Two years ago, one of my friends promised to come to Asia with me specifically Sri Lanka, so I bought the Sri Lanka Lonely Planet travel guide. I read it right away and it just fired my desire to visit even more. My friend pulled out and I was too inexperienced or confident to go alone. Fast forward to June 2016, I felt that it was the right time to do it solo, especially that I was in Saudi, which is kind of close. Five hours on the plane. The direct flights were expensive, so I opted for the 1 stop flight on Emirates airlines: Dammam > Dubai and Dubai > Colombo. The ticket was not too bad GBP 245 return. The accommodations seemed affordable too ( a full break down below).
As an Arab, my family is always involved in my life, which as you grow older you realise it's actually a good thing. They were slightly worried, but thankfully my mother was very supportive. She knew I needed to go solo to a new adventurous destination. My relatives were split into two groups: half were as excited as me and were planning it with me and the other half tried to change my mind because they were concerned for my safety.
I was slightly concerned myself, but I tried to push the fear as far away as possible and focus on the tropical images I have seen of Sri Lanka. After all, I lived for the last decade on my own in the US and Europe. It's not like I am new to this.
It was actually a better experience than I expected. The country was clean and very beautiful with a change of weather and scenery in different parts of the Island. Everyone spoke English and was really helpful. With a local sim card and 3G I was constantly connected to the world wide web, which meant 24/7 access to reviews on Trip Advisor and Google Maps. I got the odd annoying tuk tuk drivers and sales people who tried to over sell me things, but that's unescapable in most places. The majority of people I interacted with were beautiful inside out.
12 Day Itinerary to Sri Lanka + Prices
Colombo (1 night) > Galle (half day) > Weligama (2 nights) Mirrisa (half day) > Udawalawe National Park (half day) on the way to Ella (1 night) > Nuwara Eliya (1 night) > Kandy (4 nights) > Dambulla (1 night) > Negombo (2 nights)
I started with Colombo. It was an hour from the airport to a location near the train station. A friend of mine introduced me to a lady who lives there, so I stayed with her. I spent a day and a half plus a night in Colombo. It was enough to see the highlights. There is a lot of hustle and bustle there. The Tuk Tuk drivers will stop and try to convince you to take you for a tour, but it's usually a rip off.
The next day, I took the train to Galle. I would advise you to go for the second class because the first class's windows are closed and you won't enjoy the beautiful scenery as much. I only stayed half of the day in Galle. I started with breakfast at one of the touristy cafes near the fort. They were so kind to let me leave my little carry on bag there as I go explore the city's highlights. I really liked it there. It was a day well spent.
I took the bus from Galle to Wilegama. Wilegama is a lovely quiet fishing village. I stayed in Raja's Guest House for 1000 RS per night, which was almost 5GBP!! That's the same price as a green juice in London! They weren't doing catering in the guest house, which was a little sad and I had to go to town for food, which wasn't that great, but it was very cheap. The kids on the beach were interested in chatting, but people just ignored the tourists and I loved that peace. The next day I went to a Mirrisa for a half day to watch the whales. I only saw half one from a far, but it was cool to ride the waves in the boat.
The hostel arranged a driver to take me from Wilegama to Ella by Tuk Tuk. I could have done it with a car or buses, but I thought a tuk tuk would be more fun. I also wanted to stop by Udawalawe National Park to see the elephants in their natural habitat. It was a complete rip off to go to the park on my own because they charge per Jeep not person. Seeing animals in their natural element was so worth it though. They were so beautiful.
The Tuk Tuk dropped me to the closest point to Ella Eco Lodge. It's a Treehouse I booked from AirBnB. It was 25 GB/ night. That's like a fancy brunch or a dinner in London and it was worth every penny. It was a beautiful retreat. I stayed there half the day and the night. I didn't even leave and the ladies were very kind to make me dinner and breakfast, which was the best thing I ate in Sri Lanka.
I got the train from Ella to Nuwara Eliya then a bus and a tuk tuk to get to the gorgeous Heritance Tea Factory (all details are in the linked post).
I took the bus from train from Nuwara Eliya to Nanu Oya. Then the train from Nanu Oya to Kandy. It was a bit LONG! I stayed in the Sleep Cheap Hostel for three nights and the Earl's Regency for a night. I am not really sure why I stayed so long in Kandy. Two nights are completely enough, but I stayed FOUR. I got really bored and I felt it was too busy for my taste. I still did plenty and enjoyed it. Read the 10 things I did in Kandy. The first place was a very budget friendly hostel and the second was a high end gorgeous hotel.
I got a tuk tuk from Kandy to Dambulla because I wanted to stop at the Cave temple and Sigiriya/ Sinhagiri the ancient rock fortress. Sadly that plan failed. The temple denied me entry because of the headscarf and it was super hot when I arrived to Sigiriya to climb. I was sad until I got to the stunning Heritance Kandalama (full details and photos in the linked post). It was all perfect until the monkeys stole my passport! Thankfully, the workers retrieved it for me and I was on my way.
I got two buses from Dambulla to Negombo. That was my last stop. I though it will be a nice beach break before I left the country, but I really didn't enjoy it. The hostel I stayed in was 20GBP a night and it was SO warm inside and the mosquitos feasted on my blood. Plus the beach was very rocky and not fun for a walk. It was too dangerous to swim and everything was over priced. The beach vendors were very presenting as well. They were polite, but the ladies wouldn't leave me alone. I would skip this city all together if I go back.
I went to Sri Lanka in the off season (June 2016). The weather was mostly great. Only two days of my 12 were rainy. The beaches in the West and the South of the island were not safe for a swim, so I didn't do that. I really loved Sri Lanka. It was muslim and female friendly and I would totally recommend it. Watch my Sri Lanka videos here.