Visiting Sri Lanka: our tips

Why visit Sri Lanka? Is it a safe and welcoming country? When to leave? How to get there? Do I need a visa or vaccines? What itinerary? How many days on site? What tips for a serene trip? In this article, I answer any questions you may have before buying your tickets to Sri Lanka!

Why visit Sri Lanka?

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Sri Lanka is a multi-faceted country. We visit the country for the colonial cities of Nuwara Eliya and Galle. Testimony of the Dutch and English colonization of the country. The holiness of the city of Kandy will also be part of your trip to Sri Lanka.

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Sri Lanka is also visited for its wildlife and nature. The mountains and tea plantations of the Nuwara region Eliya will stand out through the local fog. Hiking to Rock Ella will delight those who like to walk. Animal friends can hike in Uda Walawe National Park. Those who are more sporty can do rafting in Kitulgala. While beach lovers will walk the pill on the coast of the Laqudives Sea.

But Sri Lanka also has many temples and archaeological sites. Sri Lanka is not only the fantastic site of Sigiriya . The Golden Temple of Dambulla, the Temple of the Kandy Tooth, the sites of Anurahapura and Polonnâruwa are worth visiting.

Is Sri Lanka a safe and welcoming country?

At no time did we feel insecure in Sri Lanka . Although men show some curiosity about women, she has never been too insistent or disrespectful. The embassies of Belgium and France recommend only to stay away from large gatherings.

As far as reception is concerned, it is difficult for us to give an objective opinion. We were greeted by a university professor whose cousin we had met in Japan. He took leave to accompany us for a week. From then on, we had the chance to spend a good part of our stay with his family and friends. Theyhave all been extremely generous and attentive to us.

When to go to Sri Lanka?

To take full advantage of everything Sri Lanka has to offer, I recommend you go there in January or February . This way you will be able to:

  • see maximum of animals during your safari
  • enjoy the beaches (very dangerous in off-season)
  • enjoy hot and dry weather throughout the territory

How to get there?

The main international airport of the country is located in Colombo. It offers direct flights mainly to Asia and to a few few European countries. The only way to get to the country is by air, because there is no boat connection , even from India.

If you are touring in Asia , you can take cheap flights to and from South India, Bangkok (Thailand), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) and Maldives (Addu City Airport).

Do I need a visa or vaccine for Sri Lanka?

If you plan to stay in Sri Lanka for less than 30 days, you can get a Entry Authorization (ETA) online at this address. This 30-day visa is renewable on site. For a stay between 30 and 90 days, however, you will have to go personally to the embassy. In addition to ETA, upon entering Sri Lanka, you will need to present a passport valid at least 6 months after that date . You may also be asked for a return ticket.

As for vaccines, nothing is mandatory. Thevaccines recommended by the Routard are:

  • universal vaccines (DTCP, hepatitis B);
  • hepatitis A (highly recommended).

What directions for a trip to Sri Lanka?

This route is not the one I took, but the one that I think would have been ideal if I had had the timing and energy I needed. It includes the main attractions tourism in the country while optimizing travel times . This road starts from Colombo to Kandy, but can very well be done in the other direction directly to Galle.

If your trip is too short to complete this route, I recommend you go without rafting to Kitulgala. It is indeed a considerable trip and there are many other rafting spots in the world. You can also abandon Sri Lankan beaches, especially if you are not there in the right season. These can be very dangerous, and are not exceptional compared to other Asian beaches. Getting to the Jaffna Peninsula or Uda Walawa National Park will significantly reduce your budget.

Day 1/Colombo

In my opinion, the city of Colombo is more of a mandatory passage than a real tourist stage . The city is of little interest and I recommend that you cross it only after landing and before take-off. You’ll understand that, I didn’t dwell on it.

If you are still looking for information about Colombo, I invite you to read this article by Planete3W.

