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Tips for travelers in Sri Lanka

Despite my sincere intentions, you may decide that you don't need me after all, you want to embrace the whole thing yourself, without outside help. Reading this section will help you protect yourself against various risks on the spot. Some "mishaps" we experienced ourselves, others we know from the stories of the locals.


Driver or rental car?

The lowest price for renting a car for a day is the equivalent of about $50. Plus the cost of fuel (a liter of gasoline costs about $1). In addition, you must have an international driving license, the so-called IDP, and an additional permit obtained locally. Sri Lanka has left-hand traffic (as in the UK) and the quality of roads is in a state, to say the least, calling for urgent repair. A day's pay for a driver when hiring for an extended period starts at around $30 per day. Fuel is included in the price, you stop wherever you want and you don't have to stress about anything.

If you like night walks,
ALWAYS carry a flashlight with you.

The island of Ceylon is inhabited by 96 species of snakes, including 5 of the most venomous, after being bitten by which you have a maximum of 2 hours to get to a doctor. Some of them like to move at night. While in the Tangalle area, we repeatedly walked along country roads after dark, admiring swarms of skylarks. What was our surprise when, at a stretch of just a dozen steps, we encountered two almost a meter long reptiles crawling across the road. No, we didn't check if they were venomous. Nevertheless, we were glad we used a flashlight, although the moon was shining very romantically.

Do you enjoy traversing the jungle
and tea fields?
Make sure you have the right footwear!

Covered shoes and socks above the ankle are a must-have for travelers wishing to hike off-trail. In particular, the advice applies to wetlands and tea fields, where tiny, innocent-looking leeches reside. During a roughly 10-minute walk under the Nine Arches Bridge, a total of dozens of these little bloodsuckers attached themselves to our sneakers.

Money and valuables while traveling
carry always with you!

The driver stops the car and shows you, for example, an elephant being bathed in the river by some natives. Excitedly, you step away from the car and focus on photographing the (nomen omen not very humane) spectacle. At this time, the robbers arranged with the driver open the trunk and empty your wallet. To make sure you don't realize it too quickly, they take out only some of the cash. Yes, we fell for it. We discovered the theft 24 hours after the fact, with no evidence for the police to confirm our suspicions.

What to pay attention to
when choosing accommodations?

The price range for accommodation in Sri Lanka is huge. You can find a comfortable treehouse for $5 a night as well as a run-down, dingy hotel for $100 a night. It is extremely important to have a mosquito net over your bed - Sri Lanka is an exotic country in the full sense of the word, which means that even in luxury hotels you may encounter insects or lizards in your room. An airtight mosquito net effectively protects you from unwanted company while you sleep. Don't just suggest photos of booked accommodations, also read reviews carefully. Each of the places recommended by us has been eyewitnessed by me or Kevin personally, so we can recommend them with a clear conscience.

Negotiate prices, but be fair!

In fact, most contractual prices for private transportation (car, tuk tuk, scooter) can be negotiated. If you have 500 rupees to spend and the tuk tuk driver asks for 800, he will either agree to your price or ask a friend who will accept that price. However, I encourage you to give the negotiated difference as a tip at the end, if it turns out that the tour was indeed long and fuel-intensive. The average net monthly salary in Sri Lanka in 2022 was the equivalent of about $140. Average, not the lowest! You from this $1 will not get impoverished, and for your driver it can be a valuable cash injection.

Exchange currency at the airport!

Surprisingly, but unlike any country I know, in Sri Lanka you will find the best exchange rate at the airport. There are several exchange offices there. With more cash you can negotiate the price. Of the currencies, it's most worthwhile to have US dollars or euros with you. You can also pay by card in many places, but pay attention to currency conversion costs and commissions. Check with your bank to see if your card has free currency conversion, and if not, sign up for a Revolut account.

Alcohol only in wine-store / wine-shop!

In the Buddhist religion, drinking alcohol is forbidden. Of course, the forbidden fruit tastes best, so there are usually long lines in front of "wine stores" in big cities. Keep in mind that outside these outlets you will only get alcohol in restaurants or hotels at a much higher price, so if you are going to a place far away from so-called civilization - i.e. the countryside or small towns - and you need a light holiday rush to be happy, take care of the facilities beforehand. Alcohol is a luxury item in Sri Lanka. Prices are comparable to those in Poland. Uncle Google or a tuk-tuk or cab driver will tell you the location of "wine shops" - they must know the location of such places.

Free favors are rarely free indeed!

You are walking along the beach and suddenly a young man runs up to you, asking if you want to see a turtle / varanus / elephant? Sure you want to. You get into a tuk tuk and go. You drive. And you drive. The turtle / waran / elephant is gone, but you have to pay for the tuk tuk. No, we didn't fall for it, but apparently it's quite a popular practice.

Or another variant: a native approaches you, speaks excellent English, you learn that Polish doctors saved his life after the tsunami. He, as a token of gratitude, shows you the best and cheapest places to shop. He emphasizes several times that he doesn't want money. You sniff out a ruse, well you believe in people after all and you were planning to shop anyway. He takes you there. He is very nice and accommodating. Finally he says that of course he doesn't want money, but would you be willing to buy him powdered milk / cosmetics / alcohol. The price of the product he asks for exceeds 2,000 rupees, so you refuse, but resignedly you give him 200 rupees to have peace of conscience. And he exultantly moves away, from the beginning counting on just those couple of hundreds. A swindling technique as old as the world - and I'm ashamed to admit that although I know it very well, I let myself fall for it.

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