If you travel for the first time to Sri Lanka, especially when you travel to the east and north coast of Sri Lanka, you may feel a cultural shock. Modern Sri Lanka can be bewildering, a country of extremes shot through with contradictions.
Table of Contents
- Getting around Sri Lanka
- Travelling in Sri Lanka by Train and Public bus
- Where to go and what to do in Sri Lanka?
- Visiting Cultural sites for the first time in Sri Lanka
- First time in Sri Lanka and Hiring a Tuk Tuk: what you need to know
- Sri Lanka wildlife tours
- Visiting Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle cities
- Sri Lanka 4 days tour
- Stick to your planned hotel
- How to be healthy on your first visit to Sri Lanka
- Keep your valuables safe
- You are well protected
- Protect your skin
- Bureaucracy: how to get things done
- Keep calm
- Visiting Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka
- Things You May Not Have Known About Ceylon
- 1) Ceylon or Sri Lanka
- 2) Ceylon Tea
- 3) Is Sri Lanka Safe?
- 4) Colonized by Europeans
- 5) Colombo is actually not the capital of Ceylon or Sri Lanka
- 6) Sri Lanka has had over the 30-year of civil war
- 8) Sri Lanka is suitable for holiday’s throughout the year
The travellers of Sri Lanka have to negotiate with this phenomenally complex holiday destination; they are likely to experience juxtapositions of history and present alongside a fast-developing middle-class society. In many angels, experiencing all of this is a part of the Sri Lanka trip. However, with a couple of helpful practices in hand, you can make sure that you are fully prepared as you touch the island after a long-haul flight, or when facing a culture most unlike that at home.
Sri Lanka is a small Island but it is incredibly diverse and packed with hundreds of interesting places. What is interesting about touring in Sri Lanka is the convenience of visiting places, visiting most tourist attractions does not demand much of your time, because they are scattered in a small geographical area and you can cover much of it with a 7 day Sri Lanka trip. From historical monuments in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka to the pristine beaches on the south and west coast; Sri Lanka has a lot to offer. It is best to visit these places leisurely, in a multi-day Sri Lanka trip such as 5 day Sri Lanka trip or 7 days Sri Lanka tour and add a bit of leisure to it as well.
With that in mind, we have carefully crafted this article with essential tips and tricks that were tried and tested. These tips can be very handy especially if you travel for the first time to Sri Lanka.
Getting around Sri Lanka– it is a good practice to rent a car with a local driver even though it is a bit expensive, it worth it because it saves your time, and most importantly it is safe on the chaotic Sri Lankan roads. You can make arrangements for a taxi with a local driver before arriving in Sri Lanka all local tour operators provide modern vehicles with well-trained tour guides.
If you failed to arrange the transport before landing in Sri Lanka, you can book a taxi at the airport, however, the quality of the vehicle and competency of the driver cannot be guaranteed. If you book a taxi at the airport make a deal with the taxi provider and be clear on the price and what includes in the Srilanka trip package along with the taxi. Don’t keep the room to make an extra payment on the way such as highway toll, gasoline, driver accommodation, parking etc.
Usually, all of them are included in the Sri Lanka land package. You can also book a taxi with Uber or Yogo (a Sri Lankan taxi provider), both are equally good and rates are similar. However, it is recommended to pre-arrange the taxi thereby you can make sure that you have a smooth start to your time in Sri Lanka.
Travelling in Sri Lanka by Train and Public bus
It is not recommended to use public buses and trains to get around Sri Lanka. However, it is the best form of transport on the island if you need to contain your travel budget at the minimum level. Usually, the buses and trans are very crowded and behind the time most of the time. They consume a lot of time to travel between cities. If you are time constrained on your Sri Lanka trip it is best to take a private vehicle with a local driver-guide.
If you are on a short trip such as 1 day Sri Lanka trip or a 2 day Sri Lanka tour, it is necessary to have a private taxi. It minimizes the time travelling while increasing the time that can be allocated to sightseeing.
Where to go and what to do in Sri Lanka?
The question “where to go and what to do in Sri Lanka?” is a difficult question to answer, but I get this type of question very often. I have recently written a blog post under the same title, in order to provide some vital information for travellers, who are planning a Sri Lanka trip for the first time. I feel one would get a highly personal answer to this question because whoever answers the question makes it based on his/her personal experience.
