My First Official “Solo” Trip to Sri Lanka – Day 1

train station in sri lanka

Sri Lanka, A Jewel shaped country in the Indian Ocean was an unexpected surprise. I loved every bit of it : The Green grassy landscapes, The not-so-delicious food, The crumbled overgrown ruins, The abundant wildlife and especially The  Welcoming locals who took hospitality to the next level. It was like that I time-traveled India 30-40 years before. Old Bus & Train tickets, 90s vehicles, Ranjit & Govinda style fashion was very Nostalgic.

Travelling through the country was easy, Just a little chaotic with over crowded buses moving along clogged roads and Trains packed to the grills with people hanging off the edges (which was actually adventurous). English was not widely spoken so it was little difficult to navigate but I learned few words to communicate like “Ayu Bowan” which means “Namaskaar” in Hindi and “Hello” in English.

Once I arrived at Bandar Naike Airport & Breezed through to Immigration, A Policeman caught me to check my bags. I was carrying “whey protein” in plastic bags which he thought was “Brown Sugar” but he tasted and found that it was actually Protein powder.

This is where my Adventure began..

Important Tip: Whenever you travel, keep your eyes on your bags and make sure nobody put something in your bags like in Bollywood movies & Read all the papers before signing any paper by Immigration or Security office to stay safe from any unexpected trouble.

Airport Exit gate was equipped with Taxi services desks, Costing around 3000-4000 LKR along with some Independent  Taxi drivers who were charging 1500-2000 LKR but my destination was “Kandy City” via Train, I took a public transport bus to Colombo Fort Railway Station. Just follow the steps below to get a bus :

The way out of the airport to the bus

The bus parked at Colombo Airport

It is very hard to miss this bus as it is parked with Taxis and has a Sign on top of its windshield that says “Colombo Fort”. You will also see a flow of passengers getting in with luggage.

At the time of writing bus tickets to and from the Colombo Airport to Colombo costed 120 rupees

It took 1.5 hrs to arrive to Colombo Fort and bus ticket cost me 200 LKR. Train from Colombo to Kandy was of 3-4 hrs Journey packed with people, I traveled in 2nd Class like “Passenger Trains” in India.

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First Check point : Kandy
At the time of creating the Travel Itinerary to Sri Lanka, I’d read many articles about Kandy and decided to Start from this beautiful Old king city Kandy which was the Second biggest city in Sri Lanka.

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Only thing I hated was “Who charges to visit a temple?” I had to pay 2500 LKR to enter into the temple.

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“Kandyan Dance” was the next big thing which happened to me.. Although it felt like I’m in “Durga Puja” festival which cost me 5000 LKR.

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After all this adventure, It was time for my second goal of Travel “Food”, Best Restaurant in Kandy was “Balaji Dosai” and all I have eaten was Dosa, Egg Hopper & Vegetable Kottu.

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I should doze off now.. because my day 2 was going to be very Tiring & Adventurous.

Check this space for Day 2..

Solo Travel Tips : How to Travel Solo?

I have Traveled both with my Family & Friends but “Travelling Solo” was Challenging & Adventurous at the same  time. I like to live my life on my own terms and that’s all what you have to do when you Travel Solo. Here are some tips to Travel solo :

 

