People seem to love Sri Lanka. Bloggers, travelers we meet, almost everyone. We, on the other hand, were not big fans.
First, Sri Lanka is overpriced. We struggled to find lodging for less than double what we had been paying in Thailand. And the quality was worse. The wifi was often terrible. There was only hot water sometimes. Towels and top sheets were rarely provided.
The big attractions were also expensive. We skipped the Temple of the Tooth in because of its 1000 LKR entrance fee. We didn’t even visit Dambulla or Sigiriya because of cost. Those prices seem crazy for south Asia.
The rickshaw drivers were always trying to up the price after we agreed on a rate, which I am sure was already grossly inflated. We never paid more; it was just annoying to be harassed.
Then there was the Burger King meal we got at the airport that cost $60. I don’t think I have ever, even in the US, paid that much for a fast food meal for my family.
The local food in Sri Lanka was good and cheap, but got monotonous after a week (we stayed in the country for a month). We found a few local places where we got fantastic kottu, roti and dahl, vegetable roti, or hoppers. But often we were stuck eating at tourist places where the western food cost double what the local food cost and wasn’t very good. And the local food at these places was always bland.
Sri Lanka is also not that interesting compared to other countries in the area. Southeast Asia is not only cheaper, it is also more awe-inspiring. The beaches in southern Thailand are way better than Sri Lanka’s beaches. As far as small atmosperic towns go, Galle Fort pales in comparison to Hoi An, Vietnam.
People say that it is easier to travel in Sri Lanka than in India, calling it “India Light.” Perhaps it is a marketing ploy to get people to travel to Sri Lanka instead of India. In our experience travel in southern India is no harder than Sri Lanka and it is way more exciting. Plus, we have never had to stand for 4 hours on a train in India like we did in Sri Lanka.
It is not that we had a bad time in Sri Lanka. Seeing blue whales was really cool. The jeep safari in Yala was fun. The baby turtles in the hatcheries are cute. And I loved the bustle of the Pettah Market in Colombo.
Perhaps a month is too long for the small island country. We certainly could have zipped through the places we visited in a couple of weeks (and we would have if we hadn’t already booked our flight to India).
Still I feel like our money would have been better spent in a more interesting country.
So I don’t recommend Sri Lanka as a destination. But if you really want to go, plan for a short visit, two weeks or less. And plan to spend more money than you would in nearby India or southeast Asia, especially if you want to visit the more expensive attractions.