Preface Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:22 AM
Often described as a "tropical paradise", the island nation of
Sri Lanka has lush and dramatic coastal vegetation, and spectacular
interior mountainous areas. Sea breezes temper the coast's tropical
climate; the interior's hills and mountains register cool nighttime
Your morale here depends on attitude and adaptability to life and
conditions. If you can take differences, occasional inconveniences
and frustrations in stride and in the spirit of adventure, a tour in
Sri Lanka can prove stimulating and rewarding. The interplay of
ethnic, religious, linguistic, economic, and ideological groups
presents an opportunity for study and analysis of the forces that
mold a developing country and its people.
The Host Country
Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:23 AM
A pear-shaped island in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka lies 18 miles
from India at its closest point. Roughly the size of West Virginia,
it has an area of 25,332 square miles, a length of 268 miles, a
width of 139 miles. Located in the tropical zone between 5 N and 9 N
and between 80 E and 82 E, its time zone is 11 hours ahead of
Eastern Standard Time (EST) and 6 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time
Sri Lanka has many areas of scenic beauty and historic interest.
The island consists of two main topographical sections: the
mountainous south-central region which rises to 8,281 feet above sea
level and the low-lying northern, eastern, and southwestern coastal
plains. Dense vegetation covers a large part of Sri Lanka,
particularly the southern and western coasts. Rubber and coconut
trees grow in the midlands and lowlands, and the highlands have vast
Sri Lanka has a varied effect on expatriates who remain on the
island a considerable time without a break. People who like hot
weather and are active in the types of activities which are readily
accessible (tennis, golf, swimming) usually enjoy themselves and
keep physically fit and mentally alert. Those accustomed to seasonal
changes may find the tropical climate monotonous and enervating. In
Colombo, temperatures rarely rise above 90 F or drop below 70 F;
relative humidity varies from 70% during the day to 90% at night.
The mountainous districts have an average day temperature of about
60 F, but at night it drops rapidly, sometimes to near freezing in
winter in places such as Nuwara Eliya (altitude of 5,905 feet).
Monsoons produce two rainy seasons. The southwest monsoon lasts
roughly from May to September. During this period, the southwestern
part of the island, including Colombo, receives much of its average
annual rainfall of 100 inches. The northeast monsoon, from about
October or November through February, provides the northern and
eastern parts of the island virtually all their average annual
rainfall of 60 inches. Monsoon showers can become torrential in the
Colombo area. December through March generally proves the driest
period. Even with the massive Mahaweli hydroelectric and irrigation
scheme, water shortages and interruptions of electricity at the end
of the dry months still occur, although less frequently than in the
past. Colombo has a climate similar to Washington, D.C.'s hot, humid
summers. Even during the cooler December and January period, most
Americans depend on electric fans or air-conditioning for comfort.
Population Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:24 AM
The population in 2003 was estimated at 19.7 million. The
population growth rate of 1.3% is low by South Asian standards..
Approximately 74% of the population belongs to the Sinhalese
ethnic group and speak Sinhala. Tamils constitute 18% of the
population and speak the Tamil language. Most Tamils (approximately
two-thirds) are "Ceylon Tamils" - citizens whose ancestors have
lived in Sri Lanka for hundreds of years. The majority of these
Tamils live in the northern and eastern provinces. The remaining
third of the Tamil population consists of "Indian Tamils," whose
ancestors came from south India in the late 19th and early 20th
centuries to work on the tea and rubber plantations. Other minority
groups include Muslims (including both Moors and Malays and totaling
roughly 7% of the population) and Eurasians, who make up less than
1%. Most Sinhalese are Buddhists; most Tamils are Hindus.
Christians, mostly Roman Catholic, constitute 7.5% of the
population, and are present in both the Sinhalese and Tamil
Public Institutions Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:25 AM
Over 450 years of foreign presence on the island (Portuguese,
then Dutch, then British) have left their mark on government,
administrative, and judicial institutions. Sri Lanka became
independent in 1948 after nearly 125 years of British rule. It
initially opted for dominion status in the Commonwealth like nearby
India and Pakistan, but in 1972 formally became a democratic
republic, with the office of governor general converted into a
ceremonial presidency, with real power vested in parliament and in a
prime minister. The 1972 constitution proclaimed Sinhala the
official language (with provision for the use of Tamil) and Buddhism
the foremost religion (with religious freedom guaranteed to all).
Following its overwhelming electoral victory in 1977, the United
National Party (UNP) government decided to revamp the constitution.
The 1978 constitution established an executive president elected for
a 6-year term, serving as commander-in-chief of the armed forces,
chief of state, and head of government. The new constitution also
abolished the upper house of the legislature, and created a system
of proportional representation as the basis for future parliamentary
elections. The president appoints a prime minister and a cabinet of
ministers responsible to a 225-seat unicameral legislature. The 1978
constitution elevated Tamil to the status of an official language.
Sri Lanka's legal system reflects the interplay of cultural
influences. Criminal law is of British origin; civil law, a Dutch
legacy; personal law (marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc.) varies
by ethnic community. Hindus, Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists have
their own family codes. The judiciary consists of a supreme court,
authorized to give advisory opinions, a court of appeals, a high
court, and a number of subordinate courts. The supreme court,
composed of a chief justice and 6-10 associate justices, has
original jurisdiction on all constitutional matters as well as
election petitions, breach of parliamentary privilege, protection of
fundamental rights, and other matters over which parliament has
Communal tension reached a high point in July 1983 when the worst
ethnic violence in the country's post-independence history occurred.
Following the emotional funeral in Colombo of 13 Sinhalese soldiers
killed in the northern Jaffna peninsula by Tamils fighting for a
separate Tamil state, Sinhalese mobs took to the streets in Colombo
and then in other areas. Hundreds of Tamils died in the ensuing
violence with tens of thousands left homeless. The riots led to a
burgeoning of Tamil militant groups in the north and east, and the
eventual emergence of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as
the major insurgent force committed to the creation of a separate
Concerns about the situation in Sri Lanka led to India's
intervention in mid-1987, under the Indo-Lanka Accord that brought
Indian troops to the island to reestablish order. Under the accords,
the government of Sri Lanka made a number of concessions to Tamil
demands including devolution of some powers to the provinces and
merger (subject to later referendum) of the Northern and Eastern
Provinces. India agreed to provide a peacekeeping force to establish
order in the north and east and cease assisting Tamil insurgents.
Indian efforts to enforce peace fell apart. The LTTE within weeks
declared its intent to continue its armed struggle for an
independent Tamil Eelam. The 50,000 strong Indian Peace Keeping
Force (IPKF) found itself engaged in a bloody police action against
the LTTE. After 2-1/2 years of conflict between the IPKF and LTTE,
India withdrew its troops after suffering well over 1,000 battle
In addition to dealing with the ethnic conflict and LTTE, the
government of Sri Lanka had to turn its attention to problems
generated by radical Sinhalese youth in the south. The
leftist-revolutionary Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), relatively
quiet after its 1971failed insurrection, began to reassert itself in
1987. Capitalizing on opposition in the Sinhalese community to the
Indo-Sri Lanka Accord, it launched a campaign using terrorist
tactics and assassinations to bring the country to a standstill
several times in 1988 and 1989. Thousands died in JVP-instigated
violence. The deaths included government officials, members of
political parties that supported the Accord, and innocent civilians.
The government fought back, killing thousands of suspected JVP
members, supporters, and their families. By late 1989, almost all
the JVP party leadership had been killed or arrested. The JVP
currently operates as a recognized political party and has declared
its willingness to work within the existing political structure. It
won ten seats in the parliamentary elections of 2000 and 16 seats in
The UNP's seventeen years in power ended in 1994, when the Sri
Lankan Freedom Party (SLFP) led a new coalition, the People's
Alliance (PA), into power. The PA narrowly captured control of
parliament and subsequently won the Presidency. The President,
Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, the daughter of Sirimavo and
S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, both former prime ministers, won re-election
in 1999. In August 2000, Mrs. Bandaranaike resigned as Prime
Minister for health reasons, and Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka was
appointed to take her place. In December 2001, the UNP assumed
power, led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe. Chandrika
Kumaratunga remains as president. Thus, two politically opposed
parties govern Sri Lanka in a delicate cohabitation situation.
In December 2001, with the election of a new UNP government, the
LTTE and government declared unilateral ceasefires. In February
2002, with Norwegian facilitation, the two sides agreed to a joint
ceasefire accord. The peace process has continued apace, affecting
Sri Lankans politically, economically, and socially in numerous and
overwhelmingly positive ways. After holding six round of talks, the
peace process bogged down in 2003, although as of mid-year,
Norwegian-led efforts to revive talks continue.
Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:28 AM
The arts flourish in Sri Lanka. Exhibitions of paintings,
sculpture and other artworks are regularly scheduled at the National
Art Gallery and other private galleries. Jewelry designers compete
internationally. In addition, the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and
the Arts Council of Sri Lanka have made great strides in
re-awakening traditional forms of drama, dance, music, and
handicrafts. The University of Kelaniya, in Colombo, administers the
Institute of Aesthetic Studies which awards undergraduate degrees in
the fine arts.
Colombo has an amateur symphony orchestra. The American Center,
British Council, German Cultural Institute and the Alliance
Francaise offer a variety of library facilities and cultural
programs. Amateur theater groups and choral groups welcome
participation by expatriates.
Several universities have good science departments and there are
special institutes for coconut, tea, rubber and rice research. The
Ceylon Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research (CISIR), and
the National Science Foundation(NSF), and the National Aquatic
Resources Agency (NARA) also do high-level research.
On the education scene, Sri Lanka has a large network of primary
and secondary schools and 21 teacher-training colleges. The Ministry
of Higher Education directs 13 universities and five post-graduate
institutes covering all of the major disciplines, including five
universities with medical schools and teaching hospitals. Vocational
and technical schools offer two-year degrees and one-year
certificate programs in a variety of skills and trades.
Privately-run management and technical programs have affiliations
with U.S. universities. About 20,000 students attend the
above-mentioned traditional universities, with an equal amount
enrolled in part-time programs through the Open University of Sri
Lanka which conducts distance education programs, many of them
leading to degrees. University admissions are highly competitive due
to a lack of space for a growing number of potential students.
Applicants still experience delays in gaining admission to
university due to a backlog of applicants created when the
universities were shut down during political disturbances in the
late 1980s. Due to bureaucratic and space constraints, almost no
opportunities exist for Mission Americans to teach or study at the
tertiary level in Sri Lanka.
Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:29 AM
With an economy of $16.6 billion, and a per capita GDP of about
$872, Sri Lanka has mostly enjoyed strong growth rates in recent
years. Sri Lanka began to shift away from a socialist orientation in
1977. Since then, the government has been deregulating, privatizing,
and opening the economy to international competition. The ethnic
disputes of 1983 precipitated a slowdown in economic diversification
and liberalization. The JVP uprising in the late 1980s caused
extensive upheavals and economic uncertainty. Following the quelling
of the JVP, increased privatization, reform, and a stress on
export-oriented growth helped revive the economy's performance,
taking GDP growth to 7% in 1993. Economic growth has been uneven in
the ensuing years as the economy faced a multitude of global and
domestic economic and political challenges. Overall, average annual
GDP growth was 5.2 percent over 1991-2000. In 2001, however, GDP
growth was negative 1.4 percent - the first contraction since
independence. The economy was hit by a series of global and domestic
economic problems, and affected by terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka
and the United States. The crises exposed the fundamental policy
failures and structural imbalances in the economy and the need for
bold reforms. The year ended in parliamentary elections in December,
which saw the election of a more pro-business government. The
government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe of the United
National Party (which also ruled the country from 1977 to 1994) has
indicated a strong commitment to economic and social sector reforms,
deregulation and private sector development. In 2002, Sri Lanka
commenced a gradual recovery. Early signs of a peace dividend were
visible throughout the economy-- Sri Lanka has been able to reduce
defense expenditures and begin to focus on getting its large, public
sector debt under control. In addition, the economy has benefited
from lower interest rates, a recovery in domestic demand, increased
tourist arrivals, a revival of the stock exchange and increased FDI.
In 2002, economic growth bounced up to 4 percent, helped by strong
service sector growth. Agriculture staged a partial recovery.
Industrial sector growth, however, faltered for the second
consecutive year due to weak demand and lower prices for Sri Lanka's
exports. The Government was able to exert fiscal control and
inflation trended down. Total foreign direct investment (FDI)
inflows during 2002 were about $246 million, and are expected to
exceed $300 million in 2003. The largest share of FDI has been in
the services sector. Good progress was made under the Stand By
Arrangement, which was resumed by the IMF. These measures, together
with peaceful conditions in the country, have helped restore
investor confidence and created conditions for the Government to
embark on extensive economic and fiscal reforms and seek donor
support for a poverty reduction and growth strategy.
Economic recovery is expected to consolidate during the rest of
2003 and GDP growth for the year is predicted at 5.5 percent,
increasing to 6.5 percent in 2004. All major sectors of the economy
are expected to expand. This growth will, however, depend on the
continuation of the peace process, policy adjustments (particularly
budgetary control) and structural reforms. Recovery in the global
economy is also important as well as effective aid utilization.
According to the Finance Minister, the fiscal deficit is forecast to
decline to 7.5 percent of GDP in 2003, with the government
instituting more controls on fiscal management. Given Sri Lanka's
high debt burden (105 percent of GDP), fiscal consolidation is
central to budget planning and macroeconomic programming. Stagnant
government revenue, however, remains a big worry in 2003.
