Sri Lanka Volunteer Programs
Application - Information
When should I apply for a volunteer/internship assignment in Sri Lanka?
Global Crossroad has offered volunteer/internship assignments in Sri Lanka since 2003. We are able to place volunteers on the 1st or 3rd Monday of any month, year round. We recommend applying at least two months in advance, as there is an ever-increasing volume of applications. If your application must be expedited for quicker placement, please contact our office for more information.
What happens once I submit my documents and application to Global Crossroad?
Once Global Crossroad receives and reviews your completed application, it is then forwarded to our In-Country Coordinator in Sri Lanka who will then finalize a personal assignment as per your qualifications, experience and requests. Your finalized placement details are forwarded to you upon completion.
How long does it take to process my application?
The application process may take up to 2-4 weeks – occasionally longer given the time of year and influx of applications to your chosen country. However, in the event that an applicant requires quicker placement due to time constraints, we request you contact Global Crossroad's offices prior to submitting an application.
What documents do I need to submit with my application?
The only initial documentation required is our completed application form, which can be found online (http://www.globalcrossroad.com/apply). We reserve the right to request further information or documentation; however, in most situations information contained in the application is sufficient. Applicants have the option to either submit their application online or download the application from the website and submit the completed form to Global Crossroad's USA-based offices by either mail or fax.
Are there any necessary requirements to participate in the Sri Lanka based volunteer programs?
The only qualifications are:
- An open-mind, a willingness to teach others as well a passion for helping those in need.
- Enthusiasm for living abroad, meeting new people and embracing varied cultures.
- Be in good mental and physical health.
Securing a tourist visa is the volunteer's responsibility and Global Crossroad requires all volunteers to obtain a tourist visa before departing for Sri Lanka.
Please call our office or contact your nearest Sri Lanka embassy to learn more about visa, visa fees and visa extensions. Much information can be learned online by searching out Sri Lanka's embassy or consulate.
Who manages the volunteer projects in Sri Lanka?
Global Crossroad's in-country Coordinator in Sri Lanka is responsible for researching appropriate volunteer projects as per the qualifications, skills and interests of the applicants.
What are the daily schedules of the projects?
Project schedules vary for each project in Sri Lanka. Most projects are from Monday to Friday, for approximately 4-5 hours a day. Most volunteers have the weekends and evenings off to sightsee or explore Sri Lanka on their own.
Where are the projects located?
Most of our programs in Sri Lanka will take place in and around Galle. Review the details of your project on our website or in your placement documents for the particular city or area to which you will be travelling.
What is the language spoken in Sri Lanka?
Sinhalese and Tamil are the two official languages of Sri Lanka. English is fluently spoken by approximately 10% of the population, and is used for education, scientific and commercial purposes.
When are the Sri Lanka based assignments available?
Global Crossroad programs are available year round and begin on the 1st or 3rd Monday of every month.
How long can I volunteer in Sri Lanka?
We normally suggest participants volunteer for a 2-12 weeks timeframe. In general, most countries do not allow those travelling on a tourist visa to stay longer than 12 weeks. If you would like to stay longer, please contact our offices to discuss your options.
Arrival and Departure Information
Who will arrange my flight to Sri Lanka?
International flight coordination and payment of international airfare is a volunteer's responsibility.
At which airport should I arrive?
Colombo, Sri Lanka (Bandaranaike International Airport) however, random placements may require arrival at a different airport. Please do not book travel until your placement is complete.
If my assignment begins on Monday, when should I arrive in Sri Lanka?
Please arrive the day before your assignment begins. If you wish to arrive earlier, your accommodation and meals will be your responsibility. Please review our assignment or Spanish Language Studies start day details in your personal placement information package we will forward to you.
Will someone pick me from the airport? If so, how will I know who they are and where they are?
