Sri Lanka is an amazing place to be, it has a wide range of wildlife and very beautiful landscapes. But less did I know about this place beforehand and I would have probably never chosen to go there as my first destination, if it wasn’t for the convenience of catching up with a good friend. We only picked Sri Lanka because it was "in the middle" for both of us and also cheap to fly to and back from.
And lucky me, I have also very spontaneous/crazy best friends. Long story short one of my best friends joined us too, after only hearing about it once over skype. Not only arrived he five minutes before me and welcomed me at the airport in Sri Lanka, but also arranged our prepaid visitor mobile cards right on the spot. What a champ :).
If you fly to Sri Lanka/Colombo: The airport is not directly in Colombo, it is actually 45min further north in Katunayake, close to Negombo. Depends on what time you arrive, you can either choose to stay, or go directly to Colombo. If you choose to stay I can recommend the Hangover Hostel >>Link to website<< . 10min away from the airport (pick up/drop off service) - clean beds with aircon - lockers - free Wifi (it works better then in any other hostel we have been) - free breakfast (coffee/tee, bananas) - nice rooftop chill area - nice staff - helpfull travellers (most stay to spent the last night before they fly out, so you get lots of info and recommendations)
Easy Sri Lanka online Visa: You need to apply for a visa before you arrive in Sri Lanka. The easiest way is to do it directly through the official Sri Lanka website. Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) >>official website<< of the Department of Immigration & Emigration (DI&E) of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. You can find the direct link for the visa here >>Sri Lanka ETA<<. It's 35 USD for a 30 day visa (Aug 2016) and you will get a email confirmation after payment and a second with approval of your visa.
Prepaid Cards: We got our prepaid card at the airport, directly in the arrival hall, short before the exit. The good thing about getting them at the airport is that you will get “tourist visitor cards”. They are a bit different from the normal prepaid cards. You don’t get them anywhere in the city, just at the airport. So I can recommend to get them straight away. They have different options and plans to choose from. We had 2 different ones: 1. had 3GB data and as well national and international call allowance for 1000 LKR (6,10 EUR / 6,90 USD /8,90 AUD)* and 2. had 10GB data but with less national and international calls for 1600 LKR (9,70 EUR / 10,90 USD / 14,30 AUS). And I can tell you it was plenty of data for the 3 weeks but also great because the free internet in the hostels and bars is mostly really bad.
*(Prices and currency’s are from Sept 2016).
So me and my best friend had two days before my second friend arrived in Sri Lanka, because she was busy with a meditation trip around the Himalayas and also meeting the Dalai Lama by accident, what a lucky chick.
But being in Katunayake does not provide you with a lot of options what to do, so renting a scooter is a good start to get familiar with the surroundings. Lucky for us our hostel provided us with a scooter for a good price (prices vary from 800-1000 Rupee). So we started our trip to Negombo to the town and the local fishmarket.
Despite the fact that wikipedia says: "Negombo is a major city in Sri Lanka, on the west coast of the island and at the mouth of the Negombo Lagoon, in Western Province, Sri Lanka. Negombo is the fourth largest city in Sri Lanka and it is the largest city in the Gampaha District. It is approximately 35 km north of Colombo City and known for its huge and old fishing industry with busy fish markets and sandy beaches. Negombo is the most westernized, vibrant city and one of the major tourist destinations in the country. "..... hmmm the city is definitely vibrant and full of people but compared to everything else Sri Lanka has to offer i would rate it average. The town is quiet busy but missing a bit of flair and the fishmarket is very basic and lets say traditional and surrounded by a lot of plastic and dirt. I have seen more vibrant places then this. But one funny thing that we found was a place where they cleaned and washed Tuk Tuk's near the street. It was like an open air disco :).
My highlight in Negombo was the scooter cruise around the Negombo lagoon and meeting a local fisher family that invited us onto their property (most of the time it is very rewarding to go exploring and take a few side streets). This family was super welcoming in every way, we were offered food and drinks and we even got to go out with the fisher boat. Apart from the niece of the fisherman, who studied in Colombo and was just there for a family visit, no one really spoke english but that didn't stop them from explaining everything to us. The fisherman's niece did her best to help and translate. Bless her.
We only stayed 3 days in Negombo but we really made the best of it and met some amazing people. And as always, even if you would travel by yourself, you never stay alone for long. We ended up being 5 people traveling together through Sri Lanka and we had a blast seeing this place.
My best friend Hakan (growing up with me in my hometown), he had the best time talking to the local people, negotiating prices and learning the local language to make some friends. He is full of energy, always positive, has a talent for organizing and is talking to anyone anywhere.
My friend Sandra, she arrived the second day and trough me out of bed at 6am and we chatted for hours because we haven't seen each other for years (on skype but not in person). She has always funny shit to say, brings in good ideas, a fun vibe and loves traveling, there is never a dull moment with her.
We met Chris from Germany in the hostel, who decided to travel with us. At first only to Colombo but he catched up with us again in Hikkaduwa. He is a lovely person with a good heart and well traveled. He is spontaneous and always up for anything with a positive vibe.
And 10 minute before departure on day 3, we had the best addition from the Neatherlands that you can wish for, the lovely Milou. She is a pro in packing her bags in under 5 min. I rarely met someone who is that well traveled, smart, driven and has a heart of gold in such a young age. She was the chicken of the crew but sometimes turned out to be the one who told us all what to do. She has such a positive personality that its hard not to smile next to her.
All 5 with the same mindset, to see the best of Sri Lanka with awesome people and good company, we left for our Sri Lanka adventure. We had a few great first days in Negombo, now off with the local bus to Colombo and down the coast by train.