FAQ - Häufige Fragen zur Freiwilligenarbeit in Sri Lanka
1. When you I arrive?
You have to arrive on a Sunday (one day before the start of the project). If you arrive on a Saturday (before midnight) you will be charged the extra night with 25€. You have to pay directly in cash. In addition, the airport transfer is only included on weekends. If you arrive on a weekday, you will be charged an additional 50€, which you have to pay directly to the driver.
2.What should I bring?
- A smile and a positive attitude are the most important things. When selecting clothes, our general advice is to travel as light as possible and to avoid heavy baggage. Most things can be purchased on the spot a lot cheaper then in your home country. It is adequate to bring enough clothes for only a couple of days as it is generally easy and cheap to find a laundry.
- Since there are several rainy and dry seasons, it is advisable to have some light rainwear in your luggage. Regardless of the season, a raincoat or umbrella can come in quite handy. However, you cal also easily purchase this items on the spot for a reasonable price.
- Highland areas in and around Kandy can be slightly cooler, around 20°C after the sun has set. So it might be a good idea to bring a sweater or jacket for the cooler nights.
- Mosquito protection. You can consider bringing a net, that you can hang over your bed, but this can also be bought in Sri Lanka.
- Your mobile phone (You can buy a local SIM card)
- Some small souvenirs from your home (posters, music, postcards, maps, videos, food) t introduce yourself to your hosts and other participants.
- Medication you might need. In addition, it is also recommended to bring a first aid kit.
- Toilet paper (this is not provided in the centers and apartments, as it is not used by the locals)
- A sleeping bag: just in case
- A camera (important for good memories)
- Swim suit
- It is also advisable to have a copy of your passport, visa and insurance. But most importantly: a lot of enthusiasm, kindness and, above all, the smile!
3. What should I wear? Is there a dress code?
- Although your dress code depends on the project as well as the season, there are some basic points you should keep in mind.
- It is best to watch the locals and copy the way they are dressed. They will regard this as a great compliment ans as a sign of respect for their culture. The locals tend to dress a lot more conservatively than most Westerners. The safest choice is "smart casual". Whenever you go into a temple, woman MUST cover their shoulders and knees. Therefore, it is advisable to always bring a scarf for shoulders and arms and a sarong for the knees. For men, it is also recommended to cover as much as possible when visiting a religious site.
- You should also consider bringing formal clothes with you, not tuxedos, evening dress or tiaras. What we recommend is a decent pair of pants and a neat shirt for the guys and a nice dress or a combination of pants and blouse for the girls.
- And why? You will quickly find out that the family ties in Sri Lanka are very strong, there is also the unmistakable fact that there are a number of colorful and meaningful ceremonies that accompany the most important stations in life from birth to puberty, marriage, birth of children, and death. Each family could easily have a number of these occasions within a year. By having the opportunity to work closely with the locals, there is the possibility that you will receive and invitation to such a ceremony. And in case this happens, you should be prepared.
4. Will I have internet access?
No, at least not constantly. Therefore, we prefer not to make any promises. But there are many restaurants and cafes in Kandy which have Wi-Fi. These can be reached within a few tuk-tuk-minutes or in about 40 minutes on foot.
5. How can I stay in contact with family and friends?
There are lots of international phone booths, so there won't be any problem to reach your loved ones at home. In addition, you will be shown where to find the post office and you will get assistance if you want to send a parcel abroad. You will also get supported in buying a local SIM card or even a new mobile phone. This will make it easier to keep in touch with tho other volunteers or to call a taxi.
6. What will be expected from me?
- The programs have been designed for proactive individuals and groups who will undoubtedly receive the greatest reward for their efforts when they keep in mind the essence of volunteering: do more you put in, the more you will get out
- Number two: smile and be patient. Always keep in mind that working in this part of the world will be significantly different than in your home country. The Sri Lankans see time from a much more flexible perspective than most Western people and consider our obsession with deadlines and punctuality rather bizarre.
- For these and a number of other reasons, the planning and activities in our program can always be subject to change. But this makes traveling abroad what it is: an adventure and an incredible learning experience
- It will make your stay in Sri Lanka a lot more comfortable when you leave home all the Western obsessions with regard to punctuality. Life in Sri Lanka is lived at a slower, more relaxed pace, which means that meetings do not always start in time or people be on the meeting point in time. Do not get angry, take courtesy and serenity as your mantra and take a deep breathe. You will be amazed that everything will work out, even if not as planned.
7. Do I need a visa?
Yes, all foreigners (except Singaporeans and Malaysians) who want to enter Sri Lanka need a visa. The visa must be applied for before traveling to Sri Lanka. More information concerning the visa can be found on the homepage of the Sri Lankan embassy's in your home country.
8. Can I stay longer?
No one can guaranty this. But our local partner organization will do its best to extend your stay if you wish to. Mostly, this depends on the availability of the accommodation, but also on your visa. This can be extended at the immigration office. However, the extension is granted at the discretion of the authorities, i.e. you must prove that you have sufficient financial resources and need to have a flight ticket that shows that you will leave the country before the visa expires. The sooner you tell the person in charge that you wish to stay longer, the better. But there is still no guarantee for an extension.
