The Tropical Paradise Island
Sri Lanka is a jewel. The island seems small but is surprisingly diverse and has so many things to offer. A countless number of incredible beaches, offering to the visitor amazing places for sunbathing, snorkeling, diving or surfing. Sri Lanka has so many parks, jungles, mountains, rivers, lakes, archeological sites… It is home for a very wide range of species inside and outside the water. We have seen incredible birds, wild elephants, donkeys and deer. It is common to observe a wide varieties of plants, trees, flowers, fishes, corals, sea turtles, monkeys, lizards, crocodiles, spiders, etc.
We spent a total of 5 months in Sri Lanka and we have have been to many places from south to north. Traveling in Sri Lanka can be very cheap and easy. The food is delicious and the people extremely smiley and welcoming. We would like to share here the best contacts and recommendations we have, as well as some travel tips.
Climate: When to Go?
Sri Lanka has always a rainy season and a dry season. You can travel to Sri Lanka at any time of the year. It is a tropical climate (hot and humid) and it is much colder in the mountains. Broadly speaking:
- May to September: The dry season is in the north and north east.
- October to February: The dry season is in the south and south west.
Selective Asia has an excellent website about the climate in Sri Lanka for detailed information.
It is very easy to move in Sri Lanka from one city to the other, and it is also very cheap if you use the bus or the train. The disadvantage of such options is that it can be very slow, and sometimes very crowded (especially on public holidays or full moon days). The railway network is quite developed and the schedule shown on their website is also reliable.
The other more comfortable and quicker ways of moving in Sri Lanka are the taxis that are widely available. Their prices is of course much more expensive than the public transport, but they are still much cheaper than prices of taxis in Europe for example.
Between the public transport and the taxi, it is also common to use the tuktuks, not only to move within the same city, but also to move from one city to the other when the distance is not too big. It is also very common to rent a scooter or even your own tuktuk.
It is also easy to rent your own car or to rent a car with a driver. Interior flights are available but very expensive.
Sri Lanka can welcome all the budgets. You can eat very well for less than 1 USD and also for 30 USD. You can sleep in a very descent place for 10 USD and also for 200 USD a night. Here are some examples in US dollar:
- Accommodation: 1500 LKR (10 $) per night and more.
- Vegetable roti (snack): 50 LKR (0.40 $).
- Food (vegetarian): 150 – 400 LKR (1 – 2.50 $) and more.
- Seafood meal: 600 LKR (4 $) and more.
- Mega seafood meal (fish, prawn, calamari, giant prawns, crab): 2500 LKR (15 $).
- Beer on the beach (625 ml): 450 LKR (2.50 – 3 $).
- Train and bus ticket: 300 LKR (2 $).
- TukTuk 1-2 km: 100 – 250 LKR (0.50 – 1.50 $).
- One kilo of tuna: 400 LKR (2.50 – 3 $).
- One kilo of prawns: 1200 – 1500 LKR (7 – 10 $).
- Scooter one day: 1200 LKR (7 – 8 $) and less for longer periods.
In the touristic places in Sri Lanka, it is very common to see expensive prices for everything, especially for accommodation during the high season. Checking prices online (on booking.com for example) is the best way to know what to expect for your travel dates.
Unfortunately, it is also common, in the touristic areas, that some Sri Lankan sellers would overcharge the tourists. It is important to know the prices, and to negotiate the accomodations, taxis, tuktuks, etc.
We stayed almost 4 months in Hikkaduwa. It is a beach, surf, snorkeling, diving and a seafood paradise. It has also a vibrant nightlife and it is a perfect location for digital nomads or for long term travelers as it offers a lot of furnished houses for rent and it is close to Colombo for those who need to extend their visa. Unfortunately, the beach has been kind of destroyed by the numerous guesthouses, and the main road is extremely touristy and busy with traffic.
Renting a villa – Hikkaduwa
We have a contact for those who would like to rent a villa, 1.5 km from the beach, surrounded by the jungle, nice neighbors, birds and monkeys that come around. It has two bedrooms, one dining room, one living room, a kitchen and a bathroom.
