Tips! Secret! Yes! A handy little list of useful stuff. Tidbits of information that I personally searched the net for hours to find before taking the trip…to no avail. Yes Lonely Planet and Rough Guides are amazing for the big stuff, but stuff like budgets for real budget travellers, train/bus safety and feasibility… whether or not its appropriate to wear shorty shorts and crop tops and nipple tassels walking down the average street… are facts that can be frustratingly difficult to find scrolling down whenever-ending travel forums.
Well ladies and gentlemen, here it is. And let me tell you, shorty shorts are ok, but your nipple tassels are just for your private in-room parties and under additional clothing matter. Accessorise the tassels with a full bra and top, and you’re good to go.
Enjoy. Ask questions. I love those guys.
Ranking in what is going to cost you the most to the least as follows:
The thing you are most likely to spend the majority of your budget on is accommodation. I have been to India before, and its just a five minute swim through a treacherous ocean to get there… but the prices are not at all comparable. The minimum you will find for a room (in high season) in the beach towns we visited was 2,000 Rupees per night.
Here is a list of the places we hit, and the cheapest prices we found without compromising on location i.e. vicinity to beach and/or main attractions
Mirissa: 3,000 Rupees
Hiriketiya: 7,000 Rupees
Hikkaduwa: 3,500 Rupees
Dambulla: 4,000 Rupees
Ella: 3,500 Rupees
Unawatuna: 4,000 Rupees
Kandy: 3,000 Rupees
Negombo: 3,000 Rupees
As you can see there is a real trend in pricing. This is not the cheapest. For example we found a place for 1,000 per night in Mirissa, but the place had a mysteriously high number of mosquitos within its grounds. Literally no where else in Mirissa has this amount of mosquitos all day long. We passed, but you might not, what with your fetish for being bitten by small insects sucking your blood.
*Get breakfast included. Always an excellent deal. Always. Four pieces of toast, bread, jam, omelette (they loooove their omelettes), fruit, fruit juice and tea or coffee. They would usually throw this in for an extra 500 Rupees per night with the room, whereas this on the menu can cost you up to 1,200 Rupees per person. Mathematics?
The second thing that is going to cost you is: activities. The fun ones. The ones that involve creatures such as whales or turtles or dolphins.
Uduwalawe National Park*- Safari for 3 hours, pick up/ drop off included- 5,000 Rupees pp
Sigiriya Rock- Entry- 3,000 Rupees pp plus Guide (recommended) for 2,000 all up
Cave Temples Dambulla- 1,000 Rupees pp
Whale and Dolphin Watching in Mirissa- 4,000-5,000 Rupees pp
Surfboard rental- 500 Rupees per hour, 2,000 Rupees per day
Snorkel hire- 500 per hour per pair of goggles
Temple of the Tooth in Kandy- 2,000 Rupees pp
Ella Rock Guide- 2,000 all up
*Get your hotel to organise this tour, you can usually wrangle an excellent deal
There is so much to try and so little time. Food will not set you back too much per day, however you should definitely allow for the amount of Lion beers you will be drinking on the daily. Because that needs an entire other budget in itself. !! Try the rice and curry everywhere, sambol is delicious, roti and eat with your goddamn hands.
Breakfast- 500 to 1500 Rupees per person
For breakfast, many hotels have the full set menu included. If they don’t include this, it will be on the menu for around 1,200 Rupees, or an omelette and coffee (the most common breakfast around) can cost around 500 to 800 Rupees all up.
Lunch/Dinner- 500 Rupees and upwards
Western meals cost more. Curry and rice are amazing at all the dodgy looking, extremely cheap places. Ask the locals for the best place, and they will give you an honest answer. Want a burger or pizza or fried rice? Your wish can be served in 99% of the places you hit. Its just more expensive per plate, but sometimes you need that taste of home, naamean?
Per day allow $30 AUD per person (you could do less quite easily, depending on your taste and commitment to a budget as tight as your gfs..)
Food to try
Roti: from the street, little stalls- especially where the locals are eating- do it! Banana, coconut and honey is my favorite but you can also get amazing meat and veg if thats more your thang.
Fish curry: On the coast all restaurants serve a meaaaaaan fish curry. Prawns, fishy fish, big, small. Delicious with rice and a little sambol.
String Hoppers: Savoury and wonderful. Think noodles crossed between a pancake, served with curry. Amazing.
Arrack: Sri Lankas coconut spirit. Arrack Attack is the most commonly named cocktail for a reason. Its delicious and it makes your personality more interesting. (results may vary)
Lion Beer: Large. *only for drinking
The transport in Sri Lanka is excellent. You have four main options; bus, train, taxi and tuk-tuk. Cheapest is the bus, most expensive is the taxi.
Not all destinations have train stations and it is advisable to check on this with locals, once again. We took buses to and from most of our destinations, and that was by far one of my most favourite experiences of Sri Lanka as a whole.
