Reading back through the blog on this trip is quite interesting even for us, as we’ve forgotten lots of what we’ve done already!
Sri Lanka is interesting and conflicting. Its “easy” to backpack around, yet challenging as things aren’t obvious or simple. Transport links are sometimes challenging and slow and busy and annoying, yet fun and exciting at the same time.
There are lots of spectacular views, and many things on the tourist trail are up the top of hills – so lots of hiking and climbing needed. We probably walked 10km a day on average (though thats just us!)
Whilst the views are spectacular, we will say that lots of the things to see don’t get a 10/10 “WOOOOOOWWWW” factor like some other places we’ve visited do. Nothing wrong, nothing negative, just nothing absolutely mind blowing. I think that comes across in our blog too. Similarly, the food is nice and interesting, but not mind blowingly different and superb (like good Thai food for instance)
Now reading this, you may think our overall review would be a bit “meh” – but no, far from it. Our overall view and rating of the trip exceed the sum of the individual elements along it. Pretty much every day was good, even bumbling around days are fun, and we very much enjoyed just exploring around. There is a lot to be said for hanging out of bus or train doors for hours watching the world go by whilst hanging on and being the only white face on the bus! Busses are always exciting (e.g. bus drivers are the fastest vehicle on the road, give way to nothing, and its either full throttle or full brakes…..) So its like a rollercoaster. That said, most busses are old so they don’t crash *that* often.
- Would we recommend Sri Lanka to backpack? Yes! (If you like walking and climbing hills! )
- Do you need a month? Nah – you can do everything we did in maybe 2-2.5 weeks easily if you have a full-time driver. We had to “waste” time sorting public transport and spending a day travelling – whereas a driver would take you straight from X to Y. I say “waste” time – we actually enjoy this element of wandering round random places and figuring it out, and “being local”. We’d not have enjoyed it as much had we been quick
For accommodation we used booking.com for all bar one of the stays, and this works really well. Yes – you can get cheaper by turning up at a place and finding a room, but being able to find, research and book a place in minutes is worth a few £ extra in our view. For some popular places which we looked up before we left were fully booked when we tried 🙁 However some places we did book were partially empty. Unlike SE Asia, very few places had their own website so it was just easier via booking.com
- Booking.com worked very well for us, looking at 9+ rated places. Most were new within last 6-12mths (which shows how much tourism is increasing). Of course, its Asian standards, not Western. Prices from £13-20 per night, per room, including a breakfast feast. (All western loos etc)
- Most places we picked were either homestays or guesthouses. Typically, these were new-build dedicated tourist rooms, and all pretty much the same. Large clean bed, ensuite bathroom/wetroom etc. Maybe 2-3 rooms only looked after by the owners.
- The rooms are generally clean and a good standard, but in Asia, maintenance isn’t really done, so in the first year they are OK, then they get worse and worse and faults never fixed – but thats how they work!
- Bear in mind, the tourist rooms can be 100x “better” than where the family lives. We’ve had great rooms, and the family are all sharing a room in a shack on the roof…. Puts things in perspective…..
- Homestay food is generally excellent. We’ve had meals ranging from £1.50-£5 each but massive, and far more food than you can eat – despite trying. The £1.50 meal (per person) was made for 6 people and took a couple of ladies a few hours to make (making curry pastes from scratch – vvvv tasty!) But again, you know the families eat much less than they give us – so its sometimes a little conflicting.
- We get the uncomfortable sense we were being treated as a higher “class” – as in the hosts do anything and everything for you, apologise needlessly over minor things, and just make huge efforts. I’m sure some westerners lap this up, but we really had to encourage not doing this where we could.
- Now – those who’ve not been to this part of the world may think that its not fair and we’re taking the mick staying in the best rooms and eating the best food and paying little for it. Well, you are right. But, the flipside is they can make quite good money (2-3x rooms is £30-£50/day – and lots of the population only earn £5-10/day…..)…. And MANY of the owners we spoke to are sending their children to private schools, extra English lessons and the like – so in effect this is what we’re paying for and the future generations will massively benefit.
Now those that know us know we’re not into kids, but most kids we saw were absolutely fine, just wanting to say hello and wave, only a couple asked for money (cheeky gits). Most in school uniform and really well behaved. We think the next generation or so will see a massive change as education and future prospects are being targeted now….
OK, budget wise:-
- Flights £560 each
- Visas $30 each
- Insurance, medical stuff, £40
- Cash spent on *everything* (credit cards not really accepted, took £500 and changed to LKR at airport, and then use BOC ATMs to withdraw in 2x 80,000LKR chunks)
- Transport, food, accommodation, trips, and everything else: £1200.
So total spend for one month doing everything we wanted in Sri Lanka, was under £2,400 for us both…….. Which I don’t think is bad at all! (Less than we expected)
And finally, here is a summary of pics posted on the blog – more available on the links above
If you fancy it – DO IT – and DO IT BEFORE IT GETS EVEN BUSIER!!!!