Decision to visit Sri Lanka was a nice surprise. After many years travelling over 30 countries, I have had a courage to make the first ever solo trip of my life. With a thought of a retreat trip to relax in a not-yet visited place, and probably to learn something new, uncle google led me to this country. 1-week surfing and yoga retreat sounded wonderful, didn’t it?
Therefore, I started planning for the trip. Thanks to useful information shared by my friends who either have visited Sri Lanka or are from Sri Lanka, I completed my 18 days itinerary pretty fast, which is longer than my original 1-week plan. Why not as I anyway come to a new country, I should visit as many places as possible.
Coming to a Buddhist country with a little understanding about this religion, I decided to balance my itinerary between learning surfing with visiting famous historical Buddhism related sites. Started from Colombo International airport, I hired a taxi for 3 days to help me cover Habarana, Sigiriya, Polonnarawa, Dambulla and drop me off in Kandy. From there, i took the scenic train to Nuwara Eliya to explore tea plantation. My initial plan was to continue taking the train to Ella to climb little Adam Peak. However, i changed to taxi after being squeezed so much in the train from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya. After Ella, I had a long taxi drive to Arugambay in the east coast and spent 1 week to learn surfing and practice yoga. Then I headed to the south to Galle and Unawatuna beach for 2 days, and back to Colombo to fly home.
To briefly describe Sri Lanka, it is a peaceful country filled of greenery. From big cities like Colombo, Kandy or Galle to small towns like Harabana, Dambulla, from the plateau of Nuwara Eliya or Ella to the coastline as Arugambay, including the roads connecting the regions of the country, everywhere is full of the lush green ranges. Perhaps thanks to living close to such tranquil nature, Sri Lanka people are gentle, kind and friendly.
- Day 0: flight to Sri Lanka, stay 1 night at airport.
- Day 1: Habarana & Polonnarawa
- Day 2: Sirigiya (Lion Rock), Pidulangara Rock, Dambulla cave & temple.
- Day 3: Kandy and the temple of scared Tooth Relic.
- Day 4-5: Nuwara Eliya
- Day 6: Ella
- Day 7-12: Arugam Bay (135km), Surf and Yoga camp for 1 week.
- Day 13-14: Galle and Unawatuna beach
- Day 15-17: Colombo
- Day 18: fly home.
Tips for female solo-traveler in Sri Lanka
Although Sri Lanka is the neighbor of India and has been heavily influenced by Indian culture and religion, it manages to keep its unique gentleness. People are honest and friendly overall, the way they talk and treat each other is also kind and soft. Therefore, i didn’t feeling unsafe when doing my solo travel in this country.
However, there are a few things you need to be cautious to avoid unwanted situations.
- being a Buddhist country with lots of temples and shrines, Sri Lanka people are conservative in clothing. When visit temple/ shrine, you must wear top with sleeves, long pants or skirt/dress at least longer than knee level, otherwise, you need to cover it by scarf. It is more flexible when going outside temples, however, to avoid wrong attention, you shouldn’t be seen too outstanding compared to local people.
- Tuk tuk is the most popular transportation, in both city and sub-urban. However, remember to bargain and agree on the price before getting in. Most of the drivers can understand simple English, hence it is not very difficult to communicate with them.
- Taxi: is the most convenient, but expensive mean of transportation. There is no taxi company, but individual local drivers, therefore the price is varied by negotiation. For example, price of taxi for day 1 to 3 as per above itinerary is 120$. Taxi drivers also try to be the tour guide, hence tend to actively introduce the tour to you. You can get interesting information from them, however, be careful when sharing your personal schedule.
- In big city like Colombo, you can book Uber, it’s (safer and no need to bargain).
- Bus is very crowded and not clean.
- Train is the most economic option to travel among cities/ provinces. For example the ticket price from Kandy to Nuwara (2nd class) is 200 rupies (~1.3$).
Food and drink:
- The most popular food is curry, with many kinds from vegetable to meet and fish, the taste is more salty than Vietnamese food.
- Alcoholic drink is available almost everywhere, however, you may face some critical eyes when you get into bar/ pub alone. Still freely enjoy your drink but try not getting drunk.
Wandering on street:
I feel totally safe wandering on the street, either in the city or rural. Try to look confident and walk as though you know where you’re going. As anywhere in the world, try to avoid empty roads or dark areas, and not too late at night.
Sri Lanka visa is extremely easy as it can be applied online, priced at 36.4USD. Just fill in your personal information, pay by credit card, then you get your Evisa after a few minutes. Search the official link with the word “Sri Lanka online visa“.
Hotels in Sri Lanka are mostly private owned, hence they don’t strictly follow international quality standard. Services and rooms are on average. My criteria of hotel selection there are just 2 things – cleanness and good location so that it does not take much time to travel. All the hotels I booked via Agoda or Booking.com.
- Colombo Airport hotel : Airport City Hub Hotel – it was a nice surprise since a small hotel near the airport was such lovely and peaceful
- Habarana : Levona Garden Resort – a small hotel located deep in the alley but has a a little garden full of flowers and plants
- Kandy : Kandy City Stay – Standard hotel with very large rooms, near the market
- Nurawa Eliya : The Oliphant Bungalo – the most luxurious (and most expensive) hotel of my trip with classic British architectural style, delicious food and beautiful gardens
- Ella : The Hideway Ella – a resort hidden in the valley with spectacular natural scenery of the mountains, peaceful morning with birds chirping
- Arugambay : The Elephant Road resort – The hotel is located deep in the alley, quiet and stylish with a friendly Israel owner who takes care of his customers like relatives.
- Galle: Ginganga Lodge – a beautiful hotel built in the unique architectural style of the famous architect Greoffrey Bawa, who has many great works in Sri Lanka
- Colombo : City Lake Residence by Sunrise – A standard hotel near the lake
Traveled in Apr, 2018
Read my other articles about Sri Lanka
Polonnaruwa – Top 5 impressive sights in ancient city
Sigiriya & Pidurangula – Climb the mountains in Golden triangle region
Nuwara Eliya – The lush green tea plantations