homeSri Lanka travel guide > Sri Lanka social profile
Sri Lanka guide
Traveler café 
Travel directory
Last updated : Nov 2009
Sri Lanka Social Profile
Sri Lanka Culture and Social Profile -
Food and Drink

Native food is spicy and hot, and it is recommended to approach curries with caution. There are a wide range of fruits, vegetables, meats and seafood. You can also find Continental, Indian, Chinese and Japanese cuisine in Colombo. A specialty is curry made with coconut milk, sliced onion, green chili, aromatic spices such as nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and saffron and aromatic leaves.

A hopper is a cross between a crumpet and a muffin with a wafer-crisp edge, served with a fresh egg soft-baked on top. Stringhoppers are steamed circles of rice flour, a little more delicate than noodles or spaghetti. Jaggery is a type of fudge made from the crystallized sap of the kitul palm. Durians are widely available and considered great delicacy.

Amongst the best in the world, tea is the country's national drink. Toddy comes from the sap of the palm tree and is a favoured local drink. When fermented, it becomes arrack, varying in degrees of strength.

Alcohol is not sold on poya holidays (which is scheduled each lunar month on the day of the full moon).


Some hotels in the capital provide clubs with music for dancing. Theatres are also available in Colombo and cinemas showing films from the USA. Ballet, concerts and theatre productions also take place.


The popular and special buys are handicrafts and curios of silver, brass, bone, ceramics, wood and terracotta. Also straw hats, cane baskets, reed and coir mats and tea. Batik fabric, lacquer ware and lace are also popular.

Visitors can buy masks which are used in dance-dramas, in processions and on festival days. The ‘18-disease’ mask shows a demon in possession of a victim encircled by 18 faces – each which cures a specific ailment. Versions produced for the tourist trade are usually of a high standard.

Gems are also popular goods to buy in the country of Sri Lanka. Fabrics include cottons, batiks, rayons, silks and fine lace.

Shopping hours: Monday to Friday 9.00 am to 5.30 pm, Saturday 9.00 am to 1.00 pm.

Special Events

For more details and exact dates, get in touch with the Sri Lanka Tourist Board (see Contacts section).

The following is a selection of special events in Sri Lanka in 2005:
January Duruthu Perahera Festival (commemorating a visit of the Buddha to Sri Lanka), Colombo; Thai Pongal (traditional Hindu festival)
February Navam Perahera Festival (colourful street procession with nearly 100 elephants and ‘low country’ dancers), Colombo; Classic Car Rally, Colombo to Wattala
February 4 Independence Commemoration Day
March Elephant Polo, Weligama
April Hindu New Year; Flower Show and Gardening Competition, Nuwara Eliya
April 13-14 Sinhala
May 16 Wesak Festival (commemorates the Birth, Enlightenment and Death of the Buddha)
June Bellanwila Festival, Rajamaha Vihare
July-August Kandy Esala Perahala
August Kataragama Festival, Tissamaharama
September Facets 2005 - International Gem and Jewellery Show, Colombo
October International Marathon, Kandy
November 14 Deepavali Festival
December Sri Pada Pilgrimage Season
Social Conventions

 Shaking hands is the normal greeting.

Tea is normally offered when visiting and it is rude to refuse.

 To be punctual is important.

 A small token, such as a souvenir from home or company, is normally welcome.

Informal, Western dress is acceptable.

Tourists should be appropriately dressed when visiting any places of worship, while shoes and hats must regularly be taken off.

Men do not need jackets and ties in the evenings apart from formal functions when lightweight suits should be worn.


Most hotels add a 10% service charge into the bills. Extra tipping is at your discretion.
Useful travel links
Happy Cow Sri Lanka guide to vegetarian restaurants in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka-Food Sri Lanka’s food recipes