The future of Sri Lanka's economic health is uncertain, but
largely dependent on the continuation of the peace process,
political stability, and continued policy reforms (particularly in
the area of fiscal discipline and direct management). Implementation
of major reforms in the civil service and education sectors and more
disciplined spending and improved revenue collection would help
generate stronger economic growth. If privatization continues and
export orientation strengthens, weaknesses in government will have
less impact on growth. Real growth is expected to continue in the
4%-6% range beyond 2003, but may remain below the 8-9% growth needed
to move quickly into the status of a middle-income or newly
Other challenges include diversification from Sri Lanka's key
exports, tea and garments. Garment exports will face increased
competition in a quota-free era when the Multi Fiber Arrangement
expires in 2005. The future of the tea industry is threatened by a
shortage of plantation labor and growing competition. There are new
efforts to diversify exports, explore tourism potential and improve
competitiveness. The Government has an ambitious Information and
Communications Technology strategy to connect and service every
corner of the country. This project, if implemented successfully,
could change Sri Lanka's economy and social fabric and would take it
into the information age. The government hopes to take advantage of
Sri Lanka's strategic location on shipping routes, make use of the
Indo-Lanka Free Trade Agreement, and sign free trade agreements with
other countries, to achieve regional trading hub status. If peace
returns and all these efforts bear fruit, real growth could be in
the 6-7 percent range beyond 2004, and will help realize the
Government's intention of making Sri Lanka the gateway to South
Asia. In recent years, the government has eliminated many price
controls and quotas, reduced tariff levels, eliminated most foreign
exchange controls and sold over 55 state- owned companies and 20
estate-holding companies. Colombo boasts one of the most modern
stock exchanges in the region, and the Sri Lankan Government offers
a range of tax and other incentives to attract potential investors.
Exports to the United States, Sri Lanka's most important market,
were valued at $1.8 billion in 2002, or 38% of total exports. For
many years, the United States has been Sri Lanka's biggest market
for garments, taking more than 63% of the country's total garment
exports. India is Sri Lanka's largest supplier, with exports of $835
million in 2002. Japan, traditionally Sri Lanka's largest supplier,
was its fourth largest in 2002 with exports of $355 million. Other
leading suppliers include Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and South
Korea. The United States is the tenth-largest supplier to Sri Lanka;
U.S. exports amounted to $218 million in 2002, according to Central
Bank trade data (U.S. Customs data places U.S. exports to Sri Lanka
at $166 million in 2002). Wheat accounted for 14% of U.S. exports to
Sri Lanka in 2002, down from the previous year.
The opening of the Sri Lankan economy, particularly the growth of
the tourist industry, during the 1980s fostered the development of a
range of commercial establishments catering to the needs of foreign
visitors and resident expatriates. Imported foodstuffs and other
consumables are commonly available, although more expensive than in
western nations. Incoming personnel should consult post before
arrival, on the availability of particular food and household items.
Automobiles Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:31 AM
Despite heavy traffic (bicycles, other vehicles, and
pedestrians), lack of spare parts, and indifferent servicing, an
automobile for transportation within and outside Colombo remains
essential for all employees. Sri Lankan roads are generally narrow
and inadequately maintained.
The major Japanese manufacturers (Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota, and
Honda) are represented in Sri Lanka. Ford (Australia, Germany, UK),
Hyundai, Peugeot, Volkswagen and British Leyland have local
dealerships. While parts and servicing are more readily available
for the Japanese vehicles, in general, very few parts are stocked by
dealers, so delays are common. Heavy-duty tires, batteries,
suspensions, tropical radiators, air conditioning and extra
undercoating against rust are worthwhile investments. Catalytic
converters on newer models should be removed, since unleaded
gasoline is not sold. The highest-rated gasoline is about 93 octane.
Most trucks and four-wheel-drive vehicles burn diesel. Diesel is
significantly cheaper than gasoline.
The Government of Sri Lanka requires that all vehicles be no more
than three years old for importation and grants few exceptions to
this requirement. Traffic moves on the left. In the past, exceptions
had been given to diplomats to import left-hand drive (LHD)
vehicles. However, this is no longer the case, so employees are not
authorized to ship LHD vehicles to post. LHD vehicles may thus be
shipped to the US for temporary storage. Delivery of cars ordered
from Japan or Europe can take up to 3 months. Automobiles can be
ordered and received from Singapore more quickly but at higher
prices. Duty-free prices for new right-hand-drive Japanese vehicles
purchased locally start at $12,000 for sedans and at $24,000 for
four-wheel-drive vehicles. There is a reasonable secondary market
for used cars at lower prices among the diplomatic community;
however, availability fluctuates with transfers, with summer months
being the best time to find a car. Used right-hand-drive cars may
also be purchased from Japan through a local dealer at reasonable
prices. The Motor Vehicles Department will not register cars with
dark tinted glass in front driver and in front passenger side
windows; employees therefore are not authorized to ship such a
vehicle to post.
See Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property and Customs, Duties,
and Passage for more information on POVs.
Current regulations allow Foreign Affairs agencies to fund
shipment to the U.S. of foreign-made/purchased autos. Such vehicles
must however meet U.S. safety and environmental standards before
The Human Resources Office will assist employees in obtaining a
local driver's license, and the General Services Office will assist
in effecting vehicle registration. Third-party liability insurance
is compulsory; Sri Lanka does not recognize foreign car insurance.
Comprehensive coverage starts at about $100 a year for compact cars.
The Mission provides temporary transportation to and from work
for newly-arrived personnel whose vehicles have not yet arrived,
currently at a cost of $.74 per trip.
Local Transportation Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:32 AM
Trishaws (three-wheeled "taxis") are inexpensive and easily
flagged-down, but unsafe. Cost should be negotiated before starting
the trip. A trip from most mission residences to the embassy will
cost just over a dollar. A similar trip in a radio-dispatched, air-
conditioned, and metered taxi will cost approximately $2. The radio
taxis are available only in Colombo and are reliable and clean.
Regional Transportation Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:32 AM
Vehicles with drivers may be rented for excursion trips from
commissioned companies. Costs are determined by number of days and
distance. Foreigners rarely use the overcrowded and poorly
maintained government and private bus system. The railway system, a
government enterprise, provides reasonably satisfactory travel to a
few points of interest on the island. Some rail routes offer first
class cars with air-conditioning (or fans, if the a/c isn't
functioning). However, trains remain crowded and unsanitary and are
rarely used by Mission staff. A round-trip, first-class ticket to
Kandy might cost approximately $5 - $6 and take about 3 hours on the
express train. Short international flights make Bangkok and the
Maldives long weekend possibilities for temporary escapes from this
island. Round trip economy seating costs about $294 for Bangkok, and
$156 to the Maldives at this writing.
Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:33 AM
Telephones are installed in all U.S. Government-owned and leased
houses with International Direct Dial (IDD) service. Long-distance
service and IDD service are available to all points in Sri Lanka,
Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, India, Australia, Japan, Europe, and
the U.S. provided an advance deposit has been made. The Embassy has
a direct-dial telephone available to American personnel for official
calls and for personal calls on a reimbursable basis. Economy rates
to the U.S. on a IDD call is currently Rs. 20/- (about U.S. $0.22)
per minute. Callback services are available, some are offered at a
cost as low as $.039 per minute. 1-800 and 1-880 numbers in the U.S.
can be accessed using callback services. Though not as efficient,
Net2Phone offers an inexpensive option and alternative to normal
telephone service, at less than $0.10 per minute.
Internet Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:33 AM
Internet services are available in Colombo. It is a relatively
new and fast growing industry here. Full unlimited service currently
costs about $25 per month, plus local telephone toll charges.
Various other service options, such as e-mail only and maximum per
hour usage, are also available and range upwards from $10 per month.
Some of the major hotels provide access for a fee in an "internet
cafe" setting, and there is an independent "Cyber Cafe" providing
access as well.
Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:34 AM
Airmail service to and from the U.S. via international mail
averages 8-10 days. The cost for sending an international airmail
letter to the U.S. is currently Rs. 22/- (U.S. $.24) per 10 grams
and Rs. 13/- for each additional 10 grams. Postcards are Rs. 16/-
for airmail and aerogrammes are Rs. 12/-. The Embassy's
international mailing address is as follows: American Embassy P.O.
Box 106 Colombo 3, Sri Lanka
The State Department pouch facilities are available to all
American U.S. Government Direct Hire employees and their immediate
families serving in Sri Lanka. Internationally recruited USPSC
personnel (who meet guidelines set forth in SR 031.1) are authorized
pouch facilities. TDY U.S. citizen contractors are allowed personal
letter mail (maximum 1 pound). Merchandise parcels, magazines, or
newspapers are not authorized for contractors. Mail is sent to and
received from the U.S., in principle, two times a week through the
State Department pouch. The approximate transit time for letters
from Colombo to Washington, DC, and vice versa is a minimum of 8-15
days. Some pouch mail takes 3 weeks or more. Postal delivery from
Washington DC to West coast destinations averages an extra 5-7 days.
Letters sent through the pouch cost normal domestic postage per
The correct mailing address for letter mail is:
Official Mail: Name of Addressee AmEmbassy Colombo Department of
State 6100 Colombo Place Washington, DC 20521-6100
Personal Mail: 6100 Colombo Place Dulles, VA 20189-6100
American employees of U.S. Government agencies and their
immediate families in Sri Lanka are authorized to receive magazines,
newspapers, parcels, etc. through the State Department's surface
pouch airlift facilities. Magazines, catalogs, etc., must carry the
20521-6100 ZIP Code and a person's name instead of "occupant"
printed on the label. Pouches are airlifted to and from Colombo
twice a week. Parcels mailed in the U.S. take about 4-8 weeks to
arrive in Colombo. The maximum weight for an incoming package is 45
pounds, and must not exceed 17x18x30 in dimension Outgoing packages
from Colombo have a limit of 2 pounds. Unauthorized items such as
liquids, perishables, firearms, explosives, or fragile items cannot
There are several courier mail services, such as UPS, DHL and
Federal Express, which are efficient and frequently used by U.S.
Radio and TV Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:35 AM
Television transmission was initiated in 1978 and now, in 2003,
has ten stations. Color is standard. The programming on 4 channels
generally consists of locally produced shows in English, Sinhala,
and Tamil and reruns of U.S. and U.K. serials in English. The BBC
World Service, CNN, certain American sitcoms and soap operas are
broadcast by other stations. Regular local news programs are
broadcast in all three languages at different times. State owned TV
Station (SLRC) operates 24 hours. Cricket matches tend to override
many planned programs. BBC has a 24-hour day broadcasts via a cable
service; CNN is also available via satellite reception. Reasonably
good cable service with HBO, Cinemax (these differ from the US's HBO
and Cinemax), Action, National Geographic and BBC is available at
the current monthly rate of about US$10.00.
As Sri Lanka uses the PAL television system, U.S. sets cannot
operate here except for viewing NTSC videotapes. Multi-system
television sets may be purchased locally. Prices compare favorably
with those in the U.S.
Most U.S. personnel have video-tape equipment at post-mainly VHS.
Some personnel have the U.S. system and receive tapes from the U.S.
Some belong to local tape clubs and rent tapes (VHS/PAL system only)
at reasonable prices, although available supply remains dismal. The
Employees' Recreation Association (AERAC) has a tape club with a
good collection of NTSC (U.S. System) VHS tapes. AERAC is also
looking into buying DVDs as more U.S. personnel have DVD players.
DVD players are available in the local market at reasonable prices.
Radio broadcasting operates 7 days weekly, most of them from 6:00
a.m. until midnight. Programming covers local and international
subjects and includes a great deal of popular western music,
especially on the YES FM (89.5 FM) and TNL Radio (101.7 FM). TNL
Lite at 89.2 offers adult contemporary programming 24 hours; from 12
midnight to 6.00am VOA music and news clippings go on air on TNL
Lite. Some BBC programs and news features are relayed on local
channels. Broadcasting is in English, Sinhala, and Tamil on short
and medium wave and FM frequencies. Many interesting and informative
programs are presented. Reasonably good worldwide radio reception is
available on a short wave receiver. The BBC and VOA are popular
short wave programs.
Those who enjoy listening to music should bring stereo equipment
as well as compact discs, prerecorded and blank tapes. Local
electric power is 240v, 50Hz. A voltage regulator will enhance the
life of this equipment. A variety of stereo equipment, including
boom boxes are available locally, as are limited selections of
cassette tapes and CD's. There are some music compact disc rental
stores that offer memberships and have a reasonably good collection
to choose from.
Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated:
9/29/2003 3:35 AM
Library facilities in Colombo have improved in the past few
years. The American Center has a reference-only collection designed
to meet the needs of Mission officers and official program contacts.
The British Council's large 58,000-volume library includes a good
selection of fiction. It subscribes to about 125 periodicals and
newspapers. The Colombo Swimming Club operates a small library
offering book selections to both children and adult members. The
Community Liaison Office (CLO) also has a lending- library of
donated popular and resource books.
Expatriates residing in Colombo can obtain membership at the
Colombo Public Library by paying a refundable, one-time deposit.
This membership allows borrowing privileges, reading room, and
reference services. Without a membership, the periodical section of
the reading room and reference services may be used for an annual
admission fee of Rs.10/-. The library does not have a good selection
of English language books and materials, but does maintain
subscriptions to some English language periodicals including the
American magazines Time, Newsweek, Fortune, Reader's Digest and
Several local bookstores carry a wide variety of literature,
popular and resource books, and American and British popular
magazines. Some current paperbacks are available at the large hotel
book shops, but are expensive. Join a book club in the U.S. for a
continuing supply of books.
Local newspapers can be delivered to your residence daily or
picked up from newsstands. There are 3 daily and 4 Sunday newspapers
Colombo newsstands sell current international editions of Time
and Newsweek. The International Herald Tribune, USA Today
International, and the Asian Wall Street Journal are also available
commercially. Many personnel at post subscribe to favorite magazines
and use Department mail facilities (ZIP Code 20521-6100) even though
the transit time is 4-6 weeks. The Embassy and USAID subscribe to
the International Herald Tribune and circulate copies among the
The CLO produces the Mission newsletter, the "Rice N' Courier,"
which informs the American official community of activities, events,
newcomer arrivals, automobiles for sale and domestics for hire. "The
Linc," a grassroots magazine produced for the international
community, has tips, reviews, and stories to help acclimate one to
life in Sri Lanka.