I have seen a couple of answers to this question in travel forums and those answers show only one side of the story. Some people suggest the north coast of Sri Lanka to travel in Sri Lanka! yes, the east coast is good to travel from May to October but the rest of the year it is hell for the traveller, with daily rainfall exceeding many hundred millimetres. Even some areas are coming underwater and you will be stranded in your hotel. Therefore it is very important to carefully study the pattern of the monsoon and choose a beach resort that is not coming under the effect of the monsoon.
Visiting Cultural sites for the first time in Sri Lanka
Cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, most popular historical places are scattered in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka. Large numbers of local travellers, as well as foreigners, flock to tourist hotspots in the cultural triangle every day. Tourist attractions such as the Sigiriya rock fortress, the Dambulla cave temple, and the tooth relic temple are to be found here, out of 7 UNESCO world heritage sites 5 of them are to be found here.
In tourist areas like Sigiriya, you will find many street vendors selling various items like clothing and handicrafts. Everyone likes to sell something to tourists and they might come to you and offer their goods, which makes some visitors annoyed. If you do not wish to buy anything. It is best to avoid any conversation with the vendors – politely say no and walk away.
First time in Sri Lanka and Hiring a Tuk Tuk: what you need to know
3. TUK TUK or autorickshaw is another popular transport mode on the island, which is cheap and suitable for a short drive, which is a good alternative to public transport such as buses and is very popular among the local people.
An autorickshaw is not suitable for a long drive as it is not comfortable as a car. If you hire an autorickshaw be clear with the price before you start the journey and thereby you can avoid any arguments later on. If you are a foreigner the driver may offer you free rides to shops and places that you did not intend to visit, please keep in mind the driver would not waste his time without any benefit in return.
Sri Lanka wildlife tours
There is a large number of wildlife reserves in Sri Lanka and they harbour a wide range of animals such as leopards, bears, deer, crocodiles, elephants, mongoose, jackals etc. Sri Lanka jungle tours are very popular among travellers, especially among foreign travellers. Sri Lanka wildlife tours can be booked as a standalone Sri Lanka road trip from your hotels E.g Day outing trip to Udawalawe, one day trip to Yala park from Colombo etc. The Sri Lanka wildlife tour and beach holiday is also a good combination, that allows the tourist to visit wildlife reserves while they spend beach holidays.
If you are in need of a few trips such as a one-day Sri Lanka wildlife tour, a one-day whale-watching tour, one a day trip to the cultural triangle. Serendipity offers a large number of one-day trips across the island, under the title “Sri Lanka trip“.
If you are fascinated with exploring the historical past of the destination you heading to, you can’t simply ignore the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka. The cultural triangle of Sri Lanka is the essence of Sri Lankan culture, where travellers encounter thousands of years old historical monuments. Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Dambulla and Kandy are the leading tourist attractions on every cultural triangle tour of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka 4 days tour
Sri Lanka 4 days tour of the cultural triangle includes a visit to the most important historical and tourist places in the cultural triangle. It includes Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Dambulla, and Kandy as well as many other places such as Minneriya wildlife tours, village tours etc. Here is the URL to get more information on the 4 days trip “4-Day Essence of Sri Lankan Culture-Private“.
Stick to your planned hotel
If your taxi driver suggests you a hotel and tries to take you to the preferred one that you don’t want to go to, insist that have already arranged the accommodation. It is best to make your accommodation arrangements before arriving on the island; thereby you can avoid any last-moment hassle.
When you go for last-moment hotel reservations you tend to pay much higher than usual, tourists do. In the peak holiday season (Nov-March) it will be a daunting task to find accommodation at the last moment in the popular tourist areas due to the high demand.
How to be healthy on your first visit to Sri Lanka
The most common sickness among foreign travellers is diarrhoea, which can create a miserable time due to your carelessness and hypochondria. The precaution is simple: stick to mineral water when it comes to drinking water, don’t consume peeled fruits sold on the streets, and avoid salad in the street food outlets. If you like to sample local food drop into a tourist board-registered restaurant and appease your taste buds and you should be fine. If you can stick to the food sold at the hotel, you don’t need to bother about food poisoning.
Keep your valuables safe
Carrying your valuables with you all the time is highly recommended if it is possible, or leave them in the hotel safety deposit box if you really need to leave them in the hotel. Still, I like to suggest you not leave money and jewellery even in the safety box, if you leave the hotel for a long time. There had been an instance where safety boxes were opened when the guests left the hotel. It can create a very default situation for both hotel administration and the guests.
