The 7 Things You’re Too Embarrassed to Ask about Sri Lanka but Need to Know

elephants in sri lanka

With the launch of our Elephant Conservation volunteer project, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about Sri Lanka. I was inspired to write a post on the details of our newest volunteer destination that you might have been wondering about but were too afraid to ask.

1. So where is Sri Lanka anyway? — Sri Lanka is an island only about 40 miles off the coast of southeast India in the Indian Ocean, or more specifically, the Bay of Bengal. Scholars actually believe that Sri Lanka and India were once connected by a land bridge thousands of years ago, but it has since been washed into the ocean.


2. What are the people like in Sri Lanka? – There are about 20 million people who live on the island, a large majority of whom are of the native Sinhalese decent. About 70% of the population is Buddhist, and the island is dotted with famous Buddhist sites and temples. The second largest religious affiliation is Hinduism, followed by Islam.

3. What language do they speak? – Sri Lankan people speak Sinhala or Tamil depending on which part of the country you visit. Sinhala is a script language with beautiful curves and swirls, while Tamil is a Dravidian language that came to the island from India. English is also very commonly used, especially in the big cities and for government affairs.

4. Is Sri Lanka similar to other countries in Southeast Asia? — Much like India and Thailand, Sri Lanka has a long and ancient history– nearly 3,500 years old! Many ancient sites still stand today including the famous Sigiriya rock fortress and the Dambulla Rock Caves. Sri Lankan culture is friendly and open, but also rooted in deep religious affiliations. Sri Lanka is currently ruled by a democratic republic with a presidential and parliamentary system, similar to that of India.


5. What are the major cities in Sri Lanka? — Colombo is the largest city in Sri Lanka with around 560,000 people living in the city limits. It is followed by Dehiwala, Negombo, Kandy and Galle.

6. What is Sri Lanka food like? Will it be spicy? — Sri Lankan food is similar to Indian food, with lots of spices, curry, Roti bread and coconut milk. Sri Lankan food is not known to be super spicy, but rather flavorful from the mixture of spices. Being an island, Sri Lanka cuisine incorporates a lot of fish and tropical fruit. Noodles are a common staple as well as rice.


7. Is it safe in Sri Lanka? – Sri Lanka is definitely safe for a traveler. In fact, violent crime against foreigners is virtually non-existent. The main safety concerns you should worry about are tourist scams and pick-pocketers, which is true of every country in Asia. Being an island nation, Sri Lanka can also be affected by severe weather like hurricanes and monsoon rains.

Have any more questions about Sri Lanka or volunteering abroad?

Learn More

14 thoughts on "The 7 Things You’re Too Embarrassed to Ask about Sri Lanka but Need to Know"

  1. Eric Atakora says:

    I wish I could pay a visit. A brother of mine lives in Thailand which I think is not too far from Sri Lanka. Just finished watching a documentary on Sri Lanka especially the tourist sites and that open big space/Park Close to the sea with those higher rises. The was just enjoying every bit of Sri Lanka dishes. Very juicy as it looks.
    Eric fro Ghana 🇬🇭 West Africa.

  2. Kahuluparta Dishindandangle says:

    I very improve of this article! Well job Author! I apologise for bad engilsh, but i think is good article.

  3. Dabbeiru Goshgollao says:

    Thankyou so much for this very good article!! 🙂

  4. Tharma says:

    Actually Sinhalese are came from present day Bangladesh or Orissa .Tamils are natives of the island.Plesae read the histoire Sri Lanka thank you

  5. Mani Abraham Kurien says:

    Ayubowan Appuharmy.

    Apparently my excerpt was lifted from another blog with Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne and it was not meant to be a nidus for vociferous debate or with intention to offend anyone. As you correctly pointed out, there are many treasures to be had in Sri Lanka which are unique and peculiar to the Resplendent Isle ( Sri Lanka) as there are for God’s Own Country (Kerala) and also for many other places in the world. I would like to point out that mentioning that Sri Lanka is a country and Kerala is a state is actually moot because even though this is technically correct, Sri Lanka is actually 1/2 the size of an average Indian state in land area (only 40% bigger than Kerala) yet with 40% less people than Kerala so it is more practical to compare to Sri Lanka to Kerala or Tamil Nadu than it would be to compare Sri Lanka to the great South Asian juggernaut that is India and also given that the GDP for Sri Lanka is around 93-94 billion US dollars where as the GDP is 110-120 billion US dollars for Kerala. Sri Lanka is indeed a beautiful country and Sri Lankans have a greater civic sense for keeping their country clean and a better infrastructure than what we have in India as a whole or if you were to compare it with any individual Indian state. India certainly has a number of things to learn from our tear-drop shaped island neighbor off our southeast coast.