Mildew, silverfish, and termites are a serious threat to books
unless they are kept in air- conditioned rooms. Do not bring
Health and Medicine
Medical Facilities Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:36 AM
The Embassy's Health Unit, staffed by a full time Foreign Service
Health Practitioner, a part time local physician, and a part time
nurse, is on the first floor of the Chancery. It is open to official
personnel during regular working hours. The Health Unit provides
consultations and treatment for minor illness or injury, including
suturing of minor lacerations, immunizations, routine maintenance
care such as pap smears, assistance with medical referrals and
evacuations, and supervision of the Embassy's preventive health
The commissary usually carries a good supply of insecticides and
repellents, and over- the-counter-drugs. Local hospitals are
adequate only for emergency and intensive care services which cannot
be delayed, and for non-invasive diagnostic studies e.g. x-rays and
laboratory tests. Most physicians speak English; however, nurses and
other support staff may not.
The Embassy Health Unit monitors all patients hospitalized
locally and works closely with attending physicians. While certain
health care problems can be treated at the health unit or by local
specialists, official personnel and dependents with medical problems
requiring more sophisticated treatment are usually evacuated to the
regional medical center in Singapore. Local health facilities are
generally crowded, poorly maintained and unsanitary.
Most Sri Lankan specialists are board-certified in the U.K. The
regional medical officer is based in New Delhi and visits quarterly.
The regional psychiatrist visits semiannually or annually. Both the
RMO and RMO/P are available for telephonic and telegraphic
consultation and will visit post on an emergency basis if required.
Dental care is not sophisticated. Orthodontia is generally not
available. Employees and family members must have as much dental
work as possible done before departure from the U.S. Employees and
family members should plan on seeing their personal dentist on home
leave, R&R, or vacation trips to the U.S.
Community Health Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:36 AM
Gastro-enteritis can be a problem if one eats out often.
Hepatitis A is also prevalent. This is mainly due to contaminated
food, water or ice. It is advisable to filter and boil or distill
all drinking water as city water is not potable. Cook all meat
thoroughly before eating, and wash and disinfect fruits and
vegetables in a bleach solution.
Sri Lanka has many kinds of flying and crawling insects.
Mosquitoes which carry malaria, Japanese B encephalitis, dengue
fever, and filariasis are present. Though malaria is not present
within Colombo, it is a problem in most parts of Sri Lanka, and
chloroquine resistant malaria is prevalent in some districts. Dengue
fever remains a serious threat to Mission staff year round in
Preventive Measures Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:36 AM
When planning to travel to areas outside of Colombo, check with
the Health Unit to ascertain whether malaria prophylactic medicine
is needed. Allowing water to sit in gardens and in flower pots
should be avoided since these are prime breeding areas for
mosquitoes carrying dengue fever. Keep immunizations up to date.
Immunizations currently recommended besides the usual childhood
immunizations include Hepatitis A and B and Japanese B Encephalitis.
Pharmaceutical supplies from American companies are not always
available, so bring an adequate amount of first-aid supplies and
medicine including sunscreens, birth control pills and commonly used
cold remedies. Regularly used prescription medicines for chronic
illnesses may be received via diplomatic pouch by prior arrangement
with U. S. pharmacists.
Snakes, both poisonous and nonpoisonous, are found in Sri Lanka.
Yards and lawns around houses must be maintained by keeping grass
cut and leaves cleared, which helps to deter nesting of snakes.
Parents with small children must exercise special caution as to safe
play areas outdoors although no Americans have been bitten. The
Health Unit maintains a stock of snakebite serum, which if needed,
is best administered in a hospital setting.
Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 9/29/2003
A bilateral work agreement was negotiated with the U.S. and Sri
Lankan Governments. Spouses of direct-hire American employees are
allowed to hold employment on the local economy. However,
opportunities are few. While some teaching and tutoring positions
may be available, salaries are very low by US standards. The Embassy
is committed to providing as many full-time, part-time and
single-project opportunities for spouses as is possible within
existing resources and regulations.
During the past years, the Mission has employed a number of
spouses as full time Community Liaison Office (CLO) Coordinator,
secretaries, retail price surveyors, security escorts, information
management assistants, bus monitors, etc. It is recommended that
spouses keep their resumes current and to bring all relevant work
history documents to post with them. Certain talents which lend
themselves to free- lance employment are likely to be quite
beneficial. Writing and editing are other possibilities. All
freelance employment demands an extra degree of effort on the part
of the individual.
Teenage summer employment is available through the Department of
State's Summer Hire program, which permits the post to employ a few
dependents from all agencies for a short time each summer.
For more information on the status of current opportunities for
both spouse and teenage employment, please contact the Human
Resources Officer or the CLO.
American Embassy - Colombo
Post City Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:37 AM
Colombo is on a flat coastal plain on the southwestern side of
the island. The city grew up around the harbor, which has been
expanded by a breakwater. The main business section is near the port
in what is known as the Fort (the old fort walls no longer remain).
The buildings in this area are typically British and Dutch colonial,
and the streets are generally congested. Parking is a problem. The
Pettah, or traditional bazaar area adjoining the main business area,
consists of a series of narrow, crowded streets and small shops and
Main residential areas are south and southeast of the business
area and are generally pleasant. Traffic congestion, unplanned
construction, along with closed streets due to added security
measures, make it impossible to walk or otherwise enjoy the
The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:38 AM
The U.S. Mission is comprised of officers and employees of the
Department of State, USAID, Department of Defense, and IBB (formerly
VOA). The Library of Congress maintains an office staffed by two
contract Sri Lankan employees. The Embassy's Administrative Section
provides general services functions to all Mission agencies. The
Community Liaison Office (CLO) serves all agencies.
The American Ambassador is the highest-ranking U.S. official,
followed by the DCM. IBB has an Operations office headed by a
Station Manager and a Projects Office headed by a Construction
Engineer/Manager. The USAID Mission is headed by a Director.
The Chancery is at 210 Galle Road, Colombo 3, near the junction
of Galle Road and Kollupitiya, telephone (94)(1) 2448007, fax
(94)(1) 2437345. All State Department offices(except for Public
Diplomacy), the Defense Attache, CLO, the Library of Congress, and
the AERAC Commissary are housed in the Chancery. The State
Department has 23 direct-hire American employees in the Embassy and
there are currently eight FMA and one part-time PSC positions
occupied by spouses. The Defense Attache Office is staffed by a Lt.
Col. and one Department of Defense staff personnel.
The USAID offices, telephone (94)(1) 2472855, fax (94)(1) 2472850
/ 2472860, are located at 44 Galle Road, Colombo 3, about 5 minutes
from the Chancery. The USAID staff includes two direct hire
Americans, two US Personal Services Contractors, two
locally-recruited Amcit PSCs and 22 Sri Lankan employees. USAID/Sri
Lanka administers the U.S. Foreign Assistance Program in Sri Lanka,
established in 1950, which has, to date, provided assistance
totaling more than $ 1.69 billion in development, food, housing
guaranty, and disaster relief assistance. The current strategy of
the USAID program is to support Sri Lanka in becoming a peaceful,
reconciled society, and in achieving broad based sustainable growth.
USAID is doing this by helping to strengthen democracy and human
rights, and by supporting Sri Lanka's economic growth goals by
helping to increase Sri Lankan competitiveness in the global
marketplace. USAID is also providing humanitarian assistance to
address needs of those affected by the ongoing conflict and a small
grants program from USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives to
foster a peace dividend at the community level. The Mission also
participates in South Asia Regional Energy, Environment and Gender
Equity programs. Currently averaging about $16 million annually, the
U.S. Foreign Assistance Program consists of USAID grant assistance
and PL 480 Title I assistance through concessional loans to purchase
U.S. wheat; wheat donated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture
under the Foreign Assistance Act 416(b) program.
The American Center (including the Information Resource Center,
telephone  (1) 2332725, fax  (1) 2437662) is also housed at
44 Galle Road, Colombo 3, telephone  (1) 2421624, fax  (1)
2449070, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, and is about 3 blocks from
the Chancery. The United States-Sri Lanka Fulbright Commission is
located at 7 Flower Terrace, Colombo 7. Telephone  (1) 2564176,
fax  (1) 2564153; e-mail: email@example.com.
The Mission workweek is Monday - Thursday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.;
Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 12 p.m. Diplomatic officers of Embassy Colombo
are accredited to the Republic of the Maldives.
Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:39 AM
While most arriving personnel move immediately or within a few
days into their permanent quarters, some may be temporarily assigned
to transient quarters. For those who must stay in a hotel, the
Hilton, Hilton JAIC, and the Colombo Plaza are the ones most
Permanent Housing Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:39 AM
All housing in Colombo is U.S. Government-owned or leased and
government- furnished. New arrivals usually are provided suitable
permanent quarters well within the period of temporary living
allowances. Housing is assigned by the inter-agency housing board on
the basis of rank and family size. IBB employees are generally
assigned to housing in Negombo, a one hour drive north of Colombo,
due to the location of the transmitter site which is one hour north
of Negombo. However, if a family has children at the Overseas School
of Colombo, they may be assigned housing in Colombo (for reasons of
commuting) funded by IBB.
The Embassy currently owns twelve residences and maintains
short-term leases for the balance of Mission housing requirements.
The Embassy leases three apartments. All residences are single
family homes, each different in style and age. Most residences have
3 to 4 bedrooms and all are secured with alarms. Houses are located
in mixed residential areas within a few miles of the Chancery. Older
homes often require constant maintenance, but can be quite charming
with high ceilings and teak or parquet flooring. Leaky roofs are
common in the monsoon season. Gardens and lawns, when they do exist,
tend to be small and cramped. Almost all houses have servants
quarters. Many residential areas have some commercial properties
located near by, making access and parking on the street difficult
The Office of Foreign Buildings maintains briefing books on the
following senior officer residences:
The Ambassador's residence-Jefferson House-is in one of the
better sections of Colombo, about 2-1/2 miles from the Chancery, on
1-1/2 acres of land with a garden of tropical trees, spices,
flowers, shrubs, and lawns. This is a charming, old, two-story house
with a reception hall, dining room, two drawing/reception rooms, a
small drawing room which can also be a guest bedroom, guest
bathrooms, a large verandah downstairs, and a terrace. The kitchen,
pantry/storeroom, servants' quarters, laundry, and double garage are
located along a one-story wing extending to the rear. The dining
room table seats 24. The upstairs has four bedrooms, three baths, a
sitting room, and a storeroom. The residence is fully furnished with
basic furniture including lamps and area carpets. Bring personal
pieces and pictures. The supply of glassware, china, silverware,
kitchen utensils, table linens, and bed linen is adequate for
representational use. The residence is equipped with a complete
modern kitchen, a washer and dryer, and an emergency generator.
The DCM's home is located about 5 blocks from the Ambassador's
residence. Its lot is slightly over ¬ acre and includes an
attractive garden. The ground floor consists of a large entrance
hall, a moderate-sized drawing room, an enclosed verandah/sitting
room, a guest bedroom with bath and powder room, a large dining
room, pantry, storeroom, kitchen, two-car garage, and servants'
quarters. Upstairs are three bedrooms, three baths, a study, and
spacious hallway opening on a second enclosed verandah overlooking
the front lawn and the street. Bring decorations, pictures, and
small electrical appliances. The house has gas and electric stoves,
two refrigerators, two freezers, a washer and dryer, and an
The two-story house currently assigned to the PAO is near the
Chancery . The grounds include a small garden. The ground floor
consists of a large drawing room, small den, large dining room,
bath, kitchen, garage, laundry room, and servants' quarters.
Upstairs are five bedrooms, a den, three baths, storeroom, and
balconies on three sides. Closet space is ample. Bring decorations.
Furnishings Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:40 AM
All basic furniture and major appliances are provided in
government owned and leased quarters; i.e., water filters, stove,
refrigerator, microwave, freezer, washer, dryer, air- conditioners,
two voltage regulators, vacuum cleaners, and floor polishers. All
homes are authorized air-conditioners for family living and dining
areas, occupied bedrooms, and food storage room. Kitchens and
servants quarters are not air-conditioned. The Embassy provides
transformers for government-owned appliances and two transformers
for employee-owned small appliances. Draperies are provided as
required. Material may be purchased locally. Bring all small
appliances, preferably 220v (radios, phonographs, iron, mixers,
toasters, etc.) Also, bring an ironing board, pillows, and sheets as
the locally made sheets do not fit American-size beds. You may wish
to bring a few pieces of furniture such as chairs, bookcases, and
end tables to fill the house. Hot water is via electric water
heaters in kitchen, bath, and laundry. Telephones are available in
all residences at inexpensive monthly rates.
Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:40 AM
Electricity is 220v, 50-cycle, AC, and is fairly reliable
although extended power outages occur. Each house is outfitted with
a standby generator. Voltage fluctuates considerably and expensive
equipment should be protected with voltage stabilizers. Surge
protectors and UPS' are essential for computers and can be bought
locally. Phonographs and tape recorders must be adjusted to 50
cycles. Most 110V appliances without electrical motors can be used
with transformers, however, it is important to note that plugs in
use are British standard round three-pin. Adapters are available
Food Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:41 AM
A variety of seasonal, fresh fruits and vegetables are available
in the local markets at reasonable prices. Some vegetables are
similar to those in temperate climates including potatoes, tomatoes,
leaf lettuce, leeks, green beans, carrots, eggplant, cucumbers,
spinach, parsley, beets, cabbage, celery, onions, okra, bean
sprouts, squash, pumpkin, green peppers, shitake mushrooms,
broccoli, cauliflower, and zucchini. Local tropical fruits such as
bananas, pineapple, rambutan, papaya, and mango are found in
abundance in season. Apples, oranges, kiwis, and grapes are imported
and sold at high prices. Soak all raw or unpeeled fruits and
vegetables in a bleach/water solution to reduce the danger of
amoebic or other parasitic infestation.
Crab, shrimp, and fresh fish are sold in the local markets.
Lobster is available, but expensive. Local chicken, beef, and pork
are generally available and reasonably priced. The cuts of beef
differ greatly from those in the U.S. Considerably more expensive
imported chicken, beef and lamb of good quality are also available
in the local supermarkets.