You will be greeted up at the airport, but you must send your travel itinerary to our Sri Lanka in-country Coordinator and to us at Global Crossroad's offices before your arrival in Sri Lanka. You will be met by a local staff member or our in-country coordinator. They will be holding a sign with your name, awaiting your arrival outside of the airport.
If you miss our representative due to flight delay or confusion, please call the in-country coordinator number provided in your placement details. This rarely happens, but be prepared by keeping this important information with you as you travel. Make sure you look carefully for your pick-up representative, as it is normally busy outside of the airport.
What should I do if my flight is delayed?
- Try to call our Sri Lanka in-country coordinator from the airport to notify him/her of the possible delayed arrival time.
- Check your placement instructions pertaining to details of hotels that have been recommended for late arrival if your flight will after midnight.
Call/email our Sri Lanka in-country Coordinator once you arrive so that s/he can orchestrate a new pick-up time.
How can I get to my accommodations from the airport, if I did not connect with Global Crossroad's local representative in the airport?
In the event that your arrival time is changed/delayed, requiring you to stay overnight in a hotel (or if you failed to meet Global Crossroad's representative at the airport), you should hire a taxi at the airport. Request the taxi deliver you to the hotel designated in your placement details/pre-departure information. Remember to request a receipt from the driver.
IMPORTANT: Ensure that you have contacted Global Crossroad's in-country coordinator BEFORE boarding a taxi. Participants are advised to contact Global Crossroad's Sri Lanka In-Country Coordinator the next day and let him/her know their whereabouts.
What do I need prior to departure from my home country?
- Please make sure that you pack all your necessary documents: passport, copy of passport and at least one other form of picture ID.
- Please bring your volunteer assignment placement details.
- Prepare financially to cover unforeseen expenses up to $50-100 USD/week for extra expenses and travel to your project each day.
- Prepare your mind and spirit for the experience to which you have committed. Culture shock affects everyone and it may be so strong that you want to quit the week after arrival. Take precautions: read about your county/city, study the culture and language(s) and learn about food and customs.
If I want to arrive earlier than when my assignment begins, where do I stay and who will organize the accommodations?
You can arrive up to a week early for your assignment; however, you are responsible for making and paying for these arrangements (including accommodations and food), and must still meet the in-country coordinator at the airport on the designated date.
When should I depart from Sri Lanka?
We ask that participants depart from Sri Lanka on the Saturday following the completion of their assignment.
From which airport shall I depart?
All Sri Lanka volunteers should depart from Colombo, Sri Lanka (Bandaranaike International Airport) unless you receive other instructions in your placement details.
Who will bring me to the airport for my departure?
GC does not offer airport drop-off services. You will need to arrange a taxi or bus ride to the airport following your assignment's completion. This is a simple process and our Sri Lanka in-country coordinator or your host family will normally be very happy to assist you with the arrangements.
Living Accommodations Information
Who will arrange my accommodations and what are they?
Global Crossroad's weekly fees include management of volunteers' meal plans and accommodations throughout projects and travel options. Three meals a day (breakfast, lunch and dinner) will be provided and will consist of local ingredients and feature traditional cuisine choices for Sri Lanka. Our meal program can accommodate vegetarian needs; however, we are not able to provide for other dietary restrictions. Food and drinks outside of mealtimes are the volunteer's responsibility. In most cases, there are restaurants and markets nearby the homes in which our volunteers stay.
In Sri Lanka, we normally place our volunteers with a host family. Volunteers usually have a single bedroom, but may occasionally share a room with another volunteer of the same gender. Our host families are chosen carefully and are esteemed community members, who have experience in the realm of hosting international travelers. Host family residences are in comfortable, clean and safe neighborhoods and rooms are simply furnished and tidy. Staying with a host family can offer the support system a volunteer will crave during their program and it is a great way to learn about a host country's culture and customs. Most volunteers who have stayed with a host family note that their stay truly enriched their entire experience abroad. Orphanage volunteers might have the opportunity to stay with the children as many orphanages provide private rooms for international volunteers. These volunteer rooms will normally be shared with a volunteer of the same gender.
