25 Tips for Your First Solo Trip to Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a very popular tourist destination. Be it for its history, culture, cuisines, tourist attractions, tea plantation, or precious gemstones. It is a relatively smaller country, and one can explore it to a great extent within a week. Some people argue that there is a language barrier in Sri Lanka, or the people aren’t welcoming, or the place isn’t safe for solo female travellers and whatnot. While this can be true sometimes, the experience of travelling to Sri Lanka is a great one, hands down!
While you can choose to travel with your friends and family, solo travelling is an experience like none other. Some are afraid to travel solo for numerous reasons. And the nervousness can hamper our experience and also ruin it.
Honestly, it can get quite awkward on your first few solo trips, and you will have no idea what to do in such a situation. But don’t worry, it happens to everybody!
Before you get ready to travel solo to Sri Lanka, I would like to give you a few tips based on my experience to make your journey so much better!
1. Get those essentials ready for the trip
Before travelling to Sri Lanka, you have to get your checklist prepared. If you want a complete list of travel essentials, I would recommend that you check out this blog. It is also important that you carry a good-quality water bottle, so you don’t have to buy packaged water all the time. Also, keep in mind not to carry anything extra (that doesn’t serve any purpose on your trip) as it would only add to the weight of the luggage.
2. Make some friends
I know that solo travelling is all about travelling ‘solo,’ but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make friends on your trip. Making friends with a couple of locals, fellow tourists will make your trip much better. It will only add to your experience, and you will get to know the country more. Your local friends can guide you regarding which places to visit or take a pass on.
3. Dress modestly
Sri Lankans value their rich history, traditions, and culture a lot. This is the reason you would see most locals on the streets covered in clothing from head to toe, be it a man or a woman! Remember to dress appropriately, especially while visiting temples. On other occasions, you can dress as per your liking. Remember that you’re on a solo trip, and you don’t want to grab any unwanted attention.
4. Avoid stepping out after sunset
Yes, you read that right! After sunset, people, in general, get back home, and there’s not much activity on the streets. Due to this, I would recommend that you refrain from stepping outside after sunset. If possible, plan your trips in such a way that you get back to your hotel room before dusk. However, you can go out after sunset if you manage to make a couple of friends, either locals or other tourists.
5. Ignore the staring
You will be stared upon by both men and women in Sri Lanka. It is something that I haven’t noticed a lot elsewhere. Sometimes they also stare at other Sri Lankans, but I don’t understand why! Some will come up to you and even try to talk. Engaging in a conversation is your choice, but don’t be afraid as you might meet a couple of non-creepy people too. All in all, I would advise you to ignore the staring completely and not care about it one bit!
6. Arrange a reliable mode of transportation
While travelling around the city isn’t a problem, I would highly recommend hiring a private car with/without a driver from a reliable agency. This way, you can go out whenever you feel like it, and it is also much faster than public transportation. You will also not need to wait for buses and indulge in unnecessary conversations with tuk-tuk drivers!
7. Sri Lanka is not for the party-lovers
If you are someone who loves late-night parties, just take a pass on Sri Lanka. While there are some clubs and bars that host parties, they are very few. Sri Lanka is a place where you can learn about the rich history and culture, explore the wildlife, and just relax. It is a perfect destination to take a break from your stressful life and detox your mind.
8. Explore the delicacies
Traditional Sri Lankan food is quite famous, and I must say, it tastes delicious. Rice and curry are the go-to meals here. There is also a large variety of curries to choose from. Kottu roti, kukul mas curry, hoppers, and parippu are my favourite local dishes here. When you travel to Sri Lanka, please don’t take a pass on its authentic local food. It is just so heavenly!
9. Spend some extra time in Colombo
Colombo is hands down the most ‘modern’ city in Sri Lanka. Not only is it modern, but there is also a bit of the local Sri Lankan vibe to it. If you plan to spend a little extra time in Colombo, worry not because you are in it for some fun! You can visit the best of restaurants, watch a cricket match, explore the shopping centres and look at the daily life of a Sri Lankan – all of this in just one place.
10. Engage in physical activities and sports
Sri Lanka is known for its monuments and ancient sites. Exploring some of these can be a task in itself. For example, Sigiriya Fortress and Adam’s Peak require a lot of time and energy for you to explore. But it is totally worth it! You can also indulge in some sporting activities like river rafting, trekking, cycling, and hiking in Sri Lanka.
11. Spend those pennies
Sri Lanka is a very budget-friendly destination. You can easily explore the country within a couple of hundred dollars. Essential commodities and transportation are also very affordable here. So, when it comes to trying out a new dish from a fancy restaurant or an activity that is slightly on the expensive side, do not hesitate to lose those extra saved pennies!