    1. marisa says:

      Thanks for your article on Sri Lanka. I spent a glorious month there last year. I really didn’t know much about the country at the time and did not know what to expect. I was enchanted! There isn’t enough time and space for all the wonderful things to see, do, eat and the same goes to the people there. I went all around the island and through the center. The people were so kind to a older solo traveling female. Out of a two years traveling, and many countries, Sri Lanka comes out as the top country I visited. I’ve been spreading the word urging the people I have met that are taking a year or more for traveling to make sure they go there. I find nothing wrong in your article.

      1. bubbas says:

        They did say some misinformation. Tamils are native to srilanka, and sinhalese people immigrated from bangladesh to srilanka after.

      2. Neil Hall says:

        I want to buy a house in Sri Lanka one day. As I am from London originally but live in Japan, I love big cities. I know many Singhala here in Japan and they are just the most amazing people.

  6. Mani Abraham Kurien says:

    I just wanted to make a correction…Kerala has an estimated 4694 to 5094 higher order vascular plants (angiosperms) belonging to between 1418 (not 1488) to 1537 genera and to between 188 to 221 flowering plant families compared to Sri Lanka which has an estimated 3771 to 4143 species of higher order vascular plants (angiosperms) belonging to between 1369 to 1522 genera and to between 180 to 214 flowering plant families.

  7. Katherine says:

    I live in Europe and pickpockets are largely more in Europe than in Sri-Lanka or Asia.
    Maybe you have more beggars in Sri-Lanka.
    Even just 2 weeks ago, in broad daylight, 2 guys (I was getting off the metro) tried to go for my wallet.

  8. Mani Abraham Kurien says:

    Sri Lanka is very rich in flora and fauna; however Kerala is richer in both flora and fauna compared to Sri Lanka. Kerala has an estimated 4694 to 5094 higher order vascular plants (angiosperms) belonging to between 1488 to 1537 genera and to between 188 to 221 flowering plant families compared to Sri Lanka which has an estimated 3771 to 4143 species of higher order vascular plants (angiosperms) belonging to between 1369 to 1522 genera and to between 180 to 214 flowering plant families. Compare the size of the two places geographically – 38863 sq km for Kerala compared to 65610 sq km for Sri Lanka. Total flora of Kerala 10735 species out of 44514 species for India (24.1 %) in an area comprising less than 1.2 % of India’s land area of 3287570 sq km. Total flora of Sri Lanka 8384 species (18.8 %) compared to India’s total flora; Sri Lanka is less than 2% of India’s land area. Sri Lanka is rich in amphibian diversity (140 species) but Kerala has more at 151 species. Sri Lanka has 189 species of orchids compared to Kerala which has 252 species. With regards to butterflies, Sri Lanka sits at 245 species compared to 330 species in Kerala. Both Kerala and Sri Lanka are very much identified with elephants – an estimated 5879 elephants in Sri Lanka and between 6182 to 7490 elephants in Kerala. Coconuts galore in both places with Sri Lanka having about 3.05 billion nuts and Kerala sits at an estimated 7.42939 billion nuts. Kerala also dwarfs Sri Lanka in rubber production.


    Snickel Frob

    1. Appuharmy says:

      What point are you trying to make? Sri Lanka is an island and Kerala is a state. There are many states or provinces around the word that offers many great things compared to Sri Lanka. I think the magnificent of Sri Lanka as a little island is it has a lot of influence from many part of the world (including Kerala and Tamil Nadu) with many beaches and history appealing to visitors. It’s a unique place that is appealing to some and not some.
      I can argue with you on what Sri Lanka offers that one cannot find in Kerala but its pointless. Neighboring countries Australia and Indonesia can offer many things Sri Lanka or India cannot offer.

      1. Krismi says:

        Exactly true

        1. sanjeewa says:

          so, now what are you trying to tell here? Any country is a country and sri lanka is also the same. A country provides as they have and as they wish. All indigenous must talk about the habitat otherwise who is speaking ? Does anyother do speaks just like you?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *