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Sri Lanka is a fascinating, yet exhausting, country. Having recently been through a substantial civil war, remnants of this troubling time linger in the townships. But the locals remain optimistic about their future, and adamant that tourism will influence their country for the better.
As Lonely Planet’s “must see” country of 2013, Sri Lanka will soon become well trodden like its neighbour India, and Thailand to the east. Be responsible, be respectful, be adventurous, and remember…
The country doesn’t have much of a backpacker presence yet; so, a lot of its tourism is catered towards wealthier retirees. Budget more than you think you’ll need.
Restaurants are often called hotels.
Don’t be scared of locals approaching you. They are genuinely fascinated by visitors, and want to learn more about you. Oblige, and find out what you can about their culture.
Sri Lankan traditional breakfast is incredible, but most restaurants need to be notified a day in advance if you want to order it. Go to the extra effort, because the set breakfasts of white bread, jam and eggs get old pretty quickly. Ask the cooks how to eat it, and thank them for their hard work.
The word “okay” is widely understood…but not necessarily the other words placed next to it. If you’re asked if you want more tea, and say, “No, that’s okay”, you’re getting more tea.
But that’s not such a bad thing. Sri Lankans are the fifth-biggest exporters of tea in the world, and their reputation for quality is well-deserved.
You will see guards with guns.
Tuk-tuk drivers are very amicable, and very knowledgeable. And, unlike their Thai counterparts, are happy to use their meters.
Sri Lanka is a small island, but it takes a long time to get anywhere on a bus or train. Pass the time by offering snacks to the locals sitting around you…because they will probably offer some to you.
Go to Sri Lanka with energy, an open mind, and a warm heart, and you’ll love it there as much as I did. Ayubowan!