Fly direct to Colombo from the UK in 10 hours. We found Sri Lankan Airlines had the best deal.
To see the best bits of Sri Lanka you need to travel around. It’s not a massive island but you need a car. Trains and tuk tuks just don’t hack it and it’s nice to have a car with a/c. You can either hire a car (and it’s not as bad as the horror stories you hear) or hire a ‘driver’ who will stay with you throughout the trip – it’s just how it works in Sri Lanka. We’re not a massive fan of this set up as even though we pre-booked our driver through a UK company, we we’re still conscious of getting ripped off and being taken to their friends restaurants for example. Secondly, we felt like our holiday was partly dictated by the driver…and they definitely didn’t understand our urge to seek out extreme sports. Finally, the drivers are also tourism guides so they want to take you to the same run of the mill tourist spots. Obviously there are some pros such as local knowledge, speaking the language (which definitely helped being vegan) and a few hidden gems along the way, but overall we would 100% drive ourselves next time!
If you do pre-book a driver, the car, their wage, fuel, their accommodation and food should all be included in the price and you only have to leave a tip ($10 per day). They usually stay at the same hotel as you, but in separate drivers accommodation. They take you to and from attractions, and can guide you around if you like, sometimes it’s hard to say no!
When you’re staying at one of the larger beach resorts, ditch you car/driver and get around by tuk tuk. You can then relax and enjoy a few drinks!
Since the civil war ended in 2013, lots of resorts and hotels have been opening up. You can stay in a shack to an up market mega bucks eco lodge.
There are a lot of great mid range hotels that have all the comforts you need. We pre-booked all but one night of our holiday, although if you are self driving it is nice to have a bit more flexibility and book a few days in advance, or even rock up to a hotel in the well known resorts, just check there’s no holidays/festival in case it’s going to be really busy.
Most hotels and resorts and low rise buildings, so it’s a real shame to see a high rise package destination hotel under construction right on the shore of Weligama bay. Get to Sri Lanka before it becomes too main stream!
Pretty much all customer facing Sri Lankans can speak English, some more so than others so you will not have a problem getting by. If you want to get off the beaten track, this is where your driver/guide can be useful at local restaurants, particularly if you have a dietary requirement.
What to pack
We don’t need to tell you the obvious stuff like underwear and toothpaste so pack appropriately for your activities plus:
- Mosquito repellant containing DEET and lots of it – they are everywhere!
- Mosquito coils for extra protection (most hotels have nets so no need to take your own)
- Leach socks if you’re planning any walks within the jungle – forever struggling to pick leaches of our legs!
- Long dress/skirt/trousers and shirt/shawl which covers your shoulders for visiting sacred sites
- Umbrella – when it rains it pours. If you have a driver they should have them for you.
- Anti sickness/diarrhoea tablets in case you suffer from food poisoning like a I did.
- A book – you’ll need something to read to pass the time in the cultural triangle.
- Music and headphones to listen to when travelling with your driver.