Horizon Lanka is located in a small village called Mahawilachchiya. It is 40 km from the ancient, and more developed city, of Anuradhapura where one can find just about anything (clothing, supplies, cosmetics, etc.) In an attempt to help you prepare your trip and join us worry free, here are a few tips we have gathered for our soon-to-be volunteers.
- Internet and Phone
- Living environment
- Packing your suitcase
- Reaching Horizon Lanka from the airport
- Driving in Sri Lanka
Each tourist coming to Sri Lanka should obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) prior to their arrival. The fees and application processes vary according to the nationality of the applicant. Visit www.eta.gov.lk to obtain more information and apply for your visa.
The ETA is valid for 30 days. Each visitor has the possibility of prolonging their stay by 60 days up to a total of 90 days. The extension will have to be requested by the volunteer, in person, at the Department of Immigration and Emigration in Colombo before the ETA’s expiration date.
An additional 90 days can be granted to visitors able to justify their prolonged stay.
Here is information to help you fill out the ETA paperwork:
Address in Sri Lanka: Horizon Lanka Foundation, No. 125, Left bank, Mahawilachchiya, Anuradhapura.
Staying With: Nanda Wanninayaka
Reason for entry: Tourist.
Visa and MasterCard can be used in Sri Lanka to withdraw money. This said, only certain banks will accept international cards.
The closest two ATMs are located at Pemaduwa, downtown of Mahawilachchiya (3 km from our premises); yet, we strongly recommend volunteers to withdraw some cash prior to arriving in Mahawilachchiya in case the Pemaduwa ATMs are malfunctioning. But not to worry, if you run out of money during your stay, we will happily take you to the nearest functioning ATM!
Internet and Phone
All five mobile network providers in Sri Lanka: Dialog, Mobitel, Etisalat, Hutch and Airtel have covered Mahawilachchiya. Dialog, Mobitel and Hutch provide 3G Internet coverage to Mahawilachchiya. We advise our volunteers to pick up a prepaid 3G Dialog SIM card at the airport upon arrival for the modest amount of 1300 LKR ($9). This card will last you a month and includes 5 GB of data as well as plenty of credit for call and text. Dialog has the widest mobile and 3G coverage in Mahawilachchiya with the help of two towers situated in the village.
As of yet, Wi-Fi is not available at Horizon Lanka or in the surrounding area. Your best bet for internet connectivity is to use the 3G data plan from your phone. If you have a laptop, you can also use your smartphone as a hotspot to surf the web.
No vaccination is required for tourists by the Sri Lankan government. However, we strongly recommend volunteers to seek advice from a health professional on this topic.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control recommends travelers to be up-to-date on the following prior to their visit (click for further details):
- Routine vaccines: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, varicella (chickenpox), polio
- Hepatitis A and B
- Japanese Encephalitis
- Sri Lanka has been declared a malaria free country by the World Health Organization.
The closest hospital is located 2 km from Horizon Lanka and will provide medical care for both urgent and benign matters. The hospital will also supply medication free of charge based on the doctor’s diagnosis. Public hospital is open from 9am to 4pm but open 24hrs a day for any emergency needs. (There are a couple of private medical practitioners from 4pm to 9pm for a nominal fee.)
As a volunteer, you will stay in one of Horizon Lanka’s students’ home and eat local food that they will prepare. They will provide you mainly fresh vegetables, rice and other grains, fresh fruits, fresh water fish, sea fish and meat. However, beef will not be provided as it is not in Sri Lankan village meals due to both religious (Buddhist) and cultural reasons. Diet restrictions (i.e. vegetarian, vegan, halal) and special living arrangements should be requested early in advance when needed.
Each volunteer will get a separate room with a bed, a mosquito net and a standing or a table fan. A regular bicycle will be provided to the volunteer for the traveling within the village.
Packing Your Suitcase
Sri Lanka climate is tropical and consists of distinct wet and dry seasons. Temperatures can drop in the hill country, places such as Kandy and Nuwara Eliya, as the region rests higher in altitude. More info on climate is provided on Sri Lanka’s Department of Meteorology’s website.
During their time at Horizon Lanka, volunteers are free to dress to their liking, except when teaching in public schools where male volunteers are required to cover shoulders and legs (t-shirts, shirts, jeans and pants are appropriate), while female volunteers will be encouraged to wear a traditional sari which you can buy for less than $20 USD from the village clothes stores.
Also note both men and women have to cover shoulders and legs (3/4 length) when visiting Buddhist temples.
We have no problem with you wearing shorts during work or bathing suits in public bathing places like rivers or reservoirs in the village.
In Sri Lanka, the standard voltage is 230V and both D and G (UK) plug types are in use. Most places will have adapters (including Horizon Lanka,) but you may choose to bring a universal adapter for your own comfort.
Donations and Educational Support
School supplies and stationeries are available on site.
Volunteers are welcome to submit donations to Horizon Lanka such as educational literature, sports equipment, art tools and any other prop the volunteer judges will benefit the children.
Most of the transportation in Sri Lanka is done by bus, train or tuk-tuk (3-wheel taxi). Getting around by bus is extremely affordable (eg. Mahawilachchiya – Colombo < $5 USD)
There is one bus line linking Mahawilachchiya to Anuradhapura (roughly 1.5 hours). From there, one can reach just about any major city (eg. Jaffna, Kandy, Trincomalee, Colombo). The bus staff are extremely friendly to foreigners and will tell you when to alight.
Each volunteer will also be provided a bicycle to move around the village.
Reaching Mahawilachchiya from the airport:
Should you elect to complete the journey on your own, here is how to get to Mahawilachchiya from the airport using public transportation –
Total journey duration: 6 hours
NB: The Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB) is located in Katunayake, 30 km from downtown Colombo.
- Wave down a tuk-tuk and tell the driver you would like to catch a bus to Anuradhapura.
- Board on a bus to one of the following destinations (indicated above the bus’ windshield): Anuradhapura, Jaffna, Vavunia or Mannar (the sign boards of these long distance buses are blue)
- Alight at the Old Bus Stand station in Anuradhapura
- At the bus station, board a bus going to Wilachchiya
- Tell the driver you want to alight at Horizon Lanka at Bogashandiya.
Driving in Sri Lanka
Whether you own a motorcycle or car license from your country, you will need to obtain a temporary Sri Lankan driving permit before you can use a vehicle to move around in Sri Lanka. The procedure is very simple and will consume little of your time, but requires you to go to Colombo.
Present yourself to the Department of Motor Traffic in Boralesgamuwa (known as RMB by the locals). Be aware that there is a RMB in the center of Colombo on Elvitigala Mawatha road which does not deal with foreign licenses.
Bus 120 will take you straight to the driving license office from Colombo Fort.
To obtain a Sri Lankan temporary driving permit, you will need to present your original driving license (international permit not necessary,) passport, and one photocopy of both the picture page and visa page of your passport.
The processing fee is 1000 LKR ($7 USD) and the whole process takes about an hour (permit delivered immediately). Do not trust people standing outside the RMB who pretend they can expedite the delivery of your permit for a tip – they can’t.