The recreation association commissary (AERAC) is currently open
Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Fridays from 8
a.m. to 2:00 p.m. A refundable deposit of $200 per family or $100
per single is charged to join AERAC.
AERAC does not order a frozen container from the US anymore. Many
people use local meats (beef, lamb, pork, goat) and poultry. The
quality is fairly good; however, the beef does not taste the same as
USDA grade. Turkeys are normally ordered in advance of the holiday
season from a local supermarket which gets "Norbest" Turkeys from
AERAC usually has butter, margarine, cheeses (Swiss, American,
cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan, ricotta), instant/dry milk and long
life milk (skim or whole), and cream cheese. The local supermarkets
carry imported butter, margarine, fruit yogurt, sour cream, local
and a limited supply of imported cheeses, dry milk, canned milk,
long-life milk, canned and bottled cream, fresh yogurt, buffalo
curd, local and imported ice cream, and fresh eggs.
AERAC carries a variety of cookies and snack crackers available.
Nuts, potato chips, corn chips and similar items, puddings, ice
cream toppings, granola bars, candy, gum, and a limited selection of
Mexican foods, are also available in AERAC and locally, though you
won't usually find walnuts or pecans locally. The local market has
fresh white and wheat breads, a local variety of hamburger and hot
dog buns, various cakes and rolls. The major hotels and a few
independent restaurants have sophisticated bakeries.
Tuna fish, salmon, ham, sandwich spreads, and a good selection of
fruits, vegetables and soups are available in AERAC. Canned goods in
local stores are generally imported from the U.K. or Australia and
are very expensive and of limited variety.
Mustard, ketchup, relishes, barbecue sauce, Worcestershire sauce,
soy sauce, maple syrup, honey, molasses, olives, pickles, red and
white vinegar, mayonnaise and a good variety of salad dressings,
peanut butter, jams and jellies are available in AERAC. All but
molasses and maple syrup are also available locally.
Coca Cola, Diet coke, diet Pepsi, caffeine-free Coke; 7-Up,
Pepsi, ginger ale, root beer, orange soda, tonic, soda water, frozen
juices, canned fruit drinks, cocoa, coffee, teas, beer, wine and
liquor are available in AERAC. Coffee, tea, and locally produced
sodas, including Coca Cola and Pepsi, are available locally, and are
AERAC stocks all-purpose white flour, whole wheat flour,
cornmeal, sugar, rice, pastas, dried beans, cereals, vegetable and
olive oils, shortening, baking soda and powder, cornstarch, and
yeast. Also, cake, muffin and cookie mixes, frosting, a variety of
chips, baking chocolate, Bisquick, pie crust mix, pie shells, and
fruit pie fillings. The local market has a reliable supply of rice,
pasta, sugar, flour and yeast.
AERAC carries most staple spices available in the U.S. market.
Most mission members use spices from the local spice market that is
less expensive. Ginger, dill, garlic, cardamom, cassia, cinnamon,
cloves, mace, nutmeg, pepper, turmeric, coriander, cumin, fenugreek,
fennel, chili powder, garam masala, mustard, curry spices, and fresh
basil are all available and inexpensive. The local cinnamon and
nutmeg are particularly good.
U.S. brands of baby formula are not usually available through the
local market but can be ordered through AERAC. European and British
brands can be found which are less expensive than U.S. brands, and
are good. The same is true for dry, ready-to-mix cereals: acceptable
British and European brands can be found locally; U.S. brands can be
ordered through AERAC. If you are nursing and think a breast pump
may be needed, you should bring it with you.
Juices and prepared baby foods can be found in local
supermarkets, but are very expensive and sometimes outdated. Many
people make their own baby food from locally available fruits and
AERAC usually has a supply of pet food available, as well as dog
shampoo and flea collars. Most favorite brands of food may be
ordered through AERAC. Local supermarkets sporadically carry dog and
cat food supplies, worming pills, dog shampoo, collars and leashes.
The variety seems to increase with time.
Personnel assigned to Colombo are currently authorized to ship
consumables (6 FAM 162.5). Newly assigned personnel wishing to place
an order in the U.S. before arrival at post should make arrangements
through the Transportation Office, OPR/STP, in the Department. The
Community Liaison Office coordinators will send each employee a list
of consumer items available in Colombo, along with the CLO welcome
letter, to review before making such a shipment. U.S. Government
policy precludes shipment of alcoholic beverages and tobacco
products as consumables. Mission personnel may place group orders by
case lots through AERAC for dry and canned goods from the U.S. A 2-4
month wait between placement of orders and delivery in Colombo is
typical. Members may charge the cost of shipping dry and canned
goods orders to their consumable allowances. Consult General
Services on time restrictions.
Clothing Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:42 AM
Clothing worn in Washington, D.C., during the hottest summer
weeks is suitable year- round in Colombo. Due to the growth of malls
and shops in Sri Lanka, a variety of clothing in styles and fabrics
can be purchased. However, items such as cotton socks and nylon hose
are generally impossible to find, so personnel are encouraged buy a
suitable supply before coming to post. You can supplement clothing
needs by ordering from U.S. catalogs or by hiring a tailor. When
traveling upcountry (altitude 4,000-6,500 feet) in Sri Lanka, warmer
clothing is necessary. Generally, this means long-sleeved blouses, a
sweater or two, heavyweight slacks, flannel shirts, a raincoat or
windbreaker, and good walking shoes. Hosiery or tights are suggested
for this cool climate. Warm sleepwear is also recommended. A couple
of shops in Sri Lanka offer warm clothing which can be bought at
very reasonable prices, so stocking up is not necessary.
Bring several pairs of well-made shoes for daytime wear and
casual events, preferably leather or man-made material sandals,
which are most comfortable in the heat. For those who play sports,
tennis, running, and golf shoes should be brought to post. Evening
sandals with medium to low heels are also advisable. Closed-toe high
heels tend to be uncomfortable in Sri Lanka's climate. Satin or
cloth-covered shoes do not fare well and tend to deteriorate during
the first rainy season. Corrective footwear or specially-made shoes
are not available in Colombo, but some personnel have had success in
having ordinary shoes copied at a very reasonable price. When buying
shoes to wear in Sri Lanka, remember that standing for several hours
in the tropical climate makes feet swell. Therefore, low heels and
open toes are generally the most comfortable. In terms of numbers, a
minimum of two to four pairs of casual shoes, four pairs of
comfortable sandals to wear with day or evening dresses and one or
two pairs of formal shoes are recommended. A pair or two of tennis
shoes and golf shoes, for those who play those sports, are also
recommended. Shoes can be purchased in Sri Lanka, but the quality is
not that good; and where quality is good, prices are high. It is
also important to note that some shoe sizes are not available. Baby
shoes are almost non-existent.
A wide variety of sewing fabrics is available in Colombo (cotton,
silk, French chiffon, and polyester), but they may not please all
tastes. Those who are serious sewers should bring zippers, thread
and buttons. They can be purchased locally, but are usually not up
to U.S. standards. Trim, elastic, lace, snaps, etc., can all be
purchased locally and are of reasonable quality, especially lace.
Some local dressmakers work in the customer's home and use his/her
sewing machine while others work in their own homes or shops;
quality tends to vary greatly so select a dressmaker with care.
Dry-cleaning facilities are available in the large Colombo hotels
and many women have had silk and rayon dresses cleaned at local
hotels with good results although the quality is not always
consistent. Bring wash-and-wear items if possible to simplify
cleaning, especially for children's clothing. Extreme dampness
during the monsoon season can cause clothes and shoes to mildew
unless kept in air-conditioned rooms. Embroidery handwork on
clothing, lingerie and table linen is done in several convents.
Bring a supply of materials and embroidery thread if interested in
such work. Clothing may not last as long in Sri Lanka as in the U.S.
due to the tropical climate and frequent laundering which shortens
the useful life of most clothing. Underwear, particularly with
elastic, tends to wear out quickly. Bring a supply of cotton
underwear as good quality underwear is hard to find locally.
Men Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:42 AM
Dark business suits are worn for presentation of credentials and
for similar official occasions (using British terminology, this is
referred to as a lounge suit). Formal attire is used infrequently,
perhaps once or twice a year, but it is essential for such functions
as the Marine Ball and the AMCHAM Ball.
Sports shirts and dress slacks are appropriate for many social
occasions. Bring one or two dark suits for evening wear. Hats are
never worn. Office attire is more casual than that in Washington,
D.C. A dress shirt, usually with a tie is most frequently worn. A
jacket or suit is expected for calls on high-ranking local
Women Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:43 AM
Living, working and entertaining on a tropical island such as Sri
Lanka, most women find that cool summer-weight dresses and skirts
and blouses of cotton or cotton- blends are their most useful
wardrobe standbys. Light weight summer slacks are also worn by many
women for shopping and sightseeing. Culottes or Bermuda shorts are
recommended for golf and are acceptable daytime wear, provided they
are of modest length. Sun dresses and sleeveless dresses are also
comfortable and acceptable for both day and evening. Women are not
expected to, and don't usually, wear hosiery at any functions,
social or business, although some do occasionally wear hose to the
office or for an indoor party. Women's office attire in Sri Lanka is
similar to that of a southern U.S. city, i.e. tailored dresses or
skirts and blouses. A matching two-piece summer suit with a blouse,
while certainly acceptable, is seldom seen in Sri Lanka due to the
heat and humidity. Women's daytime wear for meetings, morning
coffees, or luncheons is basically the same as office wear.
For those who like to play tennis or plan to take it up the sport
in Sri Lanka, U.S. tennis wear is appropriate on the tennis courts.
Swimming is also popular. Chlorine and saltwater are very hard on
swimming suits, so bring two or three suits. Items such as swimsuits
and tennis clothes are not always available locally and are best
bought in the U.S. Sarongs, used as beach cover-ups, are widely
Home entertaining is frequent in Sri Lanka and there are
appreciably more occasions to "dress-up" than is the norm for most
women living in Washington, D.C. However, dress for evening
entertaining among expatriates is seldom formal, and most women wear
either lightweight summer or cocktail dresses. To outdoor evening
entertainment many women find cotton or cotton-blends most
comfortable for evening wear. For dinners in air-conditioned houses,
silk, rayon or polyester dresses are also comfortable. Sri Lankan
women wear silk sarees for evening social occasions, so silk and
rayon dresses are often more appropriate than cotton for evening
wear where Sri Lankans are present. Most Sri Lankan homes will not
have air-conditioned dining or drawing rooms. There are perhaps two
or three occasions a year where formal wear or very dressy attire
may be called for in Sri Lanka. At least one or two evening dresses
may be useful to have on hand, an alternative may be to bring some
good material and have a evening dress made by a local dressmaker.
However, some have not been happy with the results. The principal
occasions when a formal dress is useful are the Marine Ball in
November and the AmCham Ball in February. The amount of clothing to
bring to Sri Lanka is really a matter of personal choice. However,
two points that are useful to keep in mind are that clothes tend to
wear out more quickly in a tropical climate and the same seasonal
clothing is worn all year long. Regarding undergarments, bring
plenty of cotton underwear to post.
Children Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:44 AM
A wardrobe planned for a child for summer in the U.S. will be
appropriate for the climate, but not adequate in quantity. The same
clothes are worn year-round and children commonly go through two
changes of clothing a day. Also, more frequent washing shortens the
life of most garments. Most children go to the Embassy recreation
center where there is a pool, a club or hotel several times a week
year-round necessitating a half-dozen swimsuits per child per tour.
There are very good brands of children clothing, as well as
swimsuits for both boys and girls, available locally at low prices,
so there is no need to stock up.
Uniforms are not required at the Overseas School of Colombo (OSC)
in either the primary or senior school. At all grade levels, most
students wear T-shirts and shorts. Girls in the senior school
occasionally wear skirts, blouses, or dresses, while the older boys
will sometimes wear regular shirts and long trousers. All children
will have occasion to dress more formally. Upon arrival at OSC, each
child is assigned to a "house" for P.E. classes and sports events.
Along with plain white shorts, they wear one of four colors of
T-shirts to all P.E. classes which, depending on grade level and
class schedule, can be from two to five times a week. The school
sells both T-shirts and shorts at reasonable prices. A child will
need several sets each year. Physical education uniforms are navy
blue running shorts and white T-shirts for all children.
Shoes are always a special consideration. Most boys wear tennis
shoes to school and girls wear tennis shoes, flats, and loafers.
Girls' sandals must have backs, i.e. no flip flops. Both wear
sandals for more casual wear and shoes for what passes as "dressing
up" on the island. It is recommended that you bring shoes in several
styles and several sizes for each child. Locally made shoes, while
of reasonable price, can be uncomfortable and wear out rather
rapidly. Parents should also bring a supply of cotton socks,
particularly in white. Underwear is a category for which foresight
is also recommended. Various types are available locally, but they
may not meet needs in style, comfort, or durability. American shoes
can be ordered as needed. A good variety of baby clothing is usually
available at the factory outlet shops. Parents should strongly
consider bringing diapers (very expensive locally), baby bottles,
playpen, a baby pool, stroller, food grinder, and all bedding. A
fair supply of attractive infant and toddler toys is available, but
the price and safety features may not meet American standards.
Supplies and Services
Supplies Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:45 AM
The AERAC stocks a few deodorants and soaps; and some toiletries
of limited selection are available on the local market. However,
those who have special brand preferences should bring a supply of
toiletries, cosmetics, home medicines, feminine personal needs, and
Before leaving the U.S., arrange for a regular supply of known
needs in prescription drugs. The Health Unit stocks a limited supply
of over-the-counter drugs to meet immediate needs only. Other
pharmaceutical requirements can be ordered from the U.S.
A supply to last a tour of first-aid needs such as cotton,
band-aids, gauze, adhesive tape, antiseptic, and a 2-year supply of
any patent medicine commonly used by the family are recommended; an
alternative is to make mailing arrangements with a U.S. pharmacy.