Day 2/Kandy

Kandy: the sacred city of Sri Lanka After the capital, head to the sacred city of Sri Lanka: Kandy. Located in the center of the country, you will visit:

  • Temple of the tooth
  • Lake Bogambara

Day 3/Dambulla and Sigiriya

Sigiriya: The wonder of Sri Lanka After a 2-hour drive from Kandy, you will put your luggage in the city of Dambulla. Dambulla is an excellent base to visit:

  • The Golden Temple
  • The Fortress of Sigiriya

Day 4/ Anuradhapura

With Kandy and Polonnâruwa, the archaeological site of Anuradhapura completes the cultural golden triangle of Sri Lanka. Lack of time and suffering from a slight overdose of temples, I did not personally visit this site. However, it is possible to take a bus from Dambulla or Kandy, or a train from Colombo (5 hours) to Anuradhapura.

For a very complete description of the website Anurâdhapura, I invite you to consult this article of the blog Carnet d’escapades.

Day 5/Polonnâruwa

The third and final site of the Sri Lankan cultural triangle, Polonnâruwa is located east of Dambulla. From Anuradhapura you will need to take a bus to Dambulla, then another bus to Kaduruwela (departure every 30 minutes). For the same reasons as above, I did not visit this site. However, if you have to choose between Polonnâruwa and Anuradhapura due to lack of time, most Internet users recommend Polonnaruwa.

For more information, I invite you to read this article from the WorldWideBrice blog.

Day 6/Kandy

Via a direct bus from Polonnâruwa (4 hours), return to Kandy where you will make a second stop before heading south of the country.

Day 7/Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya: The Little England of Sri Lanka Head to the little Sri Lankan England with the city of Nuwara Eliya. I think this is one of the two most beautiful cities in Sri Lanka (with Galle). In the company of the fog that characterizes the region, you will discover:

  • of Colonial Architecture of Nuwara Eliya
  • elegant Victoria Park tea plantations
  • of
  • some waterfalls of

Surroundings Day 8/Rafting on Kitulgala River

70 km west of Nuwara Eliya lies Kitulgala. A small village from which it is possible to embark on the Kelani River. This name probably does not mean anything to you, but this river served as a venue for the movie “Kwai River Bridge”. In the middle of beautiful landscapes, the descent offers Level 3 rapids that will make you climb the adrenaline from time to time. We opted for the company Rafting Team 39, very cool, very professional, with good equipment.

Kitulgala rafting is a good 3-hour bus ride from Nuwara Eliya (it’s not close, but Nuwara Eliya is the best base to get there). Some people claim that there is a direct bus between Nuwara Eliya and Kitulgala. In our case, we had to make a bus change to Hatton, both to go only on the way home.

Day 9/Ella Rock Hiking

Ella Rock: a hike along the railway To continue your sporting momentum, after rafting, I recommends trekking Ella Rock. In fact, the village of Ella also has another hike, Peak du Petit Adam. If you want to do both, you will have to spend two full days on site, three nights. Which I do not recommend, as there are many other different landscapes to see in Sri Lanka.

Day 10/Uda Walawe National Park

Uda Walawe National Park is not the only safari park in Sri Lanka, but it is the easiest to access (everything is relative). From Ella you will have to take a bus to Tanamawila (departure in the morning, every 30 minutes). From there you will take the bus to Emilipitya and ask the driver to drop you off at the entrance to the park. The total journey takes about 3 hours. It is recommended to visit Uda Walawa National Park in the afternoon to have fewer people.

I have not visited this park, but for more information I recommend This blog post Flip Flops and Sri Lanka.

Day 11 — 12 — 13/Sri Lanka Beaches

Sri Lanka has many beautiful beaches facing the Laquedives Sea on its south and southwest coast. Personally, I went to Mirissa. I found this destination rather pleasant, despite the impossibility of swimming because of the power of the waves (out of season). But you’re spoiled for choice on either side of Galle. Fortunately, there are a lot of articles on the Internet that list the most beautiful beaches in Sri Lanka. I invite you to take a look at it before making your decision.