  1. Save Up : Isn’t great that when you return from your trip after spending continuously you don’t have to worry about your finances. So start saving months before you begin your trip and decide your budget.
  2. Decide on Your Travel Plan : “Invest few minutes today to make a travel plan & you will save hours on your trip” That’s it. Create a Plan way before your trip to maximize the adventure & minimize the stress.
  3. BUY Travel Insurance : Think you don’t need it? Think again. Millions people travel & less that 1% of them buy Travel Insurance because most people aren’t aware of the option or don’t know how travel insurance works. There are several good reasons to look into insurance like Trip cancellation, Flight cancellation, Natural disasters, Medical coverage, Baggage delay or lost, Passport lost, Emergency money requirements etc are major benefits to look into.
  4. Pack Light : Pack most important & basic things that you will require on your trip including clothes. I remember that when I traveled to  Goa India 4-5 yrs back, I was so excited that was not able to decide what to pack so I brought my complete wardrobe but then It was very uncomfortable to carry all your clothes.
  5. Know how you’ll stay in Touch : Get a Local SIM card with Internet services as soon as you arrive to your destination & Be in touch with your family & friends about the places you’re going to visit. I left a copy of Names with Address & Phone numbers of the hotels am going to stay which came very handy when my parents was not able to reach me.
  6. Be Patient : It can be very difficult arriving to a new country or to a new city. Always remember that a Country is to Comfort their own people and not you. So be patient, Try to learn few words and most importantly “Keep Smiling”.
  7. Be Pro Active : If you’re unsure of yourself, always ask for help from someone. Standing around & looking puzzled  will not get you where you want to go. So go ahead, Smile & ask for help.
  8. Know which way is UP : Get a MAP of your destination to read and locate where you want to go.
  9. Be Ready to Talk : In Sri Lanka, I met a girl Johanna from Austria in the middle of the forest towards “9-Arch Bridge” . It started to rain so we cut out and went to eat together and to my wonder, we had a great chat & explored the next day together. It will be fun to meet new people.  Ask questions and conversations begin.
  10. Go far-off the beaten path. Travelers who find each other where there are few tourists are more inclined to talk to each other. Meet someone on a hike or in a specific location and you already know that you have an interest in common.

  11. Travel between destinations. Whether you choose the train, bus, or plane, live within the limits of a carry-on bag or backpack. You’ll be happy you did as you manage to move around from destination to destination with greater ease.
  12. Eat Healthy : I love to eat tasty & healthy so I always carry my Protein & Fats when I travel for unstoppable supply because this word is full of carbs but watch out before you eat.
  13. Take Plenty of Pictures : You should satisfy your “Self-Obsession” every time you’re on a Trip. It will help you relive the memories because all you can carry to your death bed is memories that you create. No family, money, car & house etc will go with you.

These are all I could think of right now so to end my blog all I want to tell you is that every one should travel solo at least once in their life, It will make you Invincible. “Travelling Solo” itself is a Adventure.

MY ULTIMATE GUIDE TO SRI LANKA: TIPS, COSTS, ITINERARIES, AND FAVORITES

train station in sri lanka
Sri Lanka — a jewel–shaped country in the Indian Ocean — was an unexpected surprise. I loved every bit of it: the verdant landscape, the delicious food; the crumbling, overgrown ruins; the abundant wildlife; and (especially) the welcoming locals who took hospitality to the next level.

Traveling through the country is relatively easy, if just a little chaotic, with overcrowded buses moving along clogged roads where lanes are mere suggestions, and trains packed to the gills with people hanging off the edges (which actually is kind of fun). English is widely spoken, though, so once you get used the chaos, it isn’t too difficult to get around.

But there are a few things you should know before you visit to avoid getting scammed, overspending, and, like me, missing some of the scenic trains!

Sri Lanka Travel Guide: 14 Great Tips

Travel Tip 1: Water: You shouldn’t really drink the water in Sri Lanka, so bring a reusable water bottle with a purifier. It’s really hot, so to keep hydrated, you’d probably spend 300 rupees ($2 USD) per day on plastic bottles of water at 60 rupees ($0.40 USD) each. But a water bottle with a purifier costs just $20 USD (though my preferred brand Lifestraw is slightly more). Over the course of a two-week trip, that’s an $8 USD savings (and you help the environment too)!

Travel 2: Food: Outside of the major cities of Colombo and Kandy, you won’t find many non-Sri Lankan or non-Indian food options. What you do find is a poor excuse for Western food that is overpriced and often a chain. Stick to the local food! It’s super delicious. I never knew much about Sri Lankan food before hand but now I’m hooked! Just eat it all! Balaji Dosai in Kandy; Ahinsa in Sigiriya; Upali’s in Colombo; Hot Hut in Nuwara Eliya; and the restaurants across from the bus station in Anuradhapura were some of my favorite.

