Where is Sri Lanka ~ Sri Lanka Travel – After spending three weeks in Sri Lanka, we left the country with many new impressions and experiences.
Sri Lanka had given us so many contrasting experiences, and the charismatic people we had met along the way had given us different insights into the country and its people.
It was interesting to see how this country has quickly risen from a long time of struggling and hardship, and is today really starting to take shape and create its own identity.
Where is Sri Lanka ~ Sri Lanka Travel
Earlier this year we spent 3 weeks traveling around Sri Lanka, a country with incredible diverse nature and the most charming people.
Sri Lanka is so full of surprises and experiences, there are so many things to see and do there that we didn’t feel that 3 weeks was enough.
The Sri Lanka People
I really enjoyed the people in Sri Lanka, and can honestly say that they were among the friendliest people I’ve met.
We often felt that the people we met were genuinely interested in us, and were happy to share a lot about themselves as well.
Children or adults, they were all easy to talk to and everyone always said hello, waiving from the car or street.
Being invited to a Sri Lankan family’s home was a great example of their openness and hospitality, but that wasn’t the only time we experienced this; on the buses and trains, on the streets and in hotels, the people were incredibly friendly and often greeted us with big smiles as soon as you made eye contact.
Many Sri Lankans were very positive about the future, something which you could tell not only in conversations but everywhere around you.
For example, hotels seemed to be built in a way where they could easily add new floors once business was prospering.
Sri Lankan Food
- Impressions Of Sri Lanka Food
The portions in Sri Lanka are massive – sometimes when we ordered two meals, the waiter would tell us that one would be enough for both of us (some pretty honest people!), which turned out to be very true.
We were expecting the food to be similar to that of India, but found that the Sri Lankan cuisine had a very distinct style of its own.
If you ever travel to Sri Lanka, you have to try their street food!
There are Roti (a type of pancake) in an endless variety, lots of pastries, and the very popular buffalo curd, which you will love or hate.
Sri Lankans also seem incredibly fond of their foul smelling “Wood Apple”, which surprisingly tastes delicious as a milkshake.
- Sri Lanka Food Nature
From postcard-perfect beaches with palm trees hanging over the waterfront of a milky turquoise ocean and colorful wooden fishing boats, to lush rain forest, countless of waterfalls and tea plantations.
Sri Lanka has some of the most beautiful and diverse nature I’ve ever seen.
There is a little bit of everything for everyone when it comes to the nature in Sri Lanka, surfers and beach bums will love the beaches, hikers will love the mountains and views, and adventurous people will love the wild life and how easy it is to find “unexplored” and “off the beaten path” areas.
You can see a lot of it from the train window, but getting up close with the nature there is a very unique experience!
- Sri Lanka Food Train
Prices in Sri Lanka
We were actually very surprised, and confused, about the cost of things in Sri Lanka. Compared to other countries in South and South East Asia, Sri Lanka is not cheap – you simply get less for what you pay for.
Public transport was insanely cheap, but also incredibly difficult to use.
Trains often only went twice a day, and at the time we were there they were so overcrowded that even the ticket salesmen often advised us to take a taxi.
To see many of the places and attractions in an area you often need a driver, so hiring one for a week or the entire duration of your stay is actually a really good idea – but naturally, this will also cost you more.
The fees to temples and cultural sites, were often surprisingly high, which put us off a little since we weren’t prepared for that.
So, as a conclusion, Sri Lanka offers a lot to see and do, but to really be able to do it all and get the very most of the country when it comes to attractions, bring a bigger budget than to India and SEA.
World Class Beaches and Surfing
The thing I didn’t like about the beaches in Thailand was that the water was absolutely still, something which got very boring after some time.
Sri Lanka has the best of both worlds; paradise beaches and good surfing.
Unawatuna has been voted as one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world by Discovery Channel, and people take Sri Lanka holidays to surf at Arugam Bay, one of the top 10 surf destinations in the world.
Culture and Festivals
One of the best ways to get an insight into a country’s tradition and culture is to attend the festivals and celebrations, and there are so many festivals in Sri Lanka that it seems like the people there love to find reasons to celebrate..!
One of the biggest celebrations is the annual Perahera festival in Kandy, a Buddhist celebration with elephant parades and dances – something I would love to see!
I’m quite cautious when it comes to elephant centers, as I know that many of them mistreat their animals, and it’s sometimes difficult to know as a visitor.
In Sri Lanka, the Asian Elephants were hunted close to extinction during the British colonial period, and are now endangered.
