Sri Lanka’s heady mix of beautiful landscapes, incredibly friendly locals and British colonial heritage make it a beguiling destination. With turbulent years behind Sri Lanka, 2021 is the perfect time to visit. Here are ten Sri Lanka travel tips to help first-time visitors.
The Hill Country is particularly notorious for eating away time. Whether travelling by bus, tuk-tuk or train, expect to inch from one tea plantation to the next at speeds of around 12-15 miles per hour. For many travellers, hiring a car and driver will be a good alternative. Rough Guides can connect you with a local expert in Sri Lanka to organise everything from a private driver to excursions, accommodation and more.
As an emerging honeymoon hotspot, Sri Lanka also attracts a lot of couples. Those looking for nightlife to rival Bangkok’s Khao San Road will leave unfulfilled: beach bars pepper Arugam Bay on the east coast and Hikkaduwa on the west, but these are mellow affairs and many shut down out of season.
With the ancient traditions of Ayurveda medicine being very much alive and lived in Sri Lanka, it is also the ideal destination to leave your stressful life behind, join a retreat and enter a state of bliss - through meditations, yoga and Ayurvedic treatments.
If you’re after deserted golden beaches, remote temples and colonial port towns – go north. The sample itinerary 'Jaffna and Western Sri Lanka', created by local expert Hazan, is a good sample of what to explore from Jaffna and surroundings. Best of all it is, as all our sample itineraries, 100% customisable to fit your preferences. Simply click 'modify this itinerary' to connect with Hazan directly.
Those familiar with Asia will be surprised at the lack of street food stalls; instead, some of the best food can be found in the kitchens of small guesthouses.
Upon landing in Colombo, spend a night in the capital (see next point) and join a small group tour to get a first taste of the delicious cuisine. A local guide will explain all different options and flavours to you.
Watch families fly kites on Galle Face Green at sunset. Then cheer for the national cricket team at the R Premadasa Stadium, or observe grandmothers swathed in vivid saris bargain with stallholders at Pettah Market. Get around in Tuktuks, walk through markets and grab some delicious street food on the way (see point 5!) - a private hidden gems tour through Colombo will not only allow you to discover the capital, but also introduce you to the Sri Lankan way of living.
Outside of these months it’s still possible to hike to the summit, but the myriad tea shops that line the path will be closed. You’ll also tackle the peak with a handful of tourists instead of hundreds of local devotees, meaning much of the atmosphere and camaraderie among climbers is lost.
Few locals bat an eyelid at western visitors and while covering up is always appreciated (and necessary at places of worship), wearing shorts and vests is unlikely to attract much attention.
Top image: Tea pickers in Sri Lanka © Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock