Here are a list of things I wish I knew before visiting Srilanka.
1.How to get around
The country is known for its Tuk Tuks (Coloured autos). We hired a tuk tuk driver to take us around the whole day at kandy. It was worth it. Much cheaper than taking individual tuk tuks to different places. He charged us 3000LKR for the whole day and we went to 6 places, had lunch and this included waiting charge also.
Inter city travel
You can travel inter city travel through trains, buses and taxis. Buses are cheaper by factor of 10 than taxis.
a. Train tickets
Can be purchased at the counter at Train station or booked through srilankatours website and redeem them to get the paper tickets at the counter.
Beware- trains can get canceled. The entire railway network was shut off due to some strike and opened only after I left the country. So have back-up options.
Frequent buses available from place to place but hard to travel. They are crowded and noisy. They are slow too. If you can reach a place in 2 hours by taxi it will take 4 hours by bus. They stop every 5 mins at stops.But they are cheaper by a factor of 10.
Taxis are much more expensive than buses or trains. Inter city travel can cost 7000 LKR one way.
Every event you go locals are going to ask for a Tip. I wish I knew this before going. We paid 3500 for our ticket to the elephant place but they made us tip 1000 LKR per person. Yes you read it right, made us tip.
They say things like ‘A couple from your place came by and tipped us 1k each. Come on we took really good pictures please increase tip value’.
The cultural show, spice garden, turtle hatchery- In all these places people asked for tips.
10% is added in restaurants if you like it or not
3.Locals are so darn friendly but be cautious
Drivers can get too friendly but that’s to get more business. They will coax you into taking a tour you dont want. We started speaking with a coconut seller in hindi. He went and got his tuk tuk and told he would drop us and we shouldn’t trouble ourselves walking back to our hotel. For less than a km of journey charged at 200 LKR.
Tuk Tuk drivers have connections with different tourist spots. They get commission if he took us to one hatchery and not another so if you get on a tuk tuk he will convince you for example that the hatchery called Amarsari fernandes is the best.
Most of the tuk tuk drivers know english but very broken and has to be pieced together. We had to speak in broken english for them to understand. Like ‘You go there 150 LKR? Me come’. Dont expect them to understand long complicated sentences. Also tough accent to get hold of.
There arent many fancy restaurants; Except some in Colombo. Most places you eat would be locally owned and they serve Srilankan food like string hoppers, parota, kothu and gravy which can be spicy.
On the good side there is pizza huts, baked bread places and burger kings all around town. there is Cargils too for you to shop groceries.
In Colombo there are fancy places in the dutch hospital complex area. It was an old dutch area with bars and pubs. We had some good meal at ministry of crab.
If you want to order food online and get it delivered use the Pick me app
6.Similarity to India
For me it felt like going to a city in Tamilnadu. Tamil is one if the languages there so locals started speaking to me in Tamil. Sign boards are written in Tamil. The food is just very similar.
They had cooking classes and the menu was on making dal, curry, and rice. Kothu parota is famous which is from Tamil nadu again. lots of biriyanis and fish dishes too.
The crowded mobile shops, bus stations, coconut sellers, farm lands with cocnut trees and the food . All reminded me of India. It felt like going to an unnnamed city in south India!
7. Beware of Street dogs, mosquitoes etc
Lots of street dogs be careful. Read airbnb reviews carefully. Some said dogs bark all night and that is true. I tried running on the beach to get chased by street dogs. Take odomos where you go, there can be a lot of mosquitoes.
8.Get a sim card
Unless you have roaming enabled getting a local sim is very helpful. There are tons of mobile shops and its easy to get one and recharge.
9.Getting from airport to City
There is a bus that stops right outside the airport that takes you to Colombo city in 2 hours. It costs only 100 LKR. If you take a cab it might go upto 3500 LKR.
8. Free visa on Arrival for Indians
You can either fill an online form and get the visa or go to the airport and get a visa on the spot.
10.What to pack
- Flip-flops- For the beaches.
- Torch light- Some areas can be dark in the night.
- Light clothing- Sultry climate makes it hard to wear thick clothes.
- Mosquito coil or All-out or Odomos
- Drivers license and documents
- Cash- Withdraw cash as all the places mostly deal with cash.
- Camera/DSLR with a water proof bag
- Print out of your tickets and bookings.
- Mobitel/Dialog Sim card
Hope you found these useful!
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