But the country has made many efforts to increase the elephant population, promoting eco tourism and has as many as nine national parks, seven bird sanctuaries and several conservation centers like Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage.
It seems like a good place to meet these huge gentle animals without feeling guilty.
Impressions Of Sri Lanka about our time in Sri Lanka, check out the articles.
Sri Lanka Elephant Encounters
Sri Lanka Drinks you Must try
Sri Lanka is a country famous for its spicy food and varied cuisine, and while you could write a whole book about the food in Sri Lanka, we shouldn’t forget the drinks in Sri Lanka!
Sri Lanka is a perfect destination for those looking for cheap holidays, and since food and drinks in Sri Lanka cost close to nothing, you can indulge in eating and drinking all day long.
- tea plantations in Sri Lanka
Here are some popular drinks in Sri Lanka, you must try:
The days on the tea plantations in Sri Lanka are long and tiresome, and the hard working tea pickers only earn a little over 1 dollar per day, two if they’re “lucky”.
We gave this woman some tip after taking some photos, and it was such a sad feeling knowing that the money she works so hard every day to earn, we spend in a heartbeat on the most useless things like ice cream and nail polish.
Sri Lanka is the third largest tea producing country in the world, so it is no surprise that tea is one of the most common drinks in Sri Lanka.
Tea plants were introduced by the British in the 19th century, and today you can enjoy a cup of the finest Ceylon tea in tea houses overlooking the beautiful tea plantations in the highlands.
Just remember that Sri Lankans like their tea sweet – VERY sweet, so if you don’t want a massive sugar kick then ask the waiter to only put one or two tea spoons of sugar in your cup.
King Coconut Juice
King coconut palm trees line the beaches and surround the homes of locals, providing shade from the sun along with a thousand other ways to use the coconuts growing at the top.
This orange coconut is very important for the Sri Lankan people, who refer to it as a “living pharmacy”.
Our taxi driver bought us a couple of coconuts from a street stall and while the seller hacked a hole with his machete knife the driver told us all the possible benefits this “natural energy drink” apparently had.
Sri Lankans use the King Coconut, also known as Thambili, in everything from cooking to Ayurvedic medicine.
It’s much sweeter (and tastier) than the green Young Coconut and the perfect thirst quencher, you can find it for sale on the streets everywhere.
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Toddy & Arrack
Toddy is a light alcoholic drink (4%) made from fermented coconut palm sap, and is usually served in Toddy shacks around the country.
Every morning at dawn, toddy tappers climb onto the palm trees along the coastlines of Sri Lanka and harvest the palm sap from unopened coconut flowers – every tree can provide up to two liters of this stuff every day.
The sap ferments immediately into toddy and becomes mildly alcoholic.
You drink it like beer, but don’t expect it to taste like it – toddy definitely has an acquired taste – don’t believe anyone who says that it tastes like cider, it’s more like vinegar!
Arrack is one of the most traditional drinks in Sri Lanka which is distilled from toddy or palm syrup, and has a much higher percentage of alcohol (60 – 90%).
The golden colored drink is often regarded as the national drink of Sri Lanka, and tastes like something between Whisky and Rum.
Many people mix it with Sprite, ginger beer or Coke into a cocktail – you can get both these drinks from the local Toddy shacks.
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Faluda is like a liquid dessert – a sweet combination of milk and rose syrup with poppy seeds and jelly pieces.
It’s a muslim specialty, sometimes served with cashew nuts and ice cream – yum!
Elephant House Ginger Beer
Elephant House Ginger Beer is a popular Sri Lankan soft drink prepared with natural Ayurvedic ginger (one of the few to do this in the world) grown from local farmers in the hill-country.
The drink proclaims to have Ayurvedic properties, helping digestion and relieving drowsiness from a heavy meal.
It’s really tasty and is a perfect match with spicy foods.
Eat Where The Locals Sri Lanka Eat
The one thing you will be sure to find dirt cheap in Sri Lanka is food.
But you have to go to the right places.
When you see a hole in the wall restaurant with dirty walls and long tables packed with locals, it’s often a great place to get cheap but tasty food and favorite Sri Lanka drinks.
We found street markets and small restaurants (who didn’t have menus) to give gigantic servings, so a good advice is to order one plate to share.
Another thing worth noting is that when ordering curry meals, you will also get free rice refills.
Vegetarian meals are the cheapest options, fish and seafood is slightly more expensive and chicken costs a bit more.
