“Let’s visit Sri Lanka!” Had anyone asked me to join them on a trip to this country a few years ago, I would recommend them to see a specialist doctor. Just a few years ago, I have considered Sri Lanka dangerous due to the civil war between the government and the Tamil Tigers. Bombings and fights were on a daily schedule despite the international involvement in peace negotiations. And on top of all this, the Tsunami of December 2004 damaged most of the southern part of the island.
Poď na Srí Lanku! Keby mi toto niekto povedal pred pár rokmi, zaťukala by som si významne na čelo. Srí Lanka povesť turistického raja rozhodne dlho nemala. Navyše, ja som si ho zaradila do kategórie “nebezpečené”. Krajinou dlho zmietala občianska vojna, búchali bomby, a bojovalo sa. Čítaj ďalej …
So why travel to Sri Lanka then?
In 2009, the Sinhalese (majority ethnic group) and Tamils signed a peace deal after more than 25-year long civil war. The country’s economy grows fast since then and the island has also been re-discovered by the travel agents. Tourism contributed by around 11% to the country’s GDP in 2014 according to a report from the World Travel & Tourism Council. And Sri Lanka can offer a lot to tourists: pristine beaches; safari and hiking opportunities in the rainforests and elsewhere; historical, cultural and religious sites; spa, ayurveda and wellness; culinary experiences; and more.
Basic facts about Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is an island in a shape of a teardrop in the Indian ocean, southeast of India. It was known as Ceylon during the colonial era until its name changed to Sri Lanka in 1972. The capital of the county is Colombo on the west coast. The country has more than 20 million inhabitants. Most of them are of Sinhalese origin and live predominantly in the west and south of the island, while north is inhabited by the Tamils originating from Southern India. Hindu and muslim are predominantly living in the east.
I have set my sight on visiting Sri Lanka after moving to Abu Dhabi to work for IRENA. Immediately after relocating to the UAE, I made up a list of the destinations interesting for an active long weekend trip and within a 3-hour travel distance. Sri Lanka did not occupy the first place on the list, but after some research and especially interesting talks with my Sri Lankan colleagues, I was hooked up. Then it was only a matter of time.
The right time came in September 2015. The weather was warm and humid, though it was a bit colder in the in the mountainous areas. And it was a monsoon season in the southern part of the island. This is a specifics of Sri Lanka – for six months it rains a lot in the north east and the other six months in the southwest of the island.
Sri Lanka spreads on 65 thousand square kilometres, which is roughly the surface of Lithuania, Latvia or Ireland. The area is divided into western region with the capital, Colombo, South with the cities of Galle and Tangalle, centre with the Kandy and Cultural triangle regions, Eastern region and Jaffna in the north. Each region has a lot to offer to tourists and in case you would like to see the entire island, think in terms of two weeks minimum. If you cannot spare as much time, do not despair. Even a prolonged weekend in Sri Lanka is worth it.
What to keep in mind
- Most nationalities need a tourist visa to enter the island. The tourist 35-day visa can be arranged quickly and efficiently online for a cost of roughly 35 USD.
- Sri Lanka is great for either a luxurious holiday package or a backpacking trip. Or anything in between.
- Flights can be arranged via a travel agent or online.
- Accommodation can also be arranged via a travel agent or online on booking.com or airbnb.
- The country’s economy develops fast, but if you plan to go out of bigger cities, I would recommend you to exchange or withdraw money already at the airport or in bigger cities.
- You can travel also by train of a bus, but especially during shorter stay it is better to rent a car or a minivan. More often than not, the rental includes also a driver, which is great, as he usually knows a lot about the country. But do not forget to arrange accommodation (most hotels have rooms for drivers), food and give him good tip after the trip. Check with the rental agency for the details.
- The roads are not the best quality so plan accordingly and add a decent time reserve on top.
- And lastly, pack good clothes for the humid weather and repelents against mosquitos.