Travel Tip 3: More about food: Food, besides being crazy good, is also really cheap in Sri Lanka! Local food costs about $1-3 USD per meal for simple dishes of dosas (a kind of pancake), kottu (a dish made of roti (flatbread), vegetables, egg and/or meat, and spices), rice, chicken, and everything in between. At restaurants with table service, you’ll pay closer to $5 USD.

Travel Tip 4: Alcohol: Don’t expect too many chances to drink alcohol. Outside the coastal tourist towns and the capital of Colombo, there isn’t much nightlife or opportunities to drink. While you can always crack a beer at your guesthouse, Sri Lanka isn’t home to a big drinking/nightlife culture. Expect your nights to be tame.

Travel Tip 5: Tuk-tuks: You can hire drivers cheaply. Any tuk-tuk driver will let you hire them for the day. Expect to pay around $20 USD for the day. Moreover, tuk-tuk drivers are pretty honest, except in Colombo, where they will try to scam and overcharge you. Elsewhere in the country, you’ll get a fair deal. There’s no need to try to bargain hard.

Travel Tip 6: Airport transfer: There is a train to the airport you can take from Colombo Fort. It’s the cheapest way to get there, at 30 rupees ($0.20 USD). A tuk-tuk ride is about 2,500 rupees ($17 USD), and buses to the airport cost 110 rupees ($0.75 USD) and leave about every 30 minutes from Colombo Central Bus Station or Mawatha Bus Station.

Travel Tip 7: Trains: Train travel, while often slower, are the cheapest way to get around. Some typical routes: Colombo to Jaffna is 150-445 rupees ($1-3 USD), Jaffna to Anuradhapura is 150-295 rupees ($1-2 USD), Kandy to Nuwara Eliya is 85-280 rupees ($0.60-1.90 USD), and Colombo to Galle is 150-295 rupees ($1-2 USD).

Travel Tip 8: Booking trains: If you are taking the scenic train from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya or Ella (or vice versa) and want a seat, book it in advance through a travel agency, as tickets can’t be booked in person at the station unless it’s done four days before departure. You can always (and only) get a cramped second-class ticket (where you’ll learn the new meaning of a tight squeeze) on the day of departure. Many people will tell you to get to the station at 7am to buy a train ticket, but they don’t start selling them until 8am, so don’t listen to those people. Also, the concept of “sold out” doesn’t apply to “cattle class.”

Travel Tip 9: Sigiriya: If you are visiting Sigiriya, get there when it opens at 8am to avoid huge lines and crowds at the site. If you are there after 10am, the crowds are so overwhelming it’s not worth visiting. It takes an hour to walk up as it’s single-file all the way!

Travel Tip 10: Anuradhapura: If you are visiting Anuradhapura, tickets are $25 USD but are never checked unless you are entering the museum. (I also noticed Western tourists were the only ones ever asked to show a ticket at the museum.) Enter the site without paying by using the tiny road just southeast of the museum.

Travel Tip 11: Visiting temples: You’ll have to take your socks and shoes off before visiting temples, even if they are outdoors, so bring flip-flops to keep your socks clean!

Travel Tip 12: Hostels: Hostels are really basic (fan, mosquito net, electric shower) but at $4-6 USD per dorm bed, you can’t go wrong.

Travel Tip 13: Galle: Galle is only worth a day trip. Don’t stay over in the town. There is not much to do there at all.

Travel Tip 14: Accommodation: There are a lot of cheap accommodation throughout the country. You’ll usually get breakfast with your room too. Private rooms with your own bathroom start at $10 USD per night. Add $5 if you want air conditioning.

Typical Costs in Sri Lanka

  Visiting Sigiriya Rock Fortress in Sri Lanka
Overall, I would say you couldn’t need more than a budget of $30 – 40 USD per day. The country is very cheap, especially if you stick to delicious local or Indian cuisine (the food is so cheap there’s no reason to grocery shop and cook your own meals), avoid the overpriced Western style restaurants (local food tastes much better anyways), travel second class and on buses, and don’t go crazy with the accommodation. Ever though I was on a budget, I didn’t go as low as I could (dorms every night, only Sri Lankan food, minimal activities, etc) and still found it was hard to break the bank. The expensive days in which I took a tour or decided to try some fancy restaurant were balanced out on the other days I didn’t.

