Is Sri Lanka worth it? How to not be disappointed in Sri Lanka

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Hey guys, in this post, I wanted to talk about travelling to Sri Lanka and being prepared, so you don’t end up being disappointed. Who is Sri Lanka for? Is Sri Lanka safe? Is Sri Lanka worth it? Well, it depends! Let’s discuss, whether Sri Lanka is a great destination for backpackers, honeymoon, luxury travellers, millennials, nature lovers and families with kids. I will also mention the tips for travelling to Sri Lanka for the first time and things you need to know before travelling to Sri Lanka.

In this post, I will also have multiple sections dedicated to different types of travellers, but in the beginning, I’ll share some of the useful tips for travelling to Sri Lanka about how not to be disappointed in Sri Lanka!

This is another post of my “Is X worth it?” series. You can check this post about Bali and this post about Seychelles here.

Without further ado, let’s get started!

How not to be disappointed in Sri Lanka? Tips for travelling to Sri Lanka for the first time

Alright. Are you going to Sri Lanka for the first time? Well, here are some things you need to know before visiting Sri Lanka, so you manage you expectation vs reality.

Don’t expect Sri Lanka to be a large Nature Park

So my first top for not being disappointed in Sri Lanka is not expecting Sri Lanka to be pristine like a giant Nature Park. If you didn’t know before is a pretty big country. The population of the island of Sri Lanka (well honestly it’s not too small but it’s not big either) is whopping 21 million people. This means that Sri Lanka is densely populated. So to sum it up Sri Lanka is not a Jurassic Park. It’s a busy island with a large population.

Driving in Sri Lanka

Don’t expect Sri Lanka to be very clean

Sri Lanka has a huge problem with plastic and sometimes there are areas that aren’t very clean. As I said the population of the island is huge so there are problems always associated with the big cities and densely populated areas.

Sri Lanka has a lot of stray dogs

So this might come on expected but Sri Lanka has a huge problem with stray dogs. I tried to find out how it started that literally every 50 m there are bunches of stray dogs. However, I didn’t find any comprehensive information Apart from the fact that they are not sterilised and they keep reproducing and the population of them keeps growing. If you are a huge dog lover that might make you very sad. Some dogs are in a really really bad condition and you can’t help much apart from donating to local organisations dedicated to stray dogs. Here is a link to one of them. If you’re not a big fan of dogs that might put you off a little bit because there are dogs everywhere.

The food is not for everyone

In my opinion, Sri Lanka has amazing food, however, I also understand that it’s not for everyone. If you going to stay in the resort all the time of your vacation in Sri Lanka that won’t be a problem because the resorts usually have huge buffets with international options. However, if you’re planning to drive around the country and explore many destinations there is a high chance that we going to end up eating in one of the local places which might be too exotic for you and maybe even too spicy. To be on the safe side bring a couple of protein bars with you or a bit of snack so you don’t end up starving and not having any options to eat nearby.

Sri Lankan breakfast

Not all the beaches in Sri Lanka are suitable for swimming

If you aren’t visiting one of the big resorts there is a high chance that your guesthouse might be located on the beach that is not suitable for swimming. That happened to us many times and as a result, we were not able to swim anywhere in Sri Lanka but the swimming pools all the guest houses and hotels we stayed at. In fact, there are just a few beaches in Sri Lanka that are suitable for swimming and it also depends on the season. The reason why they’re not suitable for swimming is that the waves are huge and these are mainly surfing beaches. so before coming to Sri Lanka and booking this lovely guesthouse make sure to check in advance if the beach is suitable for swimming, otherwise you might end up driving somewhere else for a couple of hours.

Tips for travelling to Sri Lanka for the first time

Driving between two nearby locations might take ages

So we are fans of really busy itineraries and as always we planned a lot of the things to do in Sri Lanka in 5 days. However, we ended up not seeing much and spending most of our holiday just driving. That’s why I’m not particularly proud of our itinerary. There is only one good highway in Sri Lanka and it goes from the Negombo airport near Colombo all the way to the town of Matara. The rest of the roads are just two lanes and they’re insanely busy because all the buses, trucks and cars and tuk-Tuke are driving on the same road in just one lane. There are variable speed limits for different vehicle types, for instance, tuk-tuks are not allowed to drive more than 40 km/h. It’s very hard to overtake these vehicles on the narrow roads of Sri Lanka, so you might end up driving at 40 km/h for a while.

Unless you want to spend all your holiday driving, make sure to not add too many places to your itinerary. They might be just 150 km from each other, but you can easily spend 3-4 hours driving these 150 km.

You might not be able to drive in Sri Lanka

Driving in Sri Lanka is not for everyone. However, it’s not as bad as everybody says and no, you don’t need to hire a driver if you feel like you can drive there. You can read my post about our experience and tips on driving in Sri Lanka here >>>

How hard it is to self-drive in Sri Lanka? Our experience driving in Sri Lanka

Safari in Sri Lanka is different from an African safari

Many people come to Sri Lanka specifically for safaris, however, it isn’t as impressive as a safari in Africa (e.g. Kenya and Tanzania or South Africa).
They are usually very very crowded and you will mostly see elephants. If that’s what you want – go for it! It’s also very nice.

