I have seen many unhappy tourists turning around and having to go back, mostly because they were not dressed appropriately for the venue. So here are a few ground rules and tips.
When going to a temple make sure you are wearing, either jeans, trousers or any sort of long bottoms what will fall below your knees ( this is more of a cultural thing in Sri Lanka than it is Buddhist, as it varies from country to country, for example there is in general no such rule in Thailand, where the practiced buddhism is the same.). I generally wear jeans, if you do not want to wear jeans, then purchase from a local store or ask your tour guide if you have one for a sarong which can be used to cover up.
Do not wear sleeveless tops, the general rule is wear at least a t-shirt on top or a shirt which is short sleeved or long sleeved. this applies to ladies too, you can use a cloth to wrap around your shoulders. Believe it or not I was once rejected entry as i was wearing a sleeveless top.
When entering temple, remember to take off your shoes and socks, and caps or hats.
Other than this, important facts include.
- Do not consume alcohol inside a religious site, or do not enter while intoxicated
- Do not smoke
- Do not make lots of noise or play loud music
- No public displays of affection other than holding hands
So make sure you know the dress code before you visit certain places. Asking a local is the best way to find out which places of interest have such rules. As a general rule of thumb, most places in the Anuradhapura and Polonaruwa areas and Kandy will have this rule.