And… I’m back home! The last three weeks have been a real rollercoaster. But you guys still have me at a loss, because I haven’t told about my last days in Sri Lanka and I also have some travel tips to share with you. So here we go!
I finished my Sri Lanka holiday in Hikkaduwa: another area on the south coast. After I had arrived, I met another backpacker of my guesthouse who was about to go snorkeling, so I decided to join. I saw even more fish than in Unawatuna, but I constantly swum into the coral, so I did end up with some scratches. Great match with the mosquito bites and the bruises from surfing, though.
I started the next day on the beach: I drank some coconuts (which are in Sri Lanka the sweetest and therefore the tastiest of the world), did some reading and relaxed for a bit. Then it started raining and it became cloudy which lasted the whole afternoon. Thunderstorms are crazy on the south coast, with bright flashes and a lot of noise. In the evening, I went to a beach party with some people of my guesthouse.
Then it was already my last day! In the morning I strolled along the seaside of Hikkaduwa all the way to Narigama beach, which was a half hour walk. I had some lunch, read my book (again) and afterwards hung out at the pool with some Dutchies who stay at the same guesthouse.
The next day I took the train to Negombo via Colombo with a Dutch girl I met in my guesthouse. She lives in the same city in Holland (just one block away), so we had a lot of topics to talk about. Because it was again quite a journey (5 hours), I just stayed at my guest house the rest of the day and got an early taxi the next morning to take me to the airport.
Thinking about travelling to Sri Lanka yourself? During my trip, I thought of some tips I would have find useful before going to this country.
Before you go
Make sure you have all the right vaccinations. For Sri Lanka, DTP and Hepatitis A are obligatory, but to be fully vaccinated, I also got a typhoid and rabies vaccination.
You need to have a visa for Sri Lanka, which you can get at www.eta.gov.lk. It’s an electronic transaction, so take a copy of your application with you, just to be sure. You’ll receive the real visa when you arrive in Sri Lanka. You can also get one when you arrive at the airport in Colombo, but it will save you a lot of time when you’ve already done this at home.
- Make a plan
Create an overview of the things you definitely want to see and places you want to visit (because there is A LOT you can see and do and if you have limited time, you can’t go to everything). If you have that already, it’s really easy to travel from place to place if you’re in Sri Lanka. I also booked the first three nights of my accomodation (the first one in Negombo and the second and third night in Sigiriya), just to have a little certainty.
During your trip
- Trains and buses
Taking the train in Sri Lanka is a wonderful way to get from one place to another, because it’s cheap and the whole journey, you can just look outside the window and enjoy the great views. Tea plantations, mountains, small villages, little kids waving: you won’t have to be bored while travelling through this land. It might be a little slower than taking a taxi, but it is definitely worth it. When you want a ticket with a reserved seat, it is advised to buy them at least 10 days in advance (for first class it’s even a month). You can do this via a travel agency, as you might not be able to buy them yourself at the train station. I didn’t do this and just bought a ticket on the day itself and I always had a seat.
There are a lot of disagreements about which class is the best. I bought second class tickets, but I heard that third class is often better, because all the tourists buy the second class tickets and therefore, third class is less crowded. With a first class ticket you have an airconditioned, large chair and even a tv screen, but what’s the fun of travelling then, right? 😉
Trains are all good, but I have eventually travelled more by bus than by train. Not every town has a railway station, and buses are a little quicker than trains. It’s not easy to find out yourself which buses you have to take, but I just asked the hosts of my guesthouse or people on the street. Almost everyone always knew all about it and they’re happy to help you. To be completely sure, I searched on Google Maps for the town where they said I had to change buses, and if it was in the right direction, I assumed it would be allright (and it always was).
Wifi is not always reliable in Sri Lanka (even when they say they have Wifi, it’s not always working), and I think it’s a nice feeling you’re always connected to people at home. An internet junkie like me couldn’t bear a month without social media. That’s why I bought a local Dialog SIM card on the airport. It costs about € 10 and you’ll have 4 GB to spend during the daytime and 5 GB in the night for one month. Great deal, right?
Sri Lanka is a relatively cheap country for travelling. In most Sri Lankan restaurants you can have a simple but great meal for € 5. If you go to the more Western restaurants on the coasts, you will obviously also pay Western prices. Buses and trains are very cheap: you’ll never pay more than € 2 for a drive by public transport (and then you’ll be on the road for 3-6 hours). The only thing that’s expensive, are some entry prices. For Lion Rock, I had to pay € 25 and for multiple temples it was 1500 Sri Lankan rupiahs (almost € 10). As in most Asian countries, there are very cheap, but also very expensive accommodations. Most hostels and homestays are well priced and not too bad at all, but it is all really simple.
I’m a backpacker+: I stayed in homestays and hostels, mostly in a seperate room, but always the cheaper ones. I ate in local restaurants and some Western ones. I did everything I wanted to do, including temple visits, a surf lesson, snorkeling and day trips. I travelled by bus, train and tuk-tuk for shorter distances (and taxi for airport drop and pick-up). For my holiday, I paid about € 300 a week. This is also because I couldn’t split the costs of the accommodations, so if you’re with 2 people, it will probably be less. This will make € 900 for three weeks.
- A woman alone
In Sri Lanka, not all people are used to tourists yet, and especially women can experience men staring, smiling, shouting and honking. As I said in one of my travel diaries, I personally didn’t find it annoying, but it can be a little uncomfortable sometimes. I prepared myself by reading a lot of stories about women who travelled by themselves to Sri Lanka. Here are some tips I used and really worked:
- Don’t ignore them, just smile back or say ‘Hello’ and go on with what you were doing.
- Are they asking if you’re travelling by yourself? Many girls say they’re married, or visiting their boyfriend who lives in Sri Lanka (or that he’s sick and stayed a day in the hotel).
- Sri Lanken men easily ask you for your Facebook, even though you just met 5 minutes ago. One of my friends already warned me, and jup: when I got into the taxi from the airport, it was one of the first things I was asked. I sometimes just told them that I didn’t have Facebook.
And that’s it, my Sri Lanka stories! You’ll probably find more blog posts about Sri Lanka the upcoming months, because I’m definitely not finished talking about it, but for now I’ll say: thank you Sri Lanka, until we meet again!