Bring your own contact lens care products with you. They are rarely
Some basic household supplies are available here, but bring a
home repair kit. Saucepans, baking dishes, cake tins, frying pans,
and plastic kitchen containers are generally available but often not
up to U.S. quality or are very expensive. Cutlery and glassware are
available but expensive. While water filter/distiller is provided as
part of US-government furnishing in USG-owned and leased housing, an
inexpensive, large pot for boiling water is also recommended. This
can be purchased locally or imported. A manual meat grinder is
useful because locally ground meat is of poor quality. Locally made
dishes and export-quality Noritake china are also available here at
lower prices than in the U.S.
Local products are available for cleaning bathtubs, wash basins,
toilet bowls, and windows. Some Christmas decorations are available,
but bringing a basic stock of such items is recommended. Consider an
artificial Christmas tree, as well. The local cypress trees don't
hold much appeal to the American sense of a Christmas tree.
Stationery, bridge tallies, playing cards, candles, photograph
albums, silver and pewter polish, special entertaining needs and
needlework supplies should be brought. Batteries for most cameras,
watches, and small electronics are available.
Basic Services Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:45 AM
Dry-cleaning facilities are available, but only the large hotels
offer acceptable service. AERAC offers drop off and pickup services
at the Chancery.
Local tailoring is available for men's casual shirts and
trousers. Fabric selection is limited. Dressmakers are available at
reasonable fees for making women's and children's clothing and men's
shirts. However, local seamstresses are not that good at copying and
making formal gowns from catalogues. Normally, dressmakers do not
work in their customers' homes; those who do, do not use their own
sewing machine. You usually supply your own choice of notions, such
as zippers, buttons, thread. Patterns, as in Butterick, Simplicity,
etc., are not used here. Dressmakers will make clothing from
pictures or drawings, or copy other articles of clothing, but
quality varies. Fittings and alterations are often necessary.
Shoe repair is done by hand and is adequate and inexpensive.
Shoes, particularly sandals, can also be made inexpensively, though
that practice is no longer common. In Colombo, a number of
beauticians are familiar with western styling. Hair coloring,
frosting, and perms are available at some beauty parlors, which
usually use European or Australian products. Personal supplies of
hair products can be brought, and the beauticians will use these if
Domestic Help Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:46 AM
Most personnel employ domestic help. A small household will often
hire a combination cook/houseboy or a cook and a houseboy or
housemaid, and a part-time gardener if the house has a garden. Total
wages for these servants will average about $180 - $250 per month. A
nursemaid (nanny) charges about $80-100 a month. A larger family
(two or more children) will probably employ a full-time cook, a
house boy/housemaid, a nursemaid for the children, a part-time
gardener, and a driver. Total cost will be about $400 a month. Some
employ laundry nannies on a weekly basis at an added cost of $30 -
$40 a month. Many employees also hire drivers at an average salary
of $100 a month, and night guards for about $70 per month. Uniforms
and incidental medical bills are often covered by the employer
(though medical care is free to Sri Lankans, medicines and lab tests
usually are not). Other amenities are a personal choice; most people
pay extra for nighttime party duty, and tea and breakfast or other
Severance pay is expected at a rate of 1 month's salary per each
completed year of service. If the domestic is being let go "for
cause" (stealing, breakage, etc.), severance is not paid. Religious
Activities English is spoken in many of the larger Christian
churches. Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Baptist,
Methodist, Christian Science, Mormon, Seventh- Day Adventist, and
Dutch Reformed Churches are all represented. Sri Lanka has no
Orthodox churches and no synagogues. There are Islamic mosques and
Hindu temples in Colombo, and Buddhist temples abound.
Religious Activities Last Updated: 9/30/2002 6:00 PM
English is spoken in many of the larger Christian churches. Roman
Catholic, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Christian
Science, Mormon, Seventh-Day Adventist, and Dutch Reformed Churches
are all represented. Sri Lanka has no Orthodox churches and no
synagogues. There are Islamic mosques and Hindu temples in Colombo,
and Buddhist temples abound.
At Post Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:48 AM Children of most foreign
diplomats and business expatriates resident in Colombo attend the
Overseas School of Colombo (OSC). At present, the school has an
enrollment of about 310 children representing over 35 nationalities.
Americans represent 9% of the total student population. The school
offers a strong international curriculum geared for students likely
to return either to the U.S. or western European academic settings.
The school, offering classes from pre-school through grade 12, has
about 51 teachers, roughly half are fully qualified expatriates,
many with advanced degrees. Sri Lankan teachers are now required to
have full degree qualifications and all faculty members' skills are
constantly being upgraded by a comprehensive professional
development program. Primary school consists of grades pre-school-5;
middle school 6-8, and high school, grades 9-12.
The Overseas School of Colombo is located on a six-acre campus
owned by the school. The campus is four miles from most Embassy
residences; AERAC provides bus service to Mission school children.
The school is self-funded with tuition. In addition, it receives
support by grants from the Office of Overseas Schools (A/OS). OSC is
internationally accredited and one of only three schools in the
region accredited by both the Middle States Association of Colleges
and Schools and the European Council of International Schools.
OSC is an active member of the Near East/South Asia Council of
Overseas Schools (NE/SA) and arranges for short-term consultants
from the council to address specific needs. OSC is also a member of
the European Council of International Schools (ECIS) and the
Association for the Advancement of International Education (AAIE).
The school conducts the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, if requested, in
the lower grades and prepares candidates for the British
International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) in
grades nine and ten, and for the International Baccalaureate (IB) in
grades eleven and twelve. The school is introducing the
International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program for grades 6-10 to
replace the IGCSE program over the next few years. Public
examination results (for the IGCSE and IB) over recent years have
been of high standard and children completing school at OSC can be
expected to compete favorably with their peers for entrance into
college, with IB diploma holders likely to have access to top
colleges. Grade twelve and grade ten transfer students will face
some challenges entering during the second year of the IBCSE and IB
programs and will generally participate in only a limited way in
those programs. Such students are allowed to join grade ten and
twelve, however, and have done well following a "standard" high
school diploma program.
Facilities are available for the administration of the SAT and
PSAT tests. OSC also offers a sports program and numerous other
extra-curricular activities. The school offers French and Spanish as
the main foreign languages in grades seven through ten. If there are
not enough students for a Spanish class, students may accomplish
this via an independent study. Sinhala is also offered as a
self-study program. Beginning Japanese is also available for grades
eleven and twelve. Students are able to follow mother-tongue courses
for the IB diploma in grades 11 and 12. OSC also offers an extensive
English course as a Second Language program for non-native speakers.
The information technology program is the most advanced in Sri
Lanka. There is a large computer lab, multi-media technology,
computers in primary classrooms and computer skills development is
integrated into classroom subject teaching.
OSC follows a two-semester school year starting in the second
half of August and ending mid-June. Parents should bring as detailed
records as possible from their children's previous school(s), and a
health record is required at the time of admission. Placement at
grade level is based on an internally administered test. While the
school provides guidance by learning and disability specialists, the
physical layout of the campus makes it impossible for the school to
accept children whose physical handicaps confine them to a wheel
Although the school does not have a specific uniform, there is a
dress code, and students are expected to dress neatly. For physical
education, navy shorts and a T- shirt (available for purchase from
the school) are required.
The "At Post" educational allowance covers a non-refundable
registration fee of $2000, a one-time refundable deposit of $277 for
grades K-5 and $554 for grades 6-12 that must be paid when a child
is first registered at OSC, and an annual capital development levy
of $500. The employee must sign an agreement to return the
refundable deposit to the U.S. Government before the refundable
deposit is paid to the school. Questions on schools or enrollment
should be directed to the Embassy Administrative Officer or the
Community Liaison Office.
Children of Mission personnel may also choose to attend the
Colombo International School (CIS), a private British curriculum
school with 750 students from 34 countries, although there have been
no enrollment in recent years by Mission children. Twenty percent of
the students are non-Sri Lankan. CIS was founded in 1982 and offers
classes for students 2 to 18 years of age. There are about 125
teachers at the school, of which 50% are expatriates. All teachers
have overseas degrees and/or teaching experience and a majority of
the expatriate teachers are Oxford or Cambridge graduates. Courses
are conducted in the English medium. Admission is very competitive
and based on proof of academic accomplishment and potential,
personal interviews, and entrance examinations. Extracurricular
activities are an important part of school life and sports, music
and drama are included in the school program. Uniforms are required
and can be purchased in Colombo. CIS is not popular among Mission
parents because the classrooms tend to be more crowded than those at
OSC, and the school compound is not as spacious to accommodate a
playground area and sports activities.
While CIS offers SAT, TOEFL, and achievement test classes to
prepare students for admission to American universities, it does
place emphasis on preparing students for O and A level examinations.
CIS does not carry accreditation.
Children of the Mission may also choose to attend the French
School and the British school, which are located in the heart of
Colombo. Courses at the French school are conducted exclusively in
French and follow the curriculum set in France. Children may also
attend the British school, which follows the British system. Neither
the French school nor the British schools are U.S.-accredited
Away From Post Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:49 AM High school-age
children of American employees have attended various boarding
schools in the U.S. instead of attending OCS or CIS. Some of the
schools that have been attended are: Northfield Mt. Hermon (MA),
Philips Exeter Academy (NH), The George School (PA), The
Lawrenceville School (NJ), and The Stoney/Brook School (NY) and
Malvern College, Malvern, UK.
Parents considering away-from-post schooling for their children
may also wish to examine educational options offered by boarding
schools in Europe. You should direct any questions on schools or
enrollment to the Embassy Administrative Officer or the Community
Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:50 AM
Universities in Sri Lanka offer courses leading to Bachelor's and
Master's Degrees in Buddhism, Oriental Studies, Arts, Science,
Archaeology, Management, Law, Engineering, Agriculture, and
Medicine. Instruction is in Sinhala, Tamil or English depending on
student demand. Courses are based on the British University system
that concentrates on a major subject and allows few outside studies.
No U.S. Government employees or family members have attended in
See Arts, Science, and Education for a list of universities in
Recreation and Social Life
Sports Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:50 AM
The Embassy-owned recreation facility at 75 Gregory's Road is
equipped with a pool, air conditioned pavilion, bar, and kitchen,
tennis court, basketball courts, and some playground equipment for
young children, and a covered picnic area with barbecue grill. Use
of 75 Gregory's Road is limited to U.S. Government employees and
family members. Reservation for special events is through the Admin
office. Guests are allowed.
Sports popular among foreign residents are tennis, squash,
volleyball, golf, and running with the Hash House Harriers and
Harriettes. Other sports available here are soccer, cricket, rugby,
table tennis, badminton, karate, sailing. Water sports and scuba
diving are available mainly at major tourist centers such as Bentota
and Hikkaduwa. Instruction in most sports is available. Salt water
fishing is available at the major resort hotels along the Western
coast at high prices.
Many join clubs to play most sports in Sri Lanka; and most U.S.
Mission personnel belong to at least one hotel sports facility. Club
membership fees and monthly dues vary depending on type of
membership. For example, rates at hotel sports facilities range from
$135-$450 per year for a single membership and from $210-$605 per
year for a family membership. All the major hotels in Colombo offer
memberships in their sports centers. These facilities vary but
usually include fitness centers with good equipment, tennis and
squash courts, and fresh water pools. The classic Galle Face Hotel
has a salt water pool, but facilities are not well kept so it is not
popular among expatriates. Most hotels have children's pools and
some have playgrounds.
In addition, there are other sports clubs open to membership,
including the Colombo Swimming Club, which is conveniently located
near the Chancery and some Embassy residences. This older club has
pools for children and adults, 2 clay tennis courts, a squash court,
a library, bar, dining facilities and planned social activities, but
is not widely popular due to the run down condition of facilities.
The Royal Colombo Golf Club has an 18-hole course and clubhouse.
Temporary members are accepted. Fees are high.
The Royal Colombo Yacht Club offers sailing in Colombo's harbor
and competes in Asian meets. Sailing is also available on Bolgoda
Lake about 15 miles south of Colombo at the Colombo Motor Yacht
Club. Facilities include a clubhouse, bar, and a picnic area. In
spite of what may be available, however, increasing traffic
congestion discourages Mission personnel from joining any clubs
other than those at the major hotels in town because of the
considerable hassle in getting there.
Golf balls and accessories are readily available at the Royal
Colombo Golf Club, but they are more expensive than the U.S.
Goggles, flippers, fishing tackle, and other sporting equipment can
be purchased locally but the selection is very limited and
expensive. Bring all articles of sports equipment and clothing from
the U.S. Tennis balls are available at double the cost of those in
Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:51 AM
Sri Lanka has beaches on both east and west coasts, though east
coast beaches are prohibited to Mission personnel due to the ethnic
conflict. Swimming is unsafe at certain times of the year because of
strong currents generated by the monsoons. The southwest beaches are
considered safe from November to May. The closest beach for swimming
is at Mount Lavinia, 20-30 minutes south of Colombo, depending on
traffic. There are a number of popular beach hotels/resorts along
the southwest coast starting from Bentota, about a 1-1/2 hour drive
south from Colombo, to Ahungalla, Kosgoda, and Unawatuna, about 3
hours further, and along the south coast to Tangalle. A stop in
Ambalangoda, about 2 hours south of Colombo, will give you a chance
to wander through a small mask-making museum and workshop and visit
antique shops. Scubadiving is good during the season, and weekend
dives can be arranged out of Hikkaduwa. Diving elsewhere is very
difficult due to security regulations, and the east coast is
completely off-limits for diving. PADI courses for certification are
available in Colombo. See Republic of Maldives section.
Sri Lanka has interesting places for weekend outings or longer
holiday trips, but again, traffic congestion and poorly maintained
roads can discourage such outings. The principal spots in the hill
country are Kandy, about 70 miles away (3-1/2 hours by car, altitude
1,674 feet); Nuwara Eliya, about 110 miles away (5-6 hours by car,
altitude 6,185 feet); and Bandarawela, about 125 miles away (5 hours
by car, altitude 4,017 feet).
Perhaps the most awesome and forbidding region of Sri Lanka is
the Horton Plains, which is hard to reach but well worth the effort.
