12 Things To Know When Visiting Sri Lanka

March 2, 2020 at 2:49 pm |

 

Sri Lanka.

A country that I had the least expectations from and that surprised me the most.
A country I expected to have similarities with India, but I was interestingly proved wrong.

 

Sri Lanka, a jewel-shaped country in the Indian ocean is like a box full of delightful surprises. Visit Sri Lanka with an open mind and you are bound to get an authentic essence of this country.

 

Here are a few things to know before and while exploring Sri Lanka:

 

  1. That Sri Lanka will resemble South India is a misconception

Apart from the palm trees and the backwaters, Sri Lanka has nothing in common with South India. You will hardly come across any Tamilian in the Southern and Western parts of the country. Most people are Sinhals and they speak Sinhalese, which is very different from Tamil.

 

2. Don’t litter in Sri Lanka, it is frowned upon

Sri Lanka is an incredibly clean country, at least from an Indian’s perspective. When we reached Colombo, we were surprised to see the dirt-free sprawling roads and wrongly assumed only the capital city to be this unsoiled. The railway stations, the local trains, the narrow winding lanes, they were all the same, incredibly spotless.

 

 

3. Don’t waste plastic. Keep using the same plastic bottle or carry a flask with you

Hydrating yourself is very very important while roaming around this insanely humid country. Always carry water with you. They mostly drink tap water but I would suggest you don’t. Carry your own water. Buying water bottles will be a huge waste of plastic, hence either carry your own container or reuse the same bottle.

 

4. Indulge in their local cuisine

I really hope you are not one among those Indians who want their local food wherever they go. Instead, indulge in this country’s mouthwatering local cuisine as we did. True their local cuisine is rice and curry but they have their own twist on it. They have something called Sambol with their rice and curry. Sambol is something that we would call ‘Chutney’ or a side condiment. There are three kinds of Sambol and we were amazed at how good they tasted. Also ‘papadam’ (papad) is something that they can’t do without, and 10 days of papadam with food, I can’t do without it either these days.

 

 

5. Put your haggling skills to test

Good at haggling? You have to be. It’s as simple as that. Sri Lanka is not very far off from our country in that aspect. Locals don’t try to dupe Indians as much as they do foreigners, but even then there is quite a lot of over-exaggeration when it comes to local prices, for transport primarily. When at Colombo, only hire tuk-tuks with meter system, otherwise, you will be robbed. For other expenditures such as backwater safari, water sports, haggling often pays off owing to huge competition between rival companies. So that’s a win for us.

 

6. Go to off-beat destinations

Tourist destinations are definitely worth seeing, and some of them are must-visits (I will talk extensively about them in a different post), but talk to locals and visit off-beats spots. That’s where the real fun is. We went to a lot of off-beat spots. Two of the most extraordinary ones were The Jungle Beach and The Secret Waterfall at Ella. The waterfall was not mentioned in any blog, and we couldn’t locate it on the map either. We asked locals for a landmark and thankfully landed at the right place. Take the help of locals for these suggestions, they are super friendly and will definitely help you out.

 

 

7. If you opt to drive within the country, ALWAYS and ALWAYS carry your IDP (International Driving Permit) with you

Inter-city traveling in Sri Lanka is both extraordinarily scenic and time-taking. If you have enough time in your hand, I would definitely recommend opting for a local mode of transportation, but in case you don’t, and you want to experience a lot in a short span of time, self-driving is possibly the best way to get around.

We opted for Casons Rental. (Will provide you with all the details in a separate post) We got our IDP from them beforehand. Always remember to keep your permit with you at ALL times. I can’t stress this enough. There is a lot of police checks inter-city, especially in the south and south-west coast and the fine for not carrying your permit is LKR 25,000.

So save yourself the hassle and keep your IDP with you at all times.

 

 

8. Don’t expect a great nightlife in Sri Lanka

Okay, here’s the thing; Sri Lanka is not Thailand or Goa. It is a beautiful tropical country but that doesn’t entail a party scene. There are good bars and pubs down south at the beach areas with good music, good food and good vibes in general. Now we were taken aback by this, but the drug scene in Sri Lanka is grave. They have a strange understanding of only one party happening in one bar every day, and in those days no other pubs can have parties. And here’s the catch, on top of a non-redeemable entry fee of LKR 2000, the kitchen closes at 9:30 PM. So it’s basically drugs and booze till 6 in the morning.

Now, I am too old for this; I need my food!! We got so turned off by this arrangement, we didn’t step foot inside any party, instead opted to chill at other bars and have a good time; with food involved.

And we had fun. That’s the endgame, right?

 

 

9. Carry a REALLY good sunblock

Sri Lanka is closer to the equator and the sun is pretty scorching. Where my skin just changed colour, poor Harsh burned his skin to the point that even rubbing a towel was painful for him. We carried SPF 50, which apparently didn’t work. So you would need something better than that.

 

10. Do try their local snacks

We have been very very fascinated by their local snacks. When in Colombo, we tried what they locally call ‘Isso Vade’ its nothing but prawn vadas and they are extremely interesting. I looooveed it!

We also had something called Sea Chicken Fish Fry. It’s a fish but the texture of the fish, the taste, everything resembles that of a chicken. I won’t lie, it didn’t taste that good. Not to me at least

But do try your hands on other local snacks, they are really appetizing, especially the fried stuff.

 

 

11. Indian currency exchange is not available at the airport

We were pretty astounded by this. There were so many currency exchange counters, but none of them catered to us. In that case, you have two options. We first got our money exchanged by a pawnbroker for a lesser exchange value, which obviously was his commission. The other thing that you could do, and what we later did was withdraw money directly from the bank ATMs over there. You just need to make sure your debit card is an International one. The banks that provide such services are Pan Asian, Union Pay, and Commercial Bank of Ceylon.

 

12. Always carry a stole/scarf while visiting temples

Sri Lankan temples have very strict dress codes. Skin show is extremely frowned upon and somehow they have managed to make a business out of this as well. There are many scarf vendors outside temples who will give stoles and scarves for rent when you go inside. So your best bet is to always have a stole with you.

 

 

The most important thing to remember is to pause.
Pause and soak in the beauty that is Sri Lanka. Don’t be on the move all the time, you will miss taking in the essence of this majestic country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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