Here is a list of prices to help you get an idea of costs in Sri Lanka:

  • Airport taxi – 2,500 rupees
  • National Museum in Colombo – 600 rupees
  • Train from Jaffna to Anuradhapura – 340 rupees
  • Bottle of water – 60 rupees
  • Bus from Anuradhapura to Dambulla – 340 rupees
  • Tuk-tuk from Dambulla to Sigiriya – 1,000 rupees
  • Kottu chicken (and water) – 370 rupees
  • Lunch 2 – 500 rupees
  • Tuk-tuk – 200 rupees
  • Bus from Dambulla to Kandy – 98 rupees
  • Hostel in Kandy – 600 rupees
  • Temple of the Tooth in Kandy – 1000 rupees
  • Dosai dinner in Kandy – 200 rupees
  • Train to Nuwara Eliya, second class – 160 rupees
  • Beer – 500 rupees
  • Bus to Tissamaharama (Tissa) – 240 rupees
  • Bus to Galle – 307
  • Western lunch in Galle (burger and fries) – 1,200 rupees

Some favorites: For accommodation, I really liked the Kandy Downtown Hostel; Palitha Home Stay in Sigiriya; and Galle Fort Hostel in Galle. For restaurants, besides the bulleted list above, I would also recommend the Ministry of Crab. It’s an expensive seafood restaurant in Colombo but it’s delicious! Sri Lankan crab is famous worldwide and they have gigantic ones. It’s not cheap but sometimes, you just have to treat yourself. While I didn’t go out much, if you find yourself in Kandy, the Slightly Chilled Bar is a popular meeting spot and has wonderful views of the city (and the sunset).

Sri Lanka Itineraries By Region

  Wandering the Beautiful Jungles in Sri Lanka
Most travelers focus on the southern half of the country, with its hiking and beach towns. After decades of war, the north has a legacy of destruction that has yet to go away.

Though I originally had planned to explore only the south due to my limited time there (just two weeks), I was offered the opportunity to talk to a member of Parliament in Jaffna up north and learn about the Tamil war, so I rearranged my route thus:

Sri Lanka Travel Route Itinerary 

Colombo – Jaffna – Anuradhapura – Sigiriya/Dambulla – Kandy – Nuwara Eliya –Tissamaharama (Tissa) – Galle – Colombo

I was glad I did. Seeing the north gave me an added perspective on a portion of the country without hordes of other tourists. In fact, in my time up north, I saw only four Westerners.

And though Sri Lanka may look like a small island, there is a lot to see and do there! More than I imagined. Anuradhapura and Sigiriya both have amazing ancient ruins. Kandy is filled with hiking treks, a big Buddhist temple, and a butterfly garden. Nuwara Eliya is known for its hiking, Tissa is the gateway to Yala National Park (which has elephants and leopards), and Galle is a beautiful old Dutch fort town.

beautiful view of a tower in galle, sri lanka
Even though I covered a lot of ground in my two weeks, I still missed many places, including Ella (more hiking), Arugam Bay (beaches), and most of the southern coast (more beaches and nightlife). I raced through the country and crammed too much into such a short period of time. I wouldn’t recommend going at such a breakneck pace.

If I had to do it all over again, I would break Sri Lanka into two parts — the north/center and the south — and focus on one of those regions. There’s simply too much to do, and travel around the country is too slow to try to cover so much ground in a limited time.

If like me, you only have a couple of weeks, I would suggest just one of the following routes:

Sri Lanka Itinerary 1: Northern Itinerary

Colombo – Jaffna – Anuradhapura – Sigiriya – Kandy – Ella – Nuwara Eliya – Colombo

Sri Lanka Itinerary 2: Southern Itinerary

Colombo – Hikkaduwa – Galle – Mirissa – Tangalle – Tissa – Nuwara Eliya – Kandy – Colombo

(Note: This route is kind of quick too so if you’re pressed for time, you could cut out one of the beach cities.)

