My 15 days in Sri Lanka is over and now I’m chilling in this hipster-artsy-yogi-tibetan-backpacker-Indian community that is Fort Cochin. Looking back at Sri Lanka, 10-12 days was probably enough for me. But I think if I was travelling with friends I’d have more fun and more things I’d be enlightened to do over more days. Sri Lanka is certainly an inviting country. I didn’t feel it so much when I was actually there, but coming to India really highlights the special things about Sri Lanka given the countries are so similar in a lot of ways. There’s lots of nature, city-life, and food to discover in Sri Lanka and I don’t think anyone would dislike their experience travelling there. To be honest it wasn’t my favourite country and I probably won’t return for a while, but I did enjoy exploring it for the most part 🙂
The GREAT things about Sri Lanka / Why go to Sri Lanka?
- Tourism isn’t huge yet but the influx of foreigners is getting bigger every year! More and more guest houses/hotels/hostels are being built to cater for tourists but right now you still get that authentic Sri Lankan cultural immersion and things don’t feel all ‘touristy’. You’ll have more conversations with locals than tourists, prices are lower than what they will be in a few years, and touts aren’t as pushy.
- Everyone speaks English (though they appreciate you knowing some basic phrases like Ayubowan (Hi/Goodbye) or Es-tuh-ti (Thank you). Numbers were hard for me to memorise!
- Toilets are free. Small thing, but man when you go to Europe or some country where you have a pay a small fee for the toilet EVERYWHERE, you’ll appreciate it when it’s free. Same thing with table/tap water at restaurants. Water should be free y’all!!
- It’s cheap AND easy to get around. Sri Lanka is a small country and every town, big or small, is connected by buses which come often. They don’t quite run on any schedule but you can flag down any bus going in the direction you want or just ask anyone at the bus terminal and they’ll tell you exactly which bus to catch. Buses are also dirt cheap!! A 3-5 hour journey for example would cost as little as $1. Trains are relatively the same.
- It’s great for budget packpackers like me! The hostel community isn’t so big but there are a few. Guest houses however are the major accommodation in Sri Lanka and a decent one can cost between $10-20 AUD. They’re normally double rooms so if you’re travelling with a buddy, that’s even cheaper! Guest houses also offer a more authentic experience as they normally have a small number of rooms and are run by families who will look after you well. ALSO breakfast is normally included, along with wi-fi.
- The climate is fit for year-round travel. You can go to Sri Lanka whenever you want and be guaranteed good weather. It’s a nice warm temperature around most of the country, I’d say between 15-30 degrees, but it just gets a little colder in the hill country / tea plantation areas.
- It’s easy to meet locals. If I had to chose my favourite destination in Sri Lanka, I couldn’t say. But what I enjoyed most about the country is it’s hospitality and the ease of which you can connect with a local. Sri Lankans love to help, love to know where you’re from, and want to get to know you. I think I spent more time with locals than other travellers and that allowed me to gain much more depth to their culture.
What about the NOT-SO-GREAT things?
Only a few 🙂
- Attractions are expensive. Considering how cheap Sri Lanka is, entry to major attractions/sites are ridiculously priced. For e.g. the ancient ruins of Polunnaruwa cost $25 USD, to climb Sigiriya Rock Fortress cost $30USD, the Temple of the Tooth was $10 AUD and an Elephant Safari cost me about $30 AUD. I was put off doing more activities in Sri Lanka because of the prices, so I had to be wise about what attractions to pay for.
- It can be tricky for solo travellers to make friends. Because the backpacking community isn’t so huge, I found it harder to meet other solo travellers. The tourists in Sri Lanka were surprisingly mostly families, older couples, or friends travelling in 2-4s who were between 23-30years I’d say? I only met like 4-5 other solo backpackers who were around my age. Also most were from Europe!
- For a hot country, there seems to be a lack of hot water…Funny thing I found about Sri Lanka is that a lot of the guest houses and hostels didn’t have hot water. It was actually too cold for me to shower at times, particularly in the hill country where it goes down to 7 degrees at night! Carry wet wipes!!
My travel costs breakdown
I budgeted $50AUD / day for Sri Lanka which is around $700 for 14 days. I ended up spending around $500 – here’s the breakdown of my costs! (FYI I keep track of my travels with an excel spreadsheet. Bit of a nerdy backpacker)
- Accommodation: between 900-1500 rupees ($8-$14 AUD per night) for hostels and guest houses.
Total spent = 19500 rupees ($181 AUD)
- Attractions: I spent approximately the same as accommodation. This included the temples, National parks, Bicycle rental and an Ayurvedic massage. Obviously the spend on attractions will very with every traveller and I would’ve spent way more if I was with friends so things were more worth doing. For instance, I decided to skip white water rafting, canyoning and some trekking expeditions because it just wouldn’t be worth it by myself.
Total spent = 19500 rupees ($181 AUD)
- Transport and food: I don’t eat much and I didn’t have many meals at restaurants, so most of the time I was just buying snacks, water, and roti’s on the go. Maybe a sweet treat now and then. The thing with Sri Lanka is that you’re not always close to restaurants either so your only options would be to eat at your guesthouse or just remember to buy food for the road home (or those long train/bus rides). Transport, as I mentioned above was likely my minor expense for Sri Lanka!
Total spent = 14800 rupees ($137) which averages out to be just $10 AUD a day!