We planned our visit to Sri Lanka mainly because we were ‘in the area’ after visiting India and Maldives.
We planned our visit to Sri Lanka mainly because we were ‘in the area’ after visiting India and Maldives. We had no idea how much we would love Sri Lanka and it turned out to be a highlight of our month long tour. Colombo is an is an relaxed, cosmopolitan, and exciting city and an easy flight from Kuala Lumpur. The diversity of people and the land make Sri Lanka a compelling country to visit time and again. The visa process for a US passport holder wasn’t annoying. Uber worked well at least in big cities. To really see Sri Lanka, visitors have to get out of Colombo. Here’s a list of our winning tips of what worked and what didn’t work for our family during our first visit to Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka Visitors Guide – Travel Ups & Downs
Sri Lanka – What Worked for Us?
Good Food and Good Beer
When we got to our hotel, we put our bags down and headed straight for the restaurant for good meal. After spending 2+ weeks in dry states in India and our dry island on the Maldives, we were looking forward to a cold beer. The food choices were plentiful at our hotels in Colombo and the service was extremely attentive. Outside of Colombo and further south, we were delighted to have the same great food choices and helpful service.
Getting out of Colombo
Our hotel stays and time in Colombo was so enjoyable we could have just stayed. It was amazing to be in a functional big city after our time in India and the Maldives. Colombo is a big, bustling city where things work well. Uber is available, meals will be pleasant, and there are so many architecturally stunning buildings to take in. Instead of hitting the museums, we went to the malls both for air conditioning and to see how the locals live. The shopping in Colombo was pretty fantastic. I’m not a big shopper, but I do go nuts for local (Odel), organic or handmade products and there was plenty of those available in Colombo. Books were also cheap and I regret not picking up several for our kids. The next visit to Sri Lanka will include the museums. For this trip, we took 2-4 days and enjoy the city and then got out and discovered more of Sri Lanka.
Taking the Buses and Trains
Okay, this one was harder with kids. I could not prepare them for the possible misery ahead. Trains and buses can be hours of standing if a seat is not available and there’s really no other way to travel besides the train or bus. What a nutty experience though! Our children will never forget how uncomfortable they were standing, squished on the train followed by how grateful they were to later score a seat on a bus until that also become squishy. I stood for the entire 3+ hour train ride while wearing a 45L backpack. We met nice people on the way and had some great conversations so it worked out.
We had a fun time visiting the beaches near Mirissa and Weligama. The waters were great and the kids felt safe trying to learn to boogie board. Mirissa had a fun vibe and we could’ve spent more time there, but we were pretty happy to be staying at the Aussie Swiss Beach Resort – my Trip advisor here. No sponsored links here, we just liked these folks.
Sri Lanka – What Didn’t work for Us?
No Uber or Taxi’s in Galle
We arrived in Gale expecting to be able to hire any kind of car or taxi to take us to Mirissa. Six years ago this was the case, but this could’ve changed, so I would recommend checking. However, we checked in advance and read that there would be cars, but nope – none in Gale or Mirissa. After a lot of time trying to find a taxi in Gale, we finally found a bus.
There is also nothing to eat directly around the Galle Train Station. If you’re hungry after the long train ride, get a tuk-tuk to Galle Fort or to a researched restaurant. Otherwise, get on a bus heading south and in less than an hour, you will be near or in Mirissa where you will find food. Once near Mirissa, take a tuk-tuk from wherever the bus drops you, if you need one.
Mirissa beach flies
The restaurant would bring our meals to our little cabins, which was very cool. There was a table set up outside of the room over looking the beach which was very pretty. However, I ended up eating my meals in our room instead of on the patio because the flies were too much for me. I made it through 1/3 of the meal before retreating to the room.
And the Colombo Con
We got ‘lucky’ and got scammed while in Colombo. Chances are you won’t, but we did. We’re always a little bit impressed to meet someone successfully pulls one over on us. The level of commitment to the character is remarkable. Still, I’d rather avoid the waste of time, money and energy involved in such a diversion, so now we always check out Youtube for the local scams. A simple search for ‘Colombo Sri Lanka con’ will help you know what to look for. The videos on Youtube show the cons pretty much by-the-book.
Super Attentive Service
The service, helpfulness and attentiveness in most every place we visited in Colombo was sometimes more than I wanted. We had just come from a month on the road in India and Maldives, and we were a wreck. I felt kind of gross and didn’t really want to be fussed over. I know I will be grateful for the kindness and excellent service when we return to Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka – Wrap Up
The next visit will again include some days for Colombo to shop and get to the National Museum. And then a train ride to to the center and visit Udawalawe National Park to see the elephants. Udawalawe looks like one of the best options for view elephants and for birdwatching. And during certain travel periods it’s also possible to get a glimpse of some blue whales, which would be stunning to see.
– xo Bar