If you have a month, you could do both of these routes plus add in one or all of the coastal towns of Arugam Bay, Negombo, or Trincomalee.

One thing to know is that once you’ve done the major things in a city, there’s very little reason to stay. For example, Tissa is the gateway to Yala National Park. Tour operators run most tours in the early morning (a higher chance of seeing animals) so if you took one of those tours, you could be on a bus moving on to your next destination by lunch time. There’s really not much else in the town. The same could with Jaffna. Tick a few boxes and then move on. Galle is more a day trip from a nearby beach town than a place to spend a few days. There was so little to do there I just went back to Colombo instead of staying the night. Sigiriya and Dambulla can be done in two nights (though I added an extra night because I liked the family I was staying with). Nuwara Eliya, Ella, Kandy, Arugam Bay, Trincomalee – those places have more activities and are worth spending a longer time in.

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Sri Lanka is an easy country to visit, and with a few tips, you can travel there with ease. This is a very budget-friendly country, even if you go nuts on the attractions and tours. I didn’t spend a lot of money, averaging just $35 USD per day. (Any expensive days will be balanced out with the cheap days where you just walk around, hike, or sit on the beach!)Looking at the map of Sri Lanka, you might say, “Oh, it’s not that big. I bet I can cover a lot of ground in a short period if time.” You could, but you won’t “see” much. It will be too much of a blur.

Sri Lanka may be small but it packs a powerful punch. I loved it a lot. Take your time to see this land of jungles, waterfalls, monkeys, delicious food, and lovely people! I’m already planning my next trip back.

Photo Credit: 34

SRI LANKA TRAVEL GUIDE: FROM ELLA TO UDAWALAWE, UNAWATUNA, BENTOTA & COLOMBO

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Colombo Airport to Bus Station To Reach Colombo Fort

Travelers who are booking a flight to Sri Lanka usually land at Bandaranaike Airport. Bandaranaike is a regular-looking and decently sized airport that is not hard to navigate. As soon as our plane arrived, we breezed through immigration and into the lobby area with no complications. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to get from the international airport to Colombo.

1. Choose your mode of transport.

As other airports, Bandaranaike Airport is equipped with airport car service desks that provide transfers to hotels in the Colombo area. The rate is around Rs 3000 – 4000. You should also expect to see some men, presumably taxi drivers, offering their independent services once you step out of the airport arrival area. Their asking rate is anywhere from Rs 2000 – 3000 to get to Colombo. It is also possible to ask them to take you to Negombo or even Galle.

Average Rate: 
Negombo – Rs 1500
Galle – Rs 5000

Although there is a dedicated taxi desk with set prices, you can also encounter taxi drivers who are willing to negotiate the costs.

The way out of the airport to the bus

The way out of the airport to the bus

2. If you want to take public transport, then take the bus service that goes to Colombo Fort Station- the main train station in the city.

You may read in some guidebooks that there is a free shuttle that takes passengers outside the arrival area to where buses heading to Colombo are parked. However, in our experience, we were able to take the local bus that goes directly to Colombo Fort station just by walking a few meters outside the airport.

The bus parked at Colombo Airport

The bus parked at Colombo Airport

The bus is hard to miss as it is conspicuously parked with taxis and has a sign on top of its windshield that reads “Colombo Fort.” You will also see a flow of passengers getting on it with their luggage.

The bus waiting for passengers at the airport

The bus waiting for passengers at the airport

3. Pay your fare.

Once you’re settled in your seat, a person (also referred to as bus conductor) will walk through the isle to take the fare. We paid 250 rupees for two people. This rate is very cheap given the number of kilometers the bus has to cover.

At the time of writing bus tickets to and from the Colombo Airport to Colombo costed 120 rupees

At the time of writing bus tickets to and from the Colombo Airport to Colombo costed 120 rupees

In the past, public buses from the airport took almost two hours to reach Colombo. But because the new Colombo-Katunayake Highway is now opened, the journey is significantly shortened to less than an hour.

