Now is the Time to Travel to Sri Lanka and Experience This Beautiful Country
Sri Lanka is one of the most exotic, beautiful and friendly destinations on the planet. It offers an absolutely incredible amount of culture, nature, and history for so little money. A wide range of unique attractions such as ancient temples, scenic train rides, National Parks, terraced tea plantations, and beautiful beaches await visitors who make the journey to Sri Lanka. We at lostinbeautifulplaces.com were fortunate to have spent an entire month exploring this amazing country earlier this year. Unfortunately, soon after we left Sri Lanka a devastating event occurred which left the country in shock. On Easter Day 2019, the capital city of Colombo was subject to a series of bombings that not only terrified its citizens but has put a severe strain on the entire country’s tourism industry.
Prior to that horrible Sunday, the country was in the midst of experiencing a miraculous recovery from a brutal civil war that lasted over 25 years, ending in 2009. Tourists in the know were touting Sri Lanka as the next up-and-coming “hot spot” that should be seen before the hordes of visitors discovered it. Lonely Planet even named Sri Lanka as its top travel destination for 2019. The attacks on Easter Day changed that trajectory dramatically and the country has since seen a huge dip in the number of tourists entering the country.
Sri Lanka has always been considered a budget destination, but now that the tourism industry is suffering from a lack of visitors, it is even more affordable. As a reference, during our month-long stay in the country, the two of us combined spent less than $2000 US, including flights from Chiang Mai, Thailand and back to Phuket, Thailand. For that amount of money, we were able to travel around the island on trains, buses, and tuk-tuks, mainly staying at nice, mid-range hotels and guesthouses (we did splurge for a couple of higher-end hotels). We were able to eat and drink to our heart’s desire, go on two safaris, buy some souvenirs and travel essentials and purchase tickets to museums, historical sites, and nature parks.
Our trip to Sri Lanka was nothing but positive and we wanted to share some of our experiences with our readers. We have compiled a list of reasons why we think the small island nation of Sri Lanka should be your next travel destination.
Reason #1: Free Travel Visas
The Sri Lankan government is offering free month-long visas to tourists from most countries in the world from August 2019 through January 2020. This is in response to the Easter bombings that rocked the capital city of Colombo in April 2019. The entire country has experienced a dramatic plunge in tourism since that horrible day. A one month visa normally costs between $20 to $40 US per person, depending on which country the tourists hail from. Your friends at lostinbeautifulplaces.com secured 30-day visas for Sri Lanka online before arriving, and since we have US passports, we were charged $30 US per person. With the new rules in effect, visas can now be obtained online before traveling, or on arrival at the Colombo airport. We used this government website in order to secure our visa before we arrived in Sri Lanka. Our visas were processed within 3 days and the application process was very simple.
Reason #2: Lower Airfare Costs
In order to increase tourism after the attacks, the government has not only waived the cost of tourist visas for most countries, it has also stepped in and lowered the cost of airfares into Sri Lanka. The price of aviation fuel, ground handling and embarkation fees will be reduced for the next six months at Colombo airport. This was done to encourage airlines to increase the number of flights into Sri Lanka and lower ticket prices. A quick search on Agoda.com‘s flight booking system resulted in finding round trip tickets from Bangkok, Thailand to Colombo for $220 US in September 2019. One way tickets from Phuket, Thailand can be had for as little as $103 US each direction. We paid $275 US per person for similar flights in February 2019.
Reason #3: Fewer Crowds
Between 2010 to 2019, Sri Lanka was experiencing such a large boom in tourism that it was beginning to impact some of the major historical sites and overwhelming the train system. First and second class seats on the most popular train routes, especially the line between Kandy and Ella, were selling out many months in advance. Huge crowds gathered each morning to grab the remaining 3rd class seats that are not able to be reserved in advance. Passengers were being stuffed onto trains and buses until people were hanging out the doors and windows. Safaris in the National Parks were experiencing long lines at the park entrances before the gates even opened at sunrise. Traffic jams at animal viewing sites were occurring due to the massive amount of Jeeps in the parks at any given time. Lines to climb the ancient Sigiryria Rock extended for hours on busy days.
Now that the number of visitors to Sri Lanka has declined, this has all changed. Trains on even the most popular routes can be booked just days beforehand. People purchasing 3rd class seats at the last minute often find open seats upon boarding. Safaris are much less likely to be crowded, creating less pressure on the animals to hide, making for even more wildlife sightings. Beaches and historical sites are less impacted. Traveling through Sri Lanka now ensures an even more intimate experience than tourists were getting before the downturn in visitors started.
Reason #4: Discounted Hotel Rooms
Hotel rooms in Sri Lanka are currently being advertised at up to a 50% discount off of already unbelievably low prices. Luxury hotels throughout the country are being offered for as low as $30 US a night with free breakfast included. Nice, mid-range hotels can now be reserved for $10 a night. An Agoda.com hotel search for the Galle area, which was one of our favorite places on the island, yielded multiple pages of hotels from $5 to $10 US a night in September 2019. If visiting Sri Lanka is on your bucket list, now is a great time to go because of the extremely low prices on lodging.
Smaller, non-chain hotels and guesthouses in Sri Lanka are especially unique in that they often double as restaurants, tour agencies, and cultural education establishments. We lodged in places where there were very few restaurants nearby and the owners prepared delicious curries served with local Ceylon tea for as low as $2 US per person. We booked safaris directly through guesthouses. We received advice on hiking trails. We learned about local temples and markets. We met family members and friends of the owners. Staying in a small hotel or guesthouse in Sri Lanka is not to be missed while visiting the country. We highly recommend the guesthouse in this link. It is located near Udawalawe National Park and the owner Janaka is the best host!
Reason #5: Many Foreign Travel Offices Have Downgraded the Risk of Traveling to Sri Lanka
On June 24, 2019, the US government downgraded the risk of traveling to Sri Lanka to Level 2, “Exercise Increased Caution”. In May, several countries downgraded their travel warnings to Sri Lanka including China, India, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland. British travelers are no longer being warned against traveling to Sri Lanka according to the UK Foreign Office. A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We have kept our travel advice for Sri Lanka under constant review since the Easter Sunday attacks when we advised against all but essential travel. Our latest assessment of the risk to British nationals now means we have revised our travel advice accordingly.” According to the US government, if visitors decide to travel to Sri Lanka they should: 1. Be aware of their surroundings when traveling to tourist locations and crowded public venues. 2. Follow the instructions of local authorities. 3. Monitor local media for breaking events and adjust your plans based on new information.”
Where is Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka, formerly a British colony called Ceylon, is an island country lying in the Indian Ocean and separated from India by the Palk Strait. It is the 25th largest island in the world. The population of Sri Lanka is around 21 million. The official languages are Sinhala and Tamil. The country is made up of 70% Buddhist, 13% Hindu, 10% Muslim and 7% Christian religions. The currency of Sri Lanka is the Sri Lanka Rupee (LKR)
We loved our time in Sri Lanka and will return in the future. After meeting so many friendly locals and witnessing such spectacular sights in our month stay on the island, we can’t wait to get back. We encourage our readers to give Sri Lanka some thought when planning your next trip abroad.
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