Here is a list of out top tips and advice that we’ve learned and may be useful
- You can’t get the wrong bus. If you say the name of the place you are going, they will let you on if its going there – or not if its not. You can’t go wrong!
- Install PickMe app – and use it where you can. Where you can’t it gives idea of expected tuktuk price – though expect 1.5-2x that price from anyone else
- Accommodation is generally poor and not well maintained, so always look at recent reviews, and aim high but have low expectations.
- Always carry loo paper, hand gel, and wet wipes! You never know, and really, you don’t want to know.
- Download OSMAnd (Android) and install Sri Lanka offline maps. We found great walks and paths
- Install google maps offline maps offline for Sri Lanka
- Install Sri Lanka Guide by Tripso – good app with enough background on places (that it reads aloud) – and an offline map and other tools
- Get a “three” data SIM (12Gb for 1yr @ £30) – or a three PAYG SIM – these work well as if in UK with no silly charges
- ATMS work, Bank Of Ceylon didn’t charge us for withdrawing 80,000 LKR. (Nationwide Flex did of course). ATMS are around but not overly frequent.
- Lots of locals use sun-umbrellas – join them!
- Don’t take any notice of weather forecasts! The BBC Weather App has forecast thunderstorms and rain every day. In the first 2 week we saw about 30 seconds of drizzle – rest of time sunny and hot!
- If you want train tickets, then 1st class observation car is best, then 2nd class reserved. (Not 1st class – this is AC but tiny windows – 2nd class bigger opening windows). Get as early as possible on arrival – or if you know your dates pay a premium and try luck with Visit Sri Lanka Tours train booking service. (Not guaranteed – as no online booking doable, they send someone to the station on the day the tickets come available)
- Always carry water – we drink 3-4x 1.5L bottles a day easily….. Its hot and humid.
- At bus stations, most people who ask “where are you going” will point you in the correct direction. If asked anything else, or offered a hand to shake, ignore them – see bad bits
- Bus drivers/conductors will seldom rip you off – especially on ticket price
- 99% of kids just want to say hello or have a wave. We were not bothered by many kids at all, all were polite and very very few asked for anything
- Excluding inside bus/train stations, 99% of men talking to you want to sell you something. “Hello” “How are you” “Where you from” “Where you going” “What you look for” etc will always (and I mean always) end up offering tuktuk, hotel, or some other dodgy scam. Rude as it is, simply ignore, smile, and turn away. Trying to be polite or shake hand just gets you into a long conversation ending in a sales pitch
- There is a shortage of nightlife and “bars”. (So unlike, say, Thailand where you can walk around and chill with a beer anywhere, Sri Lanka doesn’t offer this so evenings can be quite uneventful)
- Busses & trains can be packed, but we always got on….