Kandy to Sigiriya

How to get to Sigiriya from Kandy | Sri Lanka | How long does it actually take to travel from Kandy to Sigiriya? And how on earth do I get there? Here is how we did it.

How to get to Sigiriya from Kandy

When we did research online about the best ways to make the day trip from Kandy to Sigiriya, we were surprised that there isn’t any solid info on a trip that so many people make. Some people wrote that it’ll take 2 hours by bus, some just 1, we were told in person it takes 5-6 hours one day by train. Nothing adds up. How long does it actually take to travel from Kandy to Sigiriya? And how on earth do I get there?

Here is how we traveled from Kandy to Sigiriya in one day.

Note: We were traveling in off season during mid-June. There is no one fool proof way because I’m sure buses change and, I mean, it’s Sri Lanka we are talking about.

Sigiriya Sri Lanka
Where is Sigirya and how do I get there?!

1. Wake up early and get yourself to the bus station in Kandy before 7:30am.

We got up at 6:30 just to play it safe and went to find the bus station. I should use the term bus station lightly because it is just a spot that buses seem to congregate. There are actually a few bus congregation spots in Kandy, all close together, somewhat near the train station. We headed to one and started asking around “Sigiriya?” And we were lead to the “main” bus station just past the train station where we eventually found the right bus after asking everyone along the way.

2. Ride the bus to Dambulla for about 2.5 hours.

We got on a direct bus to Sigiriya from Kandy that left at 7:30. That means we did not need to switch buses at Dambulla. The direct bus cost is 116 rupees each (~$1 CAD). You may need to switch buses, in that case, ask around for “Sigiriya?” And you’ll be pointed to the right bus, it is a small station.

Sigiriya Sri Lanka
Once you see the rock, it’ll be worth it.

3. Ride the bus about 30 from Dambulla to Sigiriya.

Straight forward enough? The bus will drop you off at the exit of the park. We arrived about 10:45 am.

4. BUY WATER from the shops down the road!

If you didn’t bring your own water, MAKE SURE YOU BUY SOME. I don’t know why but there aren’t any vendors in the park selling drinks. It’ll be a long hot day so make sure you have enough water. Whatever you think you need, get double. There are only large barrel dispensers labeled “drinking water” in the park, but I really wouldn’t trust that…

5. Walk around to the entrance and pay way too much for a ticket.

Foreign entrance fee costs the blood of a calf, a tiger’s tooth, and your first new born son (4260 LKR or ~$37 CAD). And when they say half, they mean half people, you know, children.

Sigiriya price 2016
Insane tourist prices as of June 2016

6. Spend enough time in the park to get your money’s worth.

Honestly we think bloggers and people we have talked to underrate how cool Sigiriya is. It’s a mysterious place that is endlessly fascinating. And the view from the top exceeded our expectations. More than just climbing to the top, we spend time exploring the surrounding caves and ruins, as well as learning about the history at the well-maintained museum. Only drawback is that I’ll say the staff is overall rude and unfriendly, at least in our experience. Is it worth the price? We think that’s the wrong question. It’s definitely worth he visit, and the price remains unjust. We spend a whopping 4 hours in the park.

Though if this sight is too boring for you there are many more things to spend time doing in Sri Lanka.

Sigirya
Being all model like in the cave ruins.

7. Walk back around to where you got off the bus to wait for a bus back to Dambulla. 

We picked up some snacks and more water from the shops just there and flagged down the bus when it came by. It only took us 30 minutes to arrive back at Dambulla from Sigiriya.

Sri Lanka Bus
Crowded Sri Lanka bus

8. Take the bus 2.5 hours back to Kandy from Dambulla.

The Kandy bus just drives down the main road, instead of coming into the station. So we waited at the side of the road with some locals also taking the Kandy bus. It was about 4pm and the bus was packed all the way back. We luckily got seats, but it’s rush hour, so the bus may take longer.

Sri Lanka bus
Anywhere you can sit is a seat.

9. Arrive back in Kandy about 7 pm and go eat some dinner!

Long day, but it wasn’t the worst now was it? It’s actually quite easy to make the day trip and we 10/10 recommend everyone should!

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