Tag Archives: Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka and India–Why you need to see both
Sri Lanka and India–Why you need to see both

A tiny island just off the south-west tip of India, what could Sri Lanka promise that you haven’t already seen on the mainland? You’ll be surprised.

We’ve curated a list of differences here, to highlight the absolutely, positively, all-important need for us all to visit Sri Lanka, someday.

1. Atmosphere:

At first glance, it seems like the hills are just another Kerala, the beaches another Goa, the temples another Tamil Nadu. Yet every leaf is a shade greener, the beaches whiter, the streets cleaner, the smiles wider. Sri Lanka’s deeply rooted sense of civic cleanliness and respect for public property is a stark opposite to India’s apathy. And while both have their fair share of scenic cities, Galle definitely takes the cake for cuteness. Even the tourism infrastructure is better–check-ins are faster and national parks and coasts better maintained. Roads are smooth and pot-hole free, officials better at their jobs, locals equally friendly, but less likely to stop you every few steps and ask for a photo.  Perhaps most importantly, Sri Lanka is simply safer.

2. Cuisine:

Sri Lanka’s food is definitely similar to South India’s, with a heavier prevalence of fish in the coastal country. Options are limited, mostly because the smaller country has less cultural differences in its 20 million strong population. Most dishes are a variant of the basic boiled-rice-and-curry, with delicious sambol on the side, though you’ll be able to find foreign influences scattered through the country with dishes like lamprais from the Dutch and kool from Jaffna. Sri Lanka also misses out on the widespread Indian tradition of street food, which means you’ll be spending a bit more on food here.

3. Things to see:

Sri Lanka’s culture is ancient and very well preserved. Visit the ruins of their erstwhile capitals and hike up into the fortresses, or explore the 1,300 km coastline dotted with palm-fringed slices of paradise. Further inland you have national parks and botanical gardens that are rich reserves of the country’s biodiversity. And the cherry on top? Sigiriya. Preserved ruins of an ancient civilisation hidden away inside a massive, imposing rock structure.

4. Cost:

This varies from India in a lot of ways, finally turning out to cost about the same. It’s definitely more expensive for a backpacker since there’s fewer hostels and extremely cheap hotels. Homestays and budget hotels cost the same. If you’re hiring a car and driver it’s around 30% more expensive in Sri Lanka. If you’re using the extensive, well-maintained and much less crowded public transport system, Sri Lanka definitely comes out ahead. A notable exception here are the incredibly high monument fees, all around USD 10-30. While many are well worth the cost that goes into their upkeep, some aren’t.

 

Our overall verdict would be that even if you’ve been to South India, Sri Lanka will still blow you away with it’s unique identity. Small differences in sari draping and curry-seasoning are part of a bigger picture of historical influences, geographical differences and a gentler and more respectful ethos. Still not sure? Let us book you a trip and you can see for yourself!


Internal Travel in Sri Lanka
Internal Travel in Sri Lanka

Sri lanka is 65,610 square kilometres of consistently breathtaking beauty. The journey to and from cities are as much of a destination in themselves as beaches, forests and waterfalls slip by your window in a gorgeous green and yellow haze. So what are the best ways to savour these views during internal travel? Here are your options:

Car

Sri Lanka’s roads are consistently good across the country, but they don’t have a the system of highways that most of us take for granted. This means slow traffic even on long journeys. While renting a car on your own is an option, it’s better and easier to find one that comes with a driver attached. This will be more expensive, about 30-50% more than in India. This is worth it though–all included you’ll only be paying around USD 60 a day for a car that can fit three passengers. This includes road tolls, fuel and the drivers stay, food and pay as well. If you want, you can always leave a tip, but that’s the only extra amount you’ll be paying. Cars make everything more convenient with end-to-end comfort and great flexibility in timings and journeys. Since it’s more expensive though, we’d recommend it only for those areas that are hard to reach by public transport, or for older (and richer) travellers

Our experience: Both the instances when we rented a car, the car was clean and comfortable. The driver was polite, drove safely and spoke adequate English. Roads in Sri Lanka are good! They might not all be express highways, but at least they’re not riddled with potholes.

Local trains

Local trains in Sri Lanka are a gift from the universe. Comfortable, full of friendly locals and dotted with incredibly adorable railway stations all along the way. They’re incredibly cheap, priced at about the same as Indian ones. While the trains are punctual, comfortable and clean, the network isn’t very extensive. They’re great for travel between cities and towns, and very affordable. There are 3 classes, though the 1st class (air-conditioned) is not available on all trains. The 2nd class is just as great, and the lack of air conditioning means open windows that bring you even closer to the view. First class costs about USD 15 for a 4 hour journey, and the 2nd class only about USD 4. There are some routes that area once-in-a-lifetime experience in themselves, like the route from Galle to Colombo that’s almost 70% coastline. The inland routes to Nuwara Eliya or Ella from Kandy climb up the hills through tea plantations and lush fields, past waterfalls and farms. For these routes we’d recommend you book in advance so you can be assured of a window seat.

Our experience: We took our first train from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya and travelled unreserved 2nd class. The 80km, 4 hour journey cost us a little over one euro each! The compartment was airy and comfortable. We got a seat one hour into the ride.  We took another 3.5 hour train from Thalpe to Galle! Another scenic ride coastal route and the ticket cost us approximately USD 2 each,

Local buses

Buses have a far more extensive network, but the distances obviously take longer to cover. They’re not often crowded so you can be assured of a seat, but you cannot book them in advance or online. Head down to the local bus station and check the timetable. Once your bus arrives bystanders will be happy to help you find it. Buses are incredibly cheap, at around USD 3 for air-conditioned and USD 1 for non air-conditioned coaches going on 4 hour journeys. They may not always deliver you straight to your destination, but they’ll take you to a lot more places than the trains. You’ll be restricted by the infrequent timings for less-common destinations. Many of these buses are smaller than usual and may not have a trunk for your luggage. It’s standard practice to request passengers with backpacks to purchase an extra ticket and place their bags on that seat instead. If you’re somewhere on the coast we’d recommend the bus even for very short journeys to save money so you can really savour the view.

Our experience: We took a local A/C bus from Anuradhapura to Kandy, a distance of 135 kms that took a little over three hours. The bus cost us around USD 3 each. However, the bus did not have a boot and our backpacks sat an additional seat we had to pay for. In total less than ten dollars for three seats on an A/C bus! The bus was comfortable; if it were a longer ride I would have needed more leg room. Overall, no complaints. We took a bunch of local buses over a distance of 20-30 kms to explore towns nearby and each ride cost us less than 50 cents. We always had a seat, these buses were non air-conditioned.

Two wheelers

These can easily be rented especially on the coast. Just let the manager of your hotel or homestay know. While a license isn’t asked for, it’s better to be a seasoned and confident driver as the traffic on all roads is fast and often heavy. It costs about USD 4 per day.

Internal flights

These are few, and expensive. We didn’t take any since they’re quite unnecessary in a country of this size.

Tuk-tuks

Colourful, exciting and all-round awesome. You’ll find these everywhere and the drivers are all well-mannered even if they don’t speak English. Since there’s rarely a fixed price, it’s best to check with your hotel manager what the average price should be for your journey and then bargain for it. They’re perfect for moving about within the city and good for distances up to 35-40km as well.