welcome though some Hindu temples are closed to non–Hindus. Visitors to all religious places should be dressed decently preferably in skirts or long trousers in light colours. Shorts and swim wear are not suitable. Remove shoes, socks ad hats when entering temples. In some Hindu temples, specially in the north, men will beexpected to remove their shirts
In particular, respect the Buddhist faith do not touch monks, or pose for photographs on religious statues. Monks are not permitted to touch money and therefore all donations should be put in offering boxes. Mosques may be closed to non – Muslims shortly before prayers. All women are encouraged to be dressed from head to toe while visiting mosques.
Beggars are commonly found on the streets, especially near religious sites. Money given to a child or a destitute woman can ultimately attract many more toward you. In some circumstances it is more suitable o give food to them rather than money.
TippingIt is not necessary to give a tip as room rates and meals now include a 10% service charge in almost all hotels, guest houses and restaurants. Some tour companies make recommendations as to the suggested rates for tips for drivers and tour guides. These rates may sometimes seem low by European standards but is quite inflated when compared with normal earnings.
Photography is prohibited in certain areas such as sections of sacred sites, airports, dams and military areas. Never attempt to pose for photographs with Buddhist monks or with status of Buddha or other deities and paintings.
Penalties for possessions of, use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Sri Lanka are strict, and convicted offenders may expect jail sentences and heavy fines.