Located about 1 hour's drive from Nuwara Eliya, Horton Plains is
part of the Peak Wilderness Sanctuary. One of the major attractions
here is World's End, considered by many the finest view in all of
Sri Lanka, on a clear day. For those who enjoy hiking, this is the
place. Sightseers will also enjoy the Uda Walawe National Park to
see elephants; and the Sinharaja Rain Forest, one of the few
tropical rain forests left in the world, is a must for
bird-watchers. Several of the wildlife sanctuaries and national
parks are off-limits for security reasons.Sri Lanka has beaches on
both east and west coasts, though east coast beaches are prohibited
to Mission personnel due to the ethnic conflict. Swimming is unsafe
at certain times of the year because of strong currents generated by
the monsoons. The southwest beaches are considered safe from
November to May. The closest beach for swimming is at Mount Lavinia,
20-30 minutes south of Colombo, depending on traffic. There are a
number of popular beach hotels/resorts along the southwest coast
starting from Bentota, about a 1 « hour drive south from Colombo, to
Ahungalla, Kosgoda, and Unawatuna, about 3 hours further, and along
the south coast to Tangalle. A stop in Ambalangoda, about 2 hours
south of Colombo, will give you a chance to wander through a small
mask-making museum and workshop, and antiques shops. Scuba diving is
good during season, and weekend dives can be arranged out of
Hikkaduwa. Diving elsewhere is very difficult due to security
regulations, and the east coast is completely off-limits for diving.
PADI courses for certification are available in Colombo. See
Republic of Maldives section.
Sri Lanka has interesting places for weekend outings or longer
holiday trips, but again, traffic congestion and poorly maintained
roads can discourage such outings. The principal spots in the hill
country are Kandy, about 70 miles away (3-1/2 hours by car, altitude
1,674 feet), Nuwara Eliya, about 110 miles away (5-6 hours by car,
altitude 6,185 feet); and Bandarawela, about 125 miles away (5 hours
by car, altitude 4,017 feet).
Perhaps the most awesome region of Sri Lanka is the Horton
Plains, which is hard to reach but well worth the effort. Located
about one hour's drive from Nuwara Eliya, Horton Plains is part of
the Peak Wilderness Sanctuary. One of the major attractions here is
World's End, considered by many the finest view in all of Sri Lanka,
on a clear day. For those who enjoy hiking this is the place.
Sightseers will also enjoy the Uda Walawe National Park for elephant
viewing; and the Sinharaja Rain Forest, one of the few tropical rain
forests left in the world, is a must for bird-watchers. Several of
the wildlife sanctuaries and national parks are off-limits for
The Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka's ancient cities is also worth
seeing. Sigiriya (3 « hours from Colombo by car), is a rock
fortress, with famous frescoes. The remains of ancient monuments are
located at Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, dating from the 4th Century
B.C. and 11th and 12th Century A.D. respectively (5-6 hours by car).
Kandy, the southern point of the cultural triangle, is the site
of the Temple of the Tooth visited by Buddhist pilgrims from all
over the world. The sacred tooth relic of the Buddha is said to have
been brought to Sri Lanka in the early 4th century A.D. hidden in
the hair of an Indian princess. Kandy, the island's chief city in
medieval times, was the last stronghold of the Sinhala kings and the
last place to fall under foreign rule. Things to see include the
King's Audience Hall, the Four Devales (temples), the artificial
lake constructed by Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe (the last king of Kandy)
in 1806, the elephants' bathing place in Katugastota, the Peradeniya
Botanical Gardens and the University at Peradeniya.
Hotel accommodations at tourist destinations outside Colombo are
very good. In addition to commercially operated hotels ranging from
guest houses to five-star hotels, the government operates a large
number of rest houses. In certain areas (notably Nuwara Eliya,
Horton Plains, and the game parks), bungalows are available for
rent. The rest houses vary widely in quality. The better ones are
reasonably comfortable and provide adequate meals. All are
Sri Lanka offers a wide variety of possibilities for the camera
enthusiast. The lush, tropical foliage combined with local customs,
costumes, and settings to provide many opportunities for photography
and video recording. Color film is available in the 110 and 35mm
formats in ASA's 100-400. Color print film processing is quite good
locally, but depends on the shop. Some employees send film via the
diplomatic pouch to the U.S. for processing and return. Color slide
processing is available and satisfactory. Black- and-white film can
be processed locally, but in very few places. Black-and-white paper
is not often available so the processors may use color paper with
disappointing results. VHS videotapes are available. Photographic
equipment should be protected against the high humidity.
Colombo is the only large city in Sri Lanka. Chennai (Madras) and
Mumbai (Bombay), the closest large cities abroad, are about one and
two hours away, respectively, by air. New Delhi can be reached by
air directly or via Madras or Bombay. The Maldive Islands are easily
accessible by air and offer many luxury resorts. See Republic of
The designated R&R destination for those assigned to Colombo is
Sydney, Australia, or the U.S. Flight connections to Sydney are
usually through Singapore.
Social Activities Last Updated: 9/29/2003 3:52 AM
Foreign Service personnel have extensive social opportunities.
The mode and scale of entertainment depends on personal preferences.
Buffet dinners, small lunches, and dinners or cocktail parties are
popular. There is also a Sri Lankan American Society group with an
active monthly book club.
The Marine Detachment holds barbecues and theme parties, as well
as the annual Marine Corps Birthday Ball. The CLO organizes
sight-seeing and cultural tours as well as factory tours of interest
such as a tea or garment factory. The CLO also organizes Mission
farewell parties, welcoming coffee for new arrivals, the American
community- wide Fourth of July activities and Thanksgiving program.
Several of the major hotels in Colombo have discos. There exist a
wide variety of restaurants to choose from including those featuring
Italian, Chinese, Thai, French, Korean, German, Japanese, and Indian
as well as local cuisine. All major hotels have good restaurants and
have food festivals from different nations from time to time. All
accept major credit cards.
The North American Women's Association (NAWA) is an independent
organization that conducts charitable and social activities and
introduces new arrivals to Americans and other expatriates to local
customs and shopping. NAWA has various groups one can take part in.
One group organizes the members' children's parties for Halloween,
Christmas and Easter. The craft group produces handicrafts
throughout the year for sale at the annual International Christmas
Bazaar with proceeds going to charities. Once a month the
lunch-bunch group and a ladies night-out group meet at a restaurant
or a member's home, sometimes with a guest speaker, or a slide show.
There is an annual Thanksgiving Lunch and a Christmas Tea. All
resident American women, women married to Americans, and Canadian
women may join the association. General meetings are often held in
members' homes, sometimes at a restaurant or maybe an art museum.
Annual membership is Rs.1000/-.
Some American women join the International Women's Club, which
includes a book club, and often has guest speakers. Branches of the
YMCA, YWCA, and the Salvation Army are also active.
Official Functions Last Updated: 9/30/2002 6:00 PM
Courtesy calls on the Ambassador and DCM are made on arrival at
post during the check-in process.
Most employees have calling cards and invitations printed
locally. The quality is satisfactory and the cost reasonable. No
engraving is done in Sri Lanka. Cards can also be printed at the
Embassy. Most employees and spouses find that calling cards are
Special Information Last Updated: 9/30/2002 6:00 PM
Post Orientation Program
The post periodically holds orientation programs for all Mission
employees and adult family members. Included are speakers from the
various Mission agencies and a Sri Lankan historian or linguistics
professor offering insight into Sri Lankan culture. The objective of
this program is to provide a general knowledge of local politics,
history, and culture to the newcomers, as well as acquaint them with
the Mission's programs and functions.
The post language program offers instruction in Sinhala and Tamil
to all interested American employees and spouses, budget permitting.
THE HOST COUNTRY
Republic of Maldives
Area, Geography, and Climate
The Republic of Maldives is in the northern Indian Ocean, about
400 miles southwest of Sri Lanka and 300 miles from the southernmost
tip of India. A chain of 19 atolls with a total area of 115 square
miles, the Maldives extend a distance of 550 miles north-south. The
atolls comprise about 1,200 coral islands. The islets are small
(none larger than 4 square miles in area) and seldom exceed an
elevation of 5 or 6 feet above sea level. The tropical vegetation
varies from grass and scrub to dense woods of fruit trees or coconut
Although the official language of the Maldives is Divehi, English
is the second language. English, however, is spoken by almost
everyone in the Maldives.
The climate is hot and humid with little daily variation; the
average temperature is 80°F and the relative humidity is 80%. Most
of the area is subject to the southwest monsoon (June to August) and
the northeast monsoon (November to March); the annual rainfall
averages 100 inches in the north and 150 inches in the south.
The Maldive Islands are renowned for outstanding scuba diving and
snorkeling. Resort islands offer PADI courses and outings to exotic
dive sites and uninhabited islands for snorkeling. Other sports such
as swimming, windsurfing, and sailing are readily available on the
No official Americans reside in Maldives; however, some
diplomatic officers are accredited to the Republic of Maldives and
make occasional official visits.
Male, capital of the Republic of Maldives, is an island about
1-1/2 square miles in total area and occupies a central position in
the archipelago. Land is slowly being reclaimed on the island’s
north side. All Government offices, the four main Government
schools, and two hospitals—one private, one public—are also here.
The commercial district has a wide variety of small shops selling
curios, antiques, seashells, and other goods.
Male also has an attractive park, Sultan Park, and a museum with
artifacts originating from Arab, Dravidian, and Sri Lankan cultures
that have influenced the history of this island republic.
Male’s population is about 70,000. Male is a free port; no duties
are levied on articles brought into Male by visitors. However,
certain articles are prohibited for importation or must be declared
at customs. Since Maldives is a Moslem country, among other things,
no pork products or liquor may be brought in by visitors. However,
these products are made available to tourists on the resort islands.
The Post and Its Administration
Male has an American consular agency supervised by the Embassy in
Sri Lanka. The agency is at:
Mandhu Eduruge 20-05 Violet Mage, Male Telephone Male 322581
Telex Number 66028
Some diplomatic officers in the Embassy in Colombo are also
accredited to the Maldives. No official Americans reside in the
Accomodations in the Maldives are available on any of the tourist
islands. Two government guesthouses and two modest hotels are also
available on Male. All accommodations on tourist islands will
provide full board, although partial board (meals per day) and room
only are also available. Tourist hotels are expensive; be prepared
to pay U.S. prices.
Simple but adequate one- or two-bedroom flats and houses
(sometimes with a small yard) are available for long-term housing.
New construction is under way, but it takes at least 3 months to
find suitable quarters. Rental may vary from $200 to $400 a month
(excluding electricity) and much more if the house is large or has
Utilities and Equipment
Electric current in Male is 220v-240v, 50-cycle AC. Electricity
is reliable and expensive.
Male has no piped public water supply or sewage network. Sweet
water is obtained from household wells and rain catchments. The well
water is for general use and the rain catchment for drinking.
Boiling and filtering of drinking water is essential. Houses rented
by foreigners have individual compound septic tanks.
Rice, flour, lentils, coconuts, fish, sugar, salt, onions, green
chilies, and spices are the mainstays of the Maldivian diet.
Many types of inexpensive fresh fish are available daily (except
Friday), but the most common are tuna, bonita, and seer. It is
possible to arrange occasional supplies of spiny lobster and turtle
meat. Poultry and eggs are always available. Chickens are scrawny
and expensive, and imported eggs are available. Fresh meat is
available, but dairy products are not available locally.
Fruits such as papayas, limes, bananas, and coconuts are always
on the market; one variety of mango is available in season. Tropical
yellow vegetables such as pumpkin, sweet potatoes, yams, breadfruit,
brinjal (eggplant), and gourd varieties are usually available;
potatoes and onions are found intermittently. Fresh green vegetables
are imported and available year round.
Good quality white loaf bread is baked daily. A variety of canned
and bottled goods gradually are becoming more common in shops.
Nespray powdered milk and tinned cheese, cream, and condensed milk
are nearly always sold locally. Frozen meat is available as well as
ice cream. Coca-Cola is bottled locally. Seven-Up in cans and other
soft drinks are also available. Beer, wine, spirits, and other
drinks containing alcohol are sold only in tourists hotels, and
foreign visitors not staying in a hotel cannot use the bar unless
he/she is a guest of a hotel resident.
Warm clothing is never required. Cotton dresses, trousers,
skirts, and lightweight tropical suits are the most comfortable
year-round attire. Some readymade clothing, notably shirts, jeans,
trousers, ladies' dresses and blouses, T-shirts, underwear, rubber
sandals, and infants' wear are increasingly available though only in
small sizes and often expensive for the quality. A variety of
high-quality, synthetic materials is available and is relatively
inexpensive. Pure cotton cloth, which suits the climate best, is
The correct dress for men in Government offices is trousers with
either a shirt and tie or a bush shirt; and shoes are preferred to
sandals. When visiting any ministry, shirt and tie (without a
jacket), or a bush suit, or a suit with tie is acceptable. Foreign
women wear dresses with a knee-length hemline and short sleeves to
offices in Male; in recent years, Maldivian women have been asked to
wear their national costume to work, an ankle-length dress with a
high neck and long sleeves, with a head scarf.
Supplies and Services
Simple basic, heavy furniture; kerosene table stoves; fans;
sometimes small refrigerators; washers; sewing machines; TV sets;
cassette players; radios; and some cooking items, cutlery, and linen
are sold in Male.
Some furniture may be rented, made, or bought locally at auction;
custommade furniture (and all wood products) are expensive. Thin
mattresses (stuffed with foam) are available locally. Beds have a
hard surface and no springs. Kerosene table stoves are used by a few
wealthy local families and by most foreigners.
Maldives has few laundries and no drycleaning shops. Shoe repair
facilities are fair. Imported, high-quality goods are expensive and
scarce. Bring sufficient quantities of hair-care products, perfume,
and cosmetics for those who have special preferences. These items
also may be imported. Spare parts for household articles must be
imported. Electricians' and plumbers' services are available and are
of fair quality. Hairdressers and barbers are available; their
charges are moderate.
