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