First Impressions of Traveling Sri Lanka 2019

I had grown too comfortable in the tourist-trodden hubs of South East Asia. It felt like I was simply just making rounds between Bali, Thailand, and my home country of the Philippines. Don’t get me wrong, I love those places, but before my six-week trip to Bali was even halfway over, my legs were growing restless and I knew I had to go on another adventure soon.

After weighing my options, I decided to push myself (slightly) out of South East Asia. My last great adventure was solo traveling through South Africa a few months before I retreated into the comforts of South East Asia once again. To call it a great adventure is a severe understatement. With a few weeks worth of energy left in the tank, I impulsively booked a flight to Sri Lanka. I wrapped up a quick visa application and immediately felt reinvigorated with a new grip on life. I spent my last week in Bali as energized as ever before recharging in Singapore for two days before my late night flight to Sri Lanka.

I knew nothing about the country aside from that train ride that I see everyone posting on Instagram. Sometimes, I think that’s the best way to go into a country. It gives you a fresh outlook, keeps you on your toes, and adds the element of surprise to every little thing that you do. So without further ado, here are some quick takeaways from my first day in Sri Lanka.

Obviously, first impressions aren’t everything, but I am too excited about this new adventure to wait.

Okay, umm, why are there so many stores in the airport selling washing machines and refrigerators?

Like seriously, are people buying these massive appliances before their flights? Does it count as carry-on allowance? Surely that massive refrigerator doesn’t fit in the overhead compartments?

It’s like India 101, an introductory course to India. Pre-India, if you will.

I have never been to India but I still feel like Sri Lanka is a toned-down version of India. At least, transportation-wise. The streets are crowded and hectic, but not too crowded and hectic. Everything I envisioned about India is Sri Lanka but only like half as extreme.

This place is a budget traveler’s dream.

My first hostel was $7 and included a generous breakfast. My second hostel was $8 and actually has air-conditioning and also includes breakfast. I had a Sri Lankan buffet for about $4. My tuk-tuk rides are about $1 for every 20 minutes. Don’t even get me started on actual public transportation. I could probably set aside $10 for all the train rides I need to take and still have $9 left over by the end of these three weeks.

The people are suspiciously friendly.

I will have to keep you guys updated on this because I am not used to these levels of friendliness. All of the hostel workers I’ve encountered so far have gone way too far out of their way to help me out. I almost feel guilty for taking up so much of their time. But that’s their job, right? So that’s not too suspicious. Well, walking down the road, people just randomly high-five me out of their cars. The first few times, I had to check all my pockets sixteen times just to make sure I didn’t get magically pickpocketed.

I know, I know, that’s a bit of a pessimistic and cynical view. However, you can’t really blame me after I was pickpocketed in Johannesburg not even three months ago.

The tuk-tuk drivers are also overly friendly. That one is more suspicious because they are obviously trying to get you to hop on. I’ve been made aware of a lot of tuk-tuk scams but so far, I haven’t encountered anyone too aggressive. Most of them start off with small talk and seem genuinely interested about your life and where you come from. That goes for most people I’ve talked to actually. It’s weird because Sri Lanka is the first country in a while where I don’t entirely blend in with the locals. As a Filipino, I can pass for pretty much every South East Asian nationality. Here, I am definitely noticeably different. I’m not entirely used to it yet but we’ll see how the people hold up the rest of the trip. I’ve heard nothing but great things about Sri Lankan people though.

Sri Lanka is way more modern than I was expecting.

Maybe this is just me being completely ignorant, but I was honestly preparing to just not have Wi-Fi for most of this trip. I also haven’t left the major hub of Colombo yet, so that is definitely subject to change. However, Colombo has been cleaner, more modern, and much safer than I was originally expecting. You will have Wi-Fi and all of the first world amenities that you need while you get your feet set. Colombo, while not the most exciting part of Sri Lanka, is absolutely a perfect place to dip your feet in and get settled into Sri Lanka.

There are not nearly as many other travelers here as I was expecting.

Lonely Planet named Sri Lanka as their top travel destination of 2019. I knew that probably meant that hordes of tourists would immediately bump Sri Lanka up to the top of their travel list. Kind of like I did, to be fair. However, the first hostel I stayed in, I was completely alone. Currently, at this second hostel room, I am also completely alone. I haven’t seen too many other travelers.

So basically, now is the best time to go to Sri Lanka. It is very well set up for tourism thanks to the extensive transportation network throughout the country. It seems fairly easy enough to travel around, which is what I was most concerned about coming in. Most people here speak English, as well. If you were worried about coming to Sri Lanka for any reason, I can pretty much say that there is nothing to be worried about.

Oh and one more thing, Sri Lankan people know how to enjoy life.

The attitude of a country’s people is contagious. One thing I’ve quickly learned to love about Sri Lanka is that most of the people that I meet have a relatively carefree and optimistic attitude. A lot of them seem to go with the flow without ever really getting too upset or stressed about anything. It’s a simple thing but it is also something that is absolutely contagious. If I arrived in a new country and everyone around me was yelling and angry and preoccupied all the time, it would not give me a good first impression at all.

I just got back from watching the sunset at the beach and the amount of people there was such a positive thing to see. Too many city dwellers get caught up in life without stopping to enjoy the little things. Seeing so many people just hanging out, watching the sunset, having picnics, playing sports, flying kites, and doing whatever else instantly put me in a good mood. Happiness is contagious, and I can already tell that Sri Lanka has happiness in excess.

All of this is subject to change as I fully thrust myself into Sri Lanka in the coming weeks. Stay tuned on here and on my Instagram page.

22 thoughts on “First Impressions of Traveling Sri Lanka 2019

  1. Love the way you went into Sri Lanka, not too much preparation. I too like that kind of travel. Looking at too many other blogs and websites takes the adventure out of it, although it can be helpful sometimes to take advice from those who have been before…


  2. So far it sounds like your trip to Sri Lanka is off to a great start! One of these days I also need to go into a trip blind like this!

    Laura ||

  3. Lol! I loved how you said that it is India 101…I was born and raised in India. All of South Asia is filled with warm people- suspiciously friendly 😂…
    Good read!

  4. I have never been there and sounds like Sri Lanka is a nice place to visit. I will definitely add this to my bucket and hope to be there this year with my husband.

  5. I have never been to Sri Lanka but it looks so beautiful, just perfect to relax and refresh. Thanks for showing me another great place to add to my bucket list.

  6. I’d love to visit Sri Lanka one day – I’ve heard good things about it like you mentioned such as it being a budget travellers dream and everyone loving to have a good time.

  7. Oooo sounds like you did your Sri Lanka right!!! I so need to add Sri Lanka to my travel bucket list!!

  8. I’ve loved the first impressions 😃. Washing machines and refrigerators … hmmm .. had not realised that would be a puzzle for non Sri-Lankans. It is actually for returning citizens who can buy them at duty-free prices which shave almost 60 -70% off the prices in the regular shops: a duty free allowance is given based on the length of your stay abroad.
    And “suspiciously friendly”…😃 yes it can certainly look like that. We are friendly and have this desire to help a lost soul – a foreigner …(grin) but be careful. Like every other nation we have the good, the bad and the ugly.

  9. I like how you compare it to a ‘pre-india’, I had theer same thought when I went to sri lanka! It seemed less intense, less busy, slower. But I wasnt suspicious of the locals…they were just great, friendly people who rarely tried to scam or tout 😁

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