Don’t worry, my silence isn’t because we’ve dropped off the edge of the world (sorry if it gave you a scare, Granny!). No no, we’re back safely in Birmingham and have been busy moving into our lovely new home in Harborne.
As promised, here is my own rough, brief guide to travelling around the sacred island, Sri Lanka.
We travelled on a budget. That means public transport, and mainly homestays. I used Trip Advisor to find recommended places to stay and it worked out wonderfully for us.
A three wheeler covered taxi. Perfect for short hops (about 1000SLR for 10km) but expensive over long distances. If you are in a town you might be better off using one with a metre so you know you aren’t being ripped off, otherwise, you can always try to barter, but do be prepared for some stiff competition!
All of the larger settlements we visited had bus stops and we hardly ever had long to wait. We’d just say the name of where we were trying to get to and everyone was friendly and willing to help us find our way. Buses in Sri Lanka are busy, full of colour, noise, and character, and very very Very cheap! However, do be prepared to stand if you aren’t going from the beginning of the line. Also, you don’t pay the driver- just climb on and a helper will wriggle his way along the bus and give you a ticket in due time.
The slowest and safest way to travel around, and also probably the most comfortable form of public transport. The trains have toilets (bring your own loo roll!), people always going up and down selling all types of foods and drinks, and the views are often breath taking. 1st class is air conditioned and reserved, but you can’t open the windows. 2nd class, however, is half the price and has fans, plus you can open the windows and hang out of them. 3rd class is half the price again, but is very busy and often the fans don’t work.
We liked to use 2nd class, the only problem being that, because you don’t reserve seats, you often have to fight for your place a bit, and might end up sitting in the gangway. But even then you can still hang your feet out of the doors and it’s very enjoyable. Some trains also have observation carriages which have huge see windows, face backwards down the tracks, and are more expensive. Personally though, my stomach’s not a fan of facing backwards, and we liked hanging out of the windows anyway.
As a young, white, blonde, this was something I was very concerned about getting right for travelling, as I wanted to be comfortable, pro-optimal tanning, and also respectful to Sri Lankan culture.
I soon realised that comfort in the heat was my priority! Loose cotton shirts (or crop tops, as long as my shoulders were well covered) and baggy vests became my go tos, as well as my trusty sarong that I could wrap around me as a long loose skirt.
On the more touristy resort beaches, short shorts, strap tops, and bikinis were all fine. However, I felt much more comfortable swimming in a tshirt and shorts when around the more modest locals.
My general rule would be to avoid wearing strappy tops, especially while in towns or travelling on public transport, you can get your tanning done at the beach! Vest were fine as long as they had thick shoulders. Legs wise, I aimed for knee length when not on the beach, although I didn’t feel out of place wearing shorts in the more touristy areas. Sri Lankan women are much more modest than Westeners, and do tend to cover up more- wearing full length leggings under their tunics, or knee length skirts, or even trousers- although how some of them can bear the heat I don’t know!
I would majorly recommend taking at least one loose, long sleeved shirt and long, loose trousers too. These will be your greatest protection from nibbley crawly insects at night, and relief from the intense sun. Sun cream is difficult to get hold of and expensive in Sri Lanka, take plenty with you and expect to need it! Sunglasses or a hat to save your eyes from the glare is also an absolute must.
Finally, if you are visiting the hill country, take some layers- it can get real chilly, especially if you’re planning on doing any walking up mountains. Unless you’re planning anything serious, save yourself from the weight of walking boots too. I found my running trainers were perfect for the short treks we did (I climbed Adam’s Peak in them too, no problems).
Tend to be a hold in the ground, but where there are tourists, there will normally be sit down cisterns too. Toilet roll is a luxury, but widely available. What ones in toilet rolls place, however, is a wall bidet, or as I like to call it, a bum shower. Sri Lankans use their left hand to wipe, leaving their right one clean to handle money and food (oh yeah, they eat with their fingers).
One last note…
Sri Lankan people tend to be generous, friendly, and quiet, although not always the most efficient! Enjoy the slower pace of life and go with the flow, or you’ll stress yourself out trying. Pick pockets don’t seem to be much of a threat (although obviously, be careful still). What you will get, however, is people trying to scam you into giving them money. Just keep your head on and your eyes open. Don’t be afraid to ask for more information, but practise caution before handing your money over.
On a whole, people want to help you out, but tuk tuk drivers especially may lie about bus timetables to get your business, or try to take you to other hotels than the one you want, or even drive a longer ‘scenic route’ for your entertainment, and at your expense. Just stand your ground, let them have no doubt about want you want, and set a price before you get in, and you should have no problems.
And finally, shaking your head means yes, and nodding means no, so don’t get offended when they start shaking their heads at your smiling face! You get used to it quickly.
Any other questions, please feel free to ask, and conversation is always welcome!
Photos coming soon!
Hope you’re all well,
Stay breezey 🌴