One of our guests, who left money in the safety deposit, as he was on the safari, had lost some money in one of the very popular hotels in the cultural triangle. After making the revelation the hotel management denied it, which made us seek the help of the police. Later the police checked the records of the safety box (the record were stored in the system) and discovered it was opened when the gussets were outside the hotel. These types of incidents are rare but we cannot rule out the possibility.
You are well protected
If you find any difficult situation seek the help of the tourist police, they are delivering a very commendable service and make sure the safety of all foreign travellers on the island. The service of tourist police is available in all major tourist attractions and resort areas.
Protect your skin
Sri Lanka is a tropical country and very close to the equator which means the sun’s rays are very strong it can easily burn your skin. You have to protect your skin with sunscreen, whenever you go outside and try to avoid the beaches and open areas during midday. Also, drink plenty of fluid in order to avoid dehydration.
Bureaucracy: how to get things done
Sri Lankans’ respect for red tape and bureaucracy can be maddening, but make use of it for your benefit – vouchers, passes, letters of introduction and official business cards can all work wonders for you.
Keep your calm all the time and stay cool. It is a well-known fact that Sri Lanka is described as a “functioning anarchy” and this remains true in the face of encroaching globalization. Don’t get cross and maintain a calm and cool attitude, a smile can be very effective than anything else.
Visiting Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka
All Buddhist temples on the island, whether it is old or new, are treated with respect. Visiting a Buddhist temple is very important on a Sri Lanka trip and it is one of the best ways to learn about the local culture and tradition. If you plan a trip to cities of the Sri Lanka cultural triangle, you will encounter many dozens of Buddhist religious sites. Most of them are highly important historical monuments in Sri Lanka.
All visitors to these sacred places suppose to dress in a particular manner to uphold their religious values. There is a set of rules that every visitor to religious sites observes while visiting sacred places in Sri Lanka. If you are wondering what these rules are? Check this article “13 RULES TO OBSERVE WHILE VISITING SRI LANKA BUDDHIST TEMPLE, SRI LANKA TEMPLE DRESS CODE TEMPLE OF THE TOOTH DRES’ CODE“.
Things You May Not Have Known About Ceylon
1) Ceylon or Sri Lanka
Ceylon is the most recent ancient name of the island of Sri Lanka, which is located in southern Asia. This tiny island was known by many names in the past. Lanka, Ceylan, Ceilao, Ratnadeepa, Serendib, Serendipity, and Pearl of the Orient are several names of the island in the past. Ceylon was the official name of the country during the British occupation. The present name Sri Lanka was adopted in 1972 under the independent government of the island.
2) Ceylon Tea
World-renowned Tea is coming from the island of Sri Lanka (former Ceylon). Even today Sri Lanka is a leading tea-producing nation in the world. Tea is the 2nd most important industry on the island.
YES indeed, Sri Lanka is ranked among the safest countries in the world. There had been travel advisories in many countries, warning tourists to keep away from the island in the past. But since the end of the Civil war in 2009, Sri Lanka has become one of the safest holiday destinations in the world. Now it is time to explore this fascinating tropical island.
4) Colonized by Europeans
Sri Lanka is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic country and western influence is clearly visible in the Sri Lankan culture and tradition. Sri Lanka was a colony of Portuguese, Dutch and British. Each colonial ruler controlled the island for roughly about 150 years. The remnants of colonial rulers can be seen in many parts of the island. The colonial influence has penetrated the life of people and it is visible in the governing pattern, legal system, language, customs and traditions of the country.
5) Colombo is actually not the capital of Ceylon or Sri Lanka
Colombo is the most populated city in the country. Colombo is about 35 km from the international airport of Sri Lanka and is located on the west coast of the island. The population of the city is estimated to be around 2 million. Colombo is not the capital of the island as most foreigners think. Colombo is the commercial centre of the island while Sri Jayawardena Pura is the capital of Sri Lanka.
6) Sri Lanka has had over the 30-year of civil war
There had been 30 years of civil war on the island of Sri Lanka and it was completely ended in 2009. An attempt by an armed group to separate the northern and eastern parts of the island was the main reason for the civil war. The war engulfed the Northern and eastern parts of the island making some devastating effects on the island. A large number of people perished and several thousands of people were crippled in the war.
8) Sri Lanka is suitable for holiday’s throughout the year
Sri Lanka is a warm tropical country, which is suitable for holidays at any given time of the year. Sri Lanka is under the influence of a monsoon and experiences heavy rainfall during the monsoon. South-West and North-East monsoon are the main contributors to the rainfall. Depending on the seasonality most suitable Holidays destination would be either eastern Sri Lanka or western Sri Lanka.