Top 5 Sri Lanka Travel Tips for First-Timers

Buddha in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has a charm of its own. Any visitor who travels beyond the capital will definitely love its rolling hills and golden beaches. While the scenery is stunning, Sri Lanka’s infrastructure is still largely undeveloped. Although things are changing quickly in the country, it would be a mistake to expect the easy of travel you find in South East Asia. These 5 things to know before you go, will ensure your holiday to Sri Lanka runs smoothly.

men walking down the rail road in sri lanka

1. Do your research

Since the end of the civil war in 2009 Sri Lanka’s tourism industry has been booming. The once unsafe destination is now drawing tourists and investors from all over the world. The newness of tourism means that outside of Colombo and Galle, conveniences aren’t always easy to find. While English is widely spoken, it can’t be relied upon when liaising with vendors and tuk tuk drivers. The tourism boom is raising prices, but be aware that a higher price does not always mean better quality.  The restaurants and hotels are either high-end or budget -with little in between. While this reflects investments and local entrepreneurs, doing your research on where to eat and stay is necessary as standards vary widely.

Palm trees along sri lankan beach

2. Be Sure to plan ahead

If you are used to travelling in South East Asia, you will be accustomed to the spontaneity it affords travellers. Sri Lanka is not so easily navigated and planning head is crucial. If you have decided to travel by train, be sure to book ahead and reserve your seating. While just turning up at the station can result in disappointment, booking online is fairly reliable.

3. Plan your budget well

While tourism continues to boom, so do prices. The many luxury resorts which have sprung up along the coastlines are the result of government or foreign investment. The locations, although beautiful, are often remote and have very few dining and shopping option nearby. Rather than paying the premium prices in hotel restaurants venture into small towns and spend locally whenever possible. This will not only give you an insight into the ‘real’ Sri Lanka but it will also help support the local economy and it will mean you spending money goes further.

Ladies picking tea

4.  Know when to trust and when not to

Sri Lankan people are amongst the most friendly you will ever meet. In the more rural areas of Nuwara Eliya and Ella, locals are grateful for the influx of tourism. Restaurant owners and local guides are extremely helpful and friendly and service is always with a smile. Yet the Sri Lankan cities of Colombo and Kandy, aren’t quite so new to tourism. Tuk Tuk drivers and vendors who are wise to travellers may try some familiar cons you’ve seen elsewhere. Be alert when travelling in the cities, but remain open to the friendliness you encounter.

Sri Lanka port

5. Be culturally aware

Sri Lanka has a complicated history. The civil war is still recent history and many people are still very much affected by it. Heading back further into Sri Lanka’s colonial history will explain the fusion of influences and architecture. Although historic influences are strong, Sri Lanka has a style of its own. Spirituality is a big part of life and the mixture of religions is also evident. While most of Sri Lanka is Buddhist, there is also a large Hindu, Muslim and Christian community. Cultural awareness and sensitivity is key to travelling this diverse country.

Buddha in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a stunning country which has a lot to offer its visitors. While Sri Lanka still adapts to the influx of tourists, these simple tips will help you travel safely and experience the true Sri Lankan experience.

Related: 8 tips about local etiquette and safety in Sri Lanka

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