21 Things That Will Take You By Surprise in Sri Lanka

From the lush green landscape of the hill country where tea pickers paint the landscape to rich cultural history up the North to the postcard perfect beaches along the south coast. The magical land of Sri Lanka is one just waiting to be discovered.

Here’s some of the things we discovered during our trip in Sri Lanka which might take you by surprise!

Read More: Our One-Month Backpacking Itinerary And Budget Breakdown in Sri Lanka

1. Visa extension is a pretty easy process

Visa is valid for 30 days since the day of entry, but you can always extend for additional 60 days if you want to stay longer. You’ll need to visit Immigration and Emigration Department in Colombo to extend your visa, but the process is pretty straight-forward. The only down-side is that half a day will be gone by the time you got your visa done.

2. SIM card comes with Day/Night data plans

Not sure the reason behind this, but there are data plan which comes like: 4-GB for day, 5-GB for night.

One of the data plan for tourists

3. You can experience different climates and different kind of holidays all in one country

On this island-nation, it is amusing to be able to experience all-in-one place, not to mention having your Instagram shots in tea plantation at one place and at palm-trees beaches in another.

Sri Lanka is not just a tropical country!
4. There is Uber in Sri Lanka

In Negombo and Colombo, you can even call for Uber Tuktuk! Other alternative apps are PickMe and Taxiyak which help save all the hassles of bargaining a reasonable price with the local drivers.

5. You can be a tuktuk driver by just converting your license

As long as you have an International Driving License (IDP) of your own country, you can easily convert it to Sri Lankan’s license, which not only allows you to drive motorcycle and car, even a tuk-tuk!

6. There are bakery shops everywhere

Good news to those who loves pastries! There are lots of bakery shops you can find on any streets to get you prepared for long train/bus rides.

7. The sound of Beethoven’s Für Elise means Bread

Not to worry if you’re not wandering the bustling city, listen for the sound of Beethoven’s Für Elise and the next moment you will be approached by a tuk-tuk loaded with baked goods right outside your doorstep! 

8. Those funny-shaped packet drinks…..?

There is nothing wrong with the drinks, but we were just wondering why are the packets not shaped in tri-square-ish type.

Can anyone tell me why do they packaged this way?
9. Tea is great, but coffee can be really awful

Sri Lanka is a tea country, which produce the best tea in the world. But when it comes to coffee…you might need to find a cafe with legit coffee machine and pay a premium price for it.

Premium coffee like these cost us Rs770 (USD4.50)
10. Most hotels and restaurants sell alcohol illegally

It is expensive and difficult (e.g. the liquor store has to be 500-meters away from school & 500-meters away from mosque) to get a liquor license, thus you can hardly see alcohol appears on the menu of a restaurant. However, you can still ask for it and the waiter will quote you a high price as they have to run out to the liquor store and get it for you.

A legal legit liquor store can be easily found at South beaches area, or at a quiet corner of a street in the city. If you’re hardworking enough to find them, you can buy a beer at least 3 times cheaper than that waiter who bought for you.

Note: Sri Lankan women are not allowed to buy alcohol for you!

11. Most guesthouses and hostels supplied towels

YAY to such kind hospitality! In our one-month in Sri lanka, we only get to use our own towels twice.

12. Hotel means Restaurant

Don’t get confused when you search for Food and all the “hotels” appeared around your area. For some reason, the locals prefer to use “hotel” to substitute restaurant/cafe.

13. Hela Bojun Hala is a paradise for budget backpackers

Hela Bojun Hala’s main objectives are to promote entrepreneurship and food, with a focus on women for the former. In here, you get to taste authentic local food all made from scratch for as low as USD1, guaranteed with a happily-filled tummy!

14. The Kandy-Ella train ride is not the only scenic ride in Sri Lanka

Basically, any train rides are fantastically scenic too! Not to forget bus rides are as awesome and you get to pass by some beautiful small towns which are not in your to-go list.

Spotted a reindeer at Trincomalee
15. Don’t expect to get a seat even though you’ve paid for a second class train ticket

Just a heads up. Don’t go thinking that just because you paid more for a seat you’ll get one, unless you are paying for a first class seat.

We bought 2nd class tickets but ended up sit by the doorway
16. You board the bus from the back, not the front

There is a guy who acts as the conductor and he hangs out of the open door of the bus as it approaches you – at the bus stop. Just shout out to him where you are headed and he will tell you if the bus is going that way. By the time the bus stopped completely, it is likely you have to board the bus from the back.

17. Sri Lankan’s hospitality can really surprise you

We didn’t expect the man on the bus to give up his seat because we were carrying backpacks, or give us space on the train’s doorway just so we could take those beautiful pictures.

18. Not all tuktuk drivers are hassely

Unlike those tuktuk drivers in Southeast Asia countries who keep on pestering you, the tuk-tuk drivers here would just drive away when we said “no, thank you”. Some of them were even kind enough to direct us to the nearest bus stop and told us the bus timing.

19. There are lifeguards at some of the beaches

Yes you read it right! Some beaches, especially those frequently patronized by the locals, do have lifeguards patrolling the area. And these lifeguards are managed by the coast guard department!

Lifeguard on duty

Don’t Miss: Sri Lanka Beaches – A Guide From Coast To Coast

20. You can literally buy duty free electronics from the airport

Not just cameras, headphones or memory cards….you can buy washing machine, television and even refrigerator!

21. And lastly, we didn’t expect things to be so incredibly easy. The buses, the trains, the accommodation. Everything. Really easy.

Lastly, if you want to keep a track of all my photos and travels, remember to follow @wanderrsaurus on Instagram!

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Aloha! I'm Bunzy, a curious dreamer who is passionate about roaming around the world getting lost, experiencing new cultures and meeting the locals. My superpower is to be able to sleep anywhere, anyhow!

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