While in my opinion Sri Lanka is a country you can just book a ticket, arrive, start travelling and have a good time even though you know nothing about the country, it is always great to have a basic idea of how life in that country works, what to expect as well as a few tips and travel hacks at your fingertips that will make travelling even easier and more joyful.
That’s why I decided to collect and share some of the most helpful things and tips that I picked up and realized throughout my journey:
Planning your route:
I met many people along my journey that haven’t planned one thing – no route, no accomodation, no sightseeing points … nothing. And while at the end of my travelling I got more relaxed about it, I guess I’m too German to not plan haha.
- If you look at the map of Sri Lanka there are really 3 main paths most tourists take. Once landed in Colombo, they either go south along the coastline, up north, or eastwards towards the heart of the country.
- Usually people travel through Sri Lanka in some kind of circle. No matter in which direction they initially headed off, they eventually have to come back to the airport and preferably want to see most of the country in between. Therefore their travelling route will look like a circle – more or less.
- If somehow possible, I would recommend doing the beach area last. I met a few people who started off towards the south, planned on travelling along the beach, then head inwards and up north. Well I met them a few weeks after they had arrived and still were on the beach 🙂 There’s nothing at all wrong with that (I mean who am I to judge that), however land inward is also very beautiful and very worth to be seen. Along my travels I talked to a few people, and we all realized that doing the beaches last thing is the best way to go.
Sri Lanka is a country that requires a visa. Luckily it is pretty easy to obtain and affordable.
There are 2 ways to go about it:
- Apply and buy it in advance (recommended)
If you decide to get your visa up front use the official website to buy your Sri Lankan Visa. I don’t know why there are so many other websites, however they either charge more or are not really official..
A visa for Sri Lanka costs around $30.
- Buy it at the airport (more expansive)
I actually couldn’t come up with any advantages of this option, yet it is an option and if you are more of a spontaneous person this might be your way to go 🙂
If you decide to get a Sim Card for the time travelling through Sri Lanka, you are able to get one right at the airport. After you picked up your suitcases and bags, right before you leave the arrival hall, there are a few stalls. One of them is called dialog, their colors are red and white. They are said to be the best ones to purchase a sim card from.
Their package includes 9GB + 100 min local call + 20 min international call for only 1350 rs. If you run out of GB along your travels you can reload your sim card with more GB in almost any shop throughout Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka’s people
If I only had 2 words to describe them it would be: super friendly 😉 Throughout my travels in Sri Lanka it got very clear that for whatever reason Sri Lanka’s population is so happy, genuine giving, loving, caring and warm at heart.
I can’t help but share a few stories to make clear what I mean by that:
- happy: no matter where I went (south, north, west, inland) they always always always smiled at me. Off course there are a few exceptions here and there, but generally it really can be said that very young all the way to old people seem happy to see you and express that with a honest smile.
- warm hearted: The Sri Lankan population watches out for each other. Every time I took the train, it was packed that not even everyone would fit in. On every single train ride locals would stand up and offer me their seat. Later on I figured out they have been travelling for many many hours, yet they selflessly wanted me to take their seat. (Of course I didn’t take it :)). Other times I was waiting at the train station, when the announcements only were made in their language. Suddenly a local walked up to me and translated it into Enlgisch so I knew what has just been announced. To me it is the little things that go a long way.
- want the best for you, caring: This goes hand in hand witht he bullet point above. I’m not exaggerating when I say that every time (!!) in public transportation the locals next to me would either offer me their food they had with them or buy food from food sellers in train or stops we took along the bus ride, and really wanted me to eat and have it. They all share.
- calm and relaxed: unless it comes to driving haha
There are 5 ways to get around in Sri Lanka:
- bus – bus rides are crazy in Sri Lanka! They are definitely worth an experience and will last for a lifelong memory haha.
- train – the train is the cheapest way to get around in Sri Lanka. Especially the route between Nuwara Eliya and Ella is a must do! It might be super packed and crowded, yet I would always choose the train over everything else 🙂
- tuk tuk – If you’ve never been to Asia you should definitely ride one! For some reason however they are more expansive to ride than in India for example. Remember to bargain and set the price at the beginning of the ride.
- private taxi driver – if you like it a little bit more luxerious and comfortable, a taxi will serve you best. In terms of having your own seat and an AC a taxi definitely wins the battle. Having said this, a taxi is not necessarily faster – a lot of the times buses go much faster than cars do and when going through cities the streets are packed whereas the train rolls by on the empty train tracks..
- scooter – Renting a scooter is a very easy and convenient thing to do. You will be able to rent a scooter almost everywhere.
If you love to meet new people, travel simple and save some money then the apps I’m about to share with you will be your best friends very soon 🙂 To me this way of travelling brings so much freedom, fun and amazing memories.
Throughout my travels I mainly used following apps/websites to find my accomodation. However you can also just walk around in a city and check into a place you like spontaneously – also works very well.
- See recommendations on apps or join fb groups and see what fellow travelers say
I hope some of those tips were useful and helpful in any way. I wish you save and fun travels and would love to hear your stories and experiences!