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Travelling to Sri Lanka for the first time

My name is Rade, and I am a single 56 year old who lives in Canberra, Australia. I love travel. So far I have travelled to 28 countries.

On Dec 26th, 2017, I landed in Sri Lanka for the first time ever, making it 29 countries and I had the most wonderful holiday for 9 days. I am writing these notes for YOU, to tell you why you should go to this wonderful and enchanted country for a holiday, just like I did 🙂

So OK, I did go with 2 dear friends (a married couple), both Sri Lankans by birth, but who have lived in Canberra over the last few years. And yes, I had the fortune to spend a few days in their families’ wonderful home in Colombo, but this story is about my whole Sri Lanka experience.

What is the first step?

The first step is simply deciding that you wish to see something completely different to Australia. Sri Lanka is that indeed. And it is delightful. And refreshing. And the people are so great and friendly. And you will see things, hear things, taste things and experience things that you will never forget – I guarantee it ☺

So how much is this going to cost me?

Well like anything, there is a base price and then there are the extras and the luxuries if you want. If you are leaving from Canberra, you are looking at about $1500 for the return flights to Melbourne then to Colombo and back. You can go via Singapore to save a little money but that adds about 6 hours to the travel unless you get the direct flights from Melbourne to Colombo.

Once there, I recommend the Sri Lankan Voyages tour, which will cost you from about $1800 for a period of 8 days. In total, less than $3,500 for a holiday you will not only relish but want to repeat one day! Of course there are longer and more expansive package options.

Do I need a visa?

Yes, as you are an Australian citizen travelling to another country, you will need a visa, which will cost you $46.

Will I need shots?

Yes you will need some shots. Depending on how much previous travel you have had, you may need some shots that have expired. Go see your doctor for the shots a few months before travel time.

What time of year should I go?

Sri Lanka has 2 seasons – hot, and hot and wet ☺ I was there Dec/Jan and every day was 34 degrees and every night was 24 degrees.

In general the best time to visit is December to April, because this is dry season in the popular west and south coastal areas and Hill Country. The Christmas and New Year period is particularly popular and is the most expensive time to go.

April and September will be the best if you want to see the whole country. But inter-monsoonal season during October and November, you will see fine weather for most of the island interspersed with sudden thunderstorms.

If you’re prepared for sudden bursts of rain, it’s still a good time of year to travel and to enjoy the beaches.

Low season is May to August when the Yala Monsoon hits, but it’s still a reasonable time to visit the North and East part of Sri Lanka.

How long should I go for?

I would say that 10 to 14 days is the best amount of time, given that 2 of those days will be travel to and from Colombo.

What should I pack?

Some light loose fitting cotton clothes, toiletries (beware, Customs WILL take anything bigger than 100ml for sure if you pack them in your hand luggage. Pack it in the check-in luggage), phone, camera if you wish but the phone camera was plenty apt, hat, sunscreen, medications, and a travel diary is a must!!!

How do I find the Tourist Group?

Don’t worry, as soon as you get out of Customs in Colombo, you will see one of the Sri Lankan Voyages friendly staff member holding up a sign with your name on it!

Do Sri Lankans speak English?

To be honest, I would say that about 20% of Sri Lanka speaks English. But if you are in a store, at least someone does ☺

Which tourist sites are a must?

Gosh, there are so many amazing things to see – from six archaeological World Heritage sites, ancient cities, Sigiriya rock is a must, Dambulla, Kandy which is such a delightful city and home to the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha etc etc…talk to Sri Lankan Voyages!

What kind of food is available?

You will just love the Sri Lankan cuisine. I fell in love with simple coconut roti’s covered in rich sweet syrup. Oh, and whatever you do, you must try a tiny little fruit called a Nelli. Your mouth will thank you! You can still buy the Western food if you really must, but do try a bit of everything!

Time Zone?

Sri Lanka is 5.5 hours behind AEST (Sydney) time. So if it is 5:30pm in Sydney, it is noon in Colombo.

Currency?

The Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR) is the currency. For one Australian dollar (AUD), you will get about 120 LKR (This will depend on currency fluctuations). You will be surprised at how much you can value you will get out of Rupees!

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