About Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is almost irresistible with its endless beaches, tea plantations, magnificent temples, rolling surfs, elephants, budget travels, flavorful food and most importantly, its mystic and welcoming people.
Sri Lanka is a favorite among tourists today, and many sites have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The country is small, yet it has a culture that is nearly 2000 years old and can be witnessed at its legendary temples and ancient sites. The immense natural beauty, diverse wildlife, the timeless ruins and deep-rooted culture make it impossible for travelers to not fall in love with this beautiful Island country.
Sri Lanka Travel Info
Language: The two key languages of Sri Lanka are Sinhala and Tamil with the majority of people speaking Sinhala. Many people speak English, but you might have a hard time communicating with most of the locals. In such circumstances, a smile works best, and Sri Lankans will be happy to help.
Currency: Sri Lankan Rupee.
Visa: Before visiting Sri Lanka, you need to get an electronic Visa which can be obtained easily and immediately from their website. An ETA is valid for 30 days, and the average fee is 30-35 USD.
Electricity: Sri Lanka operates on a 230 V supply of electricity with a frequency of 50 Hz. Plug types D and G are associated, where type D has three round pins arranged in a triangle whereas type G has three rectangular pins arranged in a triangle. I recommend bringing a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each country you visit.
Sri Lanka Festivals & Celebrations
Sinhala: Sinhala is the Tamil New Year that falls in April and is the most important cultural celebration of the country. The harvest season comes to an end and a new year begins with this festival. Sri Lankans enjoy a long holiday, and traditional food like kokis is cooked and enjoyed in every household.
Vesak: Vesak marks the celebration of the birth, enlightenment and the death of Lord Buddha. It is among the most important festivals of Buddhists in Sri Lanka. People of all faiths gather on roads and decorate them with lanterns and pandals, while food and beverages are served.
Esala: Kandy and Kataragama celebrate the Esala Festivals in the month of August. The Esala festival in Kandy is called Dalanda Perahera, and a large parade is performed where you can witness the best dancers and musicians of the country performing with decorated elephants. The Kataragama Esala is celebrated to honor Lord Kataragama, and the devotees walk on fire and display self-penance to show their respect towards the deity.
Safety In Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has witnessed its share of uncertainty and fear during its 25-year long Civil War, but today it is a safe place for tourists. All you need to worry about is to protect yourself from the wide spreading dengue. Use mosquito repellants generously. Based on many years of solo travel around Southeast Asia I would never leave home without travel insurance. I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks before your Sri Lanka trip. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
Top Things To Do In Sri Lanka
Experience Wildlife on a Safari
Wildlife Safari in Sri Lanka is a must do, as Sri Lanka is blessed with amazingly beautiful landscapes which are perfect for a Safari. You can spot wild elephants, deer, monkeys, and even leopards if you are lucky. This is one incredible experience that any traveler would not want to miss.
Ride a tuk-tuk
One of the most fun activities in Sri Lanka is to rent a tuk-tuk and go on a once in a lifetime ride on it. You can also participate in the Lanka Challenge which is a ten day epic challenge and happens twice every year. You will have to drive your tuk-tuk on routes that will take you through various parts of the country. You can follow maps to reach your destination and will be made to complete some challenges on the way.
Experience a picturesque Train Ride
This is among the best and the cheapest activities in Sri Lanka. A train ride between Nuwara Eliya Ella to Ella is among the best, and you can just sit by the window and cherish the view of dazzling mountaintops, never-ending tea plantations, and lush green valley pass by. Train tickets are rather cheap, and you need not worry about getting a seat. The best views are the ones that you get standing at the door.
Dive in The Deep Blue Sea
Just like the entire Asia, Sri Lanka also boasts spectacular diving sites where you will come across vast coral gardens, tropical fish and wreck dives. The best time to go diving here is from November to April. This is the time when you can get the best visibility, and the conditions are most favorable. The west coast has rich marine life, but other diving spots like Weligama, Unawatuna, Kapitalya, and Trincomalee are no less.
Visit the Uda Walawe National Park
Uda Walave is among the best and the most richly populated national parks in Sri Lanka. You can easily spot herds of wild elephants, sambar, wild buffalo, giant squirrels and spotted deer. This national park offers the finest elephant spotting experience in the entire country, much better than even the most popular African National Parks. The park is spread across an area of 308 sq kilometers and is sparsely vegetated which makes wildlife watching much easier.
Relax by the Beach
Sri Lanka is an island country with its coastline spread throughout. There are a number of towns by the seaside, and you can spend a few days relaxing in one of them. The sandy shores of Bentota, Unawatuna, Induruwa, Trincomalee, Arugam Bay will help you unwind in their tranquility. If you are an adventure sports enthusiast, the beaches have immense opportunities for that as well as water sports like surfing, and diving are available at all the major beaches.
The best places to surf in Sri Lanka are the Gurubebila beach, Arungam Bay Beach and the surf town of Ahangama. These places have loads of hidden reefs that swell in the monsoons. Most beaches might get crowded, but the ones mentioned above are comparatively peaceful. In Gurubebilal the waves can be as high as 5 feet giving its surfers about 450 meters long rides. Surfing in Sri Lanka will make you love the sport. The Arugam Bay surf is among the top ten surf spots of the world which should not be missed while in Sri Lanka.
