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Mike's Travel Facts and Tips: Sri Lankan edition

Blogs 1-30

Mike's Travel Facts and Tips: Sri Lankan edition

Aleksandra Radic

Putting together my previous facts and tips, Europe and Middle East edition, was heaps of fun.  It has inspired me to keep up the trend to surprise or shock most people on real facts I have collected from personal experience and some travel tips for those interested.  This time around I have so much to share about a very small and special place on the globe.  That country is Sri Lanka.   Enjoy!


1. Sri Lanka is a very safe country and welcomes tourism.   It is very safe anywhere you go within; including sharing local transit such as buses and trains. 

2. Sri Lanka is known for it's widespread of tea plantations.   This contributes to making a great tasting cup of tea.  As for how they make and serve coffee, the same can't be said; it's awful.

3.  The average cost in a cafe for a "pot" of tea is $1.  However, a "cup" of lousy coffee will cost you $3 to $4.  Deep down, they are sending an indirect message to tourists to avoid the coffee at all costs.

4. Sri Lanka's railway system is an excellent means to travel around the country and for a very low cost.  The trains are divided into three sections; first, second and third class.  We tried them all and the only difference is first class guarantees you a seat, has air conditioning and is mainly occupied by tourists.  Second class sometimes has reserved seating too.  Both, second and third class have fans and opened windows and the seats are pretty comfortable.   Second class and third class unreserved seating is first come, first serve and all at 1/10th or less the cost of  a first class ride.  

5. There is a limited first class section called "Expo rail" which travels to some, not all destinations.  Several hours ride with air-conditioning, personal waiters, complimentary food, drinks, movies will cost $10-$15.00 for a single ride ticket.   

6. Sri Lankan cuisine is generally really spicy.  Ask for medium if you want hot, mild if you want medium and no spice for mild. 

7.  For male visitors, it's essential to pack a pair of long pants.  Ladies, pack anything that goes past the knees and a top that covers your shoulders.  This is necessary to enter many of the fascinating Buddhist temples.

8.  There are plenty of atm's available.  You sometimes find these well built and secure atm buildings in the most random parts of the town.

9.  You can use your debit and credit card just about anywhere.  Every business seems to carry an interac machine.

10.  In Canada we have far too many seagulls.   In Sri Lanka their over populated birds are beastly large black crows.

11. If you enjoy eating and especially breakfast, do yourself a favour and order some egg hoppers in Sri Lanka.  Made using a batter similar to crepes, Sri Lanka's crispy-edged rice flour hoppers are formed into edible bowls and filled with toppings ranging from onion sambol to a simple steamed egg.  Delicious!

12.   If surfing is your thing you will enjoy the surrounding coastline of Sri Lanka.  

13. If your on a tight budget and want some cheap thrills, hop on a local bus.  It is a crazy fast, horn heavy ride, spent mostly in the passing lane.   All this for about an hour's ride will cost you as little as a quarter.

14. Sri Lanka has a little something to offer all different type's of tourists.  Sandy beaches, jeep safari's, hiking/biking trails, rainforests, the list is endless.

15. If your a backpacker or a traveller who doesn't mind staying in guest homes, use websites like (most popular in Sri Lanka) or to find a room.  A lot of the excellent rates come with breakfast too.

16.  Tuk tuks are plentiful in the city centres and they are cheap, but not quite bus cheap.  Always try to negotiate a better price. 

17. If you convert $9300.00 CAD to Sri Lankan Rupees you would be considered a millionaire in Sri Lanka.  ($1 CAD =  approx. 108 Rupees)

18. Chicken is very expensive in Sri Lanka.  If you order a dish with chicken, expect a smaller serving size or to pay more to get a proper order.

19. You can eat at a local joint  and be stuffed all for $1.50.  If you want to eat in a luxurious establishment, it will run you $5-$7.00. 

20. Sri Lanka has some washrooms in public areas which have signs that say "tourist toilets only". 

21. Dutch hospitals are found all across Sri Lanka.   These are squares containing international or local cuisines mainly for tourists.  So, if you injury yourself or aren't feeling well, don't hop in a tuk, tuk to a Dutch hospital. 

22. In some city centres, you can bare witness to cows waiting outside the door for it's owner similar to as a dog would do for it's master.

23. Kandy not "Candy" is an actual place in Sri Lanka.  Actually, it's the second largest city in the country.

24. Drivers sit on the right side of the car but drive on the left side of the road.  

25. If you are considering renting a car or moped, make sure you know and obey the driving laws of Sri Lanka.  There are police officers watching carefully from the side of the road for infractions as simple as touching or slightly crossing the solid middle line.   

26. Wherever you visit in Sri Lanka, there always is a local who wants to strike up a conversation with you.  As tourists you run into a lot of this in other countries, which usually leads to the locals wanting to sell you something.  Not in Sri Lanka.  They genuinely just want to carry on a conversation with you. 

27.  Sri Lankans adore Canadians.  Additionally, they are well aware that there are many Sri Lankans currently living in Canada, mainly Tamils.

28.  The country is at peace after their most recent civil war ending in 2009.  I had my fair bit of conversations with all different kinds of locals, which includes, tamils, singlese, buddhists, christians and muslims.  They all learned to come together to live in harmony to get out of the country's horrible past financial crisis.  

29. Unawatuna beach use to be Sri Lanka's #1 rated beach.  Today, it is average at best and is a rebuild after the tsunami in 2004.  That means a lot of fake sand brought in.  The sand is horrible to walk barefoot and is of a yucky reddish brown colour. If your in the south of Sri Lanka, visit Unawatuna for the day and please go check out Mirissa or Koggala beach, their heaps better.

30.  The majority of Sri Lankans are lovely and speak English fairly well.  A fair bunch of them, especially in the smaller towns, don't come from much.  But, they always seem to have a smile on their faces and have a zest for life.  

31.  Lastly, do yourself a favour and visit Sri Lanka soon.  It still holds its natural beauty, history and culture.  Once the tourism grows and grows like a bad plague, it will lose a lot of its lustre.  A sad case, but always true.