- Sri Lanka Train
Take The Sri Lanka Train Whenever Possible
The transport will either end up being the most expensive or the cheapest part of your trip.
For us, it turned out to be the most expensive – trains are dirt cheap (because they’re government run), but on holidays you need to have booked your tickets weeks in advance, or it will be completely booked up or a ride from hell.
Buses are also cheap but are the most uncomfortable ways of travel – chances are you will have to stand up for 8 hours bumping into someone else’s armpit, as drivers cram the buses full of people and then hurtle around at ferocious speeds, slamming on the brakes.
Trust us, we’ve been there…
So whenever possible, book train tickets in advance and travel outside of holidays, because they are very busy in Sri Lanka.
The train rides are beautiful, so taking the Observation car is definitely recommended.
- Budget Friendly Travel Hacks For Visiting Sri Lanka
Manage Without WiFi
Prices for guest house rooms will be higher closer to tourist beaches, but generally you should be able to stay in a double room for less than £20, or you can grab a bed in a dorm for £3-10 a night.
If you don’t need A/C or wifi, you can get by pretty cheap.
Package deals to Visiting Sri Lanka have become more popular and often work out cheaper than arranging a do-it-yourself holiday.
You can get luxury rooms for reasonable prices, especially if you book last minute or in the wet season.
If you’re looking to really save your budget, couchsurfing could allow you to stay in the country for free.
- cab in sri lanka
Take Their Number
Traveling by car is by far the most comfortable way of travel, and one way to get a great deal is to hire a driver for a week.
We didn’t know this before, and ended up hiring new drivers for every journey, which turned out to cost a lot more than if we would have stuck with the first driver (who btw turned out to be the most honest).
If you find a driver in the beginning of your trip, it’s definitely worth getting an international call plan in advance so that you can book him for the whole trip and stay in touch on pick-up and drop-off times.
Some even arrange the driver before they arrive in Sri Lanka.
This is a good idea if you don’t want to have to worry about tracking down phone-cards, the Vonage UK website offers ways to make cheap calls to Sri Lanka, and to keep in touch without receiving an excessive phone bill.
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Avoid The Main Tourist Sites
Another massive drain on your budget will be the touristy temples and national parks.
The majority of Sri Lanka’s most impressive sights charge hefty admission fees.
Save money by avoiding the crowds and trying out some of the wonderful free things the country has to offer.
One of the things Sri Lanka is most famous for is its tea production.
Many of the plantations in the hill district will offer free tours.
One of the most famous plantations is Lipton Tea, which is also near another free landmark:
Lipton’s Seat – the seat is one of the highest lookout points in Sri Lanka, allowing you stunning views over the hill country.
To experience religious culture without paying exorbitant prices, check out some of the free temples in Kandy.
Just across the lake from the pricey Temple of the Tooth Relic is a sprawling monastery with an interesting museum.
The monks are happy to give you a free tour and to explain the origins of all the artefacts.
There’s also a vibrant Hindu temple in the center of town which visitors are welcome to enter.
Inside are colorful wall murals and charming images of Hindu Gods.
There are many free temples and sites to explore on a budget.
One crazy cultural experience is to climb Adam’s Peak at 2am in the morning.
Places To Visit In Sri Lanka – Exploring The Coast
Sri Lanka’s coast line is among some of the most beautiful we’ve seen, and we really wish we could have stayed there much longer.
There are many amazing beaches south of Colombo.
With spice gardens and turtle sanctuaries to visit along the way.
There are so many places to visit in Sri Lanka that it would take you months to see everything, despite the small size of the country.
- Places To Visit In Sri Lanka – Exploring The Coast
Sri Lanka is famous for being the place where many beach and sunset postcards and ‘desktop screen savers’ are taken – and by visiting the beaches you’ll see why.
The general vibe of the beach towns is very relaxed and laid back, making you feel like there is not a worry in the world.
In other words, a perfect vacation destination.
Here are three great places to visit in Sri Lanka along the coast…
Hikkaduwa is a laid back beach town with a lively main road and a beautiful long beach lined with guesthouses and restaurants.
It was one of our favorite places to visit in Sri Lanka for both good swimming as well as nice restaurants.
During high season it’s a good beach for beginners who would like to try surfing, while in the off season the waves get quite big, making it a popular place for professional surfers.
There are parts of the beaches where you can swim in calm waters and even go snorkeling (and swim with turtles!) in the reef.