Taxis and tuk-tuks are always an option, however depending on your distance a 30min drive can cost you over 2,000 Rupees for a tuk-tuk and most definitely more for a taxi.
We arrived at 10pm our first night in Sri Lanka, and decided to pay 10,000 Rupees (including huge tip) for a taxi from the airport to Hikkaduwa immediately. This was around 1.5hrs drive south, and in my opinion not a bad price to be waking up the next day on the beach.
Buses: 100 to 200 Rupees
Trains: 3rd Class: 500 Rupees, 1st Class: 2,500 Rupees (Ella to Kandy)
Tuk-tuk*: Anywhere from 500 for short trips to 3,000/5,000 for trips 30/60 minutes long
Taxi*: About 20% more expensive than tuk-tuks on average
Routes we took with buses/trains that were tricky to find:
Unawatuna to Dikwella:
One bus, two hours. Super easy, super fast and this route has pimped out buses with the tunes pumping with all your favourite Sri Lankan and Hindi hits, and blue sparkly interiors. Class and style.
Dikwella to Udawalawe:
Two buses. Dikwella to Embilipitiya, 3 hours. Embilipitiya towards Rathnapura, getting off at Udawalawe, 45 mins.
Ella to Kandy:
One train, around 6-7 hours. Buy the tickets on arrival to Ella, when I went only 3rd class was available. You can book 1st class online in advance, but the difference between the classes is minimal. 3rd class all the way at 500 Rupees per person. Really safe, and INCREDIBLE! See sri lanka: land guide.
Kandy to Dambulla:
One bus, treacherous in order to get out of this congested city. Train option not available.
Dambulla to Negombo:
People will tell you to take two buses, but don’t. Take the one that goes straight to the airport. The bus will drop you into the centre of Negombo before heading into town, easy peasy.
* Barter for your trip, but don’t barter too hard. I normally drive a hard as harder bargain, but the prices that one Sri Lankan man will give you won’t vary too much. They give fairly reasonable prices and are rarely trying to rip you off too much.
*Buses are excellent and safe. Be prepared to stand for a bit, they are super crowded, but everyone loves to see foreigners using the service and are super duper friendly. They might chuck your bags in weird places around the bus, be chill and keep an eye out. We had no issues and you shouldn’t either.
*Bus drivers are hoons. For real.
Depending on your own personal needs and the actual destinations within Sri Lanka that you are preparing to cover, you will need to bring a range of clothing to suit both wet and dry season, swimming, hiking and exploring.
Girls: you are going to be able to wear your normal clothes. Generally it isn’t ideal to walk around in a bikini- I did it- and although the extra attention is always extra attention its not all that cool. Wear it on the beach y’all.
There isn’t much clothing shopping to be had. Bring what you need. Pack your outfits tonally, so that whatever you bring you can wear with at least three other things to switch up your outfits. My colours are denim, blue, white, grey, black and red. Regardless of yours, make sure everything goes with everything. Practical stuff, comfortable stuff and nothing too dressy. Heels are a no.
- Sandals- I wore my Birkinstocks all day every day. Leather sandals are good except for when the rains hit
- Running/walking/comfy shoes
- Shoes to shower in
- Bikini and all general beach wear (hat, sunnies, cute dress)
- Beach towel (though many hotels offer many a towel- don’t bring two)
- A dress, skirt and pair of (denim) shorts
- Simple t-shirts and singlets (grey, white and black)
- Light jacket (mine is a red floral kimono)
- Night wear and lingerie, because you’re fine as hell
- Chill bar-type sexy clothes for celebrations such as its Monday and I’m on a beach at midnight
- Simple jewellery, handbag/backpack and scarf that will go with ALL of the above
- Camera! Or Iphone- wifi available all over the shop
*Note: I’m not a sports wear kind of gal, if you wear it- bring one outfit for hiking
- Get a local to teach you how to eat with your hands- there is a scooping technique that is only possible to demonstrate in real life. Changed my world.
- Bartering: do it, but don’t push too hard. Unlike the neighbour, India, Sri Lankans are rarely telling you a price that isn’t too far from what everyone else in the km radius would give you. Having said that, I did buy a silk blanket for half of the asking price on the beach.
- Make friends with locals.
- Surf. Rent boards, get lessons with the locals.
- Buy: wooden carved objects, silk, tea and ceylon sapphires- if you’re doing the latter make sure you get them certified in Colombo. If they’re not willing to take you, its a fake. Best place for this is Colombo itself- though the price will be much higher and Galle.
- Take the train from Ella to Kandy or anywhere in the heart of Sri Lanka. You’re welcome in advance.
- Kingfisher beer, large and daily.
- Shower daily. Deodorant you animal. Kidding, you’re beautiful and so is your sweat smell.
- Have stop-over in KL like us? Yes, go into the city. Yes explore and get lost in the crazy maze of markets and streets. Yes finish hard day with a rooftop pool sesh overlooking this palmy, greeny, pretty wonder of a place.
- Use protection. Sun and sex.
Et voilà! Hasta la vista, baby.