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Responsible Travel (Sri Lanka)

Taking photos

“Tourists stick their cameras in our faces and promise they’ll send photos back, but they never do.” We encourage you to think about how you would like to be treated by camera-wielding tourists – always check that it is ok before taking a photograph of a local person. Simply indicate to your camera to ask and never take the photograph if someone gestures or says that they do not want you to. Some of our tours visit sites where it is not recommended to take photographs. In some cases this may be for security reasons, or it can cause offence for example, burning gnats. Your guide will advise you where it is not appropriate to take photographs and please adhere to this advice.

Dress appropriately

Local people in Sri Lanka dress conservatively. Full length cotton trousers or shorts that cover the knees are acceptable for men, and for women, skirts or trousers that reach below the knee are ideal, worn with tops that cover the shoulders. When visiting temples or mosques, both men and women should dress in non-revealing clothes. Women might also consider carrying a modesty shawl in their daypack – this could be a sarong or light scarf – which they can wear over their shoulders and heads to feel more comfortable while sightseeing at mosques. When visiting Jain temples, you must not wear or take in any leather items such as belts, watches, camera straps, purses and shoes.
 In religious sites and homes throughout Sri Lanka – for Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Muslims or Buddhists to name a few - all visitors are required to remove their shoes to enter. Even if you then need to walk outdoors, over hot or rough ground, you will not be allowed to wear shoes. You will often find shoe storage rooms near the entrance of a site where it is customary to leave your shoes near the entrance. Occasionally there are ‘shoe minders’ who will offer to keep your shoes safe for a ‘tip’ – this is not compulsory so each customer can choose to tip for this service or not. If you do not want to remove them, you will have to remain outside. Bring some shoes that easily slip on and off, and carry a pair of thick, old socks in your daypack, which you can wear to protect your feet from any rough or hot surfaces.

Observe local rules

Sri Lanka is a country with its own unique local rules and customs. As foreigners, we are not expected to be knowledgeable about these, but it will make your time in Sri Lanka more enjoyable if you are respectful of local customs. Some examples of customs include:
• The traditional greeting used to greet someone is "Ayubowan." This term translates to "long life" and is accompanied by joining both hands together in a prayer-like manner. It is a respectful and customary way to greet others in Sri Lanka and can be used at any time of the day.
• Remove your shoes when entering any religious sites and houses 
• Public displays of affection is frowned upon
• Move around chortens, other shrines, alters and all religious objects or buildings in a clockwise direction
• Do not wear any leather articles (shoes, belts, camera straps)at any Jain temples
• Try not to point the soles of your feet towards people or towards religious objects
• Cameras are not allowed in some sightseeing spots, particularly temples and pagodas
 • When it comes to eating, shaking hands, or passing something to someone, it is customary to use your right hand.
• Do not raise your voice as this can be very offensive
 •Do not touch a monk, or their clothes  

Animals in Sri Lanka

Animals in Sri Lanka are not kept the same way as they are in western countries. Stray dogs, cats and cows can be found out and about in the smaller cities but there is no danger to tourists. In most cases stray dogs and cats are harmless, but please refrain from touching, feeding or patting them. Monkeys can be seen in some cities as well. They are harmless if you stay clear; because they are used to living in large cities they are not wary of people. Refrain from feeding stray animals at all times. Cows are sacred in the Hindu faith. They are allowed to roam unharmed, and they are familiar with the traffic and the rhythm of the city. Again, sometimes staying out of the way is the best thing to do.