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Expat Exchange - 10 Things to Know Before Moving to Sri Lanka
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Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka


10 Things to Know Before Moving to Sri Lanka

By Betsy Burlingame

AGS Worldwide Movers
AGS Worldwide Movers

Summary: If you're planning a move to Sri Lanka, here are 10 things expats living there wish they had known before moving to Sri Lanka.

Are you considering a move to the beautiful island nation of Sri Lanka? This tropical paradise offers a unique blend of rich history, diverse culture, stunning landscapes, and warm, friendly people. However, like any country, it has its own set of quirks and customs that you should be aware of before making the move. Here are the top 10 things you need to know before moving to Sri Lanka.

1. Understanding the Sri Lankan Culture

Sri Lanka is a melting pot of cultures, with influences from Indian, Arab, and European communities. The majority of the population is Buddhist, but there are also significant Hindu, Muslim, and Christian communities. Respect for elders and hospitality are deeply ingrained in the culture. It's also common to see people dressed in traditional attire, especially during festivals and religious ceremonies. Understanding and respecting these cultural nuances will help you integrate more easily into Sri Lankan society.

2. The Importance of Learning Sinhala or Tamil

While English is widely spoken in Sri Lanka, especially in urban areas and among the younger generation, the official languages are Sinhala and Tamil. Learning a few basic phrases in either language will not only make your day-to-day life easier but will also be appreciated by the locals. It's a great way to show respect for the local culture and make new friends.

3. The Sri Lankan Cuisine

Sri Lankan cuisine is a feast for the senses. It's characterized by its bold flavors, with a heavy emphasis on spices, coconut, and seafood. The staple dish is rice and curry, which can include a variety of meat, fish, and vegetable curries. However, be warned - Sri Lankan food can be quite spicy! If you're not used to spicy food, start slow and gradually build up your tolerance.

4. The Sri Lankan Climate

Sri Lanka is a tropical country, with warm temperatures year-round. However, the country has two monsoon seasons, which can bring heavy rain and high humidity. The southwest monsoon typically occurs from May to September, while the northeast monsoon is from October to January. Be prepared for this when planning your move and pack accordingly.

5. The Cost of Living in Sri Lanka

Compared to many Western countries, the cost of living in Sri Lanka is relatively low. Housing, groceries, and transportation are all quite affordable. However, imported goods and luxury items can be expensive. It's also worth noting that while salaries are lower than in many Western countries, so is the cost of living, which balances things out.

6. The Sri Lankan Healthcare System

Sri Lanka has a decent healthcare system, with a mix of public and private hospitals. The public healthcare system is free, but can be crowded and have long wait times. Private hospitals offer a higher standard of care, but at a cost. It's recommended to have comprehensive health insurance if you're planning to move to Sri Lanka.

7. The Sri Lankan Education System

Sri Lanka has a high literacy rate and places a strong emphasis on education. The public school system is free, but many expats choose to send their children to international schools, which offer a variety of curriculums including British, American, and International Baccalaureate. However, these schools can be quite expensive.

8. The Wildlife in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a biodiversity hotspot, with a wide variety of flora and fauna. It's home to elephants, leopards, sloth bears, and a myriad of bird species. However, this also means that encounters with wildlife, including snakes and monkeys, can be common, especially in rural areas. It's important to respect the wildlife and keep a safe distance.

9. The Sri Lankan Transport System

Public transportation in Sri Lanka is cheap and widely available, with a network of buses, trains, and three-wheelers (tuk-tuks). However, it can also be crowded and chaotic. Many expats choose to hire a driver or use ride-hailing apps for convenience and comfort.

10. The Sri Lankan Visa Requirements

Before moving to Sri Lanka, it's important to understand the visa requirements. Most foreigners will need a visa to enter the country, and the type of visa you need will depend on the purpose of your stay. It's recommended to check with the Sri Lankan embassy or consulate in your home country for the most up-to-date information.

Moving to a new country is always a big step, but with the right preparation, it can be an exciting and rewarding experience. By understanding these aspects of life in Sri Lanka, you'll be well-prepared for your new adventure in this beautiful island nation.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.


AGS Worldwide Movers
AGS Worldwide Movers

AGS Worldwide Movers
AGS Worldwide Movers

Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka

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