Inexpensive domestic help is available, but experienced,
well-qualified help is scarce. Language and customs differences can
Education in government-run schools is free. Western-style
education based on the British Commonwealth curriculum exists in
Male only up to the high school level. Studies beyond high school
must be pursued abroad. Most teachers are experienced Maldivian and
Sri Lankan nationals. The medium of instruction is both Dhivehi and
Grades preschool through 10 are available. After Grade 10,
students sit for the London General Certificate of Education (G.C.E.
Ordinary Level) Examination. The G.C.E. Advanced Level Examination
is offered at the Science Education Center.
Recreation and Social Life
Male has one or two relatively good restaurants. Two hotels, an
Italian restaurant, and the tourist island restaurant provide some
diversion in entertainment. The Maldive Islands are renowned for
scuba diving. Other sports such as swimming, snorkeling,
windsurfing, and sailing are readily available on the resort
Firearms and Ammunition
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has decreed that no foreigners,
including members of the diplomatic community are permitted to
import, purchase, or possess firearms in Sri Lanka.
Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures
Sri Lanka's monetary unit is the rupee. The officially
established rate changes daily. The rate of exchange is about Rs.
92.95=$1 (December 2001). Strict currency controls require customs
declaration of all foreign currency brought into and taken out of
the country and severely limit local importation of foreign good.
Indian, Nepalese, Pakistani, and Sri Lankan rupees are forbidden to
be imported into or exported out of the country. Retain the currency
control form in your passport during your stay in Sri Lanka because
it will have to be relinquished upon departure. Banking facilities
are available and establishment of a local checking account is the
best means to record bill payments. Checks can be used to pay credit
account bills; however, daily transactions in most businesses are
done in local currency.
Retain any U.S. dollars for future use. Individuals with current
American Express credit cards may purchase American Express
travelers checks with personal checks. An arrangement with Citibank,
the local U.S. depository, provides for the purchase of travelers
checks for U.S. Mission staff members by personal check from U.S.
Some people open rupee checking accounts in Sri Lanka to pay
local bills and maintain a U.S. dollar checking account in the U.S.
to pay for American purchases.
Sri Lanka now operates on the metric system in calculating
weights and measures.
Accommodations in the Maldives are available on any of the
tourist islands. Two Government guesthouses and at least three
modest hotels are also available on Male. All accommodations on
tourist islands will provide full board, partial board (2 meals per
day), or bed and breakfast. Tourist hotels are expensive; be
prepared to pay high prices.
Electric current in Male is 220v-240v, 50-cycle AC. Electricity
is reliable but expensive. Bottled water is consumed at the resorts,
with nonpotable desalinated water used for bathing facilities.
Warm clothing is never required. Cotton dresses, trousers,
skirts, and lightweight tropical suits are the most comfortable
year-round attire. When visiting any ministry, shirt and tie, or a
suit or jacket with tie, is acceptable for men, and women wear
dresses or suits with a modest hemline. Short sleeves are
acceptable. Shorts and swimsuits are perfectly acceptable at the
resorts, although swimsuits must be covered for dining, and most
wear full attire for meals.
As in other tropical countries, the main health problems of the
population are infectious diseases. Tuberculosis, filariasis, and
leprosy are found; gastroenteritis, ear infections, measles, and
skin diseases are common. Always drink bottled or boiled and
filtered drinking water. Many people avoid eating raw vegetables and
unpeeled fruits. Since the incidence of mosquito-borne diseases is
high, sleep under a mosquito net when the bedroom is not
Cholera and yellow fever vaccinations are required for arrivals
from affected areas. Immunization against tetanus, typhoid, and
poliomyelitis is recommended.
Clinical medical care in Male is available at the Government
hospital, which also has two national dental assistants, one trained
in Britain and one in Sri Lanka. Although the hospital itself is a
superior, small facility with excellent nursing care, most surgery
or serious illnesses cannot be attended to, so patients must be
evacuated. Singapore is the nearest place where first-class care is
available. Many hotel island resorts have doctors in residence who
are available to care for guests.
Notes For Travelers
Getting to the Post Last Updated: 9/30/2002 6:00 PM
International flights arrive and depart from Bandaranaike
International Airport, about 20 miles northwest of Colombo (1 hour
by car). New arrivals should notify the Human Resources Office far
in advance as to date and time of arrival, so that housing and other
arrival arrangements may be made. Should employees have special
housing requirements or questions on schools, write to either the
GSO or the CLO.
Assigned sponsors will meet newly arrived personnel at the
airport. However, if the sponsor cannot meet the new arrival, the
Embassy's expediter will do so.
A Marine Security Guard is on duty 24 hours daily at the
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Sri Lanka customs require a
copy of all Bills of Lading and a detailed packing list, signed by
the packer, shipper, or consignee, be filed with the clearance
documents. Effects should not be shipped to arrive far in advance of
the employee, since the Embassy has no storage facilities and
Customs will not clear goods in advance of an employee's arrival.
In addition, to clear an automobile, the Embassy requires the
following information: registration certificate, engine number,
chassis number, make, color, model, right-hand drive, first date of
registration, and year of manufacture (not more than 3 years old).
It is important to note that the vehicle identification number alone
is not sufficient when clearing a vehicle. If it is a second-hand
car, include purchase price paid when new. If ordering a new car,
furnish invoice and a copy of the bill of lading.
In arranging airfreight shipments from the U.S. to Colombo, allow
at least 3-6 weeks transit time. Surface shipment of household
effects or consumables takes 3-4 months. All household and
consumables shipments should be well waterproofed, due to the heavy
monsoon rains. Packing should take into account Colombo's high
Customs clearance is arranged by the Embassy's General Services
Section. When shipping a car, remove hubcaps, windshield wiper
blades and arms, outside mirrors, and aerials and lock them inside
the trunk or pack them in a strong, steel-banded box. Do not store
any additional items in the car.
Because Colombo has little equipment to handle oversized
shipments, lift vans should not exceed 6 feet wide by 7 feet high
and 8 feet long and should not weigh more than 2 tons.
Customs, Duties, and Passage
Customs and Duties Last Updated: 9/30/2002 6:00 PM
The Government of Sri Lanka extends unlimited duty-free
privileges to Mission personnel on the Diplomatic List. Others have
duty-free entry privileges for the first 6 months of their tour.
Mission personnel on the Diplomatic List are authorized duty-free
importation of two vehicles during a tour of duty. Nondiplomatic
personnel may import only one vehicle duty free per tour. A
motorcycle is considered a vehicle. If you are unsure whether you
will be on the diplomatic list, consult with your agency head.
Passage Last Updated: 9/30/2002 6:00 PM
The Government of Sri Lanka requires that passport information on
all newly assigned employees be furnished to the Foreign Ministry,
which in turn will notify its approval to the Sri Lankan Embassy
concerned to issue a visa. Please cable the following information as
soon as your assignment has been made: name, date and place of
birth, nationality, passport number, date and place of issue, date
of expiration of passport, name and particulars of spouse and
children, and the Sri Lankan Mission to which instructions are to be
sent for issuance of a visa, i.e., Sri Lankan Embassy in Washington,
D.C. The Embassy Human Resources Office will arrange to have
passports endorsed shortly after arrival to facilitate travel into
and out of Sri Lanka while assigned here. Please bring five
photographs for each adult, size 2 x 2-1/2 inches for identity cards
and driving licenses. Photos are also required for visas when you
visit other countries and can be obtained locally.
The Department of State considers inoculations against yellow
fever necessary for those passing through parts of Africa and South
America. Recent cholera vaccine should be stamped in immunization
records to avoid airport problems in the Middle East and Africa.
Pets Last Updated: 10/18/2005 5:23 AM
Notify the Embassy in advance if pets will be arriving to obtain
up-to-date requirements. Please note that current restrictions
imposed by the GSL prohibit cats from being imported from the U.S.
and the following additional countries: Austria, Belgium, Canada,
the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece,
Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg,
Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain,
Seitzerland, and the United Kingdom, Current health and anti-rabies
certificates must accompany the pet. A health certificate completed
within 30 days of arrival should be faxed to the GSO section at
(94)(1) 431107 at least 1 week prior to your arrival. The section
will then complete the necessary paperwork to facilitate your pet's
clearance at the airport.
Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 9/30/2002
Gasoline and diesel fuel are available from the state-owned
Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC). In October 2001, gasoline cost
37 rupees per liter and diesel 33 rupees per liter. State, USAID,
IBB, and Defense Attaché employees may purchase gas on the Mission
compound. The price is only slightly cheaper than purchasing gas
outside of the compound.
Diplomatic personnel are not exempt from Sri Lankan import
restrictions concerning vehicle age and left-hand-drive vehicles.
Vehicles imported into Sri Lanka under duty-free privileges can be
either reexported, sold to another person with duty-free privileges,
or offered for sale on the open market. A sale on the open market,
however, may only take place after approval has been granted by the
Government of Sri Lanka. If sold on the open market, the purchaser
is responsible for paying the import duties, which even on a used
vehicle can range from 20% to over 100%.
In order to sell a vehicle imported under duty-free privileges,
the Embassy must notify the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), which
then passes the information on to the Director of Government
Supplies. The Department of Government Supplies will then schedule
the vehicle for a valuation. At the time of the valuation, the
Embassy must provide a copy of the original invoice listing the
c.i.f. value of the vehicle, a declaration of the duty payable on
the vehicle, and the local agent's valuation of the vehicle at the
time of purchase (usually the same as the c.i.f. value on the
original invoice). The Department of Government Supplies uses a
depreciation schedule to make its evaluation, but such is subject to
change frequently and without notice.
The process of disposing a vehicle locally has often been a
frustrating experience for Mission personnel. In some cases, the
vehicle cannot be reexported to the new post, and the relatively low
cost of new duty-free vehicles can make it difficult to sell a used
vehicle to a buyer with duty-free privileges. Although the
Department of Government Supplies provides standard rates of
depreciation for the purchase of vehicles from sellers with
duty-free privileges, the actual price can be the subject of
extensive negotiation. The net result is that Mission personnel have
often been dissatisfied with the prices received for their vehicles.
Due to GSL restrictions and high duties imposed on buyers without
duty-free privileges, this is not a post where Mission personnel can
expect to break even on the sale of a vehicle.
Mission personnel have occasionally departed Sri Lanka without
finalizing arrangements for the sale of their vehicle. In such
cases, they must leave a Power of Attorney and instructions for the
disposition of the vehicle with a colleague. The vehicle will be
reexported or sold within a period of 60 days to a buyer with or
without duty-free privileges.
When personnel import second-hand cars into Sri Lanka for their
personal use, i.e., automobiles that they currently own and have
used in the U.S. or the previous post of assignment, it is essential
that they bring or send to the post in advance the "first
registration card" and the "original invoice." They also should
notify the post in advance of the engine and chassis number. Failure
to produce the first registration card and the original invoice can
cause considerable delay in clearing and registering the automobile.
The unauthorized export of antiques from Sri Lanka is prohibited.
Prior to the purchase of antiques, it is best to consult the
Commissioner of Archaeology, Archaeological Department, Colombo, for
proper advice and guidance. Only antiques certified and cleared by
the Archaeological Commissioner can be exported.
To prevent confiscation or taxation of antiques, have a receipt
for bona-fide antiques or have the antiques listed on the packing
list before entering Sri Lanka. On arrival, the packing list should
be produced to the Commissioner of Archaeology, who will verify the
antiques against the packing list and certify the packing list.
Retain this inventory listing until departure from Sri Lanka in the
event questions are raised at the time of departure from the island.
Recommended Reading Last Updated: 9/30/2002 6:00 PM
These titles are provided as a general indication of the material
published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse
Westerners have been writing about Sri Lanka since the days of
Marco Polo. Portuguese, Dutch, and British writers have been
particularly prolific. This selection also includes titles by Sri
Brohier, R.L. Discovering Ceylon. Colombo: Lake House Investments
Ltd., 1973. The fables, traditions, and history of an old
civilization permeate the affectionate and nostalgic account of the
author's love affair with his country.
de Silva, C.R. Sri Lanka, A History. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing
House Pvt., Ltd., 1987. This excellent work is the first of a
specially commissioned series to bridge the gap between the two
different emphases—those of the colonialist and the nationalist—on
the history of the Afro-Asian nations.
deSilva, K.M. A History of Sri Lanka. London: Oxford University
Press, and Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981. The first
general history of Sri Lanka—ancient, medieval, and modern—in one
handy volume. It is intended mainly as a convenient pr‚cis of the
available state of the historical arts on the island and satisfies
that purpose to good effect.
Goonetileke, H.A.I., ed. Images of Sri Lanka Through American
Eyes: Travellers in Ceylon in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Colombo:
USICA, 2d ed., 1983. A select anthology of the impressions of
visiting Americans, beginning with the early missionaries and ending
with Thomas Merton.
Kemper, Steven. The Presence of the Past: Chronicles, Politics
and Culture in Sinhala Life. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University
Knox, Robert. An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon, with
Introduction by H.A.I Goonetileke. New Delhi: Navrang, 1983.
Facsimile reprint of the 1st ed., 1981. Knox was held prisoner by
the Kandyan kings for 30 years in the 17th century and lived in many
parts of the kingdom. On escaping to England he wrote one of the
great shipwreck classics. It tells more about the Kandyan kingdom
than any other single book and, incidentally, is said to have
inspired Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe.
Ludowyk, E.F.C. The Footprints of the Buddha. London: Allen and
Unwin, 1958. An unusually discerning presentation of the impact of
Buddhism on the evolution of society in Sri Lanka and the importance
of its artistic and cultural heritage.
Woolf, Leonard. Growing: An Autobiography of the Years 1904-1911.
New York: Harcourt Brace, 1961. Woolf, Virginia Woolf's husband, was
a civil servant under the British and writes evocatively about the
country, its people, and his tasks.
Politics Since Independence
Coomaraswamy, Radhika. Sri Lanka: The Crisis of the
Anglo-American Constitutional Traditions in a Developing Society.