A unique and important part of Global Crossroad's successful volunteer abroad programs is our volunteer support in-country. We put safety and comfort first as we deliver enriching and consistent experiences for our international travelers. Our support is multi-faceted while volunteers are in Sri Lanka and our staff is in contact with our volunteers on a regular basis either with face-to-face visits or via phone/email. Key support comes from our country coordinator and in-country field staff. These individuals are employed by our company and committed to ensuring your experience the best it can be. Your chosen project staff and host family offers support as well, and they are familiar with working with international volunteers and accustomed to answering questions and providing guidance. Volunteers also have access to our country coordinator's mobile number for emergencies. With longer assignments, our field staff visits regularly (every 2-4 weeks) to ensure the experience is meeting your expectations. Sometimes an assignment may be too far to visit physically, so staff members will touch-base via phone/email. You are also welcome to stop in the offices at any time. You are never alone.
Specific details regarding accommodations, food and contact details for our local coordinator will be provided in personalized volunteer placement documentation prior to arrival.
Are single rooms available?
Occasionally, in most cases you will share a room with a same-gender volunteer. Please note your request and we will do our best to meet your needs.
If I arrive with my friend, or girlfriend/boyfriend, can we stay together?
In many situations yes, but please contact our office regarding your situation, since it may depend upon individual accommodation availability and time-of-year circumstances. Please be reminded that volunteers of different genders are often not permitted to stay in the same room, unless they are a married couple.
Will there be other foreign volunteers/interns at my placement?
Yes, more often than not, but this depends on the exact assignment and accommodation placement. If you want to travel with a companion or group, we allow and encourage this option. You may be placed with different host families, but these residences will generally be located close (within one to two miles) to each other. Please be reminded that volunteers of different genders will normally not be allowed to stay in the same room, unless they are a married couple.
What are the bathroom facilities like?
Bathroom facilities depend up on the location and project. Most of our host families have running water and western (or modern)-style toilets. However, in a few projects/accommodations there are varying toilet and bathroom situations.
What are the laundry arrangements?
In most cases, laundry will be washed by hand. It is the responsibility of volunteers.
Can I use appliances if I bring them from my home country?
Yes, but you will need an electrical converter. Information for different countries can be found on the internet, for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mains_electricity. Your local small appliance specialty or travel retailer can advise you on plugs and voltage converters.
Who manages my meals?
Global Crossroad organizes food and accommodations for the extent of your volunteer assignment.
Can you accommodate special diets?
Global Crossroad can provide both vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals. We cannot accommodate special dietary needs (i.e. diabetics). If you require a special menu beyond vegetarian/vegan needs, you will need to be responsible for your own meals.
Is the running tap water safe for drink?
In most developing countries, tap water is not safe to drink. We recommend that you purchase bottled water for your consumption, but make sure that the cap's seal is not broken! You can also request that your host family boil water for you each day for you to consume.
Are there hot and cold-water facilities available?
Specifics pertaining to availability of hot water will be included in participants' placement details.
Will bottled water be provided?
No, the purchase of bottled water is a volunteer's responsibility.
Health and Safety
How safe is Sri Lanka?
Any international travel requires caution and awareness. We suggest that all volunteers consult their own government advisory office before participating in a Global Crossroad program.
International travel does present risks, especially with the modern-day threat of international terrorism. The U.S. State Department issues travel warnings and advisories in many countries for American travelers. These travel advisories and warnings change frequently as situations in each country transform.
These links provide travel information:
- British Foreign Office Advice ( http://www.fco.gov.uk/)
- American State Department Advice ( http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_1764.html)
- Australian Government Advice ( http://www.dfat.gov.au/)
- Canadian Government Advice (http://canada.gc.ca/main_e.html)
What are the principle health risks in Sri Lanka?