Scams in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a safe country, but there are scams to avoid. Even though everybody was very friendly to us and never tried to overcharge or scam us (unlike India, where everybody tried), I know of some cases, where people were scammed. You can read more about scams in Sri Lanka in this post.

Okay, hopefully, these tips for travelling to Sri Lanka for the first time were useful for you and you now feel a bit more prepared for your trip. If you know all these before going to Sri Lanka, you won’t be disappointed with what you see and encounter in this beautiful country!

Is Sri Lanka worth it?

Now let’s talk about whether Sri Lanka is worth it for different types of travellers (including budget travellers, millennials, honeymooners, families with kids and beach holidays).

Is Sri Lanka a good honeymoon destination?

Honeymoon in Sri Lanka might sound like an amazing idea – virgin beaches, beautiful forest lodges and a lot of nature. All that for a decent price, many times cheaper than the Maldives (read my post about a honeymoon in the Maldives) and Seychelles (read my post about a honeymoon in Seychelles). However, in my opinion, Sri Lanka is too densely populated for a honeymoon. The safari might be crazily crowded and getting from one amazing spot to another might take ages. However, if you’re looking for an affordable exotic honeymoon, Sri Lanka might be a great option, as you can find amazing resorts for just £55 per night like the Ananya resort where we stayed. However, you won’t be able to swim at that beach because of the waves.

Is Sri Lanka a millennial destination?

While Sri Lanka is not as hyped and popular as Bali in Indonesia (read my post about Bali and whether Bali lives up to the hype), it’s a great destination for millennials. There are plenty of Instagrammable spots in Sri Lanka and a couple of trendy millennial cafes in a popular surfing village of Mirissa. Sri Lanka is a perfect destination for adventurous millennials, who would like to try great food, hop on the famous blue train in Ella, learn how to surf and attend yoga classes in one or gorgeous retreats.

Moreover, Sri Lanka is very affordable – perfect for millennials and generation Z!

Is Sri Lanka worth it? How to not be disappointed in Sri Lanka

Is Sri Lanka good for a beach holiday?

I’m not sure, whether Sri Lanka is the best beach destination. Most of the beaches are beautiful, but they are surfing beaches. If you want a proper beach holiday, you need to book an expensive resort and research in advance, whether the beach is good for swimming.

Alternatively, find the beach you would like to stay at (and whether you can swim there or only surf) and try to find accommodation close to that beach.

We haven’t been to many beaches in Sri Lanka, so here’s an article from an expert instead.

Is Sri Lanka great for a luxury holiday?

There are quite a few luxurious places in Sri Lanka, however, Sri Lanka is usually all about luxury for less. If you’re looking for exclusivity and amazing beach resorts, you might look into Seychelles and Maldives instead.

Is Sri Lanka worth it for backpackers and budget travellers?

Absolutely! Sri Lanka is very affordable and you can stay in an amazing guesthouse for as little as £30 per night. We stayed at a resort that we wholeheartedly loved for just £55 per night! However, if your budget is lower, you can find a great option for even less. Food in Sri Lanka is also affordable and we struggled to spend £150 that we extracted in the ATM during the entire holiday in Sri Lanka (5.5 days), despite driving a lot, charging gas and eating in touristy restaurants!

There are plenty of adventurous things to do in Sri Lanka and many places to hike and explore!

Read this post about prices in Sri Lanka and how much does it cost to travel in Sri Lanka!

Is Sri Lanka a budget destination

Is Sri Lanka worth it for families with kids?

It’s a bit difficult for me to say, whether Sri Lanka is a great place to travel to with kids. You need to be cautious about food and where you eat, so it might be worth staying at 4-5 hotels and eating there. However, I don’t see why not! Your kids might be tired of driving long distances in Sri Lanka, so you might look into staying in one place and going on tours / exploring places nearby instead.

Is Sri Lanka a good honeymoon destination

Summary of the post: is Sri Lanka worth it & how not be disappointed in Sri Lanka

Overall, I must say that I loved Sri Lanka despite the bad weather that we had during our trip to Sri Lanka in December. The country is very unique and while swimming beaches are a bit hard to find (as I mentioned before, not all the beaches in Sri Lanka are suitable for swimming and the distances are quite long), most of the hotels have swimming pools.

Sri Lanka is a great destination for nature lovers, yoga lovers, thrill-seekers, hikers, surfers, millennials and budget travellers. There are so many places to visit, that you probably need 2-3 weeks to see them all!

I wouldn’t recommend going to Sri Lanka if you have a very sensitive stomach or you have small kids or if you’re looking for luxury. Or if you’re allergic to dogs (they are everywhere, so you will struggle). It’s important to know what to expect and be prepared – in this case, you will enjoy beautiful and friendly Sri Lanka!

Is Sri Lanka worth it for a luxury trip?

Some other posts you might like:

Self-drive itinerary for Sri Lanka

How expensive is Sri Lanka?

Maldives vs Seychelles: which one is better

Mexico vs Cuba: where are the best beaches?

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