Mrs. Manoshi: 779 320 274.
Best snorkeling spots – Hikkaduwa
Hikkaduwa is a snorkeling paradise and it is an activity you can do by yourself for free. You will observe countless species of fish, corals, and you will definitely be able to swim with sea turtles if you spend enough time in the water and you follow the spots showed on the map below.
The spot number 3 is the best spot. Many will try to sell you a boat ride to reach this area of the ocean where the rocks are. It is also quite easy to swim there by yourself if you are an average-good swimmer. It will take you only 10-20 minutes to reach the rocks. the sea life there is impressive and I was able to spot sea turtles every time I went there.
N.B.: It is easy to rent or to buy snorkeling equipment anywhere in Hikkaduwa.
Best Surf Spot – Hikkaduwa
Equipment for surf can easily be rented in front of Villa Paradise. It is also a good place to take some surf lessons.
It is useful to rent a scooter in Hikkaduwa. You can see many things around and travel to other places in the south coast like Unawatuna, Mirissa, Galle, etc.
It is always cheaper and quieter to go inside the land, i.e. further from the beach area, to find better accommodations at better prices. It is also very green and beautiful and it will make you profit more from the local Sri Lankan life.
Contacts in Hikkaduwa
- Restaurant and Bar: Main Reef (here on the map). The owner’s name is Rohan and he is our friend.
- Ayurveda Doctor and massage center:
Note for Digital Nomads
Hikkaduwa is the perfect spot for digital nomads in Sri Lanka. The offer of villas to rent is impressive. You have to negotiate the prices and think about renting a scooter for a long period. It is easy to rent a place for as low as 200 US$ in Hikkaduwa and for 400 US$ you can have an amazing house.
The best Internet provider is Dialog. You can easily buy your own router at their office in the city center. This will give you the best connection in the city. Then you have to spot the locations with a strong signal. With some speed tests, you will easily identify the locations of the antennas.
It is also very useful to check the coverage map of Dialog to know more precisely where to go. In general, Internet is very good in the covered locations.
Tissamaharama (south east)
Tissamaharama (and Wirawila where we stayed) is an excellent location to visit Yala and a break before heading north to the mountains of Ella.
Great Lake Villa: It is a wonderful quite place on the lake in Wirawila, and perfect for bird observation. Around 2000 LKR.
Ella offers a wonderful landscape in the mountains of Sri Lanka and the most enjoyable temperatures in Sri Lanka. The city center has been unfortunately destroyed by the massive tourism and the anarchic buildings. We recommend to chose a place that is outside of the city to enjoy the mountains and the view.
Nice View Homestay: Around 2500 LKR per night with breakfast included. It is located outside of the city, but it is perfectly located to hike in mountains and to go the Ella Rock and the water falls. It is also easy to catch a tuktuk to the city center.
Arugam Bay (east)
The beaches of Arugam bay are not as beautiful as the ones you can find in the south coast (Hikkaduwa, Mirissa…). But there are a lot of virgin beaches in Arugam Bay that are not easy to find in the south. It is mainly a Surf destination. The season starts in May, as the rain starts to hit the south.
Surf and Sand Hotel: Excellent location, nice owner, good breakfast and good prices.
Trincomalee (north east)
The dry season in Trincomalee is more or less from May to September. It is one of our best destinations in Sri Lanka. The beach is a real paradise, and there are a lot of snorkeling possibilities. We highly recommend that you stay in the city instead of going to the very touristic areas of Uppuveli or Nilaveli.
Staying in the city will give you the opportunity to have a free access to a snorkeling paradise beach, very cheap local food and free places to visit at a walking distance like the Fort Frederick, the Hindu Temple Koneswaram Kovil, the Maritime And Naval History Museum, etc.
We recommend Dyke Street as the best area to pick your location.