New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House Pvt., Ltd., 1984. In this critical
study of the Sri Lankan political tradition, the author, using
constitutional law as a prism, transferred on the eve of
independence, and the nature of its transformation in response to
problems of underdevelopment and cultural nationalism.
de Silva, K.M., ed. Sri Lanka, Problems of Governance. Sri Lanka:
International Center for Ethnic Studies, 1993.
de Silva, K.M. and Wriggins, Howard. J.R. Jayewardene of Sri
Lanka—A Political Biography. Vol. I: 1906-56. Anthony Blond/Quartet,
1988. Vol. II: From 1956 to 1989. Colombo: J.R. Jayewardene Cultural
Centre, 1994. This exhaustive two-volume biography covers the life
of perhaps Sri Lanka's preeminent political figure of this century.
Some critics claim it is too favorable to "JR."
Gunaratna, Rohan. Sri Lanka, A Lost Revolution? The Inside Story
of the JVP. Sri Lanka: Institute of Fundamental Studies, 1990. An
intimate description of what propelled and motivated the leadership
of the JVP in their attempt to overthrow democracy.
Hoole, Rajan; Somasundaram, Daya; Sritharan, K.; Thiranagana,
Rajani, The Broken Palmyra. California: The Sri Lanka Studies
Institute, 1988; reprint ed., 1990. An account of the pain and agony
of the Tamil people in northern Sri Lanka.
Little, David. Sri Lanka: The Invention of Enmity. Washington,
DC: United States Institute of Peace, 1994. Based on a 1990
Institute of Peace conference on the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka,
this book synthesizes the views of leading Sri Lankan and Western
Manor, James. The Expedient Utopian: Bandaranaike and Ceylon.
Cambridge University Press, 1989. The standard biography of S.W.R.D.
Bandaranaike, Sri Lanka's Prime Minister from 1956-59, who is the
late husband of the current Prime Minister, and the father of the
current President. Although most Sri Lankan academics maintain that
it is too critical of SWRD, the book is extremely readable.
McGowan, William. Only Man is Vile, The Tragedy of Sri Lanka.
London: Picador, 1993. Journalist's view of the country circa 1990.
Ratnatunga, Sinha. Politics of Terrorism, The Sri Lanka
Experience. Australia: International Fellowship for Social and
Economic Development, 1988. Deals with the ethnic crisis in Sri
Lanka. A complete account of contemporary Sri Lanka politics and the
growth of the guerrilla movement, especially the rioting of July
Tambiah, S.J. Sri Lanka, Ethnic Fratricide and The Dismantling of
Democracy. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1986. A
passionate analysis of the Sinhalese-Tamil conflict.
Wilson, A. Jeyaratnam. The Gaullist System in Asia: The
Constitution of Sri Lanka. London: McMillian, 1980. The author seeks
to relate the constitution of 1978 to its immediate sociopolitical
and economic environment; to indicate the similarities between that
and its closest counterpart, the Fifth Republic of France and the
British and U.S. structures.
Wilson, A. Jeyaratnam. Politics in Sri Lanka 1947-1979. London:
Macmillian, 2nd ed., 1980. Detailed information by a Ceylon Tamil,
formerly on the faculty of the University of Ceylon, now teaching at
the University of New Brunswick, Canada.
Buddhism and Hinduism
Carter, John R. Religiousness in Sri Lanka. Colombo: Marga
Institute, 1979. A symposium by specialists in all religions
practiced in Sri Lanka.
Cartman, Rev. James. Hinduism in Ceylon. Colombo: M.D. Gunasena,
1957. A general introduction to the theory and practice of Hinduism
as found in Sri Lanka.
Gunawardana, R.A.L.H. Robe and Plough; Monasticism and Economic
Interest in Early Medieval Sri Lanka. University of Arizona Press,
1979. A substantial study of the crucial economic aspects of a
Buddhist monastic organization in an important period of Sri Lankan
history that marked the emergence of Sinhala state power.
Malalgoda, Kitsiri. Buddhism in Sinhalese Society 1750-1900/A
Study of Religious Revival and Change. Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1976. A detailed study of the history of Sinhalese
Buddhism during a recent 150-year period in which the classical
tradition experienced revival and change in response to both
internal and external pressures.
Rahula, Walpola, Thera. History of Buddhism in Ceylon. The
Anuradhapura Period, 3rd Century B.C.-10th Century. A.D., Colombo:
M.D. Gunasena, 2nd ed., 1968. An authoritative and well-documented
study of Buddhism in Ceylon, its development, structure, and
administration of monasteries and the activities of the monastic
Smith, Bardwell L., ed. Religion and Legitimation of Power in Sri
Lanka. Chambersburg: Anima Books, 1978. The volume on Sri Lanka
discusses several periods of Ceylonese history. The first five
chapters focus on the Anaradhapura period, 12 centuries ending in
the 10th century A.D. The next five chapters examine developments
through the 18th century, showing how mythology merged with reality.
Tambiah, Stanley Jeyaraja. Buddhism Betrayed? Religion, Politics,
and Violence in Sri Lanka. Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1992. A study of how Buddhism has contributed to the ethnic
conflict. Tambiah is a Sri Lankan Tamil and a Harvard
anthropologist. This controversial book is not available in Sri
Annual Economic Report. Colombo, Sri Lanka: Econsult (Pvt) Ltd.
Analyzes economic trends and policy issues from a business
Annual Report of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka:
annual. Presents a detailed study of the performance of the Sri
Lankan economy. Includes data and statistics on GDP, international
finance, prices, money, and banking, etc.
Athukorala and Jayasuriya. Macro Economic Policies, Crises, and
Growth in Sri Lanka 1969-1990. Washington, DC: World Bank, 1994.
Analyzes the interaction between Sri Lanka's macroeconomic policies,
political and social stability, and long-term growth.
Business South Asia. London: Economist Intelligence Unit,
monthly. Analyzes current economic policies and industry trends and
developments in Sri Lanka, as well as Bangladesh, India and
Karunatilake, H.N.S. Economic Development in Ceylon. New York:
Praeger, 1971. A descriptive analysis of the economy, by an
economist who is currently Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of
Ponnambalam, Satchi. Dependent Capitalism in Crisis. The Sri
Lankan Economy, 1948-1980. London: Zed Press, and New Delhi: Vikas
Publishing House Pvt., 1981. A wide-ranging survey and critical
evaluation of the economic politics and programs, development
planning and performance, and the resulting socioeconomic politics
Sri Lanka Country Report. London: Economist Intelligence Unit,
quarterly. Presents and explains current political and economic
state of the country. Monitors recent events and gives a political
and economic outlook for up to 2 years.
Sri Lanka Investment Policy and Incentives. Board of Investment
of Sri Lanka, 1996. Describes the business environment and provides
information on investment opportunities, procedures, and incentives.
(Updated information available on the Board of Investment's website:
Sri Lanka Private Sector Assessment. Washington, DC: World Bank,
March 1995. Provides a profile of the private sector, identifies
obstacles to private-sector development, and makes recommendations
regarding policy reform and bank group strategy to support the
Government's reform agenda.
Society and Miscellaneous
Baldwin, Jan. Colombo Heritage. Sri Lanka: Lake House Investments
Ltd., 1986. Descriptive histories and sketches of historical
buildings in Colombo.
Barlas, Robert, and Wanasundera, Nanda P., Culture Shock! Sri
Lanka. Singapore: Times Books International, 1992. A culture guide
for adjusting to life in the Sri Lanka environment. Covers
festivals, foods, languages, doing business, etc.
Blank, Jonah. Arrow of the Blue-Skinned God: Retracing the
Ramayana Through India. Houghton Mifflin, 1992. A young American
travels and muses through India and Sri Lanka. Surprisingly
sophisticated and insightful.
Carter, John Ross, ed. Religiousness in Sri Lanka. Colombo: The
Marga Institute, 1979. Representatives of the four major religious
traditions in Sri Lanka reveal the strengths and significance of
their adherence to their respective religious faiths and the
enduring value of the religious community in a pluralistic society.
Farmer, B.H., Pioneer Peasant Colonization in Ceylon. London:
Oxford University Press, 1957. The most authoritative study of the
agricultural, administrative, ecological, engineering, and human
aspects of colonization efforts up to 1957. Indispensable for those
interested in irrigation settlements.
Gooneratne, Yasmine. Relative Merits: A Personal Memoir of the
Bandaranaike Family of Sri Lanka. New York: St. Martin's Press,
Inc., 1986. An inside look at one of the country's most influential
clans and the unique social mileu it helped to create.
Gunasekera, Romesh. Monkfish Moon. New York: New Press, 1994.
Bittersweet short stories set in contemporary Sri Lanka.
Gunasekera, Romesh. Reef. London: Granta Books, 1994. A
beautifully written story of love in a paradise spoiled by violence.
Short listed for the Booker Prize.
Karunaratne, Nihal. From Governor's Pavilion to President's
Pavilion. Colombo, 1984. A charming guide to the history of the
building and its occupants, with outstanding color illustrations.
Muller, Carl. Yakada Yaka. India: Penguin Books, 1994. Muller
writes of the "Burgher" (Eurasian) railwaymen of colonial Ceylon.
Muller is vulgar, but often funny, in his inimitably bawdy fashion.
National Geographic Magazine. Washington, DC: National Geographic
Society, April 1966, January 1979, and January 1997. These issues
are devoted to Sri Lanka with the usual beautiful photography and
North American Women's Association. Colombo Handbook. Sri Lanka:
Associated Newspapers of Ceylon, Ltd., 1991. An indispensable
handbook for information on everything from automobiles, diseases,
hospitals, recreation, servants, shopping, zoos, etc.
Ondaatje, Michael. Running in the Family. New York: Vintage
Books, 1982. A funny and disturbing memoir of life in a Dutch
Ceylonese family during the first half of the century. By the Booker
Prize-winning author of The English Patient.
Pieris, Ralph. Sinhalese Social Organization. Colombo: Ceylon
University Press Board, 1956. The first comprehensive survey of
Sinhalese society in the Kandyan period, in the three centuries
prior to British Colonization. Complements Knox.
Roberts, Michael. Caste Conflict and Elite Formation: The rise of
a Karava elite in Sri Lanka, 1500-1931. Cambridge University Press,
Ross, Russell R. and Savada, Andrea Matles, ed. Sri Lanka, A
Country Study. Library of Congress, Federal Research Division, 1990.
A precise, objective study of the dominant social, political,
economic, and military aspects of Sri Lankan society.
Selvadurai, Shyam. Funny Boy. Morrow, 1996. A novel about a young
Tamil boy in Colombo coming to terms with his own homosexuality and
the racism of the society in which he lives.
Still, John H. The Jungle Tide. London: Blackwood, 1955. A lover
of Ceylon's jungles carries you back and into the wilds with an
indigenous Veddah family and its problems.
Vijayatunga, J. Grass for My Feet. London: Edward Arnold, 1935;
reprint ed., 1953; reprint ed., London: Howard Baker, 1970; reprint
ed., Sri Lanka: K.V.G. deSilva & Sons Colombo Ltd., 1993. A popular
and nostalgic account of the author's traditional village society; a
charming description of community life in rural Sri Lanka in the
Woolf, Leonard. The Village in the Jungle. London, 1913; reprint
ed., Colombo: Hansa Publishers, 1974. The great novel of Ceylon
jungle life, as the British Raj impinges on uncomprehending,
hardpressed villages beset by the jungle.
Yalman, N. Under the Bo Tree—Studies in Caste, Kinship, and
Marriage in the Interior of Ceylon. Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1967. Much information for those interested in
life outside Colombo.
http://www.is.lk/spot/index.html Infoscope newsclipping service
with newsclips about Sri Lanka from major newspapers worldwide
including Sri Lanka.
http://www.lacnet.org/suntimes/970511/index.html Use the current
Sunday date in the following format: yymmdd. This is the internet
edition of the Sri Lankan Sunday Times newspaper with a link to the
Midweek Mirror newspaper.
http://www.lanka.net/amcham/ Site for the American Chamber of
Commerce of Sri Lanka.
http://www.lankapage.com a good compendium of current news on Sri
http://www.lanka.net/Directory/ExploreSL/ A tourist magazine with
informative feature articles on the culture of Sri Lanka and
http://www.lanka.net/Directory/osc/ Site for the Overseas School
http://www.lanka.net/lakehouse/1997/04/03 Use current date in the
following format: yyyy/mm/dd. This is the internet edition of the
Daily News newspaper of Colombo, with a link to the Sunday Observer
http://www.lanka.net/sundayleader/ The internet edition of the
Sunday Leader newspaper of Colombo.
http://www.news.lk/index.html A source for current local news and
http://www.upali.lk/island/ The internet edition of The Island
newspaper of Colombo.
http://wheat.symgrp.com/symgrp/srilanka/ Homepage for the Embassy
of Sri Lanka, Washington, DC, with links to other Sri Lankan news
and information sites.
http://www.state.gov/ U.S. Department of State homepage with
links to Background Notes (at http://www.state.gov/www/background_notes/),
and the Consular Information Sheet (at http://travel.state.gov/sri_lanka.html).
Watch for a future link to the U.S. Embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka at
http://www.usembassy.state.gov Homepage for the US Embassy in Sri
Local Holidays Last Updated: 9/30/2002 6:00 PM
The Embassy celebrates 9 U.S. holidays and 11 local holidays.
Many local holidays vary from year to year in accordance with the
lunar calendar. Except for the American holidays that are normal
workdays in Sri Lanka, the local holidays observed by the Embassy
are statutory holidays, and local facilities are closed on those
days. However, personnel arriving at post need not schedule arrival
to avoid these holidays. The Embassy will arrange for someone to
meet you at the airport.
Easter Day April 15 Evacuation Day (anniversary of the departure
of the French from Syria) April 17 Martyr's Day May 6 Prophet's
Birthday * June 3 Mawlid al Nabi August 9 Al-Fitr (End of Ramadan) *
* Based on the lunar calendar.