20 Tips for the ultimate Sri Lanka family holiday

Cara

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1. Do your research – be prepared

This is especially true when it comes to food and drink. Find out about snacks and typical dishes before your trip. That way, you’ll know what to order in restaurants and what you might like to try. See our article on what to eat in Sri Lanka.

Sri lankan dinner by Blaz Gvajc on 500px.com

2. Check monsoon dates and locations

Check monsoon dates and locations
Sri Lanka is a year-round family holiday destination. It enjoys consistently high temperatures across the low-lying regions, with cooler climates in the hill country. However, there are two monsoon seasons in Sri Lanka – the southwest monsoon peaks in April to June, while the Northeast monsoon is wettest in November and December.

The second is less severe so you might just experience the odd shower. Check out our ‘When to Travel’ guide and catch up on the latest weather conditions here.

3. Are your travel vaccinations up to date?

Female doctor giving young girl a shot by Gable Denims on 500px.com

Book an appointment with your travel clinic before you fly to check you have all the current vaccinations for Sri Lanka. The general advice is to have shots for hepatitis, typhoid and tetanus as a minimum.

4. Check your bookings before you travel

Check your bookings before you travel
Email or call all hotels before you fly to double check the bookings are confirmed. Also, check how many people can stay in a room – kids over 11 are counted as adults so you might need to book two rooms for a family.

5. Pack light for easy travels

Off we go! by Piotr Wyroślak on 500px.com

You get a generous baggage allowance when travelling to Sri Lanka but that doesn’t mean you have to use it all! I’d advise taking a couple of medium hold cases and a small carry-on backpack for each family member.

6. Don’t forget your swimming goggles

Swimming Goggles
The sea can be rough and this, combined with the bright sun, can irritate your eyes. Tinted goggles will help keep your eyes protected on the beach and stop the glare from the sun. We bought spares with us too, which turned out to be a good decision! It’s kind of like sunglasses and swimming goggles in one – pretty nifty!

7. Use packing cubes for easy travelling

Packing Cubes
These handy individual packing bags were a lifesaver during our trip. They fit neatly into your suitcase or day pack so you can be packed and ready to leave in an instant. Use one for toiletries, another for beach gear, one for all your dirty laundry etc.

8. Always carry water and stay hydrated!

energy by Cristian Negroni on 500px.com

It’s easy to find bottled water at cafes and roadside stalls but it’s also easy to become dehydrated quickly. If it’s your first time in Sri Lanka, you might be surprised by the heat and humidity – never leave your hotel without a couple of bottles of water.

9. Cut back on clothes and get your laundry done in hotels

Laundry Done in Hotels
Forget about looking for washing machines or packing enough to last your whole trip: it’s cheap to get clothes laundered in Sri Lanka. Most hotels offer the service and return them the next day.

10. Book a driver for your journeys (it’s safe!)

Book a Driver
If you’re travelling around the country, it makes sense to book a personal driver and car for your entire trip. They’ll be flexible when it comes to drop off and pick up times and it’s a safe and secure way to travel. Sri Lanka has an incredibly low crime rate so you and your belongings will be well looked after.

11. Don’t forget a waterproof jacket during monsoon – when it rains, it pours!

Waterproof Jacket
A foldaway jacket will be very welcome if you get caught in a downpour. Check out our When to Go Guide for more information about when to travel.

As a rough guide, if you’re heading southwest in April to June, or Northeast in November and December, you’ll need a jacket. This needs to be lightweight, as it can still be hot and humid when it’s raining.

12. Carry lots of change for tips

Sri-Lanka Currency
Nobody seems to have change in Sri Lanka so it’s worth keeping a separate purse for small notes. You’ll need these to buy water and snacks, as well as for tips. We tended to give 100 rupees to porters and waiters (although tax is added to restaurant bills so tips aren’t expected). A good tour guide or driver would earn a 500 rupee tip, depending on the length of journey.

13. Watch out for taxes on hotel bills

Government tax is added to all restaurant and hotel bills so take this into account when booking and ordering.

14. Spray before you play – mosquitos love tourists!

Dengue mosquito (Aedes Aegypti) by Avinash Krishnamurthy on 500px.com

Malaria isn’t common in Sri Lanka but the north of the country remains a hotspot for the disease. In fact, Dengue fever is a far bigger threat and Colombo is a high-risk area for the disease. As the saying goes, ‘prevention is better than a cure’ so take precautions – cover up your ankles and apply plenty of repellent, particularly around sunrise and sunset.

15. Buy a SIM card for phone calls

Mobile Service
If you’re going to use your phone a lot – especially for internet access – it can work out cheaper to buy a pre-loaded SIM when you land at the airport. Mobitel and Dialog have kiosks and this is the simplest way to buy credit – choose from a Rs.499, Rs.999 or Rs.1,299 (Dialog) tourist pack, which includes calls, data and WIFI.

If you decide not to buy your SIM at the airport, you’ll need to take your passport to a Mobitel or Dialog office and register. This takes about 30 minutes – red tape is a national obsession in Sri Lanka!

16. Talk to the locals for recommendations

Is Sri Lanka Safe for Tourists?
Sri Lankans are very friendly and keen to share tips about their local area so chat to the locals every chance you get or use your drive as a guide during longer transfers.

17. Spend your money while you’re there

You’re not allowed to exchange Sri Lankan Rupees outside of the country so don’t withdraw more than you need.

18. Respect the local religious customs

Respect The Local Religious Customs
Most temples require you to remove your shoes and cover your legs and arms – always check before you arrive to avoid embarrassment. Check out more customs here.

19. Big brands cost big bucks

Big Brands Cost Big Bucks
If you love your branded food and soft drinks, be prepared to pay for them. A Coke, Mars Bar or packet of Kellogg’s cereal will set you back a fortune so choose local equivalents where possible.

20. Buy a size bigger when shopping for clothes.

Clothes shop in Jaffna, Sri Lanka by Mohan De Zoysa on 500px.com

Clothes tend to come up smaller in Sri Lanka, which is worth bearing in mind if you’re buying T-Shirts for presents. Buy at least one size up or two sizes if it’s for a child.

Tell us what you think about these 20 tips for family holiday in Sri Lanka

I’d love to hear your experience in the comment area below!
Have any questions about family-holiday in Sri Lanka, don’t hesitate to ask me!

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Cara
About the author

Cara Frost-Sharratt is a freelance food and travel writer who lives in London. She regularly contributes to a variety of magazines and is the author of London's Classic Restaurants and London's Landmarks, also published by New Holland.

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