Dyke Rest is the hotel we recommend in the area. around 2500 LKR directly on the beach, but there many other interesting places as well at different prices. It is possible to observe fishermen pulling nets in the morning, and it is directly located close to an amazing snorkeling spot. The spot is precisely shown on the map below.
You can get incredible good and cheap food at Trincomalee. Those are our favorite places:
Anuradhapura (center north)
Anuradhapura is part of the “Cultural Triangle” with Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya. Those cities are home for World Heritage cultural sites. In Anuradhapura there are ruins dating to centuries Before Christ and the giant Abhayagari Dagoba or Stupa dating from around the year 80 BC.
Emerald Holiday Homes: Spacious and comfortable room with AC, very well located at a walking distance from the city center, at a very reasonable price (around 2000 LKR).
The fee to enter the archeological site is expensive (around 5000 LKR). If you want to avoid paying those fees, there are a lot of places you can visit for free: Visit the web site of Sara and Carlos for more info.
Another tip to avoid those fees, is also to go in the evening as the check in offices are closed. The spectacular Abhayagari Dagoba for example is easily accessible and beautiful during the evening.
The area of Jaffna seems to be like the forgotten part of Sri Lanka. It is very little visited by tourists, thought it is very accessible by bus or train from Anuradhapura for example. It is worth the visit if you have the time, it will give you a feeling of being in India within Sri Lanka. Jaffna is mainly Tamil and has some interesting temples to visit, but also lot of islands that can be visited with a scooter.
Puttalam is not a touristic destination, but it is an interesting place to have a break before going up north towards Mannar Island and Jaffna or the other way around to go south towards the airport (Negombo) or Colombo. It is also very close to Kalpitiya, famous for dolphin watching and kitesurfing. Close to Puttalam, it is also possible to have the chance to observe wild elephants during the sunset. Here is the contact for that.
Villa Orchid: It is one of the best accommodation we had in Sri Lanka regarding the price and the service. The owner is Dilruha Harshi Creavin, she is Sri Lankan and Australian and she can help you to see wild elephants and other hidden treasures around.
Colombo is the capital and biggest city in Sri Lanka. It is not that appealing for tourism and it doesn’t have nice beaches. But it is often a mandatory transition point to or from the airport and also to extend your visa. Accommodation is Colombo is usually expensive but we found an incredible deal there.
AKARA Residencies and Serviced Apartments: The neighborhood is Havelock City. 1500 – 2000 LKR per night (TV, AC, Gym, Kitchen). This building is configured in many apartments of three rooms each sharing a kitchen and a living room. Two rooms share the common bathroom. It is an incredible value for the price. The location is also good. There a lot of buses that can bring you to the center, and it is also easy to catch a tuktuk with meter in Colombo.
Going to the airport can be done with taking a taxi of course, which will cost you around 30-40 USD. The other way is to catch two buses. One to Colombo Fort. And in front of Colombo Fort there are regular buses to the airport. This option is very cheap, but plan to go in advance.
Contacts in Sri Lanka
We spent 5 months in Sri Lanka, and those are our reliable Sri Lankan contacts and friends:
- Villa in Hikkaduwa: Mrs. Manoshi: 779 320 274.
- Ayurveda Doctor in Hikkaduwa: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Professional Photograph in Hikkaduwa: Chinthaka – Miraculous Images.
- Web Developer, Video maker in Colombo: Asi Harisandu (Facebook).
- Help and advice in Colombo: Naomi Kalage.
- Accommodation and assistance with jurisdiction and law in Puttalam: Dilruha Harshi Creavin.
- Climate in Sri Lanka and when to go: Selective Asia.
- Online Visa Application.
- The Sri Lankan Railways.
Colombo – Hikkaduwa – Galle – Unawatuna – Weligama – Mirissa – Wirawila – Tissamaharama – Arugam Bay – Batticaloa – Trincomalee – Small Pigeon Island – Ella – Kandy – Nuwara Eliya – Anuradhapura – Jaffna – Mannar Island – Puttalam
Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need any travel advice 😉