TOP 9 EXPERIENCES
The train ride to or from Ella will take you through stunning tea plantations and past huge waterfalls - a definite must do!
Sleep in the jungle with Elephants. We stayed at Tree Tops Jungle Lodge
Hike to the top of Adams or Mini Adams peak (or both!) for sunrise
Visit an elephant sanctuary. We went to the Elephant Freedom Project which is the only place that actually cares..
Sleep in a tree house
Swim in a river and go waterfall hunting
Watch sea turtles as they come to nest on the south coast
Learn to surf
See thousands of dolphins near Kalpitiya off the north western coast
FOODS YOU MUST TRY
Mango curry, beetroot curry, cucumber curry, cashew nut curry, jackfruit curry… Seriously - they turn EVERYTHING into a curry
Woodapple smoothie. Woodapple grows wild in Sri Lanka and it’s nothing like you've ever tasted
Kottu - a huge plate of chopped up rotti (buttery flatbread) and choice of extras like vegetables and egg or chicken. This is the most popular street food alongside 'hoppers' (edible baskets made of rice flour to hold sambol, chutney or egg and most commonly eaten for breakfast)
Coconut pancakes - freshly shredded coconut mixed with honey or sugar syrup and cardamon inside soft turmeric pancake rolls. (don't confuse this with the coconut roti, which is a dry fried bread and not really a must try item)
Roti - try the chocolate and peanut butter one at the Dewmini Roti shop in Mirissa - it's exceptional with ice-cream on top
All the different varieties of mangos and bananas!
MOST BEAUTIFUL BEACHES
Hiriketiya Beach is best for learning how to surf in a super chilled environment. It's shallow with a smooth sandy bottom
Mirissa is the best for playing in the waves and then being able to enjoy a meal on the beach for sunset
'Silent bay' (you wont find this on a google map search but you can find it HERE)
MOST LUXURIOUS RESORTS
Santani Wellness retreat
Ulagalla and Chena Huts by Uga Escapes
98 Acres Resort
UTMT (Underneath the Mango Tree)
BEST TRAVEL TIPS
NEVER trust a tuktuk driver
Sadly the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is not what it seems. It's government owned, Elephants are basically in a zoo and are chained up unless they are let out for 'viewing times' for you to take pictures of them. It's not an Orphanage and the Elephants here do not have a good life. Please don't give you money to places like this
Try to travel anti-clockwise to avoid full trains on the Kandy-Ella route
Always take a train over a bus unless you have the option of the air-conditioned express bus! You’ll have enough opportunity to take local buses in the south as there isn't another option
Don’t travel to the south coast of Sri Lanka in April or May. The temperature will be far too hot to be enjoyable!
If you need a budget place to stay in Kandy - stay at ‘The travellers Home’. A beautiful family and the best food you’ll have during your entire time in Sri Lanka
Bring a tub of peanut butter and/or vegemite if you're staying for longer than 2 weeks. If you're not a curry fiend you’ll get really sick of alllllll the curry!
Sri Lanka is incredibly safe - even for solo female travellers. Walking the streets in a bikini is definitly not recommended though
Milk rice and coconut roti are two things that sound a lot better than they taste!
Mirissa and Unawatuna are nicer beaches than Tangalle
Budget accomodation can be VERY hit and miss. Beds are very hard and soundproofing is generally not so good. Air-conditioning is also not guaranteed. If you can, pay a little extra for a nice resort. Accomodation can really change your perception of a place.
Tuktuks should cost no more than 1200Rupees for 30mins of tuktuking
There are power cuts aaaall the time. Every day. Prepare for this.
COMMON SCAMS TO BE AWARE OF
If you’re not asked to pay soon after you get onboard a bus - be careful as some drivers will charge you at the end when you get out, and try to charge a lot more than the fare is worth as there wont be any locals to protect or advise you otherwise!
Confirm that the taxi or tuk tuk fare is for ALL the people in your party. Sometimes they’ll give you a price and then, once at the destination, they'll advise that the price was per person!.. NEVER get into a tuktuk before confirming the price prior or ensuring the metre is turned on.
If you need to have your visa extended you may have to wait in the cities visa office for many hours. Outside there will be un-uniformed people asking if you'd like a quicker way to get your visa - they 'know someone' on the inside and will charge you a phenomenal fee to have your visa processed quickly. We didn't try this and advise you don't either.
Tuk tuk drivers love to hang around bus stations and tell you that the bus you're taking is either somewhere completely different to where it actually departs from, or that you’ve missed it.. “so you can come in my tuktuk!”
A poor looking parent will plead with you to buy some milk powder for their hungry child. After purchasing the milk for them, they’ll quickly return it to the seller and split the earnings once you’ve left.
‘Charity’ workers collecting money in public spaces? Real charities in Sri Lanka will never collect on the streets.