To anyone reading our blog in hope of tips/hints/ highlights and lowlights, this country by country summary is for you. After each country we will give you the low down on anything and everything we learnt about the country in the hope that it can make your trip a little smoother. So here goes the first ever ‘what we wish we knew’…
- Average prices:
- (Prices really vary from town to town, so this is a best a rough guide)
- Accomodation: 7 -20 aud.
- Food: 50cents to 8aud.
- Drinks: 2- 15aud. (2 – 6 for large beer, 5 – 15 for spirits/cocktails)
- Sight seeing: Free to 10aud.
- Transport: 1-10aud.
Average spend in a day: 50 – 60 + shopping money.
FOOD AND DRINK.
The street food is a ok.
We arrived in Sri lanka with the idea that the street eats (rotis, pan rolls etc.) might not be made Sanitarily enough for westerners. However by the third day we decided to give it a go as Negombo was expensive and eating in the restaurants there 3 times a day was unsustainable. What we found was the each and every street eat we tried was cheap, delicious and most importantly, did not make us sick!
*For breakfast, try grabbing an egg roti or egg pan roll with a cold milo/ lassi/ juice. The convenient, not too heavy breakfast will cost you no more than 100 rupees and you can grab it from nearly any bakery or general store.
Bakeries for Rice and Curry or other main meals.
When we arrived in Kandy, starving and in need of a big feed, this hint would have been fantastic.
Restaurants aren’t really a thing here, and if there are restaurants, they are normally set up for tourists, so the price will be higher and the food not really as authentic. Instead, look for signs for bakeries, because while they are a bakery, they also serve all kinds of rice and curry and other meals.
Cheaper and far tastier, bakeries serve up great mains for a fraction of the price. Depending on the meal/city/etc you should only be paying between 120 – 300 rupees for your meal and compared to 600-800+ in restaurants this tip can save you a lot of coin.
Kottu is a great meal if you’re sick of rice and curry.
Kottu usually only served as a dinner dish (or so we found) and this is because it is a stir fry of types that uses the left over rottis of the day as the main ingredient. The rots are chopped up into thin slices, like noodles, and then veggies, sauce and meat, egg etc (you choose) is tossed through. Delicious!
Seafood is really fresh here (along coast).
Don’t be afraid to try the seafood here, you are pretty much guaranteed to be eating fish caught hours ago. They also tend to have the options of picking your seafood from the ice and watching it be prepared, so you know exactly what you are eating.
Lion beer is pretty much all you will drink here.
You can buy alcohol almost anywhere, but imported goods such as wine and Spirits come attached to very high prices. Their local beer, Lion, is by far the cheapest and is pretty damned tasty at a price of between 180 – 600 rupees. It is often also the only drink available at many smaller bars, despite them having a full wine and cocktail list!
In the ‘party’ towns like Hikkaduwa you can get cocktails and other drinks easily, but it will cost you around them price of back home (8 – 20 aud) so it may be hard on those with a tighter budget like ours.
Sri Lanka is not as conservative as it is made out.
Sri Lanka, like many countries just starting to be part of the global economy, is starting to see some major changes. While many of the older Ladies still wear Saris or more conservative attire, most of the younger generations are much more at home in jeans and a tee shirt (both guys and girls) or a knee length dress/ skirt and tee for the girls. As a tourist is still aired on the side of caution and I did find that the best feedback from locals was when i chose to wear a local style skirt and top. The towns along the coast that get heavy tourist movement are also less conservative than central areas and little summer dresses and shorts are fine here.
Bring knee/shoulder covering light coloured clothing for temples.
It sounds contradictory to what I said above, but when you go to a temple you will need to be more conservative with no knees or shoulders to be visible for both guys and girls.
I also found that most temples have signs up asking for people to wear light clothing as a sign of respect. While this is not necessarily enforced, the tourists that wore white/light coloured clothing like the Sri Lankan pilgrims were more warmly welcomed.
The buses in Sri Lanka are cheap, easy and super fun. They run frequently and you can pretty much get anywhere without hassle.
Government buses (the red ones) are the cheapest and unlike the private buses run to a schedule. They are all very old buses and not in the best condition but they are fine for trips of a few hours.
The private buses were my favourite. Individuals buy the buses and follow the same routes as the government buses. They are usually more comfortable and are seriously decked out, with speakers that pump the latest Sri Lankan hits, streamers and garlands around the place and other random bits and pieces. They are a little more expensive than the government ones (maybe 50 cents more) but as they run to their own schedule there is nearly always one coming your way when you want to leave.
They won’t try and rip you off as badly as in India, but they will jack prices up so the rough rule to get a fair fare is no more than 100 rupees a km. And like i said, buses will pretty much get you everywhere anyhow so you won’t need too many of these.
Book the Kandy to Ella train as soon as you get into Sri Lanka.
We missed out on doing this highly renowned trip as we were under the impression that you couldn’t pre book tickets as there is no way to do so online. However, you can prebook tickets from any station within SriLanka and this trip books out quickly, so the earlier you book it, the better!
Spice gardens are where ingredients for the ayurvedic medicines are grow and often offer massage and other natural remedies on site. While they are cool to see, they are going to try and make you buy stuff at the end and the prices are far higher here than if you go to an Ayurvedic store in town.
HIGHLIGHTS AND LOWLIGHTS:
Turtles in Hikkaduwa
Coming across these beautiful animals was pure chance and a definite highlight for me. Each day, down in the water behind the aptly named ’Turtle Resort’ 3+ of these beauties hang out and wait around for people to feed them seaweed. We went there around 5pm each day and they were there at that time so probably best to try around then.
Well worth the early morning and hike. Some of the most breathtaking scenery I have seen so far.
Was the most beautiful and calm place we visited in Sri Lanka. We hired a guide here and it was well worth it as he was able to give us some fantastic insight into the Buddhist lifestyle and history.
The tea plantations:
The crisp mountain air and the sweeping green panoramas make this place the perfect place to stop for a few days to relax. My only regret is that we didn’t have time to explore some of the smaller town within this region as they looked fascinating as we whizzed past them in the bus.
Especially the kids in Maskeliya. They are always happy to offer a smile and are very welcoming.
Negombo as a whole, overpriced and compared to the beauty you will see in the rest of the country it is not worth giving much time.
Overall Sri Lanka was a blast. In such a small country, the variety of experiences on offer is huge. Whether you’re there to learn more about the countries religion or history, or simply to relax on a beach or to hike mountains there is something for you.