Sigiriya is a fortress located on the top of a rock and has been there since the 5th Century AD. This has been declared as UNESCO’s World Heritage Site. If you are looking for some spirituality, this is the perfect place for you. Long back this acted as the Royal Palace and then as a Buddhist Monastery. It also has some magnificent gardens, and a mirror wall, which was a masonry wall but was polished in such a fine manner that you could easily see yourself in it.
Visit Gal Vihara
Here you will find some very splendid images of Lord Buddha which are a part of the northern monastery of Parakramabahu. There are four statues of Buddha carved from a single granite slab. There was a time when each of the images had a separate enclosure. The standing Buddha is the finest of all and is 7 meters tall. The second one is the reclining Buddha that depicts Buddha entering Parinirvaan. This is about 14 meters long. The remaining two are of Buddha in a sitting posture.
Visit a Tea Plantation
Explore the well-terraced tea estates and watch the pickers while they work, in the heart of the tea industry of Sri Lanka. If you are a tea lover, visit the Haputale Mountains which are home to the tea empire set by Sir Thomas Lipton. Do not forget to buy some extra packs to take back with you.
Other than these top things to do in Sri Lanka, there is so much more to see and experience in this amazing country. Plan ahead so that you can take your time exploring and be prepared to be flexible because sometimes travelers you meet along the way will have the best suggestions for undiscovered gems.
What To Eat In Sri Lanka
The Sri Lankan Cuisine is a rich mix of textures, flavors, and spices. The aroma will make your mouth water and attract you time and again. Since Sri Lanka is an island and experiences a tropical climate, fresh seafood, coconut, spices, and vegetables dominate the cuisine. The dishes that you must try when in Sri Lanka are listed here;
Rice and Curry: This is the most basic and essential dish of Sri Lanka. Locals are fond of curries, and they are just everywhere. Curry is prepared using lentils and different vegetables and lots of spices to make it flavorful, which is then served with a heap of rice.
Hoppers: Hoppers are a Sri Lankan specialty and are thin pancakes that are crispy at the edges. They are made of fermented rice flour, coconut water, and coconut milk.if you take a tour in the streets of the island you will come across a number of shops selling different varieties of hoppers. Hoppers are usually sweet, but sometimes you taste the classic version which is salty.
Kottu: Kottu is a Sri Lankan dish made of roti, veggies, oil, and chicken or egg. The bread is finely chopped, and the filling is added to it, and lots of cheese is grated on the top. This is the Sri Lankan counterpart of an American Cheeseburger.
String Hoppers: This noodle dish is among the most popular Sri Lankan breakfasts. The noodles are made of rice flour and then given the shape of noodles which are finally steamed. These are served with dahl, sambal, coconut milk, and curry.
Devilled Dishes: Originally, this is a Chinese dish but has gained immense popularity in Sri Lanka. Chicken, fish or prawn is served with lots of tomatoes, onions, peppers, chillis and sweet and a sour sauce is added to it. The protein part is deep fried in most of the places.
Where To Stay In Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is an incredibly affordable place to visit. Finding excellent accommodation in Sri Lanka is super easy because there’s so many options whatever your budget. Hostels and dormitories make travel to Sri Lanka affordable for backpackers and any travelers on a shoe-string budget.
If you’re traveling to Sri Lanka during peak season or wish to stay in a luxury hotel then it’s wise to book your accommodation in advance. Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best places to stay have already been snapped up. Sri Lanka is a pretty popular year-round destination you know!
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in Sri Lanka.
If you’re backpacking in Sri Lanka or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in Asia very affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies.
Sri Lanka Trip Planner
Best Time to Visit Sri Lanka
The best time to visit Sri Lanka depends on where in Sri Lanka you’re visiting.
Sri Lanka Travel Budget
Sri Lanka is generally an affordable destination for travelers on all budgets. The cost of your trip to Sri Lanka really depends on the level of comfort you will expect while here. If you’re backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating street food then budget between $25 to $35 a day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between $35 to $60 per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants in places like Colombo then budget about $60 to $150 plus a day.
- Budget: $10-25
- Mid-range: $25-$60
- Splurge: $60+
Meal For One
- Budget: $1.00-$5.00
- Mid-range: $5-$15
- Splurge: $15-$50+
Sri Lanka Packing Guide
Packing for a trip to Sri Lanka, like most other places in Southeast Asia, is a breeze because it’s so easy to travel light in hotter climates. Tropical Southeast Asia climates also mean high humidity so lightweight and breathable lose fitting clothing is essential.
Be prepared for the occasional cool evening depending on the month you visit and pack a warm sweater just in case. If you’re visiting during the wet season bring a rain jacket and an umbrella. If you forget to pack something you can buy anything you need in the larger cities such as Colombo.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to Sri Lanka include, most importantly, a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
For the full list of everything you need to pack for a trip to Sri Lanka check out the Jetset Bunny Ultimate Asia Packing List For Female Travelers.