Reminder of our journey:
Negombo → Puttalam → Puttalam → Anuradhapura → Nilaveli → Trincomalee → Polonnaruwa → Sigiriya → Dambulla → Kandy → Hatton → Dalhousie → Haputale → Udawalawe → Tangalla → Mirissa → Unawatuna → Galle → Kosgoda → Bentota → Colombo.
We went around the island starting from the north and ending logically in the south. A route that allowed us to avoid almost too bad weather! So we started with the very “calm” part of the country and ended with the tourist part. Indeed, there has been a great difference between the northern and southern regions: mentalities, lifestyles and even cultures are different.
We had planned a global budget of 20 € per person per day or 1120 € for both of us for the 28 days spent in the country. Finally we spent a total of 905 € or an average of 16.16 € per day per person. So we saved 215 €!
This average of 16.16 € is composed as follows (per day and per person):
1,08€ for transport;
5.99€ for hosting;
4,63€ of food;
4,40€ of visits / activities;
0,05€ extra (various purchases such as shampoo!)
Sri Lanka is therefore a very accessible country.
TO KNOW ABOUT SRI LANKA
In fact, we do not say Sri Lankan but Sinhalese and until 1972 the country was called Ceylon.
Sinhalese honk all the time! Because they will double, because they pass by you, to say hello, thank you or to grumble, to prevent them from coming, to show that they saw you brief… all the time for everything and anything!
The Sinhalese have a funny way of nodding to say yes… or maybe they say no… or both at the same time in fact we don’t know! Their heads are swinging from left to right weirdly!
Many men wear the sarong, mainly outside the big cities. It’s a kind of sheet that they wrap around the waist and hold with a knot. They look like they’re wearing a skirt.
The bus system in Sri Lanka is quite original: you do not buy your ticket at a counter or even from the bus driver. Each driver has what has been called his “assistant bus”. He is a man who gets the passengers on and off, who shouts “whale” to tell the driver that he can start and then makes you pay for your tickets once the bus has left. He asks you where you are going and gives you a small piece of paper ripped from a specific notebook as a ticket.
If you hear a little music in the streets that reminds you of when you were little and the ice cream man was passing by… and run well because it’s him! (There are also itinerant bread merchants who make music)
Sinhalese buy a lot. Don’t be surprised to see a travelling salesman get on the bus who will make his presentation in 3 minutes and convince half the bus! They are also very generous with each other: when someone is begging or playing music, they leave full of tickets in their pockets.
Don’t be surprised to see women walking around in the sun with an umbrella. And yes they have found the technique to protect themselves from UV rays and heat!
The northern part of the country is occupied by crows. We see them everywhere and we hear them a lot!
Sinhalese are lottery crazy! You will find small kiosks selling lottery tickets everywhere. Sometimes even the sellers ride their bicycles or just sit on the floor with the tickets nailed to a wooden board. It’s not like we do, you don’t choose the numbers you want but you choose a ticket on which there is already a series of numbers.
WHAT TO EAT AT SRI LANKA?
The Sinhala cuisine is not very varied and we have not really been captivated by it.
For breakfast, you will mainly find bowl-shaped pancakes with a cooked egg (we don’t know how but it makes a kind of foam) inside. It’s not expensive and that’s what you’ll get if you order a Sinhalese breakfast or even in the small street vendors.
For the dish, the country’s speciality is “rice and curry”. It is a rice dish with lots of small assortments mainly of vegetables except that it is very spicy! We only tasted it once (and it wasn’t done on purpose, the server didn’t understand what we wanted to order!). The rest of the time we ate fried rice, fried noodles and omelettes. In the more touristic areas, you will also find fries, pizzas, burgers or even kebabs, but the prices will no longer be the same.
You will also be surprised by the number of pastries that offer huge cakes of all colours and very well decorated, something to make you want!
WHERE TO SLEEP IN SRI LANKA?
