Tips for First time visitors
If one would define Sri Lanka, the words surfing, beaches, food and tea would come in mind. But there is more to it than the eyes can see. Ask any one of the friendly locals and they will be more than happy to enlighten you on why Sri Lanka is an awesome island. Currently, only the west, southern and central parts of Sri Lanka are exposed to tourists. The birth, because Of The 3 decade civil war is being explored by tourists. No matter which part of Sri Lanka you go to, there is always something amazing the island will offer. Here is a list of things we wish all first time travellers to Sri Lanka would know, hence the blog. Oh and once everything is done, definitely drink fresh tender coconut (locally known as thambili) from the shell and toast to the beauty of this pearl island.
- Challenges time with variety
Whoever underestimated Sri Lanka by simply looking at it’s gem-like shape in the map is up for a big surprise. Just like the saying “small things pack the biggest punch”, Sri Lanka mesmerised it’s visitors with a wide variety of options; from whale watching and wildlife in the south coast, sampling tea and spices in the central hills, absorbing the overflowing-but-not-boring history in the cultural triangle and surfing away in the gigantic waves of the east coast.Since the roads aren’t as wide as many developed countries, the trains as speedy as the bullet trains, travelling around takes most of the time.
Tip_ If you are visiting Sri Lanka for a few weeks then it’s ideal to travel either of these routes to make the best out of your visit to the tropical island.
- Route 1: Ideal for those visiting for scenic beauty and the rich history Colombo – Nuwara Eliya – Ella – Kandy – Sigiriya – Anuradhapura – Jaffna – Colombo
- Route 2: Ideal for those visiting for the exotic beaches, surfing and wildlife Colombo – Kandy – Nuwara Eliya – Arugam Bay – Tissamaharama – Tangalle – Mirissa – Galle – Hikkaduwa – Colombo
If you have enough time to spare in your hands because you are staying a month or more, feel free to explore both routes and add more stops you wish to see.
- Spot wildlife worthy of an African Safari
Many tour companies and articles written on vacationing in Sri Lanka don’t do justice to the wildlife possibilities Sri Lanka offers. Because of the variety of landscapes, tourists visiting Sri Lanka can some of the big and bold members Of The wildlife kingdom. The Yala National Park off Tissa in the south coast has the largest population of Leopards in the whole of Asia along with many other endemic animals. The Minneriya National Park near Dambulla boasts the largest gathering of elephants near its river banks. The phenomenon is suitably named ‘The Gathering’ with more than 200 elephants, from big oldies to adorable Tucker’s, going about their usual activities. In the south coast town of Marissa, tourists are promised the chance of spotting dolphins and many species of Whales. That’s not all, the island offers chances to spot endemic and migratory birds, many species of monkeys and the graceful peacock.
Tip_ Dust out your wildlife gear you saved for an African Safari, pack it up and discuss with your tour company the wildlife tours they offer.
- Omitting Colombo is out Of The question
Since Colombo is regarded as the industrial and commercial capital of Sri Lanka, many of us automatically assume that it is void of any wonderful attractions. Wrong, my friend. The city has everything from intricately carved temple’s hosting yearly processions (locally known as perahera), nostalgic parks, a diverse culinary scene, historic architecture, bustling markets and posh boulevards. It’s like A potpourri of heady sights, each different from the other. Whether you wish to stroll in the Independence arcade park or enjoy a delicious Lankan crab curry, Colombo Won’t Leave you disappointed.
- Use your hands when eating
Sri Lankan food has got enough of praise from around the world. The medley of spices balanced with coconut milk in the delectable curry, the spicy and charred taste Of The famous kottu rotti and breakfast delicacies like the egg hopper and chilli’s symbol are best enjoyed when eaten with hand. It’s part of the culture, but trust me it makes eating Sri Lankan food all the more enjoyable.
- Some destinations are best travelled to by train
Trains in Sri Lanka are nowhere similar to their speedy counterparts in UK or USA. However, they do offer some scenic routes. The train ride from Kandy to Ella or Nuwara Eliya and many other routes offer breathtaking greenery. From cascading waterfalls surrounded by pools of water, miles and miles of paddy fields, rubber plantations and climbs up the hill are few Of The many highlights of a scenic Sri Lankan train ride.
Tip_ Book a ticket in the observation cabin if you are travelling through a scenic route like Ella to Kandy. Make sure to book it a minimum of 4 days in advance through a tour agency to witness the beauty unfolding in front of you.
- Pack for all weathers
Sri Lanka has a bit of all seasons, except the possibility of snowing, unfortunately. Since the south is full of beaches and hot weather make sure to bring along your swimwear, suntan and clothes made of cotton and linen. For those who plan to visit the central hills pack some cold gear like sweaters and ear muffs because it tends to get chilly up hill. Definitely don’t forget to bring a camera and some mosquito repellent as well.
- Choose tours with a private driver
For foreigners to drive in Sri Lanka they need to hold an international driving permit which includes Sri Lanka in it. Since many Of The foreigners aren’t used to the narrow roads in Sri Lanka, it is best to opt for a private driver, especially if you are going on a tour. The best part is, these drivers double up as tour guides and are a wonderful source of information if you love to learn more about Sri Lanka. All tour companies hire drivers who speak good english and just like all the other locals are very friendly too.
- Stick to bottled or filtered water
Don’t drink water straight out of the tap. Instead, buy mineral water bottles or use a water bottle with a filter. You are safe to consume ice from restaurants and hotel bars. If you have a sensitive tummy steer away from salads as the greens could have been washed in tap water. Make sure to check the expiration date on every mineral water bottle you buy before opening it.
- Make sure to tip
Tipping in restaurants should usually be 10% of the total bill. If you were accompanied by a private driver then anywhere between a 5-10$ tip is appreciated for their friendly service. There is no need to tip tuk tuk drivers.
- Make enough time to shop
Sri Lanka is renowned for its high-quality gemstones. Apart from that, Tea, handmade lace from galle, batik textiles, spices and wooden carvings. Bargaining is normal in local shops, but one should know the limit of a good bargain.