I wasn’t in Sri Lanka very long, just 14 days. But I think it was time enough to have learned some things I would’ve liked to know before going.
Hostelworld isn’t as useful.
The first time I travelled solo and long-term was over Central Europe and Hostelworld is used widely there. It’s the best way to search and book hostels!! I discovered though that it isn’t really known in Sri Lanka and Booking.com is the way to go! Guest houses are also popping up every where and if you travel in the shoulder seasons you don’t even have to book. I did this most of the time and the great thing is you can negotiate the price, especially if you’re staying more than a night! My favourite stay was at Lion Lodge in Sigirya – the couple are just so polite and the included breakfast was AWESOME!
SIM cards and staying connected
I met a Sri Lankan man on my flight and he advised that Dialog is the most trusted network in the country so I went with that. There are plenty of mobile outlets everywhere and it’s fairly easy to get a sim card and quick to activate. Basically I had to pay 350 rupees for the sim, then 150 activation fee, and then I paid just 200 rupees for 2GB of data. Once activated I got all these messages informing me I received free minutes and messages to use so that was awesome. Minus the sim and activation fee, call/data plans are bloody cheap in Sri Lanka!
Food, health and hygiene
Keeping up my nutrition levels was a challenge in Sri Lanka. I avoided eating meat for hygiene reasons, and although you can get vegetables it’s not common in food outlets. My diet for the two weeks predominantly consisted of roti, rice and dahl and I tried to eat fruit where/when I can. When you get to the big cities like Kandy, everything is available. But most of the towns I visited were small so restaurants, pharmacies and facilities weren’t available. I feel like my diet has been pretty.. brown?
You’ll find little convenience stores/ mini markets are EVERYWHERE and they sell candies and sugary biscuits.
Of course, always drink bottled water only!
Dirt cheap and easy to get where you want to! You’ll be catching buses everywhere and Sri Lankans are super informative and will hardly mistake on where each bus is going. If you’re carrying a backpack, they normally stack it at the front of the bus so it won’t take up an extra seat. Once you’ve sat down a ticket collector will come around and collect your money for your ride (These guys have great memory, it’s impressive how they keep track of everyone hopping on and off).
The local buses are enjoyable to travel in and it’s generally comfortable. I didn’t have any issues as a female. Some buses are full, some aren’t, just depends on your journey really. They’ll all have a buddha figurine at the front with lights and some buses even have fancy colourful curtains and a TV playing some Sri Lankan music (always seems to be about love and emotions ha-ha).