We use the Center for Disease Control traveler's health recommendations www.cdc.gov. You should also consult a travel doctor who will be knowledgeable about current epidemics, health risks and recommended vaccinations.
Is the food safe if I buy it from a street vendor?
No! Sri Lanka is still considered a developing country and you should be cautious. While you are in Sri Lanka, food safety should be a major consideration. You can hardly resist the tempting novelty of street vendors and their food variety, but you should abstain. Our suggestion is to avoid eating on the streets until you get familiar with the general situation. The food will likely taste quite different from anything you have had before. Food safety problems can range from chemicals and contaminants, to bacteria as well as some other diseases. In Sri Lanka, poor food cooking, preparation, and storage, as well as improper cleaning and disinfecting of cooking supplies is very common among street vendors. Therefore, we do not suggest buying food from street vendors.
What are the sanitary conditions in Sri Lanka?
- Be prepared and never expect a clean toilet 100% of the time. Carry some tissue in case you need to use the public toilet.
- In Sri Lanka, toilets generally do not do well when flushing large amounts of items or feminine hygiene products so do not flush them and throw them away in the trash.
- In some areas/restaurants, toilet systems are old, have very narrow plumbing and are easily blocked. In these cases, a small basket is usually placed beside the toilet (for your used toilet paper).
- Use hotel lobby toilets; these are everywhere and are tend to be clean. Still, they may not always have toilet paper.
Are ATMs easily available? If yes, which debit and credit cards are accepted?
Major cities have ATM machines, although not all will accept international cards. You can withdraw cash from most international banks from ATM machines, but $2-4 USD surcharges apply for each transaction.
MasterCard, Visa, Cirrus/Maestro and American Express cards are widely accepted. Use caution when paying by credit card as there is potential for fraud.
Ensure that you notify your home bank of your intent to travel to Sri Lanka. This will provide you necessary information and alleviate any confusion at your home bank regarding international transactions (which can result in a cautionary freeze on your account in some cases).
What is the local currency and how do I know the exchange rate?
The Sri Lankan currency is the rupee (Rs), divided into 100 cents. Coins come in denominations of 5, 10, 25 and 50 cents and 1, 2, 5 and 10 rupees. Notes come in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 rupees.
You can find current exchange rate information at currency websites like www.xe.com, or by looking in a newspaper like the Wall Street Journal.
Where should I exchange my money?
Moneychangers can be found in Colombo and the major cities, as well as in tourist centers. Rates are usually competitive and they tend not to charge commission. Keep in mind that the import and export of local currency is limited to Rp5000. The import of notes from India and Pakistan is not allowed. Otherwise, the import of foreign currency is not restricted but all amounts over US$5,000 are subject to declaration. Export of foreign currency is limited to the amount declared on import.
Remember, you must present your passport whenever you change currency or traveler checks.
How much money should I bring with me?
Global Crossroad manages food and rooms for our volunteers throughout the assignment; therefore, you will not need more money to pay for these expenses. However, if you plan to take part in activities outside of our organization or buy some souvenirs, you will need to bring extra money.
On a side note, you must also remember the fee for visas, which can range from US $50-100 depending on the length of stay. There may also be an airport tax that you pay upon your departure from Sri Lanka. You will want to determine the amount of extra money you bring based on these factors.
Is it safe to carry cash with me?
Carrying cash is not always safe; therefore, do not carry a large surplus of cash with you. It is advised that you carry cash in a money belt with some additional stashed in your wallet.
How do I contact with Global Crossroad's local coordinator?
The contact details of our Sri Lanka in-country Coordinator will be given in final placement sheet. You can contact him by email or telephone; we suggest all volunteers talk with country coordinator before they arrive.
How do I contact my family and friends once I arrive in Sri Lanka?
