My visit to Sri Lanka — a jewel–shaped country in the Indian Ocean — was an unexpected surprise. I didn’t have a lot of expectations for the trip. But it turned out to be an amazing experience. I loved every bit of Sri Lanka: the verdant landscape, the delicious food; the crumbling, overgrown ruins; the abundant wildlife; and (especially) the welcoming locals who took hospitality to the next level.
Traveling Sri Lanka is a relatively easy thing to do. It can be a little chaotic, with overcrowded buses moving along clogged roads where lanes are mere suggestions, and trains packed to the gills with people hanging off the edges (which actually is kind of fun). But English is widely spoken so once you get used the chaos, it isn’t too difficult to get around.
But there are a few things you should know before you visit Sri Lanka to avoid getting scammed, overspending, and, like me, missing some of the scenic trains!
Sri Lanka Travel Guide: 14 Things to Know for Your Visit
Travel Tip #1: Don’t drink the water – You shouldn’t really drink the water in Sri Lanka, so bring a reusable water bottle with a purifier
Travel Tip #2: Eat the local food– Outside of the major cities of Colombo and Kandy, you won’t find many non-Sri Lankan or non-Indian food options
Travel Tip #3: More about food– Food, besides being crazy good, is also really cheap in Sri Lanka!
Travel Tip #4: Sri Lanka isn’t a party– Don’t expect too many chances to drink alcohol. Outside the coastal tourist towns and the capital of Colombo, there isn’t much nightlife or opportunities to drink
Travel Tip #5: Hire the Tuk-tuks– You can hire drivers cheaply. Any tuk-tuk driver will let you hire them for the day
Travel Tip #6: Take the airport bus – There is a train to the airport you can take from Colombo Fort
Travel Tip #7: Travel by train: Train travel, while often slower, are the cheapest way to get around.
Travel Tip #8: Book your train in advance: If you are taking the scenic train from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya or Ella (or vice versa) and want a seat, book it in advance through a travel agency
Travel Tip 9: Show up early at Sigiriya: If you are visiting Sigiriya, get there when it opens at 8am to avoid huge lines and crowds at the site
Travel Tip 10: Skip the ticket line at Anuradhapura: If you are visiting Anuradhapura, tickets are $25 USD but are never checked unless you are entering the museum.
Travel Tip #11: Bring flip-flops to temples: You’ll have to take your socks and shoes off before visiting temples, even if they are outdoors, so bring flip-flops to keep your socks clean!
Travel Tip #12: Don’t expect high-end hostels: Hostels are really basic (fan, mosquito net, electric shower) but at $4-6 USD per dorm bed, you can’t go wrong.
Travel Tip #13: Day trip to Galle: Galle is only worth a day trip. Don’t stay over in the town. There is not much to do there at all.
Travel Tip #14: Find cheap accommodation: There are a lot of cheap accommodation throughout the country .You’ll usually get breakfast with your room too. Private rooms with your own bathroom start at $10 USD per night. Add $5 if you want air conditioning.