We spent our days in Hikkauwa surfing, swimming and getting acquainted with all the different Sri Lankan food – and before we knew it almost a week had gone past!
There is a quiet calm over the streets in Galle Fort.
Locals half sitting, half lying down in chairs under ceiling fans, children playing cricket on the porches.
There is not a sign of stress anywhere to be seen.
We joined the rest of the locals in the little area, and sat for hours in cafes with a pot of tea, talking to our table neighbors and the waiter, feeling no need to leave any time soon.
A light ocean breeze sweeps through the streets every now and then, making it possible to explore the town without fainting from the heat.
Old colonial European-style houses line the streets, painted in bright colors with Hibiscus flowers hanging over the walls and from the balconies of the long and narrow buildings.
In the old days you had to pay tax on the width of your home, which resulted in people building narrow homes and instead extending in length – these houses remain to this day.
Quaint little tea houses and art galleries are scattered around the town, next to gem boutiques and antique shops.
Galle is often included as one of the places to visit in Sri Lanka and is also a good base to explore the nearly beaches by bus or three-wheeler during the day.
Unnawatuna is a more quiet beach town without the hectic main road of Hikkaduwa, where the water is calm and clear, and where your hotel is located quite literally in the water.
This is one of those places to visit in Sri Lanka where you go for pure relaxation, with palm trees hanging over the waterfront providing a nice shade, and three-wheeler drivers waiting to take you on day excursions to turtle sanctuaries and spice gardens.
Having breakfast at the beach with the waves touching your feet is a lovely way to start the day.
How A Tsunami Evacuation Connected Us With The Locals
How A Tsunami Evacuation Connected Us With The Locals.
We had just arrived in the sleepy beach town of Hikkaduwa in Sri Lanka, and crashed on the bed exhausted after a long day of traveling from Colombo and taking one of the many cheap international flights from Germany.
“Are you shaking the bed?” Nathan suddenly asked me.
I wasn’t, but I could feel the whole ground slightly shaking under me.
As I looked around the room I noticed that the mirrors were shaking too.
Thousands of miles across the ocean, we could feel the vibrations from the massive earthquake which had just struck the coast of Indonesia.
We didn’t think much more of it at the time, until one of the local travel agents asked Nathan if he had heard anything about a tsunami coming.
At first we thought it was some kind of bad joke, but as we checked out Twitter Search, the newsfeed was going crazy.
Nobody really knew what to think, believe or do.
Hikkaduwa had been badly damaged from the tsunami in 2006, so this warning was not something people there took lightly.
We had two options: to risk it and stay, or to evacuate and seek higher ground.
Ten minutes later we had packed a small bag of the most necessary things, and walked out on the street.
The laid back main street had suddenly turned into a ghost town, the shops were closed and the streets empty from people – most of the locals had already left.
We didn’t want to waste any time, and so we simply looked on a map for a village that seemed far away enough in-land and told the driver to take us there.
At first the driver laughed when we told him where we wanted to go, but then he suddenly got a serious look on his face and agreed to take us there for almost nothing, perhaps he had realized the danger and wanted to get out of there as well.
Shortly after we left, the whole town was forced to evacuate.
Once he had dropped us off we realized why he had laughed.
We found ourselves in the middle of nowhere in a tiny country village which probably no tourists ever visited as there was no reason to go there.
I’ve never been stared at so much in my life!
We walked up and down the main road (the only road there), trying to find somewhere we could wait and follow the news.
But there were no restaurants or hotels to be found anywhere.
We finally found a tiny eatery with a small TV that was hardly working, and sat down to wait, we asked the boy serving us if there was a hotel around, but he shook his head apologetically.
Having no idea what to do next, we started walking again.
Five minutes later the boy from the restaurant caught up with us on his bicycle, and with a low and slightly shy voice said that if we wanted to we could stay the night with him and his family.
It was only our second day in Sri Lanka, and already we were experiencing the kindness and hospitality that the Sri Lankan people are so famous for.
The boy’s family took us in with open arms, arranged a bed for us to sleep in and made a huge effort to make us feel at home in their house, serving us a wonderful dinner in their lounge.
In the evening, the tsunami warning was cancelled.
But with the warm hospitality coming from this family we ended up staying the night and spent the rest of the evening hanging out with them.
Talking about everything and nothing, watching movies and getting an amazing insight into the lives of the people of the country.
There is no doubt that uncertain events like these bring people together, and as we parted the next day we had made some great new friends and exchanged email with a promise to visit again next time we traveled to Visiting Sri Lanka.