International Direct Dialing from Sri Lanka is available in cities. Phone cards are widely available and calls can be made from post offices, hotels and phone booths on the streets. In hotels, local calls are generally charged at a nominal fee. Internet cafes are available in most towns, although they can sometimes be noisy as they are a popular spot for the youth to play online games. You can use any type of communication to call back home.
How can my family members contact me?
Communication options depend on where you are placed. Most placements will have access to a post office, so mail and postcards are an option. If you are in a city placement, there are many places to make international phone calls or access the internet. These details will be provided prior to your departure to Sri Lanka, so you can share communication options with your family and friends before you depart.
Can I bring my telephone from my home country?
Yes, but it may or may not work. You will want to contact your mobile phone provider to make sure that your phone will work while you are in Sri Lanka, but remember that roaming will apply and those charges can be very, very expensive. To avoid them, you may be able to buy a local SIM card to use in your phone. Research and confirm this information before traveling.
Culture & Customs
Is there a special dress code that I should follow while staying in Sri Lanka?
Volunteers should dress conservatively when at their assignments. Jeans and a t-shirt are acceptable. No short-shorts and tank tops please. Remember to consider the regional religious beliefs of Sri Lanka, which may be extremely conservative and revealing clothing is unacceptable - shorts and skirts must be at least knee-length and no one should show their shoulders.
Please note: When entering temples, mosques or buildings of religious importance always check what dress attire is required. In most cases, covering your head is required also take off your shoes and be dressed conservatively.
What should I know about religious conduct in Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka's population practices a variety of religions. 70 percent of Sri Lankans are Theravada Buddhists, 15 percent are Hindus, 7.5 percent are Muslims and 7.5 percent Christians. Sri Lanka was ranked the 3rd most religious country in the world by a 2008 Gallup poll, with 99% of Sri Lankans saying religion is an important part of their daily life.
How do I respect the people of Sri Lanka?
Be inclusive and show respect of their culture.
Sri Lanka's culture is rich in customs and traditions. People of Sri Lanka enjoy sharing their customs and traditions with foreigners so feel free to take part with them. You can go with your host family on outings if they ask you to or invite them along with you to go on an outing. Simply helping your family do household chores will be another bonding experience that you can enjoy.
More Information about Sri Lanka
What is weather like in Sri Lanka?
Official Sri Lankan Holidays
- 1 Jan: New Year's Day
- 14 Jan: Tamil Thai Pongal Day
- 4 Feb: National Day
- 20 Mar: Milad un-Nabi (Birth of the Prophet)
- 21 Mar: Good Friday
- 13-14 Apr: Sinhala and Tamil New Year
- 1 May: May Day
- 2 Oct: Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
- 28 Oct: Deepavali
- 9 Dec: Eid al-Adha (Hadji Festival Day)
- 25 Dec: Christmas Day
What about tipping in Sri Lanka?
According to LonelyPlanet.com, "Although a 10% service charge is added to food and accommodation bills, this usually goes straight to the owner rather than the worker. So tipping is a customary way of showing your appreciation for services rendered. Drivers expect a tip, as do people who 'guide' you through a site. A rule of thumb is to tip 10% of the total amount due. If there's no money involved use your other thumb for this rule: Rs 10 for the person who minds your shoes at temples, and Rs 20 for a hotel porter."
Materials to Bring
- Mosquito net
- Padlock and chain
- Sleeping bag liner and sleeping bag
- Pillow case
- Water purification tablets
- wet wipes and no-water washes
- First-aid kit
- Waterproof pouch
- Tealight candles (during a power cut these are safer than regular candles)
- Collapsible water bottle
- Waterproof poncho
- Gaffer tape
- Universal bath plug
- Towel and personal bath kit
- SPF/sun protection, sunglasses
- Insect net
- Bedding (if noted in placement document)
- Medical first-aid kit
NOTE: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) is generic information and should not be used as a definitive travel guide. Travel information and situations abroad change constantly. Participants should consult Global Crossroad or travel advisors to verify this information.