Day 14/Wales

Wales: the walled city Sri Lanka You will finish your loop of the southern half of Sri Lanla with one of the two colonial cities in the country: Wales. In this walled city, you can stroll through the charming pedestrian streets and admire the sunset from the ramparts.

Day 15 — 16 — 17 — 18/Jaffna Peninsula

After a necessary return to Colombo to take the train (9h) or plane, you can head to the Jaffna Peninsula in northern Sri Lanka. I didn’t have the chance to visit it, but some travelers consider it a favorite, so I had to mention it to you.

For a very complete summary of the Jaffna Peninsula, I recommend this blog post Journal d’escapades.

Day 19: Colombo

Return to Colombo, from where you will take your international flight to leave the country.

My 10 tips for a serene trip to Sri Lanka

To each country its specificities, curiosities and customs. These little things of everyday life that seem so harmless to its inhabitants, and yet contribute to the changing landscape of the traveler.Because Sri Lanka is no exception, here are my 10 tips to follow if you visit the country.

1) “With a sari you will dress”

As in India, sari is the traditional garment of Sri Lanka. Very loose and comfortable, it is worn by both women and men. Style and colors differ depending on taste. It can be difficult to put a sari correctly, so feel free to ask for help from a local to solve this riddle.

2) “Tea you will drink”

Sri Lanka is one of the largest tea producers in the world. His black tea is considered by some to be the best in the world. Special mention for ginger tea, regularly offered by our customers. If you wish, you can visit the tea plantations in the vicinity of Nuwara Eliya.

3) “Coconut weaving you”

This practice is not exclusive to Sri Lanka, but it was in that country that we saw it with our own eyes. Coconut fibers are used to make rope. A great way of recycling that also allows you to make brushes and carpets.

4) “Sri Lankan gastronomy you will try”

Sri Lankan gastronomy has many influences, the most important being Indian gastronomy. You will enjoy delicious fruits, including rambutans and mangostans. Rice is the food base, often accompanied by vegetables, starches and sometimes fish. We were particularly fond of roast, an Indian bread that we eat at all times. For more information about Sri Lankan gastronomy, I refer you to this blog post Travel to Sri Lanka.

5) “Among the inhabitants, you will live”

Sri Lankans are usually very welcoming people and we had a good time with them. The contact will be facilitated by the fact that a vast majority of Sri Lankan residents have a good knowledge of English. We were accommodated quite easily and were able to share some meals between the locals. Feel free to use the Couchsurfing website to facilitate exchanges.

6) “With your left hand under the table you will put”

In most places in Sri Lanka, guests can use cutlery to eat. If you still want to play locally and eat with your fingers, use only the right hand. I advise you to put your left hand under the table so as not to abuse it. The left hand is, in fact, considered unclean and reserved for other uses (basically, cleaning your buttocks).

7) “Elephants you greet”

In Sri Lanka, it is not always necessary to go on a safari to see elephants. Regularly used in religious ceremonies, you will certainly meet them on the road during your trip to Sri Lanka. We even found ourselves stuck between two elephants in a traffic jam. Given the size of the animal, it is better to show courtesy while driving.

8) “Kissing in public you will avoid”

Sri Lankans are generally modest and discreet in the manifestation of their emotions. Beyond not kissing them to say hello, it is even advisable to be very booked if you are traveling as a couple. So avoid holding your hand or kissing your soul mate in the public place.

9) “You shall bring fruit to your armies”

In our countries, we usually bring a bottle of wine to the person who invites us. You know you do the same thing in Sri Lanka, but with fruit. A slightly healthier way to express gratitude for the invitation.

10) “The train in advance you will book”

Most tour guides recommend taking the train in Sri Lanka, especially for the road between Ella and Kandy, which offers beautiful scenery. Please note, however, that it is highly advisable to book your tickets in advance to be well installed. Trains are regularly full in high season and you may not be able to board. We made this mistake and ended up standing against the toilet door, not great to enjoy.

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