12. Appreciate the culture
Sri Lanka is extremely rich when it comes to cultures, just like most Asian countries. Once you visit, you will appreciate every bit of it. Exploring the temples, draping a saree, and eating rice and curry from a banana leaf are some of the things that I would highly recommend to anyone!
13. Don’t worry a lot about the safety
Even though a lot of people might stare at you because you are a tourist, you need not worry about the safety aspect here in Sri Lanka. It is a fairly safe country for solo travel, and you should rather focus on exploring the country than worrying a lot unnecessarily. Dressing appropriately here is quite important (especially in temples), but that doesn’t affect your safety.
14. Ask for help if you need it
You can ask the locals for any kind of help that you need. Be it asking for directions, good tourist spots, or the bus timings. They will be ready to help you with a smile on their faces. While most of them might not be able to converse in English, you will not have any difficulty in understanding what they mean to say.
15. Take buses or trains
If you do not want to hire a private car or cab, buses and trains are your best options. While they can be a little more time-consuming, they usually take you to your destination at an exponentially cheaper rate. You can also spark conversations with locals and make some friends. You will end up saving yourself from all the taxis and tuk-tuk scams if you opt to travel by public transport.
16. Don’t get too friendly with people
While a lot of people in Sri Lanka are welcoming and friendly, this isn’t the case with everyone. You will also find a lot of creepy people for sure! If at any point in time you feel that some person isn’t behaving the way they should be, just ignore them. However, if things get out of control, you should not refrain from asking for help from people around you. Another important rule is to not share any personal information with strangers.
17. Avoid going to unknown locations with strangers
This goes without saying. No matter where you travel to, you shouldn’t go to unknown places with strangers. They might convincingly ask you if they can join you or tell you that they will show you some ‘hidden place.’ Don’t fall for these traps! Say NO and leave the place. Trust your gut feeling and do what you feel is right in situations like these.
18. Plan to travel early in the morning
Travelling and exploring Sri Lanka (or any destination for that matter!) after sunset isn’t the best idea. I would suggest that you start your day early in the morning. Try to visit places soon after sunrise so that you get to explore all the places without missing out on something important. If you have trouble planning your solo trip to Sri Lanka, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.
19. Inform your friends/family about your whereabouts
This is a life hack for all solo travellers. You can either choose to call your loved ones over the phone and inform them about your whereabouts or share your live location with them. The latter one is a great option since your loved ones will know where you exactly are without you having to call them again and again. If you do not know how to share your live location, click here to learn about it. You can also let know the hotel staff about the same so that they will be able to help you in case of an emergency.
20. Stay in popular hotels only
I would recommend that you choose the famous hotels and avoid the secluded ones away from the city. However, that shouldn’t stop you from exploring unique stays in Sri Lanka. Just keep in mind that the place you choose should either be near the city or have many other guests along with you. A fancy place with little to no members far away from the city is not advisable!
21. Carry your prescribed medications
If your doctor has prescribed some medicines for you or if you are on medication, carry some extra doses with you. Sometimes, you might not be able to find the same medicines in Sri Lanka. Also, the drug policy in Sri Lanka might be different from your home country.
22. Learn the basics of the local language
Even though Sinhala is the commonly spoken language in Sri Lanka, one-fourth of the population speaks Tamil. In addition to that, some people can comfortably converse in English too. Nevertheless, learning a few words of the local language will help you a lot.
23. Always carry some cash
While the world is becoming cash-less, and digital payments are being promoted all around the world, Sri Lanka isn’t there yet. You can get away using your credit/debit card in shopping malls and famous restaurants, but these cards won’t help you buy everyday items from the nearby grocery store. You would also need cash for public transportation.
24. Keep some emergency contacts on speed dial
It is a good practice to keep the important local helpline numbers on speed dial because help is only a call away. Here is the list of a few important contacts.
Police Emergency Hotline – 118/119
Ambulance/Fire and Rescue – 110
Accident Service-General Hospital-Colombo – 011-2691111
Tourist Police – 011-2421052
Report Crimes – 011-2691500
25. Don’t forget to have fun
Nothing is worth it if you do not have fun in Sri Lanka. You can keep all these things in mind but overthinking is no good either! I would recommend that you go through these points once again before your trip to Sri Lanka so that you remember them much better. All that said, do not forget to enjoy your time in Sri Lanka because it is one of the most peaceful places you can ever visit!
I know that was a long list. But trust me, these tips will help you a lot during your solo trip to Sri Lanka. So, what are you waiting for? Book your tickets, pack your bags and enjoy every little thing that Sri Lanka has to offer!
An introverted blogger who is looking to make unforgettable solo travel memories with one short life.