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Travelling in Sri Lanka

Getting Around & Planning the Trip

Backpacking vs. Guide

Travelling in Sri Lanka is rather easy (with a few exceptions), which makes it a perfect backpackers destination. The public transportation system is good; there are bus or train links in between the mayor cities. For example train link between Colombo (the capital) and Kandy (good starting point for the historical sites) goes through lush nature (see picture above) and is worth it just for the views. Nevertheless, some areas that are of special interest, like the historical sites Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura are best visited by car, or even better with a driver/guide as it can be a real hassle to change busses several times and wait for hours.

Although we never visited a country before with a guide (we are usually backpacking), we truly believe that this was the best idea of our whole trip and a key factor in really getting to know Sri Lanka, its culture and its people. A guide is not expensive at all and gives you a great deal of flexibility together with the opportunity of having every question about Sri Lanka answered that comes to your mind. From this cost and knowledge point of view, a driver makes much more sense than a rental car.

Of course, not every driver drives well (there are mad ones out there!), speaks good English or has a good knowledge of history and culture. In this regard it is important to rely on experiences of other travellers. This is why we would like to highly recommend Ranjan, who accompanied us for 4 days. He is far more than a driver - he knows the best places, has a lot of knowledge, will be discreet when needed and will be an enjoyable fellow for dinner or a glass of Arrak. Please contact Ranjan directly if you plan a trip, or ask us for more advice if you like.

When to go

You can go all year around to Sri Lanka. There is no rain season where it not worth going. Climatically the driest and best seasons are from December to March for the west coast, south coast and the hill country, and from May to September on the east coast.

What you should take into consideration are the different festivals which are worth visiting.

  • The Esala Perahera in Kandy (July/August) is the country's most important and spectacular one 10 days of torch-bearers, dancers, drummers and elephants decorated with light bulbs. We had the chance to see the Perahera - it is breathtaking.
  • The Duruthu Perahera in Colombo (January)
  • National Day (February), celebrated with parades, dances and national games
  • New Year (March/April), celebrated with elephant races, coconut games and pillow fights
  • Vesak (May), a sacred full moon festival commemorating the birth, death and enlightenment of Buddha
  • The Hindu Vel festival (July/August) in Colombo, where the chariot of Skanda, the God of War, is hauled between two temples; we witnessed a smaller scale Hindu Festival in a little village.
  • The Hindu Kataragama festival (July/August) in Kataragama

Surfers should take into account, that the south-western side of the island has the best swells during Nov - Mar, the eastern side in the other season.

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