When I told my friends that I’m going to Sri Lanka for my birthday travel, the most common reactions were, “What is in Sri Lanka? Why there? Where is Sri Lanka in the world map?”

Sri Lanka is a tear-drop shaped island country just below India. It is fondly called Little India because of their similarities. Their people are pretty diverse, the most widely practiced religion is Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam & Christianity. I’d say their culture is conservative & their way of life is laid back. As it is a tropical island country, there are beautiful beaches & surf spots, waterfalls, forests & a lot of animals.

As always, my travel pick usually is from a single photo strong enough to make me pack my bag & go. This time, it was a rope swing tied to a coconut tree in a white sandy beach. It felt so dreamy, I was so into it that I have decided to see & try the swing myself. Well, it was a great swing! I laughed like a mad woman trying not to break my spine falling from the rope— it was all great except for the muscle sores & bruises the morning after.

Girl on a swing in Sri Lanka

Apart from the actual travel itself, I enjoyed much the planning. Yes, I am a low-key control freak & so I try to read every information available. I research not only the cheap rates or the most touristy places to go but also I’m most particular with how to spend my vacation time. I go for overnight flight tickets, I book hostels that are easily accessible & I would avoid transportation delays at any cost. 

So here’s how I prepared:

VISA

Yes, a tourist visa is needed which can be applied online for $105, valid for 30 days stay. 

AIR TICKETS

Gladly Dubai is accessible to the places I want to go. It’s a short 4.5hrs flight to Sri Lanka via Emirates airline ($340), time difference of 1.5hrs ahead of Dubai. 

ACCOMMODATION

I have long ditched the hotels over Airbnb because of all the things wonderful the latter offers. I mostly enjoyed seeing for real the Airbnb homes that I booked. We stayed in 4 different homes for the 7 days of the trip. There was the hillside room in Kandy with the best hosts who grow organic garden in their rooftop; a  treehouse in Ella in the middle of a forest where actual monkeys make you feel welcome; a cabana in Uduwalawe with impressive outdoor shower & with peacocks casually trotting the yard & the chic surf camp in Midigama with a private pool & with a view of the blue train passing by while you’re having breakfast. Yes, all these rare finds are mad cheap, ($30/ night for 2 pax) plus you get to interact/ live with the hosts during your stay.

TRANSPORTATION

The travel blogs that I’ve read were consistent- they all warned how bad & unreliable the public transport in Sri Lanka & they all advised hiring a private car. Well, for a second, I didn’t flinch because I have had it worst (Hello, Cebu commute, I’m talking to you). Anyway, we still hired private cars during long commutes & when it rained heavily, but the rest, we navigated Sri Lanka in public trains, buses & tuk-tuk. Also, renting a motorcycle is convenient but I’m a chicken on the highway so maybe next time..

ROUTE

As Sri Lanka is a massive island, it was a challenge to plan which way we should go. So here’s our route & transport used. Buses & trains fare are mad cheap ($1!!!) while private tour can range from $30- $50 for 2 people.

-Colombo Airport to Colombo fort/ railway by public bus

-Colombo fort to Kandy by public train

-Kandy to Sigiriya to Dambulla to Kandy thru private tour car arranged by our Airbnb host

-Kandy to Ella via second class (reserved seats) morning train

-Explored Ella town by foot and tuktuk

-Ella town to Uduwalawe thru a taxi (because it rained so hard)

-Explored Uduwalawe National Park by jeep safari

-Uduwalawe to Mirissa to Midigama thru public bus

-Midigama to Galle thru public bus

-Galle to Colombo by A/C coaster van

-Colombo to airport thru A/C coaster van

CONNECTIVITY

Okay, lets not forget how important the internet. I relied heavily on google maps to locate places, to talk to my Airbnb host & to access some travel blog guides when we almost got lost. We bought a local sim ($5) at the airport that comes with 1 week unlimited data & call/text services.

WHAT TO SEE

 I had 5 things in mind while planning this trip. First, I wanted to ride the most scenic train ride from Kandy to Ella. Second is to see actual elephants in their natural habitat, no not them in cages. Third, I wanted to visit the Turtle Hatchery & chance up on freeing newly hatched baby turtles to the sea. Fourth, okay some beach & lastly, yes, the deciding factor– the Swing. It was a challenge to see all these places given how far they are apart. So to make the most of the trip, we also checked out other touristy spots in the area.

WHAT TO EAT

I am not a foodie. But on this trip, apart from the Airbnb homes, I was most excited about meal time! Sri Lanka dish is always spicy & each time I always request to keep it milder. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the food— I can’t name it all correctly but all those hoppers, kutto, curry & roti were all delicious! Also, I’ve eaten a lot of bananas in this trip!

What surprised me about the trip is being referred to as a Chinese girl. I mean, come on, look at me! But I understood why. There were a lot of tourists but we were the only Filipinos there. Most are Caucasians & Chinese. Sri Lanka isn’t as glamorous as Europe (yes, who doesn’t dream to go there) but it is a nice little country suited for those wanting to escape from a fast-paced city life living— it comes with dreamy rope swings, surf spots & tree houses with actual wild monkeys joining you for breakfast! If that doesn’t make you want to visit, I don’t know what else. 🙂