Sri Lanka - things to know before going
My trip to Sri Lanka happened very quickly that is the main reason I didn’t have enough time to plan it like I usually do. There are some thing you should certainly know about them. Read the list below - things you should know before going to Sri Lanka.
Visa on arrival in sri lanka
Most visitors will need to apply for a Sri Lanka tourist visa (except for nationals of Singapore, Maldives and Seychelles). You can apply for one online or once you arrive to the airport. I prefer online since I don't like to wait at the airport.
transport - sri lanka
Sri Lanka is only about 430 km long and 220 km wide, but it can take you hours and hours to travel from place to place as the roads can be extremely busy. Just a quick preview - to get from Colombo (capital) to Galle , which is 125km apart, will take you approx. 2 hours drive to one point to another. Don’t expect it to be cheap like other Asian countries such as Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia… only if you are planning to travel by train it can be affordable, but if you are planning to go around with a car and hire a personal driver, for 3-4 hours, one-way car ride can cost you anywhere from 100€ to 130€.
We were thinking about renting a scooter for a day. One day will cost you approx. 8€. Probably you can get a better price if you rent one for a longer period. Since Sri Lanka is quite diverse and different you will want to move around. For that you will need a car or use a train as scooter is not the best option to make long distance drives. Another hurdle of traveling to Sri Lanka is that some foreign drivers need a special license to rent a car here.
For short distance you can use Tuk Tuk drivers to take you around. I have really enjoyed the rides with them, maybe it has something to do with the fact that those rides are always funny and very informative. Sure they will try to sell you all the possible adventures while driving you around and every stop will cost you some extra money, but at least you will have memory for a life time .
One of the options is to use Uber app and get your ride. But this option is very limited. You will not be able to take Uber all over the place but prices are friendly.
Last and very common one is - the train. But, yes there is a but! .. trains are very crowded and if you want to reserve your seat you should make it early enough. Especially if you are thinking about the most popular ride between Ella and Kandy. There are different class options and it is up to you what kind of traveller you are which one you will choose. Hopefully you are not having too much luggage if you are choosing this option. Tickets are super cheap, you can get Ella to Kandy ride from 2€ on.
If you are passing any bigger city and just want to do a quick peek, you can storage you luggage at the train station - at least in Colombo. It is super cheap but make sure you have a locker on your luggage and another one for locking the closet . Sometimes you can get one at the front desk if there are any left. Just make sure you take your passport and all the valuable stuff with you.
Sri lanka - when to travel (monsoon season)
Sri Lanka has 2 monsoon seasons in general; the northeast monsoon (December to March), and the southwest monsoon (June to October); anyways, you can visit Sri Lanka anytime during the year. Be aware if you are travelling through the whole island there are different climate areas. When traveling through Nuwara Eliya, Kandy and Ella, the temperature can drop down to 14-17 Celsius in the morning and evening – not quite something you would expected from a tropical island, right?
Sri Lanka is a safe country
Sri Lanka is completely safe country, even though civil war just ended in 2009. Locals are very welcoming. But be aware that this is a pretty poor country and make sure you take care of your belongings, exercise a reasonable amount of caution. Don’t flash around with expensive jewellery and exposing your money too much
sri lanka is not a party place
If you are looking for a party place, mostly you won't find it. In Columbo you can find some clubs and parties and that is about it.
barefoot people & tradition
Don’t be surprised if you see a lot of people walking barefoot. It is not because of the economic situation, it is because of tradition. It was very common years ago not to wear any footwear at all times and some still practice it. As they've explained to me, they believe in acupuncture and it is good to be connected with the ground.
When walking around, you will notice a lot of people still wearing sarong and women are pretty covered. In order to enter some religious places, you need to cover your shoulders and knees. Not to stand out too much, try not to walk around too exposed. You will get a lot of attention anyway.
English knowledge in sri lanka
People are very kind and will help you, or at least try to help you, even though they don’t speak good english. Most of them speak very poor English but that doesn't prevent them from talking to you. Can be pretty challenging to understand that and funny sometimes.
local food in sri lanka
Curry and rice all the way , this is the heart of Sri Lankan cuisine. Typically you will get it served with multiple small dishes. Sri Lankan cuisine was formed by the spice trade. Curry in Sri Lanka is identified by its color, or base spice. The original Sri Lankan curry is black, with black pepper and roasted spices. Red curry gets its color from the chillies, brown curries are the same as black but unroasted, then there is white curry, using coconut milk. When ordering food they will always ask you, how much spicy do you want. Try with medium, but mostly medium for them, means super spicy for us. Street food is like a Russian roulette, you never know how it will end up, good, bad or with some stomach issues - but why not risk it try it!
Another very traditional and typical food are hoppers in the shape of bowl. They are usually served for breakfast or dinner. One of the most popular ones comes with the egg cooked into the center of the bowl-shaped hopper. You can fill the hopper with rest of their typical add-ons such as sambar (similar to vegetable stew), sambol (coconut, onion and cilli) and than roll it and eat it. One of the best thing I have tried in this country.
Oh, let me stop at hygiene, it is far far away from the western one, don’t be surprised to eat at the table which looks like nobody cleaned it for a while. Well for that reason I was eating chilli almost every day.. I heard it helps.
Prices are very friendly when eating on the street. Proper lunch will cost you approx. 1,5€. Ohh and btw if possible better make yourself “natural” toilet somewhere on the road, than going to the public ones. It can be quite and adventure as well.
sri lanka local pharmacies
In case you get sick, you can buy antibiotics in the food markets. Don’t be surprised - but prices are set up per 1 pill. One tablet will cost you approx. 0,5€. You can find pharmacy on every corner in the city.
sri lanka electrical plugs
You’ll meet all three kinds of electrical plugs. Buildings in Sri Lanka sometimes have the three-pronged UK socket, sometimes the two-pronged European one, and often in older buildings, the rounded three-pronged socket used in India and Nepal. In most of hotels you will have no issues but if you are going around some local places, there can be a problem. Just be prepared.
sri lanka accomadation
Sri Lanka has it all. Let me share from the point that the average salary is approx. 250€ per month, but for tourists is not that cheap at all to stay and go around Sri Lanka. You can find places which are very affordable and cheap to very luxury ones. On the south, I was staying with Asia Leisure chain hotels and I must say I loved absolutely everything about them! Than I went on the other side of island and was spending my time in two very different hotels much higher in the hills. Read all about it here:
Now you are good to go.