No problem for that, you’ll see “Rooms” signs everywhere! Even in the most stubborn corners you are sure to find a roof to sleep on. It will be easy to negotiate prices in view of the large number of competitors, especially in off-peak periods. Sinhalese do not operate according to the hostel principle, i.e. there are no dormitories, you will often have a room with a private bathroom a bit like a small hotel. We always asked to see the room before deciding and we always found rooms that were more or less clean with the minimum but that suited us very well. However, given the number of rooms available, don’t be surprised to find yourself alone! Indeed there are so many that the tourists are very scattered in the end, it very often happened to us to be the only ones in the hotel especially in the north. So, no need to book!
For the information, the cheapest double room we had cost us 1000 Rs (6,40€) and the most expensive 2900 Rs (18,60€), but in general our average is between 1500 and 2000 Rs.
HOW TO GET AROUND SRI LANKA?
Again no problems for that! Transport is really cheap and the island is not very large so distances rarely exceed 70 kilometres in a single trip.
First of all you will find buses at any time that go almost everywhere. We’ve never been bothered about this even by asking at the last minute and we’ve very rarely waited for the bus to arrive or leave. All you have to do is go to a bus station or catch one on the road. We have almost always been able to get seating space. Comfort is not the same from one bus to another, each driver decorates it in his own way: if some will be very basic and not very comfortable, others will not go unnoticed with their flamboyant colors and music at full speed (prepare your ears!).
You can also take the train easily. There are not 36,000 lines but the train passes through the main cities so you will not encounter any difficulties. The price is also very low, about 90 Rs in third class and 120 Rs in second class. For the record, we always took third class and always had room to sit. It is not of an optimal comfort but it is relatively clean and as the journeys last between 2 and 3 hours, it passes largely.
And then there are the famous tuktuks! Don’t bother looking for them, they’ll come to you alone. We quickly gave up taking them because the prices are much more expensive than the bus. The tuktukmen will sell you a shorter trip, tell you that the bus is armored, that it’s long and that you won’t have any space, oh yes and also that you’re out of luck because the next bus is in 1 hour (which is not true of course!) so you won’t wait that long… go take the tuktuk let’s see! And if you keep saying no, he will pull out his secret weapon, his little notebook on which are written lots of kind words from his previous clients. Some will let themselves be charmed but if you have time in front of you, if you want to save money and if you are not afraid of the bus shakes, you can drop the tuktuk.
OUR IMPRESSIONS OF SRI LANKA
Quite frankly, we are a little divided. On the one hand we say to ourselves that it was a very good choice of countries to start with because it is very easy to travel (in the sense that we have no difficulty in moving around and finding accommodation), so it is perfect for setting up a long trip. In addition, Sri Lanka offers beautiful landscapes (from the beach, to the mountains, rice fields and jungle), a great cultural and historical wealth very interesting. We were able to do many varied activities (snorkeling, hiking, visiting ruins, going out to sea, turtle centre…) and we are delighted. We were also surprised because Sri Lanka is not a poor country, not as one might think. People do not roll in gold, but we have seen very few homeless people, people are always clean on them and their houses are well maintained even if there is not much inside.
On the other hand, we are still a little confused. We hadn’t done much research on the country because we didn’t want to have any preconceptions, we wanted to discover things for ourselves. We don’t know what we expected, but we didn’t really expect that. The north of the country seemed very or even too calm to us, we were always alone in the inns, we could only see very few people and we had the impression that we were a bit of a wallet on legs, not enough to facilitate meetings. Maybe it’s also because it’s our first country but we’ve suffered a lot from street harassment: people want to know where you come from, what you’re looking for, if you need a room, a restaurant, where you’re going, if you want a tuktuk or a guide… so many attentions that at first may seem nice to you but you have to understand that people do it only out of interest not just to help you and you have to experience it every day to really realize what it is.
In short, Sri Lanka is a very beautiful country with a great diversity of landscapes and activities, but we have not been able to immerse ourselves in their culture and the encounters have been difficult.
Next stop, we’ll take you to Malaysia!