This was a trip like no other.
Why do I say that? There is only one reason why! This is my 1st ever
trip across the Indian borders, yes, I was finally gonna get a stamp on my
passport and setting foot on foreign land. So what if it was Sri Lanka, our
neighbouring country. It was still a country that needed a passport and visa
and all that jazz! For those who have travelled across the globe, this is no
big deal, but trust me – it was such a huge deal for me! Actually, this was
true both for me and my friend. We had kinda made a pact a year or so ago that
we would make our 1st international trip together and it so happened
that the dream came true…
She called me towards the 3rd
week of March and asked if I was game to do a trip to Sri Lanka and I
immediately said Yes. She had done quite a bit of research and began rattling
out flight and visa details even before the whole thing settled in my mind. I
checked the net, got her passport details and booked our tickets and Visa.
Within a day we had also booked the hotel for the 1st night and we
had decided to take the rest as the days progressed. I took 2 friends into confidence
and asked them about places to go, things to do and so on.  I also referred to the net, checked out quite a few sites of which I found Sri Lanka Travel portal to be quite good and informative! 
[Image courtesy: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/maps/asia/sri-lanka/map_of_sri-lanka.jpg]
We booked tickets on Spicejet from Madurai, cos that was the cheapest flight available on the dates we wanted to travel. There are quite a few other Airlines- Air Lanka, Air India Express and so on. 
The Visa was done online, and it
took a few minutes only. All I did was Google “Sri Lanka visa” and the “https://eta.gov.lk/
site popped up. In that, after reading the process, i clicked on “Apply” which
opened out a form that i filled out [name, passport number, issue and expiry
date, address, dates of travel, and an address at the destination], then make
the payment via credit card [USD 15]. However, visa is also available on
arrival, but that costs USD 30.  Once you
are done filling out the form, check and make sure the information provided is
correct, esp passport number. If you don’t really know where you are staying [which
was the case with us], just fill in Colombo [landing destination] and it works!
Now when you are done with payment gateway, you will receive an email saying
your visa is under process and you will hear from them in 24hours. I received a
“visa approved” mail within that time and I had it on my phone in case anyone
asked for it [which none did]
Similarly, for the ticket, you
just need to store the email on your phone, don’t need print outs. Just make
sure you are carrying your passport with you as you will need to show it at
multiple places.
With regards to Foreign Currency
we did a rough estimate after talking to friends/travel agents and people
living in SL, and decided we might need about 50K Sri Lankan Rupees [LKR],
which was equal to Rs25000 INR. So, I called up a money exchange company, took
a copy of the passport and ticket and cash and got the LKR money.
LKR is quite interesting- the
notes are all different, some large, some small but all of them have a
collection of birds/animals/symbols/masks on them. Quite colourful.  The LKR 2000 notes are much larger than LKR
5000. They also have coins, very similar to ours except theirs is all gold in
colour.  The normal conversion rate is 1
INR= 2.17 LKR, but most places give upto 2LKR.  We needed little more and so when we
approached Western Union in Galle, they offered us 1.9LKR only [lost about 500
bucks in that transaction].
That is all you need! Oh and you
can draw cash if required using your ATM card from your local Indian Banks. The
ATM machine gives a good rate – 1INR= 2.17 LKR. Our Credit cards also work
everywhere, for no additional charge! The credit card slip comes in LKR, while
the SMS/email notification in our INR.

Now that you know what you need
to plan a SL trip, I shall talk about my experiences in the next post.