8 Sri Lankan Etiquette Rules Every Traveler Should Know

So your trip isn’t filled with unknowing mishaps.

Former Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike (1916 – 2000), was the modern world’s first female head of government.
Photo: Wendy Hung

Sri Lanka isn’t called “the land of serendipity” for nothing! The country boasts colorful landscapes, but more importantly, it exudes immense peace. It leads to a set of rules regarding respect that travelers must follow. For a primarily Buddhist country, there are codes of conduct that you might want to know ahead of time so your trip isn’t filled with unknowing mishaps. Here are a few Sri Lankan etiquette rules to help you out:

1. When you see Buddhist monks, don’t touch their heads. Not even your kids can do that for fun. Monks are to be treated with the utmost respect in all places, even in crowded buses and busy streets.

2. At temples, you’ll be asked to remove your shoes. This is for respect and cleanliness in sacred grounds where worship occurs.

3. Wear conservative outfits when visiting temples. So, no short dresses, short pants, tank tops or mini skirts are definitely out of the question.

4. Don’t ever have your back facing toward any Buddha statue, even if you’re taking photos.

5. Stay away from discussing the 2009 Sinhalese/Tamil civil war that killed 80,000–100,000 people. It’s a sore subject for the country that caused a huge political divide.

6. Don’t rely on “no photography” signs since some are old and missing. If you see guards near a landmark, it probably means photography isn’t allowed.

7. PDA is NOT recommended since kissing and hugging your loved one publicly is looked down upon in Sri Lanka. Display of affection is deemed as a private act, kept inside the home. Although locals have allowed travelers to act more natural in recent years, one should respect Sri Lanka’s local culture and etiquette anyhow.

8. In Sri Lanka, public nudity is illegal. Skinny dipping is definitely NOT allowed, except if you’re staying at a private resort which permits it.

Wendy Hung


As the founder of Jetset Times, Wendy is an avid traveler and fluent in five languages. When she's not traveling, Wendy calls Paris and Taipei home. Her favorite countries so far from her travels have been: Bhutan, Iran, and St. Bart's because they were all so different!

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