Matara, Sri Lanka - Stein Travel
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Matara

Matara is the largest town on Sri Lanka's popular south coast, hosting the terminus of the railway line from Colombo. Today it is a quiet town, but in past centuries was a thriving port central to the spice and gem trade with the East and Holland. The original town was established on a narrow peninsula in the estuary of the Nilwala River, which was fortified by the Dutch. The original walls still stand, containing some rather dilapidated old buildings dating from the Dutch colonial era. Matara is scenically attractive, surrounded by paddy fields and tea estates on the fertile river floodplain. The area also boasts some sandy, safe beaches. These assets have ensured that the town is a popular tourist destination removed from the trouble spots in the north of the island, where civil unrest remains a threat.

Information & Facts

Language

Most people speak Sinhala, which is the national and official language. Tamil is also spoken, and English is spoken at most tourist establishments.

Money

The unit of currency is the Sri Lanka Rupee (LKR), which is divided into 100 cents. Major credit cards are widely accepted, and travellers cheques in US Dollars are recommended. ATMs are becoming more common, but outside the main cities they are unlikely to accept international cards. Credit cards should be used with caution due to the potential for fraud. Foreign currency can be exchanged at bureaux de change, banks and hotels, but exchanging cash is more expensive than exchanging travellers cheques. Banks are closed on Sundays.

Time

Local time is GMT +5.30.

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