In every country there are individual customs, facts and habits, that might influence your journey. I just collected a few of them here (if you want to know more about transport in this wonderful country, read here), like a nice addition to the stuff your Lonely Planet will inform you about.
Whenever you ask a local how far it is to this and that point or how to get to a certain location, you will always hear: “…about 200 m, then……” But these 200 m can vary from really 200 m up to 1km. So never give up too early ;-)
Like with distances, you will also often hear “10 minutes”. Also this can vary from 10 mins to 1h. In general, don’t be too strict on time, just relax and be ready to wait a little longer. You are on holidays, right, so you shouldn’t stress around anyways.
This is no “yes”, and it’s not a “no”. It’s more a “uuuhm I might take this into consideration” or “yeah….. okaaaaay…”. For us this might look a little weird, but no worries, everything is okay.
During my first days, I was irritated, that so many guys whistled when I was passing by. Then I realized that not all of them thought I was the supersexy catch of the day, but this is a normal way, to get the attention of anyone around. So if the guys whistle, they might just want to communicate with their friends behind you.
If the forecast was right, I should have had at least 14 days of rain. Usually, they are not even 60% right. Besides the fact that you cannot change the weather anyways, don’t be too disappointed, when the forecast looks bad. Very often the weather is simply better and you’ll get sunburned while enjoying the “bad weather program”.
When you sleep in local guest houses, don’t expect that a room maid will clean your room or make your bed every day. This is only the case in international hotel chains with Western standards. Usually the room is cleaned only after three days.
Ah btw, it is normal that the toilet in your fresh room is wet – they rinse toilets with the bidet-like shower that hangs next to every toilet in this country.
I found out that one of the best ways of getting rid of nasty mosquitoes is to generously apply anti mosquito spray designed for the use on your clothes. Unfortunately, these nets often have holes and if you just lay close enough to it, the clever mosquito just gives a shit on the net and bites you through it. But not when there is spray on it heheheh.
Taking off your shoes:
In temples you have to take off your shoes. Which is ok when it’s only a small stupa. But if you visit Anuradhpura, it might be a good idea to bring an old pair of thicker socks – the stone and sand get incredibly hot and your feet will be grateful for a layer of cloth between them and the heat. I don’t have to mention that super short shorts and sleeveless tops need to be covered with shawls and sarongs, right?
Other than in many other countries, Sri Lankan hotels and companies don’t like credit cards too much. Be prepared and have enough cash to pay for rooms, food and transport. Always have also small notes – like 50, 100 or 500 rupies. And check if your maestro card needs to be unlocked for Sri Lanka, otherwise you will get a bad surprise when you want to get cash from an ATM.
Wifi / SIM card:
While countries like Germany seem to be wifi-less deserts, Sri Lanka is perfectly connected. Almost every hotel, restaurant or cafe offers free wifi, even though it sometimes is weak. And when you fill out the welcome card when you enter the country, you can buy a SIM with quite a big data volume and talking minutes for cheap money. I was too tired to do so, but it would have been a good idea, definitely.
I will write about women traveling alone here soon. In general, Sri Lanka is a very safe country. I never had the feeling that I should be extra super careful when walking around. You definitely don’t have to be afraid that a rapist is waiting around every corner or that they will rob you as soon as you come out of an ATM. Just follow the normal rules.
“Cosmetic products in room”:
Unless you stay in a hotel of one of the bigger chains, you can expect a piece of soap. Nothing more. Nothing less.
I was maybe a bit over-careful and even brushed my teeth with bottled water. But hey – better safe than sorry. And at the beginning I avoided ice cubes too (which I gave up since cocktails taste like shit when they are warm). Be aware, that in most guest houses, the hot water comes from flow-water-heaters and therefore isn’t really hot. And the pressure? Low. Long haired girls should take this into consideration when washing their hair…..