9. Are there and health concerns I should be aware of?
- We advise you to consult your doctor at least 4 to 8 weeks prior to your departure to Sri Lanka. Recommended vaccinations are hepatitis A, typhoid, tetanus and polio. But you need to crosscheck with your doctor.
- Sri Lanka is not known as risk area for malaria, whether you take malaria pills or not is your own decision. Another disease transmitted by mosquitoes is dengue fever.
- It is advisable to bring an antibiotic or similar for stomach problems. Despite all the eating facilities are clean and hygienic, there always remains a risk of getting an upset stomach. This, however is usually over after a few days.
10. What will the weather be like?
- The official response is: Sri Lanka has a dry and a rainy season. However, the differentiation is not quite as simple as there are two monsoons. In the south-west, between May and September, the Yala monsoon brings the largest rainfall of 4000 mm per year. In October and November, a transitional period prevails, so that starting from December the dry season begins and will last until the end of April.
- That would be the official answer, but it's not that easy. Even during the rainy season, you will be able to find crystal blue skies as well as incredible rain and floods during the dry season. However, the rains rarely last all day and occur mainly in the evening and night times.
- The higher areas of Sri Lanka are somewhat cooler with annual average temperatures of 16-20°C. In the coastal regions, the temperatures are significantly higher with an average temperature of 27°C. Between March and June the temperate gets even higher up to 33°C and between November and January they will drop to 24°C.
- The temperature of the ocean is pleasant 27°C throughout the year.
11. How do I get around?
- If you visit Sri Lanka only for a short period of time and you will mainly stay in Kandy, you can easily reach everything by foot.
- If you don't want to go everywhere by foot, you can just take a tuk-tuk.
12. How do I get money?
- The first thing you should do before starting your trip is telling your bank about when you will stay in Sri Lanka. If you don't it can happen that they will block your card after first use in Asia for security reasons.
- When you arrive at the airport you will find many money changer, where you can change your money or redeem traveler checks. The exchange rate is usually fair. But even in Kandy you can find such money changer. However, if you find place where the exchange rate is too good to be true, then that is usually what it is: too good to be true. in such places, you face the risk to get ripped off. so be careful when choosing a money changer!
- ATM's are almost everywhere. But this is often not the most favorable way of exchanging your money. So better inform yourself before which way will be cheaper for you.
- Visa and MasterCard are almost accepted everywhere in Asia. If you hold an American Express card, it could happen that it won't be accepted.
13. Is Sri Lanka safe?
- Yes, Sri Lanka is safe to travel to. However, that doesn't mean that you should fall into a holiday mood and forget all your safety precautions. As everywhere else in the world, an open door may tempt a saint.
- Terrorism: Since the civil war ended in 2009, life in Sri Lanka is back to normal. However, when staying in international hotels or touristy areas, one should still be cautious. But these are place you won't visit very often during your stay in Sri Lanka. Presumably, Sri Lanka is a lot safer than many Western countries regarding tourism.
- Thieves and threats to your personal safety: While shopping or sight seeing in Sri Lanka, you will quickly notice that the Sri Lankans are one of the friendliest and most trustworthy people in the world. Especially in Kandy you will see only little violence or crime. Violence, thefts and fraud tend to be brought into the country mainly by foreigners. You have to be particularly vigilant in the beach areas and touristy places as they are full of thieves. These pickpocket gangs are coming mostly from abroad and do not correspond to the way Sri Lankans treat their guests.
- Beggars and hustlers: These are few of the disadvantages when traveling through a developing country. You should always keep in mind, that only few of them are really beggars who can not afford their food and drinks. However, most of them are illegal groups. This is also the case with most of the small street children selling leather bracelets. They are often part of a gang and end up receiving almost nothing for their efforts.
- Therefore our advice: never walk through the streets on you own, especially as a woman. Never bring too much cash with you and especially in public never show how much cash you have with you!
14. Am I allowed to drink alcohol in the center?
The simple answer is "no", with one exception. It is not allowed to drink alcohol in the center, and in a host family this can be considered disrespectful. Nevertheless, you should be able to relax and enjoy your time in Sri Lanka, so moderate drinking is allowed outside the buildings but within the center's terrain.
15. Is it allowed to smoke cannabis?
NO! All kinds of drugs are illegal in Sri Lanka. If you get caught by an employee in the center, your project will be terminated immediately and you have to leave the center. However, if you get caught by the police, this can have a worse effect and you might have to spend some time in a Sri Lankan prison.
16. How do I bargain?
- This question will concern you as soon as you are in Sri Lanka. Negotiation prices is a fundamental part of life in Sri Lanka. If you buy small thing like fruits or vegetables, you will probably accept the low price (although it could be even lower) and pay. If you want to buy something more expensive then you should always remember the rule: never pay the seller's first price. If you do, you will spoil the seller's fun and everyone will think you are a stupid foreigner who has too much money.
- First, you think about how much the item could probably cost. Stay relaxed and do not become aggressive. No matter what price the seller asks, start from half as a basis for your negotiations. Be always willing to walk away if the price does not fit your expectations. The seller will most likely call you back and respond to your price. If you visit a bigger shopping mall there is no need to try to negotiate since there are set prices.